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Issue No. 257 01 April 2005  

Icarus Rising
Right now John Howard is flying. Watch him soar in his Vodafone track-suit, further than the Hawke into unchartered skies.


Interview: Australia@Work
Labor's Penny Wong has the job of getting more people into the workplace and keeping companies honest. In her spare time ....

Unions: State of the Union
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson unveils the annual survey of attitudes of workers to their jobs, thier lives and the union.

Industrial: Fashion Accessories
Jim Marr unpacks the unlikely claim of a suburban house to be considered the New Mecca of the New Right �

Legal: Leg Before Picket
Chris White looks at how the federal industrial changes will impact on the basic right to strike.

Politics: Business Welfare Brats
Neale Towart asks why the only form of legitmate welfare seems to be going to the top end of town.

Health: Cannabis Controversy
Zoe Reynolds looks at how drug and alcohol testing is leading to some addled outcomes.

Economics: Debt, Deficit, Downturn
As the indicators head south, Frank Stilwell wonders whether it is the way we do economics that is to blame.

History: Politics In The Pubs
Phil Doyle reports on the increasingly-popular Struggles, Scabs and Schooners day out.

Review: Three Bob's Worth
Doing their best Margaret and David, Tara de Boehmler and Tim Brunero have different takes on the new Australian flick Three Dollars.

Poetry: Do The Slowly Chokie
Workers Online bard David Peetz teaches how workers to dance to Howard's industrial laws.


 Health System to Subsidise Shonks

 Who Likes Bing Lee?

 Death Threats Shut Campsie

 Thumbs Down for Union Busters

 Advocate Pours Salt on Wound

 United Front Beats Drug Boss

 Kev Backs Double Standard

 Victorian Morality Shafts Teacher

 Doctors Prescribe More

 Multinational Banks Jobs

 Working Class Idol

 Greens Protect Entitlements

 Activist�s What�s On


The Soapbox
Notes From a Laneway
Mental Health Workers Alliance member Toby Raeburn shares a week on the frontline.

The Locker Room
War, Plus The Shooting
The Socceroos aren�t their own worst enemy after all, or so says Phil Doyle

Life Imitates Art
The jokes have been around for some time about the economic rationalist's approach to the orchestra, writes Evan Jones.

The Westie Wing
Ian West takes the secret passage out of Macquarie Street to deliver his take on NSW Parliamentary Committees and other goings on.

 Students Bear Brunt
 Security Lacking
 Bus Lanes On Vic Rd
 Dirt Cheap Right On Money
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Icarus Rising

Right now John Howard is flying. Watch him soar in his Vodafone track-suit, further than the Hawke into unchartered skies.

Even if you don't like his politics, you have to admire his ability to defy political gravity and ask yourself: how does he do it?

His secret has been a sturdy craft that has proven to be remarkably durable through turbulent times.

One wing has been his command of conservative family values, a mainstreaming of the political epicentre around Howard's battlers, the people Labor lost in the nineties with their foray into identity politics that seemed to somehow belittle their ordinary lives.

The other wing has been the perception of economic competence - bedding down the seismic reforms of the Keating years and keeping the market indicators looking good, even if they have been pumped up on bucket loads of personal debt.

Now he is soaring higher than any leader in a generation, free of the constraints of the Senate from July 1.

Towards the sun! That golden light which he has pursued since the wilderness years when he was just another right-wing zealot looking for friends at the HR Nichols Society.

The light is industrial relations reform, a simple concept that has been dressed up in forests of technical legal jargon designed to cover up Australia's best kept political secret - that is, industrial relations reform is really an attack on rights at work.

The Howard Government's vision is an extreme one - an economy made up of individual units of labour, engaged under secret contracts where wages, conditions and hours are a matter for the employer to determine.

The breaking down of the 100-year system of industrial laws is Howard's final dream - it would hurt his political enemies and help his backers in big business.

It would also cement his place in the international neo-conservative movement, with Australia becoming an international outlier with the 'free-est' labour market in the developed world.

There is only one problem, his battlers aren't applauding; in polls and focus groups they say that their rights at work are important to them; more surprisingly, so are unions - whether or not they are members.

And if they have kids, those feelings are only stronger - job security and certainty of working hours are the foundation stones of a functioning family unit.

If labour market deregulation is bad for families, evidence is mounting that it is also bad for the economy.

An analysis released by the AMWU shows the shift to contractor arrangements is already white-anting the tax base to the tune of $14 billion per annum in legal and illegal tax evasion and will only accelerate under the Howard reforms.

It is also a key contributor to the skills crisis, with no incentive for disposable units of labour to be trained, nurtured or even protected from workplace injury, a recipe for less not more productivity.

The course Howard is charting will only weaken the family and the economy - the wings that have taken him this far.

How ironic if at his moment of greatest power, the man who flew so high came crashing to earth because he flew too close to sun. It would be the stuff of legends.

Peter Lewis



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