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September 2004   

Interview: True Matilda
Former senior bureaucrat John Menadue coordinated the group of 43 calling for truth in government; and now he has bigger fish to fry.

Politics: State of Play
Are all political parties the same? Workers Online tries to cut through the jargon to compare the major parties' approaches to key policy areas.

Industrial: Capital Dilemmas
Public Private Partnerships amount to privatisation by stealth. Or do they? Jim Marr investigates.

Unions: Rhodes Scholars
Tim Brunero discovers how the Electrical Trades Union is doing its best to ease the national apprentice crisis.

National Focus: Rennovating the Lodge
Noel Hester previews how unions will be fighting the federal election - on the ground and online.

International: People Power
Over the next four years there is a real potential a major struggle will take place for workers´┐Ż rights and the creation of truly democratic unions in China., writes Andrew Casey

Economics: A Bit Rich
Who Gets What? Why? And So What?, Frank Stilwell reviews the BRW's Rich List

History: Mine Shafts
It's 25 years since Nymboida passed the baton to United, writes Peter Murray

Safety: Sick Of Fighting
Former RAAF engineers could be sitting on a health time bomb, Tim Brunero reports.

Organising: Building a Wave
Community groups, unions and social movements all practice organising, wrties Tony Brown and Amanda Tattersall.

Poetry: Anger In The Bush(es)
How dare any Liberal suggest that the Prime Minister is a lying rodent! Resident bard David Peetz reports on the outrage that this slur has justifiably caused.

Review: The Battle Of Algiers
Tim Brunero writes The Battle of Algiers is a coldly objective, almost scientific anatomy of revolution.

Culture: The Word On The Street
Phil Doyle reports on how the Australian working class experience lives on through the words of the remarkable Geoff Goodfellow.


The Soapbox
Hail to the Metro-Sexual!
If the cultural shift required in the workplace to give greater security to working families was broadly accepted the ACTU would not be locked in an adversarial Work and Family test case argues Sharan Burrow.

The Westie Wing
In his latest missive from Macquarie Street our resident Parliamentary commentator, Ian West, walks us through issues around the PBS.

How Bush Lost His Wings
Tracking the National Guard Career of the Fatuous Flyboy from New Haven, Jeffrey St Clair.

The Locker Room
The Name of the Game
Phil Doyle wonders whether we are barracking for the sponsor or the team.

Women to Women
APHEDA-Union Aid Abroad is working to create opportunities for Palestinian women living in Lebanese refugee camps.


Interest Overboard
A tired, ageing government tries to scare the electorate into re-electing it on the basis of a lie. Sound familiar? Yep, John Howard is going to the polls again.


 Sprung: Howard Liberal with Truth

 Yanks Demand Racism

 The Greening of Labour

 Mums Move to Ease Squeeze

 Flying Kangaroo Goes to Water

 Health Warning for Bank Robbers

 Heritage Goes to Waste

 Freespirit in Hiding

 Offensive Toilets Threaten Pupils

 Telstra Dials Workplace Acquiescence

 P-Plate Nightmare for Young

 Free Loaders on Notice

 Funny Money Raises Interest

 Privatisation Debate Energised

 Activists What's On!

 Gold Gold Gold for Neolibs
 Co-operating At All Costs
 Fan Mail
 All Good Except You
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The Word On The Street

Phil Doyle reports on how the Australian working class experience lives on through the words of the remarkable Geoff Goodfellow.

The ability of working Australians to laugh in the face of adversity has struck Geoff Goodfellow in his 20 years as the unofficial poet laureate to the Australian working class.

"I've had union reps say 'show the poet why you don't pick your nose anymore Harry', and they've shown a club instead of a hand, and everybody has laughed.

"They've laughed because they've had to laugh.

"If they didn't laugh they'd cry, and if they cried they'd never stop."

For most of us the picture of a poet is some goatee wearing sophisticate with a beret, sipping coffee in a trendy cafe, but the former building worker uses what he calls the "colloquial voice of the Australian workplace" to tell stories about a class the publishing world pretends doesn't exist.

"At a writers week 80% of the audience is middle class," says Goodfellow. "That has got to be challenged."

Goodfellow shot to prominence in his native Adelaide in the late eighties as the 'building site poet', where the local tabloid cartoonists had a field day portraying him as a tattooed oaf in a tu-tu.

The Building Workers Industrial Union, now part of the CFMEU, sponsored Geoff to do poetry readings on building sites.

