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June 2003   

History: Nest of Traitors
Rowan Cahill uncovers a ripping yarn that could redefine the way we look at Australian involvement in World War II.

Interview: A Nation of Hope
Former PM Bob Hawke bemoans the demise of industrial relations but takes heart from the prospect of peace in the Middle East

Unions: National Focus
Noel Hester reports on a soap star rebellion, Howard’s plans to renuclearise South Australia, more historical atrocities in the north, the redundancy test case plus more in the monthly national wrap.

Safety: The Shocking Truth
It’s every power worker’s worst nightmare – and it happened to Adrian Ware. In a flash of voltage, his life changed forever, as Jim Marr reports.

Tribute: A Comrade Departed
From Prime Ministers to wharfies, the labour movement paid tribute to Tas Bull this week. Jim Marr was among them.

History: Working Bees
Neale Towart looks at a group of workers who got sacked so their boss could keep making the Bomb.

Education: The Big Picture
The NTEU’s Dr Mike Donaldson and Tony Brown join all the dots in the current debate around higher eduction.

International: Static Labour
Ray Marcelo argues there’s another side to the recent furore over Telstra’s use of cheap Indian IT contractors.

Economics: Budget And Fudge It
Frank Stilwell argues that Peter Costello’s latest budget plumbs fiscal policy to new depths.

Technology: Google and Campaigning
Labourstart’s Eric Lee argues the latest weapon for campaigning could be the humble search engine.

Review: Secretary With A Difference
Looking for a new job can be hard enough, without having to worry about sadomasochistic bosses and the threat of being spanked for forgetting to cross your ‘t’s, says Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: The Minimale
The Labor Party leadership is in the news again, inspiring our resident bard David Peetz to song

Satire: Howard Calls for Senate to be Replaced by Clap-O-Meter
John Howard released a controversial policy statement today, arguing that the Senate be abolished in favour of a device measuring noise from the gallery of the House of Representatives.


It’s Our Party
Long time union watcher Nicholas Way looks at the changing dynamics between the industrial and political wings of the labour movement.

The Soapbox
Grass Roots
In his Maiden Speech, new MP Tony Burke argues that the ALP’s union links are nothing to be ashamed of.

Opinion Forming Down Under
Evan Jones condemns the mainstream’s media coverage of the War on Iraq and the damage it is doing to our national psyche.

The Locker Room
Location, Re-Location!
It’s all fun and games until someone loses a club, writes Phil Doyle


To the Victors The Spoils
Revelations that private American lawyers, rather than the ILO, will rewrite the labour laws of countries levelled by the American military vindicate the warnings of those concerned by US unilateralism.


 Rail Chaos Looms

 Electrolux Blows Fuse at Fundraiser

 ACM Loosens Handcuff on Democracy

 Sick Call on Mum’s Job

 Now For Industrial Shock and Awe

 Brian Miller – Working Class Hero

 Dynamite: Howard Handout for Rorters

 Family Case to Nurture Mothers

 Militants Lock Out Another 600

 Tipping the Turtle – Fijian Style

 Carr Goes Private

 Wages Blemish Sound Budget

 Westie Takes On Westfield ‘Hypocrisy’

 Eleventh Hour Reprieve for Women's Centre

 Activist Notebook

 In Defence of Cuba
 The Story in General
 Thinking of America
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National Focus

Noel Hester reports on a soap star rebellion, Howard’s plans to renuclearise South Australia, more historical atrocities in the north, the redundancy test case plus more in the monthly national wrap.


Soap Star Rebellion

The MEAA has a good tip for swelling your numbers at a union rally - have Jason Donovan and other soapie stars stomp up to add a bit of glam. Soaps might have a reputation for being shallow and trivial but you can't say that about the actors from these shows. They are fronting an absolutely brilliant and important campaign to ensure there are cultural exemptions in free trade agreements. Campaign coordinator Suzanne Culph from the Alliance says over 400 turned up at the launch of the campaign last Sunday in Melbourne's Federation Square. The cast of Hair voted to turn up at the rally unified as one (man, they're really taking that age of aquarius stuff seriously), the Secret Life of Us mob were there, and Neighbours was represented. The campaign - dubbed 'Free To Be An Australian' - highlights the impact of international free trade agreements on Australia's media industries. There are echoes of the outrageous MAI here with important decisions being negotiated by the Howard Government with zero public scrutiny. These agreements will affect the Australian content of TV and films and impact on the viability of local media industries. It will also affect journos with pressure to loosen the cross-media rules and the obvious consequences that will have on diversity of opinion. Suzanne Culph says the campaign is bringing members across the union together on the same issue.

'We're about to hold briefings across the country to get members up to speed. There will be a doorstop at senate hearings in Sydney in July. We will be giving out heaps of postcards at the Sydney and Melbourne film festivals. We want people to get involved and to send a message to the pollies: we want to see Aussie faces on Aussie screens and Aussie stories in Aussie newspapers,' she says.

Check out the campaign's excellent website at

Nuking The Redbacks

Ahhhhhh, John Howard's halcyon days of the 1950s: - slip, slop, slap a bit of whitewash on the old picket fence, the gentle thwack of leather on willow and oh yeah, a nuclearised South Australia!

