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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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One Rule for Qantas

Qantas is offering three percent increases to wage workers while urging shareholders to back 66 percent pay hikes for millionaire executives, including James Packer.

Airline unions have promised to campaign against the largesse, which would give directors the right to increase non-executive fees from $1 million to $2.5 million a year.

Australian Services Union official, Linda White, said her organisation would by urging members and fund managers to vote against the resolution at next month's annual general meeting in Brisbane.

Qantas revealed this week that it had paid chief executive officer, Geoff Dixon, $6.09 million for the 2004 year, up from the $1.67 million he took home after the company sustained a loss last year.

Chairman Margaret Dixon lifted her earnings from $372,000 to $484,000 last year.

Qantas is asking shareholders to return her and fellow non-executive directors James Packer, Particia Cross and Mike Codd to the board.

The union campaign against Qantas comes a year after a team of academics shattered the link between gold-plated remuneration and company performance.

They found executive pay levels had exploded from 22 times average weekly earnings in 1992 to 74 times average weekly earnings in 2003. And in the finance sector the figures were more perverse, CEOs earning 188 times the salary of customer service staff.

By analysing the performance of companies against three criteria - return on equity, share price change and change in earnings per share - the researchers found that excessive pay levels actually coincided with lower bottom lines.

"If you look at the numbers, it is accurate to say the more you pay a CEO the worse the company performs and the less you pay the better it performs," researcher Dr John Shields of Sydney University's School of Business said.

Applying this analysis, the authors identified a performance-optimal range for executive remuneration of between 17 and 24 times average wage and salary earnings, beyond which the performance of a company began to deteriorate.

Their figures suggested that any company paying its CEO more than $800,000 was on a bad bet.

Unions were considering a range of reforms to address executive greed and increase accountability, including:-

- Government use of purchasing policy to encourage firms with moderate executive packages..

- The Australian Stock Exchange's (ASX) regulatory functions are compromised, as the ASX is itself a privately listed company. These functions should be transferred to a fully independent entity such as the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC).

- Restricting the use and abuse of share options by means of a specified cap on the ratio of executive options to the company's total share issue and via the imposition of a minimum vesting period of three years.

- Action, including legislation, to make superannuation funds more accountable for executive pay decisions, with nominees required to report to members on executive pay decisions.

- Registration of all organizations providing commercial services in the field of executive remuneration, with annual reports required to a relevant statutory authority.

- And, introduction of more stringent disclosure requirements, requiring formal shareholder approval for all executive salary decisions.


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