Just exactly what planet Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson is on remains unclear this week after his bizarre outburst over the fundamental issues that face the nation's schools.
In the middle of a cold snap you would think this might be adequate heating in the many demountable classrooms around the state, or the fact that schools don't have enough paper or library books.
But no, our Tool Of the Week got right to the heart of a matter during an announcement that education funding would be linked to schools flying the flag.
"Some schools haven't even got a school motto!" cried Nelson in horror.
Having a school motto is something that is of significant practical benefit to, well, Brendan Nelson.
The Christian Brothers Old Boy is obviously impressed that many of his private school educated colleagues in the coalition have achieved remarkably well, despite having the I.Q. of a house plant.
Nelson is no fool, and he's got a certificate to prove it. He knows that without their school contacts most of these chaps would be struggling to hold down a park bench, let alone a seat in Parliament.
And what do all these private schools that offer such good employment prospects have in common? They have a motto!
Despite the fact that it's doubtful whether one in fifty people could remember their school motto they remain, in Brendan Nelson's eyes, the key to a modern well-rounded education.
Other foolish people may suggest that being able to read and write may be of some use in the educational process, but Brendan, along with his boss, know that what this country needs is a good swift dose of some snobbish irrelevance.
No doubt Brendan could help out those schools by providing them with a motto. Given the Federal Government's attitude to those who aren't related by marriage to the Downer family, or come from good stock, it would be easy for Brendan to think of something appropriate for the nation's public schools.
Why not 'Freedom Is Slavery'? Or 'Centrelink Awaits!'
They say that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, but that would be selling Nelson short, as he is considerably worse than a scoundrel. Only a complete Nelson could wrap up an education policy that sets out to re-establish a snobbish two-tiered education system with some pointless nationalistic hubris.
Is it any wonder that Nelson and his ilk have this sort of 'colour-by-numbers' approach to education? After all, they have a quaint nostalgic view of offering all kiddies the chance to experience Tom Brown's Schooldays, complete with jingoistic nonsense like flying the flag.
I guess it is only natural given that Brendan spent the best five years of his life in the fifth grade.
The scary part is that young Nelson is taking all this very seriously.
"We're sick and tired of reports turning up at home, which are meaningless with politically correct jargon," continued a breathless Nelson, who obviously prefers his own brand of political correct jargon.
The irony of all this is the mountain of red tape that will be generated as schools have yet another hurdle to jump before they can continue to be underfunded.
Brendan is an interesting chap with a rather colourful past. The one time member of the ALP has had more political positions than the Karma Sutra, yet it reveals the paucity of talent in the ranks of Australia's neo-conservatives that this intellectual midget can be touted as a potential future leader.
Meanwhile, the rest of us in the real world can only look on in fascination as our Tool Of The Week continues his bizarre and erratic intellectual orbit.
The Building Industry Task Force boss told Workers Online his organisation would appeal an injunction that restrains Multiplex from handing him the financial records of a dozen Melbourne building workers.
At first Hadgkiss refused to comment on the decision handed down by Justice Heerey in the Federal Court at Melbourne, last week.
Eventually, he agreed to "come up with a form of words".
"The judge has found that it is arguable that the notice is invalid and, therefore, the Task Force will take steps to have that argument fully heard as soon as possible," he said.
Hadgkiss would not, however, be drawn on CFMEU claims that he was trying to "outlaw" longstanding and agreed safety procedures.
CFMEU official, Jesse Maddison, said the order to produce had been served on Multiplex as part of a Task Force campaign against "safety audits and safety rectification measures" that took place when workers were killed.
The standard procedure in Melbourne, Maddison said, was for a management-union committee to audit death sites. Workers would be paid while the audit and agreed work was undertaken.
"The Task Force sees that process as a form of industrial action and says, therefore, it is unlawful to pay the workers, or for workers to receive payments," Maddison said.
"In this instance, Multiplex we understand, paid workers and the Task Force came back with a notice to produce the personal banking details of 12 employees.
"They are pretty sensitive details and our guys don't want them handed out."
Maddison said it was "outrageous" the Task Force was attempting to have "agreed industry procedure aimed at preventing further deaths declared illegal".
