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Issue No. 220 14 May 2004  

Motherhood Statements
There is a term for political statements that are so bland they have lost their meaning � terms that no one could disagree with, designed to win the support of all people at all times.


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.


 Big Bribe Misses Battlers

 West in Great Leap Backwards

 Cheques in the Mail

 Bullets Foul Childcare

 Thanks Bob - Lawyers Tuck In

 Watchdog Barks for Workers

 Budget Brushes Elderly Blueprint

 John Sutton�s Fine Idea

 Teachers Unified in Out(r)age

 Qantas Hits Panic Button

 Lights Out At MCG

 Richs to Rags Warning

 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.

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West in Great Leap Backwards

As friends and family bade farewell at Cory Bentley�s funeral, BHP Billiton was removing Maoist-style exhortations to increase production at the Port Hedland plant where he lost his life.

The company that spearheaded WA�s revolution in workplace culture was, last week, taking down posters that urged employees to "Aim high, move fast!"

The red posters carried reminders of huge production targets set by the company. "The count down is now on," they announced. "Between January and December 2004 the Port must ship 100 million tonnes of ore."

Underneath was a series of graphs telling workers how far they had slipped behind schedules.

Bentley's former workmates are demanding an independent safety audit of the whole Port Hedland operation, amidst claims safety standards have fallen since BHP Billiton tried to deunionise the Pilbarra.

"It seems a culture of production before safety has developed and shortcuts are being taken to accommodate the tonnages required to meet contracts," AMWU state secretary Jock Ferguson said.

He was speaking after union reps were blocked from visiting the area where Bentley, 26, was crushed in an early-morning accident. More than a week later, it was still shut by order of WA's Mines Department.

Workers inside the facility claimed that on the day of his death, Bentley's 18-man crew was seven short of full complement.

ACTU Pilbarra organiser, Will Treacey, said safety standards had "plumetted" since BHP Billiton used massive inducements in a bid to write unions out its iron ore script.

In 1999, it succeeded in luring 40 percent of the workforce onto non-union federal AWAs, courtesy of offers $10,000 - $20,000 higher than it was prepared to pay union members. On top, it whacked up super payments to non-union workers, from eight to 14 percent of earnings.

"The thing with these individual contracts is that they inhibit people from speaking out on safety for fear of being hammered in performance reviews," Tracey says.

"Anyone who speaks out on safety is labelled a trouble maker."

He said Bentley's death followed two " near fatalities" at Port Hedland in recent months.

In one instance a man received 51 stitches after his head was crushed in a crane lift, in the other, at Finnucane Island, a structural collapse occurred over the site where a bobcat had been operating barely five minutes earlier.

Ferguson said workers had told him "safety fears" had been put to management a matter of hours before Bentley was killed.

A mass meeting, last week, unanimously endorsed the call for an independent safety audit at Port Hedland.

Bentley, a respected AMWU delegate and safety rep who recently announced his engagement, was buried in Perth last week.


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