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Issue No. 217 23 April 2004  

Textor Messaging
Those responsible for communicating the union movement’s message to the public met in Melbourne this week and invited none other than John Howard’s master pollster to give his perspective. The spooky thing was his message to unions was an optimistic one.


Interview: Terror Australis
The Howard Government has just discovered the nation's ports are a terrorist target. The International Transport Federation's Dean Summers has been warning them for years.

Unions: Graeme Beard's Second Dig
Hidden in the Australian Workers Union Sydney office is a mild-mannered industrial officer who once strutted the international cricket stage, writes Jim Marr.

Industrial: The Hell of Troy
On the basis of a couple of hours in the witness box, Building Industry Royal Commissioner Terence Cole described Troy Stratti as "credible". Six men who, together, have known the company director for the best part of 50 years beg to differ.

Organising: Miners Strike Gold
Traditional unions are rediscovering the power of grassroots organising. Paddy Gorman reports from the coal face.

Economics: The Accepted Wisdom
Evan Jones argues that economic policy making has been narrowed and rendered mechanistic and antiseptic.

History: Vicious Old Lady
Despite its Liberal leanings, the Sydney Morning Herald has never been shy of bashing unions, writes Neale Towart.

International: Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Thailand must end its crackdown on Burmese fleeing rights abuses in their military-ruled homeland, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

Review: War Unfogged
Want to go to war but not sure where to start? Look no further than Errol Morris' latest doco-drama for the definitive 11-step lesson plan, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: TAFE
A TAFE student struggling under the weight of fees shares his wordly wisdom


 "Slave Labour" in WA Revolt

 Vaile Orange – 200 Punted

 Right Turn Ends in Court

 Premier on Track to Nowhere

 Bosses Unite Against Holidays

 Miners Stand Up to "Bullies"

 All Out in the Gong

 Zoo Poo Stink

 Feared Beard in Shipping Scare

 Mayday … Footy Player Celebrates

 Teachers Roll Up for Discipline

 De-Skilling Australia

 Activists What’s On!


A Voice for Peace
Palestinian trade union leader calls on militants to lay down their arms while the ICFTU protests harassment of Palestinian union leader.

The Soapbox
The Double Standard Bearers
Nicholas Way argues that when it comes to collective action, the Howard Government has different views depending on whether you are a unionist or a small business.

The Locker Room
The Fine Print
While the result mightn’t be everything, it does make the back of the newspaper more interesting, as Phil Doyle reports.

The Westie Wing
Ian West crunches the numbers in Macquarie Street and finds virtue in deficit.

 More Than Cricket
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Textor Messaging

Those responsible for communicating the union movement’s message to the public met in Melbourne this week and invited none other than John Howard’s master pollster to give his perspective. The spooky thing was his message to unions was an optimistic one.

Mark Textor is the man who masterminded three federal election victories, the author of the mandatory detention strategy that kept the CLP in power in the Northern Territory for so many years and, infamously, the Tampa election.

Textor's job is not just to chart voter preferences, but also to understand the values driving those opinions. And his message is that many of the accepted wisdoms that drive union campaigns are becoming out-moded.

Most notably, Textor argues that the public has moved on from anger at globalisation to something more complex: as consumers they benefit, as citizens they feel disenfranchised; on the one hand they benefit from DVDs and cheap sneekers, on the other they have a vote worth less and less.

The issues that resonate are those that speak to this lack of civic control - the USA's decision to place import restrictions on Australian lamb, the chase of the illegal Patagonian tooth fish thieves and, the Tampa.

But they recognise that anger is no longer enough - the outrage with excessive corporate pay, for example, has subsided in the past year; replaced by a demand that these corporate giants earn their money by building sustainable industries and providing shareholders with real democracy

For unions, the message is that anger is no longer enough - campaigns need to include realistic solutions - be they leveraging shareholder power through super funds or lobbying government for achievable work and family measures.

Another of Textor's messages is that in the post-September 11 environment, the very notion of 'security' has changed - and has almost become a term devoid of meaning. How can we, after all, equate the desire for a sustainable job with the fear of being blown away by terrorists. It may be time for a rethink on our language here.

But most potent was this Liberal guru's spin on atttitudes to unions.

First the double-egded sword. People see unions as a big brother - who will be there to help them at work; but might act in their own interests - or worse bully them - in their down time. The idea that members are the union has just not got through to the punters.

The good news is that in this age of Terror, Textor sees people taking comfort in established institutions - the rule of law, government regulation, the family, the community. And unions are there too.

The challenge is that hand in hand with the desire for institutional stability is an equal desire for individuals to take control of their own destiny. For unions, this means taking on a role as supporter, advocate and work coach, rather than presuming to speak for members in all their diversity

What makes Textor's analysis fascinating is that it comes from an observer on the opposite side of the political divide - a man who has made an administration that sees itself as the union movement's mortal enemy.

But, if even from this perspective, there is a place for unions, then the future can not be all gloom and doom.

Peter Lewis



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