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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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Abbott Flags Move On Nurses

"Who’s next?" unions are asking, as Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott suggests anti-pattern bargaining provisions in his building industry legislation could be turned against nurses.

Australian Nurses Federation secretary, Jill Iliffe, said Abbott’s idea that country nurses be paid less than city colleagues was an insult to both her members and rural Australians.

At present, public hospital nurses negotiate pattern state-wide agreements but Abbott floated a plan for pay differentials at a recent industrial relations conference in Melbourne.

"Why not pay the nurses in a city hospital significantly more than a nurse in the country?" Abbott asked delegates at the Workforce conference.

"The point I am trying to make is one-size-fits-all rules don't work very well, even in the public sector," he said later.

Abbott reiterated his desire to spread key elements of his controversial building industry legislation, last week.

If the legislation proved successful, he told reporters on the day of its introduction to Federal Parliament, "only an idiot" wouldn't consider extending it to other workers.

Outlawing pattern bargaining is a the centre of a package which includes drastic restrictions on the right to take industrial action, and six-figure fines for unions, and individual members, found to be in breach of restrictive Coalition workplace laws.

ACTU secretary, Greg Combet, said Abbott's building industry proposals were a threat to all Australian workers.

"Tony Abbott is trying to force building workers into a legal straightjacket," he said. "The legislation would allow employees and unions to be sued into bankruptcy for being involved in normal collective bargaining to improve wages, conditions and safety.

"Mr Abbott said today he is considering similar legislation for other industries, but refused to say which ones. If the Government succeeds in removing the rights of employees in the building industry, then who will be next."

The ACTU rejected Abbott's claim that his Bill was a response to a building industry wracked by an industrial relations crisis. It said the following statistics painted a very different picture ...

- In May, 2003, the building industry employed 730,000 Australians, up 160,000 since 1997.

- Australian construction was ranked second, or better, for productivity, cost per square metre and time taken to complete projects, across 16 international studies.

- According to the Productivity Commission, Construction is the country's fourth most labour-efficient industry

- More time is lost to the industry due to injury and death than industrial action

- Over three years,industry unions have recovered more than $30 million in unpaid wages and lost entitlement

It also questioned the merit of controversial Cole Commission recommendations on which Abbott has based his legislation, pointing out that more than 90 percent of its hearing time was taken by anti-union witnesses.

The ACTU asked why the Commission hadn't found a single case of employer tax evasion, despite an ATO submission that the industry hid up to 40 percent of its annual income, and why it had called 633 employer witnesses against only 36 workers.


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