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Issue No. 259 15 April 2005  
E D I T O R I A L

Roosting Chooks
It wasn’t that long ago that John Howard was the great Conservative leader who wanted to remake Australia in his own image, defending the monarchy, beating up gay mums and attacking the ABC.

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

 Freedom From Choice

 Hostile Takeover - Can Howard Do It?

 Premier Sues Miners

 Vanstone Shows Brickie’s Cleavage

 Sparkies Refine Safety Tactics

 Ten Cent Deal Cuts Beards

 Kiwis Vote for Flight

 Death Penalty No Deterrent

 Costa Railroads Jobs

 Greystanes Soiled

 Aussies in Ivy league Battle

 Drivers Shake the Cage

 Employers Come Clean

 Big Call in Newcastle

 Bosses Back Gaol for Cowboys

 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
 Adler Should Be Hung
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Hostile Takeover - Can Howard Do It?


There is growing legal opinion that the federal government’s plan to ride roughshod over state industrial relations systems will not withstand a High Court challenge.

As former Attorney General Jeff Shaw prepares a legal team to argue the union case, leading academics and practitioners are forming the view that the radical extension of Commonwealth’s corporations power will be unconstitutional.

Shaw, the architect of the NSW industrial relations system, says unions will have a strong case if the federal government attempts to over ride its existing industrial relations powers. "If the federal government does attempt a hostile takeover using corporations power it would take an activist High Court to rule it was an appropriate use of federal powers," Shaw says. "Even if the court did uphold the use of the powers the result would be patchy and unsatisfactory - with arguments raging about whether public servants, employees in small business and local government workers were outside the scope of the laws." Under our constitution, the Commonwealth has power over a defined list of issues, with the states holding the balance. While there is a body of decisions that extend Commonwealth powers, particularly around the corporations and external affairs powers, legal experts believe they will have to draw the line somewhere. Leading industrial law academic, Professor Ron McCallum, presenting the annual Kingsley Laffer lecture this week, cautioned the government that line was fast approaching. "If the current federal Government believes that through utilising the mantra of the corporations power it is able to enact a set of national labour laws and ride roughshod over the States, it may end up learning a few unpalatable lessons," McCallum said. "Not only may such laws be seen as inappropriate by Australia's industrial citizens, but in order to ensure a balance in our federal compact the High Court may be obliged to draw a line in the sand and limit the relentless advance of the corporations power." And leading constitutional academic and former Victorian solicitor-general Greg Craven warned the federal government the takeover would amount to 'an ideological war on the States'. "I think this is an extraordinarily short-sighted as well as an a-constitutional view of melding policy and constitutionalism," he told 7.30 Report.

Takeover Target Meanwhile, John Brogden's desire to abandon the state IR system, would usher in deteriorating hospitals and schools, according to Unions NSW. Secretary John Robertson says working families will be the big losers if Brogden has his way. "This move would take rights at work away from more than a million workers who deliver vital services to the people of the state," Robertson said. "It would reduce safeguards of service delivery that are included in many state awards and agreements." He cited agreed maximum class sizes, nurses workloads, and police appeal rights as examples.


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