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Issue No. 355 01 December 2006  

Seven Year Itch
For the past seven years, over 335 issues, Workers Online has been chronicling events in the labour movement and passing our judgments on all things union.


Interview: Flying High
The Australian international Pilots Association has rejoined the ACTU and president Ian Woods is taking it into new airspace.

Unions: TUF on Toll
As transport giant Toll expands across the region, unions are working together to boost their bargaining power, writes Jackie Woods.

Industrial: Forward to the Past
Anti-union building laws draw their inspiration from a century ago, writes Neale Towart

Economics: Debt and the Economy
Household debt is at record levels. Interest rates are rising. Production of real things is not increasing. The military generates most demand. How long can it go on?

Obituary: The Charlatanry of Milton Friedman
Evan Jones busts some myths about the grand-daddy of free market economics

Environment: Low Voltage
Nuclear Power and Prime Ministerial Pronouncements are seriously short of a few volts, writes Neale Towart

Legal: The Fair Deal
Anthony Forsyth proposes a social partnership agenda for Australia

Review: A Little History
The Little History of Australian Unionism is exactly that; fifteen thousand words on the topic, writes Rowan Cahill.


 Global Campaign for Jailed Iranian Union Leader

 Bully Tactics Can’t Dull Protests

 Which Bank Slashes Work Rights?

 Sunday’s The Day For Future Rallies

 Carmel Saves Job, Loses Bonus

 Case Dismissed: No Justice in WorkChoices

 China (S)trains Procurement Policy

 Contracts Out on Sole Traders

 Car Companies Do The Dirty

 Historic Case Restores Security

 Final Hurdle for Medibank Sell-Off


The Soapbox
Address to the Nation
ACTU secretary Greg Combet's speech to the National Day of Action

The Westie Wing
Ian West recalls a time when the earth was flat, unions ran the country and Honest John Howard was the workers’ best friend.

Sick System
Punitive IR laws and a commercially-driven workers compensation scheme are conspiring to bully injured workers, writes Dr Con Costa.

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Seven Year Itch

For the past seven years, over 335 issues, Workers Online has been chronicling events in the labour movement and passing our judgments on all things union.

With the support of the NSW Labor Council, now Unions NSW, the publication has occupied a privileged position of working from within the movement, yet having an independent voice to comment as an outsider.

But after much reflection, in consultation with the officers of Unions NSW, I have decided that this will be the final year for Workers Online and that this is its penultimate edition.

The reasons for this are both complex and obvious.

When we began publication back in 1999, we created a clearly defined role. In the absence of a coherent media policy for the movement, Workers Online would package the news that should be published, the way we wished it would be - tabloid and in your face.

It is perhaps a reflection of the success of this idea that in 2006 the media does cover union affairs again, tabloid press and TV in particular. The niche we set out to occcupy has been back-filled.

Back in 1999, it is fair to say that Workers Online was at the cutting edge of political activism on the web. Even our dearest friends would concede our look, and more importantly, our model is getting a little retro. Back then, we thought we were constructing virtual universe - today, post buts - we know this was only ever a communications tool.

Over this time, my interests have broadened too. More and more unions have come on board to take media advice from me - and my colleagues at EMC - allowing me to develop more sophisticated public strategies than merely running a lairy headline on a website.

What this means is that where once Workers Online broke the news, these days our team are forced - often reluctantly - to hold back on stories so we can implement releases in the mainstream press. So instead of leading the debate, we have forced ourselves into a position of following.

With this increasing responsibility to the movement has also come a need to pull back on the provocative agitprop - when your one-time targets become your clients it is, sadly, a little harder to tip the gratuitous bucket.

But there has been a more profound concern about our model emerging in my mind over recent months: that while it is easy to chart the weekly news in bite-sized chunks, the real intellectual heavy lifting of building a model of politics for the 21st century has been sliding.

Despite the quality of some of our features, the weekly news cycle does not give the chance to reflect, develop policy ideas and build campaigns. And a broadcast format, where ideas are merely printed, does not make for dynamic debates

That is where Unions NSW and EMC have determined to take the web activism in the next few years - with the nascent Working NSW think tank we want to build a centre of policy debate and formulation to help imagine an economy that operates in the interests of working people and their families.

Our team of journalists will help drive this project, developing what I believe will be a ground-breaking partnership between academics and writers to not just develop, but drive the public debate.

That is not to say there is no need for a service that chronicles the ebb and flow in IR; to this end we will continue to produce a regular email bulletin that will link up the leading news stories and debates. Current subscribers will get the opportunity to convert to this service when we relaunch in early 2007.

But as for the tabloid yarns and my pontificating editorial, this is it; one more edition to sum up the seven years of Workers Online will be published before Christmas, but then we will be history.

It is not an easy decision, but I have always argued that institutions need renewal and I must apply that logic to my own work. And after 335 missives on what I think about the world, I feel like it is to time step back for a while for some quieter reflection.

Peter Lewis



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