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Issue No. 200 24 October 2003  

The Hard Yards
Two hundred issues of Australia’s first and only online workers’ magazine is due reason to celebrate. It is also a good time to look at what we’ve achieved over the past five years and consider where we need to go.


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!


 Workers Rally For ‘Joel’s Law’

 It’s Official: Courts Weak on Safety

 Cole Insider Highlights "Agenda"

 "Racism" as Pacific Islanders Rorted

 Academics Appeal to International Umpire

 Conroy Crashes Boral Bash

 Poll Points to Hospital Overload

 Aussie Icon Set To Head Overseas

 China Gaols Union Activists

 Victory in Dili

 AWU Rejects Bid to Fleece Shearers

 People’s Bank to Hear From People

 Unions Put Students in Picture

 Memo ALP Members: Think About Unions

 New Face in the Hunter

 Activists Notebook


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.

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.

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.

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

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.

 Child Labour
 Advance Australia Where?
 God Save Us All
 US Seeking Aussie Info
 Call The Doctor
 Bring Back Gough
 Bring Back Social Democracy
 Look East, Look West
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Cole Insider Highlights "Agenda"

Legislation arising from the Cole Royal Commission is "narrow, divisive and confrontational", says an academic who wrote key Commission discussion papers.

Martin Loosemore, professor of construction management at the University of NSW, warned Tony Abbott’s reform package could create more problems for the construction industry than it solved.

Loosemore, contracted by Cole to analyse industry productivity, was disappointed by Federal Government's response to the $60 million commission.

"The narrowness of the reforms is disappointing," Loosemore said. "The fact that they just concentrated on IR when there were a huge number of problems faced by the industry.

"A lot of very useful information was collected but most of it has been ignored. From an outside perspective, you could be forgiven for thinking there was some sort of agenda."

Professors Loosemore and Denny McGeorge told the Commission, in discussion papers, that on international indicators Australian building and construction shaped up well, finishing first or second on most indicators.

However, they argued, it was not as productive as other sectors of the domestic economy.

"We are doing quite well, very well in many ways," Loosemore told Workers Online, "but there is a case for reform and IR is one element of that. What's missing is any leadership on all the other reforms the industry needs."

Loosemore said construction needed to lift its game on training practices, contractual reform, human resource management, procurement practices and the fact that price, rather than quality, drove investment. None of these issues, he said, had been addressed by proposed legislation.

His comments come as legislation introduced by Tony Abbott runs into a storm of controversy.

Abbott's Bill seeks to severely restrict the ability of building workers to take industrial action over safety, wages or conditions. It would introduce massive fines and prison terms for union members who breach its provisions, allow union officials to be barred from the industry, even for technical breaches, and would be policed by a special taxpayer-funded taskforce.

Trade unionists' description of the Cole Commission as a "witch-hunt" have won unlikely endorsement from a leading Perth builder with a history of run-ins with the CFMEU.

Daren Deen, general manager of Perth-based Sizer Builders, echoed union criticisms at an industry seminar in Melbourne.

"I share the union's view that the royal commission was a political witch-hunt," Deen said.

"My view that the royal commission was a political witch-hunt is also shaped by the inflammatory rhetoric pumped out during the hearings and the Government's behaviour afterwards."

Stunned CFMEU WA secretary, Kevin Reynolds, said Deen's comments reflected opinions other builders were only prepared to express in private.

"Deen is no friend of the CFMEU's, so it's interesting that that is his view," Reynolds told the West Australian this week.

Another hurdle for Abbott's contentious legislation is expected to come from a full Senate Inquiry to begin hearings in December. The Inquiry is likely to give voice to dozens of industry players denied a say by the Cole Commission.

Union figures hope the Senate hearings will become an inquiry into an inquiry, testing their views that the Cole Commission was unbalanced and partisan.

Pensioner Gets New House

Meanwhile, a Bendigo pensioner whose home was destroyed by a May tornado, is due to move into a brand new home, courtesy of community support spearheaded by the Victorian branch of the CFMEU.

The Bendigo Advertiser reported this week that Albert Alcock (67) shed a tear at the first sight of the nearly completed home at Eaglehawk.

The paper quoted his daughter, Jenny Borserio, as saying the donation of the house, built by CFMEU members, had come as a "huge surprise".

Her father has been constantly in and out of hospital with a heart condition since his home was destroyed.

CFMEU national vice-president, Albert Littler, said the union would hand over the keys to Alcock at an open day that the community was welcome to attend.


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