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Issue No. 333 17 November 2006  

Altered States
OK, so it wasn't unpredictable to see the High Court bow down at the altar of expanded federal powers this week, but in ruling this way our most senior judges have betrayed something more profound.


Interview: Common Ground
Nature Conservation Council director Cate Faehrmann on the fight against global warming and how unions and greens can learn from each other.

Industrial: A Low Act
The Low Paid. The Fair Pay Commission knows who pays them. We can do something about it as they will not.

Unions: The Number of the Least
Forget 666 - 457 is looming as the scariest number for Aussie workers and their families, Jim Marr writes.

Politics: The Smoking Gun
Hayek's henchman, Raplph Harris, goes to free market heaven, writes Evan Jones

Economics: Microcredit, Compulsory Superannuation and Inequality
They are supposed to ensure the wealth of well-being of individuals. Whats wrong with that? asks Neale Towart

Environment: Low Voltage
Nuclear Power and Prime Ministerial pronouncements are seriously short of a few volts, wrties Neal Towart

History: The Art of Social Justice
Tom Martin was a terrific cartoonist and part of a great tradition in labour movement history and culture, swrties Neale Towart.

Review: Work’s Unhealthy Appetite
It pays the bills – usually – but going to work should come with a warning, wrties Jackie Woods.

Culture: A Forgotten Poet
There is little information on the public record about the radical working class poet Ernest Antony, writes Rowan Cahill.


 Westpac Banks on Aussies, No Joshing

 Coal Miners Go Green

 TAFE Chiefs Want WorkChoices Cut

 “Elephant” Knocks Over Unicentre

 Bosses Strike Fair Deals

 NSW Swings to Rights

 Sparks Fly Over Electrical Interference

 States Quarantine Remaining Rights

 Carpeted Victorians Fight AWAs

 Golden Geese Rule - Have a Gander

 Super Result for Industry Funds

 Smithfield Packers Shelved


The Soapbox
Robbo Goes Green
John Robertson's speech to the Walk Against Warming

The Westie Wing
Ian West takes a look at a former public institution and its contribution to NSW.

 Billionaires Club
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Altered States

OK, so it wasn't unpredictable to see the High Court bow down at the altar of expanded federal powers this week, but in ruling this way our most senior judges have betrayed something more profound.

The majority's expansive use of the corporations power to over-ride defined limits on federal encroachment on the states speaks to the pervasive nature of the corporation in modern life.

That the regulation of workers and employers - and the operations of their industrial representatives - can be construed as part of the regulation of corporations, rather than the carefully construed limits to industrial relations elsewhere in the constitution, is the beginning of the end of states rights.

Because modern life. with its privatisations, corporatisations and public private partnerships has been so captured by the corporate model that almost all aspects of public policy - from retirement savings to child care, health and education - fall within their purview.

Ironically it was left to the court's most conservative and most radical judges to question this thinking - wondering whether there would be any rights for states at all - and warning that such an expansion of powers had been repeatedly rejected by the public.

What is clear, is that the notion of a Federation of States is history - the state systems of industrial relations that underpin competition between the states are terminal and the nation's economy will be less dynamic as a consequence.

What it means to the current debate around IR is less cleat - the High Court has departed the field when it comes to workers rights and without these limits, the federal government can do anything it wishes free of judicial review.

This will force the labour movement further down the path of direct political and community action - ironically, the areas where they have performed so spectacularly in recent times.

Politically, the mass mobilisaitons will continue - with the next major event just weeks away when workers will fill the MCG, and Jimmy Barnes will belt out his working class anthem in a program to be beamed to venues around the nation.

Meanwhile, Unions NSW has launched a ground-breaking initiative that will take the campaign into hitherto untapped areas of small business operators who want to give their employees decent secure jobs.

The fair Employers Scheme will see Rights at Work campaign committees around the state support businesses that to turn their backs on WorkChoices and AWAs.

There is a natural alliance between decent small business operators and workers - both v victims of the ruthless power plays of the big corporates who view competition and respect as commercial impediments.

By supporting each other - by choosing to do business with the businesses that treat workers with respect - the scheme could provide a counter-balance to the seemingly compelling logic of dragging down wages and conditions to match competitors.

In this way, the corporate interests protected by our highest court could just come undone by ordinary men and women who are building a high road on the high street.

Peter Lewis



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