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Issue No. 242 15 October 2004  

Historical Revisions
It was a common refrain on Saturday night as we cried in our beers, hurled vitriol at the TV set and wondered how big the shellacking would be this time around: Howard won on a lie.


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.


 Donít Worry, Be Organised

 Senate Faces Family Fight

 Cheques Cashed In Seconds

 "Undemocractic" Taskforce Court Out

 Power to People: On Hold

 Eyes Have It Over Lotto

 Bomb in Santaís Sack

 No Picnic in Park

 Smoking Loophole A Bit Rich

 BlueScope Workers Take Stock

 ABC Radio Clash

 Melbourne Goes Global

 No Justice for Joel

 Mercury Falling in Hobart

 Last Gasp for Monitoring

 Kiddie Photos Victory

 Thousands Up for Grabs

 Activists What's On!


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.

 Giving Your Soul Away
 Invest in Dignity Part III
 You Need Help
 Medicare Woes
 Whose Party Is It Anyway?
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Historical Revisions

It was a common refrain on Saturday night as we cried in our beers, hurled vitriol at the TV set and wondered how big the shellacking would be this time around: Howard won on a lie.

And it's true, although - with the admitted benefit of hindsight - I would argue that the lies are not all of Howard's making.

In fact the central issue that dictated Saturday's dire result: economic management and interest rates, was allowed to grow a life of its own because of a lie we have perpetuated over the last eight and a half years.

That lie is based on the failure of both the ALP and the union movement to own the tremendous economic achievements of the Hawke-Keating Accord years.

This was an era when the Australian economy opened up to the world - driven by a partnership between a social democrat party and organised labour, something that did not happen anywhere else in the world.

We avoided the social dislocation and break-down of the Reagan and Thatcher regimes. The change, while radical, included industry plans, massive investments in education and retraining, and a national savings strategy.

And it went further; the union movement took the principled decision to back labour market deregulation - even though they knew it would make their own job tougher - because it recognised that an economy based on productivity could only benefit its members.

At every stage of this process the government worked with the union movement, through seven rounds of Accord negotiations, a series of agreements that fundamentally recast the workforce.

Yes, there was pain in the transition, including high interest rates. But the outcome was a national economy that is today delivering prosperity to more people than ever before.

It was a remarkable achievement for a party of the Left, but one which we have failed to take the credit for.

The tide turned after 1996 when an electorate fatigued by a decade of economic change, still waiting for its benefits to be realised, threw Labor out of office.

In the post mortems that followed, the ALP determined it had got too far ahead of the electorate and reverted to a more economically conservative policy agenda.

Meanwhile unions entered a period of denial where they seemed to give up on the benefits of economic reform and mount a campaign to wind back the changes, even as the benefits began to flow. By recanting the Accord we nullified our achievements.

And so the lie was planted - that Labor and the unions were against reform, against change.

From this lie many others have followed: Labor can not manage the economy; unions are anti-reform; the only way to achieve improved productivity is to smash collective labour.

This was the fertile soil that, seeded with an energetic but new leader, Howard was able to cultivate as proof of Labor's incapacity to govern at this election. It worked a treat.

There will be much soul-searching in the weeks ahead; valid arguments about the direction of Labor, the policy settings, the campaign tactics.

But until Labor comes to terms with its recent history and constructs a story that allows them to own the reforms that are delivering the standard of living that Howard now claims as his legacy, it will struggle to make a case to lead.

For the union movement the challenge, even at a time when the Conservatives will be on the attack, is to reclaim our positive agenda based on the acceptance that change is inevitable and the best ideas come from the ground up.

Peter Lewis



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