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December 2004   

Interview: Minority Report
New federal ALP industrial relations spokesman Stephen Smith on the hostilities in store for the labour movement.

Industrial: Girl Power
Tim Brunero looks at how women are making their mark in a once-male dominated trade.

Unions: Made in NZ
Jim Marr looks behind the rhetoric to uncover what the Howard Government has in store for Australian workers.

History: Spirit for a Fair Go
Paddy Gorman looks at the importance of Eureka on the Australian political psyche.

Economics: Fool's Gold
Tom Bramble identifies some contradictions in Howard's economic miracle.

Politics: Worth Fighting For
One of the Left's most influential figures of the last 40 years gives his theory of power ...

Health: The Force Behind Medibank
Public health has always been a core activity for the union movement, writes Neale Towart

Legal: Robust Justice
Former ACTU executive member and textile union leader Anna Booth argues that Alternate Dispute Resolution is one way around the looming assault on union rights.

International: After the Revolution
Has China entered a post-revolutionary phase - and where will it take the world, asks James Goodman

Poetry: The Sound of Unions
Ah, the hills are alive, with The Sound of Unions, muses resident bard, David Peetz

Review: Bad Santa
Billy Bob Thornton's newest role puts the 'nick' in Saint Nicholas and reveals the Satan in Santa, writes Tara de Boehmler.


New Matilda
How Labor Lost the Plot
In his contribution to Australia's new political zine 'New Matilda' , Father Michael kelly argues the ALP is in search of a soul.

The Soapbox
Outside the Tent
Labor exile Lindsay Tanner is warning the ALP to be careful who it gets into bed with.

The Locker Room
Sons Of Beaches
Phil Doyle gets the perfect wave, and waves back

The Westie Wing
150 years since the struggle at Eureka, the fight to achieve social justice, equality and responsible government is just as vital as ever in the neo-conservative Australia, writes Ian West.

Postcard from Harare
Ken Davis, from Union Aid Abroad, on how unions are at the forefront in the battle for democracy in Zimbabwe


Moral Majority
Unions NSW is currently hosting one of the world�s great thinkers in Robert Reich; academic, commentator and Clinton labour secretary; a man with a mind as big as the dilemmas progressive politics face right now.


 Moral Crusade to Save Family

 20 Dead � Stockmarket Applauds

 Karen Gives Howard a Paint Job

 Buckeridge Bill Blocks Entry

 Casual Beach Closures

 Railworkers Scull Costa

 Racism in the Dock

 Go Home Alone � And Other Survival Tips

 Vet Beats Bullet

 Cleaners Clean Up

 Weekend Work Wiped

 Miners Go to the Movies

 Feds Attack Low Paid

 Activists What's On!

 Leadership Skills
 Not A Casey Fan
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The Westie Wing

150 years since the struggle at Eureka, the fight to achieve social justice, equality and responsible government is just as vital as ever in the neo-conservative Australia, writes Ian West.

On December 3rd 1854, thirty gold miners died on the Eureka Stockade in the name of justice, democracy, fraternity and equality--worthy sentiments still in need of defence against the conservatism that pervades our everyday lives.

The diggers' movement from Eureka successfully won, amongst other things, the right to vote for men over 21, a parliamentary government for Victoria, more extensive land rights and an 8-hour day. After strikes of miners, shearers and many others, the Australian Labor Party was formed in 1891.

Compared to this important progress in Australia's history, the current Federal Labor grieving process is a hiccup. In the meantime, the labour movement through its political wing is struggling to articulate its socially essential message in a hostile environment heralded by a mainly captured mass media.

Part the message is the importance of equal bargaining forums and structures and that employee unions do not exist to thwart business and the economy.

Newspaper articles often read more like editorials. One recent howler I read related to Howard's plan of removing contractors from the scope of the Workplace Relations Act. A front-page article in the Australian Financial Review opined:

"Companies see this legislation as crucial to stopping union attempts to prevent further deregulation of workplaces and contracting out. Unions rope in independent contractors and labour-hire firms through enterprise agreements and applications to industrial relations tribunals."

If unions had the power that the press make out they have, the movement would be a strong force indeed.

Another example is the skewed reporting of views on industrial issues. Commonwealth Bank's CEO, David Murray, decried existing NSW OH&S legislation as the worst he'd ever seen and judged the proposed legislation on workplace deaths penalties as "absolutely abominable".

Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca issued a robust Media Release rebutting Murray's ridiculous statements. Despite only the final few paragraphs of the original article quoting Della's spokesperson, I can find no further attention given to the issue.

This is where the labour movement is not getting its message across and is being starved of relevance as a result. That's why innovative approaches are required because Howard's not about to open up the media market.

It has been encouraging to see articles from Workers Online or union websites being lifted by mainstream print media journalists--that is a great victory against the parroting of conservative spin-doctors. (Though it may be a sad indictment on the work ethic of print journos!)

What we need is a bit of fire in the belly in Labor politicians, the unions have not lost the fire as they battle for workers' survival in this hostile environment. By getting back on the road with those good labour values of justice, equality and responsible government we might get more achieved in 2005.

For my spin on What's On in NSW Parliament, go to Ian West's Online Office at

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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