Interview: Trading in Principle
Unions: While We Were Away
Politics: Follow the Leader
Bad Boss: Safety Recidivist Fingered
Economics: Casualisation Shrouded In Myths
History: Worker Control Harco Style
Review: Other Side Of The Harbour
All The Way With FTA?
State Of Confusion
Give Them A Medal
While We Were Away
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.
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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