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June 2004   

Interview: The New Democrat
Canadian activist Judy Rebick explains how she's using lessons from Brazil to rebuild the labour movement.

Bad Boss: The Ugly Australian
Prime Minister John Howard is in California spruiking the "merits" of this month�s Bad Boss nomination �

Unions: Free Spirits and Slaves
International capital demands guest labour � legal or illegal � as a way of beating down wages and conditions and, as Jim Marr discovers, the Australian Government seems happy to oblige.

Industrial: National Focus
Noel Hester reports on another workplace death (we-will-not-RIP NOHSC), heartburn for the Canberra consensus and all the action from around the states in our national wrap.

History: A Class Act
The problem of forgetting the primacy of class in favour of other ideas of community is highlighted in a new book, writes Neale Towart

International: Across the Ditch
NZ Nurses Union leader, Laila Harr�, is in Sydney this week, comparing notes with the Australian Nurses Federation and seeking transTasman support for New Zealand�s highest profile industrial campaign.

Economics: Home Truths
Sydney University's Frank Stilwell argues that tax policy is driving the housing boom.

Review: No Time Like Tomorrow
The Day After Tomorrow is one part Grim Reaper of the environmental movement and two parts fictitious fable dramatically window dressed with extreme special effects, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Silent Note
Resident Bard David Peetz uncovers the current public service motto � "Don't tell the Minister!".


The Soapbox
The Pursuit of Happiness Part I
The Australia Institute's Clive Hamilton questions the assumptions underlying a society that defines happiness in dollar terms.

The Soapbox
The Pursuit of Happiness Part II
Clive Hamilton concludes his analysis, looking at how more and more Australians are pulling back from a marketplace that is no longer providing the goods.

The Locker Room
Sack �Em All!
Phil Doyle puts his job on the line, but doesn�t everyone these days?

The Westie Wing
The NSW Government has an agenda on the table but the test is finding innovative ways to finance it, writes Ian West


Last Year�s Model
Economists keep telling us things have never been better, all the economic indicators say so. Which sparks the obvious question: why are so many of us feeling so low?


 Trade Deal a $47 Billion Dud

 Ground Staff Spread Fashion Wings

 Ghan Raises Trans-Continental Stink

 Union Busters Bank on Labor

 Witnesses Face Casual Duress

 Rail Workers Cop �Beer Nannies�

 Sun Shines on Green Bans

 Big Business Plan to Cripple Compo

 Money Can�t Buy Me Love

 Federal Election in Doubt

 Safety Defects Plague Adelaide

 Police Investigate Assault Claim

 Activists What�s On!

 Liberal Laugh
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The Westie Wing

The NSW Government has an agenda on the table but the test is finding innovative ways to finance it, writes Ian West

"All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"

The Leader of the People's Front of Judea, in Monty Python's Life of Brian, sounds a bit like John Brogden/Lee Rhiannon/Clover Moore at the moment.

The Carr-Refshauge Government's 3rd term agenda is to provide and improve all those services the Romans provided and more, but funding is always a serious challenge. There are plenty of ideas for new government programs and solutions to problems, but not so many innovative ways to finance them.

It's all too apparent from the regular Labor Council briefings for Labor MPs held in Parliament House that Bob Carr's 'creative partnership' between unions and the government referred to at the beginning of the third term is suffering--it lacks creativity and equality at the moment.

This is clear from the issues covered in the briefings, such as providing decent wages for teachers, nurses and public servants, the Secure Employment Test Case, rail transport, workplace surveillance and the treatment of the Industrial Relations Commission, including considering making appeals on IRC judgements possible.

And other forums have raised salient issues, concerning both city and country infrastructure, including:

-cuts to services and problems with infrastructure for passenger and freight rail

-hospitals funding and maintenance

-schools funding and maintenance

-urban planning and housing

-water resources, and

-state forests

These are all big ticket items and it would be foolish to say there are simple approaches to managing them. Funding is the hardest part in all these issues, but it is not an excuse for failing to deliver.

It is true that the National Competition Policy requirements, cuts to GST revenue and cuts to education and health funding for NSW are making things difficult.

And it hurts even more to see that the only group that the Howard Government is being generous with at the moment are the advertising agencies.

But it is still not to be used as an excuse.

Instead, the positive steps the Carr-Refshauge Government is taking should be focussed on.

In NSW, the Government is planning ways of tackling the big issues, such as formulating the Metropolitan Strategy worth $30 billion over 4 years, which aims to provide infrastructure with sustainability, transport, employment, urban renewal and funding in mind.

Some of the possible funding approaches being explored includes encouraging superannuation funds investing in infrastructure. Another option is to make developers make greater contributions when paddocks in Sydney's North West and South West are rezoned for housing.

More of these ideas need to be explored further. It might seem old fashioned, but Government Bonds may still be good way of financing public programs.

Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) are all the rage at the moment, but they should be approached with great caution. So far, most of them still divest too much liability onto the public purse, which ends up paying for expensive private bungles.

PPPs are really another form of corporate welfare, which is all too common at the moment, especially in the Federal sphere. That's still nothing compared to the empire built on corporate welfare, the United States of America.

American social activist Ralph Nader has done some interesting research on corporate welfare. Just a few of the examples he cites are tax breaks for political party donors, tobacco companies and military contractors.

It's all part of the "myriad subsidies, bailouts, giveaways, tax loopholes, debt revocations loan guarantees, discounted insurance and other benefits conferred by government on business" which Nader calls "Corporate Socialism", as in socialising the losses and privatising the profits.

It's interesting to see in the American Presidential campaign that internet democracy is really taking off. And "The Mouse that Roars" Editorial from Issue 219 shows that this is an important development for the global labour movement.

In that spirit, the following links may be of use:

For more information on Ralph Nader's research on corporate welfare in the USA:

For more information on What's On in NSW Parliament, go to

I am interested to hear feedback and ideas--you can contact Antony Dale or myself at Parliament House on (02) 9230 2052 or email me at [email protected].


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