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Issue No. 241 08 October 2004  

Thatís All Folks!
Perhaps the most depressing part of this federal election campaign has been the Howard Governmentís success, with the willing assistance of the media, of typecasting the union movement as some sort of cartoon bogeyman.


Interview: The Last Bastian
AMWU state secretary Paul Bastian has been at the centre of the three year battle to bring James Hardie to account.

Unions: High and Dry
Jim Marr unpacks the recent High Court Electrolux decision to test whether the ruling matches the media hype.

Security: Liquid Borders
The Howard Government loves to trumpet its national security credentials but a close look at its record in shipping sinks the myth argues MUAís Zoe Reynolds.

Industrial: No Bully For You
Phil Doyle reports on how bringing dignity and respect to the workplace is undermining bullies.

History: Radical Brisbane
Radical Brisbane extends the 'Radical City' series into the Red North. Two experienced activists, academics and writers turn South East Queensland history on its head.

International: No Vacancies
More than 1400 hotel union workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 2, are on strike at four major hotels in San Francisco, California, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Life After Capitalism
A situation that all anarchists dream of? Michael Albert has been more than dreaming., writes Neale Towart

Technology: Cyber Winners
Labourstart's Eric Lee looks at a good news story of global online campaigning that has delivered a victory.

Poetry: Do It Yourself Poetry
Teaser: Wondering why the polls are all over the place? Ask our resident bard and psephologist.

Review: Hard Labo(u)r
The Voice of Southern Labor highlights the role music played in the 1930's US textile strikes, but more than that it provides a lucid insight into the roots of modern capitalism and some truly organic organising, writes Tara de Boehmler.


 Telstra Dogs on Injured Woman

 Strike Three and Weíre Out

 Boxall Beats Hasty Retreat

 Ashfield Moves on Home Truths

 Pratt in Warwick Farm Plunge

 Robert Reich's 2020 Vision

 Numbers Racket at Yandi

 Executive Pay Blue Looms

 Crazy Mikeís Fire Sale

 Kids Remember Kids

 DIY Security For Child Care

 Canadaís Asbestos Outrage

 Aussie Kids Thrown Overboard


True Lies
Labor Council secretary John Robertson argues Itís Time Ė for an IR reality check.

The Westie Wing
Much work has been done in the past to ease the plight of clothing outworkers in New South Wales. It's time to step up the pressure, as sweatshops and clothing contract work are thriving stronger than ever, writes Ian West.

The Soapbox
Who Started the Class War?
Evan Jones looks across the Australian political landscape and asks who are the real class warriors?

The Locker Room
First Past The Post
Phil Doyle is coming up in class and is all the better for recent racing

Westie Wing
Our favourite state MP returns for his monthly Macquarie Street wrap.

Positive Action
Australian unionists are helping give hope to Filipino workers living with HIV/AIDS.

 Invest In Dignity - Part II
 No Credit
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Thatís All Folks!

Perhaps the most depressing part of this federal election campaign has been the Howard Governmentís success, with the willing assistance of the media, of typecasting the union movement as some sort of cartoon bogeyman.

While at the time of writing this editorial the result of the poll is unknown, what is clear is that yet again unions have somehow been positioned as a negative for the ALP.

Despite the widespread public support for unions, reflected in poll after poll, the Conservatives manage to portray unions as the enemy of the Australian people.

The Prime Minister has pegged his entire interest rate scare campaign on the fact that Labor's industrial relations policy would create economic ruin by - shock, horror! - restoring some powers to the industrial umpire and forcing employers to bargain in good faith rather than beat their workers into submission via the number one industrial tactic of the 21st century - the lock-out.

Howard's kept a straight face accusing Labor of rediscovering socialism, while ignoring the reality that the nation's largest economy, NSW, chugs along swimmingly on the very same model of industrial relations - cooperation, flexibility and mutual respect.

Bereft of a fourth term agenda, he rabbits on about further 'freeing up' of the labour market - code for attacking workers rights - and is never asked to exactly explain what he means.

Meanwhile, his workplace relations minister Kevin Andrews dishes out bald-faced lies about how great AWAs are, comparing the salaries awarded to public sector managers to part-time child care workers and claiming it's the form of employment, not the job, that makes all the difference.

In the normal course of events, one would expect this sort of rubbish to be exposed by the media - whose job it used to be to analyse policy and scrutinise the public debate. But in this election senior journalists, who should know better, have swallowed the porkies hook, line and sinker, playing into the PM's hands an doing the public a grave disservice in the process.

Even the complexity of the Tasmania timber workers could not cut through the stereotype. Rather than seeing this as a legitimate case of a union doing what its members pay it to do - that is, protect their interests - the media simply characterised it as the PM triumphantly taming the beast.

That's the risk you take when you position yourself too closely with one political party.

The lesson for the union movement is that it needs to be more than a cheerleader come election time - and there were some nauseating and downright degrading examples of that this time around.

When it comes to election campaigns, our challenge must be to pick the issues where we have credibility, build our case and campaign on the ground, not for a political party but a policy outcome. Only then will our message have credibility and our motives not be questioned.

A number of unions have done just that this campaign: the HSU on health, AEU on school funding, the NTEU on tertiary education, the AMWU on trade, the police unions around retirement. The challenge is to convince all political parties that their positions are broadly held and the changes need to be made.

Until the union movement can establish itself as advocates of its members - rather than a political player - the cartoon will continue to be perpetuated and politicians will get away with the sort of nonsense Howard cooked up this time around.

The sad irony of this election is that given a choice between the interests of big business and working people, the party operating for the powerful managed to portray itself as the champion of the little guy.

We need to break this circuit or election nights will continue to be as painful as I suspect this one will be.

Peter Lewis



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