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Issue No. 219 07 May 2004  
E D I T O R I A L

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.

F E A T U R E S

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.

N E W S

 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!

C O L U M N S

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.

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

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

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

L E T T E R S
 Reprehensible?
 Justice For Victims Denied
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Editorial

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.

It might be true that some of us in the union movement got a little caught in the dot.com hype when we first discovered the internet - who can forget the energy expended (wasted?) during the Virtual Communities - Getonboard wars?

But like most other players on the web, unions are now starting to recognise it as a communications tool rather than as an end in itself.

Take the Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers, who this week launched their JetSafe campaign against the new low-cost carrier's decision to dispose of their members' expertise.

As most low-cost air bookings are made over the net, the LAMEs decided to hit JetStar there - registering its own site at http://www.jetsafe.com.au , to give their side of the argument.

To get eyeballs to the site the LAMEs have combined the real world and the virtual - bold billboards at the entrance to major airports plus a cheeky Google advertising campaign that sees a link to their site come up whenever the words Jet Star' are entered.

The result - national media coverage and more than 20,000 visitors to the site in just a week - not a bad result for a pretty slim budget.

Similar thinking is behind the LHMU's child care campaign - although the target here is Treasurer Peter Costello and his ability to deliver decent wages to child care workers by given them a little slice of his massive budget surplus.

Supporters are asked to send a message to Costello, his chief of staff and the Head of Treasury, via a template sitting on the LHMU site - http://www.lhmu.org.au

The LHMU has backed the campaign by hiring a number of internet cafes in marginal electorates and inviting members and supporters to the café to send off the protest. And if you are tempted to do a Google search for Costello - you'll also get the chance to send him the child care message.

The outbreak in web activism shows that the gospel according to Labourtstart's Eric Lee is being read by more and more people. Lee has been in Australia and New Zealand this month for a number of workshops highlighting the benefits of international campaigning.

Hotel workers employed by the Raffles chain against Asian hospitality workers are running a global campaign for support through the International Union of Foodworkers - http://www.iuf.org .

Previous campaigns against global hotel chains have proven to be particularly successful - witness last year's Hilton campaign,; notably because of the importance of the global brand.

We suspect it is the protection of a brand that is also behind this month's Bad Boss - labour hire firm Free Spirit's sudden and mysterious disappearance from the web after the details of an immigration scam broke.

All evidence that while the web and internet campaigning is in no way some panacea to the problems of workers worldwide - it is more than a fad; it is becoming an increasingly valuable campaigning tool.

Peter Lewis

Editor


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