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Issue No. 293 20 December 2005  

Waves of Destruction
2005 was the year book-ended by two waves of destruction - the first causing untold suffering across the Indian Ocean; the second reawakening our darker angels on beaches closer to home.


Interview: Back to the Future
James Gallaway collars Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, on threats, challenges and opportunities.

Unions: A Real Page Turner
Jim Marr glances through Workers Online’s 2005 news stories and finds there is more one way to skin a Rat

Industrial: The Pin-Striped Union
Rachael Osman-Chin profiles a white collar union that is having some almighty blues.

International: Around The World In 365 Days
It was a year of online activism, as LabourStart's Eric Lee reports

Legends: Terrific, Tommy
Jim Marr tackles a champion.

Your Rights At Work: Worth Fighting For
The Your Rights At Work campaign has been a big part of this year and, as Phil Doyle reports, it is making a difference.

Politics: The Year That Was
Frank Stillwell looks at year that saw the politics of fear; and finds many reasons to be very afraid.

Economics: Master and Servant Revisited
Evan Jones asks if the Neo Liberals are taking us back to the future

Culture: 2005: The Year of Living Repetitively
Nathan Brown ignores Oasis and decides to look back in anger after all

Bad Boss: The Bottom Ten
Nathan Brown digs through his voluminous dirt files and comes up with the top 10 grubs of the year.

Religion: Hymns from a Different Song Sheet
James Gallaway on the Way, the Truth and life according to Brian.


 Melbourne Burns AWAs

 Corporates Defend Costello

 Speaker Won't Talk

 Bank Pays on Dodgy Contracts

 Plan to Save Jobs

 Harper's Bizarre Excuse for Failure

 It's Not Fair: Business

 Workers Walk As Warnings Wiped

 Teenager Hit With Shrapnel

 Pay Day “Unlawful”

 Tassie Rail Win

 Professionals Fear for Their Kids

 Boss Pings Rorters Charter

 New Ways to Take a Share

 An Hour of Need

 Boeing Steals Christmas

 Trouble at the Mill

 Activists What's On


The Crystal Ball
Workers Online consults a raft of leading psychics to find out what readers can look forward to in 2006.

The Soapbox
The Things People Say
It was a year of quotable quotes, reports Phil Doyle.

The Westie Wing
Ian West checks the rear vision mirror on 2005, and plants his foot down

The Locker Room
The 2005 Workers Online Sports Awards
After years of being overlooked by selectors at club, representative and national levels, Phil Doyle and Jim Marr, agreed to hand out our 2005 sports gongs.

Postcard from East Timor
In East Timor entertainment also spreads an important message into the community

 Pension Pinching
 Free to Rat
 Tax Cuts and Cockroaches
 Proportion, Not Distortion
 Corp That!
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Letters to the Editor

Free to Rat

The Editorial in the latest Workers Online (#292) came up with the suggestion that political life in Australia could be improved by giving pollies the right to vote according to their consciences rather than being bound by caucus solidarity. While it's quite common to see this sort of idea come up in the bosses' press, it's the first time I've seen a labour movement publication in Australia advocate it.

When the ALP was formed, it adopted quite definite rules about its Parliamentary representatives, because workers were sick & tired of being betrayed by jokers who represented themselves as "the workers' friend" at election time, then kicked them in the teeth afterwards. Therefore, the ALP rules provided that:

(a) The Party members would control the Party;

(b) The Party's Parliamentary representatives would be bound to support Party policy; and

(c) The Party's Parliamentary representatives would vote together to maximise their leverage in Parliament (i.e. they would act as a caucus).

There was (& is) only one excuse under the rules for breaking caucus. This is when you vote against the majority caucus position in order to vote in favour of Party policy (i.e. if the majority rats on the Party, the Party organisation will support the minority who don't rat).

This seems to me like a very sensible situation, especially when one looks at the history of when ALP pollies have broken caucus. I remember Billy Hughes, for example. He broke caucus on conscription in 1917, took two dozen other rats with him, and turned himself into a Tory PM. In the 30s, Joe Lyons ratted on the ALP & turned himself into a Tory PM. And in the 50s, the DLP ratted on the ALP and kept Pig Iron Bob in power till well after his use-by date.

Whenever a Labor pollie wants to break caucus, they can only have leverage if they'll be voting with the Tories. Given the nature of the Tories, if the Labor polly is breaking caucus to do the right thing, this will happen only once in a blue moon. Most of the time, it will merely be a gesture of principle, with no practical effect, or they'll be voting with the Tories in order to rat on the people who voted for them.

The reason this idea can even seem half credible is that, due to changes during the Hawke years, ALP members no longer have meaningful control over the Party. Number crunchers & spin doctors have such tight control over the organisation that workers no longer see the point in joining and membership is a fraction of what it used to be. So the idea of the ALP being the voice of the workers just doesn't seem to occur to most people these days.

Some people might say that this is fair enough for the ALP, but we have to encourage dissidents in the Federal Coalition. Frankly, this is clutching at straws. Instead putting our energy into appealing to some eccentric or wavering Tory to show some backbone & vote according to principle, we'd be better off building our own movement and changing the facts on the ground. Recruiting an extra 80,000 union members would do us far more good in fighting Howard's anti-worker legislation than sending 80,000 E-mails to Barnaby Joyce ever will.

Are we up to it? We can search for "friends" in Parliament till the cows come home, but in the end we have nobody but ourselves to rely on.

In Solidarity,

Greg Platt, Vic.


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