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Issue No. 299 17 March 2006  

For Queen and Country
There’s nothing like a Commonwealth Games – and one on home turf to boot – to get one thinking about Australia’s relationship with Britain and the monarch who still reigns over us.


Interview: Organising In Cyberspace
Workers Online speaks to the ACTU's Union Organiser of the Year, Greg Harvey from the RTBU, who has been using cutting edge ways to communicate with a blue-collar workforce spread across five states.

Industrial: How Low Is Low
Neale Towart looks at the much hyped link between minimum wages and employment

Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
The Howard Govwernment has begun rolling out workshops to inform employers on how to use WorkChoices. Sean Ambrose sneaked through the doors for Workers Online.

Unions: Bad Medicine
Nathan Brown reports on how Australia Post’s dodgy Faculty Nominated Doctor system is leaving sick workers feeling worse.

History: Right Turn, Clyde
Bob Gould believes news of Clyde Cameron’s demise may be premature

Economics: Long Division
Kenneth Davidson looks at a successful political strategy

International: Union Proud
A University of California librarian calls for union labels to increase worker visibility

Politics: Howard’s Sick Joke
Phil Doyle looks at an attack on one of the great achievements of the union movement

Indigenous: The year of living dangerously
That mob in parliament house seems to be hopelessly out of touch with Indigenous Australia. So much so, that Graham Ring wonders if the House on the Hill is becoming a ‘cultural museum’.

Review: Lights, Camera, Strike!
Mandrake the Electrician has been down to the video store over the summer and rounded up the Top Ten Union Movies of all time.

Culture: News Front
If the owners are selling off papers, perhaps the unions should buy them says Mark Dobbie.


 Fleas Bite Back

 Visa Boss Restrained

 Howard's Holiday Secrets

 Picket Buster Carpeted

 No Ticket No Start For Asbestos

 On The Road Again

 WorkChoices Goes Mental

 United Cuts Hit Turbulence

 Bad News for Bullies

 Vegie Contracts Poisonous

 Mac Attack

 Work Choices Canned

 Work Pressure Kills: Judge

 Activist's What's On!


The Soapbox
Australian Fascism
Rowan Cahill critiques Gerard Henderson’s unique take on history

Westie Wing
Will Westie's Wings be clipped, or will the Hills Angels repent and deliver?

The Locker Room
The Heart Of The Matter
Phil Doyle rolls up the red carpet and celebrates the death of an old foe

 Revelations of St John
 Save Frost
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For Queen and Country

There’s nothing like a Commonwealth Games – and one on home turf to boot – to get one thinking about Australia’s relationship with Britain and the monarch who still reigns over us.

It's now eight years since we voted against becoming a Republic, when our collective desire for national independence could not outweigh our dislike of politicians, fuelled by a cynical monarchist campaign.

Since that vote our national self-image has taken a buffeting - the Bali bombings, war on terror, Tampa panic and lager louts on Cronulla beach wrapped in Aussie flags.

And these are just the headlines; behind these symbols there has been a less public shift in what it means to be Australian.

Since John Howard came to power in 1996 we have witnessed a relentless increase in the number of Temporary work Visas issued - from 100,000 in 1996 to more than 700,000 today.

That's more than ten per cent of the Australian workforce working without the security of citizenship or the industrial rights that come with it. If you think a guest worker will take a stand, join a union and risk being sent home, you're kidding yourself.

Now some of these visas go to backpackers on working holidays, others to business people flying in for business, but more and more of them are going to workers from developing countries working in abbatoirs, manufacturing plants, building sites and the hospitality industry.

The road leads one way: to a growing class of second-class, non-citizens being openly induced to undercut the wages and conditions of the local workforce.

All this is occurring under the cover of big business's 'skills crisis' - which could more honestly be called the Howard Government's National Training Failure.

And while our wages and conditions are being undercut at home, more and more work is being off-shored - from IT to call centres, even the maintenance of our national aviation icon.

If ever there was a recipe for national insecurity this is it - just don't expect the Howard Government to debate the issue honestly; weighing the benefits and costs of global integration and being honest about who the winners and losers are.

And not a word about the Republic - after all, when we are selling off our jobs to the lowest bidder who wants to talk about national independence.

This government is far better at harnessing these fears into cultural crusades in the name of ordinary Australians, against indigenes, bludgers, working mums and Muslims.

Like the flag wavers on Cronulla, it's all a lot easier to pick a team to cheer for and an enemy to boo.

Which is maybe why we cheer so manically for gold - even when it's only the vestiges of a long-past Empire that we refuse to leave that we are beating to the finish line.

Peter Lewis



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