Workers Online asked Hadgkiss three times if the Task Force had "targeted safety procedures" but was unable to get a clear answer.
His responses, in chronological order, were ...
"It depends on the circumstances."
"We do not comment on operational matters," and "read my report of March 24 and you will see more of it there."
Hadgkiss' report to the Federal Government contained a series of non-specific allegations against building workers that were not supported by names, dates or even the states in which they were alleged to have occurred.
Meanwhile, the Australian Democrats have agreed to join the Howard Government in delivering the Task Force increased coercive powers, including the ability to gaol workers who refuse to answer questions about industrial disputes.
National Union of Workers member, Rob Diefenbach, features in full page weekend newspaper ads appealing for Australian workers to "buy some extra Golden Circle products" next time they go shopping.
The 13-year Golden Circle veteran is one of more than 1000 NUW members who support their families through jobs at the company's Queensland plant.
"Our members are genuine hard working people," says Mark Furner, Queensland NUW secretary.
Golden Circle announced losses of over $10 million in 2003 with unions learning of the company's position in the middle of enterprise agreement negotiations.
"For over 50 years Golden Circle has operated as a co-operative," says Furner. "Now they're starting to realise that they need to operate a more effective business."
Despite Golden Circle's position the union was able to conclude a successful 12 month agreement which comes up for renegotiation in the next three months and Golden Circle workers are hoping the company's financial position will have improved.
Furner said that the NUW would be keeping a "close eye" on developments and would ensure that the business remained viable. The union stressed that they would not allow conditions or safety standards to slip.
The company has pointed to SARS and the drought as affecting production and distribution but commentators say cheap imports and poor business decisions have had serious affects.
The NUW voted at the recent Queensland ALP state conference to oppose the Australian-US Free Trade Agreement, a deal that the union believes will be a negative for the Golden Circle workers.
The campaign initially appears to have had a positive impact according to Golden Circle management.
"Everyone at Golden Circle has been overwhelmed by the support that has been pouring in from around the country since our ads appeared at the weekend," says Steve Morrow, Chief Executive of Golden Circle. "It's also terrific that the union movement has got behind us.
Golden Circle has employed many thousands of Queenslanders at its processing plant over the years, including current state Premier, Peter Beattie.
Labor Council and the LHMU will register "strenuous objections" to the government’s move to flog off school cleaning contracts to the lowest bidder at a showdown with ministers this week.
The move comes as the LHMU is campaigning to have corporates, such as Woolworths, sign off on core standards for cleaning contractors.
Recent campaigns have highlighted the exploitation of immigrant women paid less than $10 an hour in an industry where "reputable" businesses contract out their obligations to people who clean their premises.
Robertson said the government's failure to insist school contractors retained existing workers, or even applied the award, was evidence IR Minister Della Bosca had embraced "the race to the bottom"
"This a government that runs around the country claiming to have the best IR framework going. Yet it won't insist on its application when it comes to awarding contracts.
"It's time these people woke up and recognised they actually need to look after working people and their families.
"This Minister and his department are threatening the job security and earnings of some of the lowest paid people in NSW."
Robertson said the latest contract announcement contained fewer protections than Liberal Nick Greiner applied when school cleaning was first put up for tender.
Greiner, at least, ensured wages and conditions were underpinned by the cleaners award, Roberston said.
LHMU secretary, Annie Owens, said contractual "standards" had been spelled out at a meeting with senior departmental officials.
"The company only entered into this area on the invitation of the CCIWA (Chamber of Commerce and Industry, WA). Freespirit will not get involved with any of these programs again," managing director, Paul Rigby, pledged this week.
The decision followed AMWU claims that 29 skilled tradesmen had been imported from South Africa and paid effective rates as low as $8.60 an hour.
The pipe fitters, welders and boilermakers walked off sites around WA two months ago to protest their treatment.
One boilermaker said he was earning $13 an hour at Port Hedland, after deductions, alongside Australians on $44 an hour.
He likened his situation to "slavery".
The AMWU has been urging Freespirit to cease "exploitation" which secretary Jock Ferguson said "undermined every agreement and every worker in Australia".
Rigby signalled his agreement, through public relations agency RHK, as lawyers for the labour hire outfit granted the union access to wage records.
