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December 2002   

Interview: Trade Secrets
Federal Labor�s trade spokesman Craig Emerson is on a mission to bring the shady world of trade talks into the open

Industrial: It�s About Overtime, Stupid
An overtime free-for-all is at the heart of Australia�s hours explosion and it's time to look at a cap on hours, reports Noel Hester from the ACTU�s Working Hours Summit.

Unions: Full Steam Ahead
After two weeks of rallies around the state, rural Rail Towns are making a stand for jobs and safety. Jim Marr reports.

Bad Boss: The BBQ Battle Axe
Manly restaurateur, David Diamond, is a shoo-in for this month�s Bad Boss nomination, leaving Workers Online looking for a good employer who can undo some of his damage.

Economics: Different Dimensions of Debt
Professor Frank Stilwell presented the big picture on debt policy at the Evatt Foundation�s Breakfast Seminar

History: Raking the Coals
Labour historians Rae Cooper and Greg Patmore explain why today�s organisers have much to learn from the lessons of the past.

History Special: Wherever the Necessity Exists
Rae Cooper tracks NSW union organising between 1900-1910 to argue that today�s activists should be looking closer to home for inspiration

History Special: Learning from the Past
Ray Markey looks at union membership growth in the 1880s & 1900s to argue that today�s unions must engage to grow.

History Special: A 'Cosy Relationship'
Barbara Webster looks at Rockhampton between 1916 � 1957 to debunk the �dependence� theory of trade union growth.

Politics: Regime Change for Saddam
Labour lawyer Jim Nolan looks at the challenge for the Left in the current geopolitical stand-off in the Middle East.

International: World War
Europe has suddenly come aflame with industrial action, Andrew Casey reports.

Corporate: Industrious Thinking
Neale Towart looks at the influence of German immigration on Australian industry policy in the post-war period.

Review: Jack High
Mick Molloy�s new flick Crackerjack tells the tale of a traditional bowling club struggling to stay afloat in an industry dominated by pokies, pokies and more pokies, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Culture: Duffy�s Song
Former Labor Council official Mark Duffy�s Sydney super band Sundial clocks in a bit of a corker.

Satire: A Nation of Sooks
The Strewth Institute's Tony Moore looks at the spate of defo suits and wonders if Australia has gone soft.

Poetry: Mr Flexibility
One of the key challenges facing unions, as the ACTU celebrates its 75th anniversary, is confronting the problems of increasing working hours and work intensity under the guise of "flexibility". Our resident bard, David Peetz, takes up that theme this week.


The Soapbox
Economic Migrants
A man - a worker - risks death by machine gun to escape what he is told is a 'workers' state'. He flees East Berlin through a tunnel, dug beneath a cemetery.

And the Winner Is �
It�s that time of the year when we honour the best. In the past week, both the IR Writers fraternity and ACTU have got in the act with more to come.

The Locker Room
More Post-Colonial Madness
Phil Doyle joins the fools and Englishmen out in the midday sun, and finds that it all comes at a price.

Call Waiting
The Howard Government backs off its plans to privatise the rest of Telstra under market pressure. But it�s nothing like the pressure that former HIH directors are under.

Month In Review
Way Down
As Elvis might have said, if he had had a longer-term perspective �ooh, what a month it was, it really was such a month ��


Lessons from History
History has a seemingly infinite capacity to create and debunk myths, as the latest offering from the Journal of Labour and Social History shows.


 And On the Seventh Day � Satan Joins Union

 Security Masks Political Bans

 Members Offered Spotters' Fee

 Casuals Written Out of the Script

 New Mining Bully On the Block

 ACTU Examines The Cap Option On Hours

 No Sweetener for Diabetic Workers

 Pressure Goes on Apartheid Employers

 ASIC Turns Blind Eye on Dodgy Boss

 Family Test Case a Priority Campaign

 Echoes of Prestige Hit Home

 Brutal Bashing Sparks Prison Strike

 Minister Challenged by Cleaners

 ABC Journos Off The Air

 Union Says RSCPA "Kills"...

 Guards Demand Campus Security

 Uni Backs Down On Regional Review

 Peace Returns to US Docks

 Activists Notebook

 Oh Bugger Me!
 State Based Organising
 Gino on the Gong
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Month In Review

Way Down

As Elvis might have said, if he had had a longer-term perspective �ooh, what a month it was, it really was such a month ��

First off, the Bush Republicans storm through the US mid-term elections, sweeping opponents before them in a manner not seen since Ike slippered Democrat butt all those decades ago. But that's where any similarities with the father of "Modern Republicanism" who, after-all, maintained the essence of Democrat Fair Deal and New Deal programs, would appear to end.

Consider this - the Bush Republicans now control all three branches of executive power - the presidency, House and the Senate, there are no constitutional barriers left between the Hard Right and complete power.

Watch out women, unions, environmentalists, the poor and the disadvantaged. Watch out Saddam and Fidel, George is coming after youse and he's armed with more than a mandate.

