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Issue No. 294 10 February 2006  

Total Impact
The long hot summer, the calm before the storm, is finally passed; and as March 1 approaches the new world of work is looming and the extent of the attack on organised labour is becoming clear.


Interview: Court's in Session
As the silks line up to challenge WorkChoices, Jeff Shaw is fighting for his own legacy - the NSW IR system.

Industrial: Whose Choices?
The Howard Government's WorkChoices legislation has been dissected by lawyers and the commentariat; now it's the turn of political economists.

Politics: Peter's Principles
Forget John Howard. The force behind WorkChoices is Peter Costello. The Prime Minister-in-waiting has devoted a lifetime to undermining the security and living standards of Australian families, Jim Marr reports.

Environment: TINA or Greener?
What does the greenhouse effect and legislation to control workers have in common, asks Neale Towart

History: Its Not Just Handshakes and Aprons
Power. They have it, we want it. Friendly societies tried to keep it for working people, writes Neale Towart

International: US Locks out Jose' Bove
The US Government has refused to allow France's most famous farmer Jose Bove into the country to address a conference

Education: No AWA - No Job
The Howard Government has given the Australian community its first view of the future by forcing new staff at Ballarat University to sign an Australian Workplace Agreement if they want a job, writes Jenny Macklin.

Culture: Jesus was a Long-Grass Man
The writings of a Middle Eastern theologian may provide guidance to those grappling with indigenous issues, writes Graham Ring

Review: Charlie the Serf
Nathan Brown takes the sledgehammer (and sickle) to Mr Wonka's Chocolate Factory.


 Capital Punishment on the Menu

 Della Builds Fortress NSW

 Unfair Sackings Face Challenge

 Slave Contractors Sprung

 Holden's Bad Deal for Adelaide

 ACCI Never Sleeps

 STOP PRESS: Guest Worker Plan Goes to Water

 Taking a Punt on Melbourne Cup

 Backlash on Job Cuts

 Howard Coy on Ad Orgy

 Newcastle Rails Against Contracts

 Union Man Eyes Cuts

 Free Enterprise Kills Hundreds

 Aussie Icon Moves to China

 Activist's What's On!


The Soapbox
Hitler in Bowral
Political censorship has made its wasy to the sleepy Southern Highlands, wrties Rowan Cahill.

The Locker Room
No Laughing Matter
Phil Doyle tries to take Australian sportspeople seriously, and fails.

The Westie Wing
Ian West is mistakenly sent an advance copy of John Winston Howard’s Little Blue Book of Australian History…

 The Best for the Best
 Belated Merry Whatmas?
 The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
 I Think Therefore I Scam
 A Taxing Answer
 Leslie John Turner
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Total Impact

The long hot summer, the calm before the storm, is finally passed; and as March 1 approaches the new world of work is looming and the extent of the attack on organised labour is becoming clear.

As Workers Online and, it seemed, the entire union movement retreated to recharge its batteries after last year's exertions, a few things became clear.

First the opinion polls, which had moved so decisively around WorkChoices, reverted back to a clear lead for the government - proof positive that is the momentum of the union campaign and not the advocacy of the ALP that was shifting voters. The moment the foot is off the accelerator the whole show stalls.

Second, the Howard Government's absolute power is beginning to take its toll; internal defections within the Coalition; threats and reprisals and a public inquiry suggesting incompetence, if not corruption, at the highest level of government in the lead up to the Iraqi invasion, speaks to an administration suffering from the absence of the usual checks and balances.

Third, the increasing disconnect between the formal economic indicators and most people's personal experience; our summer poll on public services in NSW showed the tide shifting against privatisation and job cuts; but both sides of politics still dance to the rationalist's tune.

Fourth, the High Court challenge and a series of NSW Industrial Relations Commission decisions hinting that, at least, there may be some legal redress to the mad grab for power that WorkChoices represents; the ultimate test being whether the conservative High Court bench is true to its jurisprudence or bows to its political masters.

And finally the business world, dusting off the gloves and ready to hit the union movement for all its worth, with ACCI's pre-emptive strike on wage rates proof positive that some people have been working over the summer months.

For the union movement in 2006 the only certainty is that there is no road map to what is about to come; no precedents, no business as usual; just the need for good people to make history.

The challenges, it seems to me, are threefold:

- first, to protect union members from attacks on their rights in workplaces large and small by drawing on the finest traditions of solidarity and adapting them to the 21st century, where mass media; online campaigning; culture jamming are as potent tools as the feet on the street,

- second, to bring a new generation of workers into the union movement; those same young people who will be the first to bear the brunt of a job without rights; seizing an historical opportunity to both halt the decline and the aging of the union base.

- and thirdly, to build the political momentum against a government wielding power on behalf of elite business interests against the interests of working families all the way to the next election, sometime in 2007.

None of these tasks should be under-estimated; but to watch the Howard Government and their cheerleaders in big business triumph is simply untenable.

Workers Online will be there all the way; not just chronicling the battles to comes; but doing our bit to shape the debate and drive the vision of a modern, savvy union movement, that has always been so close to our hearts.

Peter Lewis



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