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Issue No. 239 24 September 2004  

Moral Victories
The release of the Jackson Inquiry into James Hardie may represent the completion of one chapter of Australia’s largest corporate scandal, but it is by no means the end of the story.


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.


 Delta Parties Like It’s 1994

 Shot In The Arm for Dealers

 Corporates Vote for AWAs

 Mind Game for the Discriminating

 Electrolux "Try On" Rebuffed

 Cultural Revolution Purges Howard

 Xerox On The Blink

 Billions Hidden Behind the Veil

 Customs Crosses the Border

 Toolbox Gimmick Threatens Awards

 Cleaners Clean Up

 u r brkng t law

 Unions Join Power Surge

 Vulnerable Lose Shot At Life

 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.

 I Say I Say I Say
 I Say I Say I Say II
 Vote Early, And Often
 No Surplus Of Generosity
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Toolbox Gimmick Threatens Awards

Unions have slammed as "farcical" a move by Prime Minister John Howard to introduce an $800 Tool Box allowance while teenaged manufacturing apprentices are paid $100 a week less than fast food trainees.

Fixing low apprentice wages and an underfunded TAFE system, rather than handing out tool boxes, is the key to fixing a $9 billion skills shortage, unions says.

"Most apprentices already receive an allowance of more than $1000 a year to buy and maintain their tools," says Sharan Burrow from the ACTU. "Toolkits for apprentices are a farcical response by John Howard to Australia's major skills shortage that could cost the economy $9 billion and is already seriously affecting businesses."

"The reason young people are not signing up for trades apprenticeships is because the wages rates are so low," says John Sutton, National Secretary of the CFMEU Construction & General Division. "Young people will not take up a trade apprenticeship when they are only paid around $250 per week for their first year and $315 for the second year, while their peers are bringing in double and triple that wage.

"Will the Coalition support our application for a wage rise for apprentices in the Commission and reverse its policy of 8 years' of backing employers' opposition to such wage rises?"

Awards To Be Stripped?

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union says Howard's move raises more questions than it answers, questioning whether the Howard payment would mean employers could seek to strip this award right for all apprentices.

"Like much of what the Prime Minister says, it is safe not to take his words as the truth," says AMWU national president Julius Roe. "The Prime Minister has already cooked the figures to count young people working at McDonalds as apprentices."

Unions have accused the Liberal Party of dishonestly exaggerating the number of apprentices in training.

Official Government data shows that less than a third of the 400,000 apprenticeships the Howard Government claims it is currently supporting are actual trades apprenticeships.

The skills crisis has been compounded by TAFE funding has being frozen at 1997 levels despite a 16% jump in student numbers and unmet demand for up to 57,000 extra places.

"Although $800 for a tool kit may seem attractive, it is farcical if there are not enough apprenticeships or student places at TAFE," says Maree O'Halloran, President of the NSW Teachers Federation. "The Howard Government froze TAFE student enrolment growth funding, and failed to restore it in real terms."

Apprentice Funding Cut

The move follows news that Howard Government cutting funding to 11 utilities and electro-technology trades courses in NSW.

"We have a government that is actively undermining the trades by removing funding from trades courses," says ETU state secretary Bernie Riordan. "A free tool box might deliver a headline, but the real news is what this government is doing to the national apprentice system."

Riordan believes the cuts show that the Howard Government is not serious about increasing the number of apprentices.

"This is a looming national crisis that will take more than a tool box stunt to fix."

The Electrical Trades Union called on the Prime Minister to reverse the decision to recognise the courses, despite massive skills shortages in the area.

Job vacancies in the traditional trades have already risen 20% in the past year and are now at their highest level for 15 years.


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