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Issue No. 300 24 March 2006  
E D I T O R I A L

Of Milestones and Millstones
Three hundred issues ago, in February 1999, Workers Online published its first edition, with the following promise: “to bring you news and views in the traditions of the workers press of yesteryear, but with our eyes firmly on the future.”

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

 Coonan Practises Her ABC

 Mr Andrews Decrees

 Year Zero Set for Monday

 Secret Police Visit Workers

 PacNat Back On Track

 Print Bosses Finger the Bush

 Whinger Draws Fire

 National IT Win

 RailCorp Shtum On Asbestos Stations

 Deaf Bank Pinged $145,000

 Phantom AWA of the Opera

 Crane Company Hooks Workers

 Umpire: Dump Contractors Now

 Lift Companies Promote Falls

 Activists 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
 Bully for Us
 Onya, Pete!
 Blind Johnny
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Letters to the Editor

Bully for Us


We have become accustomed to being ruled by bullies: in government, at work, and (too often) at home. We don‚t produce the "loud roaring noise of sadness and despair" which could be expected from a population of Pooh bears who got their heads stuck in the honey jar of promised economic prosperity. We can manage a few muffled protests which will soon be totally silenced if the Counter-Terrorism laws come into force. And I mean Force. Some hothead may turn on a taunting bully but he or she will get done over by a system that cares more about suppressing emotion and partying on than it does about alleviating pain and preventing deaths.

Why on earth do we need even more repressive laws? Why do employers need to be encouraged by government to show their worst bullying tactics - and actually forbidden to devise more humane agreements? All this in the name of letting the market do its thing. Why do divorced fathers, no matter how violent and vile they may have been, be given even further licence to beastify their families under the changes to family Law?

What is it with us? We don't seem to care if we get done over as long as some other poor bugger cops it even worse. The great Australian Masochistic Resentment streak that I noticed back in the 70s has become a way of life.

Who holds the power in this country? It is not refugees, asylum seekers, single mothers, people on welfare (apart from corporate), the unemployed and people in public housing. Loud, bullying pollies pass repressive and inhumane laws and their media mouths beat up verbally on the most vulnerable in our society. Our public (and contracted) services do their dirty work.

The old French Foucault had it right: "It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticise the working of institutions which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticize them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight them."

The instruments of government bullying are often public servants. As in "Serve you right, bloody public". I am a coward and I know what it's like to work as an instrument (no matter how ineffectual) of an unreasonable and despotic regime. I was an employee of the Department of Immigration for more than 12 years (viz New Matilda #59 Dim and DIMIA)

DIMIA is only a microcosm of the other organisations - public, private and community - perpetrating bad policies and worse practices. It is not one lone deviant, it is part of an overall grim picture. The immigration portfolio has long been used as a stalking horse for unpalatable legislation and policies. Like experiments on animals who can‚t fight back.

Detention without charge or trial, privative clauses which stop people getting access to the courts, forcing the use of registered migration agents, imposing personal liability for costs on legal representatives, withdrawing government funding from NGOs who advocate, disadvantageous retrospectivity: all these democratic practices were well-honed by Immigration.

But we didn't want to know about all that and we still don't.

Many people in deteriorating situations (eg bully-run workplaces) try not to be noticed and even feel a certain schadenfreude of relief that it wasn't them - this time.

But masochistic resentment is beyond schadenfreude. It actively seeks to put someone else down and possibly stand on them. Masochistic resenters don't think that they may one day be affected by the strictures they gleefully apply to others.

Cowardice will destroy us unless we stand together and help each other. Surely anyone who knows anything about Pol Pot, Saddam, Nazi Germany, Chile under Pinochet, Argentina under the Generals, Ukraine under Stalin etc etc would understand something of what Pastor Martin Niemöller was saying in the 1940s:

They came first for the Communists,

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,

and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me,

and by that time no one was left to speak up.

It would be a great leap forward for Australia if all of us appealed to those in power - in government, in bureaucracies, in politics, in business, in families and elsewhere - to feel ashamed of the bullying they've perpetrated or condoned. If only we could encourage each other to come out fighting for people who are worse off than ourselves, instead of bullying, victimising and resenting them.

Ariel Marguin, NSW


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