But neither Rigby, nor anyone else from Freespirit, was available to defend claims the eight paragraph press release was so full of inaccuracies it cast doubt on the company's real motivation.
AMWU organiser Steve McCartney took issue with the following Freespirit assertions ...
- "his company had attempted to be open and negotiate in good faith ..."
The truth, McCartney says, is that for more than a month Freespirit refused to negotiate at all. It hired a law firm and a spin doctor and conducted all discussions through those agencies. It categorically refused to deal with the South Africans as a group.
- "An audit has been conducted which found that the company had done nothing wrong."
McCartney says an internal examination resulted in Freespirt offering individuals settlements of between $900 and $4000 a head. It has subsequently demanded that every South African sign a new contract that seeks to indemnify Freespirit from any action arising from their employment in Australia.
- "A number of tradesmen have been offered jobs with other people in Australia but none of them want to leave us - so we can't be doing too much wrong," Mr Rigby said.
McCartney says South Africans are hamstrung by immigration regulations that prevent them working for a minimum of 28 days while alternative sponsorships are processed. Even so, at least two of their number - Ronald Oliveira and Ian Potzeiter - have already accepted alternative sponsorships.
- "Mr Rigby said Freespirit would honour all its obligations to the South African tradesmen ..."
South Africans have told Workers Online they were promised their wives and children would be able to join them once they began employment in Australia. McCartney says Freespirit is now tying applications for family visas to signing new contracts, including indemnities, with a wholly-owned Freespirit subsidiary.
Workers Online wanted to put each of those claims to Rigby but was told he would be unavailable. The person we spoke to at Freespirit also refused to supply a mobile phone number, or contact details for the company's Perth-based pr company.
Labor Council secretary, John Robertson, accuses the Not In My Back Yard brigade of orchestrating opposition to the latest incarnation of Sydney’s historic fun park, much of which is heritage protected.
"This same bunch of NIMBY newcomers that forced the Park to close last time are at it again," Robertson said.
"These people build or buy right next door to the state's largest fun park then they complain about the noise. Give me a break.
"Locals have every right to a say about developments in their areas but not at the expense of jobs that already exist and the city's history."
Labor Council is urging the state government to sign off on a development application that would allow Luna Park Sydney to build a 14-storey office block at the back of the site.
The government took over planning authority after North Sydney Council rejected the original development application.
Luna Park has had a chequered history and AWU representative, Matt Thistlewaite, says the viability of the current operation has always hinged on development of the site.
He says that more than a quarter of the 610 Luna Park employees are under 21.
"We don't want to get into an argument over what is or isn't the best development," Thistlewaite said.
"What we know is that Lunar Park is a Sydney icon and that, over the last decade, several operators have tried to make a go of it and they have all failed at the cost of hundreds of jobs.
"Now it is up and running again, we don't want to go through all that waste again.
"We believe the state government should honour its commitment to the developer to ensure these jobs remain viable."
Bacon, a one-time Maoist student leader and BLF official, was diagnosed with terminal cancer in February and resigned as Premier.
During the early nineties Bacon was secretery of the Tasmanian Trades and Labor Council and served on the executive of the ACTU, from 1989 to 1995.
Bacon became Premier in 1998, after only two years in Parliament, and spent five and a half years restructuring Tasmania socially and economically.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow said Bacon saved thousands of jobs by putting a stop to massive public sector redundancies and created many more by implementing a successful industry development plan.
"Jim Bacon stood for fairness, decency, opportunity and optimism. He stood for a collective and inclusive approach rather than a competitive and individualistic one." Burrow said.
A man from an earlier era, former New South Wales MLC Roy Turner, also passed last week.
The former WWII bomber flight officer saw three years of service before studying law at Sydney University and graduating in 1952.
Turner developed a wide clientele of trade unions from across the political spectrum and was known for briefing barristers for cases who would win, no matter how conservative.
He retired from the law in 2003 after 51 years of practice.
Lawyers for the four companies concerned have asked for more time to respond to charges over the collapse of a jet hangar at Canberra Airport last year - a hanger that was used to house the Prime Minister's VIP jet.
