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Issue No. 251 11 February 2005  
E D I T O R I A L

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, itís a whole new ball game.

F E A T U R E S

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.

N E W S

 Plastic Man Crosses the Line

 Taskforce Loses "Payback" Evidence

 Court Out Ö 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

C O L U M N S

Politics
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

Postcard
Aussie Unions Help Tsunami Victims
The union movementís 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

Parliament
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.

L E T T E R S
 Nelson's Double Standard
 Morals Beat Hasty Retreat
 Uncounted Cost Of Asbestos
 Voting Farce Expands
 I Beg To Differ
 Politics Smolitics
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Stalking Horses in Safety Stampede


Legal challenges to NSW occupational health and safety laws, by global coal giants, are a blind to facilitate the federal governmentís takeover of state systems.

That's the view of CFMEU Mining division secretary, Tony Maher, after reading documentation forwarded by Xstrata and Centennial Coal, in a bid to dodge criminal sanctions over the deaths of five Hunter Valley workers.

Xstrata and Centennial have announced constitutional challenges to convictions, brought down by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, over the five deaths.

"It's all about generating heat and smoke so Howard will step in and introduce watered-down national health and safety laws," Maher said.

"I think it's a stalking horse. There is no doubt major global companies are unhappy about effective health and safety laws and there is even less doubt that they have the ear of the Howard Government."

When the Gretley convictions were announced, last August, they made history as the first recorded against mine operators after more than 3000 industry deaths.

Workers Online understand the two coal companies will challenge the convictions on three key grounds - strict liability, IRC jurisdiction, and the lack of an appeal mechanism.

Legal observers say success would eliminate criminal liability for employers, causing death through negligence, not just in NSW but in other state jurisdictions.

Maher has challenged coal company bosses to front up to workers and explain why they should continue to work without legal protection.

The Miners Union is flagging industrial action if the coal companies continue their campaigns against OH&S laws.

Guilty Minds

Meanwhile, academics and lawyers are warning success for Xstrata and Centennial would undermine a range of laws, from speeding to food standards and the environment.

At the centre of their challenge is "guilty mind" or intent.

Sydney University Professor, Ron McCallum, says a range of contemporary legislation, beyond theft and assault, uses the same principle.

"We use regulations for other matters such as enviornmental protection and food safety," McCallum told WorkplaceInfo, this week.

"If someone is caught with more than a certain amount of marijuana they are deemed a trafficker, whether that was their intention or not.

"Similarly, if you drive over the speed limit there are no excuses, your speed is a fact in itself.

"In environmental protection, you can't say you didn't intend to drop the chemical in the river, if you did it you are guilty."

McCallum was more sympathetic towards the argument over the right to appeal criminal convictions entered by the IRC.

The NSW Government is seeking to be joined to the case.

The IRC is due to sentence employers over their roles in the Gretley and Awaba deaths, next month.


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