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Issue No. 205 28 November 2003  
E D I T O R I A L

Australia Deserves Better
You only have to scan through recent issues of Workers Online to see why the leadership of the ALP is so important – not to the political insiders who judge the beauty contest that is federal politics, but to the millions of workers who are affected by its output.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Union for the Dispossessed
The Welfare Rights Centre's Michael Raper on 20 years of activism, the politics of punishment and how to make Australia egalitarian again.

Unions: Joel's Law
Building Workers have overcome powerful forces to push workplace safety back up the national agenda. But, Jim Marr writes, their "success" has come at an unacceptable cost.

National Focus: Spring Carnival
It must be spring: punting in Victoria, singing in South Australia, fighting in America. It’s all there in the national wrap from Noel Hester plus an Australian union movement rugby world cup class consciousness poll.

Bad Boss: Fina and Fiends
They sacked the job delegate, reinstated him after an IRC hearing, and sacked him again two weeks later. But that was just the beginning.

Industrial: The Price of War
Mass industrial action is brewing in Israel as the policies of the right-wing Sharon Government come home to roost, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Who's Got What
Frank Stilwell pours over the latest BRW Rich List to build a picture of the increasing gap between the haves and have-nots.

History: Containing Discontent
Racism against minorities has always been a stock in trade of politicans, writes Phil Griffiths

Review: An Honourable Wally
Most Australians probably look at our politicians and feel they could do a better job but when redundant meatworker Wally Norman gets the chance to find out he realises getting elected is a major hurdle, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: The Colours of Discontent
A thousand blossoms bloomed during the US President's spring-time colonial visit last month.

N E W S

 Labour Hire Boosts Tech Wreck

 Call Centre Throws Safety Out the Door

 Miners Tackle Million Dollar Sidestep

 Bouquets for Bosses

 Mandarins Nail Carpenters

 BHP Burrow-ed By UN

 ACT Rejects Manslaughter Bullying

 No Joy for Fat Exec Packages

 WorkCover Walks Away From Racetrack

 Contractors Scramble Foxtel Signal

 Safety Derails Train Talks

 Sydney Uni Strikes At Feds

 Workers Up For Safety Awards

 Activists Notebook

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Bush's Faith-Filled Life
The President's conversion, 'sense of divine calling' and struggle with sobriety are subjects of a forthcoming book, writes Bill Berkowitz

Sport
The Not So Smart Money
Phil Doyle is sick of big money ruining grass roots sport, and he’s taking his bat and going home.

Politics
The Westie Wing
The ongoing challenge for Labor members of parliament is to make what the Premier calls the ‘creative partnership’ between the Government and the union movement a reality, writes our favourite MP Ian West.

Postcard
Behind the Junta
Saw Min Lwin, Secretary for Trade Union Rights/ Human Rights for the Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB), outlines the struggle for workers in his country.

L E T T E R S
 Mad Monk’s Medicare Minus
 A Tale Of Three Cities
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Editorial

Australia Deserves Better


You only have to scan through recent issues of Workers Online to see why the leadership of the ALP is so important – not to the political insiders who judge the beauty contest that is federal politics, but to the millions of workers who are affected by its output.

In a Sydney call centre a safety representative is frog-marched off the premises for assessing the impact of long shifts on worker fatigue.

In South Australia a lone meatworker is locked out of his job for 10 weeks because he refuses to sign an individual contract.

In the Hunter Valley, armed security guards hired by an American multinational threaten violence against locked out workers fighting for their right to collective bargain.

Across the nation the recipe for the majority is longer hours at work, fewer permanent jobs, spiralling health care costs and a mean-spiritedness driven by the suspicion that someone else just might be getting a better deal than they are.

This is John Howard's Australia, a retro land where the employer is a master and the worker is a unit of labour, a number on a balance sheet, something less than human.

Beneath the cloak of terror, racism, sycophancy and social divisiveness that drives Howard's politics of the wedge, lies a hidden, more cynical attack on workers' rights.

Under the fist of Reith and Abbott, this government has embarked on an orgy of union-busting that has one simple objective - to drive labour costs down to maximise profits for the one stakeholder in our society that still has clout - the market.

Whoever takes the reins of the federal ALP after Tuesday's ballot must do so recognising that this is the security that most Australians crave - not security from a few boatloads of desperate refugees, but security from the cynical short-termism of global capital.

Workers are not calling for revolution, but they are calling for a leader who will blow full-time on what increasingly seems like a race to the bottom.

They want a government that protects our national borders without giving up our cultural sovereignty to another country.

They want a government that supports public health and education because they believe in the idea that we all have equal rights, rather than because they fear a public backlash if they hand it over to the corporates.

And they want a government that knows that if we are to have a cohesive society we need to respect each other, and that this begins with fair laws governing the workplace.

It's hardly a manifesto, just government for the people - and its about 180 degrees form what Howard has got away with serving up these past seven years.

It's not the Australian Labor Party that needs a fresh beginning, it's the people of Australia.

Peter Lewis

Editor


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