The companies that have been charged face fines of several hundred thousand dollars for what the Canberra Times reported as the territory's "worst ever industrial accident".
Unions have welcomed the investigation into the hangar collapse, which could have been much worse. Many lives were saved only because many of the workers on the site were at lunch when the accident happened.
"We welcome an inquiry to get to the bottom of what happened," says CFMEU ACT Assistant Secretary Glenn Parry. "Not necessarily to see people get pinged but to find out why it happened so that it doesn't happen again.
Stronger OHS Laws
The news comes as new occupational health and safety laws came into effect in the ACT despite a loud campaign by local businesses and the territory's Liberal opposition.
The new laws give unions 'right of entry' into workplaces to ensure that safety conditions are up to scratch.
Even as the laws were being passed ACT unions came across a building site that has been labelled "an accident waiting to happen".
Scaffolding had been erected within centimetres of live powerlines and a complete absence of harnesses was accompanied by "fall traps everywhere".
Even the scaffolding had been erected with gaps in the planks.
"It highlights the need for unions to have access to these jobs," says Parry. "It makes you wonder if [employers] are paying any notice to the new laws."
The CFMEU has welcomed the new laws, coming on the back of the ACT Government enacting industrial manslaughter legislation.
"There's been more discussion of safety issues since the industrial manslaughter laws came in than in the previous 30 years I've been in the ACT," says Parry.
ACT WorkCover issued three prohibition notices for serious safety breaches at the site and seven improvement notices.
The trial of those charged in relation to the Canberra Airport hangar collapse is continuing.
Jim O'Neill, AMWU delegate from One Steel Pipe and Tube, Newcastle, saw six politicians in three days and said their lack of free trade nous "was a bit of a bloody eye-opener".
"One politician asked me, what does NAFTA stand for?" he reported. "Another, a front bencher, said he had his own portfolios and hadn't had the chance to study the details of AUSFATA.
"I reckon we can win some of these people over by telling them the truth and, from what we've been told, we've got a month, maybe six weeks to do it."
O'Neill, one of 30 AMWU members who spent three days prowling the capital, came away convinced the ALP will make or break Australian manufacturing.
He said the Liberals were a "lost cause", while both the Greens and Democrats had adopted positive positions.
Smith based that analysis on six face-to-face interviews and final-day reports from colleagues who had confronted other legislators.
He said members of the delegation would return to their workplaces and towns to turn up the heat on local ALP members and politicians.
"Labor is the key to this," he said. "We have to win over politicians in Canberra and put some pressure on premiers in the eastern states who seem to be all for it."
Economic modelling presented to a Senate Inquiry into the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement warned Australia would lose $47 billion and up to 195,000 jobs over 25 years.
The modelling, carried out by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research (NIEIR), said the deal in its present form would cede political control and kill off hopes of Australia becoming a knowledge economy.
MEAA members, including actors Toni Collette and David Wenham, were launching a lobbying blitz in Canberra as manufacturing workers flew out. They, too, were concentrating on ALP MPs and senators.
O'Neill said jobs were his primary motivation for taking a stand against the free trade arrangement but he, and other AMWU members, were also concerned about its likely affects on sovereignty, pharmaceutical costs and Australian culture.
"It was a silly idea to sell off a natural resource," says Craig Smith, NSW secretary of the Forestry division of the CFMEU. "If it ain't broken don't fix it."
Smith blamed the "economic rationalist position of treasury" for the proposal.
"If that's the mentality driving the flogging off of public assets then we've got real problems," says Smith. "There's a long list of concerns over privatising the state's softwood plantations."
Timber workers are concerned that 'value adding' jobs in regional centres could be placed under threat by the privatisation move.
A plan involving the Timberman company to shore up over 200 timber processing jobs in the state's south east would be placed under threat if a competitor gained control of Timberman's log supply, a distinct possibility if forests went under the hammer.
According to the CFMEU this was just one example of the uncertainty the privatisation proposal has created in the industry.
The ability of the private sector to adequately manage the state's 988 000 hectares of softwood plantations has also been called into question.
In Bombala in the state's south two forests planted at the same time, from the same seed stock, using the same methods have seen two very different results.