Unions and environmental groups - and just about everybody else in South Australia- are outraged over Federal Government plans to build a nuclear dump at Arcoona Station to replace the storage facility at Lucas Heights in NSW. In keeping with the Howard zeitgeist the dump is planned for an area of significance for local aboriginal people. There's no agreement with the locals. The state government is totally opposed. And to prove their form is as consistent as ever the Libs are threatening science funding for South Australia if the locals don't lie back and cop it.

South Australian unions are looking at a ban on building and maintaining the dump: CFMEU, AWU and AMWU plus the emergency services unions are leading the charge. Transport unions are also weighing up their options. It is believed there will be 170 truck and trailers full of nuclear nastiness to be moved south of the border from Lucas Heights.

South Australian Labor Council Secretary Janet Giles says nobody in the state wants the dump.

'We had Maralinga, we don't want this as well,' she says.

SA unions have also just sponsored another successful Anna Stewart project with 22 women from 16 different unions, blue and white collar, swapping unions for two weeks. The feedback is that it is a wonderful experience for women delos, going out to new worksites, and participating in another union's life.

Another Historical Atrocity

Here's another piece of unsavoury history the conservative whitewashers would prefer was kept in the vaults: from 1897 to until the early 1970s employment, wages and savings of Aboriginal workers were controlled by successive Australian governments under compulsory labour contracts. In Queensland wages were held by the government 'in trust'. These workers have since made a claim for their wages but they have only been offered a fraction of what they are really owed. In 2002 the Queensland Government announced a 'take it or leave it' deal to pay a small percentage of the missing, unpaid and underpaid wages to the remaining living workers (not for the families of those who died before May last year) to settle their claim. Queensland unions are saying: 'don't think so Peter!' and linking up with local indigenous groups to push for a better deal. To find out more go to the Queensland Council of Unions website at

In other Queensland news: unlike NSW there is no automatic flow on of the minimum wages case in Queensland. Employers are fighting a rearguard action which now sees all parties in the commission on June 16.

The QCU has just opened an office in Bundaberg as part of a commitment and push into regional areas. The office was opened by Jim Emery a 72 year old stalward who has been keeping the flame of unionism burning brightly in the area for decades. There are 1800 nurses and 700 teachers alone in the area which justifies a presence and resources. The QCU is now looking at opening an office in Townsville next year.

Victorian Unions Step Up Pressure

There's plenty of industrial activity in Victoria at the moment. Electrical Trade Union (ETU) members at the Smorgon Laverton plant have been on the picket line for over three months now as they fight for the 36-hour week, in line with what other sparkies get in the contracting industry in Victoria. The AMWU has 10 pickets going on around Melbourne in their fight for a 36 hour week.

Hundreds of workers from the textile, clothing and footwear industry marched on the Productivity Commission in Melbourne this week to protest against the threat of further tariff cuts in their industry. Workers and unions fear that the cuts will have a devastating effect on the TCF industry. Victoria accommodates 44 per cent of what remains of the industry, providing jobs for 34,000 workers and contributing almost $5 billion a year to the state's economy. For more Victorian union news check out the VTHC's newsy website:

Insult and Injury in Tassie

Unions Tasmania report that the Tasmanian Government has announced a review of workers compensation - albeit limited and excluding any review of the current restricted access to common law. However, the review provides an opportunity for the union movement to argue for and secure beneficial change to the system.

Secretary Lynne Fitzgerald 'adds insult to injury' campaign aims to understand the experiences of workers who suffer work related injury or illness and educate and inform union members, workers and the community generally about these workers' experiences.

'We have established a 1300 number (through the ACTU Call Centre - 1300 362 698) and are encouraging workers with a workers comp experience to call that number and provide details of their experience and to advise what involvement they want in the 'adds insult to injury' campaign. We have stickers, posters, union journal articles and information for organisers to take into workplaces,' she says.

To date callers to the hotline have told of their anger because their injuries could have been prevented through proper OHS, their disappointment at the lack of support provided to them and their frustration at not being able to return to work.

'The information collected will inform our submission to the government's review.'

The Blue Ribbon Dispute enters its eleventh week. As reported last month the workers at Blue Ribbon Products (a meat works in Launceston) were locked out when they refused to sign on with the labour hire company, Newemploy, as independent contractors and now face a further delay in the resolution of the dispute. The Tasmanian Industrial Commission granted an adjournment to Blue Ribbon Products till June 30. The AMIEU is arguing in the Industrial Commission that these workers have been unfairly and unlawfully dismissed.

These workers were advised in late March that their employment would be terminated at the conclusion of their traineeships in early April and that if they wished to continue to work at the meatworks they would be required to become 'independent contractors'. Many of these workers have worked at the meatworks, with various employers, for up to 20 years.


And in news from the ACTU the Redundancy test case has begun in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. The ACTU has presented its evidence in chief with an army of expert witnesses supporting a strong case for change. The case has been adjourned till July when employer groups will respond. A decision is expected later this year.

The ACTU's Test Case would:

· double severance entitlements from eight weeks pay to 16 weeks pay for workers made redundant after more than six years of service;

· increase severance pay for workers with between two and five years service in line with the current New South Wales standard; and

· provide up to four weeks extra severance pay for workers aged over 45, who on average face being unemployed for more than twice as long as younger workers.

And a last reminder about the Future of Work conference to be held in Sydney next week. There are still places available for unions at $125 per head and can be booked through ACIRRT on (02) 9351 5626. Non-union conference delegates will be charged $695 to attend so it is important that unions let ACIRRT know who they are when booking.


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