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Issue No. 276 12 August 2005  

The Power of One
The power has now shifted. John Howard has control of the Senate by a solitary vote and no matter where your politics lie, the earth has definitely moved.


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


 “Disgusting” AWAs Court Out

 Andrews Agenda Rolled in DEWR

 Sick Days Get Hadgkiss Sniffing

 Fun Guy Skips Work, Docks Staff

 Nurse Launches Neighbourhood Alert

 Security Staff Bush Whacked

 Commo Bank Staff Force Smiles

 Cameron Gets ‘Fair Dinkum’

 Feds: Inconsistency “Not Inconsistent”

 Telstra Dials Up Cash Grab

 Howard Votes Family Last

 PacNat Troops Won't Be Railroaded

 All Aboard Vic Safety Train

 Activist's What's 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.

 Farmers’ Best Friend
 Govt Has No Case
 Logon to IR
 Ears and Minds
 Howard on the Couch
 Which Bank?
 Kevin the Tool Man
 Tom On Safety
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The Power of One

The power has now shifted. John Howard has control of the Senate by a solitary vote and no matter where your politics lie, the earth has definitely moved.

For the Howard Government, there is now absolute power and a determination not to waste this once in a generation opportunity. After nine years in power, the PMs challenge is not how to get laws through a hostile Senate, but what policy he will steam roll into law.

It is sign of the obsessions and self-focus of the Howard Government that the three priority areas are: selling off what's left of Telstra ; wiping out student unionism and destroying workers rights.

The common theme of these three 'priorities' are that they are based on ideological fixations; they are deeply unpopular with the people and they were hardly mentioned at the last federal election.

There's another common theme that emerged in the first week of the new Parliament - the federal government has not done it's homework - it is giving every impression of having sat back since last year's election waiting to just waltz in and do to the Australian people what Julian McGaurin so eloquently did to the Senate this week.

On Telstra, they are arguing about how big a slush fund to give the bush to sell off the Nats; on VSU they are arguing about how big a slush fund to give the bush universities to sell off the Nats and on IR., they are just arguing and hoping the $20 million slush fund will be enough to convince Australians that taking away their work rights will make their life better. As Andrew Robb betrayed this week, deep down some are beginning to wonder whether this is possible.

As for the Nationals, the attention has focused on the fighting words of Barnaby Joyce; and the charming welcome his 'friends ' in the Liberal Party have given him. Who knows, he may be bought off or turn to water in the long run; but right now he is giving every indication of a politician who takes his responsibilities to his electorate seriously. A rare creature on either side of the House.

But the deeper concern for the Nats is that in these three issues the party may well be sowing the seeds of its own demise. Without the cross-bench Senators to save them the embarrassment, Nation al senators are being asked to act against the interests, values and express wishes of the people who have put them in power. Question is, can any amount of money save them from what they are about to do?

(As an aside; am I mad or does there currently appear to be more in common between Labor and the Nationals than the Liberals and the Nationals? Could this agenda actually create the first cracks in a seismic shift in the Australian polity?)

Then we have the new Family First senator; who has already dispelled any notion that the Howard Government will be able to take his vote for granted. How's this for a line from a Maiden Speech: "Where once the labour market respected the fact that workers had family responsibilities, today workers struggle to balance their paid work and family life."

We'll skip over the Greens and Democrats, who are only there to make up the numbers; although the play between the rising Greens and the ailing Dems could have a long-term impact on the political agenda.

Which brings us to Labor; finally in genuine Opposition after nine years as a government in exile. Will they use this new environment to free themselves of minutae and run with the people? Will they make use of the momentum being provided by the successful union campaign? Or will they get bogged down in the technical details and let another chance go by?

Sadly, the initial signs aren't good. Their determination to finesse a position on AWAs rather than oppose them outright, needlessly takes the sting out of their attack. Develop modern workplace policies by all means, but get the principles right.

So all the players enter this new arena with opportunities as well as threats; and I suspect that how these are addressed will have an impact, not just on the next election but the next 10 to 15 years.

How all these dynamics play out over the coming two years will have an enduring impact on the Australian way of life. And that's no game.

Peter Lewis



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