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Issue No. 299 17 March 2006  
E D I T O R I A L

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.

F E A T U R E S

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.

N E W S

 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!

C O L U M N S

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

Parliament
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

L E T T E R S
 Revelations of St John
 Save Frost
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Fleas Bite Back


Bushies who refused to share digs with rats, feral cats and sewage are being hunted by city lawyers bankrolled by the Howard Government.

Corporate law firm, Freehills, has been contracted to track down blue collar workers who objected to “fleapit” conditions and prosecute them in court.

Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, has endorsed the campaign to secure up to $1.5 million in fines against AMWU members who struck to improve Outback living conditions.

A spokesman for the Minister endorsed the prosecutions and promised similar actions "would be pursued across the country".

The cases, alleging breaches of the federal Workplace Relations Act, stem from action by around 70 people, last year, over inhabitable living conditions at Moranbah, central Queensland.

AMWU members stopped work for three days but returned, after securing improvements, to complete maintenance on a dragline for a nearby coal mine.

Maryborough father of two, Charles Palazzi, told Brisbane's Courier Mail of the situation that confronted him and his colleagues when they arrived.

"There were feral cats everywhere, some of the boys had fleas in their rooms and all you could smell was sewage," he said.

"The standards we were living in out there - prisoners and illegal immigrants, they don't get those standards. If you can't stand up and say 'this is no good' whithout being fined, what is going on?"

Mr Palazzi said he had a wife, two young children and a mortgage, and the fine being sought by the federal government would cripple his family.

AMWU state secretary, Andrew Dettmer, says the prosecutions are political.

They are not being pursued by the Gladstone-based contractor that employed the maintenance crew, Eagles Engineering.

"This is John Howard's war on workers gone mad," Dettmer said. "Now he is telling Australians that if they refuse to live in vermin-infested accommodation, they will be pursued and taken to court.

"The place was fleapit."

Dettmer said it would be a classic David-Goliath confrontation because most members couldn't afford a lawyer, much less Melbourne's dearest.

In the federal court, last week, government lawyers were given more time to track down people who had tried to improve their living conditions.

It followed the issue of 30-page subpoenas on about a dozen Moranbah survivors, an AMWU organiser and the union.

It is understood the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations is seeking fines of up to $18,000 against individuals and $100,000 against their union, if prosecutions are successful.


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