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Year End 2003   

Interview: Robbo’s Rules
Labor Council secretary John Robertson rules the line through 2003 and looks forward to a bigger and better year to come.

Unions: Fightback 2003
Tony Abbott, no less, summed up the tone of 2003 when he complained workers were frustrating his agenda, as Jim Marr reports.

Bad Boss: Madame Lash Whips Tony
Jim Marr explains how a local can manufacturer knocked off a quality field, including a notorious American call centre operator, in the race for Bad Boss honours.

Politics: United Front
Facing a new leader and new rules, Jim Marr speaks to key union players about the hot issues at January’s ALP National Conference.

Economics: Looking Back - Looking Forward
The year ends with the thought that 2004 must be better, writes Frank Stilwell in his annual review of all things economic.

International: Net Benefits
International editor Andrew Casey looks back on a year where workers stood up globally for services we once took for granted.

History: The New Guard
Who were Australia’s fascists in the 1930s and was John Howard’s father in the New Guard? Labour historian, Andrew Moore, uncovers some surprising information about Australia’s fascist past.

Poetry: What is the PM singing this Christmas?
Our Kirribilli spies, led by resident bard David Peetz, have been listening in on the PM's preparations for Christmas, and have recorded the Howard family rehearsing this new Christmas carol.

Review: Culture That Was
2003 saw the Howard Government signal its readiness to swap culture for agriculture in a free trade deal with the US and film maker George Miller lament that Aussie's had run out of stories to tell anyway, writes Tara de Boehmler.


The Guessing Game
We have consulted our regular list of mystics and gnostics to offer these throughts for the future.

Folk You Mate
Jan Nary looks at the role of workers songs in the upcoming National Folk Festival.

Shane Maloney – Crime Writer
For a crime writer whose books are set against a backdrop of unions and Labor Party politics, Shane Maloney confesses to little direct experience of either.

The Locker Room
Workers Online Sports Awards
Noel Hester and Peter Moss give their annual rundown of the good, the bad and the ugly in the world of sport.

The Web We Weave
Social Change Online's Mark McGrath's annual review of how unions are using the web to grow.


Backs to the Wall
How does one judge a year like 2003, when on the surface the powers of darkness – read Bush and Howard and union-busting bosses - can point to the scoreboard and claim ‘we won!’?


 No Joy for ANZ - This Time

 Nurses, Teachers Win Big

 Govt Coy on Sackings Threat

 NSW: State of Discomfort

 Fashion Police Collar Moe

 Telstra Picks Up Union Signal

 E-Missiles Strike White House

 STOP PRESS: Doubts Over Driver Test

 Juggler Catches Union Gong

 Chubb Beats Up On Own Guards

 Commuters Face Long, Hot Summer

 MUA Members Play Santa

 Bennelong Grinch Strikes Again

 G’day To Union Made Wines

 Activists Notebook

 Tom On Mark
 Looking The Otherway At Christmas
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Culture That Was

2003 saw the Howard Government signal its readiness to swap culture for agriculture in a free trade deal with the US and film maker George Miller lament that Aussie's had run out of stories to tell anyway, writes Tara de Boehmler.

But the rise and rise of reality TV suggested a lack of stories would not deter the viewing public and if anyone really wanted profound comment on the state of the nation they needed look no further than the manicured backyard of our Kath and Kim.

Fresh from winning the Best Drama gong in 2002, the show this year scooped the Outstanding Australian TV Comedy at the Australian Comedy Awards and became the top rating comedy show of 2003. Next year a new reality TV section might need to be created as the show becomes less of a comedy and more of a frighteningly recognisable allegory about the M Generation - M for me, materialism, my backyard, and letting the market decide.

Kath's self-centred daughter revealed the dark flip-side of Generation X. She aggressively pursued her own agenda at the expense of everyone in her path, all but blind to the feelings and needs of all - including herself. While many wrote off the show as an unfair attack on the middle classes, aspects of Kim's character transcended fiscal status, geography, gender and history.

There was a lot to be learned from this familiar creature such as why we had a Liberal Government in power, why we continued to wreak havoc on the environment, and why ... anyway, you get the drift.

Other highlights in the 2004 battle of the realities included Queer Eye for the Straight Guy in which five stereotypical self-parodies attempted to replicate themselves using malleable 'straights' wooed with the promise of free designer goods; Big Brother III, scooped by a chip shop owning suburban lass whose scant use of the English language was more than made up for by her prolific exclamations of "bugger"; and Australian Idol, won by divine Afro-crowned disco dancing Guy Sebastian despite his main competition being endorsed by Bob Carr for being a true blue Aussie.

So popular was reality TV in 2003 that Channel 7's 2004 line-up boasts a mega 14 new reality shows in a bid to play catch-up to Channel 10. Meanwhile Channel 9 will continue to straddle the line between reality, fiction and fake with it's latest offering Nip/Tuck. Centred on a plastic surgery practice the black comedy combined with white-bread drama of this show is compelling viewing despite the unpalatably realistic portrayal of life under the surgeon's knife.

For those seeking culture from places other than atop well-worn couches, Aussie cinemas offered a different view, where escapism pipped reality as the name of the game.

In Ted Emery's The Honourable Wally Norman audiences lived vicariously through the plight of a redundant meatworker who got a shot at running the country when his employer went belly up. Secretary portrayed a strange and kinky relationship that at its core followed some similar pattens to the best of them. 28 Days Later provided a modern horror take on a biological warfare worst case scenario.

Even historical movies got the fantasy make-over, including Ned Kelly, The Night We Called it a Day, and The Hours. Gregor Jordan's take on Ned Kelly was window-dressed with so much fiction the guts of the story was all but spilt. But The Night We Called it a Day met with more success with its quirky take on an already bizarre event, in which Frank Sinatra swapped his place in the hearts of the nation for a spot in union folklore as the man who did it his way and was forced to pay the price by Aussie workers.

But that's all in the past now and it's time to look to the future, for now it's non-ratings season so it's every man, woman and child for themselves.


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