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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
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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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.
 

Thomson's play looks through the eyes of those on each side of the maritime dispute: the wharfies, their union, the scabs, the business people, the conscientious observers and those in such positions of comfort the plight of the workers is all but lost on them.

Most of these positions are represented by the members of one family who have long ago gone their separate ways after being left by erstwhile father and former wharfie Sandy (Peter Carroll). Whilst in the glow of accepting a generous redundancy package the aging union stalwart had abandoned his throng in favour of a young female muse and a promise of a better life many miles away.

But Sandy is now back citing health complaints and a new found desire to reunite the clan.

The plan could work except his former missus and sharp-tongued minx Vi (Melissa Jaffer) will not have a bar of it and suspects his illness and desire for togetherness are intrinsically connected. Vi never recovered from his rejection and her bullshit detector is now too finely tuned to let any of his pleas for forgiveness touch her heart.

So Sandy decides to work with what he's got - the somewhat fading goodwill of his children who are perhaps the only people left who hold any sway with mum. But they have done a lot of growing in the years since he's left - and most of it apart. If he wants to make them do his bidding he will first need to understand them.

This is the challenge for all members of the Harbour family, who despite growing up with a strong union influence have since chosen vastly different paths for themselves. Even his oldest son (Christopher Pitman), who has carried on the union tradition, is now questioning his reasons for following his father into the labour movement. Meanwhile one of Sandy's daughters (Helen Dallimore) is sleeping with the enemy - a man from the big end of town more concerned with material gain than the well-being of a handful of maritime workers.

Harbour tells of times when a with us or against us doctrine will not do, when compromise is called for and understanding cannot depend on everyone sharing the same mono-view.

The Sydney Theatre production asks whether people need to forget to forgive and whether everyone has to agree in order for peace to reign. Often families do not have this luxury and none expresses this better than the cast of Harbour.

If there is a criticism of this production it is the feeling that it's chiefly tailored just for people who were involved in or closely following the maritime dispute while it was high news. For those whose memories have been compromised by the scourge of time or were otherwise engaged for the duration of the dispute, Harbour does not paint the industrial picture clearly.

The play features some outstanding building site sets and it artfully captures the locked-out workers' feelings of hopelessness. It also attempts to tell the scabs' and scab trainer's tales. But its lack of sympathy for these characters is perhaps what stops audience members from connecting with the motivations of those who compromised the workers' jobs and in turn one half of the story feels lost.

Yet the other half of the Harbour tale is entertaining and thoughtful enough to make it a satisfying production regardless. It boasts a brilliant script with excellent acting, particularly from Sandy's estranged wife. Vi's sardonic one liners leave no doubt about her position on anything and the family's banter makes for a hilarious tennis match of scathing witticisms shooting back, forth and centre across the stage.

On a soppy level this play suggests that if everyone could just remember they come from the same family - the human race - people might feel they had enough invested in harmony to work together and achieve it.


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