Now, we all believe the English can't play spin, but the abject failure of the Tories star Aussie imports, Messrs Crosby and Textor, put us all to shame.
In a desperate bid to boot the moulding Blair regime out of office, the Tories called on the 'geniuses' behind John Howard's political ascendency, the former Liberal Party director Lynton Crosby and his partner, the pollster with prejudice, Mark Textor.
Reports suggest that Crosby was paid more than $600,000 to spend a few months in the Old Dart masterminded the election.
And what did they get for their money?A fear and loathing campaign on immigration, revving the Tory leader Michael Howard into increasingly feral bleatings about the dilution of the British blue bloods. Unlike Australia, where this type of opportunism was like a siren's song and left the ALP with no where to go, the British public did not take the hook.
When Plan A failed, the attack moved to gypsey's, a small number of itinerants who became a threat to the British way of life. This one was so obnoxious that some Tory MPs black banned the leaflets in their electorates.
When that didn't work, the final throw was to hurl personal abuse at Tony Blair for being a 'liar' over the Iraq War. The poetic irony of this line coming from the men behind Children Overboard and the interest rates scare campaign may have been lost on the Poms, but Aussie humour has never travelled that well.
As Faser Kemp, the deputy manager of the Labour election campaign, said Mr Crosby had failed to swing the campaign to the Conservatives "despite all the hype about him". "He brought his dog whistle over here but the British bulldog bit him."
"The problem with the way they ran so hard on asylum and immigration was it turned out the dog whistle could be heard by everyone, and there was a real backlash."
At the end of the day, the Australian masterminds were sidelined, and Howard tried to pare back lost grounded by spending the last week running positive. That he managed to claw some ground back in the dying, may give the Conservatives some succour, but is unlikely to see them turning to our Tool again in the near future.
One final observation - while Crosby-Textor have proven very good at keeping John Howard in office, a brief look around the nation shows they haven't had a whole lot of success in getting Oppositions in.
And this is because from the position of incumbency a leader has far more opportunity to shape the public mood, massive public resources to reinforce a message and an increasingly politicised bureaucracy to implement it. After all, where would the Tampa had been without a cowed military and a compliant defence bureaucracy?
This is why the Crosby model of campaigning is so insidious - it requires a fundamental breach of the trust we put into our leaders. It is all about using the levers of public power for political advantage, by unleashing our darker sides.
It is why we should do everything in our power to keep their candidates out of office. At least the good people of Britain have got that much right.
Management at the Family and Community Services Department (FaCS) wants staff to cop cuts in personal, bereavement, carers and paternity leave while they push the official line about "recognising the importance of families and their valuable contribution to society".
FACS unveiled its new agenda, which also involves increasing working hours and cutting time-in-lieu arrangements, during certified agreement negotiations with the CPSU.
The CPSU's, Lisa Newman, said the irony would "hilarious if it wasn't so serious".
FACS secretary, Dr Jeff Harmer, describes the department's core business as assisting "families and children in having choices and opportunities".
Dr Harmer has urged employees to take a lead in National Families Week by "writing a story, drawing or painting a picture, taking a photo or making something creative that demonstrates what family is all about".
Judging by the initial response from CPSU members to his bargaining stance, he might receive some very graphic illustrations of what they think Harmer's ideal family might get up to.
One employee suggested good conditions at FaCS had become an embarrassment to a government urging private employers to clawback wages and conditions.
"Staff were told by the CA management negotiating team that our Minister was embarrassed in front of her colleagues by FACS being seen to have such good working conditions. Interesting to see that good working conditions for staff are now considered an embarrassment," she wrote.
Other immediate responses published on the CPSU website included ...
"I think given the management agenda that they should change the name of the Department to perhaps 'The dysfunctional Family'."
"It is hard enough to work full time without FaCS attempting to cut our entitlements. As a single mother if any of my leave/carers leave was cut then I would be forced to quit my job and be on the pension at taxpayers expense. Is this how they see family growth?"
National Families Week will run from May 15 to May 21.
The issue has blown up with the South American-born driver being suspended, and outraged parents claiming their mobile phone-toting offspring were "kidnapped".
