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Issue No. 223 04 June 2004  

Last Year�s Model
Economists keep telling us things have never been better, all the economic indicators say so. Which sparks the obvious question: why are so many of us feeling so low?


Interview: The New Democrat
Canadian activist Judy Rebick explains how she's using lessons from Brazil to rebuild the labour movement.

Bad Boss: The Ugly Australian
Prime Minister John Howard is in California spruiking the "merits" of this month�s Bad Boss nomination �

Unions: Free Spirits and Slaves
International capital demands guest labour � legal or illegal � as a way of beating down wages and conditions and, as Jim Marr discovers, the Australian Government seems happy to oblige.

Industrial: National Focus
Noel Hester reports on another workplace death (we-will-not-RIP NOHSC), heartburn for the Canberra consensus and all the action from around the states in our national wrap.

History: A Class Act
The problem of forgetting the primacy of class in favour of other ideas of community is highlighted in a new book, writes Neale Towart

International: Across the Ditch
NZ Nurses Union leader, Laila Harr�, is in Sydney this week, comparing notes with the Australian Nurses Federation and seeking transTasman support for New Zealand�s highest profile industrial campaign.

Economics: Home Truths
Sydney University's Frank Stilwell argues that tax policy is driving the housing boom.

Review: No Time Like Tomorrow
The Day After Tomorrow is one part Grim Reaper of the environmental movement and two parts fictitious fable dramatically window dressed with extreme special effects, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Silent Note
Resident Bard David Peetz uncovers the current public service motto � "Don't tell the Minister!".


 Trade Deal a $47 Billion Dud

 Ground Staff Spread Fashion Wings

 Ghan Raises Trans-Continental Stink

 Union Busters Bank on Labor

 Witnesses Face Casual Duress

 Rail Workers Cop �Beer Nannies�

 Sun Shines on Green Bans

 Big Business Plan to Cripple Compo

 Money Can�t Buy Me Love

 Federal Election in Doubt

 Safety Defects Plague Adelaide

 Police Investigate Assault Claim

 Activists What�s On!


The Soapbox
The Pursuit of Happiness Part I
The Australia Institute's Clive Hamilton questions the assumptions underlying a society that defines happiness in dollar terms.

The Soapbox
The Pursuit of Happiness Part II
Clive Hamilton concludes his analysis, looking at how more and more Australians are pulling back from a marketplace that is no longer providing the goods.

The Locker Room
Sack �Em All!
Phil Doyle puts his job on the line, but doesn�t everyone these days?

The Westie Wing
The NSW Government has an agenda on the table but the test is finding innovative ways to finance it, writes Ian West

 Liberal Laugh
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Big Business Plan to Cripple Compo

Workers Comp schemes and small businesses are threatened by a Productivity Commission move that would allow big business to opt out of state-based schemes.

State Governments, unions and small businesses have slammed the prospect of Australia's largest companies being allowed to 'self-insure' for workers comp; leaving small businesses carrying the burden of insurance premiums.


"Insurance premiums for the employers left in the pool would be significantly increased," says NSW Labor Council OH&S Officer Mary Yaager. "It is irresponsible for the Feds to suggest this and clearly demonstrates that they want to look after the big end of town."

NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Della-Bosca echoed her sentiments:

"We have seen in the Federal industrial relations system what the Howard

Government's motives are. Their record has been one of minimising employer responsibilities and reducing workers rights. In workers compensation, we don't want a minimalist scheme, one that strips back protections. Government should not be about the lowest common denominator."

Helen Ridout from the Australian Industry Group told the Financial Review that there was no doubt the move would affect small business.

The proposal by the productivity commission could spell the death knell for smaller schemes, such as that of the ACT.

"It would appear that the Productivity Commission is proposing a model that would allow large national and multinational companies to withdraw from the ACT private-sector workers' compensation scheme," says ACT Industrial Relations Minister Katy Gallagher. "This would reduce the size of the ACT workers compensation pool dramatically, leaving small business in the ACT facing escalating premiums to support a very small scheme that is unable to derive economies of scale in administration costs and regulatory costs."

The Productivity Commission report strongly recommends that the Government give national employers the option to self-insure, and is confident that its recommendations will be accepted, according to associate commissioner Gary Johns.

Industry commentators believe the findings, if accepted, will benefit big companies, such as Woolworths, Westpac and BHP at the expense of many smaller operators.


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