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Issue No. 196 19 September 2003  

A Secret Country
So Tony Abbott has tabled his legislation to crush the CFMEU, while refusing to release the secret volume of the Royal Commission on which the recommendations are based.


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.


 Cole Skeletons Shake Monk

 Abbott Flags Move On Nurses

 Workplace Bullies Leave Three Dead

 People’s Bank Scraps People

 Left-Right Combo Drops Motorway Boss

 Free Wally - Movie Offer

 Detention for Minister Who Praised Scabs

 Cancun Flop Spurs Local Stars

 Public Sector: Cuts and Thrusts

 Medicare Cuts Take Cake

 Beating Around The Bush

 Other Half Lives It Up

 Anderson Ducks Mudgee Bill

 Deaf, Blind and Looking For Friends

 Filipino Vote Call

 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.

 Freedom from Choice
 Free Art
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A Secret Country

So Tony Abbott has tabled his legislation to crush the CFMEU, while refusing to release the secret volume of the Royal Commission on which the recommendations are based.

Revelations this week that this secret volume contains more escape clauses than an AWA should seriously undermine the Minister's case for 'reform', given it is based on allegations of union criminality which Abbott, himself, now admits he has not even seen.

Those who have seen the report assure us there is 'nothing new' in the findings against unionists, meaning they amount to little more than a series of unsubstantiated allegations of technical illegality - ie breaches of workplace laws designed to outlaw legitimate union activity.

And what does his $60 million dirt-digging exercise come up with - a series of recommendations based on evidence that 'might' lead to criminal charges; a washing of the hands if ever there was one.

Yet under the authority of this secret report the man who sees nothing wrong in running secret electoral slush funds to attack his political enemies, now grandstands about the need to stamp out union thuggery.

This legislation is destined to be blocked in the Senate, it is so outrageous and one-sided that any fair-minded democrat would simply reject it out of hand.

But from where Workers Online sits, this is exactly what Abbott has in mind, a secret agenda to add this legislation to the growing pile of bills that will trigger a double dissolution election early in 2004.

Alongside Telstra, Medicare, higher education and the king-hit of cross-media ownership laws, the Coalition will attempt to sneak through their CFMEU demolition job as just one of a lucky dip of nasties.

And as they can't get their neo-conservative agenda up through the established legislative processes, they will do so under the cover of security fears - both hyped and real.

We've seen the Fog of War in practice over the past week, secret intelligence reports leaked to friendly right-wing commentators, police investigations of whistleblowers inside the Transport Department and an ongoing refusal to come clean on the basis for committing Australian troops to a war with Iraq.

Meanwhile, our government will continue secret trade talks with the US which could well see the end of local cultural content laws and the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, and give US firms unfettered access to our public services.

The problem with secrecy is that the truth becomes a battle of spin - it's why we have representative government, so that we can scrutinise the actions of our decision-makers.

In the Secret Country that is Howard's Australia, this principle has been absolutely perverted.

Peter Lewis



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