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April 2005   

Interview: Australia@Work
Labor's Penny Wong has the job of getting more people into the workplace and keeping companies honest. In her spare time ....

Unions: State of the Union
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson unveils the annual survey of attitudes of workers to their jobs, thier lives and the union.

Industrial: Fashion Accessories
Jim Marr unpacks the unlikely claim of a suburban house to be considered the New Mecca of the New Right �

Legal: Leg Before Picket
Chris White looks at how the federal industrial changes will impact on the basic right to strike.

Politics: Business Welfare Brats
Neale Towart asks why the only form of legitmate welfare seems to be going to the top end of town.

Health: Cannabis Controversy
Zoe Reynolds looks at how drug and alcohol testing is leading to some addled outcomes.

Economics: Debt, Deficit, Downturn
As the indicators head south, Frank Stilwell wonders whether it is the way we do economics that is to blame.

History: Politics In The Pubs
Phil Doyle reports on the increasingly-popular Struggles, Scabs and Schooners day out.

Review: Three Bob's Worth
Doing their best Margaret and David, Tara de Boehmler and Tim Brunero have different takes on the new Australian flick Three Dollars.

Poetry: Do The Slowly Chokie
Workers Online bard David Peetz teaches how workers to dance to Howard's industrial laws.


The Soapbox
Notes From a Laneway
Mental Health Workers Alliance member Toby Raeburn shares a week on the frontline.

The Locker Room
War, Plus The Shooting
The Socceroos aren�t their own worst enemy after all, or so says Phil Doyle

Life Imitates Art
The jokes have been around for some time about the economic rationalist's approach to the orchestra, writes Evan Jones.

The Westie Wing
Ian West takes the secret passage out of Macquarie Street to deliver his take on NSW Parliamentary Committees and other goings on.


Icarus Rising
Right now John Howard is flying. Watch him soar in his Vodafone track-suit, further than the Hawke into unchartered skies.


 Health System to Subsidise Shonks

 Who Likes Bing Lee?

 Death Threats Shut Campsie

 Thumbs Down for Union Busters

 Advocate Pours Salt on Wound

 United Front Beats Drug Boss

 Kev Backs Double Standard

 Victorian Morality Shafts Teacher

 Doctors Prescribe More

 Multinational Banks Jobs

 Working Class Idol

 Greens Protect Entitlements

 Activist�s What�s On

 Students Bear Brunt
 Security Lacking
 Bus Lanes On Vic Rd
 Dirt Cheap Right On Money
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Three Bob's Worth

Doing their best Margaret and David, Tara de Boehmler and Tim Brunero have different takes on the new Australian flick Three Dollars.

Margaret: According to the promotional material Three Dollars is about a good man in bad times and his resilience in the face of circumstances that could break him. These circumstances include being forced to choose between corrupt work practices or losing his job and - because of course he chooses the latter - the strain of living below the breadline. The film casts David Wenham as Eddie, the intelligent, compassionate, and honest man in question who finds himself at age 38, with a wife, a young child, a mortgage and three dollars to his name. Personally I found the casting of David Wenham in this role a real boon, but David what did you think?

David: Like my attitude to you I liked the sentiment of the film but found it obvious and contrived. The script was redolent of an earnest first year politics student writing a play for the campus drama group. Everytime a character was about to drag themselves out of trouble another highly implausible moral conundrum would befall them. Such as when Wenham is due at a critical job interview but stops to help an old lady who's collapsed. Then he buys her aspirin with his last dollars, ripping his suit in the process. By the end of the day he's ferreting through garbage bins and eating in a homeless shelter.

Margaret: Oh David, I think you are being a bit harsh. In parts, Three Dollars does play out like some collage of despair, I agree, and there was at least half an hour that could have been shaved off the movie's length. But other than needing a good edit, don't you think that the extreme experiences encountered by Wenham's character serves a purpose beyond a mundane story of misfortune and in fact elevates it to serving as a comment about humanity in general?

David: Yes well that kind of allegorical nexus is all well and good, but the movie is useless to someone trying to blank out for a few hours and enjoy a fantasy. It moves from a fantasy into the realm of the fantastical, even the farcical. I mean after the terrible day where Wenham starts in a suit and ends rifling through bins, he makes the decision to train home. The only problem is he gets bashed after trying to save a homeless man who is being beaten up by a gang of hoodlums while others simply look on impassively. I mean does this stuff ever happen? And on the same day as all his other miseries? I wouldn't have minded the movie if the main characters both had normal jobs and were struggling, but to go from chemical engineer and university tutor straight to the poverty line is a bit far fetched. You can't stuff macro-political comment into the micro lives of a given set of characters, I mean I like left ideas, but do they have to be so embarrassingly obvious?

Margaret: Oh really, David, I do think you miss the point. While it is doubtful the stream of misfortune raining down on Wenham would all occur in one day, it is often thought that bad luck attracts bad luck and those who are down and out can be forgiven for thinking bad things are always happening to them. In this case, it really is. This movie ties together a string of scenarios that would be enough to challenge the strongest person's resolve, whether they occurred over the space of a day, a week, or even a year. The point is that Wenham's character at no point allows the pain and suffering either experienced first hand or witnessed by him to harden him against the world or act against his highest values. He remains compassionate and generous and refuses to simply wallow in either self pity or the blame game. He is sad, yes, but Wenham's character shows viewers that even in the harshest times it can be possible to find strength and take solace in the sort of simple things that no one can take away: the love of one's family; the knowledge that one has not sold out their beliefs; the joy of giving; the excited tail wagging of a beloved pet; a glint of sun upon an Autumn leaf; the purity of ...

David: I'm sorry to cut you off but my dry retching was starting bring up the bitter taste of bile. I think sometimes you try to put on an especially sentimental guise simply as an excuse to talk more nonsense because at heart you are a nihilist laughing behind your hand at anyone who listens to your opinion. You want to see how far people will believe you. No one disputes it is admirable of Wenham's character to refuse to approve the building of a town because of the presence of toxic chemicals - it's the far fetched nonsense that follows it which makes you wince, loose interest and start checking your text messages. About the only person who would like such wafffle would be a clucky late twenties twerp who wanted to have a family. And for all the leading lady's feminist protestations, at the end of the day the story tells us the man in the nuclear family will always save the day. It is just pathetic.

Margaret: But perhaps if you were less busy checking your text messages and spent more time tuning into the movie the subtle beauty of its message would not have been lost on you. This movie is not just for late twenties twerps - not that wanting to have a family would make them such. Nor is it a sentiment reserved for families of the nuclear variety. The homeless man found strength in friendship and the care he gave to friends who shared his path. The little dog who was loved by one of his homeless friends brought joy to all of them. The movie had it's shortcomings, to be sure. And perhaps at the end of the day none of it really does matter - but if Wenham's character had lived his life as though this was the case it would have made for a far poorer movie - one not unlike much of the other mass produced crap which pollutes our screens today.

David: You speak of subtlety you buffoon, my whole point is this story is such an obvious left wing snapshot of the future under a visionless government it makes you cringe... but maybe you are right, our hospitals are crumbling, normal people are being pushed too far... how else do you depict it unless it is with a film like this... poorly paid scientists at the CSIRO are forced to sell AMWAY products to keep up the payments on their hovels, a writer is forced to compromise for the unbending appetite of the capitalist machine. I know we carefully craft our antagonistic characters so as to appeal to the viewers, but I think I am assuaged by your thoughts and ideas. Five stars.

Margaret: Three stars from me.


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