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Issue No. 318 03 August 2006  
E D I T O R I A L

Don't Bank on Costello's Oil Shocker
Did the economy slip on a banana skin or an oil slick?

F E A T U R E S

Interview: A Life And Death Matter
Macquarie Street and Canberra are squaring off over safety in the workplace, NSW Minister for Industrial relations, John Della Bosca, explains what's at stake.

Unions: Fighting Back
When John Howard's building industry enforcer started threatening people's homes, one couple hit the road. Jim Marr met them in Sydney.

Industrial: What Cowra Means
The ruling on the Cowra abattoir case highlights the implications of the new IR rules, according to John Howe and Jill Murray

Environment: Scrambling for Energy Security
Howard Government hypocrisy is showcased in its climate change manoeuvring, Stuart Rosewarne writes:

Politics: Page Turner
A new book leaves no doubt about whether the faction came before the ego, Nathan Brown writes.

Economics: The State of Labour
The capacity of the state to shape the political economy and thus improve the social lives of the people must be reasserted, argues Geoff Dow.

International: Workers Blood For Oil
A new book by Abdullah Muhsin and Alan Johnson lifts the lid on the bloody reality of US backed democracy for Iraq's trade unions

History: Liberty in Spain
Worker Self-Management is good management. The proof in Spain was in Catalania, Andalusia and continues in the Basque Country, as Neale Towart explains.

Review: Go Roys, Make A Noise
Phil Doyle thought he'd find nostalgia, but instead Vulgar Press' new book, Maroon & Blue is a penetrating insight into the suburban mind under stress.

N E W S

 Ah, Sol

 Telstra Contractors in Bush Raid

 Spooks Go “Nuclear”

 Drivers Under Attack

 Stacks on the Hill

 Advertising Works

 29 Face Secret Interrogations

 Bureaucrats Sit on Wages

 Blue Mountains Fit Through Loophole

 G Spot for Rally

 Chalkies Give WorkChoices An F

 Howard Base Shaky

 Deaf Workers Lose Voice

 Canberra Scratches WorkChoices Handicap

 MUA Hungry for Change

 Vanny Changes Story

 Activists What's On

C O L U M N S

The Locker Room
Ruled Out
Phil Doyle plays by the rules

Fiction
Tommy's Apprentice
Chapter One - Tommy and "The Boy"

Politics
Westie Wing
Ian West wonders what might happen if the NSW Coalition actually did win power next March at the State elections.

L E T T E R S
 Bussies Are Tops
 What Was He On About?
 Belly On Balance
 Help Wanted
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Editorial

Don't Bank on Costello's Oil Shocker


Did the economy slip on a banana skin or an oil slick?

That's the question John Howard and his sometime ally, Peter Costello, are asking the electorate after their core 2004 promise, to keep interest rates low, took a third strike this week.

The essence of their argument, of course, is the get out line of deceivers down the generations - well yes, but it wasn't our fault.

Essentially, the Prime Minister and his Treasurer argue, the latest interest rates jump was sparked by a Queensland hurricane and international demand for oil - occurrences outside the control of mere mortals, or even them.

Anyone that swallows the banana line is a monkey. Shoppers could tell you it's not just tropical fruit stretching the family budget - meat, fish, vegetables and milk have been heading north at a rate of knots for years.

And, you've got to wonder if our pollies have tried to rent accommodation lately.

Besides all that, the federal government looks after its northern National constituency by refusing to allow bananas to be imported, even at times of hurricane-induced shortages.

Then there's the matter of oil. Yes it has gone up, and significantly, but for Costello to compare this situation to 1973, when OPEC increased prices by 400 percent, is a nonsense.

International prices for benchmark "light sweet crude" have increased by 40-45 percent in the five years since 2001.

And who is to blame for that? George Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard and their Coalition of the Killing can take a fair share.

Their illegal invasion of Iraq slashed oil production by between one and two million barrels a day.

Clearly, this government has a problem. It's called credibility.

They've been caught out in the porky department before. The difference is that the latest round - WorkChoices, inflation etc - go directly to the hip pocket of middle Australia.

That doesn't, however, mean it will lose the next federal election.

Whatever you might say about this Coalition Government, it is perceived as consistent. Consistently awful, maybe, but consistent, nevertheless.

The Right tells us we live in a post-ideological world but that's the biggest con job of the lot. Howard's perception of consistency comes from a thorough-going ideology that casts wealth, privilege and power as model Australian virtues.

Think of most any issue - the workplace, human rights, immigration, media policy, or war in the Middle East and you know exactly where he will stand before he opens his mouth.

That's where there is an urgent need for Kim Beazley and his Labor sidekicks to fill in a few blank spaces.

Ripping up WorkChoices is a good start but it is not nearly enough. Labor, and any other alternative government, needs a coherent set of alternatives that stem from a recognisable set of values.

Frankly, when your next public utterance seems to throw open the doors to greater uranium expoitation and the nuclear proliferation that goes with it, a lot of people will question your coherence.

The ALP cannot afford to enter next year's election with a bunch one-off policies, tailored to meet specific electoral demands.

It needs to nut out a cogent alternative strategy based on social democratic values and then sell it.

If it can't do that, it won't win an election. The Liberals might still lose but the distinction is important because we would have gone from a democracy to occasional ballots for a chief executive.

- Jim Marr


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