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August 2003   

Interview: The New Deal
US union leader Amy Dean expands on her agenda to give unions a real political voice

Unions: In the Line of Hire
Unions have lobbied and negotiated in a bid to stem casualisation and insecurity. Now, Jim Marr, writes they are seeking protection through a formal Test Case.

Culture: Too Cool for the Collective?
Young people are amongst the most vulnerable in the workforce. So why aren't they joining the union, asks Carly Knowles

International: The Domino Effect
An internal struggle in the biggest and strongest industrial union in Germany IG Metall has had a devastating wave effect across not just that country, but also the rest of Europe, writes Andrew Casey.

Industrial: A Spanner in the Works
Max Ogden looks at the vexed issue of Works Councils and the differing views within the union movement to them.

National Focus: Gathering of the Tribes
Achieving a fairer society and a better working life for employees from across Australia will be key themes at the ACTU's triennial Congress meeting later this month reports Noel Hester.

History: The Welcome Nazi Tourist
Rowan Cahill looks at the role Australia's conservatives played in supporting facism in the days before World War II.

Bad Boss: Domm, Domm Turn Around
Frank Sartor might have shot through but Robert Domm still calls the IR shots at Sydney City which pretty much explains why the council is this month�s Bad Boss nominee.

Poetry: Just Move On.
Visiting bard Maurie Fairfield brightens up our page with a ditty about little white lies.

Review: Reality Bites
The workers, united, may never be defeated but if recent episodes of Channel 10 drama The Secret Life Of Us are to be believed, this is not necessarily a good thing, writes Tara de Boehmler.


The Soapbox
Fighting Words
Craig Emerson gave what could be the most spirited Labor spray in a decade to the NSW Labor Council this month. Here it is in all its venom.

Out of Their Class
Phil Bradley argues that Australia's education system should not be up for negotiation in the global trade talks.

The Locker Room
The ABC of Sport
Phil Doyle argues that the only way to end the corporate madness that is sport, is to give it all back to the ABC.

Locks, Stocks and Barrels
Union Aid Abroad's Peter Jennings updates on the situation in Burma, where the repression of democracy is going from bad to worse.


The Secret Life of Us
The fact that casual workers are too scared to come forward and testify about the need for job security seems to prove their basic point � no matter how long or how well you work, you can never feel safe in your job.


 Tough Women Draw Line at Sacking

 Witness Protection Urged on IRC

 Max Swings Axe at Safety

 Sick Twist in Drug Testing

 Sacked Mum Goes to the Top

 Cuts Sour ADB Birthday Bash

 Howard Enlists Russians for Military

 Vic Workcover Invests in Worker Misery

 Public Hole in Power Shortage

 Whistleblower Sacking Sparks Zoo Walkout

 Truckie With Conscience Wins Back Job

 Indigenous Labour honours Tobler

 Asbestos Blocks Liverpool Road Works

 Activist Notebook

 Bullies in the Ranks
 It Is Still About The Members Isn't It
 Tom's Purpose
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The Soapbox

Fighting Words

Craig Emerson gave what could be the most spirited Labor spray in a decade to the NSW Labor Council this month. Here it is in all its venom.


Well thanks very much and thanks a lot for having me along tonight so early in my tenure as the new Workplace Relations Shadow. I won't keep you very long. Just to make a few remarks.

The first is about the relationship between the industrial and political wings of the Labor Party. I am able to stand proudly to reaffirm here tonight that I consider the industrial wing to be the lifeblood of the Labor Party. We need to work as much as we can not only to maintain the links but to strengthen them over time.

My view is that if the parliamentary party didn't have the industrial wing of the party we would just wither into different interest groups pursuing our own issues. We would be the Labor Party in name only. The trade union movement proudly established the Australian Labor Party and as far as I'm concerned it is the lifeblood of the Australian Labor Party.

In terms of style, Tony Abbott has never operated on the Marquis of Queensbury rules. I think we have had for too long, for quite a few years , a mad right wing ideologue as minister. He's a lunatic and I'll describe him as a lunatic. He's an obsessive maniac. The gloves are coming off. Tony Abbott is an obsessive ideologue .He is a high priest of the Far Right.

