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Issue No. 211 05 March 2004  

Be Afraid
Elections are to be held both here and with our controlling shareholder this year and already we are getting the feel for how the incumbents will attempt to cling onto power: fear spiced with loathing.


Interview: Baby Bust
Labor's Wayne Swan argues that the plight of our aging workforce is only one side of our demographic dilemma.

Safety: Dust To Dust
Failure by authorities to police safety in the asbestos removal industry is threatening the lives of members of the public, writes Phil Doyle.

Bad Boss: Shaming in Print
Delegates from print shops around Sydney will publicly shame this month’s Bad Boss nominee with a rally outside his new Alexandria operation next Thursday.

National Focus: Work's Cripplin' Us
Noel Hester reports on a spin doctors' talkfest, workplace pain, stroppy teachers and IWD party time in the national wrap.

International: Bulk Bullies
An extraordinary five month struggle over affordable health care, by nearly 70,000 Californian supermarket workers, has just come to an end, writes Andrew Casey.

History: The Battle for Kelly's Bush
Green Bans saved a piece of bush before they saved much of the Sydney’s built environment, writes Neale Towart

Economics: Aid, Trade And Oil
Tim Anderson reveals Australia’s second betrayal Of East Timor is playing out before our eyes.

Review: The Art Of Work
Workers and westies are being celebrated as the cultural icons they are thanks to two Sydney exhibitions reminding us there is a world of art in the everyday, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Sew His Lips Together
Wondering where the next porkie is going to come from? Resident bard David Peetz knows.


 Taskforce "Disgraced" in Court

 Students Take $10,000 Trim

 Truckers Lose Way With GPS

 Jockeys Down by Width of Strait

 Treasury Loses Sight of Trees

 Athens Built on Sweat

 Signing Away Safety

 Fallen Formworker Critical

 Stop or You’ll Stay Blind

 Bracks Spin Machine Towels Nurses

 Trade Deal Fuzzy on Content

 Good Will Still Hunting on Rail

 Developer "Monsters" Safety Cop

 Day Off for May Day

 Activists What's On!


The Soapbox
Iraq and Your Mortgage
How high interest rates go will be a key issue in 2004 and if you are looking for a clue, there's no better place to look than the war in Iraq, writes Michael Rafferty.

Hang Onto the Day Job
Show someone else the money, says Phil Doyle.

Westie Wing
Ian West shows why Eveleigh Street’s not so far away from Macquarie Street

Don’t Give Up the Fight
Get Up, Stand Up is the logo of choice on a popular range of subversive condoms. Ken Davis from Union Aid Abroad reports from Zimbabwe’s second city

 Bring Back Bulk Billing
 Crucifying Refugees
 Saving The Planet
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Be Afraid

Elections are to be held both here and with our controlling shareholder this year and already we are getting the feel for how the incumbents will attempt to cling onto power: fear spiced with loathing.

To Head Office first, and the war hero with a conscience will take on the deserter who loves playing army dress-ups. Bizarrely, it is the latter running on national security.

There is no doubt America is a very different place to the one that George Dubya seized control of via the dimpled chads four years ago. The attacks on New York sparked the War on Terror and the top-rating 'Get Saddam', a reality show that continues to run way after its scheduled sign-off date.

Glimpsing the first wave of Republican advertising this week, it is clear Bush will wrap himself in the flag, play up the fear factor and turn the vote into an auction on defence spending - spiced with a little wedge politics villifying gay marriage.

Sure the economy is on the skids, the health system is a joke and the gap between rich and poor is widening ever further but, hell, this is war and in wartime we all make sacrifices - unless we happen to own shares in Haliburton.

John Kerry was the stand-out candidate from the primaries seeing off the wooden Clark, the cheesy Edwards and the psychotic Dean, but he will have more bullets fired at him than he did in Nam - a Liberal from the north, a political insider and the ultimate attack 'soft on security'.

The ballot is eight months off and it will be interesting to see how much $140 million in Republican advertising can buy. My guess is that, despite the obvious superiority of the Democrat candidate, the bucks will be enough to buy another term.

In Branch Australia similar dynamics are at play, albeit on a smaller scale. Howard will play the 'tough on security line for all its worth - playing up border protection, the war on Iraq and the US alliance as his trump cards.

He too will out spend his opponents with ads that make us feel scared of foreigners, scared of the future, but - most of all - scared of change.

That is the trump card that conservative incumbents always have: (a) progressive candidates tend to come to power on a wave of optimism: think Whitlam, think Hawke (b) the government of the day has the levers at hand to stymie such feelings of goodwill.

Now that it has found a leader who can talk and turn his head at the same time, Labor has a chance to challenge this worldview, but the difficulty of the task should not be underestimated.

Mark Latham has grasped the public's attention with talk of the real pressures facing families, from reading to kids to mentoring boys to working community solutions to problems, the Latham model of social democratic government is tapping a vein.

But how resilient is this dream of a better life to the upcoming mantra 'don't trust them with your mortgage, don't trust them with national security' will dictate the outcome of the election.

It's a sorry world where the politics of fear is such a potent tool; the next 12 months will truly be a test of our better instincts.

Peter Lewis


PS: Apologies to subscribers who have not been receiving Workers Online via email. The gremlin in the machine has now been fixed.


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