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December 2003   

Interview: Muscling Up
Labor�s Craig Emerson discusses how the changes to his party�s leadership will impact on the industrial relations agenda.

Unions: Thinking Pink
What�s the difference between a Nursing Home and an Aged Care Facility? More than semantics, according to nurses worried Australia is woefully unprepared for the crash at the end of the baby-boom cycle, writes Jim Marr.

Bad Boss: Global Bully
If nothing else, US-based call centre giant TeleTech is consistent. After being nosed out of last year�s Bad Boss gong it is back, bigger and badder than ever in its search for Tony honours.

Unions: National Focus
In this national round up by Noel Hester, Hugh McKay tells us how the young are sticking together in a bewildered society, the gongs get handed out at the ACTU awards and there is a chance to win as a worthy wordsmith.

Economics: Friend or Flunkey?
On New Years Day as you look at the wine stains and tread on a soggy puddle on the carpet, will you look for the phone and call a cleaner? Gabrielle Meagher gives a few ethical dilemmas to confront before you make that call.

History: Young Blood
Youth is no barrier to political leadership, as the 37-year-old John Watson proved 100 years ago, writes Neale Towart.

Industrial: Living For Work?
Mark Hearn reports from a recent conference addressing the dilemma of work, citizenship and community.

International: Fighting Together
The international trade union movement is launching a Global Unions HIV/AIDS campaign to combat the spread of the virus.

Poetry: Medicare Plus Blues
Is the Government's new health plan a plus for Medicare? Asks resident bard David Peetz

Review: Human Racing
Seabiscuit is a great horse movie but more than that it serves as a powerful metaphor for the importance of living for the future while maintaining passion and compassion in the present, writes Tara de Boehmler.


The Soapbox
Dear John
In his 500th piece of activist journalism, long-term Workers Online contributor Rowan Cahill sends a personal message to our prime Minister.

The Locker Room
Retired Hurt
Every innings comes to an end, some too soon, and others not soon enough, writes Phil Doyle.

Wedge Watch
Labor's Craig Emerson puts the spotlight on the Howard Government's politics of division.

The Westie Wing
Workers Friend Ian West MLC is back with his monthly round-up from Macquarie Street.


A New Mark for Labor
Few of us who care about the future of the labour movement would not admit to a surge of hope and sense of excitement following the election of Mark Latham to the federal parliamentary leadership.


 Peeking Dicks in Pickle

 Lights Out on Cheap Labour

 Blackout Hangs Over Sydney

 Contractors Hang Up on Telstra

 Uni Workers Too Smart For Minister

 Employer Bullies Vie For �Tony�

 South Coast Deal to Build Movement

 TeleTech Safety Rep Vows to Fight On

 Corporates Urged to Come Clean

 MP Too Busy For Teachers

 Bosses Block Good Shops Code

 Engineers Ground Safety System

 Workers Win At Safety Meet

 Merger Threats

 Activists Notebook

 Feds Ignore Building Deaths
 Bob Gould On Kicking The Liberals Out
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The Westie Wing

Workers Friend Ian West MLC is back with his monthly round-up from Macquarie Street.


This year has proved how vital it is that Labor lives up to its socialist objectives.

Exposing the continued manipulation of the language used to disguise and humanise conservative political agendas is a good place to start.

The myths and economic rationalist jargon that too many leaders and spin doctors employ must not be accepted as truth.

Instead we need to continue to talk about the problems that workers face and try to address them in the knowledge that we can't legislate a perfect world but we can work towards a better one.

It's sickening to hear myths like "there is equality of opportunity" being promoted in parliament and the media.

The 1.6 million Australians living on the minimum wage of $448 per week before tax know a lot about the lack of equality of opportunity. Those same men and women pay the same rate of GST on their groceries as Kerry Packer does out of his corporate paypacket.

Equality of opportunity is a far cry from the "user-pays" agenda that John Howard continually promotes. "Cost shifting" is being accepted as a good idea.

In the lead up to the next Federal election, it will be Mark Latham's job to lead the Labor Party in exposing this Federal Government agenda that sells out Australian workers and their families.

Issues like the "Medicare Plus" plan for families to pay more to visit the doctor, threats to sacrifice the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to satisfy Free Trade agreements with the United States and the shameless promotion of Australian Workplace Agreements are but a few of the frauds that must be exposed.

Funding cuts to health and education by the Federal Government makes things difficult for the State Government.

The Carr-Refshauge Government has still been able to implement some progressive social justice measures.

These include revitalising child protection services, reviewing mental health, reducing class sizes, protecting workers from covert surveillance in the workplace and opening the Cancer Institute.

There have also been a few issues that highlight the importance of intensive, meaningful consultation as part of the law-making process.

The number of protests in Macquarie Street this year shows that there could be more consultation without a fence between the parties.

Recently we've had protests over local government amalgamations, the Collex waste site, industrial manslaughter, TAFE fees, public transport and the poker machine tax.

Now the workers and unions involved in Sydney ports are up in arms because of the Premier's surprise announcement at ALP State Conference that Sydney harbour would no longer be a working port by 2012.

That's not a good example of the ideal of the "creative partnership" between Labor and the union movement being put into practice.

The Premier himself championed this partnership between the industrial and political wings of the party at the Labor Council Annual General Meeting this year.

Despite process problems like this, the NSW conservative Opposition poses little challenge to the Carr-Refshauge Government, because it is clearly lazy and incompetent. It has no ability to promote an agenda or expose any Government weakness.

Macquarie Street Labor has to be on guard against arrogance and complacency in this environment, by being willing to both listen and inform.

Fortunately, there have been opportunities to do this, such as the ongoing Labor Council briefings for Labor MPs that Tony Burke and I have hosted.

The December Labor Council briefing looked at industrial manslaughter issues. We will hold many more of these instructive briefings next year.

Keeping interest groups in the electorate informed is just as important as listening. That includes exposing the myths that affect the way people view certain issues.

A major myth that is repeatedly bandied about is that the market is inherently efficient, but as we know, it doesn't hold true in most cases.

Take public liability insurance. Labor has passed many reforms, yet market competition has not meant insurers will provide affordable premiums or proper cover.

It's an example of how a government player in the market could provide appropriate cover for private and public bodies. Former Labor Premier William McKell championed that idea and carried it out with the Government Insurance Office.

Another case is media diversity, highlighted by the Premier's recent comments about the plan to merge the newsrooms for Sydney radio stations 2UE, 2GB and 2CH.

The plan has been scrapped after public outcry, but it will no doubt return. As the Premier (a former journo) said, the plan would have reduced diversity of opinion on Sydney radio and cost jobs for journalists.

Without the lies that we are fed everyday being repeatedly exposed, the conservative agenda prevail.

We will find ourselves in the situation where the buzzwords of "flexibility", "freedom of choice" and "individual bargaining" in the workplace are accepted as beneficial.

Labor in New South Wales can fall into the trap of using this economic rationalist language, despite Bob Carr's preference to say things clearly and concisely.

As a Labor MP in Macquarie Street, I'm constantly reminded that leadership is about convincing people that change is proper and appropriate, by informing and consulting the electorate.

The challenge for Labor in New South Wales is to combat arrogance and myth-making by continuing to work on its progressive program, keeping the public involved and empowered.

Legislation Watch: to see the latest legislation from NSW Parliament, go to and click the "current legislation" link.

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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