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Issue No. 208 13 February 2004  

All The Way With FTA?
Question marks over the bi-lateral Free Trade Agreement with the USA have only begun to scratch the surface.


Interview: Trading in Principle
AMWU national secretary, Doug Cameron, a key figure in the Labor movement, discusses the big issues - from Mark Latham to Pavlov�s Dogs.

Unions: While We Were Away
While Workers Online was washing sand from between its toes and enjoying an Indian summer at the cricket, there was a reality show chugging relentlessly away in the background, Jim Marr reports.

Politics: Follow the Leader
Worker�s Online tool man, Phil Doyle, dives into the ALP�s Darling Harbour love-in and nearly drowns in treacle.

Bad Boss: Safety Recidivist Fingered
The CFMEU has come up with a killer nomination to kick off our 2004 hunt for Australia�s worst employer.

Economics: Casualisation Shrouded In Myths
British academic, Kevin Doogan, sets the record straight on casualisation and warns unionists about the dangers of scoring an own goal

History: Worker Control Harco Style
Drew Cottle and Angela Keys ask if it's worth rememberinng the 1971 Harco work-in.

Review: Other Side Of The Harbour
The 1998 maritime dispute threatened to tear many a family apart but Katherine Thomson's Harbour tells the tale of at least one that it brought back together - albeit reluctantly, writes Tara de Boehmler.


 Rail Safety Back On Track

 Commuter Headaches Continue

 Ban "Ruthless" Operators - Judge

 Telstra Provokes Jobs Fight

 Taskforce Ignores Million Dollar Rorts

 Musos Tune-Up for Election Rock

 Chubby Fingers in Timorese Pockets

 Postal Workers Wrap Boss

 Aussie Sites Doing the Business

 Feds Abandon Aged

 TAFE Stands Over Poor Students

 Round the World on Aid

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Dog Whistlers, Spin Doctor and Us
John Menadue argues the "better angels" of the Australian character are having their wings ripped off by an ever-expanding group dedicating to keeping the public at arms length from our decision-makers.

Something Fishy In Laos
Phillip Hazelton fishes around in Vientiane, Laos, and looks at the impact of Bird Flu on those relying on feathered friends for survival.

Magic Realism
Phil Doyle discovers that literature and sport may have more in common than you would think

The Westie Wing
Trickle, flood or drought? Workers friend Ian West, MLC, is wet, wet, wet on the issue of bilateral Free Trade.

 Reality TV
 TAFE Support
 State Of Confusion
 History Lesson
 Generation Angst
 Give Them A Medal
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All The Way With FTA?

Question marks over the bi-lateral Free Trade Agreement with the USA have only begun to scratch the surface.

While attention this week has focussed on the baseline losers and winners (if they actually exist) under the deal and the alarming lack of economic modelling on its overall impact, more profound questions about Australia's long-term future have slipped under the radar.

One of John Howard's more celebrated wedges has been his assertion that Australia is not part of Asia, a calculated rebuttal of Paul Keating's vision of regional engagement.

At the time, Howard proclaimed we were more a European nation than an Asian one. Now, as Will Hutton's seminal work 'The World We're In' argues, Howard has a new choice - between the conservative American and expansive, if fledgling, European models of capitalism.

While Hutton writes about Britain's predicament, there are telling similarities with the choices Australia currently faces.

He identifies three core European values: the stakeholder view of property (the proposition that with ownership comes responsibility), the belief in the social contract and the commitment to a vital public realm.

In contrast, he argues, the USA was founded on a spiritual belief that the acquisition of private property was a self-evident good, that social rules were the enemy of freedom and that the only legitimate role of the state was the protection of private property rights.

Hutton sees the current US conservative agenda - embodied in the Bush doctrine of unilateral military and economic dominance - as the end point of this philosophy.

Australia's choice to subvert our national interests - and those of a whole range of producers who saw the FTA as a panacea - and sidle up to the neo-cons - is also a choice about where we see our county going.

Hutton argues the emerging European economic unit is the only

avenue to check its ascent, and while similar trade barriers exist for Australian producers - the mecahanisms to address their barriers are multilateral - that is a set of global rules, that looks beyond market access, to labour standards and environmental measures as well.

For Australians, this is a useful analysis because it makes clear that the model of global capital we embrace is a choice and the model we ultimately choose will have a telling impact on the way our society evolves - or doesn't.

For Howard this is a no-brainer - all the way with George W and his discredited potpourri of Freidman economists (still waiting for the trickle down effect to leave the moneyed classes pockets), preferential trading structures and pre-emptive military adventurism.

But in asking questions about the FTA, Mark Latham is not - as Costello asserts being anti-American - he is merely bringing a rigour to the decision-making process.

If the US experience is anything to go by, this is a formula for increased wealth disparity, spiralling corporate welfare and a growing pile of body bags in a divided and hateful world.

Europe has experienced the pain of dislocation and has learnt - the fusion of Rhineland capitalism, the Nordic welfare state and the joui de vivre of the south is a tantalising mix that embraces the possibility of a more caring, peaceful century.

The Australian Labor Party is already seeking elements of this evolving model, and it may prove a useful way of differentiating it from the Tories

In the wake of the ALP National Conference, it is an interesting distinction to make - limits to executive remuneration, investment in public health and education, a commitment to multilateral solutions to the world's problems

What is clear is that there is no one economic model, simply a series of choices, that politicians and the people who elect them have to make.

Peter Lewis



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