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Issue No. 243 22 October 2004  

The Perfect Storm
The storm clouds are gathering on the industrial horizon, an unholy trinity of a hostile legislative agenda, a radical High Court decision and emboldened employers.


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.


 Hardie Rewards Asbestos Rats

 Kentucky Fried Kids

 Miner Shafts Democracy

 Fine Drop in Ocean of Blood

 Sydney Water Outsources Brains

 Head Injuries to No Injuries

 Bosses Celebrate with Sack-athon

 Kangaroo Strikebreakers Spotlighted

 Officers Change Customs

 Union Backs League

 Carr Trouble At Port Botany

 Pratt Backs Warwick Farm Loser

 Students Fight Summer Blues

 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.

 Historical Reversion?
 Whose prosperity?
 Shop Till the Worker Drops
 Unreported Views
 Bobís Silver Anniversary
 Hit And Myth
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Letters to the Editor

Bobís Silver Anniversary

An open letter to my fellow ALP members about the deeply misguided Senate preference manoeuvres in the federal election campaign. A cry from the heart and an expression of bitter anger

By Bob Gould

As it happens, in March this year I notched up my 50th year of ALP

membership. I joined the Labor Party in 1954 as a youth of 17, in the middle

of the battle with the Groupers.

In all my 50 years of ALP membership and activity I've never seen anything quite as dishonourable and stupid as the decision of the party managers in several states to preference the essentially right-wing group, Family First.

A question of process arises. Who in the hell makes those kinds of decisions? They should be made by the federal executive of the ALP, but clearly the wheeling and dealing was delegated to individuals, mainly from the right, and indeed from the most backward sections of the right, in each state.

The process of making such decisions is clearly deeply flawed. One issue is the dishonourable nature of the decision. The Greens have every right to be bitterly angry and disillusioned with the ALP and its managers.

On the face of it the Greens had a preference deal with the ALP, which was announced with great fanfare, and it appeared to involve an ultimate preference exchange between the Greens and Labor before right-wing parties.

The parliamentary leader, Mark Latham, ought to be very angry, because on the face of it he has been roped into a dishonourable tearing up of an agreement, to which he was very publicly party -- the agreement with the


After the event of the deal with the Greens, whoever made the arrangements in the ALP to quietly preference Family First before the Greens engaged in an act of political bastardry of the highest order.

The consequences of this decision will be disastrous. Why should the Greens, a formation likely to be around for a very long time, and growing that is steadily to occupy all of the electoral space to the left of the ALP - why should the Greens trust anything ALP preference negotiators say to them ever again?

The Greens, in fact, kept their part of the bargain and behaved honourably. On the basis of Labor's Tasmanian forest policy, the Greens ended up giving all their preferences to the ALP in all marginal seats and an ultimate preference to Labor before the conservatives in the Senate. For instance, Greens preferences will elect the ALPās Michael Foreshaw to the sixth Senate position in NSW.

The argument put forward by the shadowy ALP preference negotiators, who made the ultimate decision, that they could not anticipate the electoral consequences, does not stand up at all.

In a proportional representation vote, like the Senate, with the quota being about 14.3 per cent, the last position to be elected is always unpredictable, depending on the votes for small parties and the parts of quotas left by Labor and the Coalition after they have elected their first two senators.

(Iām acutely aware of the vagaries of for the vagaries for the last position in a proportional representation ballot for six positions. In 1971, in a much-commented-on ballot for six federal conference delegates from the ALP in NSW to the vital federal conference before Whitlam was elected, I won the last position by one vote over half a quota ą the narrowest margin possible.

One vote over half a quota is all thatās needed for the last position, which is a sound reason for never treating preferences in such a situation as bloody-mindedly and as casually as the ALP managers did on this occasion.)

If Labor preferences right-wing parties, the possibility always exists that the vote can build up to elect a right-wing candidate, in this instance Family First.

The basic principle should be that there are no enemies on the left, and preferences should go first to other groups on the left and then centre formations such as the Democrats.

For the many thousands of Labor Party members, including me, who worked hard on election day to elect Labor, that kind of preference approach is a principle, in addition to which it's the only practical thing to do if you want to beat the conservatives in the Senate.

With six to be elected, even if the Labor and Green vote drops there should

be no difficulty in Labor and the Greens finishing three-all with the Coalition and other conservatives.

The electoral stupidity of the people who made the preference arrangements in the Senate for the ALP is demonstrated by the result of these manoeuvres, which has been to hand control of the Senate to Howard and Family First.

The outrageous thing about this handing over of the Senate to the Liberals and Family First is that it wasn't necessary. A simple ultimate preference exchange with the Greens would have got a three-all result between the two sides of politics and led to a deadlocked Senate.

The second aspect of it is the completely artificial way that it builds a neanderthal, fundamentalist, right-wing Protestant party into a major force very quickly.

Thankfully, the ongoing demographic reality in Australia is that notional

Protestant religious allegiance, which is at the core of the conservative side of Australian politics, is steadily declining. Notional Protestants are only about 30 per cent of the population, when they were 70 per cent 40 years ago.

The number of Australians who either say they have no religious beliefs, or don't state a religious belief in the census, has gone up from nearly

nothing to about 30 per cent, the number of Catholics is stable at about 30

per cent and Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and Eastern Orthodox combined have gone

up to 10 per cent.

There is certain revival of Protestant fundamentalism in outer suburban

areas of the big cities, but it's a narrowly middle-class phenomenon, and

very right-wing politically. It takes its inspiration from the reactionary

association of fundamentalist Protestant religion and right-wing politics in

the United States.

Mainly because of the ongoing demographic realities, Australian politics

hasn't, until this election, taken the US shape in this respect. Fred Nile

has been battling to bring fundamentalist Protestant religion into politics

for 25 years, with minimal success.

Suddenly, the Family First preference deal has enabled these religious

fundamentalists to leap from 1.2 and 2 per cent real votes to artificial

quotas of 14 per cent, partly with the aid of Labor and Democrat


As a secular, leftist, agnostic Australian of Irish Catholic cultural

background, I find this sudden move to strengthen US-style Protestant

fundamentalism in Australian politics deeply offensive.

As many observers have commented, Mark Latham and the Labor Party conducted

a very vigorous and effective, and in my view rather leftist, election

campaign, but the economic conjuncture was not favourable, the conservative

propaganda was effective, and we lost the election.

It was a serious loss, but the basic Labor-Green vote of 47.5 per cent

(preferred) is intact. The electoral shift was among the 5 per cent in the

middle of Australian society who tend to shift from left to right and back


By far the worst feature of this election result is the blind surrender of

control of the Senate to the Liberals and Family First. Despite all the

current sweetness and light, the Coalition government will use all its

increased influence and power in the Senate to attack the trade union


The trade union movement should crucify, politically speaking, the shadowy

party managers who made the preference deal. These people have ensured that

the trade unions will have to fight for their interests from a very

defensive set of circumstances with the Liberals in control of the Senate.

PS. While we're at it, we should never forget that Labor preferences

unfortunately helped to elect the conservative Democrat, the leader of the

right wing in the Democrats, over the Greens in WA, three years ago. Labor

members and supporters, and Greens members and supporters, throughout the

country should raise hell to ensure that the kind of dishonourable bastardry

involved in the ALP preferencing Family First over the Greens never happens



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