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Issue No. 233 13 August 2004  

Australian Pastoral
Now the US Australia Free Trade Agreement is signed, sealed and rubberstamped, we will see for ourselves who was right – those who argued Nirvana or those who warned of economic Armageddon.


Interview: Trading Places
New ACTU International Officer Alison Tate cut her teeth delivering aid to developing nations through APHEDA. Now she is helping chart the global union agenda.

Safety: Snow Job
James Hardie has been drilled into our collective consciousness as a story of power, greed and immorality. It is also, as Jim Marr reports, a tale of human tragedy.

Politics: In the Vanguard
Damien Cahill reveals how neo-liberal think tanks have been at the forefront of the corporate assault upon trade unions and social movements in Australia.

Unions: Gentle Giant Goes For Gold
Don’t get between Sydney sparkie Semir Pepic and a gold medal in a dimly lit alley, writes Tim Brunero.

Bad Boss: 'Porker' Chases Blue Ribbon
Perfect Porker, Darren Vincent, brings a history of meat worker shafting to this month’s Bad Boss nomination.

International: Cruising For A Bruising
Europe’s big unions are bruised as they watch companies roll over some of their best-organised unionised workplaces demanding longer work hours – without any recompense, reports Andrew Casey.

History: Under the Influence
Was John Kerr drunk when he wrote and signed the letter dismissing Edward Gough Whitlam from the Prime Ministership in 1975? Geraldine Willissee investigates.

Economics: Working Capital
Where superannuation fits, where it fails and what we should we do about it. Neale Towart gives the tough answers.

Review: Fahrenheit 9/11
There's many a must see moment in Mike Moore's new flick but beating the propaganda machine at its own game wreaks havoc with wearied bullshit detectors, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Bad Intelligence Rap
When Flood washed away the PM's sins, the truth was once again left high and dry.

Satire: Osama Bin Manchu
During a recent visit to an elderly relative in a nursing home, I was waylaid by an ancient gentleman who insisted I listen to what he had to say, writes Rowan Cahill.


 Hardie Boycott Sweeps State

 Vic Bosses Spit Dummy

 Revenge of the Bank Staff

 Young Workers Grounded

 Stab Proof Undies Arresting

 Carr in Cleaners Dust-Up

 Conflict Threatens Rail Safety

 Stats Lead Race to Bottom

 Spotlight on Olympic Stitch-Up

 Bomber Targets Canberra

 Casino's Gamble Backfires

 Choice in Truth Mix

 Activists What’s On!


The Westie Wing
The Labor Governments in each State must take the lead to stop the abuse of corporate law in Australia in the absence of action from the Federal Government, as the Inquiry into James Hardie’s has highlighted, writes Ian West.

The Soapbox
Cleaners Deserve Our Support
It's time the state's cleaners were given some support, loyalty and long service leave, writes Chris Christodoulou.

The Locker Room
Half Time At The Football
Phil Doyle wants to have his pie and eat it too.

Faithful Servant
Frank Mossfield was one of the labour movement’s quiet achievers. Former Labor Council secretary Michael Easson pays tribute.

Lessons From East Timor
Just back from a study tour to East Timor, National Reserach Officer with the Construction division of the CFMEU, Ben Stirling, writes about the experience for Workers Online.

 Tom’s Legal Advice
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Australian Pastoral

Now the US Australia Free Trade Agreement is signed, sealed and rubberstamped, we will see for ourselves who was right – those who argued Nirvana or those who warned of economic Armageddon.

While the advocates, particularly the agriculture sector may be waiting for the rivers of gold, the main challenge for those concerned about the impact of the deal on the broader economy is to minimise the damage.

As a report prepared by Peter Brain the National Institute of Economic Research and Nixon Apple from the AMWU argues the Australian economy is not ''free trade ready' - and this, more than any line item in the FTA, will damage our national interest.

What do they mean by this? In short they argue, that the Australian economy is not at a stage of development that will allow it to thrive where government has placed itself in a public policy straight jacket.

While we like to see ourselves as an economic miracle that has withstood the pressures of the Asian meltdown and the global war on terror with low inflation and low unemployment, they warn our economic foundations are on shaky ground.

They point to an economy based on household debt, inflated property prices pushing further borrowing, an army of hidden unemployed and a nation where poverty is concentrated in areas traditionally sustained by the manufacturing sector.

In short, the Australian economy may look good on the surface, but it needs constant care and attention from the government to stay in shape - the very support that the FTA aims to outlaw.

For example, the FTA will limit governments' rights to implement 'Australian made' procurement policies as a way of fostering local industry.

Yes, the agreement allows Australian firms to compete for US government contracts. But, the author's question, how many firms are really at a size and influence that they will be able to knock off American counterparts.

Those industries that could develop into global, will have to do so in a climate of chronic under-investment in local research and development,

And with Australia submitting itself to the US's intellectual property regime, our ability to develop new technologies will be subject to the courts of another nation.

While the 'Knowledge Economy' has not been on the political landscape since it got swamped by Barry Jones spaghetti and meatballs recipe before the last federal election, it is this idea - of high-skilled, high-income industries that will be the real casualty of the FTA.

The risk for Australia is that we become squeezed between the high-tech superpowers and the growing low-wage Asian economies; leaving us nothing but raw materials and tourism to trade in the global economy.

This 'pastoralisation' of the economy is the real threat of the FTA, an economy that locks itself out of wealth, growth and opportunity by letting other nations do the t5ough work of developing new technologies,

If this isn't to happen our leaders will need to work within the new FTA to chart a course that provides hope for manufacturing and the 40,000 manufacturing workers ho stand to lose their jobs under this agreement.

At its heart its about governments doing what we pay them for, showing leadership and vision and maximising the chances for this and future generations.

Mark Latham undoubtedly won the politics on the FTA with his classic triangulation ploy of shifting the debate to cheap medicine and thus robbing the PM of his long-awaited US Alliance wedge issue.

But now there is the much harder policy work to get right if this deal does not end up strapping us back to the sheep's back.

Peter Lewis



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