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Issue No. 197 26 September 2003  

Coming to the Party
The coming NSW ALP State Conference marks an important moment in the changing relationship between the political and industrial wings of the Party.


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.


 Violence: Rail Workers' Hot Spray

 Corporate "Branch Stack" in Court

 Entitlements: Ball in Carr’s Court

 Asbestos Prospect for Home Buyers

 "Stand Over" Claims at Hilton

 US: Iraq on the Block

 Sheeps Of Shame

 Teachers Applaud TAFE Backdown

 Council Delays Sweat Shop Action

 Monk Aims Muscle at Unis

 Cobar Beats Off CBH Assault

 Sign Here For Reconciliation

 Workers Denied Home Loans

 Casual Approach No Holiday

 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.

 The Clown and the Magician.
 Shorter Hours
 A Sick War
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Coming to the Party

The coming NSW ALP State Conference marks an important moment in the changing relationship between the political and industrial wings of the Party.

Between the set piece speeches the ritualised debates on branching stacking, there will be a new dimension - a union movement with a common desire to see an electorally successful Labor Government do more for the people who elect them.

Unions have crossed the factional divide at a number of past conferences - who can forget the decision to block the privatisation of the power industry in 1998? Who can forget the political mileage the Carr Government extracted from that conference 'defeat' at the 1999 election?

But never before has the movement been as united: with the AMWU now back in the Labor Council, there is unified voice behind these resolutions that make them difficult to ignore and impossible to defeat.

And, as the 2002 Conference debate on refugees showed, when unions are united, the rank and file tends to back them in.

The union agenda for Conference 2003 speaks to the issues unions confront every day.

Some resolutions speak of desperation - the need to address the entitlements issue is more acute every day a company collapses. To simply blame Canberra is no longer enough. State Labor Governments must show leadership.

Some speak of impatience with the Carr Government - the call for industrial manslaughter laws follows solemn reassurances by Minister Della Bosca that the existing law was sufficient: yet still no employer has tasted justice despite the ongoing deaths in the workplace.

Other resolutions speak of frustration: the call for the Carr Government to back the Labor Council's Secure Employment Test Case follows three years of waiting for the government to address the issue of labour hire through legislation.

And others speak of a yearning for a Labor Government with the courage to end the 'business as usual approach to politics'. The call for a comprehensive government procurement policy is an invitation for visionary leadership.

It argues that Labor Governments should use their purchasing power - through government tenders and funding - to encourage employers to be better corporate citizens and treat their workers with respect.

The bottom line: if you want to run an anti-union agenda in your workplace, don't expect a government contract. It's no more than Tony Abbott is trying to achieve a t a federal level - only this time geared at the interests of the worker, not the boss.

But all speak a common language that politicians are not responding to problems arising in the workplace, problems that are placing stress on families and communities.

The political managers of the Party will have no option but to accept these resolutions, or risk being rolled over by union delegates with the support of the rank and file.

The big question is whether the resolutions will be implemented at Macquarie Street or whether Conference is ignored.

It may not make the headlines, but these debates on bread and butter work issues could well herald a shift in power from the stage to the body of the hall.

Peter Lewis



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