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Issue No. 238 17 September 2004  

Going Gangbusters?
The Prime Minister has put the economy front and centre in this election campaign, asserting - without a hint of irony – that he is the only one to trust with the national economy


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’ 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.


 Mind Games Off The Rails

 Kodak Blurs Jobs Picture

 Whistleblower Stitched Up

 Ranger Incompetence Saves Lives

 Skelton in Telstra Closet

 Capt Cook Discovers Flexibility

 Optus Opts Out

 Hardie Lemon in Orange County

 One Rule for Qantas

 Mum Takes on Bullies

 Costa’s Train Crash

 TV Clash Using Visual Ammunition

 Mormons In Asbestos Blue

 Apprentices Lose Out

 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.

 The Abbott Youth
 Invest In Dignity!
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Hardie Lemon in Orange County

Americans, Brits, Dutch and Japanese protestors joined Australian counterparts in demanding a fair go for James Hardie asbestos victims, this week.

On the same day that 5000 Sydneysiders rallied outside a Darling Harbour shareholders information meeting, American unionists picketed the company's US national headquarters at Mission Viejo California.

The Americans labelled the building materials giant a "lemon in Orange County".

Asbestos groups from Scotland and England joined Japanese and European trade unionists at a rally outside James Hardie's annual general meeting in Amsterdam today, demanding justice for dying Australians and their family members.

Their numbers were boosted by Netherlands parliamentarians from the Greens and Socialist parties and European ICFTU representatives.

The ICFTU has formally requested that the Dutch Government conclude a treaty with Australia that would prevent the recently relocated company dodging legal decisions in its former homeland.

Less than one percent of James Hardie's Australian shareholders attended this week's meeting that dealt with its treatment of asbestos disease sufferers.

The 140 shareholders were outnumbered by 5000 workers outside who demanded that James Hardie fully compensate around thousands of Australians expected to die from contact with its products.

Shareholders who did attend were denied explanations from leaders most closely involved with the compo controversy. Chief executive, Peter Macdonald, gave an address on operational matters but answered no questions and chief financial officer, Peter Shafron, didn't show up.

Counsel assisting the NSW Inquiry into James Hardie's corporate restructure has flagged the possibility of criminal charges against both men.

The pair helped devise a scheme that saw James Hardie's asbestos liabilities moved to a trust fund while the parent company moved to the Netherlands.

The fund, established in 2001, faces a possible shortfall of more than $2 billion.

Asbestos sufferers and union officials made statements and asked questions during the three-hour information meeting.

Newly-appointed chair, Meredith Helicar, who was a board member throughout the restructure, showed interest in a proposal from AMWU secretary, Paul Bastian, that James Hardie underwrite an education campaign to limit future asbestos-related deaths.

Protest rallies were also held in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart, last Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Queensland's buyer-beware system of property conveyancing has made the state a priority target for advocates of tightened asbestos regulations.

AMWU officials held a summit meeting with deputy premier, Kerry Mackenroth, in Brisbane on Tuesday in a bid to fast-track safeguards for owners, occupiers and purchasers of domestic properties.

Unions and asbestos disease sufferers want a regime of domestic inspection certificates, backed by an asbestos household register, across the continent. But AMWU state secretary, Andrew Dettmer, said Queensland property laws made its situation "urgent".

"Legally, I could sell you a house in Queensland today that was riddled with asbestos and not have to tell you a thing," Dettmer said.

"The scale of private property renovations in this state makes the need for safeguards urgent.

"If you are a worker and you are exposed to asbestos, your employer is liable. If you own a commercial or industrial property, you are responsible and must have an asbestos register on site.

"But if you go into a private, domestic residence you have no protection whatsoever. Given the widespread use of asbestos prior to 1980, that is a real problem for home owners and renovators."

Asbestos support organisations have identified nearly 300 domestic building products, used in Australia, that contain the killer substance.

The AMWU wrote to Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie, last week, seeking urgent action and the state government agreed to today's meeting.

Unlike Queensland, legislation in NSW, Victoria and South Australia requires vendors to warrant to the condition of the domestic properties they are selling.


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