Every bit of legislation, every breath that he takes, every piece of legislation brought into Parliament since 1996 onwards - and there's now about a dozen bills before Federal Parliament - is anti-worker. Each and every one of them is designed to strip away the remaining rights and protection that Australian workers have and we must say enough is enough. We've had a gutful of it.

My position is that if Tony Abbott brings a bill before the Parliament, it is almost certainly a bad bill and that we will oppose it, unless there's some absolutely compelling reason to find any merit in anything that he says. His track record says to me that that's impossible. So our approach will be that Tony Abbott is bad and it's anti-worker.

I just want to give you an example of that, and that's one which you'd all be aware of, and that's the Termination of Employment Bill. This legislation is supposed to be a movement towards a unitary system. Whether it is or not, what it is yet again is anti-worker because the legislation that they want to introduce will strip away the entire State Industrial Relations system in so far as Unfair Dismissal is concerned. And replace it with what? A much weaker system where the workers right is eroded yet again. So we will be opposing that Bill - the Termination of Employment Bill - lock, stock and barrel.

We in the Federal parliament in the Labor Party want a Federal system that is modeled on the New South Wales system. The truth is the New South Wales system has operated well for employees. I'm not saying it's perfect, but it has operated well for employees and also employers. I mean I don't see employers rushing down to Melbourne, rushing down to Perth, rushing to Adelaide to do business. They are creating jobs right here in Sydney and New South Wales. Now that just tells me that the system works well.

So we need to restore the rights of Australian workers in line with the Legislation that is working well here in New South Wales. So I plan to model our Workplace Relations Legislation on the New South Wales system, but to add to it family friendly provisions such as paid maternity leave and a restoration of the rights of working Australians. Australian workers over the last seven and a half years have lost so many entitlements as a result of the government's fierce anti-worker industrial relations legislation in Canberra.

We need desperately to restore the independent umpire. Everyone here follows footy from one code or another. I tend to follow Rugby League but the point is this, what Abbott has done, the Federal Government has done he says all right we're going to have people playing a footy match but no-one refereeing. Now if you've got two teams playing a footy match but you've got no umpire at the very least you've got a shemozzle because you've got no rules to work with.

But what the Federal Government is doing for one side - the unions - is say you must stand back ten metres while the other side can stand back five metres. You can do spear tackles and the other side can't do spear tackles, you can do everything you need and you can make up the rules as you go along but the other side must abide by the rules that the other side makes up. Now that is unfair, its un-Australian and it turns on its head 100 years of a system where we have had a fair and independent umpire and Labor will restore that umpire and re-empower that umpire when we get into Government.

I'd like to say a couple of things on a personal note. I'm actually a New South Wales boy. I grew up in Northwest New South Wales and I can see a bit of embarrassment coming up here for my colleagues. My dad was working for Permewan Wrights. They were getting paid $40 a week in 1970. There was a drought and a very bad rural recession. Dad organized a strike which seemed like a good idea except no-one turned up for the strike except Dad. I do know a bit about the unfair dismissal laws.

Dad was sacked and because of the drought there was no other work in Baradine. So we moved to Sydney where he took up a job at John Lysaghts and I was doing some crane chasing out at Chullora during the holidays before I resumed school. But I went on to sixth form at St Pat's at Strathfield with Andrew Ferguson, Martin Ferguson and my colleague here, Mark Lennon. Mark was in the 12Bs. In fact he said he remembered me fondly as a football player. So he's deluded about that. But I did coach Mark and I was in the seconds at St Pat's. So look what we've got.

Now the other thing that I want to mention to you is that my Mum worked for MBF and I just had lunch with Michael Want. Now Mum was a firebrand union organiser with the Federated Clerks Union at MBF and Michael remembers all the grief that she used to get because Michael was there at MBF. She worked in the union movement and very proudly. So I do have a background in the bush and seven years here in Sydney.

I hope you'll welcome me back for another talk and we'll go down to the pub and have a few drinks whenever we can. But I'll make sure I spend a lot of time here right in the heart of Sydney. Thank you very much.


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