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  Issue No 85 Official Organ of LaborNet 23 February 2001  




.  LaborNET

.  Ask Neale

.  Tool of the Week

Tool Shed

Attack of the Killer NIMBY

Actor Shane Withington has barged into the Toolshed this week with the least credible performance of his career - that of an impassioned defender of working class rights.

The man who won a nation's heart with his performance in 'A Country Practice' and then turned their stomach in 'Dogshead Bay' has crafted himself as the titular head of the elitist 'Friends of Currawong'.

The Friends are a bunch of local Pittwater residents and inner-city trendies who claim ownership of the Labor Council's resort by virtue of the fact that they moor their yachts there.

For those who haven't been following the story, Labor Council has been running the holiday camp since the 1940s . Union members can take holidays there, heavily subsidized by affiliates to the tune of about $50,000 per year.

At a time when the movement is losing money and needs to focus on organizing, Labor Council has taken the view that this money would be better spent on core union activities. Holidays are fine, we say, but when a movement is under threat they are not the main game.

Accordingly, when a proposal to develop the site, while maintaining trade union access and improving training facilities, and netting a return of $200,000 per year for the movement - while retaining ownership - the Labor Council was more than interested.

Through a long process of consultation, the Council nutted out a 35-year lease to the Currawong Preservation Society, which includes representatives of Labor Council as well as Tim Brennan, a businessman linked to Corporate Renaissance, the company that promotes Transcendental Meditation. They wanted to use the site to hold training and holidays.

When the Friends heard they would have to share their playground, they went straight to the NIMBY textbook and mounted a hysterical public campaign. Using their impeccable media contacts they enlisted the support of such working class advocates as Piers Ackerman, Richard Carelton and Mike Munro to cast the Labor Council and the evil Costa as the enemies to the workers.

With Shane as public spokesman, they cashed in on his borderline celebrity to bag the deal across the metrolopis. Along the way they ran a particularly grubby and bordering on a racist campaign against the Maharishi and the religious beliefs of the Transendental Movement.

What they have never been able to justify is why the borad union movement should subsidese holidays for the elect few. Postcode analysis of those who use Currawong show that less than three per cent come from the Western Suburbs. The vast majority are North Shore, Inner West and Eastern Sububrbs type who enjoy recreational slumming

On environmental grounds, the proposal will meet all standards and is currently being worked through with Pittwater Council with a view to putting forward a development application. Despite the bek

Despite all this, the Friends have kept at their campaign with a sometimes manic intensity. Throughout the whole saga, Shane has been at the forefront, playing the role of environmental activist as a sort of cross between Robert Redford (circa the Candidate) meets Tom Hanks in Born on the Fourth of July mode.

Few will forget his memorable address to the Labor Council when he outlined 'his plan' for Currawong - basically getting unions to pump a lot more money into make the holiday site more agreeable for the select few who go there. And when they want media attention over the holidays, they go for a flotilla of yachts - good working class direct action, eh comrades?

The protestors were at it again at last week's Annual General Meeting, attempting to interrupt the Premiers' speech to protest a rule change that has absolutely no bearing on the Currawong proposal.At every turn it is Shane at the helm, hamming it up with not a modicum of ironic self-distance. Not only is he cheesy, he self-interested, he is deluded, he is wrong - he is a Tool.

For all the latest Friends of Currawong propaganda, visit their website at

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*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 85 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Tony Abbott ´┐Ż Workers' Friend?
The new Workplace Relations minister relives his own union background and explains why he´┐Żs really just another worker at heart. Honestly.
*  Politics: The Politics of Petrol
Australia might be burning, but is it a fire that can be brought under control?
*  Organising: The Battle of Campsie
SDA delegate Maria Kavaratzis recounts how the Campsie Big W has been transformed into a union shop.
*  History: Scabbing Through the Ages
Neale Towart looks back at how popular culture has treated those workers who have not considered themselves part of the collective.
*  International: Diary of a Showdown
The Korean Metal Workers Federation recounts a week which culminated in violent attacks on workers outside the Daewoo factory.
*  Economics: Debt Dumping Campaign Enters New Phase
The millennial deadline might have passed, but Jubilee 2000 is not giving up the fight for debt cancellation for the world´┐Żs fifty-two poorest countries.
*  Health: The Real Drug Wars
As Africa attempts to deal with the HIV crisis, access to the medicines that can relieve victims´┐Ż suffering is emerging as a major humanitarian issue.
*  Satire: Liberals Claim Triumph in Queensland
John Howard has claimed the Liberal Party´┐Żs decimation in Western Australia and Queensland as a triumphant vindication of his party´┐Żs embracing of the national competition policy.
*  Review: Beyond a White Australia
As we ponder the One Nation renaissance, a new book challenges the current debates around xenophobia and the perceived threat of danger from Asia.

»  Labor To Move on Outsourcing Scams
»  Opera Workers Join Freeloader Chorus
»  Independent Eyes for Asbestos Deal
»  Employment Records Must Be Protected
»  Workers to Float Down Oxford Street
»  Competitive Tendering Hits Welfare Sector
»  Violence Hits Indonesian Dispute
»  Locked Out, ´┐ŻCause The Boss Won´┐Żt Talk
»  New Laws To Protect Carers
»  Acoustic Shock Cases Tip of the Iceberg
»  Teachers Fed Gives Free Membership to Students
»  Miners Union Calls for ´┐ŻCommunity Dividend´┐Ż
»  Hanson's Nursing Plan Bad for Health
»  Refugee Plight Focus of NESB Network
»  Unions Pause On New Safety Laws
»  Heavy Handed Tactics Leave Speedo Workers Exposed
»  Activists Notebook
»  Vale: Charlie Fitzgibbon (1922-2001)

»  The Soapbox
»  The Locker Room
»  Trades Hall
»  Tool Shed

Letters to the editor
»  No Shrinking Violet
»  Service Fees a Cop Out
»  Not Quite Right on Discrimination
»  Explaining it to Pauline
»  The Canada Bay Debacle

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