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Issue No. 208 13 February 2004  
E D I T O R I A L

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

F E A T U R E S

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.

N E W S

 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

C O L U M N S

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.

Postcard
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.

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

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

L E T T E R S
 Reality TV
 TAFE Support
 State Of Confusion
 Scambuster
 History Lesson
 Generation Angst
 Give Them A Medal
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Taskforce Ignores Million Dollar Rorts


Tony Abbott’s Interim Building Industry Taskforce has washed its hands of tens of millions of dollars owed to construction workers, sparking another round of calls for it to be disbanded.

Confirmation that the Taskforce which aggressively pursues legal action against building workers, isn’t enforcing employer obligations, came in written answers supplied to the Senate by officials from the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.

Replying to questions asked by Senator Jacinta Collins, departmental officials conceded the Taskforce is aware of allegations of underpayments and non-payments of entitlements on building sites around Australia, but does nothing about them.

"It is not part of the Taskforce's remit to investigate instances of underpayment of employee entitlements in the building and construction industry," officials said.

CFMEU national secretary, John Sutton, says the admission confirms his union's contention that the Taskforce is biased in its dealings with industry players.

Sutton says underpayments are a major industrial problem for building and construction that the Taskforce has simply "washed its hands of".

He produced figures showing that branches of his union have retrieved more than $30 million in underpayments for building workers over a three year period.

The last audited figures, to February 2002, show CFMEU branches returning massive amounts of owed money to dudded workers. Victoria retrieved $10,687,616 and NSW more than $11,629,000 for the period.

Transforming the Taskforce into a permanent fixture on the construction landscape is a central plank in a Bill the Federal Government is trying to ram through Parliament.

Sutton said the Taskforce, a key recommendation of the Cole Royal Commission, should instead be disbanded.

He said the answers supplied to Senate questions confirmed what the union had believed ever since the Taskforce was established.

"It is only interested in chasing unions and workers. When it comes to the most basic breaches of federal awards, you won't see this Taskforce for dust," he said.

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