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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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Facts Ruin Costello’s Story

Peter Costello’s rationale for attacking minimum wage families has been blown out of the water by figures demonstrating Australian job growth surging ahead of that in the US.

Treasurer Costello and Coalition cohorts, including the Prime Minister and Workplace Relations Minister, want a brake applied to the minimum wage on the grounds that it costs jobs.

Figures released this week show that Australian employment has grown at three times the rate of low-minimum wage countries like the US.

Analysis of movements over the past five years shows the Australian minimum wage has risen 2.9 percent, in real terms, while the US figure has fallen by nearly 12 percent.

Over that period, Australian jobs grew by 10.4 percent, while the US could manage only 2.9 percent. UK jobs growth, during a period of rapid minimum wage increases, has also outstripped the US where conservative politicians have driven real-dollar minimums down.

The US minimum wage, $5.15 an hour for adults, hasn't moved for eight years and has been cited as a factor in the burgeoning growth of that country's working poor. In Kansas it is only $2.74 an hour and, in Oklahoma, employers of less than 10 people can pay $2 an hour.

Critics of the Howard Administration claim that a raft of anti-worker laws - outlawing strikes; restricting unions; sidelining Industrial Relations Commissions; legalising unfair dismissals; proscribing matters that can be negotiated; and changing minimum wage criteria - head Australia down the US track.

"The Government's plan to reduce minimum wages and cut award conditions will hurt families but won't help the unemployed," ACTU president, Sharan Burrow, says.

"It wants to take Australia down the road towards a US style of minimum wages system where there is a very low minimum and no awards to protect people's pay, working conditions or living standards."

Also flying in the face of federal government claims is strong employment growth since last year's IRC award of a $19 minimum wage increase.

The feds told the IRC the economy could stand no more than a $10 rise but that evidence was dismissed and, according to government figures, jobs have grown another two percent since the increase became effective.

Floor Sinks Again

Meanwhile, 7.4 million minimum and low-wage workers in the US missed out on a raise for the eighth year straight when the Senate, last week, voted 46-49 against

raising the minimum wage from the current $5.15 an hour to $7.25.

A Republican amendment that called for an 80-hour, two-week work period in exchange for a $1.10-an-hour increase was also defeated


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