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February 2004   
F E A T U R E S

Interview: Trading in Principle
AMWU national secretary, Doug Cameron, a key figure in the Labor movement, discusses the big issues - from Mark Latham to Pavlovís Dogs.

Unions: While We Were Away
While Workers Online was washing sand from between its toes and enjoying an Indian summer at the cricket, there was a reality show chugging relentlessly away in the background, Jim Marr reports.

Politics: Follow the Leader
Workerís Online tool man, Phil Doyle, dives into the ALPís Darling Harbour love-in and nearly drowns in treacle.

Bad Boss: Safety Recidivist Fingered
The CFMEU has come up with a killer nomination to kick off our 2004 hunt for Australiaís worst employer.

Economics: Casualisation Shrouded In Myths
British academic, Kevin Doogan, sets the record straight on casualisation and warns unionists about the dangers of scoring an own goal

History: Worker Control Harco Style
Drew Cottle and Angela Keys ask if it's worth rememberinng the 1971 Harco work-in.

Review: Other Side Of The Harbour
The 1998 maritime dispute threatened to tear many a family apart but Katherine Thomson's Harbour tells the tale of at least one that it brought back together - albeit reluctantly, writes Tara de Boehmler.

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Dog Whistlers, Spin Doctor and Us
John Menadue argues the "better angels" of the Australian character are having their wings ripped off by an ever-expanding group dedicating to keeping the public at arms length from our decision-makers.

Postcard
Something Fishy In Laos
Phillip Hazelton fishes around in Vientiane, Laos, and looks at the impact of Bird Flu on those relying on feathered friends for survival.

Sport
Magic Realism
Phil Doyle discovers that literature and sport may have more in common than you would think

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Trickle, flood or drought? Workers friend Ian West, MLC, is wet, wet, wet on the issue of bilateral Free Trade.

E D I T O R I A L

All The Way With FTA?
Question marks over the bi-lateral Free Trade Agreement with the USA have only begun to scratch the surface.

N E W S

 Rail Safety Back On Track

 Commuter Headaches Continue

 Ban "Ruthless" Operators - Judge

 Telstra Provokes Jobs Fight

 Taskforce Ignores Million Dollar Rorts

 Musos Tune-Up for Election Rock

 Chubby Fingers in Timorese Pockets

 Postal Workers Wrap Boss

 Aussie Sites Doing the Business

 Feds Abandon Aged

 TAFE Stands Over Poor Students

 Round the World on Aid

 Activists Notebook

L E T T E R S
 Reality TV
 TAFE Support
 State Of Confusion
 Scambuster
 History Lesson
 Generation Angst
 Give Them A Medal
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While We Were Away


While Workers Online was washing sand from between its toes and enjoying an Indian summer at the cricket, there was a reality show chugging relentlessly away in the background, Jim Marr reports.

Donning the Threads

Professional Westie Mark Latham shed the flannelette shirt and donned a suit to step up as a potential Prime Minister. The makeover rattled the encumbent to the point where he looked smaller than ever, not least when he was down on the floor scaring school kids in a bid to compete with his new opponent. This particular stunt occurred days after the present office holder blamed public school teachers for all the woes in the world, and a few more besides.

Latham cut through the white noise of Australian politics to make a Labor voice clearly audible for the first time in years, then trumped that hand by playing a statesman-like role at the Party's national conference in Sydney. There's plenty of water to flow under the bridge before November but supporters are optimistic a change of government would, at least, see their country turn in its rusting deputy sherrif's badge.

Coalition of the Wallies

Internationally, the Coalition of the Wallies stopped looking for a black cat in a dark room that wasn't there and began searching for scapegoats, leaving spymasters from Canberra to Washington looking decidedly spooked. US media bosses gave us another glimpse into their value system when the unscheduled appearance of Janet's right knocker provoked outrage and a formal inquiry, after months of up close-up coverage of thousands losing their lives in Iraq elicited only editorial cheering.

Golden Parachutes

Former bank teller, Frank Cicutto, shows that corporate excess is alive and well in the NAB, parachuting out of the managing director's seat with a cool $14 million to cushion his fall. His decision to exit follows one of the great losing streaks in modern Australian gambling when a bunch of youthful traders "lose" something in the vicinity of $180 million - the sort of float that would be more than handy on a quiet Saturday at Warwick Farm.

Off the Rails

The big three of NSW Labor - Michael Egan, Bob Carr and Michael Costa - used the Inquiry into last year's Waterfall Disaster to come up with a radical plan to fight obesity in their state. The strategy, apparently, is to force rail commuters to walk to work any time the temperature goes above 35 degrees. As usual, though, there are cynics in the commentariat who reckon the train-denied will hop in their motors adding to greenhouse gas emissions and, incidentally, the profits of those involved with private roads, private transport and oil companies. The three wise men dismiss such suggestions and ask for legal advice on how they might force train drivers to work more overtime. When the lawyers come up empty handed they throw millions at the drivers and, to be fair, commit to addressing some of the underlying systemic problems. Still, as one disgruntled commuter remarked: "At least when Mussolini bashed up the unions he got the trains to run on time."

Mum's the Word

Five hundred CPSU members win a radical maternity leave breakthrough, average 19 percent wage increases, and $1000 sign-on bonuses just three months after Education Minister Brendan Nelson tried to torpedo negotiations with Sydney University. The maternity leave provisions set a new benchmark, granting women 14 weeks on full pay followed by another 38 weeks at 60 percent of their wages. Nelson, already embarrassed by his failure to impose restrictions on bargaining including AWAs, throws a tanty, first class, about the collective agreement. He argues hard-up students will pay for the workers' gains which is a bit rich coming from the bloke who redesigned HECS as a mechanism for keeping children of Prols, no matter how bright, in their places. An unimpressed mum-to-be employed at the university told the media people wouldn't really understand the importance of maternity leave until they were pregnant themselves.

The Good Oil

Rail unions celebrate the culmination of a "hundred year dream" as the Ghan pulls out of Adelaide on its maiden trip to Darwin, the longest north-south rail route in the world. The Adelaide-Darwin line has been a recurring them in union agitation about the importance of infrastructure since before the First World War. The Rail Tram and Bus Union celebrates by announcing the winners of song and poetry competitions and publishing a souvenir edition of its national magazine.

National secretary, Roger Jowett, however, is compelled to question the involvement of US giant Halliburton in the project. The company, closely aligned with US vice president Dick Cheney is a major beneficiary from the Iraq war and has been accused of profit gouging in that particular desert. Jowett also points out that the Coalition Government has been less than committed to rail infrastructure, in general, leaving $140 million of the $250 million, allocated to the ailing national network, sitting unspent.


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