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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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Vale Laurie Aarons 1917-2005

A eulogy by Eric Aarons Though Laurie and I are brothers, we grew up separately in our formative years � he in Sydney and I in Melbourne; so I feel able to describe him objectively, as a person, rather than as a sibling.

Laurie was highly dedicated, not personally ambitious or power hungry. He acted fearlessly when necessary. He had a certain charisma that attracted people and their loyalty, an eye for talent that would serve the cause, and a keen eye for political turning points.

Had he been asked why he was so dedicated, I think he would have answered: how could one not be in those times? He was born during the First World War, in the year of the Russian Revolution that gave hope to millions amid that slaughter. Of course he did not know those events directly, but like all us baby boomers of those times, he saw as a child many of its human consequences.

There followed a few years of the "roaring twenties", then the suffering and stark injustice of the Great Depression, the rise of fascism in Germany, Italy and Japan, and the opening salvoes of the Second world war in Manchuria, Abyssinia, Austria, Spain and Czechoslovakia.

Laurie decided at an early age to become a "professional revolutionary" as it was then called, though it paid, and sometimes only fitfully, a fraction of that in any other "profession" worthy of the name, and never wavered on that chosen course.

I won't go into many episodes in Laurie's life, but want to mention four particular accomplishments soon after he was elected to the position of General Secretary by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia forty years ago. This, incidentally, was a position that he had hoped would go to his colleague and friend, Eddie Robertson, whom he had discovered in the steel industry in Whyalla, but who died before his full potential could be realised.

The first major accomplishment was to discern that the then escalating Vietnam War would be a major political issue in Australia for years to come, and he mobilised the party to initiate what became a broad and mighty movement.

The second was to put an end to the hollow Stalinist rituals that passed for democracy and creative discussion. This he did in the preparations for the 1967 party congress where, unique in the communist world at that time, things were freely said, written and published. This sounded alarm bells in Moscow, but led to genuine efforts to grapple with the real problems and new features of Australian society.

The third was to discern that the time was coming in which it would be possible to challenge the penal powers of the Arbitration Act, which were used to enforce government policies and strengthen the power of local corporations and the burgeoning multinationals. The opportunity came unexpectedly, as opportunities in politics usually do, with the 1969 jailing of Victorian Tramways Union leader, Clarrie O'Shea. This led to a massive trade union response that rendered those penalties inoperative for years.

The fourth was when cataclysmic world events again intervened, with the invasion by the Soviet Union of a reforming and renovating Czechoslakia - the Prague Spring. Shortly before the invasion, the clear threat of it was conveyed to Laurie in a letter from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which was read to him in the Soviet Embassy. When the crunch came we were mentally prepared, knowing that this was a crucial event and that no turning back was possible for us. We were, I believe, the first communist party to make an unequivocal condemnation, one to which we resolutely adhered in face of massive external and some internal pressure.

Later, in 1969, the CPSU convened a world meeting of communist parties aimed at "putting it all behind us" and "getting on with the job" as perceived by Soviet eyes. There, Laurie made the most forthright speech of all, also refusing to sign the issued document.

With China at loggerheads with the Soviet Union and in the grip of Mao's disastrous "Cultural Revolution", communism as a living international movement was already in irreversible decline, conditions that made it eventually impossible for any single communist party to carry on as before, even nationally.

It is perhaps invidious to compare physical and mental courage which includes that of conscience. Both forms of courage are virtues that Laurie abundantly possessed, though he was not greatly called upon to practice the first. But the latter kind of courage is, I think, often harder to exert, because it requires confrontation with developed habits and casts of thought that are not easily stilled, especially when one has to face reproaches, and in some cases vilification, from those who shared those habits with you, but themselves cannot break with them.

To conclude - Laurie exerted himself to the utmost in the great cause to which he had dedicated himself, and what he achieved was considerable indeed. We who survive, for however long or short a time, should learn from his life and experiences. We should diligently probe the practical and theoretical aspects of an Australian and international scene which is of a very different kind from that in which Laurie spent most of his active life.


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