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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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Corporate "Branch Stack" in Court

Chemists, who scuttled the jobs of 128 low paid workers at last week’s Pan Pharmaceuticals creditors meeting, have sparked calls for a rewrite of Australian commercial law.

AWU national secretary, Bill Shorten, is working on a redraft that will go before ALP policymakers if the Supreme Court rules chemists - owed barely $70 a head and with a dubious relationship to Pan - had the right to vote down a rescue package at a fiery creditors meeting in Sydney.

"These workers haven't broken any law. If it turns out the Pharmacy Guild and KPMG haven't broken any law either, then the law is broken," Shorten said.

"If that is the case we will push to ensure corporate law is radically reformed so the interests of ordinary Australians - workers and small business people - are not trampled over again."

Under existing law, two votes would have been required to get the Pan rescue package up. The first, by numbers of creditors, the second by value of money owed.

The administrator had stated publicly that if the two results conflicted, he would have cast his deciding vote for the rescue package.

Big corporate creditors like Mayne Health, Sigma and Horny Goat, all incidentally involved in manufacturing operations in some opposition to Pan, were always expected to vote against the operation continuing.

But workers, 90 of whom attended the meeting, would have carried the numbers vote in alliance with small creditors, if the administrator hadn't treated the Pharmacy Guild proxies, controlled by one individual, as 370 separate votes.

Shorten called the nine-hour meeting a "real farce".

"It is a matter for the Supreme Court to decide whether these votes should have been allowed or not," Shorten said. "Either way, what we saw was a farce. The proxy holders representing the Pharmacy Guild wouldn't even allow an adjournment for the court to decide the validity of the process.

"It was a classic case of corporate branch stacking that would have made any ALP operator blush," Shorten said.

He questioned whether the Pharmacy Guild should have had any vote given that its members did not deal directly with Pan but with pharmaceutical retailers.

The chances of Pan workers retaining employment would have swung on the result of a Therapeutical Goods Administration audit expected next Tuesday.

The AWU is one of several parties that have asked the Supreme Court to rule on the validity of the creditor's meeting. The case has been set down for hearing on October 13 and 14 but, by then, the administrator is expected to have used last week's vote to terminate remaining employees.


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