Racists Drive Bus Row
Upstarts from Mater Maria College on Sydney's North Shore showered abuse, including "wog" and "pig", on an immigrant bus driver before he drove them to Brookvale depot, this week.
The issue has blown up with the South American-born driver being suspended, and outraged parents claiming their mobile phone-toting offspring were "kidnapped".
Police are investigating the parents' allegations.
But the Rail Tram and Bus Union has swung in behind the 15-year-veteran of Sydney buses.
RTBU Bus and Tram division president, Peter Jenkins, warned industrial action would greet any disciplinary action against the driver who has been stood down, on full pay, while the case is investigated.
"He has our full support," Jenkins said. "He is well respected and the feeling at the depot is heated."
Jenkins said the driver had done "absolutely" the right thing after consecutive days of abuse from Mater Maria students.
"He drove them back to the depot where they were safe and told management their behaviour was unacceptable and they should sort the matter out.
"They found a replacement driver to finish the run."
Jenkins said the driver had complained after being tormented and abused by the same youngsters on the Warriewood-Brookvale route the previous day.
STA sent a supervisor out with him on Wednesday afternoon to explain behavioural standards expected of passengers. Workers Online understands that as soon as the inspector left the vehicle, elements among the 40 Mater Maria students opened up on the driver again.
He responded by driving past their northern suburbs stops to the Brookvale depot where he handed the situation over to STA managers.
Jenkins said the driver had been seriously upset and considered the situation a health and safety hazard.
"We are saying it was not safe for him to continue driving in those circumstances," Jenkins said. "If he hadn't used his commonsense and taken the heat out of the situation we could be sitting here talking about a much more serious situation today."
My Restaurant Rules competitor and Pink Salt manager Bella Serventi was this week forced to repay workers more than $8,000 they were underpaid while on AWAs, championed by the federal government.
The NSW Industrial Relations Commission also ordered the restaurateurs to pay staff award rates, issue pay slips and maintain proper employment records.
Serventi told Workers Online she and her partner, Evan Hansimikali, had never meant to do the wrong thing but had been unaware of their obligations.
"We are 23 years old and have never run a business before but suddenly we are expected to be restaurant owners, chefs, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and industrial relations experts.
"There needs to be more education about what the Award is and what are the minimum standards for NSW workers. There needs to be a non partisan point of contact and an education program," she said.
Serventi says her real fear is that the campaign would undermine public support for her restaurant - and the job security of 30 staff,
State IR Minister John Della Bosca said the NSW Office of Industrial Relations would this year inspect more than 11,000 NSW workplaces and the employment records of more than 100,000 employees.
In Manly, where Pink Salt is located, another compliance campaign covering 50 businesses is scheduled for July.
He said the Pink Salt experience proved that the Federal Government's proposed single industrial relations system based on AWAs would be used to slash wages and working conditions.
"This is not about improving efficiency - as the Pink Salt case demonstrates, the Commonwealth's plans are really aimed at lowering wages and conditions.
"If the federal government has its way, workers throughout the country will be subject to secretive AWAs under the federal system, with no effective way of fighting for their entitlements," he said.
Andrews has said new industrial laws he is drafting, including substantial fines for rank and file workers, will be applied retrospectively – but he won’t be directing them at Adelaide employers who took time off work to listen to him.
CFMEU national secretary, John Sutton, said the meetings highlighted federal government double standards.
He said laws being drafted for the construction industry, would deny workers freedom of speech and other basic civil rights.
They will be barred from holding union or political meetings, during working hours, and must subject themselves to interviews by members of the Building Industry Taskforce without normal legal protections.
In a special Saturday sitting of Parliament, last year, the Howard Government beefed-up coercive powers available to its Taskforce.
Building workers must hand over required documents, answer questions and give evidence, under oath.
They can be handed a notice requiring them to appear before a private Taskforce interrogation. Workers in that situation have neither the right to remain silent, nor any protection against self-incrimination.
The Taskforce can direct them not to tell anyone, except their lawyer, what was discussed during the interrogation.
