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Issue No. 258 08 April 2005  
E D I T O R I A L

Be My Guest
Is anyone else confused about the current behaviour of our Prime Minister? In just a few short years he’s transformed himself from National Door Bitch to Regional Street Spruiker.

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 …

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

 Cash Grab Targets Families

 Wattyl Lacks Colour

 Censors Ban Workers Online

 Stink Over Water

 Cole Slurs Slide

 Table Hands Stuffed

 Sweat Shop Taxes MLC’s Patience

 Cops Strengthen Thin Blue Line

 Buses Drive Commuters Crazy

 Guards Win Rail War

 Building Families Pocket $15 Million

 Students Mark Lecturers

 Activist’s What’s 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 aren’t 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
 Out-of-sight, out-of-your-mind
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Cash Grab Targets Families


Australia’s lowest paid workers would be $2300 a year worse off under the federal government’s minimum wage prescription.

Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, said the Prime Minister’s recipe would equate to a two percent jump in home loan interest rates.

"This shows dramatically what the federal government's minimum wage agenda is - keeping wages down for the benefit of big business," Robertson said.

"Constraining the wage would affect thousands of workers on minimum wages and lead to a real cut in living standards."

The data was revealed as Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, confirmed minimum wage rules would be changed as soon as the Coalition gained control of the Senate.

Under the current regime, annual wage cases are heard by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission which is obliged to take into account affects on employment and the broader economy.

The ACTU is claiming $26.60 a week in a case that will again be vigorously contested by employer organisations and the Howard Government.

Complete success for the union peak body would see fulltime minimum wages increased to $494 a week, while hourly rates for casuals and part-timers would jump to $13 an hour.

More than 1.6 million Australians are employed under awards whose only movements are determined by the minimum wage case. Well over half of those people are women.

Every year, since it came to power in 1996, the Howard Government has opposed minimum wage claims.

If its contentions had been accepted by the IRC, since 1997, the country's lowest paid workers would be worse off by $44 a week. Families, with two parents battling on the base rate, would be $4600 a year worse off.

The exact fulltime minimums for each year of the Howard regime, with Government claims in brackets, were: 1997, $359.40 ($357.40); 1998, $373.40 ($365.40); 1999, $385.40 ($373.40); 2000, $400.40 ($381.40); 2001, $413.40 ($391.40); 2002, $431.40 ($401.40); 2003, $448.40 ($413.40); 2004, $467.40 ($423.40).

Andrews and Treasurer, Peter Costello, both say the current arrangement does not give enough wait to job creation.

When that line has been tested before the IRC it has been found, on the evidence presented, to have been "unconvincing".


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