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Issue No. 244 29 October 2004  

Raking Over The Tea Leaves
Prepare yourselves; you are about to enter the Twilight Zone, a strange world where logic collapses in on itself, where enemies are new friends and assets become liabilities.


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.


 Cameron Flags Fightback

 Latham on Union Mat

 Union Shelters WA Roofers

 Bosses Trip on Electrolux

 Drivers Derail Game Boy

 Asses Get Carrot

 Families Pay More For Homes

 Commonwealth Banks on Sackings

 Back Gong Back in Gong

 "Joke" Fine Death Boss

 Division Over Hardie Laws

 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.

 Honesty Is the best Policy
 Nothing To Stand On
 Itís The End Of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
 Dear Mark letter
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Raking Over The Tea Leaves

Prepare yourselves; you are about to enter the Twilight Zone, a strange world where logic collapses in on itself, where enemies are new friends and assets become liabilities.

Yes, it's the ALP's election loss post mortem, where history is rewritten, mistakes are corrected and self-flagellation is a feel-good optional extra.

Workers Online is reluctant to join the conga-line of knockers; but we do have a serious beef with the post-election carry on which seems to be ignoring some obvious facts.

Labor lost the federal election for a few simple reasons: it's new leader had only been in the job 10 months; the government ran an effective scare campaign and the majority of the previous three years had been spent pursuing a media-driven agenda to wind back union influence in the party.

The punters voted for Howard because they are in debt to the eyeballs and he managed to fuse the ideas of Latham's inexperience with memories of high interest rates under Keating. It was a simple message hammered home again and again and again.

When pushed to justify his scare campaign, Howard would mouth off about industrial relations - but never with any underlying logic or conviction, just the mantra that his reforms stood for productivity (as if he invented enterprise bargaining).

But out of this campaign an orthodoxy is being written by the conservative press and business lobby that Labor's problem is that it is not a party of business.

History aside, the logic goes, it needs to trash its relationship with the union movement and, in the words of the execrable Financial Review, become a party of small business and contractors. Exc use me, I thought this was the Liberal's turf.

The tragedy is that Latham appears to be dancing to this tune - the clear messages coming out of the new front bench are that industrial relations policy is up for grabs and will be based on a closer dialogue with big business.

This is the same business lobby that has remained silent as James Hardie has perpetuated one of the most inhumane frauds in corporate history; whose reason for being is to cut back the sort of regulations that provide workers w it h protection, whose track record is to oppose Labor whatever policies it advances.

At the risk of being provocative in this period of mass revisionism, there was nothing wrong with Mark Latham's key policies before the last election.

Sure, he may have laboured the term "Ease the Squeeze" just a tad, but the squeeze is there and, with a few more months to push the issue, it has the capacity to reap real political dividends.

Central to easing the squeeze are decent rules for work; extra financial support for families, a health system that works - all the basic requirements for an alternative government are there.

Wrapped with a more aggressive social justice platform that respects all humans, be they indigenous, refugee, Iraqi or even Republicans, Labor would be eminently elect-able next time around - given just a little more familiarity with its leader, a positive policy agenda and some clear air to establish himself free of the internal fighting the current trajectory is sure to spark .

Labor does not require a divorce from the trade union movement to garner broader appeal. Indeed if Labor could only connect with rank and file members - about 40 per cent of whom voted for Howard - it would be implementing its agenda today.

No-one likes election nights which end with John Howard giggling, but the fear is that in dancing to the Tory tune, federal Labor will only be condemning itself to more nights of misery.

Peter Lewis



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