"Workers in the building industry are being stripped of basic rights that even career criminals enjoy," Sutton said. "If this sort of legislation was being proposed by a dictatorship we would be writing protest letters to Amnesty International.
"This is an attack not just on building workers - but the rights of every Australian citizen."
The Workplace Surveillance Bill 2005 requires employers to notify workers if there is a policy of monitoring email and internet use and makes any form of covert surveillance a criminal offence unless a magistrate can be convinced there is a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.
While bosses will still be allowed to establish 'white lists' recommending approved websites they can no longer stop employees accessing union generated emails or websites dealing with industrial issues.
Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, said it was a case of the law catching up with technology.
"Unions have always had the right to place information on workplace notice boards. The web is the notice board of the twenty first century."
Robertson said there were also numerous examples of employers inappropriately monitoring emails, including blocking off email access for unions during industrial action.
Less than a month ago Suncorp was in the Industrial Relations Commission explaining its decision to use an internet firewall to block access to Workers Online. The company also blocked emails from the Finance Sector Union.
Channel 7 recently made headlines spying on its workers and the list of other employers to indulge in covert electronic spying is long.
"This is a significant break-through for workers in NSW and means they can use emails for reasonable private purposes from work without being secretly spied on," Robertson said.
"It is also good news for workers in rural and isolated areas because it gives them equal access to vital information about their rights."
Government MP, Nanaia Mahuta, said nine years of life under the Employment Contracts Act, the blueprint for Howard’s agenda, left her country demoralised.
"We faced low morale amongst our working people," Mahuta told Workers Online. "And we lost thousands and thousands of skilled workers, mainly to Australia.
"New Zealand is not a big country and the talent drain still costs us."
Mahuta was sent to Australia by the her government to investigate how Kiwis could be lured home to help rebuild their economy.
Meeting expats, she said, their prime motivations for crossing the Tasman could be summed up in two words - "wages" and "opportunities".
"Even people without high-level skills bought a ticket and got a chance," she said.
"They left a situation, based on individual contracts, that meant employees rights had gone down while employers rights had gone up.
"Five years ago, morale amongst our workforce was not very good at all."
Mahuta said Helen Clark's government had tried to turn that around by putting collective contracts back at the centre of industrial life, boosting apprenticeships, and emphasising workplace safety - things that suffer "when all the emphasis is on the bottom line".
Half a decade after the Employment Contracts Act was ripped up and its authors thrown out of power, Mahuta will have her work cut out convincing large numbers to head home.
The effects of the legislation still hold down living standards and opportunities.
On a recent visit to New Zealand, we found senior security guards driving large quantities of cash around the North Island, earning $12.50 an hour, and experienced heavy equipment operators, with all their tickets, getting $13.
To get overtime, the guards had to work more than 11 hours a day and the machinery operators had to be on the job for more than 50 hours a week.
Mahuta's second trans-Tasman mission was to convince Kiwis to enrol and vote in this year's general election.
New Zealand citizens are entitled to vote if they have set foot in the country at any time over the past three years.
Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, backed Mahuta's call.
"We need to do all we can to make sure Labor is re-elected in New Zealand," Roberston said.
Kiwis can check their enrolment status, and enrol, at: http://www.elections.org.nz/
Unions, whose members have campaigned for such sanctions for years, gave Industrial Relations Minister, John Della Bosca, a cautious thumbs-up after the legislation was unveiled.
The Carr Government moved after rallies of up to 10,000 people descended on Macquarrie St in the wake of workplace deaths.
Families of teenagers, Dean McGoldrick and Joel Exner, killed on building sites after being denied basic safety protections, played key roles in putting politicians on the spot.
So did widowed Mum, Andreia Viegas, whose husband Glen was killed, last October.
"I congratulate the unions - the AMWU and CFMEU - that have campaigned so long for this legislation," Viegas said this week.
"I also congratulate the government but it will be of no use at all unless we continue to have strong unions that can get into workplaces to make sure there are no more deaths and no more children without a father or mother."
Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, said that while the bill wasn't perfect it was an important step forward.
"The real measure of success will be whether or not it saves lives in NSW workplaces," he said.
