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Issue No. 213 19 March 2004  

Pay For View
While the ABS latest figures show union density is stable, behind the headline rate of 23 per cent lie some interesting trends.


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.


 "Grubs" Derail Revolution

 Blackouts Hit Sydney

 Pig-Out at Restaurant

 Smith’s Charity Begins At Work

 Air Rage Set To Soar

 Boxers Union Lands First Blow

 Drug Tests On Hold

 "Anarchy" Warning from Builders

 Burmese Generals at it Again

 Sugar: Sweet Taste of Survival

 Workers Endorse "User Pays"

 State Water, Forests Face Sell-Off

 Pirates and Ports for Classroom

 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

 Grubby Poseur
 Tom On Drink
 Howard Screws Vets
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Sugar: Sweet Taste of Survival

Queensland sugar workers are spearheading a fight to stop Ayr, and rural towns like it, being wiped off the map.

AMWU state secretary, Andrew Dettmer, met premier Peter Beattie in Brisbane on Friday to brief him on a fightback campaign endorsed by delegates from sugar towns at a special conference that considered the impact of Australia bending over to the US during "free trade" negotiations.

Despite assurances from deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, that no sugar access would mean no deal, his Government is now pushing a Free Trade agreement that offers no increased access to the heavily subsidised American market.

Instead, Government is meeting farmer and millers in Canberra and talking about paying them to exit an industry depended on by most of rural north Queensland.

Ayr, population 8000, for example, is a sugar town, surrounded by five mills. The same is true of most settlements from Mackay to north of Cairns. Thirty seven thousand Queenslanders are directly employed in the sugar industry.

Dettmer said sugar workers were "furious" they had been frozen out of Government discussions on the industry's future.

They invited farmer and industry reps to their McKay conference and have proposed a "united front" response, directed at saving dozens of Queensland sugar towns.

"The Howard Government only wants to talk to millers and selected cane growers," Dettmer said. "Bad luck, this is a community issue and we will involve the communities.

Dettmer says sugar has a future but it depends on good will, an all-party approach, and political support that has not been forthcoming from Canberra.

The international market, he argues, has been artificially suppressed by countries like Brazil and Thailand opting to make suguar a "loss leader", and massive US subsidies.

Certainly, he argues, the first two circumstances cannot continue indefinitely.

AMWU delegates have recognised problems the Queensland sugar industry has to grapple with. Last week they identified archaic cropping regimes, depleted plant, a lack of investment and economies of scale as key issues.

Conference attendees have committed themselves to organising meetings of local stakeholders, and community forums, as the first step in their fightback campaign.


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