"Building workers have a self-confidence and pride from doing a job interview every 12 weeks," says Goodfellow. "They aren't afraid to tell you what they think. If my readings hadn't of worked they would have told me."

"But they recognise that I'm from their culture, I speak their language."

His first collection of poems No Collars No Cuffs, first published in 1986, is now in its 9th printing. Seven books have followed, most running into multiple print runs.

"I set out to write for ordinary everyday Australians, the people that get forgotten. The people that vacuum the room, the people that get up on a ladder to change a light bulb, the people who fix the heater, the plumber who unblocks the toilet.

"What they do is important and should be recognised by people.

"I'm writing for my family and the broader family of people that work. I want to tell our stories," he said.

Goodfellow left school at 15 and worked a variety of semi-skilled jobs before beginning to write poetry in his early 30s, after a severe back injury brought about his early retirement from the building industry.

He has been writer-in-residence at places from St Ignatius' College to Yatala Gaol's B Division.

In 1990 he was awarded an Australia Council Community Writer's Fellowship with the now CFMEU culminating in the publication No Ticket No Start. He has opened rock concerts for Midnight Oil and The Velvet Underground legend, John Cale, and had a national Australian touring residency taking poetry to building workers.

His poems are unromantic snapshots of the Australian working class existence. They show extraordinary lives - the humour and tragedy often found side by side in working life.

"I'm plucking individuals out who are representative of the class I want to talk about," says Goodfellow. "I've known some rough heads and some rough mouths that are not afraid of expressing emotions. I've known a lot of hard men and seen them break down.

"It doesn't matter how hard someone is, they still need avenues to express their emotions.

"I'm trying to work through those ideas that cause a lot of stress.

"I don't come up with any solutions, I'm not a philosopher, but I note them on the agenda."

Goodfellow knows it's an agenda that is hard to get up in these economically rationalist times.

He believes there is a correlation between domestic violence and what he calls "the dumbing down of the Australian workforce".

"People shut down, It's an area that's got to be looked at," he says. "Political parties, left and right, have deserted the hands and feet people."

Goodfellow got into poetry because it "seemed a way to get into and out of a subject in a fairly easy way and have something transportable that I could take around to forums".

"There are six or seven drafts of what I write. It's a carefully contrived simplicity."

Goodfellow sees himself as part of the Irish Catholic working class tradition of oral storytelling. His 'real' family name is McGuigan. It was changed so his family could get work in the protestant north.

"We were brought up to tell our stories."

Goodfellow is now embarking on a poetry novel telling the story of a contemporary Australian working class family through the eyes of a teenager. The issues he is addressing - single parent families, economic hopelessness, pokie and heroin addictions - run the full gamut of the world he sees unfolding around him.

"My father told me I should hurry slowly," says Goodfellow wryly. "The older I get the more I realise what he told me."

"If you get your stuff out there it has to be good."

The Violence of Work

i work in a factory
Monday to Friday
aaa apunch onaa aaapunch off

i work a rotating roster
Monday to Friday
aaa apunch onaa aaapunch off

i wear earmuffs & gloves
Monday to Friday
aaa apunch onaa aaapunch off

i stamp on a press
Monday to Friday
aaa apunch onaa aaapunch off

i still had my fingers last
Monday to Friday
aaa apunch onaa aaapunch off

i make repetitive pieces
Monday to Friday
aaa apunch onaa aaapunch off

i work on a tally
Monday to Friday
aaa apunch onaa aaapunch off

i'm told to work faster
Monday to Friday
aaa apunch onaa aaapunch off

i have smoko with Billy
Monday to Friday
aaa apunch onaa aaapunch off

i play euchre at lunchtime
Monday to Friday
aaa apunch onaa aaapunch off

i just do my best
Monday to Friday
aaa apunch onaa aaapunch off

i'm paid the award for
Monday to Friday
aaa apunch onaa aaapunch off

i don't complain to the boss
Monday to Friday
aaa apunch onaa aaapunch off

but complain to my partner
Monday to Sunday
aaaa awant to punch on
aaa aaaa aaaa punch on.

Geoff Goodfellow's works include: No Collars No Cuffs Bow Tie & Tails No Ticket No Start Triggers: turning experiences into poetry Triggers: the video The Sex Poems Unleashed Semi Madness: voices from Semaphore Love is cruel Poems for a Dead Father Punch On Punch Off (October 2004) Visit Geoff Goodfellow's website or Vulgar Press - Australia's working class publishers

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