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Issue No. 275 05 August 2005  

Iemma’s Dilemmas
The past fortnight has seen the sort of upheaval in NSW that reminds us all that politics is a very tenuous game with few certainties and even fewer rules.


Interview: On Holiday
Historian Richard White looks back on the Aussie vacation - and finds a way of life is under threat.,

Unions: One Day Longer
Nathan Brown travels to the Boeing picket line and find a group of workers with a steely determination to stick together.

Industrial: Never Mind the Bollocks
Jim Marr plays the Howard Government's industrial relations spin job on its merits.

Politics: Spun Out
Canberra’s latest campaign underlines the need for controls over government advertising, according to Graeme Orr and Joo-Cheong Tham

Economics: If the Grog Don't Get You ....
Evan Jones explains how the way we purchase alcolohol reflects the type of economy we live in.

History: Taking a Stand
Neale Towart looks at two books that chronicle how to build community support against social injustice.

International: The Split
Amanda Tattersal outsider's account of an insider's shake-out at the AFL-CIO Convention 2005

Legal: Pushing the Friendship
George Williams argues that the federal government’s constitutional powers are not sufficient to enact a comprehensive national industrial relations scheme

Poetry: Simple Subtractions
The latest blitz of taxpayer-funded advertising has revealed a crisis of arithmetic in government ranks has moved resident bard David Peetz to prose.

Review: Sydney Trashed
Sydney band SC Trash are on a mission to give new life to folk and country music – and the politics of common sense. Nathan Brown had a beer with them


 Carmen's Boss No Fun Guy

 Discriminating Centrelink on Charges

 Uproar Over Holiday Plans

 Do The Bus Stop

 Taxpayers to Fund Advertising Orgy

 Get Up Stands Up

 Andrews Provokes Showdown

 Thousands in Super Rort

 Constituents Don’t Trust Andrews

 Skill Shortage Fabricated

 Yanks Short Change Tradesmen

 Howard Steamroller Hits Building Sites

 CFMEU Bans Ferguson

 Activists Whats On!


The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP, Ian West, goes away for a couple of weeks and look what happens…

The Soapbox
The Last Weekend
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson's speech to the Last Weekend - how the Howard government laws will undermine the Ausrtalian way of life.

The Locker Room
A Concept Is Born
In which Phil Doyle helps the proponents of the vision thing across the road.

Workers Blood For Oil
A new book by Abdullah Muhsin and Alan Johnson lifts the lid on the bloody reality of US backed democracy for Iraq's trade unions

London Post
During his recent stay in London IEU industrial officer John Shapiro was living only a few hundred metres from the site of one of the bomb blasts.

 Back To The Past
 AFL-CIO Not The Only War
 Be Afraid
 Frame Up
 We Love Morris
 ANew Development
 A Readers Suggestion
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Iemma’s Dilemmas

The past fortnight has seen the sort of upheaval in NSW that reminds us all that politics is a very tenuous game with few certainties and even fewer rules.

While the commentariat debates whether this is a necessary spring clean or the baling out of a sinking ship - what is certain is that the effectiveness of the new Premier will have a concrete impact on the living standards of NSW workers.

We know the scenario. Morris Iemma comes to the leadership at a time when NSW workers face a hostile takeover of its industrial relations system; a play that would put basic rights such as weekend penalties and annual leave up for grabs.

The outgoing Premier took a strong line against these changes; giving a guarantee that he would hold onto the state system, challenge the federal laws in the High Court and campaign on the issue all the way to the next state election.

His successor's challenge is to seize both the moral and political challenge of turning the protection of workers rights into one of the foundation stones of his Premiership.

Looking at Morris Iemma's background gives some grounds for confidence.

He began his career as an industrial officer with the Commonwealth Bank Officers' Association, dealing with the daily issues working people face.

As a Minister he may have had a low public profile, but he has gone the extra mile for workers - bringing in a ground-breaking procurement policy as Minister for Public Works that required firms to meet basic labour standards before they could win government contracts.

While this use of purchasing policy is merely applying the same standards the Howard Government has been using to bust unions, it took significant drive to get it through a habitually cautious Cabinet.

But while the new Premier has some runs on the board there are also concerns.

Already we have seen the new leadership team fall into the ritual of 'discovering' a massive budget hole - opening the down for big cuts to public spending even as taxes for property speculation are cut.

And while we love Michael Costa dearly, the idea of him calling the economic shots in the State fills many with trepidation; after all, this is the guy who has turned economic rationalism into a fetish.

The government's broader policy challenges are about its failure to invest in public services in a bid to pay off debt that could have easily been serviced.

He needs to free up funds to improve public services; most critically in transport.

While vows to maintain the policy of no forced redundancies in the public sector are welcome, there are genuine concerns about where the new premier goes with this.

If he falls into the trap of playing to the financial markets by privatising public assets and cutting public service jobs, we could find the cure could be worse than the malady.

As for valedictories - Bob Carr can proudly point to the 1996 NSW Industrial Relations Act, the leadership role he played during the MUA dispute, the strong stand he took against James Hardies.

Some of us may never forget the workers compensation blockade of State Parliament and the two-fingered salute as he used police horses against workers, but it would be wrong to see this as the whole story.

What we shouldn't forget is that Bob Carr came to power as the only Labor Premier, and left power with all states and territories under Labor rule.

As Morris Iemma is about to discover, every Labor leader is a product of their times; with the capacity to shape the future for working people. It is a heady responsibility.

Peter Lewis



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