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Issue No. 198 03 October 2003  
E D I T O R I A L

The Monk Off Our Back
It should come as no surprise that Tony Abbott has been dragged from his workplace relations portfolio just as his $60 million assault on the CFMEU finally unravels.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: No Ifs, No Butts
Rugby League Professionals Association president Tony Butterfield on his battle to deliver a collective agreement for NRL players.

Unions: National Focus
In this month’s national wrap: Noel Hester meets a heavy hitter talking up open source unionism, truckies front the suits at Boral’s AGM, tales of corporate bastardry and Medicare birthday revelry.

Industrial: Fools Gold
Unions have thrashed out a string of protocols with the NSW Labor Government. Some, now, are questioning whether they are worth the cheap, imported paper they are written on, reports Jim Marr.

Bad Boss: Bones of Contention
Byron Bay chicken boners have nominated thier boss for a Tony after seeing their entitlements plucked.

History: The Gong Show
In late September the South Coast Labour Council (SCLC) celebrated 75 unbroken years championing the rights of workers in the coastal Illawarra region 80 kilometres south of Sydney, writes Rowan Cahill.

Politics: The Hawke Legacy
The election of the Hawke Labor government twenty years ago holds some salient lessons for today’s Labor Party, writes Troy Bramston.

International: Sick Nation
As Australia celebrates 20 years of Medicare’s universal health coverage the crisis facing American workers in need of medical care is a useful reminder of what we’ve got – and what we stand, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Closed Minds
Philip Mendes looks at the political influence of right-wing think tanks, their financial backing and asks why the left hasn’t been able to get its ideas out there.

Review: Mixing Pop and Politics
He's had relations, with girls from many nations... but Billy Bragg seems to like us Aussies as much or even more than any of the others, writes Pádraig Collins.

Poetry: One Size Fits All
There once was a man from the Lodge - Who tried hard, our poems, to dodge... Resident bard David Peetz is back!

N E W S

 Concrete Boot for Democracy

 Picketers Get Blue Ribbon Result

 ICAC Call at Mudgee Abattoir

 Telstra on Charges

 Unis Walk Over Federal Bullying

 IRC Shoots Rooster that Quacked

 Ugly Australian Riles Timorese

 Medicare Gets Abbott For Birthday

 Business Council Opposes Salary Vote

 Rail Workers Call For Self Defence

 ACT Leads On Industrial Manslaughter

 Thumbs-Up for Awards Binding Subbies

 Entitlements Crash into Hangar

 Blackouts on NSW Horizon

 State Govt Told To Clean Up Contracts

 Would-be Presidents Face Union Probe

 Activists Notebook

C O L U M N S

Postcard
North By Northwest
Phil Doyle returns from up north, where he survived on nothing but goodwill, good people and a great big orange bus.

The Soapbox
The $140 Million Patriot
It would be hard to imagine a steeper slide from hero to zero than the experience of Richard Grasso, the now-deposed head of the New York Stock Exchange. writes Jim Stanford.

Media
Bush's Bad News Blues
The Bush Administration is cooking up a new campaign 'to shine light on progress made in Iraq', writes Bill Berkowitz.

The Locker Room
A Tale Of One City
Phil Doyle gazes into the crystal ball for signs of life, and finds that somewhere the horses are running in the wrong direction.

Culture
With Banners Furled
There is no better account of the glory that was the annual Labour Day marches than that given by Kylie Tennant in Foveaux, her fictional account of life in inner Sydney in 1912, the year she was born.

Politics
The Westie Wing
Our favourite Macquarie Street MP, Ian West MLC, reports on the world of NSW politics.

Postcard
The Cancun Wash-Up
The dramatic collapse of the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico, last month has been followed by a deafening quiet from Geneva, Brussels and Washington, writes Peter Murphy.

L E T T E R S
 A Hard Act To Follow
 Which Boss?
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Editorial

The Monk Off Our Back


It should come as no surprise that Tony Abbott has been dragged from his workplace relations portfolio just as his $60 million assault on the CFMEU finally unravels.

This week's revelations that Cole Commission investigators vigorously led witnesses to incriminate the union, follow last week's leaking of the secret report volume exposing the very shaky foundations upon which the report's recommendations were based.

This left the government with next to no chance of getting Abbott's building industry legislation through the Senate, meaning the Monk's 'reform agenda' of turning building workers into criminals would fall into a very expensive hole.

Like his predecessor Peter Reith, Abbott will be remembered as a minister who bought ideological warfare to a portfolio that should really be about compromise and cooperation.

Like Reith and the waterfront, Abbott put much vigour into 'breaking' an effective trade union only to find himself caught out by his fundamental blind spot - that not everyone views the world as he does.

It is a failing that has afflicted many a preacher man, for that was what the Mad Monk ultimately was, a deluded zealot bashing away at the pulpit.

While Abbott preached choice, he practiced his own breed of compulsion, refusing government funding to universities who would not push individual contracts at academics.

While he preached family values, he sat back as workers were screwed harder and harder, with less time for their families and communities thanks to the flexibility he championed.

And while he preached the 'rule of law' he contrived to turn workers into outlaws, forcing them into long and heated lock-outs by stripping the industrial umpire of the power to resolve disputes.

Abbott's period in industrial relations must ultimately be viewed as a failure because he has left a system that exists to manage labour relations fundamentally weaker.

The fact that the Mad Monk has been given a promotion to the health portfolio rather than a spell on the sidelines should not only send shivers through the spine of any sick person, it also says much about the mindset of the Prime Minister.

If Abbott takes his approach to the workplace into the health portfolio, one can only wonder at the conflict he will create - between rich and poor, public and private patients, and the sick and the healthy.

If ever there was a man to drive a wedge through the health system, here he is.

Peter Lewis

Editor


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