Wade v Roe, the decision under which American women won the right to abortions, is under immediate threat. So too, are a raft of equal opportunity statutes. Bush's Right has the numbers to jam the judiciary with fellow travellers.

Economically, corporations and millionaires will benefit massive tax cuts, while beneficiaries do a starve as social security is further privatised. Environmental protection will be rolled back as regulations to curb corporate greed are quietly rolled away.

Most worryingly, for those outside US borders, the world will be further reshaped in the image of its most powerful nation. Israel right or wrong, missile defence and grossly iniquitious "free trade" will be pushed at the expense of any anything that might deliver a meaningful say to the global village's less affluent citizens.

Bush's record speaks for itself. His oft-stated determination to achieve "regime change" in Baghdad and recent endorsement of state-sponsored assasinations on foreign soil are particularly worrying. They kick desert sand in the face of a world looking for more constructive ways of settling international differences.

The President insists on his country's "right" to peddle and use nuclear, biological and chemcial weapons whilst threatening others with annihalation for possession. He breaks disarmament treaties, rejects UN calls for a World Court, ignores global anti-pollution controls and insists the US military will never be subject to war crimes tribunals.

And his people have backed him in ... or have they?

So meaningless have US elections become that less than 40 percent of eligible voters bothered to cast ballots, leaving high office to characters who could garner less than 20 percent of popular support. Georgia's governorship, for God's sake, fell to a bible basher who campaigned on continued glorification of the Confederate war in support of slavery, not to mention questioning the "patriotism" of a Democrat who lost three limbs in the Vietnam War.

On issues such as these, ultra-conservative, Ralph Reed, became the first Republican Governor of Georgia in more than 120 years.

In short, a conservative leader uses a time of national crisis to lap opponents mired in a policy-free zone. Ring any bells?

.............. .................. ...............

Which brings us to those who met behind coils of wire and police protection at Homebush Bay, Sydney, as legions of the wild and woolly tried to draw attention to what they were really about.

As the free trade-fair trade debate rages, one thing is for sure and certain - as long as the rich and powerful refuse to share the driver's seat, the majority of the earth's population will continue to be stiffed.

Free Trade might well assist Third World development but, at the moment, it is nothing more than a theoretical concept.

Remember this sham kicked off with economic policemen forcing developing countries to privatise utilities for the benefit of outfits like Texas-based Enron, and the pressure is now on their service sectors, on behalf of all the usual suspects with their Los Angeles, Houston, New York, Paris, London, Berlin, Zurich and Amsterdam postcodes.

At Doha, last year, the wealthy west did something of a mea culpa, agreeing free trade should cut both ways. It even went so far as to nod in the direction of appalling public health across much of the globe, while not quite conceding that the right to life of millions of Asians, Africans and South Americans should equal the "property rights" of its patent-holding drug companies.

But, whoa, trade ministers had barely checked out of their Doha digs when reality returned. George Bush introduced his subsidy-laden farm bill and increased protections for American steel; the EEC reaffirmed its common agricultural policy; and drug company lobbyists went into overdrive.

In reality, it seems, the only countries forced to comply are those whose economies are already being strangled by international monetarists.

Cop this - according to the economics editor of Britain's Guardian newspaper, staggering $7 billion a year subsidies to the US cotton industry have just about knocked the socks off desperate West African economies. The world cotton price has plummeted by a quarter, leaving the likes of Burkina Faso and Mali losing more from that one US trade policy than they receive in aid and debt relief combined.

Stark realities like this threaten the western "free trade" agenda and that's why trade ministers gathered in Sydney.

The one thing abundandtly clear about the operation of "free trade" is that it has bugger all to do with building strong, thrusting economies in the developing world. Just sit back for a moment and consider the development lessons of our current titans - Japan, the US, South Korea and Germany, even the sound second tier that might include the likes of Australia, Canada, Switzerland and France.

To a nation their successes owe more to interventionist governments than throwing doors open to all comers.

............. .................... .....................

Last, and very possibly least, we get to our head of state and those who may succeed her.

We didn't really need further evidence that the Queen of Hearts turned her latter years into a shagathon, or that the House of Charles shook to humpage, forced and voluntary, beneath the royal portrait, to know this mob was dysfunctional in the extreme.

What about the pompous Earl's refusal to let his sister share digs when her relationship with the afore-mentioned Charles lost its bounce? We're not talking moving into one of the spare rooms here, but a different house on the family estate. Many commoners may feel like returning the letters of siblings unopened but, according to the butler, the Spencers actually did it!

Really, who cares what the butler saw? A more important issue is the role of the Queen and the fact that an expensive legal prosecution came tumbling down because, as the matriach of this bunch of relentlessly horny bludgers, she is above the law and intends to stay that way.

It goes to the core issue on which royalty must stand or fall - acceptance that they are born to rule because they emerge from an inherently superior gene pool.

Where is the hard-hearted Flynt when his masters cry out for defence? Aussies interested in meaningful media ownership rules have been asking the same question for years?

The King may have left the building but those of us still in occupation are waiting for a bloody answer.


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