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Issue No. 273 22 July 2005  
E D I T O R I A L

Split Infinitives
As unions across Australia put up a united front against the Howard IR assault, events across the Pacific serve as a warning of what can happen when individuals start going one out.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Battle Stations
Opposition leader Kim Beazley says he's ready to fight for workers right. But come July 1, he'll have to be fighting by different rules.

Unions: The Workers, United
It was a group of rank and filers who took centre stage when workers rallied in Sydney's Town Hall, writes Jim Marr.

Politics: The Lost Weekend
The ALP had a hot date, they had arranged to meet on the Town Hall steps, and Phil Doyle was there.

Industrial: Truth or Dare
Seventeen ivory towered academics upset those who know what is best for us last week.

History: A Class Act
After reading a new book on class in Australia, Neale Towart is left wondering if it is possible to tie the term down.

Economics: The Numbers Game
Political economist Frank Stilwell offers a beginners guide to understanding budgets

International: Blonde Ambition
Sweden can be an inspiration to labour movements the world over, as it has had community unionism for over 100 years, creating a vibrant caring society, rather than a "productive" lean economy.

Training: The Trade Off
Next time you go looking for a skilled tradesman and can’t find one, blame an economist, writes John Sutton.

Review: Bore of the Worlds
An invincible enemy has people turning against one another as they fight for survival – its not just an eerie view of John Howard’s ideal workplace, writes Nathan Brown.

Poetry: The Beaters Medley
In solidarity with the workers of Australia, Sir Paul McCartney (with inspiration from his old friend John Lennon) has joined the Workers Online resident bard David Peetz to pen some hits about the government's proposed industrial relations revolution.

N E W S

 Centrelink to Cheat Workers

 Foot Soldiers Get Blisters

 Feds to Lift Voting Age

 Taskforce Plastered

 Paint It Slack

 Howzat!

 Hadgkiss in Safety Failure

 Freedom to Starve

 Police And Thieves

 Feds Make Asbestos Blue

 Scabs Farewelled

 Capital Idea Under Threat

 Masterton Homes Crumbles

 Activists Whats On!

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
State of the Union
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson lifts the lid on ‘The Nine Myths of Modern Unionism’

The Locker Room
Wrist Action
Phil Doyle trawls the murky depths of tawdry sleaze, and discovers Rugby is behind it all.

Culture
To Hew The Coal That Lies Below
Phil Doyle reviews Australia's first coal mining novel, Black Diamonds and Dust.

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Our favourite State MP, Ian West, reports from Macquarie Street that the Premier is all the way with a State Commission.

L E T T E R S
 Frame Up
 Keep the Faith
 Life on a Low Wage
 Seeing the Trees For the Wood
 Carnival Comes to Town
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Feds to Lift Voting Age


Employees on share schemes would have to work for 85 years before they had enough shares to participate in company meetings in their own right under changes flagged by the Howard government.

The move have been slammed as an attack on shareholder activism with Paul Bastian from the AMWU pointing to the recent James Hardie campaign, which would be gutted by the Howard government’s proposals.

In recent years a number of unions in areas as diverse as mining, transport and banking have used company annual general meetings to pursue issues that affect employees.

The government is looking to raise the threshold for shareholders being able to place items on the agenda of annual general meetings from the 100 signatures currently required to having 5% of the company's capital value.

For a company such as Westpac that would mean having to own $1.7 billion worth of shares.

"It means that every Westpac employee would have to receive a full share allocation each year for 85 years before employees would collectively accumulate enough share of the capital to be able to meet the threshold," says Geoff Derrick from the Financial Sector Union.

The FSU sees this as part of a broader move to silence shareholder activism.

"Last year, when the FSU wanted to place issues on the agenda of the Westpac AGM, the meeting was co-incidentally moved to Auckland," says Derrick.

All previous AGMs for the country's oldest bank had been held in Australia.

"The trade union movement is far more heavily regulated than corporations,' says John Robertson from Unions NSW. "When unions hold elections they are compelled to conduct a postal ballot."

"If it's good enough for unions it's good enough for corporate Australia.

"This proposal will undermine the capacity for individual shareholders to be involved."


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