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Issue No. 286 21 October 2005  

Lord of the Lobster Legs
It was probably only shame that prompted the Prime Minister to drag himself away from a $250 per head fundraiser to meet with a group of emergency workers in Wollongong this week. But, this in itself may be a development.


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.


 Family Grieves an Enterprise Worker

 All Quiet in Dandenong

 Hotline Gets Wires Crossed

 High Flyer Crashes Families

 Bolt Strikes Lecturer

 Good Heavens - Della Plays Santa

 Maori Take Challenge to Canberra

 Drips Fail Water Test

 Hardie Shuts the Door

 Hadgkiss Threatens Protesters

 Army Fires Salvo

 The Munro Doctrine

 IR Sparks Emergency Call

 Tassie Jobs Hit By Truck

 Canberra Coy on Promised Statements

 Inquiry to Speak No Evil

 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.

 Sacking For Dummies
 DIY Tool
 Thus Spake Sydney Uni
 Morgan’s Way
 Vote 1 Dictator
 Howard’s Choice
 Buying peace Of Mind
 Coolies Bullish
 Unfair ads
 Rev Kev Speaks
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Lord of the Lobster Legs

It was probably only shame that prompted the Prime Minister to drag himself away from a $250 per head fundraiser to meet with a group of emergency workers in Wollongong this week. But, this in itself may be a development.

After all, this has to be one of the most shameless power plays in recent political history: a legislative assault on workers rights, backed by $100 million in wall to wall political advertising funded by the very taxpayers who are about to be duded.

But when hundreds of Wollongong workers rallied outside the business lunch, the PM agreed to a rare meeting and invited a union delegation including a local police officer, a midwife and a fire fighter to probe him on the impact of his changes.

Later they said, what struck them most was the sense of inevitably about what is about to happen - that the PM will talk but there is no room for debate.

Yes, frontline police could end up on contracts; yes, workers could be worse off if a recession hits; yes, there are bad bosses who will abuse the unfair dismissal laws and no - he would not guarantee no worse would be worse off - he would not even guarantee that majority of workers would not be worse off.

Why should he? As those who got a chance to eye ball Howard said afterwards: this guy knows he has the numbers and he's going to do what he wants to do, come hell or high water.

The so-called softening of his laws has already been exposed as mere spin to give the pegs for the dishonest advertising campaign; now he's moving in for the kill.

This is a critical moment for the union campaign. Like never before we need to change the way we approach campaigns and disputes.

Unions are a product of a system of conciliation and arbitration based on the principle that the parties go in hard to prosecute their case; then reach a deal to accommodate the relative merits of their arguments.

These rules no longer exist - indeed, the laws are designed to end this sort of thinking forever. In its place we have a series of laws to prevent and punish industrial action by employees, while actively encouraging militant employers.

It means unions need to rethink everything about the way they campaign; their tactics, their timelines, their definitions of success.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the unions can only win this debate in the community, convincing the electorate that decides who will govern that this issue; not interest rates or terrorism or some moral panic plucked out of left field is THE issue to determine their vote at the next election.

Of course, there's another challenge too; create the spec that a political party, preferably Labor, will read the public mood and have the courage to put forward policies on workers rights that will undo this looming damage.

There is no doubt the first phase of the union campaign - the raising of awareness and concerns about the changes has been successful; but there is now even more important work to do - actually hold the government accountable for the impact of their changes on the Australian way of life.

That process started this week in Wollongong; its up to all of us to keep the ball rolling.

Peter Lewis



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