The state forest managed timber has been dramatically outperforming the private sector timber, a result that forestry workers attribute to "private enterprise cutting corners".
Farm owners have also expressed concern at the private sector's ability to adequately manage fire threats.
Under the plan, counter inquiries at Chatswood, Liverpool, Rockdale and Blacktown will be axed and staff made redundant or moved to other duties.
Sydney Water has no plans to increase call centre staff to compensate for the removal of face to face information services.
As the drought has worsened and water restrictions have toughened there has been a substantial increase in calls for information.
At the Rockdale office alone, 75 inquiries are made over the counter daily.
Last week a Daily Telegraph investigation of corporate, government and community information lines listed Sydney Water as an offender.
In response to the article and inquiries from Channel 9 Call Centre Supremo at Sydney Water Kathy Hourigan emailed staff instructing them to answer customer calls more urgently and before other duties.
The Boeing 717 was damaged while it was pushed back from the terminal with the passenger boarding gangway still in place.
David Kemp from the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association said the incident appeared to have been caused by the errors of poorly trained workers doing jobs that should be carried out by licensed aircraft maintenance engineers.
JetStar recently removed Licenced Aircraft Engineers from the headsets on aircraft pushbacks - ground handling staff are now in charge of the pushback and operate the push back machinery.
"The message we are getting from workers on the ground is that JetStar is providing just two hours training for workers handling highly complex tasks," Mr Kemp said.
"This is just another example of how cost-cutting can compromise the safety of the public."
Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers are running a campaign on airline saftey, for more details go to JetSafe http://www.jetsafe.com.au
The UK based safety magazine Hazards reports that researchers at NEC-Mitsubishi say that regular breaks and making desks more personal could reduce the symptoms of this condition.
Their survey found 67 percent of office workers said that they are more tied to their desk than they were two years ago and around 40 percent said they were infuriated by too much clutter on their desks.
Irritable Desk Syndrome has been an issue in Australia with Tax Office field staff being forced to "hotdesk" - where they are forced to use whatever desk is available - as changes to the law see them increasingly tied to the office.
"This is increasingly becoming a problem while we see the Federal Government moving a million miles in the other direction," says Dermot Browne of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU).
The CPSU has been disappointed by Federal Government moves to abolish the country's peak safety body, the National Occupational Health and Safety Council (NOHSC).
"The Federal Government is also moving to abolish the automatic role of unions to police this area," says Browne.
Private call centres have also been singled out for forcing workers to "grab whatever desk is available".
The CPSU supported the report's call for workers to have regular breaks, but said a spokesperson added that pressure from performance targets often stymied workers' ability to take such precautions.
Farmers, contractors and trades people will be able to join forces to get better deals from purchasers of their products under proposed changes to the Trades Practices Act.
Previously such collective bargaining would have been considered anti-competitive collusion, and could have been prosecuted by the ACCC.
But the Opposition says workers should also be given the right to bargain collectively to increase their negotiating strength.
Under the Workplace Relations Act an employer can refuse to negotiate with a union (and with a non-union collective of employees).
Under the Act there is no capacity for the Industrial Relations Commission to require an employer or other party to bargain in good faith.
Fundraiser for the Cuban Children's Fund
Merdith Burgmann, President of the NSW Legislative Council will host a fundraising reception for the fund as follows:
Friday July 9th, 5.30 pm - 7 pm
At the President's Dining Room, Parliament House, Macquarie St, Sydney.
$30 donation, plus surprise raffles.
RSVP by 2nd July To Claudine Lyons
Ph 9230 2548
The special guest will be: Anthony Albanese, MHR (Shadow Minister for Employment Services and Training). Anthony was a member of the recent parliamentary delegation to Cuba. During the visit he was able to visit the Wm Soler Hospital, the focus of the Cuban Children's fund's efforts. Anthony will talk about the progress of the hospital and his observations of Cuba generally.
In recent months the Fund Committee has been able to assist the further development of the Wm Soler Hospital with donations that have enabled the purchase of intensive care beds for small children and paediatric anaesthetic equipment.
If you would like to join the fund please return this email and I will send you the necessary information.
The fund is assisted and administrated through APHEDA - Union Aid Abroad, the ACTU's aid and solidarity organisation.
