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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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Itís Official - Taskforce "Hopeless"

While Australian building workers were staring down death threats and extortion bids John Howardís Building Industry Taskforce was running a "hopeless" case against their union.

The hapless Taskforce copped another judicial spray as CFMEU secretary, Andrew Ferguson, revealed it had gone "missing" when industry participants closed ranks against an extortionist who threatened to kill union members.

The CFMEU, Multiplex and police shared intelligence in a bid to head off a standover merchant who said he would shoot crane drivers if their employer didn't hand over $50 million.

But Ferguson said the Building Industry Taskforce, headed by Nigel Hadgkiss, had shown no interest.

"The Taskforce was non-existent," Ferguson said. "When the industry was rocked by a major extortion racket and threats of murder, it was nowhere to be seen.

"They talk about zero tolerance for unlawful behaviour but, apparently, this didn't register on their radar.

"They are a one-trick pony whose only interest is intimidating workers and trying to hold down their living standards."

Australian taxpayers were left with the bill, after the latest Taskforce case against the CFMEU went belly-up in the Federal Court.

Last Friday, in the middle of the Multiplex scare, the court ordered the Taskforce to pay costs incurred by the CFMEU in defending allegations it had tried to force a Wollongong contractor to join up.

Justice Wilcox slammed the "hopeless" case put before him by Hadgkiss' organisation.

"Even on the view of the facts propounded by the applicants, their case was hopeless," Justice Wilcox said. "It was instituted without reasonable cause."

His comments came just four months after a Melbourne judge suggested Taskforce methods were "undemocratic" and "authoritarian".

Justice Marshall was critical of the Taskforce's failure to disclose the purpose of an investigation, during which it ordered workers to produce personal bank details.

"Such notices are foreign to the workplace relations of civilised societies, as distinct from undemocratic and authoritarian states," Justice Marshall said.

He challenged the Taskforce's approach after it admitted, in court, it "might not have suspicion of anything".

Justice Marshall ruled it did not have the right to access the bank accounts of CFMEU members on Melbourne's Concept Blue site.

Hadgkiss Backs Asbestos Abuser

Meanwhile, Hadgkiss has initiated legal action against the Victorian Government for refusing to grant a contract to a demolition contractor that dusted Yallourn with asbestos.

In documents filed in the federal court, Hadgkiss seeks fines of up to $33,300 for alleged breaches of Howard Government laws. He claims the company was excluded from a Gippsland tender process because it wanted employees to work on a non-union agreement.

But in a re-run of arguments heard before the Cole Royal Commission, workers say Able Contractors has an abysmal safety record.

"In the past this company imploded a chimney at the old power station, blowing asbestos all over Yallourn," said John Parker, secretary of the Gippsland Trades and Labor Council. "They let a worker fall through a sheet of asbestos."

There are also allegations that it blocked health and safety inspections by an independent hygienist, Worksafe officers and unions at the Lurgi Gas Plant.


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