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Issue No. 269 24 June 2005  

Truth In Advertising
In the past seven days we have witnessed the unprecedented spectacle of a Howard Minister attempting to campaign on ‘Truth’. That it has come back to bite him on the bum is the clearest proof yet of some eternal notion of justice.


Interview: The Baby Drought
Social ethicist Leslie Cannold has delved into why women - and men - are having fewer children. And it all comes back to the workplace.

Industrial: Lies, AWAs and Statistics
David Peetz uncovers the truth behind the latest statistics on earnings under Australian Workplace Agreements.

Workplace: The Invisible Parents
Current government policies about work and family do not reflect the realities of either family life or the modern workplace. writes Don Edgar.

History: Bruce’s Big Blunder
The Big Fella, Jack Lang, gives an eyewitness account of the last time Conservatives tried to dismantle Australia’s industrial relations system.

Politics: All God's Children
The battle for morality is not confined to Australian polittics. Michael Walzer writes on the American perspective

Economics: Spun Out
The business groups are feeling cocky. The feds have announced their IR changes, business says they don't go far enough. What a surprise, writes Neale Towart

International: Shakey Trials
Lyndy McIntyre argues the New Zealnd IR experiment provides warnings - and hope - for the Australian union movement.

Legal: Civil Distrubance
Tom Roberts argues that there is more at stake than an attack on building workers in the looming legsilation.

Review: Crash Course In Racism
Paul Haggis flick Crash suggests that when cars collide the extent of people's prejudices are revealed sans the usual veil of political correctness, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: You're Fired
New laws will leave bosses holding the whip and workers with a Raw Hide, writes resident bard David Peetz


 Choice Bro, Andrews Unmasked

 Rev Kev’s Big Stick

 Grass Roots Flourish

 Academics Give an F

 Feds Invoke Feared Beard

 Mum Gives Johnny the Slip

 Hadgkiss in Family Friendly Assault

 Slick Operator Goes Down

 Tassie in Grip of Chip Strip

 Elderly Boss Gets Cranky

 Army Used To Privatise Phones

 Dangerous Vic bosses face slammer

 Activists Whats On!


The Locker Room
Ashes to Dust
In which Phil Doyle travels to distant lands in search of a meat pie, and prepares for the joys of sleep deprivation

The Westie Wing
Ian West lists the Top Ten reasons why workers in NSW can gain some solace from having the Labor Party sitting on the Treasury benches…

The Soapbox
Dear John
In response to this year’s Federal Budget, Bishop Kevin Manning wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister, Mr John Howard

 Good outlook at Hertz
 Foxtel’s folly
 Stuck for words
 More care, less scare
 Do or die time
 China throws in Mao’s towel
 Don’t strike out strikes
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Feds Invoke Feared Beard

The Howard Government has rammed terror-style laws through parliament that leave Australian building workers with fewer rights than common criminals.

The Building Industry Improvement Bill makes illegal virtually all forms of industrial action, including meetings, and opens up individual workers to $22,000 fines and their unions to $110,000 slugs for breaches.

It gives courts the ability to order workers' organisations to pay unlimited amounts of compensation, or to sequester their assets.

The new laws will be enforced by a permanent Building Industry Commission, formerly the Building Industry Taskforce, that has the power to interrogate individual workers.

The Commission, headed by controversial former federal policeman Nigel Hadgkiss, can deny building workers the right to silence and deprive them of the common law right not to incriminate themselves.

It can order building workers not to reveal the contents of any interrogation to family or friends.

Failure to comply with any of these requirements can render workers liable for fines or imprisonment.

CFMEU national secretary, John Sutton, warned the federal government had already flagged its intention to spread these power beyond the construction sector.

"While Australians may be prepared to give up legal protections to fight terrorism, few would support forgoing their rights to support the Federal Government's war on unions," Sutton said.

"It would be a tragedy for this country if these powers were allowed to pass into law without any community debate."

The new regime is based on the findings of the discredited Cole Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry. The Commission was established after Howard Government ministers claimed the industry was a hot bed of illegal activity.

Cole claimed to have identified hundreds of "improper" incidents which were passed to Hadgkiss for action.

Hadgkiss admitted to Senate Estimates, last month, that these had resulted in just one prosecution nationwide.

Hadgkiss, himself, has been the subject of adverse evidence to Parliamentary Inquiries from former police officers.

The new legislation turns his interim Taskforce into a permanent Commission with beefed-up coercive powers.

The Taskforce, while in operation, copped repeated judicial censure for its methods and some of the cases it chose to pursue with taxpayers' chequebook.

A Melbourne federal court judge described its methods as "undemocratic" and "authoritarian", while a Sydney counterpart ruled it had prosecuted the CFMEU "without reasonable cause".

Hadgkiss admitted, under Senate questioning, his Taskforce had splurged more than a quarter of a million dollars on the latter case.

Another NSW judge found there had been an "element of provocation" by Taskforce officers in a case against union members and was highly critical of one of Hadgkiss' officers who gave sworn evidence, then changed his testimony after being contradicted by a company witness.

Nigel Kicks Tin

Meanwhile, CFMEU NSW branch secretary, Andrew Ferguson, has pledged $50,000 of Taskforce money to the campaign against Howard's IR changes.

The cheque was the first installment of substantial costs awarded against the Building Industry Taskforce after Justice Wilcox, in the Federal Court, ruled a case brought against the CFMEU had been "hopeless".

Ferguson said the Taskforce had spent millions of dollars in an effort to block CFMEU entry to building sites. He noted that Hadgkiss had conceded, publicly, his organisation did not seek to prosecute employers who ripped building workers off.

Earlier this year, the Taskforce was in the middle of another controversy when it said it had lost interview notes at the heart of a former Detective Sergeant's claim that he had been the victim of "payback" and "victimisation".

Michael McGann, holder of the NSW Police's highest bravery award, sought the notes under freedom of information provisions after alleging he had been punted from the Taskforce because of a Hadgkiss "vendetta".

In 2003, McGann told a Parliamentary Inquiry, investigators under Hadgkiss' control had fabricated evidence to the Wood Royal Commission.

"As soon as I came onto his radar at the building Industry Taskforce I was a marked man," McGann said in February.


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