Business Ethics Forum
- timely opportunity to discuss corporate values and responsibilities
The second Oxfam Community Aid Abroad Business Ethics Forum on Tuesday 13 July 2004 comes at a time when global events have again thrown a spotlight on the social responsibilities of the corporate sector. The forum will bring together representatives from many top Australian companies, government departments, educational institutions and the general public to discuss values and ethics in the workplace.
The forum will take place in Federation Square in the heart of Melbourne's CBD and will feature distinguished keynote speakers:
Justice Neville Owen (Royal Commissioner, HIH Inquiry)
Christine Charles (Corporate Executive, Newmont Australia)
Sharan Burrow (ACTU President)
Corporate governance matters such as boardroom responsibility and shareholder interest, the environmental impact of business and best corporate practice are some of the issues that will be the subject of conversations at the forum.
Andrew Hewett, Executive Director of Oxfam Community Aid Abroad, says a constructive business ethics debate in Australia is vital in this era of corporate globalisation. "Corporations today wield an unprecedented level of influence and power over human development. Current patterns of globalisation are creating opportunities for those with skills, education and assets. People who have these opportunities can make a positive contribution so that the three billion people surviving on less than $2 per day and the one in seven children who have no school to go to are not left behind."
DATE: Tuesday 13 July 2004, 6.30pm to 8.00pm
VENUE: BMW Edge Theatre, Federation Square,
Corner Flinders & Swanston Streets, Melbourne
COST: $75 per head
Drinks and canapés on arrival
For more information visit: www.oxfam.org.au/businessethics
strategic thinking and planning
An East coast opportunity to work on your campaign or organisation's strategic thinking and planning.
Would you like to be an activist who knows where their campaign is going? Do your current strategies and tactics match the broader social and political context? Would you like to be the kind of community worker who is clear about the aims of their project so that you can clearly evaluate what you are trying to achieve? Many environmental and social justice advocates are flying by the seat of their pants and looking for effective strategies to address the challenges we face. Sometimes we can get stuck in reactive modes, or feel overwhelmed by the challenges of the moment.
The good news is that there are skills and tools for helping us become more pro-active, and creative as an organisation. We can become smarter at strategy!
So would you like to build the skills base in your organisation? How to develop a plan? Strategic analysis? Are you merely being more reactive about your work? This workshop provides you with an opportunity to not only reflect, but to learn new skills in strategic thinking and planning to add to your activist tool kit.
Four seasoned trainers will be facilitating two days of active and experiential learning on strategic campaign analysis and planning.
Develop skills in understanding how organisations create smart strategies for change;
Learn new tools for campaign planning;
Increase your skills for accessing creativity and understanding your gifts for strategic thinking;
And apply these skills and tools to your organisation!
Brisbane :: Thursday 29th & Friday 30th July :: Brisbane Powerhouse
Sydney :: Monday 2nd & Tuesday 3rd August :: Quakers Meeting House
Melbourne :: Thursday 5th & Friday 6th August :: The Green Building
How much: $220-550 > sliding scale [includes GST unfortunately]
Contact Amy for more details: [email protected]
The ACTU will be co-sponsoring a conference on casual and insecure employment in Melbourne on August 2, 2004.
This timely national conference will examine the impact of casual and insecure work on Australian workers, business and the economy.
Casual employment as a proportion of the total workforce has grown from 13% in 1982 to 28% in 2003. It is widespread in many new industries and occupations and is increasingly long-term. Most jobs created in the 1990s were part-time and casual.
This conference will look at:
* the personal experience of casual workers
* international comparisons with Australian casual employment
* the economic impact of casual employment
* policy challenges for legislators, business and unions
This conference brings together some of Australia's leading thinkers and commentators and policy makers from business, unions, academia, politics, and the media to further this important debate.
Union places at the conference will cost $150 per head. To reserve your place download and complete the registration form below and fax it to RMIT University/CASR on 02 9365 6067. Or email your details to [email protected] Or post the registration form with payment to: Work Interrupted, PO Box 7267, Bondi Beach NSW 2026.
hoWARd the arseLIcKEr
-Written by D.B.Valentine - Directed by Mark Cleary
-The Edge Theatre - Cnr King & Bray Sts Newtown
-Advance previews Wed 4th & Thurs 5th August.
