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September 2003   

Interview: Crowded Lives
Labor frontbencher Lindsay Tanner talks us through his new book on the importance of relationships and why politics is letting the people down.

Activists: Life With Brian
Work by men like Brian Fitzpatrick is exposing new Australians to old truths. Jim Marr reports

Industrial: National Focus
A showdown looms in Cancun, Qantas gets bolshie, casual and lazy in its response to aviation challenges, and long festering disputes fester on in Victoria and Tasmania reports Noel Hester in this national wrap.

Unions: If These Walls Could Talk
Trades Hall is preparing for a major facelift but first, Jim Marr reports, it must bid farewell to the colourful bunch who have populated its dusty corridors in recent years.

Economics: Beating the Bastards
Frank Stilwell looks at some of the proposals for building a fairer finance sector.

Media: Three Corners
So its come to this. Four Corners, one of the world's longest running television programs is now under pressure from an ABC Executive that is less cultural visionary than feral abacus.

History: The Brisbane Line
Percy Spender was Menzies' foreign minister, but, Neale Towart asks, was he also prepared to serve as Prime Minister in a Japanese controlled Australia?

Trade: The Dumping Problem
Oxfam-CAA helps set the scene for this month's World Trade Organisation in Cancun.

Review: Frankie's Way
In The Night We Called It A Day Frank Sinatra learns 'sorry' Down Under is a loaded word and refusal to say it when due will lose fans in important places, writes Tara de Boehmler.


The Soapbox
Staking Our Territory
ACTU secretary Greg Combet argued for a fairer Australia in his keynote address to last month's ACTU Congress.

The Locker Room
Seasonally Agisted
Spring is a season when a person�s thoughts turn to�horse racing. Phil Doyle reports on the fate of nags and folk heroes.

Beyond the Block
We are wild about the people who live in The Block but not too interested in those who are on the streets outside, writes Michael Rafferty.

The Westie Wing
Workers friend Ian West MLC, reports form the Bearpit about a project to raise awareness about trade unionism amongst young people.

The Awkward Squad
Paul Smith meets one of the new generation of British union leaders who is taking the ball up to the Blair spin team.


Relatively Speaking
At its heart, political debate has always been a struggle between competing views about how a society should organise itself to maximise the benefits for the majority of its citizens.


 Truckies Tip Safety on AGM Floor

 Geelong Lockout Claims Family Homes

 Aussie Labour Laws Fail US Test

 No Accident � Insurance Dough Rises

 Union Mum Wins

 Rheem Runs Cold On Entitlements

 Unions Take It Up for Footballers

 Drug Boss Fails Workers

 Ministers Urged to Take Responsibility

 Museum Jobs Face Extinction

 Less News And More Of It

 Legal Costs Threaten Access

 Learning for Life

 Activists Notebook

 Lyon Roars
 Spicey and Tart
 Tony and Pauline
 PNG Bags Plastic
 Fighting Words Craig Emerson
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National Focus

A showdown looms in Cancun, Qantas gets bolshie, casual and lazy in its response to aviation challenges, and long festering disputes fester on in Victoria and Tasmania reports Noel Hester in this national wrap.

Showdown in Cancun

International union leaders will be pushing for enforcable labour standards and environment protections when they meet world trade leaders at the WTO meeting at Cancun in Mexico next week.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow will join the global unions forum for a meeting next Tuesday with WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi, US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy.

"We will be challenging the WTO's so-called neutrality on the issue of labour standards, which is promoting a race to the bottom in global working conditions. It is not good enough for the WTO to have rules about investment, but no rules about the basic rights of people affected by investment decisions. National governments, including Australia's, need to globalise the rule of law by making human rights, labour standards and environmental protections integral to the global trading framework," Ms Burrow said.

In a warm up bout before Cancun, Australian and American unions have made it clear the proposed US-Australian Free Trade Agreement will be contested unless it is shown it will benefit working people in both countries.

The American peak union body AFL-CIO has been clueing up the US Labour Department about Australia's anti-worker IR laws and is leaving open the option of a lobbying campaign of US politicians.

Qantas Won't Come Clean

Qantas promised to go down market last week with a new low cost airline to compete with Virgin and also raised the spectre of casualising a significantly greater proportion of its workforce citing SARS, Iraq and the general ambience of terror as affecting its bottom line.

This proposed new direction to casualise a minimum 25% of its workforce was nonchalently announced by Qantas to its 34,000 loyal employees through the media days before it posted a $343.5 million dollar profit. Qantas spun a gloomy line about the windfall but the truth is it would have been a record profit only for abnormals such as a $91 million depreciation write down and redundancy payments of $115 million . Financial analysts MacQuarie described the profit results as 'exceptional'.

Unions have responded that they are prepared to sit down and talk seriously about what needs to be done to maintain Qantas' health in what everyone recognises is a difficult moment in the aviation industry but not at the expense of base rates of pay and conditions.

'We are prepared to talk about flexibility but flexible work still means secure work and well paid work. Qantas employees don't have casual mortgages and casual bills. There is already a framework for casuals, part time work and job sharing within the existing agreements that can be discussed to keep Qantas competitive,' says Greg Combet.

Blue Ribbon enters 15th week

It may be cold, wet and windy at the Killafaddy gates of Blue Ribbon in Tassie but workers there are still manning the ramparts at this meatworks for the fifteenth week. The Tasmanian Industrial Commission has received final written submissions, has heard final oral submissions and a decision is now expected during September. Those on the picket line are determined it will remain in place until the final decision is handed down.

Tassie has a battle of its own raging over casuals. Misso members have been standing firm outside Cuthbertson's Tannery in South Hobart against a decision by the company to sack long term employees and replace them with labour hire. Six long term employees have been told they are no longer required - despite working in a full time capacity for up to two years.

2000 Turnout For Geelong Wool Combing Workers

In another chapter in another long festering dispute, over two thousand workers rallied in Geelong's market square this week demanding that the 93 workers who have been locked out of Geelong Wool Combing since May 1 be allowed to return to work.

In a fantastic act of solidarity, workers from the ETU, the CFMEU, the AMWU, the MUA and Plumbers division of the CEPU, attended the rally. These unions also put their money where their mouths are. Union secretaries Dave Oliver (AMWU) and Kevin Bracken (MUA) presented cheques to the combined value of $23,000 to the Geelong Wool Combing Workers. The funds were raised by donations from union members.

Redundancy Win For Queensland Workers

Queensland workers have improved redundancy entitlements following a decision in the QIRC this month which doubles the severance payment to 16 weeks for award employees with a maximum to apply after 12 years service. Left open to submission at a later date is the extension of these entitlements to long term casuals.

Phoenix council rises from the ashes

The South East of South Australia - mmmm, that sounds like our deep south - is just about to revive a regional labor council. The area is enjoying some economic prosperity with timber, wine and manufacturing the booming industries. At the moment there are two organisers - one from the AWU and the other from the CFMEU - walking the walk in the area but Janet Giles from the UTLC says the revived regional council will kickstart organising opportunities for other unions.


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