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Issue No. 284 07 October 2005  

Age of Consent
After more than five years of debating, cajoling and at times pleading, NSW workers have secured a set of cyber work rights worth celebrating.


Interview: Under Fire
Michael Crosby outlines his agenda to save the movement � and explains why Australians have nothing to fear from the SEIU.

Politics: And the Winners Are ...
Wal King, Allan Moss, Roger Corbett, Chip Goodyear, Michael Chaney and David Murray have lots in common, writes Jim Marr.

Industrial: Un-Australian
Labour lawyer Clive Thompson argues the changes to IR are fundamentally at odds with the national tradition of consesensus.

Economics: The Common Wealth
As the policy wonks debate the future of our cities, Neale Towart mounts a simple argument: It�s the real people in a society, stupid

History: Walking for Justice
The Eight Hour Day, a very Australian celebration, had its origins in New Zealand it seems, writes Neale Towart.

International: Deja Vu
A group of trade unions have walked away from America's peak council, again. Labourstart's Eric Lee was there.

Legal: The Rights Stuff
Terror laws have sparked a fresh debate on a Bill of Rights - and workers have a bigger stake than ever before, writes Rachael Osman-Chin.

Review: That Cinderella Fella
Russell trades the phone for mitts in an inspiring cinematic slug-fest. Nathan Brown is ringside

Poetry: Is Howard Kidding?
Mel Cheal asks who Howard thinks he is kidding to the tune of the �Dad�s Army� theme song.


 Secret Policemen's Balls-Up

 Centrelink Breaches Cyber Law

 Examiner Pulps Cadet

 Food Truck Flattens Woman

 Will They Know It's Christmas?

 Death By Nestle

 Taskforce On Safety Charges

 Archbishop Preaches End Of Civilisation

 Union Drives Tassie Train

 PM Cold on Lunch Date

 Seafarers Scupper Sell Off

 Fraser Terror-fied

 Tribute to HT Lee

 Activist's What's On!


The Soapbox
No Place For A Woman!
Doreen Borrow spoke to the Public Service Association�s women�s conference in September about her experiences of working life that span seven decades.

North By Northwest
Phil Doyle returns from up north, where he survived on nothing but goodwill, good people and a great big orange bus.

The Locker Room
In which Whatsisname slams the recent poor form of Thingummyjig.

The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP, Ian West MLC, gets all casual in his latest missive from the Bear Pit.

 Rat�s Army
 Kev's Confusion
 Make Ads Not Law
 Nice One, Workers!
 Dog Eat Dog
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Age of Consent

After more than five years of debating, cajoling and at times pleading, NSW workers have secured a set of cyber work rights worth celebrating.

From today you have a legal right to access your union's website, receive union emails - including in the middle of industrial action - and even, read Workers Online! And your boss is now required to set out a clear policy on email usage before being able to monitor your web usage - not revolutionary, but a small step forward for privacy.

As interesting as the substance of these advances in workplace cyber rights, is the tortured process of turning an idea into law - something that we have followed first hand through the pages of Workers Online.

The germ of the idea of protecting email privacy was formed in late 1999 in the back offices of Workers Online, after we had begun receiving a series of stories about bosses using the server as a personal domain.

The issue was raised through Unions NSW in 2000 and taken to the then Attorney General, Jeff Shaw, who referred the idea to an ongoing Law Reform Commission inquiry into workplace privacy.

It looked into the issue and recommended laws based around the video surveillance laws that had been enacted a couple of years previously, setting the basic principles for the legislation that became law today.

But there were already warning signs that this would be no quick fix - with the Commission report taking more than a year to be released publicly after reporting to the government.

Importantly, Unions NSW did not simply lobby. The issue became a catalyst for organising workers through the IT Workers Alliance, an experiment in online organising that yielded some positive results.

In 2002 momentum stalled when the NSW government received advice from the Crown Solicitor that it lacked constitutional power to legislate for emails. As the Attorney General Bob Debus noted at the time "the framers of the Constitution did not consider the issue of emails, and, frankly, I envy them".

By 2003 we were getting impatient and used the Big Brother evictions of that year to again highlight the problem of snooping bosses.

After much argy-bargy and a range of legal opinions, centred around whether an email was a broadcast or a narrowcast (that is whether an email is 'telecommunications' as described by the constitution, or something altogether different) the Attorney-General was convinced he had legal legs to stand on.

The legal debate was conducted against this backdrop, with a number of employers, including Channel Seven and Suncorp, using the server as an industrial weapon and cutting off union emails in the middle of a stoush.

By late 2003 the premier was again announcing the policy, but he would never see it become law, with two more long years - punctuated by constant union representations - before the law we celebrate today was finally passed.

Even then, it has been met by the howls of employer groups who have the sense of irony to complain the laws have been bought in hastily and may catch some of their members unawares.

Despite all these hurdles we got there, and the lesson is that with sufficient personal drive and perseverance - notably from former Unions NSW official Michael Gadiel and the hipper elements of the Attorney General's office - a good idea can become law.

Peter Lewis



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