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Issue No. 236 03 September 2004  

Interest Overboard
A tired, ageing government tries to scare the electorate into re-electing it on the basis of a lie. Sound familiar? Yep, John Howard is going to the polls again.


Interview: True Matilda
Former senior bureaucrat John Menadue coordinated the group of 43 calling for truth in government; and now he has bigger fish to fry.

Politics: State of Play
Are all political parties the same? Workers Online tries to cut through the jargon to compare the major parties' approaches to key policy areas.

Industrial: Capital Dilemmas
Public Private Partnerships amount to privatisation by stealth. Or do they? Jim Marr investigates.

Unions: Rhodes Scholars
Tim Brunero discovers how the Electrical Trades Union is doing its best to ease the national apprentice crisis.

National Focus: Rennovating the Lodge
Noel Hester previews how unions will be fighting the federal election - on the ground and online.

International: People Power
Over the next four years there is a real potential a major struggle will take place for workers´┐Ż rights and the creation of truly democratic unions in China., writes Andrew Casey

Economics: A Bit Rich
Who Gets What? Why? And So What?, Frank Stilwell reviews the BRW's Rich List

History: Mine Shafts
It's 25 years since Nymboida passed the baton to United, writes Peter Murray

Safety: Sick Of Fighting
Former RAAF engineers could be sitting on a health time bomb, Tim Brunero reports.

Organising: Building a Wave
Community groups, unions and social movements all practice organising, wrties Tony Brown and Amanda Tattersall.

Poetry: Anger In The Bush(es)
How dare any Liberal suggest that the Prime Minister is a lying rodent! Resident bard David Peetz reports on the outrage that this slur has justifiably caused.

Review: The Battle Of Algiers
Tim Brunero writes The Battle of Algiers is a coldly objective, almost scientific anatomy of revolution.

Culture: The Word On The Street
Phil Doyle reports on how the Australian working class experience lives on through the words of the remarkable Geoff Goodfellow.


 Sprung: Howard Liberal with Truth

 Yanks Demand Racism

 The Greening of Labour

 Mums Move to Ease Squeeze

 Flying Kangaroo Goes to Water

 Health Warning for Bank Robbers

 Heritage Goes to Waste

 Freespirit in Hiding

 Offensive Toilets Threaten Pupils

 Telstra Dials Workplace Acquiescence

 P-Plate Nightmare for Young

 Free Loaders on Notice

 Funny Money Raises Interest

 Privatisation Debate Energised

 Activists What's On!


The Soapbox
Hail to the Metro-Sexual!
If the cultural shift required in the workplace to give greater security to working families was broadly accepted the ACTU would not be locked in an adversarial Work and Family test case argues Sharan Burrow.

The Westie Wing
In his latest missive from Macquarie Street our resident Parliamentary commentator, Ian West, walks us through issues around the PBS.

How Bush Lost His Wings
Tracking the National Guard Career of the Fatuous Flyboy from New Haven, Jeffrey St Clair.

The Locker Room
The Name of the Game
Phil Doyle wonders whether we are barracking for the sponsor or the team.

Women to Women
APHEDA-Union Aid Abroad is working to create opportunities for Palestinian women living in Lebanese refugee camps.

 Gold Gold Gold for Neolibs
 Co-operating At All Costs
 Fan Mail
 All Good Except You
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Interest Overboard

A tired, ageing government tries to scare the electorate into re-electing it on the basis of a lie. Sound familiar? Yep, John Howard is going to the polls again.

In 2001 it was a carefully constructed fear campaign which effectively morphed the collective anxiety about globalisation and economic insecurity into the myth of border protection; driven along by the children overboard lie which, as is still emerging, the government milked mercilessly despite advice from the highest levels that their was no substance to the charade.

This time around the big fear campaign is around interest rates and the spectre of fanciful percentages not seen since the Hawke-Keating government completed its grand economic restructure which, more than anything else, has delivered Howard and Costello the platform for a stable economy that they claim as their own.

The big lie on interest rates is as dangerous as border protection; under Howard and Costello home prices have sky-rocketed, helped along by a tax regime that rewards property speculation and a banking system prepared to underwriting previously unacceptable levels of personal debt.

In 1996, the average loan for first home buyers was $94,400 with average monthly loan repayments of $891; while the average mortgage for all borrowers was $97,600 with average monthly loan repayments of $922.

By June 2004, the average loan for first home buyers was $204,000 with average monthly loan repayments of $1,448; while the average mortgage for all borrowers was $202,700 with average monthly loan repayments of $1,400

This is Howard and Costello's legacy - and perversely this is what makes their scare campaign so potent: a percentage point in interest rates today has the practical effect of five points in the early nineties; the entire property market would collapse long before interest rates got anywhere near 18 per cent.

That is why the Reserve Bank and whatever government is in power would never use interest rates in the way Keating did ever again; the benefits it delivered in a period of profound economic transition would be disastrous at this point in time.

That has not stopped Howard milking it for all its worth - and now that commercial television has ditched its requirement for truth in political advertising, look forward to the full symphony in the coming weeks.

Thankfully, unlike children overboard where the truth was controlled within government, we are beginning to hear some economists and business commentators exposing the lies about 18 per cent interest rates..

Anyone lucky enough to see the respected finance journalist, now irreverent morning talk show host David Koch take Howard on this week would take some hear that the truth may prevail this time.

For those who missed out there was this exchange:

KOCH: Okay, just finally, a quick bone to pick with you. This campaign - A vote for Labor is a vote for 18 per cent interest rates. That is the greatest load of hogwash, with respect.

PRIME MINISTER: I haven't specified 18 per cent...

KOCH: Some of your colleagues have in their letter box drops around their electorates have done so.

PRIME MINISTER: What I do say is that a Labor Government is more likely to deliver higher interest rates because it runs budgets into deficit and it also runs an industrial relations policy that will weaken productivity.

KOCH: So can you guarantee that interest rates will not rise if you are re-elected during your next term?

PRIME MINISTER: I can guarantee that interest rates will always be lower under a Coalition Government.

KOCH: No, can you...?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'm telling you...

KOCH: You can't guarantee it - that's the point.

PRIME MINISTER: No, what I am guaranteeing to you is what I've just said. That's what... I mean, David, you don't put words into my mouth. I'll tell you what I guarantee, I guarantee that interest rates will be lower under a Coalition Government than they would be under a Labor Government. Isn't that fair enough...

KOCH: Standard & Poor's, the big international credit rating agency, said this week that no matter who gets elected at the federal election it does not see a AAA credit rating under threat.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's good, that is good. I don't want to...

KOCH: Which is a testimony to Labor policy...

PRIME MINISTER: No, but I ask the Australian people to look at what has happened over the last eight and a half years. Are you denying that interest rates have fallen sharply over the last eight and a half years? Nobody can deny that. And what I'm saying is, you compare that with the likelihood of a Labor Government spending into deficit, as previous Labor governments did, running an industrial relations policy...

KOCH: It's a whole new team.

PRIME MINISTER: It's a whole new team, but they still adore the same people. Mark Latham's great mentors are Paul Keating and Gough Whitlam.

KOCH: Okay.

As they did in 2001 the ALP has the facts on their side, it's just that the truth is a lot more complex than the scary lie.

The media preparedness to take on Howard and ensure they are not manipulated in the way they were with border protection will have a big bearing on the outcome of this election.

Peter Lewis



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