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Issue No. 288 04 November 2005  

Terror Laws
It was poetic really, the WorkChoices legislation, all 1,000 plus pages of it, introduced into Federal Parliament this week under the cloak of terror.


Interview: Public Defender
The CPSU's Stephen Jones has confronted the Howard Government's IR agenda at close quarters.

Legal: Craig's Story
An inquest in western NSW is a cautionary tale of the use of AWAs, writes Ian Latham

Unions: Wrong Way, Go Back
The WorkChoice legislation sends Australia down the wrong economic road by smashing the instittutions that have made it strong, argues Greg Combet.

Industrial: WhatChoice?
The Howard Government has shown itself to be the master of illusion, writes Dr Anthony Forsyth

Politics: Queue Jumping
The changes to industrial laws, betray a new vision of Australian society, writes James Gallaway.

History: Iron Heel
Conservative governments using laws to take away basic civil rights. It's nothing new, writes Rowan Cahill

Economics: Waging War
When was the last time you heard an Australian politician talk about incomes policy, asks Matt Thistlethwaite

International: Under Pressure
The push for UN intervention in Burma is intensifying, following a report by Vaclav Havel and Bishop Desmond Tutu into slave labour.

Poetry: Billy Negotiates An AWA
More and more people are meeting Billy, the hero of page 15 of the WorkChoices booklet, including our resident bard, David Peetz

Review: A Pertinent Proposition
Nick Cave's "Australian western" touches on some themes still relevant today, Julianne Taverner writes.


 D-Day For Political Rights

 Bosses In Sack Race

 “Choice” By Decree

 Howard Barges Into Workplace

 Della Grounds Boeing

 Wal-Mart Sees the Light

 Libs Chicken Out

 Shame Ships Filch Fish

 Multis Line Up to Cheer

 Feds in Dock

 Santoro Waves Red Rag

 Activist's What's On!


The Soapbox
Men and Women of Australia
What makes a perfect speech? Michael Fullilove has scoured Australian history to find out.

The Locker Room
The Hungry Years
Phil Doyle gets the feeling we’ve been here before

From Little Things
Paul Kelly's song about the battle for land rights misses one important character, writes Graham Ring

The Westie Wing
Ian West takes a look at Public Private Partnerships, and wonders if we should all just drink rum…

 We're Next
 Australia, 2005
 Truth in Advertising
 Investment Advice
 What a Woman!
 It's Not Pretty
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Terror Laws

It was poetic really, the WorkChoices legislation, all 1,000 plus pages of it, introduced into Federal Parliament this week under the cloak of terror.

No sooner had the legislation lobbed than the PM was diverting the media with talk of an imminent terror attack; and all eyes went straight to the birdie.

We are not denying the PM has some intelligence that needs to be addressed, although why he chose this moment to go public when he admits he had the briefing for a week, it does make you wonder.

And it would have been interesting if a single journalist had asked a question like: how many terror threats of this nature have crossed your desk in the past four years? And if he had said this is the first, then maybe we would be a bit less cynical.

At least we have the political dynamic of the next 18 months in stark relief. The Howard Government will use everything in its power to shift the focus to national security to divert attention from these nasty, extremist, ideologically driven laws.

How else can we describe a set of laws drafting by corporate laws that, in the name of deregulation, set out to criminalise industrial activity, give the government unprecedented power to impose its will on individual workplaces and strip the long-held rights of Australian workers.

There is no pretence of balance in the laws and, with the obscene government advertising campaign proving to be an absolute dud, the government knows that its chance of winning the IR debate is dead.

That's not the game now - there will be no meaningful IR debate -

Barnaby might huff and puff but the PM will place his jewel in the crown some time before Christmas. Then, barring a successful High Court challenge, the laws will take affect early in the New year. Then it will be on for young and old.

The political battle from this point will be to stake out the battleground between the major parties - and that will be about the government using its control of national defence agencies to keep security at the centre of politics.

For a government that has been prepared to lie and cheat to keep office - think Kids overboard, think interest rates - this is a relatively easy task; just keep tweaking the terror level up whenever things get sticky, aligning the election with a major threat - real or constructed.

The much harder task is the one confronting the labour movement - both its industrial and political wings - to hold the government accountable for these destructive laws.

This begins and ends with a simple premise: from today every member of the Howard Government is individually responsible for the worst behaviour of the worst employer.

As the excesses that these laws come to light, our job is to keep the spotlight on the victims and the heat on the villains, while developing a set of workplace rights with the capacity to rebuild from the social wreckage.

But we also need to blunt the Government's terror, supporting measures that are reasonable while having the courage to stand up to the gross abuses that this government will attempt in order to draw out a political advantage.

To thread this needle, we need to do more than duck and weave, we need to draw a consistent narrative between the attack on workers personal economic security and the threats to our external national security.

This narrative has at least two elements: first, that a fragmented society is the breeding ground of extremism and that these workplace laws will make our communities less cohesive. And secondly, a government prepared to fine and lock up workers for expressing their political and industrial views should not be trusted with our broader civil liberties.

What this week has confirmed are two things: there is nothing fair about the WorkChoices laws; and there will be nothing fair about the political fight to follow.

It's time to take the gloves off.

Peter Lewis



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