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Issue No. 249 03 December 2004  

Moral Majority
Unions NSW is currently hosting one of the world’s great thinkers in Robert Reich; academic, commentator and Clinton labour secretary; a man with a mind as big as the dilemmas progressive politics face right now.


Interview: Minority Report
New federal ALP industrial relations spokesman Stephen Smith on the hostilities in store for the labour movement.

Industrial: Girl Power
Tim Brunero looks at how women are making their mark in a once-male dominated trade.

Unions: Made in NZ
Jim Marr looks behind the rhetoric to uncover what the Howard Government has in store for Australian workers.

History: Spirit for a Fair Go
Paddy Gorman looks at the importance of Eureka on the Australian political psyche.

Economics: Fool's Gold
Tom Bramble identifies some contradictions in Howard's economic miracle.

Politics: Worth Fighting For
One of the Left's most influential figures of the last 40 years gives his theory of power ...

Health: The Force Behind Medibank
Public health has always been a core activity for the union movement, writes Neale Towart

Legal: Robust Justice
Former ACTU executive member and textile union leader Anna Booth argues that Alternate Dispute Resolution is one way around the looming assault on union rights.

International: After the Revolution
Has China entered a post-revolutionary phase - and where will it take the world, asks James Goodman

Poetry: The Sound of Unions
Ah, the hills are alive, with The Sound of Unions, muses resident bard, David Peetz

Review: Bad Santa
Billy Bob Thornton's newest role puts the 'nick' in Saint Nicholas and reveals the Satan in Santa, writes Tara de Boehmler.


 Moral Crusade to Save Family

 20 Dead – Stockmarket Applauds

 Karen Gives Howard a Paint Job

 Buckeridge Bill Blocks Entry

 Casual Beach Closures

 Railworkers Scull Costa

 Racism in the Dock

 Go Home Alone – And Other Survival Tips

 Vet Beats Bullet

 Cleaners Clean Up

 Weekend Work Wiped

 Miners Go to the Movies

 Feds Attack Low Paid

 Activists What's On!


New Matilda
How Labor Lost the Plot
In his contribution to Australia's new political zine 'New Matilda' , Father Michael kelly argues the ALP is in search of a soul.

The Soapbox
Outside the Tent
Labor exile Lindsay Tanner is warning the ALP to be careful who it gets into bed with.

The Locker Room
Sons Of Beaches
Phil Doyle gets the perfect wave, and waves back

The Westie Wing
150 years since the struggle at Eureka, the fight to achieve social justice, equality and responsible government is just as vital as ever in the neo-conservative Australia, writes Ian West.

Postcard from Harare
Ken Davis, from Union Aid Abroad, on how unions are at the forefront in the battle for democracy in Zimbabwe

 Leadership Skills
 Not A Casey Fan
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20 Dead – Stockmarket Applauds

A scathing report into WA mine safety has exposed the human cost of federal government’s individual contracts.

The five-month inquiry found BHP Billiton’s industrial relations practises, built on the aggressive use of AWAs, had compromised workplace safety.

The $17 billion industry faces an overhaul after Perth barrister, Mark Ritter, confirmed safety shortcomings had contributed to the loss of 20 lives in the past year.

He described the introduction of individual contracts at BHP Billiton's operations, since November 1999, as "a factor which has impacted and continues to impact on the successful implementation of safety systems".

"BHP has been pinged trying to break down safety standards through the use on AWAs," ACTU Pilbara organiser, Will Tracey, said.

"Occupational health and safety representatives are the bedrock of our system. But in its efforts to marginalise unions, BHP has effectively marginalised two thirds of elected OH&S representatives because they wanted to remain on awards.

"To be effective, occupational health and safety has to be a collective responsibility. That's recognised by the Act and by expert commentators but not by the federal government or BHP.

"What this report identifies is that when BHP devised its industrial strategy, based on individual contracts, it didn't take into account its disastrous effect on safety.

"The sad thing is that it has taken the lives of so many people to bring this to light."

Ritter made 32 recommendations, 21 directed at the world's largest minerals company, BHP Billiton, and 11 at the industry in WA.

The most significant is the call to take policing of mining health and safety, and dangerous goods, away from the Department of Industry and Resources and place it alongside other industries, under the Department of Consumer and Employment Protection.

The state government has confirmed it will act on that recommendation, drawing immediate flak from the mining industry.

Tracey described the move as "fantastic" and "long overdue".

"It is a measure of the political power of the minerals lobby that mine safety was ever in the hands of Industry and Resources," Tracey said.

"The department had an impossible conflict of interest. Its primary responsibility was to promote the industry and safety always played second fiddle to that.

"It's something we have been calling for, for years."

Ritter recommends that BHP's Boodarie iron ore plant, near Port Hedland, be reclassified as a "hazardous facility".

The state government investigation identified safety problems at BHP sites, and across the industry.

It found ...

- one mineworker had completed 24 hours without sleep, another had done a 17 hour day, and others worked 13.5 hour days for 30 continuous days.

- management behaviour at one mine made it clear "production at all costs" was the agenda, with safety issues ignored for years.

- a quarter of the workforce at one site claimed they were regularly made to breach safety regulations

- safety concerns at Yandi had been ignored until a crane driver refused to do his job

- a worker had been sent into a life-threatening situation without any prosecution resulting

The report was tabled in the Western Australian state parliament, last Friday.

On Monday, a surge in BHP Billiton's share price headed a minerals-led bounce on the Australian stock market.


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