Della Bosca's Occupational Health and Safety (Workplace Deaths) Bill introduces five year prison sentences for employers found to be recklessly negligent over the death of an employee.
Individuals can be fined up to $165,000 while corporations may be fined up to $1.65 million.
Prosecutions under the legislation will be heard by the Industrial Relations Commission, in court session, and, in the event of a prison term, can be appealed to the court of Criminal Appeal.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has flagged formal complaints to the UN and International Labour Organisation (ILO) about Canberra's prescription for driving unions off university campuses.
Federal secretary, Grahame McCullough, says the Howard Government is breaching international agreements that Australia has signed off on.
Canberra has announced it will strip universities of $280 million in funding if they don't adopt the Coalition's hardline industrial relations agenda.
Specifically, they must introduce non-union AWAs to campuses, and block unions from any negotiations where their presence is not formally requested by individual staff members.
McCullough says members will back the legal strategy with a "significant increase in industrial action", building to a national day of protest on June 28.
He says the forced introduction of AWAs appeared to breach the ILO convention on the right to bargain collectively, while UNESCO's instrument on the rights of teaching personnel, contained provisions about university independence and autonomy.
The Australian Vice Chancellors Committee said universities were uncertain about what the federal government was demanding.
McCullough said Government appeared to want thousands of finalised contracts "torn up" and started again.
Meanwhile, the PSA says the changes point out the weakness in government's AWA sales pitch.
"What they have been unable to do by persuasion they are now trying by coercion. They are eliminating choice", says Mr Cahill.
"Their long term aim is to reduce labour costs through reduced wages and lesser conditions.
Cahill said the changes, announced by Ministers Kevin Andrews and Brendan Nelson, would not improve universities but would further accelerate Australia's brain drain.
AMWU secretary, Paul Bastian, said the most glaring example involved the overhaul of Manly ferry, Freshwater, by a Queensland outfit, bankrupted three years ago, that had to import skilled NSW workers to complete the contract.
Bastian said Brisbane Slipway won the Freshwater contract on price alone using temporary, casual labour; not having an EBA with any union, or any commitment to training.
It beat three established NSW operations that provide fulltime, ongoing work to hundreds of skilled people.
"Our companies might not be the best employers in the world but they have a commitment to fulltime, permanent employment and skills training," Bastian said.
"Brisbane Slipway contracted for this job without a single permanent employee on its books. It hires casuals, from interstate if necessary, and lets them go at the end of a project.
"This tendering process, based entirely on cost, costs us jobs, skills, wage and conditions and will result in a race to the bottom that is unacceptable from a Labor Government."
Bastian said the same mentality was evident in rolling stock tendering that favoured overseas firms at the expense of Hunter Valley-based companies that directly employ more than 600 skilled Australians.
He questioned the sincerity of the Carr Government's public commitment to beating the skills shortage and called on it to "put its money where its press release is".
Unions NSW will push the state government to develop a procurement policy that would enhance the state's skills base.
As word spread of the stand-down, which workers saw as part of a systematic program to force order colleagues out of the organisation, depot after deport walked off the job.
The worker in question had taken some leave - on doctor's orders- to get his blood/sugar levels back in balance. Upon getting the all clear from his doctor, he turned up at Sydney Water's Seven Hills depot on Wednesday, armed with return to work certificate.
However, management said he was too ill to work and stood him down.
Seven Hills workers withdrew their labour in support of their workmate. By Wednesday evening depots across Sydney had shut down in solidarity and 500 Sydney Water employees were on strike.
On Thursday Sydney Water managemers were under the blowtorch of media scrutiny as water mains started to overflow while repair crews staffed picket lines.
By mid afternoon that day Sydney Water management had been hauled before the IRC, and orders were issued for the Seven Hills worker to be reinstated.
Australian Services union secretary Sally McManus told the media, Sydney Water treats its workers the same way it treats the public - as a bit of a nuisance.
"This is the organisation that has outsourced key services and now estimates water bills rather than actually reads meters," McManus says.
"It is also an organization that would stand down a sick worker, even though he produced a doctors certificate saying he is fit to return to work."
