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Issue No. 180 30 May 2003  

Headless Nation
So the Governor-General has voted himself out of the Big House, recognising that his capacity to discharge his duties as Head of State had been fatally compromised by the skeletons in his Yarralumla closet.


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.


 Sanitarium Casts Democracy into Hell’s Fire

 Mouse that Roared

 Abbott: Look After Number One

 Entitlements Revamp – Acid on States

 Strong Stuff – Commission Star in Court

 Think Before You Drink

 Maritime Hero Takes Final Journey

 All Ding but No Gong

 Aged Care in Terminal Condition

 Strathfield Joins War on Shonks

 AMWU Returns to the Fold

 Green Jobs In Offing

 Register for Action

 Activists Notebook


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

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

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.

 Language Most Foul
 Unions Deserve Reputation
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Strong Stuff – Commission Star in Court

Cole Commission star witness Stephen Strong is trying to avoid paying $26,000 he owes to tip-truck drivers.

Strong, having been found to have owed the money to five drivers by the IRC last November, tried unsuccessfully to have those orders overturned mid-May. This week he was back in Local Court attempting to have proceedings stayed.

Frustrated TWU South Coast official Richard Olsen said Strong's "stone walling" threatened the viability of some of the independent operators involved.

"Two of these guys are owed $6000 and $8600 for work they did for his company. Take amounts like that out of a small business and you get problems," Olsen said.

Strong's company, S&B Industries, contracted the drivers to do work on several Sydney building sites. They have been trying to recover their money since last year.

It was around that time that Strong and wife, Barbara, were holding Cole Commission observers spellbound with lurid claims of union standover tactics, including attempts at bribery and threats of violence.

The targets of these allegations, covered in detail by the mass media, were officials of the CFMEU's NSW branch.

But when Counsel Assisting the Commission were finally convinced they should check the Strongs' claims against available telephone and police records, they started to crumble.

No records could be found of telephone conversations sworn to and police records, far from endorsing evidence of an official complaint about union behaviour, revealed Mrs Strong complaining about a sub-contractor hassling her for overdue payments.

In denying all the Strongs' allegations, CFMEU witnesses said S&B Industries had attracted attention because it habitually ran unsafe sites and ducked employment and statutory obligations.

In his final report, Building Industry Royal Commissioner Terence Cole, returned a number of adverse findings against the CFMEU and its officials based on the contested evidence of the Strongs.

Mrs Strong gave sworn evidence to the Royal Commission that S&B Industries had been forced out of business by the CFMEU. Since the Commission completed its Sydney hearings last September, however, S&B Industries has

- had a site in Glebe shut down by health and safety authority Workcover because of unsafe practices

- operated a demolition site without required council approval

- faced a variety of creditors - employees and sub-countractors - in court

- faced CFMEU claims in court for more than $10,000 in alleged underpayments to four employees

- had the IRC find it owed more than $26,000 to five self-employed drivers

- seen the IRC reject a subsequent attempt to have those orders stayed

- taken civil court action to try and prevent assets being sold to meet its debts


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