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Issue No. 194 05 September 2003  

Relatively Speaking
At its heart, political debate has always been a struggle between competing views about how a society should organise itself to maximise the benefits for the majority of its citizens.


Interview: Crowded Lives
Labor frontbencher Lindsay Tanner talks us through his new book on the importance of relationships and why politics is letting the people down.

Activists: Life With Brian
Work by men like Brian Fitzpatrick is exposing new Australians to old truths. Jim Marr reports

Industrial: National Focus
A showdown looms in Cancun, Qantas gets bolshie, casual and lazy in its response to aviation challenges, and long festering disputes fester on in Victoria and Tasmania reports Noel Hester in this national wrap.

Unions: If These Walls Could Talk
Trades Hall is preparing for a major facelift but first, Jim Marr reports, it must bid farewell to the colourful bunch who have populated its dusty corridors in recent years.

Economics: Beating the Bastards
Frank Stilwell looks at some of the proposals for building a fairer finance sector.

Media: Three Corners
So its come to this. Four Corners, one of the world's longest running television programs is now under pressure from an ABC Executive that is less cultural visionary than feral abacus.

History: The Brisbane Line
Percy Spender was Menzies' foreign minister, but, Neale Towart asks, was he also prepared to serve as Prime Minister in a Japanese controlled Australia?

Trade: The Dumping Problem
Oxfam-CAA helps set the scene for this month's World Trade Organisation in Cancun.

Review: Frankie's Way
In The Night We Called It A Day Frank Sinatra learns 'sorry' Down Under is a loaded word and refusal to say it when due will lose fans in important places, writes Tara de Boehmler.


 Truckies Tip Safety on AGM Floor

 Geelong Lockout Claims Family Homes

 Aussie Labour Laws Fail US Test

 No Accident � Insurance Dough Rises

 Union Mum Wins

 Rheem Runs Cold On Entitlements

 Unions Take It Up for Footballers

 Drug Boss Fails Workers

 Ministers Urged to Take Responsibility

 Museum Jobs Face Extinction

 Less News And More Of It

 Legal Costs Threaten Access

 Learning for Life

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Staking Our Territory
ACTU secretary Greg Combet argued for a fairer Australia in his keynote address to last month's ACTU Congress.

The Locker Room
Seasonally Agisted
Spring is a season when a person�s thoughts turn to�horse racing. Phil Doyle reports on the fate of nags and folk heroes.

Beyond the Block
We are wild about the people who live in The Block but not too interested in those who are on the streets outside, writes Michael Rafferty.

The Westie Wing
Workers friend Ian West MLC, reports form the Bearpit about a project to raise awareness about trade unionism amongst young people.

The Awkward Squad
Paul Smith meets one of the new generation of British union leaders who is taking the ball up to the Blair spin team.

 Lyon Roars
 Spicey and Tart
 Tony and Pauline
 PNG Bags Plastic
 Fighting Words Craig Emerson
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Aussie Labour Laws Fail US Test

Australia�s much hyped free trade agreement with the US faces being derailed by the Howard Government�s failure to adopt basic labour standards.

The US Department of Labour has received a key report slamming the Australian IR system as an "imbalanced, inadequate system of labor laws that fails to fully protect workers� core rights".

The submission tabled this week in Washington follows ACTU warnings about the threat posed by the failure of the Federal Government to guarantee collective bargaining.

"This shows that even the Americans think Australia's federal industrial laws don't meet international standards," said an ACTU spokesperson. "They are now posing a threat to Australia's international economic interests.

In Workers Online 190 the ACTU President Sharan Burrow pointed to support for support for trade and investment based on decent standards.

The AFL-CIO report, released on September 2, addressed Australia's labour laws and its compliance with the core labour standards, including standards on child labour.

"Australia's federal labor laws are far from comprehensive, leaving significant gaps in legal guarantees for workers' rights," says the report, which pointed out that it was vital that any free trade agreement between the countries "address these deficiencies".

The report points out that there are no federal laws in Australia prohibiting forced labour, setting a minimum age for employment, or prohibiting forced or bonded labour by children. It also points out that existing laws have been criticised by the U.S. State Department, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), and the International Labor Organization (ILO) for failing to fully protect workers' freedom of association and their right to organize and bargain collectively.

The report addressed the problems facing Australian workers in exercising freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively, the freedom to choose a union, anti-union discrimination and child labour and forced labour.

"Adequate and reliable data related to the size and scale of the commercial exploitation of children in Australia is not regarded as a priority by any state or federal government," says the AFL-CIO.

The AFL-CIO pointed out that individual Australian Workplace Agreements were privileged over collective bargaining agreements and that, in Australia, a worker can be subject to common law court claims and onerous personal damages for strike activities

"Australia has refused to amend its laws to comply with [international] standards despite repeated ILO recommendations that it do so," says the AFL-CIO. "A mere obligation to enforce existing law will simply not be sufficient to ensure that workers' fundamental rights will be respected under the proposed FTA."

Following the submission the US Department of Labor will provide advice to the US trade negotiating team engaged in developing the Australia-US free trade agreement.

"It is imperative that the Department of Labor develop a comprehensive analysis of Australia's labor laws early enough to inform the content of the FTA negotiations now taking place," says the AFL-CIO.

The AFL-CIO and the ACTU released a joint statement calling for the FTA to include enforceable commitments to core workers' rights outlined in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

It is now likely that US Congressmen will be lobbied directly once any proposed agreement comes before the US legislature.

With the US entering a Presidential campaign in 2004 free trade is expected to be a hot electoral topic after the flight of jobs from the US following the NAFTA agreement.


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