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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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Freespirit in Hiding

Officialdom has pulled a cone of silence over reports that "slave labour" importer, Freespirit, has been frozen out of the immigration business.

Reports from WA suggest DIMIA has "suspended" Freespirit's right to "sponsor" guest workers after Workers Online blew the whistle on its treatment of 29 South African tradesmen.

Former clients have reported the suspension but Immigration officials and the company, itself, were in "neither confirm nor deny" mode, last week.

Freespirit boss, Paul Rigby, ignored repeated Workers Online requests for information on his company's status, delivered through both his Sydney office and his WA public relations representative, Errol Consedine.

A Canberra-based DIMIA spokeperson at least returned our calls.

"We can't comment on the status of individual companies due to privacy," she said.

"When breaches are suspected we will carry out investigations and, where it is found a breach has occurred, the company will be asked to respond. Consideration will then be given as to whether their sponsorship arrangements should be cancelled."

Freespirit hit the headlines when Workers Online revealed, in April, it was paying imported boilermakers, pipe fitters and welders effective rates of $10-13 an hour.

AMWU WA secretary, Jock Ferguson, called the operation "pyramid labour hire" and described it as a threat to the living standards of every worker in Australia.

The South Africans walked off sites around the state to protest their treatment by Freespirit. One, a boilermaker, said he had been earning around $13 an hour at Port Hedland, alongside Australians getting $44 an hour for the same work.

Another, Ronald Oliveira from Johannesburg, likened their situation to "slavery".

One worker who went public was sacked from his job at a Perth engineering shop the following day.

Others said they were being charged 144 percent interest on $5000 upfront loans to cover airfares and immigration paperwork.

When Freespirit eventually agreed to discuss the workers' situations it demanded indemnities against backpay claims, filed by the AMWU, from each of the South Africans.

The AMWU helped tradesmen who wanted to see out their four-year working visas to ditch Freespirit and sign up with alternative sponsors.

Other organisations linked to the exploitation of South African workers included the Western Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Johannesburg-based ABA.


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