||Issue No. 299||17 March 2006|
For Queen and Country
Interview: Organising In Cyberspace
Industrial: How Low Is Low
Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
Unions: Bad Medicine
History: Right Turn, Clyde
Economics: Long Division
International: Union Proud
Politics: Howard’s Sick Joke
Indigenous: The year of living dangerously
Review: Lights, Camera, Strike!
Culture: News Front
The Locker Room
For Queen and Country
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.
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