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Issue No. 297 03 March 2006  

Howard's Decayed
Geoff Dixon is shorthand for the Howard decade.


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.


 Mum Rains on Howard's Parade

 Aussie Rorts on Korean Tele

 Hardcorp Romp: All the Goss

 Holiday Win for Thousands

 Della Exposes Rip-Offs

 Robbo Heffered

 Commission Plugs Job Cuts

 Sweatshop Workers Hit the Catwalk

 Libs Beg For Worker's Dosh

 Skills Base Up In The Air

 Bakers Deal Short On Bread

 Captain Cook Runs Away

 Activists 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…

 Belly Tells It Like It Is
 What's Going On?
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Aussie Rorts on Korean Tele

Immigrants being used to solve Western Australia's skills crisis are losing their homes and having families ripped apart, courtesy of the Howard Government's guest labour regime.

Seoul Broadcasting Service (SBS) is expected to show Koreans a documentary in the next seven days, based on shocking information about the treatment of their countrymen in Australia.

Journalists have been in WA interviewing trades people who claim they were brought to Australia under false pretences and ruthlessly exploited by a labour hire outfit, using federal Section 457 visas.

Workers Online has seen statements from workers who say they were conned into selling homes and businesses to come to Australia. One said he signed a contract with a sponsor, in Korea, promising $A24.10 an hour but, ever since arriving, he has received a flat rate of $15 an hour, despite regular overtime and weekend work.

When he complained, he said, he was threatened with deportation.

Another said he was promised $A72,000 a year but after the labour hire company made deductions for a range of items, including "legal services" and "health insurance" he received only $840 for a regular 56-hour week.

When his toddler was hospitalised for four days he was told not to worry, the expenses were covered. Now, he reports, they are being deducted from his wages.

At least two of the Koreans claim they were sacked after comparing wages with Aussie workmates.

Another said he was ordered to sign a new contract after arriving in Australia. It was written in English, only, and he was forbidden any representation or advice.

Several of the Koreans claim that on arrival they were instructed to buy cars, all costing $21,000, on the basis that they couldn't work without transport.

In a separate case, an angry South African welder says he has been split from his wife and children for more than a year, despite taking the job on the basis of visas for the whole family and the promise of permanent residence.

In a desperate effort to reunite his family he has written to the Minister of Immigration.

The South African says that when he asked about his family's visas, his employer said he would only proceed with them if he signed a new contract and bonded himself for at least another two years.

"The details of the letter were that I sign another agreement over and above the first one I signed before I landed in Australia and also that I must agree to work for him for two years and should I leave within the time specified I will have to pay Industry Partners $5000," he said.

"In the meantime my family will not be able to join me in Australia because my application is on hold!!!

"When I tried to speak to him about the clause in this agreement he said 'it is not negotiable'.

AMWU branch secretary, Jock Ferguson, calls the situation a "disgrace" and a "national embarrassment".

His union has taken the workers' cases to the Immigration Department and State Department of Consumer Protection. Workers Online understands that national secretary, Doug Cameron, has put detailed documentation before Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone.

Feguson says the matter is a human rights issue.

"These people must be treated with respect and dignity," he says.

"We are not going to allow unscrupulous employers to use the skills shortage as a cover for old-fashion discrimination and exploitation.

"Unfortunately, Work Choices and federal government attitudes work against us, because their bottom line is to give employers a free hand to do what they want."

The AMWU has been at the forefront of fighting dodgy immigration deals. Two years ago, it blew the whistle on large scale exploitation of skilled South African tradesmen across WA.

Some of those people were earning less than a third of what Australians, working alongside them, were being paid.

At the time, one boilermaker publicly likened his situation to "slavery".


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