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Issue No. 254 04 March 2005  

Thatís Our Team
Hereís a test. Hands up all those who watched the news last night. Who can remember the weather forecast for tomorrow? What about the forecast in Perth?


Interview: Dot.Com
Evan Thornley was a labour activist. Then he rode the tech wave. Now he's home with new ideas on how Labor can win the economic debate.

Workplace: Dirt Cheap
In her new book, Elizabeth Wynhausen learns how hard it is to live on the minimum wage.

Industrial: Daddy Doesnít Live With Us Anymore
Andreia Viegasí tells the story of the loss her young family has felt since her husband was killed at work, and the need for justice for families who fall victim to industrial manslaughter.

Economics: Who's Afraid of the BCA?
Big Business's agenda for Australia has gone from loopy to mainstream at the speed of light, writes Neale Towart

International: From the Wreckage
Working people across Iraq are struggling to build their own independent unions Ė and are successfully organising industrial action on the vital oil fields as well as in hotels, transport outlets and factories, Writes Andrew Casey

Politics: Infrastructure Blues
With much attention given belatedly to the shortage of infrastructure, little attention has been given to the structure of infrastructure, writes Evan Jones

History: Meat and Three Veg
A new book recounts the impact of the Depression on women workers, writes Neale Towart,

Savings: 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, writes Jim Marr.

Politics: Popping the 'E-Word'
Federal shadow treasurer Wayne Swan unveils Labor's new economic doctrine.

Poetry: To Know Somebody
This week saw an appointment to the ABC Board that was even more breathtaking than that of Liberal Party figure Michael Kroger. Resident Bard David Peetz celebrates the occasion with a reworking of an old Bee Gees hit.

Review: Off the Rails
A new play on the impact of rail privatisation in Britain has a poignant message for Sydney commuters, writes Alex Mitchell


 Rev Kev: Innocent Shall Be Guilty

 Itís Official - Taskforce "Hopeless"

 Hollywood For Tropfest Evictees

 Miner Problem for Feds

 Students Driven to Sleep

 Brogden Dances On Graves

 Let Them Drink Beer

 Traffic Fines Parked

 The Airline That Flew a Kite

 Hundreds Resist Porridge

 Experts Back Better Childcare Pay

 Mushroom Mums Win

 Rotten Fruit Exposed

 Workers Sue Rumsfeld

 Activistís Whatís On


The Soapbox
The Big Picture
Think about this: It takes 150 tonnes of iron ore to buy a plasma TV, writes Doug Cameron.

The Locker Room
Reducto Ad Absurdo
Phil Doyle offers advice for the lovelorn, and finds that things are getting smaller

New Matilda
Work is In
The rise and fall of the working hours debate in france is relevent to Australian workers, writes Daniel Donahoo and Tim Martyn

The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP surveys the upcoming conservative centralist collective attack.

Postcard from Harvard
Australian union officials making the annual pilgrimage to the Harvard Trade Union Program learnt that, at least, they are not alone, says Natalie Bradbury.

 Stay Terra Firma on Tax
 Janetís Job No Victory
 Royal Finger Lickers
 Will $20 Restore Carr?
 Two Ideas
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Thatís Our Team

Hereís a test. Hands up all those who watched the news last night. Who can remember the weather forecast for tomorrow? What about the forecast in Perth?

Now I'll make it harder. Who saw the finance? How did the All Ords go? What's the Australian dollar trading at? How's the Nikkei travelling?

These days the business reports are being presented like the weather - statistics that are presented as acts of God reeled off night after night until it becomes wallpaper.

It leaves us, as a community, with a very superficial understanding of our economy.

We know there are all these indicators, we know that a rising share market is good, interest rates should be low, unemployment and inflation are bad. But do we really take the time to understand the game?

Compare it with the way we follow our sports - it's not just the results that we are interested in, but all the intrigue and machinations behind the final outcome.

We pour over updates on our star player's knee injury; we follow the judiciary hearings as though they were a criminal trial; we wait on the team selections breathlessly; and we hold the coach to account for the ultimate performance of the team.

So how would we talk about the economy if we were to invest the time and energy we put into our sports and held the government to the same standards as the coach?

Well, we'd be start by ensuring our junior base was strong - we'd be investing in education to ensure our stars emerge on merit rather than who they know in the club.

We'd be making sure we had the right players for the right conditions - right now we have a skills shortage because our coach has failed to see the changes in the game and alter the training regime to match.

We'd be demanding the team played smart as well as hard - if it takes 120 tonnes of iron ore to buy a plasma TV, why are we digging holes rather than manufacturing high value products?

We'd be setting rules to ensure the team can play all the way through to full-time - at the moment we have a tax system that encourages real estate speculation which could see us run out of gas early in the game.

Finally we'd hold our key players to account, rather than allowing them to run roughshod and set their own rules, move their assets off shore and pull out of the club when we need them most.

And most importantly, we'd live by the universal sporting principle that if the side stops performing, the coach goes.

My point? If we spent the same energy analysisng our economy as we do our favourite footy team we may have a government that was as accountable for our performance as the coach of our footy team.

Such a government could not win office sprouting lies on interest rates; it could not hide unemployment behind low paid casual jobs and it could not get away with slashing our work rights as a diversion from the hard yards of building up a sustainable economy.

As long as we look at the economy the way we look at the weather, our politicians will get away with being as accountable as a metereologist - armed with all the stats, but invariably wrong.

Peter Lewis



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