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Issue No. 304 28 April 2006  

Canaries in the Coalmine
It was one of the defining symbols of the industrial era and the tenuous nature of working life – the bird in the cage whose expiration was a miner’s early warning that things were not OK.


Interview: Head On
John Buchanan has been warning that WorkChoices would be a car crash. Now he surveys the damage.

Unions: Do You Have a Moment?
CFMEU Mining national secretary Tony Maher lets fly at the new industrial laws.

Industrial: Vital Signs
In his new book, Craig Emerson argues that destroying unionism will not be in Australia's long term interests.

Economics: Taxing Times
Frank Stilwell argues that there are progressive alternatives to the slash and burn approach to tax reform.

Environment: It Ain’t Necessarily So
Don't let anyone tell you that jobs and the environment are opposities, argues Neale Towart.

History: Melbourne’s Hours
Neale Towart reluctantly pays homage to Victoria's celebration of the eight hour day.

Immigration: Opening the Floodgates
John Howard is deciding more and more foreign workers should come into this country - without the rights of citizenship, writes John Sutton,

Review: Pollie Fiction
For someone barely 25 years Sarah Doyle has an enviable track record in theatre behind her.

Poetry: The Cabal
Poetry returns to Workers Online with this rollicking ode to employer power.


 Hit Run Mum Bats For Son

 Revealed: Bosses Told To Blame Howard

 Amber Light for Pay Cuts

 Andrews Backs Armed Hold Ups

 New Front on High Court Attack

 Homer Takes Rights to India

 Tunnel Vision a “Disgrace”

 Mining Vigil at Day of Mourning

 Dad's Death Revisited

 Canberra Confidential, Andrews on the Run

 Rock Solid Tony For Sale

 SA Boss Not Trusted With Kids

 Army Declares War On Workers

 Unions Take On Space Invaders

 Activist's What's On!


Democracy in Action
Former NSW Premier Neville Wran's speech to commemorate 150 years of responsible government.

The Westie Wing
There has been activity aplenty in the NSW Parliament this month, reports Ian West.

The Soapbox
From Chaver to Cobber
John Robertson, Unions NSW Secretary, hosting Passover at Sydney Trades Hall discovers the first comrades followed a bloke called Moses.

Postcard from New Orleans
Mark Brenner surveys the long-term impact of Hurricane Katrina on the regions workers.

The Locker Room
My Country Right Or In Lane Five
Phil Doyle observes the golden shower at the recent Commonwealth Games, and asks what it means for the last great unpredictable drama.

Vale Bill Hartley
Unlike some of his comrades, Bill Hartley never departed from his position as a radical nor did he die rich in assets, writes Bob Scates.

 Win in the Post
 Belly Battles
 Answer is Easy
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Tool Shed

Aussie Aussie Aussie

Andrew Robb values value more than he values values


Way back in the mists of time, around the late seventies, there was a character called Tony Packard who encapsulated the values held dear by the Liberal Party.

A loud, self-serving and brash individualist, Packard came to fame on the back of a series of really annoying TV ads for his Dodgy Brothers car yard and an Afro that defied belief.

Unfortunately for Tony, the other thing that defied belief was his explanation as to why he was snooping on his customers, and thus endeth the political career of the Wally of Windsor Road.

Yep, prying into other people's privacy is a value held dear by Liberals apparently, especially if there is a buck to be made. In Tony's case he was bugging customers attending his car emporium to give the old snake oil salesman a bit of inside running on clinching a deal on a fab new Torana.

I guess we can be thankful we didn't use the toilets up the Windsor Road from Baulkham Hills.

The reason why Tony springs to mind is that there have been some utterances from head office regarding the need to smarten up Australian values around the shop.

Frankly, since the AWB affair and with the new WorkChoices laws, the whole shop has been looking rather tawdry and Emperor Howard has tried in vain to distract people by grumbling about school syllabi and standing next to old soldiers.

This didn't work too well, especially when one of the old soldiers went missing, so Andrew Robb, The Minister For Having No Mates, was sent out into the land bearing a new proclamation declaring that all outlanders, especially those of florid dress and of a different skin hue than the one found around the boardroom tables around Bridge Street, should henceforth be steeped in the values of this nation.

Robb's dog whistle was our need to incalculate people with Orstrayun Vayoos maaaate.

It's a great idea, unfortunately the Howard Government, it's ministers, staff and functionaries, business lackeys, cheerleaders and all rabbits friends and relations wouldn't know what an Australian value was if it bit them in the arse.

Seven tenths of them probably think it's 75 cents US.

The bottom line is if they want to espouse Australian values they would do well by starting off by sticking their collective heads into a bucket of water twice and taking it out once.

For collectivism is the nub here. Collectivism is a major Australian value. What unites us but our shared, collective, values. You don't hold a country together by demonising different bits of it for being too black or too poor or, in Andrew Robbs case, too co-operative. Philip Koperburg would be pretty useless fighting a bush fire on his own. Geoff Dixon would be run ragged if he were trying to fly a plane and dish out the hot towels. All useful things in this country are done collectively.

Everyone who's ever felt like having a technicolour yawn every time someone of Andrew Robb's ilk uses the word mateship (while at the same time crapping on anyone in the population who works for a living) will understand the incongruity of having someone like our Tool Of The Week promoting Australian values.

Or perhaps he means the values shared by such luminaries as Alan Bond, Christopher Skase, Jodee Rich, Rodney Adler, Brad Cooper or even that other great patriot, Bob Menzies, who bravely ran away.

Then again it may be the Aussie values of short-term memory loss (and we all know what causes that!), rugged individualism, free enterprise, mom, apple pie, truth, justice and the American way.

Or better still, they could be the values that take us to war over disputes that have got nothing to do with us, or bullying smaller or poorer nations, giving money to people who are shooting at our troops, losing dead bodies or building an economic boom on credit cards.

Then again, they could be the values that see drinking water as a side issue to civilisation, salination as a growth opportunity and petrol as something that will just keep on going forever.

As well as sharing these values Robb will also be looking at foreigners attitudes to women. It must be to ensure they fit in with Australia's blokey corporate culture.

On top of all this our Tool Of The Week is setting out to ensure that anyone hopping off the plane with the deposit on a house in tow has good English skills. This shows remarkable foresight, as these immigrants will be useful in teaching members of the National party how to construct a sentence and that sort of thing. They can also find new ways for our esteemed foreign minister to say "I can't recall".

Our Tool Of The Week, Andrew Robb, as Aussie as Tony Packard.


The most inspiring interpretation of this week's tool get's a souvenir edition of Ship of Tools. Deface the Tool of the Week, click the button above to post your artwork, fill out the form and send your entry in and we'll post the winners next week in the Tool of the Week Gallery.


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