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Issue No. 207 22 December 2003  
E D I T O R I A L

Backs to the Wall
How does one judge a year like 2003, when on the surface the powers of darkness – read Bush and Howard and union-busting bosses - can point to the scoreboard and claim ‘we won!’?

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Robbo’s Rules
Labor Council secretary John Robertson rules the line through 2003 and looks forward to a bigger and better year to come.

Unions: Fightback 2003
Tony Abbott, no less, summed up the tone of 2003 when he complained workers were frustrating his agenda, as Jim Marr reports.

Bad Boss: Madame Lash Whips Tony
Jim Marr explains how a local can manufacturer knocked off a quality field, including a notorious American call centre operator, in the race for Bad Boss honours.

Politics: United Front
Facing a new leader and new rules, Jim Marr speaks to key union players about the hot issues at January’s ALP National Conference.

Economics: Looking Back - Looking Forward
The year ends with the thought that 2004 must be better, writes Frank Stilwell in his annual review of all things economic.

International: Net Benefits
International editor Andrew Casey looks back on a year where workers stood up globally for services we once took for granted.

History: The New Guard
Who were Australia’s fascists in the 1930s and was John Howard’s father in the New Guard? Labour historian, Andrew Moore, uncovers some surprising information about Australia’s fascist past.

Poetry: What is the PM singing this Christmas?
Our Kirribilli spies, led by resident bard David Peetz, have been listening in on the PM's preparations for Christmas, and have recorded the Howard family rehearsing this new Christmas carol.

Review: Culture That Was
2003 saw the Howard Government signal its readiness to swap culture for agriculture in a free trade deal with the US and film maker George Miller lament that Aussie's had run out of stories to tell anyway, writes Tara de Boehmler.

N E W S

 No Joy for ANZ - This Time

 Nurses, Teachers Win Big

 Govt Coy on Sackings Threat

 NSW: State of Discomfort

 Fashion Police Collar Moe

 Telstra Picks Up Union Signal

 E-Missiles Strike White House

 STOP PRESS: Doubts Over Driver Test

 Juggler Catches Union Gong

 Chubb Beats Up On Own Guards

 Commuters Face Long, Hot Summer

 MUA Members Play Santa

 Bennelong Grinch Strikes Again

 G’day To Union Made Wines

 Activists Notebook

C O L U M N S

Predictions
The Guessing Game
We have consulted our regular list of mystics and gnostics to offer these throughts for the future.

Culture
Folk You Mate
Jan Nary looks at the role of workers songs in the upcoming National Folk Festival.

Culture
Shane Maloney – Crime Writer
For a crime writer whose books are set against a backdrop of unions and Labor Party politics, Shane Maloney confesses to little direct experience of either.

The Locker Room
Workers Online Sports Awards
Noel Hester and Peter Moss give their annual rundown of the good, the bad and the ugly in the world of sport.

Technology
The Web We Weave
Social Change Online's Mark McGrath's annual review of how unions are using the web to grow.

L E T T E R S
 Tom On Mark
 Looking The Otherway At Christmas
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Editorial

Backs to the Wall


How does one judge a year like 2003, when on the surface the powers of darkness – read Bush and Howard and union-busting bosses - can point to the scoreboard and claim ‘we won!’?

If 2003 was a year when Australia mindlessly followed the US into a war of pre-emption which trashed the multilateral global consensus, it was also a year where millions took to the streets and said 'not in our name'.

If 2003 was a year when the corporate cowboys continued to rule the land, it was also a year when a unionist armed with a positive agenda campaigned for the seat on the board of a major bank.

And if 2003 was a year when the political climate was hostile to unions, it was also a year when the Howard Government failed to 'reform' the construction and higher education systems by writing unions out of the equation.

The list goes on - Howard's political ascendancy matched by Latham's rise; Rio Tinto's contracts agenda headed off by unions at the UN; the spread of casualisation addressed by a ground-breaking case that could shift the rules of tenuous employment forever.

If the storm clouds were gathering the silver lining was also evident, and it was a lining based on a new model of unionism - fighting smart with our backs to the wall, rather than expecting to exercise power as of a right.

And all the while, a union movement deep in its reform phase starting to do something more than just reacting - running its own positive agenda for a new set of rules for the workplace.

Key to this was the work at the NSW ALP State Conference where former factional foes laid out their common political agenda and surprised noone except themselves by triumphing. How this model translates to the national conference will say much about the type4 of government that replaces the Howard regime.

The wins this year should not be overlooked: world-leading protection from email surveillance at work, real movement in the push towards industrial manslaughter laws and the mainstreaming of the debate on maternity leave that can only lead to political action before the next election.

Meanwhile, we saw collective action delivering benefits across the workforce - nurses and teachers alongside building workers securing improvements in pay and conditions.

And new faces too, actors acting together, league players playing as a team, breaking the stereotype that unionists are bald, fat old men sitting around whingeing about the good old days.

From the peace marches, to the safety rally to every little workplace battle for justice, the message is that Working Together works - and if you don't win every single battle at least you have more fun than going through life on your own.

These are the themes the union movement needs to spread as it draws the line on 2003 and looks to a New Year: the triumph of the individual is really just a sentence of loneliness; we are a society and when we start acting like one wonderful things can happen.

Merry Christmas and a safe New Year to all of Workers Online's subscribers, thanks to all our 2003 contributors too many to mention and to the NSW Labor Council who continues to publish this journal fearlessly and independently.

We'll be back in mid-February for our sixth(!) year of frank and fearless union news, views and people.

Peter Lewis

Editor


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