-Opening Friday 6th Aug to Sunday 29th Aug.
-Time: 7.30pm (tbc)
-Bookings 9645 1611 or www.mca-tix.com
-More info go to: www.newtowntheatre.com.au click on "The Edge"
Remember the Howard Years?
Where is the National Trust? Where is an enterprising tourist company?
We have memorials to the Howard Years that should be preserved. Do not let them pull down the detention camps. It is part of our history. Art lovers want to look at the marvellous murals painted on the walls of Port Hedland by a man now locked in Baxter. Historians will want to read the names written in blood in the suicide watch room. When there is a Royal Commission into the terrible abuses, I want them to be able to see where it all happened. International tourists will want to wander the football field in Nauru where over a thousand people were kept, hundreds are still there. I want to see where the kids played, where the babies learned to walk, where the young men cried. For many years we Australians thought we were not capable of such things. Now we need to walk around our 'sites' in order to see ourselves truthfully, and remember the Howard Years. Lest We Forget.
The first is that in questioning the excesses of the Bush Administration - in the face of overwhelming evidence that its foreign policy responses since September 11 have been an unmitigated disaster - is somehow un-American.
In attacking the short-sightedness and self-serving nature of the Bush adventure in Iraq, Latham is lining up alongside many Americans, from politics, popular culture and large sections of the general public, who appear increasingly likely to turf George W out come November.
When you hear the howls of protest against Latham's so-called anti-Americanism, you can't help being reminded of the 'outrage' that greeted Michael Moore's Oscar appearance or the Dixie Chick's on-stage criticism of their commander in chief.
In each case, while the media elites castigated them and called for consumer boycotts, the American public lapped up their hereticism, increasing their sales and fuelling a new phenomenon in patriot publishing - which will only grow if Moore's new film ever gets released.
Now it is true that Latham is a politician not an entertainer, but the point I make is the white heat that those who attack Bush are supposed to feel does not always burn.
The second premise behind Latham's so-called fall from grace over his American policy is that there is something un-patriotic in questioning the current Bush Administration.
This bizarre logic - that to question a foreign power's control over your nation is a betrayal of your own people - has been the subtext of a lot of claptrap emerging from the Australia-US Leadership Dialogue - a private soiree of media, political and business elites, held recently in Washington.
It was sickening to read some of the bile coming out of this exchange and the conga-line of Bush apologists lining up to 'warn' us of the dangers of an independent foreign policy.
Perhaps the weirdest part of this whole production is that even Mark Latham's biggest supporters would never accuse him of being anti-American.
Latham's economic and social thinking - as laid out in a series of books and newspaper articles - is really more in line with New Democrat than traditional Labor doctrine.
He is no plagiarist (another Howard accusation) but he is very much in the tradition of the politics of Clinton as shaped by strategist Dick Morris - basically to create a values set that innoculates a social democrat party from the wedge politics that the Right mastered through the eighties and nineties.
But in terms of Labor politics, Latham is not from some anti-US cell group, he is very much in the mainstream that sees the US a source of inspiration and intellectual leadership.
And finally there is free trade, and the mad frenzy to bully Labor into approving a deal that will force us to bare our buttocks to accept the American economy in all its glory.
In the absence of evidence that this will provide a net benefit to Australia, and with evidence showing the costs in cashing in our economic sovereignty will be felt for generations to come, the idea that the patriotic thing to do is sign on the bottom line is a little hard to sustain.
Of course, the only logic in these attacks is politics and the one straw the Howard Government is holding to is the idea that while people like Latham they don't think he is yet ready to lead.
And so they attempt to portray him as the political equivalent to a dope-smokin' flag-burning uni student on a protest march about issues that he really doesn't understand.
It's patronising, transparent and just a little too desperate.. As they say at 2GB: the message to Latham is to stay brave and true.
There are many on the Labor side of politics who hope Latham sticks to his guns against the unilateralism and sychophancy that masquerades as national policy under the Howard regime.
And methinks there are many more in the swinging heartlands of this great land who will reward him for sticking to his guns.