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Issue No. 181 06 June 2003  

National Leadership
After a week of front-page political chicanery we are to get more John Howard; who at a time of his choosing will pitch for a fourth election victory by going head to head with the son of a Whitlam Minister.


History: Nest of Traitors
Rowan Cahill uncovers a ripping yarn that could redefine the way we look at Australian involvement in World War II.

Interview: A Nation of Hope
Former PM Bob Hawke bemoans the demise of industrial relations but takes heart from the prospect of peace in the Middle East

Unions: National Focus
Noel Hester reports on a soap star rebellion, Howardís plans to renuclearise South Australia, more historical atrocities in the north, the redundancy test case plus more in the monthly national wrap.

Safety: The Shocking Truth
Itís every power workerís worst nightmare Ė and it happened to Adrian Ware. In a flash of voltage, his life changed forever, as Jim Marr reports.

Tribute: A Comrade Departed
From Prime Ministers to wharfies, the labour movement paid tribute to Tas Bull this week. Jim Marr was among them.

History: Working Bees
Neale Towart looks at a group of workers who got sacked so their boss could keep making the Bomb.

Education: The Big Picture
The NTEUís Dr Mike Donaldson and Tony Brown join all the dots in the current debate around higher eduction.

International: Static Labour
Ray Marcelo argues thereís another side to the recent furore over Telstraís use of cheap Indian IT contractors.

Economics: Budget And Fudge It
Frank Stilwell argues that Peter Costelloís latest budget plumbs fiscal policy to new depths.

Technology: Google and Campaigning
Labourstartís Eric Lee argues the latest weapon for campaigning could be the humble search engine.

Review: Secretary With A Difference
Looking for a new job can be hard enough, without having to worry about sadomasochistic bosses and the threat of being spanked for forgetting to cross your Ďtís, says Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: The Minimale
The Labor Party leadership is in the news again, inspiring our resident bard David Peetz to song

Satire: Howard Calls for Senate to be Replaced by Clap-O-Meter
John Howard released a controversial policy statement today, arguing that the Senate be abolished in favour of a device measuring noise from the gallery of the House of Representatives.


 Allianz Claims on Sick and Dying

 Back Pay Bill From Behind the Bars

 Gloves Off for Local Voices

 Stabbings Ground Job Cuts Ė For Now

 Red Light for Cut Price Labour Hire

 Sacked Workersí Ultimate Insult

 Electrolux Repays Survival With Bastardry

 Survivor Urges Compo Rethink

 Nurses: Bosses Should Foot Bank Fees

 Telstra Workers Show Bottle

 Rail Workers Telegraph Press Council Track

 Call Centre Leak Shames Stellar

 Malaysian Detainees Released

 Western Sahara Tests UN

 Activist Notebook


Itís Our Party
Long time union watcher Nicholas Way looks at the changing dynamics between the industrial and political wings of the labour movement.

The Soapbox
Grass Roots
In his Maiden Speech, new MP Tony Burke argues that the ALPís union links are nothing to be ashamed of.

Opinion Forming Down Under
Evan Jones condemns the mainstreamís media coverage of the War on Iraq and the damage it is doing to our national psyche.

The Locker Room
Location, Re-Location!
Itís all fun and games until someone loses a club, writes Phil Doyle

 Blowing Holes in Gittens
 Negative Campaigning
 Response to Gould
 Aged Policy Looks Hairy
 Tom's Turn
 God Save Billy Deane
 Solidarity Forever
 More Bad Language
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National Leadership

After a week of front-page political chicanery we are to get more John Howard; who at a time of his choosing will pitch for a fourth election victory by going head to head with the son of a Whitlam Minister.

The problem with the current manoeuvrings is that both sides of politics seem to be driven by a myth the idea that Howard is unbeatable; but it is a proposition that doesn't stand up to scutiny.

In 1998 Kim Beazley got tantalisingly close to making John Howard a one-term leader; despite the landslide of 1996 there were only a few seats in it.

Then in 2001, Labor fell victim to their own conservative strategy and the unprecedented and cynical manipulation of public opinion by the incumbents.

Since then, we have had a war that is looking increasingly like a bad case of Wag the Dog; the fall of a head of state the PM hand-picked himself; and looming attacks on health and higher education.

That Howard is now celebrated as some sort of national hero, shows how fatuous and bereft of principle modern politics has become.

And that Labor does not appear capable of launching a sustained challenge underlines serious structural weaknesses in the party.

As those within Labor circles continue to ruminate on Beazley or Crean, I've framed my own question. If your loved one's life depended on a Labor victory at the next election, who would want to lead the party? I bet you one thing; the answer you come up with will be neither of the two main protagonists.

The fixation on leadership by both parties misses the broader point; they are both expressions of a process that stifles talent, ideas and momentum.

The parliaments of the nation - both state and federal - are over-populated by a class of hacks who have moved from student politics to a job in parliament, to a seat, without ever having to come into contact with the real world.

The Liberals use polling to identify issues that will divide Labor's two bases - the Whitlamite middle classes and the traditional working class.

And Labor? It uses polling to develop bland messages that trick these two groups into thinking they have something to gain for voting for the party that used to represent their interests.

And when they win elections, as they have around the states, they slip back into a conservative agenda of 'managing for re-election'.

It's no coincidence that both these major parties have preselection systems controlled by factional warlords; disenfranchised rank and file members who are leaving in droves and youth wings in total disarray.

As the major parties have corrupted, the only drive in Australian politics over the past decade has come from One Nation on the Right and The Greens on the Left.

Disagree with them and call them loonies if you like, but you can't deny that their focus on issues creates real energy around their political agenda, the sort of energy that can create real change.

One only has to think of the anti-war rallies and the poll position the Greens held there to see an alternate model of politics in its emryonic stage.

Compare this with the way the ALP succeeded in tying down and stifling the Labor for Refugees group, bulldozed the unions on the 60/40 issue, seeing the rank and file activism around policy as the threat to business as usual.

For both major parties, this week's focus may sum up their real problem - it takes more than a figurehead to lead a party; and when you've lost your base, your ideology and your way even a figure as bereft of ideas, principle or vision as John Howard can begin to look good.

Peter Lewis



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