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Issue No. 228 09 July 2004  

Thai-ed in Knots
With all the hype, hiccups, fear and loathing around the Australia/US Free Trade agreement, another agreement all but slipped under the radar this week - a preferential trade deal between Australia and Thailand.


Interview: Power and the Passion
ALP's star recruit Peter Garrett shares his views on unions, forests and being the Member for Wedding Cake Island

Unions: Tackling the Heavy Hitters
Tony Butterfield became a State of Origin gladiator at the unlikely age of 33. Even that, Jim Marr reports, couldn’t prepare him for the knock-down, drag-em-out world of modern IR.

Industrial: Seeing the Forest For The Wood
Proposals to flog off NSW’s forests have raised eyebrows and temperatures amongst some of the key players reports Phil Doyle.

Housing: Home Truths
CFMEU national secretary John Sutton argues for a radical solution to the housing affordability crisis.

International: Boycott Busters
International unions have issued a new list of corporations breaching ILO sanctions to do business in Burma.

Economics: Ideology and Free Trade
The absurdities of neoclassical economic assumptions has never stood in the way of their being trotted out to justify profiteering and attacks on the rights of citizens. The AUSFTA is the latest rort we are supposed to swallow, writes Neale Towart.

History: Long Shadow of a Forgotten Man
Interest in JC Watson's short time as Labor's first Prime Minister should not detract from his more substantial role as Party leader, writes Mark Hearn

Review: Chewing the Fat
As debate rages in Australia about Fast Food advertising, Julianne Taverner takes a look at a side of the industry that Ronald McDonald won’t tell you about in Supersize Me.

Poetry: Dear John
Workers Online reader Rob Mullen shares some personal correspondence with our glorious leader.


 Adecco in the Dock

 Chubb Faces Bullying Rap

 Print Company Burns Staff

 Carr "Prefers" Americans

 Drug Cheats’ Eye off Olympics

 Unions Crack Skull

 Howard Backs $7.30 Report

 MCG Vet Kicks Casual Goal

 Parking tickets Gonged

 Safety Meets Low Expectations

 Koori Building for Future

 "Super Sopper" Soaks Up Funds

 Kelly’s Figures go West

 Activists What’s On!


The Westie Wing
As the NSW Labor Government sells its first budget deficit in nine years, the real concern for the union movement is the devil in the detail, especially when it comes to procurement agreements, writes Ian West.

The Soapbox
Rubber Bullets
Labor's IR spokesman Craig Emerson launches a few characteristic salvos across the Parliamentary chamber

The Locker Room
Tears After Bedtime
Phil Doyle says that it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye

Postcard from Vietnam
APHEDA's Hoang Thi Le Hang reports from the north of Vietnam on a project being fund by Australian unionists.,

 History Left In The Back Of The Cab
 Libs have Got To Go
 A Boring Bastard
 A Home Of Their Own
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Carr "Prefers" Americans

NSW Premier Bob Carr is being accused of selling out on state and federal Labor policy to give US workers and businesses "preference" over their Australian counterparts.

Unions are seeking an urgent meeting with Carr over his decision to sign off on Government Procurement Policy, included in John Howard’s US-Australia Free Trade Agreement, while Federal Labor is still wrestling with the implications for jobs and sovereignty.

Labor Council assistant secretary, Mark Lennon, says AUSFTA is not a free trade agreement at all.

"It is a preferential trade agreement between two countries and, unfortunately, all the preferences run in favour of the US," Lennon says.

AMWU secretary, Paul Bastian, said Carr's move would strip NSW of the right to direct taxpayers' money into NSW goods, services and jobs. Given the relative size of the two economies, he argued, that would translate into major disadvantages for NSW manufacturers, service providers and workers.

"The Premier has endorsed an agreement which sees NSW lose all rights to prefer local goods and services," Bastian said. "Yet the US retains its right to subsidise its own goods and services.

"It will be disastrous for local employment."

Bastian highlighted the case of Smithfield-based Berri fruit juices which recently beat off a takeover bid by Coca Cola. USFTA, he said, would leave companies like Berri "defenceless" against US corporate predators.

Australia Thais Into Sweat Shops

Australians will be forced to compete with workers earning $4.60 a day under a free trade agreement signed with Thailand, this week.

The warning was delivered by AMWU national secretary, Doug Cameron, who said the agreement, signed by Prime Minister John Howard, "totally ignored" core labour standards.

The AMWU argues Australians will lose job and business opportunities because of a massive disparity in labour standards between the two countries.

Thai wages, averaging between $A4.60 and $5.80 a day, are set by provincial committees and, even these rates, are poorly policed, Cameron says.

Other key elements of the Thai labour set-up include ...

- migrants being paid even less than the minimum rates

- civil servants barred from joining unions or taking strike action

- the ability of employers to legally terminate employment for any reason

- the frequent dismissal of workers who attempt to form trade unions

- little attempt to stop forced or bonded labour

- the widespread existence of sweat shops

Cameron says the Thai agreement shows Howard's version of "free trade" is a mechanism that allows global business to slash costs, irrespective of affects on local workers, families or communities.

"This agreement makes a mockery of the argument that free trade agreements are about creating level playing fields," Cameron says.

"How can Mr Howard expect Australian workers to compete with workers from a country with effectively no labour rights at all?"


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