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Issue No. 224 11 June 2004  

The Passion For Power
Arguably Midnight Oils’ greatest ever song ‘Powderworks’ starts off with the apocalyptic warning "there’s a shit storm a-coming."

The Passion for Power
Arguably Midnight Oils’ greatest ever song ‘Powderworks’ starts off with the apocalyptic warning "there’s a shit storm a-coming."


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 Harré, 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!".


 Making Plans For Nigel

 People Importer Wants Indemnity

 Desperate Ambos Turn to Copper

 Victims Dusted in Asbestos Row

 Delos Bang Victory Gong

 Teaching 12 Percent Tougher

 Now Carr Faces Medical Bill

 Officers Hurt in Transit

 Support Unit Makes Canberra Debut

 Winter Beds Breakthrough

 Workers Wait For Bread

 HoWARd the A**sLIcKEer

 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

 Godbotherers Descend On Poor
 Sick Of This Job
 Office Junior’s Secrets
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The Passion for Power

Arguably Midnight Oils’ greatest ever song ‘Powderworks’ starts off with the apocalyptic warning "there’s a shit storm a-coming."

Twenty years on, Peter Garrett could well be commentating the impact of Labor leader Mark Latham's desire to draft him into his election ensemble.

At issue is the age old argument about the merits of imposing a high profile candidate into an electorate regardless of the wishes of the rank and file members.

There is little doubt Peter Garrett is a glittering prize for Labor - a dynamic activist with a social conscience and a proven ability to build a bridge between politics and popular culture.

Some amongst the local rank and file of the Kingsford Smith electorate don't see it that way, arguing they have the right for a home-grown representative, several of whom have been spending their waking hours shoring up branch numbers in the expectation of Brereton's retirement.

The brewing shit fight puts the very nature of the ALP's branch structure under the spotlight.

Some, like a certain state Treasurer advocate the effective corporatisation of the ALP

basically a central 'brand' choosing the most marketable candidates, with the branches confined to the volunteer functions at election time.

And if this doesn't sustain the branches, a cost-benefit analysis would say you'd be better off just doing as the Liberals do and paying people to hand out on election day, rather than have to deal with all the dramas of a vibrant democratic party.

At the other extreme are those who argue, sometimes with a straight face, about the sanctity of rank and file preselection.

While stacking branches is undeniably a life skill requiring perseverance and the fostering of community ties, the question is whether this is the particular skill set for a political party putting itself forward as an alternate government

In the age of personality politics, the quality of a political party's candidates are just as important as its policies; and it is hard to argue that the ALP's structures always deliver the best outcome.

In other democracies, the USA for example, the leader can choose his front bench from the real world - but Australia has a popularly elected executive and getting yourself elected in Parliament is the requisite first step.

This can only be achieved in one of two ways; through the branches, or through the party's central structures, dominated by union representatives who, despite Simon Crean's best efforts, still have a stake in their party.

And it is here that the public reporting has missed an important point - while much has been made of Garrett's eleventh hour decision to join the Party, less comment has been made about the fact that only now has he decided to join a trade union - a requisite to party membership.

If Pete Garrett is to be a Labor MP, it is fair to expect him to be not just a card carrier, but a committed unionist.

If Garret is to win the support the labour movement, an important step will be to enter a dialogue with them us, get an understanding of the union renewal agenda, and maybe even contemplate how someone with his obvious talents can offer practical help to working people.

We look forward to that - there is no doubt we have a lot to learn from a man who has translated political issues into our cultural history and community consciousness.

If he does, it will be fair to say that the checks and balances in the current unwieldy party structures will prove to have been of some value and the budding member for Wedding Cake Island will surf onto the national stage with the blessing of the comrades.

Peter Lewis



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