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Issue No. 177 09 May 2003  
E D I T O R I A L

Joining The Dots
ACTU secretary Greg Combet’s call for unions to develop a clear set of values to organise around on a broader social canvass is an important next step in the process of renewal.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Staying Alive
CPSU national secretary Adrian O'Connell talks about the fight to keep the public service - and the union movement - alive.

Bad Boss: The Ultimate Piss Off
Wollongong workers on poverty-level wages are losing up to $5000 for taking toilet breaks, according to the union representing staff at a Stellar call centre.

Industrial: Last Drinks
Jim Marr looks at the human cost of the decision to close Sydney’s Carlton United Brewery

National Focus: Around the States
If Tampa told us that John Howard circa 2003 is the same spotted rabid dog from 1987, this week’s assault on Medicare confirms it reports Noel Hester in this national round up.

Politics: Radical Surgery
Workers are vitally interested in Medicare, not least because they traded away wage rises to get it. Now, Jim Marr writes, the Coalition Government is tearing apart the 20-year-old social contract on which it was founded.

Education: The Price of Missing Out
University students and their families will pay more for their education following the May Budget, writes Tony Brown.

Legal: If At First You Don't Succeed
Love is wonderful the second time around, goes the famous torch song. But is the same true for legislation? Asks Ashley Crossland

History: Massive Attack
Labour historian Dr Lucy Taksa remembers the general strike of 1917 to put the recent anti-war marches into perspective

Culture: What's Right
Neale Towart looks at a new book that looks at the failings of the Left, while reasserting the liberal project

Review: If He Should Fall
Jim Marr caught Irish folk-rock-punk legend Shane MacGowan at Sydney’s Metro Theatre. He was surprised but not disappointed.

Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Through a distortion in the time-space continuum, we have found a recording showing how people a few years into the future will deal with health care.

Satire: IMF Ensures Iraq Institutes Market Based Looting
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has agreed to monitor the Iraqi economy to ensure that the reintroduction of looting into the economy conforms with free-market theory.

N E W S

 Combet Calls On Unions to Muscle Up

 HR Honours Death List Author

 Hotel Workers Trump Living Wage

 Abbott Brushes Security Concerns

 Rebates Thorn in Medicare Side

 Bosses Infected With SARS Hysteria

 Entitlements: Bargaining Chip Ploy Fails

 Nelson Plan Faces Higher Hurdle

 Public To Pay For Patrick Closure

 Airline Ratbags Bigger Than Texas

 Credibility Crisis for World Bank

 Acid on Billion Dollar Banks

 CSIRO Budget Fears

 Activists Notebook

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
What May Day Means to Me
Reader Marlene McAlear penned this tribue to May Day and worker solidarity.

Solidarity
The Toast
Labor Council secretary John Robertson's toast to the annual May Day dinner in Sydney.

The Locker Room
The Numbers Game
In life there is lies, damned lies and sporting statistics, says Phil Doyle - but who’s counting.

Postcard
Brukman Evicted
ZNet's Marie Trigona reports from the streets of Argentina in the rundown to last week's presidential election.

Bosswatch
The Costs of Excess
Some tall business poppies had their heads lopped this week as the laws of economic gravity applied their always chaotic theory.

L E T T E R S
 The Workers Press
 Massive Attack
 Teamwork Tom
 Solidarity
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Tool Shed

Loony Tunes


Right-winger Ron Brunton takes up residence in the Tool Shed this week after the Howard Government showed its commitment to public broadcasting by appointing someone with no experience in public broadcasting to the national public broadcaster.

*****

Five years is what you'd reasonably expect to get as a sentence if convicted of armed robbery, and five years is how long the Howard Government has lumbered the ABC Board with professional goose and serial wing nut, Ron Brunton. Brunton comes to the job with an open mind. He already believes that the ABC is a part of the "left establishment" and is a "sucker" for "brainless comment" - i.e. opinions that fall anywhere to the left of Attila the Hun.

