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Issue No. 219 07 May 2004  

The Mouse That Roars
A number of campaigns this week show how web campaigning is reaching a level of sophistication that is transforming it from a gee-whiz fad to a potent industrial tool.


Interview: Machine Man
It’s regarded as the most powerful job in the Party, but new NSW ALP general secretary Mark Arbib wants to build a bridge with the union movement.

Unions: Testing Times
Unions are not opposed to drug and alcohol testing, but they do want to see real safety issues addressed, writes Phil Doyle.

Bad Boss: Freespirit Haunts Internet
FreeSpirit forked out a motza for a whiz bang internet presence then disappeared right off the radar – once it was nominated as our Bad Boss for May.

Unions: Badge of Honour
Surry Hills is home to one of the world’s finest displays of union badges thanks to Bill "The Bear" Pirie and a supporting cast headed by Joe Strummer, Mark Knopfler, George Benson, Annie Lennox and other seriously big noises.

National Focus: Noel's World
Shrill bosses bleat over minimum wage rise, union spinmeisters congregate in Melbourne and Tassie’s nurses take the baton from their mob in Victoria reports Noel Hester in this national round up.

Economics: Safe Refuge
A humanitarian approach to refugees and an economically rational one?? I’d like to see that. Frank Stilwell did, when he went to Young in NSW to look into the impact of the Afghan refugees on temporary protection visas who came to work for the local abattoir

International: Global Abuse
Amnesty International have joined the chorus against the violation of trade union rights in the former Soviet republic of Belarus.

History: The Honeypot
To the Honeypot come those individuals anxious to get their hands on instant wealth. So it was in the early days of Broken Hill, wrties Grace Hawes in this homage to the mining town.

Review: Death And The Barbarians
This new take on coming of age films focuses on the coming of death and the dignity and maturity it can inspire among those touched by it - though not always easily in the overcrowded Canadian public health system, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Resident Bard David Peetz uncovers some of the unfolding mysteries of talk back radio.


 Casual Affair Costs Family

 Dob a Driver Strikes Out

 Crash LAME’s Smoking Gun

 Axe To Fall On Skippy

 Internet Replaces Crayons

 Young Lives Crushed

 Feds Move Goal Posts

 Telstra Baulks at Two Percent

 Crane Death Brings Fine

 Worker Breaks Unwritten Law

 Private Nurses Short Changed

 RailCorp Wrecks Weekend

 Thunderbirds Are Stop

 Activists What’s On!


The Soapbox
Rethinking Left and Right Part 1
Dr David McKnight, from the University of Technology, Sydney presents a new frame for looking at the competing ideas within Social Democracy.

The Soapbox
Rethinking Left and Right Part 2
David McKnight concludes the paper he presented to the ‘Rethinking Social Democracy’ conference, in London, April 15-17, 2004.

Out On A Limb
Phil Doyle becomes the first Australian journalist to state that the Olympics will be called off.

The Westie Wing
In the latest episode, Ian West explores what Disraeli called "Lies, damn lies and statistics".

Message from America
Searing snapshots from a landscape of uncertainty have plunged the Bush Administration into deeper crisis, writes WorkingForChange's Bill Berkowitz.

 Justice For Victims Denied
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Tool Shed


The Federal Government’s Chief Scientist works for Rio Tinto, which is not a conflict of interest. No. Not even a little bit. Well, maybe enough to put him in the Tool Shed.


It was Boffinmania at the intellectual home of the Federal Government, Senator Nick Minchin's office, when Dr Robin Batterham was appointed as Chief Scientist of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Unfortunately Senator Nick Minchin was not considered smart enough to hang onto the Science portfolio and that august role fell to "Einstein" McGauran who reappointed Batterham as Chief Scientist in May 2002.

For the better part of ten years Dr Batterham has been Managing Director, Research and Technology Development at Rio Tinto, helping them find new and better ways to rip off some of the world's poorest communities. His new part time sit has given the mining industry a nice "open door" to the Prime Miniature's office.

Batterham has kept a straight face while claiming that his public role and his job as a senior executive with the mining group Rio Tinto did not constitute a conflict of interest.

Rio Tinto's latest claim to fame is its outstanding effort to provide drinking water to its employees and the surrounding community at its Ranger Uranium mine. Unfortunately the drinking water contained Uranium. Maybe the Chief scientist can explain this sterling example of the beautiful minds in our mining industry in action?

At the time of his appointment Senator Minchin said Dr Batterham's expertise would "assist the Government in its commitment to improve research commercialisation within Australia".

This is in keeping with the Federal government's 'Not Nailed Down' strategy, which by all accounts is a nice little earner for industry.

Dr Batterham holds degrees in chemical engineering from Melbourne University, and worked for the CSIRO between stints in the UK, Canada and the US where he worked for such great corporate citizens as ICI.

His time at the publicly funded CSIRO allowed him to do the sort of research in areas such as mining, mineral processing and iron making that always seems a bit too hard for Australian industry and those multinationals that would rather the Australian taxpayer subsidise their very private profits.

Interestingly, the fearlessly independent Dr Batterham holds a number of directorships, including on the Boards of Comalco Aluminium Limited and a number of Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) - the same CRCs that are facing the axe under the federal government's 'Pay To Play' attitude to R&D.

Luckily Rio Tinto have no concept of the public good or the good Doctor may have been troubled by his policy successes.

Luckily for old Batters the two day a week Chief Scientist possie comes with a salary $90,000 a year from the Government, which he pockets on top of the $250,000 a year he takes from Rio Tinto, as well as an extraordinarily generous travel allowance.

The Sydney Morning Herald revealed a while back that Dr Batterham's travel expenses averaged more than $500 a day between May 31, 1999, and December 31, 2002, for his two-day a week job, including trips to events sponsored by Rio Tinto.

The acting Minister for Science, Kevin Andrews (now there's a scary thought!), rushed to the good Doctor's defence, saying that Dr Batterham's science policy advice to the Government was not prejudiced by his position with Rio Tinto.

But in the great tradition of never holding an inquiry unless you already know the answer Batterham has conducted a number of inquiries for the Federal Government that should help it wash its hands of any of that brain stuff that it seems to find so difficult.

He also came in handy when the Government needed an excuse to run away from its responsibilities to the Kyoto Protocol's emissions trading scheme, luckily there was an alternative program that Rio Tinto had a commercial interest in.

We now look forward to Batterham's research into how long a Howard appointee can keep his snout in the public trough before self-respect demands that they resign.


The most inspiring interpretation of this week's tool get's a souvenir edition of Ship of Tools. Deface the Tool of the Week, click the button above to post your artwork, fill out the form and send your entry in and we'll post the winners next week in the Tool of the Week Gallery.


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