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Issue No. 184 27 June 2003  

To the Victors The Spoils
Revelations that private American lawyers, rather than the ILO, will rewrite the labour laws of countries levelled by the American military vindicate the warnings of those concerned by US unilateralism.


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, Howard�s 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
It�s every power worker�s worst nightmare � 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 NTEU�s Dr Mike Donaldson and Tony Brown join all the dots in the current debate around higher eduction.

International: Static Labour
Ray Marcelo argues there�s another side to the recent furore over Telstra�s use of cheap Indian IT contractors.

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

Technology: Google and Campaigning
Labourstart�s 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 �t�s, 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.


 Rail Chaos Looms

 Electrolux Blows Fuse at Fundraiser

 ACM Loosens Handcuff on Democracy

 Sick Call on Mum�s Job

 Now For Industrial Shock and Awe

 Brian Miller � Working Class Hero

 Dynamite: Howard Handout for Rorters

 Family Case to Nurture Mothers

 Militants Lock Out Another 600

 Tipping the Turtle � Fijian Style

 Carr Goes Private

 Wages Blemish Sound Budget

 Westie Takes On Westfield �Hypocrisy�

 Eleventh Hour Reprieve for Women's Centre

 Activist Notebook


It�s 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 ALP�s union links are nothing to be ashamed of.

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

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

 In Defence of Cuba
 The Story in General
 Thinking of America
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To the Victors The Spoils

Revelations that private American lawyers, rather than the ILO, will rewrite the labour laws of countries levelled by the American military vindicate the warnings of those concerned by US unilateralism.

It is one thing to 'liberate' a country from an oppressive regime. It is something altogether different to impose your cultural, social and political values on that country.

Supporters of US policy would argue that intervention in the name of democracy is a just cause.

But how democratic is a system where employers have legal sanction to de-unionise workplaces, break worker pickets and bypass industrial tribunals?

That's the stated mission of US Lawyers Dechert LLC, who are leading a team to rewrite labour law in Afghanistan under the auspices of the so-called Afghanistan Transitional Commercial Law Project.

Global unions have raised concerns that these private operators with a commercial agenda are doing work that is rightfully the responsibility of the International Labour Organisation.

They also have informed fears that a similar code will be imposed on Iraq under the US Administration, providing a friendly environment for US corporations which will dominate post-war reconstruction.

No-one would suggest that the rules of the Taliban or the Ba'aths were a workers' nirvana. But to impose a US system of individual employment, not supported by a majority of the international community, is hardly the model to promote national reconstruction.

It's interesting to contrast this approach with the one taken in rebuilding East Timor. With a hands-on United Nations administrator and input from NGO's like our own Union Aid Abroad, it has been recognised that a vibrant trade union movement is an important part of the new nation.

If we are serious about supporting the spread of democracy, that democracy must apply all the way to the workplace, so it becomes part of everyday life, and not just a conversation between the dominant elites of a new nation.

Australians should rightly be asking our government, which has so vigorously backed the Coalition of the Willing, to stand up for the institutions which we participate in during the rebuilding phase of these conflicts.

Australia recognises the ILO - and while our federal government may currently embarrass us on the global stage - we still benefit from the global consensus that such bodies create.

To stand by silently while a system is constructed by partisan lawyers from firms which act against the spirit of ILO Conventions is to compound our national shame in deferring to the might of the one remaining super-power.

The recent global poll 'What the World Thinks of America' was fascinating in so far as it exposed the gap in perceptions of the USA between those who live within its borders and those who live outside.

Even people in nations like Brazil and Jordan with living standards way below that of the USA, do not want to become more like America. Yet Americans, presume that everyone wishes they were more like them.

This is the attitude driving current US foreign policy and post-war reconstruction. It contrasts starkly with the inclusive, leg-up approach with which Americans approached the Herculean task of rebuilding Western Europe and, indeed, Japan after the Second World War.

So let's not be trapped into seeing it as some central flaw in the American character.

Rather, it is a reflection on the Hard Right ideology that reigns in the White House and holds increasing sway in Canberra.

After a few months of Hard Right industrial relations, it is fair to ponder where the attitudes of rank-and-file Afghans and Iraqi will lie and what the prospect of an enduring peace will be.

Peter Lewis



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