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Issue No. 257 01 April 2005  
E D I T O R I A L

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

F E A T U R E S

Interview: [email protected]
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 Ö

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.

N E W S

 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

 Activistís Whatís On

C O L U M N S

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 arenít their own worst enemy after all, or so says Phil Doyle

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

Parliament
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.

L E T T E R S
 Students Bear Brunt
 Security Lacking
 Bus Lanes On Vic Rd
 Dirt Cheap Right On Money
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Health System to Subsidise Shonks


Federal Government is moving to strip protections from hundreds of thousands of contractors in a move that will cost taxpayers up to $14 billion a year.

A discussion paper released by Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, proposes denying contractors access to the Workplace Relations Act, along with state occupational health and safety, workers comp and anti-discrimination rules.

At essence, it proposes anyone deemed a contractor by him/herself and an employer will be a contractor at law.

The radical shift comes as the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research warns the rush to labour hire and contracting out is exposing taxpayers to a $14.38 billion loss, every year.

That figure, spent on nation-building, could wipe out the public health crisis by funding 42 new teaching hospitals or carrying out an extra 5.6 million operations annually.

Alternatively, it would fund the construction of 770 new high schools or the employment of an additional 1.5 million teachers.

AMWU secretary, Doug Cameron, presented the economic research as part of his union's submission to a parliamentary inquiry into contracting.

The Institute estimates the annual "risk" to the taxpayer, posed by avoidance and evasion, at $13,897 for every non-employee in the economy.

The research mirrored ATO evidence to the Cole Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry.

In damning evidence, largely ignored by the Royal Commission, the ATO said up to 40 percent of building industry income was "hidden", at an estimated cost to state and federal coffers of $1 billion a year.

It pointed the finger at contracting when it said non-compliance levels were "high and widespread" among smaller industry operators.

"This represents a massive drain on the Australian taxpayer and shows outsourcing, labour hire and false independent contractors are really an exercise in cost-shifting from big business to ordinary Australians," Cameron said.

Cameron told the inquiry, increased labour hire and contracting out, would lead to ...

- business risks being shifted from business operators to individual workers

- deepening the national skills crisis by removing incentives to train and develop workers

- undermining safety standards

TWU state secretary, Tony Sheldon, said the legislation would be a disaster for thousands of truck operators who depended on the IRC in legal and health and safety wrangles with multi-national operators.

More than 12,000 "independent" NSW truckies belong to the union which files two to three new cases every week, alleging unjustified dismissal, harsh or unfair contracts, and breaches of safety regulations.

Sheldon said the Andrews' definition of a contractor was a "sham" that would leave small operators and genuine workers at the mercy of multi-nationals and their legal teams.

He said federal government catch-cries like "choice" and "freedom" were "double-speak of the worst kind".

"Where is the choice when you go for a job and the employer tells you, you can choose to be a contractor or not but, if you don't become a contractor, you don't get the job?" he asked.

"That's the freedom this government wants for thousands of Australians who need to work to put food on their tables."


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