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Issue No. 251 11 February 2005  

Polar Shifts
And so Workers Online makes our belated return to 2005 - and while we may have the same old familiar faces in Federal Parliament, politically, it�s a whole new ball game.


Economics: Super Seduction
Sharks are circling your super. From July 1, banks and financial planners will have access to the nesteggs of an extra four million workers.

Interview: Bono and Me
ACTU Sharan Burrow lifts the lid on the rock star lifestyle of an international union leader.

Unions: The Eight Hour Day and the Holy Spirit
Rowan Cahill bucks conventional wisdom to argue the eight-hour day began in Sydney.

Economics: OEC-Who?
The OECD calls for more reform. But, Asks Neale Towart, who is really doing the calling?

Technology: From Widgets to Digits
How can unions grow and continue to successfully represent workers when their traditional structures are rooted in an industry, craft or fixed location?

Education: Dumb and Dumber
Unions are leading the fight against a political agenda that does away with smart jobs.

Health: No Place for the Young
The support of union members is required to help get young people out of nursing homes, writes Mark Robinson

History: The Work-In That Changed a Nation
February 17 marks 30-years to the day that sacked coal miners at the NSW Northern District Nymboida Colliery began their historic work-in at the mine.

Review: Dare to Win
The history of the militant and often controversial BLF is as surprising as it is fascinating writes Tim Brunero.

Poetry: Labor's Dreaming
With another change at the helm of the Labor Party, our resident bard, David Peetz, can't help but dreamily drawing on some political history.


 Plastic Man Crosses the Line

 Taskforce Loses "Payback" Evidence

 Court Out � Again

 Blue Chips Fried in CBD

 Bosses Duck Decapitation

 Computer Driven Posties

 Stalking Horses in Safety Stampede

 Low Blow in Ferry Blue

 Howard "Unbalanced"

 Picketers Chase Millions

 Whistleblower Beats Bullies

 Mateship Shines Through

 Queensland Marks Power Grab

 Vale Laurie Aarons 1917-2005


Titanic Forces
There are book reviewers who have not read the book they have just reviewed and there are critics who have criticised films they have not yet seen. I want to review a novel that has not yet been written.

The Soapbox
Labour and Labor
Grant Bellchamber looks at the relationship between both sides organised labour

Aussie Unions Help Tsunami Victims
The union movement�s aid agency reports back on its relief effort in Asia.

The Locker Room
Game, Set and Yawn
Phil Doyle asks if tennis is evil or just boring

The Westie Wing
As a reshuffle of the State Ministry settles in and the Federal Government throws down the gauntlet, 2005 promises to be a new and vital chapter in the struggle for workers and their families, writes Ian West in Macquarie Street.

 Nelson's Double Standard
 Morals Beat Hasty Retreat
 Uncounted Cost Of Asbestos
 Voting Farce Expands
 I Beg To Differ
 Politics Smolitics
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Polar Shifts

And so Workers Online makes our belated return to 2005 - and while we may have the same old familiar faces in Federal Parliament, politically, it�s a whole new ball game.

For the first time in decades the government has control of the Senate, providing the so-called Conservatives with a once in a lifetime chance to implement radical reform that will fundamentally change Australia.

At the heart of this process are changes that will turn the Australian workplace into an international experiment that will test the limits of the neo-conservative market ideology.

Overblown rhetoric? Think about it. John Howard is the leader of the international conservative movement - and now he has the means to put their dogma into place.

Remarkably little has been written about this element of the Howard leadership - yes, we know he is incredibly close to George Dubya; yes, he seemed to be the one taking on the EU at Davos; but where is the analysis of his role in this global neo-conservative movement?

In his upcoming book, David McKnighrt charts the philosophies underpinning this movement, tracing it back to Nobel Prize winning economist Friedrich Hayek who championed the free market as the end point of human evolution.

Included in his thesis was the contention that notions of family and community - based around altruistic ties - were throwbacks to more primitive forms of society.

While these ideas were used rhetorically to fight Communism, they have gained strength and momentum in the post cold war era - as global market has moved to make its way into every crevass of our lives.

Changes to industrial relations are at the pointy end of this philosophy because they are the point that the market and the family intersect - and the fundamental conflict between work, family and community is brought into stark relief.

Understanding where these ideas comes from, challenges us to place ourselves in this debate: if the Conservatives are the new Radicals, what of the response of those of us who have identified ourselves as progressives?

In embarking on this radical agenda, Howard must depart from his comfortable ground as the 1950s conservative - while he may attempt to maintain the trappings of the social conservative, his policies are too fundamental to hold the ground.

As McKnight argues, the challenge for the erstwhile progressives is to enter this centre ground - by understanding and recognising the value of true conservatism - based around a respect for institutions and a commitment to social justice, the agenda of the now extinct 'Wets'' of the Liberal Party.

Such a position would ground itself on the values of family and community and link the weakening of these institutions with the ongoing deregulation in the labour market.

It would also demand a level of rigour on those advocating radical change, and hold those promoting the change for the damage they do these institutions.

Much of this research is already coming to light - falling birth rates, rising job insecurity, fewer parents with the time to commit to churches or sporting clubs, a family life that is more and more dictated by the demands of the labour market.

These trends will only accelerate as the remaining rules governing work are wound back, until Australian workers feel the full brunt of a labour market without limits.

The question is not whether the changes to industrial relations will be radical - the question is how radical. How we in the labour movement position ourselves will have a large bearing on how far John Howard is prepared to go.

The irony is that a truly Conservative response, as opposed to a militant or radical response, could well be the most effective in blunting the attack and in holding the government to account once these changes become law.

And it is in this sense, that the times may well be right for Kim Beazley, the most conservative ALP leader in memory.

Peter Lewis



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