The dispute came hot on the heels of IRC orders last week that saw management forced to respect rostering arrangements.
Both groups won special increases, in the IRC, reflecting historical under-valuing of their contributions to NSW health but, because of that, government now wants them to cop lower increases than other public sector employees.
The Nurses Association and United Services Union (USU) argue such an arrangement would put their members back where they started.
NSW Ambulance Service clerical delegate, Jeff Green, says workmates won't stand by and watch communications assistants discriminated against.
"We are going to stand up to the Health Department and show them what we believe in," he said. "If this issue is not resolved satisfactorily our members will take industrial action."
The health department is offering workers four percent annual movements over the next four years, but insisted that nurses and communications assistants settle for three percent in the first year.
It also wants the first increase held back an additional six months.
Nurses in NSW hospitals are halfway through a round of meetings where votes are being taken on a possible stoppage this Wednesday.
"The case for nurses getting the same four percent per year rise as everyone else is perfectly reasonable," Association secretary Brett Holmes says. "In fact, it is integral to maintaining nursing as an attractive career option.
"Nurses are appalled that the state government is trying to clawback much-needed gains made in recent years."
The AWU called for Australian Securities and Investment Commision (ASIC) action at the second Ion Group creditors meeting in Adelaide, this week, and proposed other legal action by workers, shareholders and creditors.
Hundreds of Ion workers lost their jobs after the company went into voluntary administration in December. A report by Administrators McGrath Nicol revealed major financial control failures, poor decision-making and net selling of shares by company-related parties in the months before the collapse.
The AWU and employee creditors supported a proposed Deed of Company Arrangement (DOCA) to save as many jobs as possible and to ensure accrued entitlements were paid in full.
In a speech to the creditors' meeting, AWU secretary Bill Shorten, raised the following questions:
"It is time for ASIC chairman Jeff Lucy and his team of untouchables in the insolvency unit to get cracking on this corporate disaster," Shorten said. He also called for changes to the Corporations Act and Australian Accounting Standards to give employees maximum priority of payment in company failures and to provide better information for early warning of corporate collapse.
The sleeping giant is becoming a juggernaut, moving on workplace fatalities, adding protections against email surveillance, putting spine into the sweatshop code of conduct.
After nearly a decade of banging our heads against a brick wall we are witnessing real progress, with smart and targeted laws dealing with contemporary workplace issues.
The contrast with the firestorm brewing in Canberra could not be more stark - the Carr Government is protecting workers rights while the Howard Government is planning to take them away.
And you don't need to look far to see Labor's best political strategist John Della Bosca's fingerprints all over the place.
As Della tells Workers Online this week, the big mistake is to look at the coming industrial relations debate as being about state rights - this is a battle for workers rights.
The coming campaign has many dimensions. For unions it is about bargaining rights, for families it's about control of working hours, for communities it is about working patterns that allow citizens to commit.
For the ALP, it is a golden opportunity for brand differentiation - in an era when the Labor Party has been the big loser in the convergence of the parties and the shift to white bread politics.
The Carr Government's movement over the past week indicates that it sees the opportunity in being clearly on the side of a balanced system of rights at work in this upcoming showdown.
It's a similar conclusion that emerged as the union campaign was being developed, particularly through focus groups of workers, both union and non-union.
Employers and the Howard Government had attempted to stake out the battle ground for IR as being 'fairness' - remember the outrageous statement that there was no room for fairness in the workplace, proposed by BCA and endorsed by Kevin Andrews.
The problem with a fight for fairness though, is that no one thinks the workplace is fair anyway, probably never have, if the truth be known.
But what workers are concerned about are their rights at work, and when they get clear information about the rights they will lose they are not just angry, they are looking for someone to fight on their behalf.
On one level there is nothing new in this thinking - unions have always existed to improve their members' rights at work; but it constructed this around a collectivist ideology that at some point became more important than the outcomes.
The collectivism is intrinsic to unions and will always be; but it is a means of delivering objective, individual rights.
In a somewhat subversive way, it is this individualistic, objective framework, that will drive the broader labour movement's battle against the Howard laws.