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Issue No. 256 18 March 2005  

Planet Common Cents
The current debate around the federal government’s move to ban compulsory university service fees exposes more than a pathological hatred of all things ‘union’.


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 Doesn’t Live With Us Anymore
Andreia Viegas’ 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 – 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


 MaxiRort in Ballarat

 Beer Boss’ Want Froth

 Facts Ruin Costello’s Story

 Uni Burns Book Man

 Strong Pulls Pianist

 Terminator Runs Away

 No Choice for Small Business

 Scully On Run from Cops

 Picketer Wins $190,000

 Wheat Board on Sea of Shame

 School Raids Condemned

 Tangled Web Weaved

 CASA Cans Safety

 Radioactive Relay Race

 Activist’s What’s 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.

 Poor Prose Praised
 Fabulous Fan Mail
 Skilled Tools
 Nelson ‘Solves’ Skills Crisis
 Loyalty Nonsense
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MaxiRort in Ballarat

Nine Ballarat youngsters are being denied metal trades apprenticeship by a trailer manufacturer that got its hands on a consignment of Chinese welders.

MaxiTrans withdrew offers to local school leavers, after being granted Section 457 visas to import Chinese workers by a federal government that says the economy is being held back by skills shortages.

AMWU Victorian secretary, Dave Oliver, blew the whistle on the MaxiTrans rort, in Melbourne, this week.

He said 25 youngsters had been promised starts at MaxiTrans through a group training company. But, after the manufacturer got the green-light to import guest workers, it trimmed that figure to 16.

"One young guy had been and got his medicals, only to be told the deal was off," Oliver said.

Oliver's claim was vindicated when 26-year-old, Chris Walters, told local media his promised steel fabricator's apprenticeship had been shelved, last week.

He called the MaxiTrans about-face a "kick in the guts".

MaxiTRANS managing director, Michael Brockhoff, defended the company's decision to prefer qualified Chinese tradesmen.

He said it had decided to recruit 43 Chinese welders because it couldn't find skilled locals.

But Oliver says that line is a furphy and he can prove it.

Maxitrans and fellow trailer manufacturer, Vawdrey Australia, sparked AMWU protests, last year, when they went public with plans to import 100 Chinese welders.

National secretary, Doug Cameron, called it "globalisation gone mad" and urged employers and governments to join manufacturing unions in devising a plan to meet Australian requirements.

The Victorian branch went one step further, identifying labour hire companies that had enough local tradesmen on their books to meet the needs of both manufacturers.

"When MaxiTrans indicated it was going to do this, last year, we found a company that could supply all its labour requirements," Oliver said. "MaxiTrans turned those workers down on the basis that it wasn't prepared to pay going rates.

"Originally, this wasn't about a skills shortage, at all, but the refusal of companies to pay Australian rates of pay. Now it appears they are also blocking career paths for young Australians.

"We have lost thousands of manufacturing jobs to globalisation. Now John Howard is promoting globalised labour to drive down Australian wages and conditions."


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