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Issue No. 282 23 September 2005  

Highway To Help
After five weeks, five and half thousand kilometres, and 40 regional town meetings attended by thousands of regional workers, the bright orange Rights at Work bus has finally come to rest.


Interview: Polar Eclipse
Academic David McKnight challenges some sacred cows in his new book "Beyond Left and Right".

Industrial: Wrong Turn
Radical labour reform is on the horizon but some workers, like Sydney bus driver Yvonne Carson, have seen it all before, writes Jim Marr.

Unions: Star Support
It wasn't just families who backed workers' rights at The Last Weekend, but a bunch of musicians who set the tone, writes Chrissy Layton.

Workplace: Checked Out
Glenda Kwek asks you to consider the plight of the retail worker, and shares some of her experiences

Economics: Sold Out
The Future Fund and industrial relations reform are favourite projects of the PM and the Treasurer. Both are speculations on the future and the only guarantee with them is that you will be worse off, writes Neale Towart.

Politics: Green Banned
The impact of new building industry laws wonít be confined to one industry, writes CFMEU national secretary John Sutton.

History: Potted History
Lithgow is a place with a proud history as a union town. The origins of broader community solidarity lie in the early industrial development of the town and the development of unions. The Lithgow Pottery dispute of 1890 was a key event.

International: Curtain Call
The curtains have opened for East Timorís young theatre performers, thanks to a Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA project.

Review: Little Fish
At last! An Aussie film with substance, suspense and a serious dose of reality, writes Lucy Muirhead

Poetry: Slug A Worker
In a shock development, the Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello, gave a ringing endorsement to the poetry pages of Workers Online, writes resident bard David Peetz.


 AWA Threat - Soy You Later

 'Drama Queen' Court Out ... Again

 Work Law Refugee Turns On Howard

 Police Force Choice

 Low Blow in Ňd Wars

 Free Lunches to Cost Wal-Mart

 Robbo in Swan Song

 Howard Mines Pockets

 Star Chamber Faces Eclipse

 Mums Teach School a Lesson

 Sleepless In Seattle

 Safety Blitz After Accident

 Mushroom Mum Gets Satisfaction

 Builders Skirt Apprentice Claim

 Howard Threatens Wage Umpire

 Gunns Trained on Free Speech

 Activists Whatís On!


The Soapbox
Families First
New Senator Stephen Fielding turned a few heads with his Maiden Speech to Parliament.

The Locker Room
The New World Order
Phil Doyle declares himself unavailable for the fifth and deciding test.

The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP, Ian West, reports from the NSW Government's Safety Summit

On The Bus
A bright orange bus travelling the state has become the focus of the campaign against federal IR changes. Nathan Brown was on board.

 Fair Play
 Latham Lament
 Missed the Mark
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Highway To Help

After five weeks, five and half thousand kilometres, and 40 regional town meetings attended by thousands of regional workers, the bright orange Rights at Work bus has finally come to rest.

Like the state's roads, there were good and bad moments, providing a real insight into the challenges and opportunities in building union connections in rural and regional communities.

Across the State we found working people engaged with the issue, particularly up on the north coast, where people put their hands up to take on the responsibility of leading local campaigns.

Some of these campaigns had come off the back of months of ground work, others had sprung up recently but were buoyed by an enthusiasm and a resolve to stop the federal government's agenda.

What was common was a thirst for information about the changes, deep-seated suspicions of the Howard Government's industrial relations agenda, and a special appreciation that the dilution of work rights will undermine community structures.

Rural communities, more than the big cities, rely on their human capital, and speaker after speaker on the road trip made the point that changes to work were making it harder for them to commit regular time to communities.

The unifying theme was that the loss of rights was yet another step in the State's walk away from regional Australia.

They've lost their banks and they've lost their government services. Now they've lost their phone services and on top of this the industrial safety net is being handed over to big business.

While there currently may be a strong market for workers in the cities, many regional towns don't have the same pressure to push up wages and conditions, meaning the impact of the changes felt there will be harsher.

Communities already struggling to keep their young people are concerned that there will be fewer opportunities for stable and secure jobs; while those that rely on tourism have a secondary threat - plans to whittle away the current standard of four week's annual leave.

All these concerns were laid bare at the public meetings coinciding with the bus trip - effectively throwing down the gauntlet to the Prime Minister to justify his radical changes.

But the bus was designed to leave behind more than awareness and it was the building of more than 40 local campaign committees that was the real achievement of this road trip.

There may be even more, as a pit-stop in Glen Innes revealed a local committee that had sprung to life organically out of the local sky channel meeting.

There is no one size fits all model for these local committees - the underlying energy was organic. In many conservative towns trade unionism was emerging publicly for the first time in many decades.

From those attracted to the meetings who had never been to a union function in their lives, to the two neighbours in Coffs Harbour who had known each other for five years without being aware that the other was a union activist, the meetings were about forging links within communities.

Part of the plan is to build up a network of local union networks, once the focus of many regional towns - but this needs to be done without imposing some rigid outside model.

It is the organic nature of the regional committees that is their strength - equipping local workers with the tools to link up with colleagues; and the skills to build community networks that are in step with their neighbourhood.

People are able to talk about how this issue will affect their community. It is the all-important relevant local detail that gives the national campaign a context. It reminds people, including those outside the movement such as local small businesses, that there will be no escaping these changes for anyone.

It also works as a tool to hold politicians who support these laws accountable. Liberal Garry Nairn in the Federal seat of Eden Monaro may be able to dodge a 14 tonne bus rolling around his electorate, but he can't hide from his constituents in Cooma, Queanbeyan and down the South Coast forever.

The campaign also builds on growing levels of cooperation between affiliates in servicing country members and provides real impetus toward more creative ways of recruiting and marketing unions outside the cities.

No one suggests a single lap of the state is anything but the first step in building these networks. But it is a timely first step in planting the seeds for a resurgence in regional unionism.

Peter Lewis



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