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November 2003   

Interview: Union for the Dispossessed
The Welfare Rights Centre's Michael Raper on 20 years of activism, the politics of punishment and how to make Australia egalitarian again.

Unions: Joel's Law
Building Workers have overcome powerful forces to push workplace safety back up the national agenda. But, Jim Marr writes, their "success" has come at an unacceptable cost.

National Focus: Spring Carnival
It must be spring: punting in Victoria, singing in South Australia, fighting in America. It’s all there in the national wrap from Noel Hester plus an Australian union movement rugby world cup class consciousness poll.

Bad Boss: Fina and Fiends
They sacked the job delegate, reinstated him after an IRC hearing, and sacked him again two weeks later. But that was just the beginning.

Industrial: The Price of War
Mass industrial action is brewing in Israel as the policies of the right-wing Sharon Government come home to roost, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Who's Got What
Frank Stilwell pours over the latest BRW Rich List to build a picture of the increasing gap between the haves and have-nots.

History: Containing Discontent
Racism against minorities has always been a stock in trade of politicans, writes Phil Griffiths

Review: An Honourable Wally
Most Australians probably look at our politicians and feel they could do a better job but when redundant meatworker Wally Norman gets the chance to find out he realises getting elected is a major hurdle, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: The Colours of Discontent
A thousand blossoms bloomed during the US President's spring-time colonial visit last month.


The Soapbox
Bush's Faith-Filled Life
The President's conversion, 'sense of divine calling' and struggle with sobriety are subjects of a forthcoming book, writes Bill Berkowitz

The Not So Smart Money
Phil Doyle is sick of big money ruining grass roots sport, and he’s taking his bat and going home.

The Westie Wing
The ongoing challenge for Labor members of parliament is to make what the Premier calls the ‘creative partnership’ between the Government and the union movement a reality, writes our favourite MP Ian West.

Behind the Junta
Saw Min Lwin, Secretary for Trade Union Rights/ Human Rights for the Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB), outlines the struggle for workers in his country.


Governing the Corporates
Suburban branch manager Joy Buckland’s bid for a position on the ANZ Board raises important questions about the way our major companies are governed.


 Taskforce Sleeps As Cranes Crash

 Scabies, Filth in Upmarket Annandale

 ANZ Jumps For Joy

 Race That Couldn’t Stop Nangwarry

 Mandarins in $120m Disappearing Act

 BAT Stubs Out Junta

 Millions on Entitlements Line

 Workcover in Hold-Ups Gun

 Phoenix Rises … Again

 TAFE Takes To Thong Slapping

 Casual Work Is Health Hazard

 Activists Notebook

 Veterans' Compo
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An Honourable Wally

Most Australians probably look at our politicians and feel they could do a better job but when redundant meatworker Wally Norman gets the chance to find out he realises getting elected is a major hurdle, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Ted Emery's The Honourable Wally Norman dishes the dirt on the corruption rife in the small town and vital electoral seat of Gibbon's Head and exposes how far its pollies will go for cash and power.

All hell breaks loose when just weeks before the federal election the local meatworks closes down and the conservative member's main competition goes on a bender.

Goodtime guy come hopeless alcoholic Willy Norman (Alan Cassell) is the best bet to usurp the conservatives and get the meatworkers back their jobs, but his love for the bottle undermines his ability to think, read, see and write, leading to an embarrassing mistake.

When filling out his nomination form to participate in the election he accidentally misspells his own name and nominates Wally Norman (Kevin Harrington) instead.

Wally meanwhile is the town's most unlikely candidate. Cursed with the propensity for fainting during public speaking engagements, he is more surprised than anyone when asked to run for local member.

But when he realises this might just be the ticket to save the local meatworkers' jobs he accepts the challenge and asks his mentor Willy to give him whatever coaching he requires.

However, like learning to drive Wally soon learns that no matter how he works on his own form it's the other buggers on the road he's got to look out for.

While Wally tries to follow Willy's appalling advice it soon becomes clear the main problem is his blind spot for bullshit artists. Being a good bloke himself he expects the same of others, so when his ally and mentor turns bad Wally is the last to know.

Will Wally ever see the meat for the trotters and is being a nice person enough to get him elected? Will he save the meatworkers' jobs or entitlements or will he destroy himself trying? And why would anyone vote for the puppet of a crooked pollie anyway?

Any worker suspecting they could do a better job than Australia's politicians may also suspect they'd do a better job than Wally Norman. Just as any unionist might wonder where the unions are in this story.

Wally is a union member seemingly without representation. When the meatworks shuts down he and his beleaguered colleagues are left to their own devices and the words 'labour movement' become conspicuously absent.

If audience members are able to get past this omittance they may be able to enjoy the film on its other merits. Its cast of characters are engaging and there are some nice subplots involving the relationships between Wally and his camp, goat racing son, between Wally and his long suffering mates and between Wally's daughter and his own political adviser.

The concept of the average Joe getting a chance to run for parliament is also a good one for those frustrated with the country's political system and promises a story worth telling.

But at times the movie's clunky handling of Wally's ways can come across as patronising and painful to watch. The cast's Australianness is stretched beyond belief - in the spirit of many films of this genre - and it does not always measure up to the best of them.

Be that as it may, The Honourable Wally Norman offers light relief and is a pleasant watch for anyone dreaming of a day when workers really get to rule the country. It also provides a couple of warnings for those in with a chance: if in doubt, do not picture your audience naked.


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