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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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The Westie Wing

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


If you thought exploitation of child labour was a problem only in the third world, think again.

A young relative of mine last year defied parental advice and left school at the first opportunity.

Aged just 14 years and a few months, he soon landed a job at one of the major takeaway food chains.

He was employed on a casual basis as a kitchenhand, but quickly found himself working close to full-time hours.

And the worst sort of hours, usually working past 10 pm and often past midnight. Some mornings he clocks off at 2 am.

Now, when you are part of a team running a busy restaurant into the early hours of the morning - and then have to find your way home when public transport is thin on the ground - you are working an adult job with adult responsibilities.

For this he is paid just $5.60 per hour. And when he turns 16, and is entitled to a pay rise, he will most likely be sacked.

Unions draw a blank

Ask him about his rights at work - or about unions - and he goes blank.

That's no big surprise. Union membership in the private sector is now well below 20%, and young service sector workers are one of the groups missing out.

Unions are working hard, and with some success, to turn this decline around.

But we, as a society, have a responsibility to ensure our young people are educated about their rights and responsibilities when they begin work--which often occurs while they are still undergoing secondary education.

Teaching about unions

That principle of preparing students for the workforce by teaching them about unions and their role in and contribution to society is the basis of the UnionTeach project.

The NSW school curriculum from 2004 will include topics about unions that may be taught across a range of subjects. Students in years 9 and 10 taking Commerce or Work Education will be taught about the role of unions as part of the syllabus.

The UnionTeach project was set up to provide teachers with the resources to address the curriculum content in teaching the basics of industrial relations, including the role and contribution of unions to the whole community.

The aim is to equip teachers with the resources to teach young people what they need to know to make informed decisions about work-related issues.

A team effort

That's a fantastic outcome from a process that began way back in early-2001 at the Labor Council's Annual General Meeting.

After a youth workers forum at the Labor Council's 2001 AGM, where young workers' attitudes to unions were discussed, Labor Council Deputy Assistant Secretary Chris Christodoulou and I got to talking.

We sketched the outlines of a project that would see employment rights and responsibilities taught in schools as part of the core curriculum.

We thought that I could be part of making this aim a reality, as a Labor MLC and former union official.

The idea was not new. Unions and the Labor Council have talked about doing this for decades, but hurdles always got in the way.

So I took the proposal to the Teachers Federation, and they hopped enthusiastically on board. This time I sensed the timing of the project was right.

Teachers on board

The teachers' expertise was crucial in backing the process of getting topics on unions added to the official curriculum.

Labor Council and the Independent Education Union added their backing to the project in 2002. Former Education Minister John Watkins was also supportive.

In December 2002, a project committee was set up by Labor Council. Since then, we have been able to focus on clear goals and set about achieving them.

It was decided that the best resource to help teachers to fulfil the curriculum relating to unions was a website and as a result, UnionTeach was born. The project has developed substantially with the input of those who are directly affected--the teachers.

A submission this year from Labor Council Secretary John Robertson was successful in attaining a grant from Education Minister Andrew Refshauge to develop the UnionTeach website.

The website will provide accessible and up-to-date resources for use by teachers across the State. Its launch next month will allow plenty of time to provide for the new syllabus starting in 2004.

The end result is a credit to all the parties who contributed to UnionTeach.

Given the dedication and belief in the project by all the committee members--Susan Sheather at Labor Council, Peter Walsh of the Teachers' Federation, Peter Bishop of the IEU and myself--I know that the project will succeed.

Once UnionTeach is fully operational, everyone in the labour movement can play their part in helping promote, support and maintain this essential educational resource.

The latest issue of my newsletter, Workers' Voice, is available on my website at I am always interested to hear feedback and ideas--you can contact my office on (02) 9230 2052 or email me at [email protected].


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