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October 2003   

Interview: No Ifs, No Butts
Rugby League Professionals Association president Tony Butterfield on his battle to deliver a collective agreement for NRL players.

Unions: National Focus
In this month’s national wrap: Noel Hester meets a heavy hitter talking up open source unionism, truckies front the suits at Boral’s AGM, tales of corporate bastardry and Medicare birthday revelry.

Industrial: Fools Gold
Unions have thrashed out a string of protocols with the NSW Labor Government. Some, now, are questioning whether they are worth the cheap, imported paper they are written on, reports Jim Marr.

Bad Boss: Bones of Contention
Byron Bay chicken boners have nominated thier boss for a Tony after seeing their entitlements plucked.

History: The Gong Show
In late September the South Coast Labour Council (SCLC) celebrated 75 unbroken years championing the rights of workers in the coastal Illawarra region 80 kilometres south of Sydney, writes Rowan Cahill.

Politics: The Hawke Legacy
The election of the Hawke Labor government twenty years ago holds some salient lessons for today’s Labor Party, writes Troy Bramston.

International: Sick Nation
As Australia celebrates 20 years of Medicare’s universal health coverage the crisis facing American workers in need of medical care is a useful reminder of what we’ve got – and what we stand, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Closed Minds
Philip Mendes looks at the political influence of right-wing think tanks, their financial backing and asks why the left hasn’t been able to get its ideas out there.

Review: Mixing Pop and Politics
He's had relations, with girls from many nations... but Billy Bragg seems to like us Aussies as much or even more than any of the others, writes Pádraig Collins.

Poetry: One Size Fits All
There once was a man from the Lodge - Who tried hard, our poems, to dodge... Resident bard David Peetz is back!


North By Northwest
Phil Doyle returns from up north, where he survived on nothing but goodwill, good people and a great big orange bus.

The Soapbox
The $140 Million Patriot
It would be hard to imagine a steeper slide from hero to zero than the experience of Richard Grasso, the now-deposed head of the New York Stock Exchange. writes Jim Stanford.

Bush's Bad News Blues
The Bush Administration is cooking up a new campaign 'to shine light on progress made in Iraq', writes Bill Berkowitz.

The Locker Room
A Tale Of One City
Phil Doyle gazes into the crystal ball for signs of life, and finds that somewhere the horses are running in the wrong direction.

With Banners Furled
There is no better account of the glory that was the annual Labour Day marches than that given by Kylie Tennant in Foveaux, her fictional account of life in inner Sydney in 1912, the year she was born.

The Westie Wing
Our favourite Macquarie Street MP, Ian West MLC, reports on the world of NSW politics.

The Cancun Wash-Up
The dramatic collapse of the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico, last month has been followed by a deafening quiet from Geneva, Brussels and Washington, writes Peter Murphy.


The Monk Off Our Back
It should come as no surprise that Tony Abbott has been dragged from his workplace relations portfolio just as his $60 million assault on the CFMEU finally unravels.


 Concrete Boot for Democracy

 Picketers Get Blue Ribbon Result

 ICAC Call at Mudgee Abattoir

 Telstra on Charges

 Unis Walk Over Federal Bullying

 IRC Shoots Rooster that Quacked

 Ugly Australian Riles Timorese

 Medicare Gets Abbott For Birthday

 Business Council Opposes Salary Vote

 Rail Workers Call For Self Defence

 ACT Leads On Industrial Manslaughter

 Thumbs-Up for Awards Binding Subbies

 Entitlements Crash into Hangar

 Blackouts on NSW Horizon

 State Govt Told To Clean Up Contracts

 Would-be Presidents Face Union Probe

 Activists Notebook

 A Hard Act To Follow
 Which Boss?
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The Westie Wing

Our favourite Macquarie Street MP, Ian West MLC, reports on the world of NSW politics.


The Government has encountered a few challenges 'Getting on with the job' of governing NSW six months into its third four-year term.

The poker machine tax issue, the restructure of TAFE, problems with public transport and the teachers' pay claim have seen vocal protests in Macquarie Street recently.

These difficulties have challenged the very basis of what a Labor government is about. There is always some tension between the industrial and political wings of the party. The issue is how inclusive a Labor government is in dealing with the challenges.

Premier Bob Carr referred to a "creative partnership" when he made his speech to Labor Council's AGM this year. He said:

"Our frank, open realistic, ungrudging acknowledgement of the role of the unions, as genuine partners in building the strength, security and fairness of our society in NSW and Australia will continue to be the hallmark of the Carr Labor Government in our third term."

It is this partnership that defines a Labor government.

Maintaining the "creative partnership" between unions and the Labor Government is vital, because it means a healthy industrial relations system based on collective bargaining. This in turn will create a healthier economy, providing growth and real jobs.

It is a challenge for Labor in government to balance revenue with expenditure while implementing social justice objectives. Prioritising programs in the budget is always going to be difficult when so many are in need of funds.

Budget deficits are not the end of the world, as long as they're used to provide proper infrastructure and services. Budget surpluses need not be the sole objective.

The focus that Labor has to have is on getting a better deal for working men and women in NSW. Achieving social justice objectives in providing health, education and vital services is a natural progression.

This would go a long way towards achieving the fair and just society that is the Labor Party's light on the hill.

Unfortunately, the partnership is not working effectively at the moment.

However, there are opportunities to work towards inclusive solutions. The ALP State Conference has historically seen unions confront the political wing of the party on matters of concern. This year is no different.

Many current issues are being debated again, because agreement on solutions has not been reached. The best and most lasting outcomes occur when the government helps stakeholders take ownership of drafting and implementing the solution.

One contentious issue is industrial manslaughter legislation to hold employers accountable for negligent death of employees. Company executives go to jail for breaching corporate law but not for industrial manslaughter. The debate is set to continue.

Another issue of interest to Conference delegates is the government purchasing policy, especially in relation to the allocation of government contracts.

The Government Cleaning Contract is up for renewal before next year's Budget.

The LHMU has been working hard to achieve the cleaners' demands:

No more cuts to hours

Security in the job if a different contractor comes in

Transfer of entitlements where the contractor changes

Retention of the sick leave safety net for former government employed cleaners

Sufficient equipment and supplies to do the job properly

The least we as a Labor government can do is to take on board the representations of the LHMU and agree to the cleaners' modest requests.

During the rest of the year after the heated debates of ALP Conference, the Labor Council will continue to do an excellent job of lobbying the Government on important industrial issues. However, it is time this is taken to a higher level towards the "creative partnership" goal.

One step towards this goal was the Labor Council holding an information session on the Secure Employment Test Case during the last month, which I co-hosted with Tony Burke MLC.

Twenty-four State Labor MPs attended the Labor Council presentation. Many commented that they were much better informed about the issue as a result.

I have sought to bring together Labor Council affilitates and State Labor MPs to exchange ideas since being elected. John Robertson as Secretary of the Labor Council and my colleague Tony Burke MLC have worked towards this goal as well. Many more of these events are planned for the future.

It is not weakness to admit that the Government has difficult problems to address. It is an opportunity to find a better solution through partnerships and consultation.

History tells us that unless stakeholders feel involved and take ownership of a problem, then any solution is usually short-lived.

Labor MPs, Party activists and unions must make the creative partnership work. If state Labor MPs don't take up this challenge, we will not succeed in "building the strength, security and fairness of our society" that the Premier set as our goal.


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