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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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No Choice for Small Business

Federal plans to drive contractors and other small business people out of unions are being savaged by NSW IR Minister, John Della Bosca.

In a two-pronged assault on small business operators the feds want to deny them union representation before both the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and state industrial relations commissions.

Thousands of independent contractors are members of unions in trucking, construction, agriculture, cleaning and other industries.

In a deliberate attempt to have them shift allegiance, the federal government has drafted a bill that will disallow any unfair contract action before the ACCC where an application is from "a union, a union official or anyone acting on behalf of a union". The same bill specifically provides for applications to be brought by employer associations.

The Howard Government won't release drafts of separate contractors' legislation but Canberra sources say it will cut contractor access to state industrial relations commissions.

"It is an arrogant use of the Commonwealth's accidental majority in the Senate," Della Bosca said.

He said thousands of NSW independent contractors were akin to employees in terms of their bargaining power with big business.

"For close to half a centrury, they have used the NSW Industrial Relations Commission as an independent umpire.

"Without that protection, big business will be free to use its market power to exploit family businesses and contractors," Della Bosca said.

In the trucking industry, he warned, results could be fatal. He said it would give large companies the green light to make unfair contracts, resulting in unrealistic timetables that threatened all road users.

In a clear annoyance to the Howard Government, recent months have seen two large groups of contractors fight and roll corporate giants under union banners.

Hundreds of Perth tilers and their employees joined forces in the CFMEU to beat-off unfair contracts imposed by a tiling cartel, while cable and pay tv technicians ran a successful wages and conditions campaign through the CEPU.

The latest moves call into question the credibility of statements the Prime Minister has made on the Parliamentary record.

"We will never place a penalty on people who want to join a union ... There will be no attempt by us to put a penalty on people who belong to unions," Howard told the House on May 15, 1991.

Della Bosca said the Trade Pracises actions contravened the Council of Australian Governments Agreement which required consultation with the states.


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