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Issue No. 278 26 August 2005  
E D I T O R I A L

A Secret Country
Beyond the obvious shift in the Australian political landscape, we are currently witnessing major changes in our political culture – personified in the two Herald Sun journalists currently facing jail.

F E A T U R E S

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

N E W S

 Busted: Howard's 14 Percent Fudge

 Emperor Stripped on Wages

 Witch Hunt Targets Priest

 No Malice in Pregnancy Termination, Court

 Building Boss Risks Lives

 Cleric Preaches Murder

 Bus Rams Home IR Message

 Contractors Get Run Of “The Mill”

 BHP Mining Cheap Labour

 Toll Bells For Corrigan

 Lorikeet Folds Wings

 Safety Is Apples In Orange

 IR Ads Dubious

 Striking Tongans Serenade Princess

 Activist's What's On!

C O L U M N S

Parliament
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.

International
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

Postcard
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.

L E T T E R S
 Rodent Knows Best
 Godspeed LHMU
 Help Wanted
 Proof in the Pudding
 Safeguards Already There
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Editorial

A Secret Country


Beyond the obvious shift in the Australian political landscape, we are currently witnessing major changes in our political culture – personified in the two Herald Sun journalists currently facing jail.

Gerard McManus and Michael Harvey's 'crime' is to protect the sources of a story that embarrassed a government minister; but their prosecutions speaks of an erosion in accepted freedoms that is occurring before our eyes.

In the name of fighting terrorism, we have accepted - through the political consensus - a whittling down of our civil rights in the name of giving our governments the power to keep us safe.

There is an argument that some of these changes , such as giving government agencies power to monitor, interrogate and detain suspected terrorists, may be justified; but they open the door for abuses.

The Herald Sun journos' story related to national security in only the most tenuous way - changes to the payments of veterans.

But as Workers Online reveals this week, the targeting of journalists is not confined to Defence; Australian Financial Review journalist Marcus Priest has also been questioned by Australian Federal Police attempting to track the source of the leak of a story critical of Workplace Relations minister Kevin Andrews.

This sort of interrogation crosses a new line in intimidating both journalists and their sources within government departments. Silent supplication can be the only objective.

And, as building legislation currently before the Senate proves, this is an approach wholly consistent with the Howard Government's new unshackled administration. The Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act takes decisive steps towards criminalising industrial activities.

Based on the expensive and discredited Cole Royal Commission, the government has drawn up laws giving it the power to fine workers and unions who take action outside narrowly defined legal parameters.

In order to find such action illegal, government officials are given powers to interrogate workers and jail them if they refuse to answer questions that incriminate either themselves or fellow workers.

The Australian Building and Construction Commission will have unprecedented powers for a government authority and has already shown its preparedness to secretly tape workers and send letters to their home addresses before industrial action. The building blocks are in place to develop a system of personal files on workers' industrial history, that would warm the cockles of J Edgar Hoover's heart.

And Howard Government ministers have already suggested this model will be applied across the entire Australian workforce once it is bedded down.

The alarming thing is not just that the government is pushing these laws through the Senate, but that there has been so little debate and outrage about them. Maybe this is what happens when we are lulled into thinking the government is dealing with a crisis of national security.

Add in a federal government prepared to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising to spin their truth; an open-ended war and the continual marginalisation of other cultures - ramped up so deftly by Brendan Nelson this week - and we start to have the sort of society George Orwell warned us about.

Notions such as freedom of the press, the right to silence and the right to strike may sound twee concepts hardly worth the fight. Until they are taken away.

Peter Lewis

Editor


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