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Issue No. 264 20 May 2005  
E D I T O R I A L

Conviction Politics
In modern politics even ideology has become a matter of convenience; look no further than the principle that ‘third parties’ need to be removed from the workplace.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Fortress NSW
NSW IR Minister John Della Bosca on how to win the battle for workers rights - and save the state system.

Unions: Fashions Afield
With new anti-sweatshop creations being paraded at this year's Australian Fashion Week, is equity the new black and are sweatshops the new fur? asks Tara de Boehmler.

Industrial: Pay Dirt
John Burgess argues that the flow-on effect from changing the minimum wage could be more than we bargained for.

Politics: Infrastructure Blues
With much attention given belatedly to the shortage of infrastructure, little attention has been given to the structure of infrastructure, writes Evan Jones

History: Big Day Out
Neale Towart looks back on the events that created the May Day heritage.

International: Making History
Hundreds of aid organisations, charities, trade unions and religious groups have formed a global alliance called “ Make Poverty History”.

Economics: The Fear Factor
The solution to skill shortages is intelligent planning, argues John Spoehr

Review: The Robots Revolt
New kids flick Robot uses our electronic friends to teach audiences that inbuilt obsolescence is just a state of mind, writes Tara de Boehmler

Poetry: The Corporation's Power
The idea of a corporations power that could cure any ill has inspired our resident bard, David Peetz, to verse.

N E W S

 BHP Gets Decision to Die For

 Howard Turns to Water

 PM Noses into Pinocchio Territory

 Protest is Child’s Play

 A Baloney Deal Under Fire

 Decapitation Witness Dudded

 Newsroom Bullies Make Headlines

 Nelson Takes Axe To Brains

 Council Unhealthy for Families

 Top End Leader Backs Unions

 A Storm In Every Port

 Greens Go Rights

 Activist’s What’s On!

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
May Spray
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson delivered the annual May Day Toast - and warned it is no time to be comfortable and relaxed.

The Locker Room
A Rucking Good Time
Phil Doyle reveals many things, some of them useful

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP, Ian West, is back to regale us with inside goss and intrigue from the Bearpit.

L E T T E R S
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Editorial

Conviction Politics


In modern politics even ideology has become a matter of convenience; look no further than the principle that ‘third parties’ need to be removed from the workplace.

This was the Tory mantra for close to a decade as rampant labour market deregulation edged its way from the netherworld of the HR Nichols Society into the mainstream of Australian politics.

This principle held that a fundamental freedom was the right for a company to deal directly with its workers - or in some cases on it's workers - without the intervention of any external players, that is, a union.

It was a principle underpinned by a fiction, that workers and employers are equal parties at the bargaining table, notwithstanding the fact the employer may be a global conglomerate and the worker may be an individual with a couple of kids and a mortgage that had grown a third head.

To get around this, the theory went, the worker was somehow 'empowered' by the very act of sitting down one on one with their employer; a position famously described during the landmark Weipa dispute by comeback advocate RJ Hawke as 'psycho-babble'.

It is true that this has been a very successful frame for de-unionising large sections of the Australian workforce; offering short-term pay premiums to induce workers to shift to contract.

But equally sizeable sections of the workforce have chosen not to 'empower' themselves in this way, leaving the Tories with the unpalatable reality of a functioning trade union movement.

Their solution? Look no further than construction industry where the government has developed a 'code' that makes it virtually impossible for unions to operate effectively.

While the code has no legal force - it contains restrictions that would never get through the court system - the federal government has begun tying federal money for building projects to state's signing the code.

That push became a shameless shove this week when it was revealed that the Canberra would now withhold funds earmarked for alleviating the water crisis unless states agreed to banish unions from unrelated projects.

And if using drought-stricken farmers as hostages is obnoxious, it is no worse than starving our universities of funds if they don't push academic staff onto AWAs.

Now we learn that Kevin Andrews wants to take it even further - requiring agencies to consider a contractor's prior workplace reform record - that is its union-busting credentials - when putting work out to tender.

Let's be clear, the Federal Government is saying that the tax money we pay will only be distributed if states impose a certain model of workplace relations on employers.

There are a whole set of conservative principles that are being trashed in this power play, 'freedom', 'choice' and, of course, 'liberalism' itself.

And so the circle is complete - the Howard Government is your new third party in the workplace, imposing its will on entire industries to force workers onto contracts - all in the name of removing third parties.

And we wonder why people are cynical about politics.

Peter Lewis

Editor


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