Hailing from the state that gave us Joh Bjielke Petersen, Mike "white shoes" Gore and Gordon Talliss, Brunton writes for the local Murdoch rag, The Courier-Mail and, more tellingly, for that pack of ideological nerds, the Institute of Public Affairs. Lesser known is his job as a spook. Brunton worked for the Federal Government's Office of National Assessments. It is not the first time Senator Alston has given Dr Brunton a job. Dr Brunton was a Liberal Party member in the 1980s and a research officer for the Victorian branch in 1981-82 when Senator Alston, who was on the selection committee for the plum ABC job, was state president.

He is a champion of what one media commentator called the "white denial industry", and his gutless attacks on anyone who opposes his view that all the natives need is a bit of colonising have showed up the shabby politics of this 'respectable face' of white denial.

Academic Raymond Gaita, who has been on the receiving end of Brunton's twisted logic, knows the viciousness of Ron Brunton's intellect. Recently he said: "Even when he expressed his disagreement over the issue of genocide, his tone was civil for the first time that I can remember." "Now, when I hear [Brunton] talk of a 'rigorous quest for truth', I feel a little sick."

Brunton is a big fan of the idea that Indigenous people should be 'more like us' and that any reports of genocide are overblown. This intellectual pickle had his hand in the murky politics that saw the cultural sensitivities of the Ngarrindjeri people literally bulldozed over the Hindmarsh Island affair.

While he may be confused as to whether or not wiping out indigenous culture was a bad thing he is a passionate defender of the English Aristocracy's right to Fox Hunt, which he sees as a 'tribal' activity. Paradoxically he's a big fan of Australia being 'egalitarian' - the word pops up constantly in his articles - buts it's an egalitarianism that involves everyone being like him. If John Howard wanted someone to drag Australia back to the fifties he's got the right man.

'Tally Ho' Brunton is a truly bizarre unit. He has called for organic food to be labelled as "poo food". Apparently natural fertilisers are dangerous because they contain shit. Well, he should know.

He also chastised those who opposed a "politician's republic" while arguing for Australia to abandon having a head of state. "A headless republic would offer the ultimate minimalist model, clearly avoiding the danger of an elected presidency becoming an alternative and destabilising source of power," says Brunton, and he had a novel solution to the problems created by an absence of democracy: "A national lottery could be established to select people to carry out a head of state's ceremonial duties for a week or a fortnight."

What more could we expect from a man who has privatised himself. The official release announcing the appointment praised Brunton's involvement in Encompass Research Pty Ltd, "an organisation engaged in anthropological and socio-economic research, concentrating on native title, indigenous heritage, immigration and environmental issues". This company was formerly known as Ron Brunton Research, a private company that appears to consist of, well, Ron Brunton.

No wonder he is a champion of contracting. After all, if you could write off your lack of brains as being your way of making a buck you'd come out in front in the tax stakes too.

A few years back Brunton took a break from putting the boots into Indigenous rights and public displays of his tenuous grip on reality to lecture the working classes on the evils of unionism. While he wasn't blind to the fact that "without union muscle to protect them, many workers will be vulnerable to exploitation", he couldn't understand why unions might be "eager to wind back much of the recent labour market deregulation." It escapes him that much of that deregulation creates the first problem.

He sings the praises of contracting with one eye on the fat paycheck from the loopy right and Rupert Murdoch and another on the tax advantages of Encompass Research Pty Ltd.. "People working under such contracts for services are free to negotiate their own pay conditions and times of work with those who engage them [oh really!], and are also responsible for their own leave and other matters that are normally the province of employers."

This moron has a strange idea of freedom, and no idea of the real power relationships that exist in the workplace. As the saying goes, 'the lion may lay down with the lamb, but the lamb won't get much sleep'. He then went on to defend the notorious scab herders, the Hammonds who have long regarded the Queensland Shearing Award as an unfortunate obstacle between them paying people in salt if they could.

As Federal MP Lindsay Tanner said: "The Howard Government's only justification for appointing Brunton is that he is involved in issues which are extensively covered on the ABC. On this logic a criminal would qualify to be on the ABC Board."

Our Tool Of The Week Ron Brunton is out of his depth and it is only a matter of time before this loose cannon returns the ABC to the kind of dumbing down and narrow mindedness associated with the regime of Jonathan Shier (rhymes with liar).

If you're concerned about a rabid right winger taking the reigns at the national broadcaster why not email Ron Brunton and let him know what you think.



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