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May 2005   

Interview: Fortress NSW
NSW IR Minister John Della Bosca on how to win the battle for workers rights - and save the state system.

Unions: Fashions Afield
With new anti-sweatshop creations being paraded at this year's Australian Fashion Week, is equity the new black and are sweatshops the new fur? asks Tara de Boehmler.

Industrial: Pay Dirt
John Burgess argues that the flow-on effect from changing the minimum wage could be more than we bargained for.

Politics: Infrastructure Blues
With much attention given belatedly to the shortage of infrastructure, little attention has been given to the structure of infrastructure, writes Evan Jones

History: Big Day Out
Neale Towart looks back on the events that created the May Day heritage.

International: Making History
Hundreds of aid organisations, charities, trade unions and religious groups have formed a global alliance called � Make Poverty History�.

Economics: The Fear Factor
The solution to skill shortages is intelligent planning, argues John Spoehr

Review: The Robots Revolt
New kids flick Robot uses our electronic friends to teach audiences that inbuilt obsolescence is just a state of mind, writes Tara de Boehmler

Poetry: The Corporation's Power
The idea of a corporations power that could cure any ill has inspired our resident bard, David Peetz, to verse.


The Soapbox
May Spray
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson delivered the annual May Day Toast - and warned it is no time to be comfortable and relaxed.

The Locker Room
A Rucking Good Time
Phil Doyle reveals many things, some of them useful

The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP, Ian West, is back to regale us with inside goss and intrigue from the Bearpit.


Rights and Wrongs
Something unseasonal and hitherto untoward has been occurring up at Macquarie Street in recent weeks, a flurry of legislative activity around workers rights.


 Harmer FACS Families

 Brats Drive Bus Row

 Harsh Reality � Bella Turns Pink

 Rev Kev Blesses Bosses

 Workers Online Legit

 Howard Rides Kiwi Model

 Della Opts for Gaol

 Feds in the Dock

 Carr Race to Bottom

 Bosses Walk on Water

 Govt Gets Claws into Nurses

 Ion Faces Legal Probe

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The Westie Wing

Our favourite MP, Ian West, is back to regale us with inside goss and intrigue from the Bearpit.


The recent Workers Online editorial "Lest we forget" resonated with our Macquarie Street correspondent who has for the past couple of months been listening to the Conservatives' insipid Macquarie Street chatter about their wartime glories past. Ian West interrupts the Divide and Conquer tea party...

I had to laugh earlier this week on 2nd May when the elite counter terrorism squad was called to John Howard's Phillip Street office in response to a bomb threat. Not because a bomb threat isn't a very serious matter, but for what the NSW police found - not an incendiary device but a suspicious parcel containing a penis enlargement pump.

Putting aside the symbolism, it is a serious matter. And so are Liberal and One Nation attempts to rewrite Australian history while attempting to drive a wedge into the working class.

For the past few months at State Parliament, Charlie Lynn MLC (Liberal), David Oldfield MLC (One Nation) and a few other Conservatives have been teaming up to kick Unionists involved in the Remembrance Day rally by Victorian Trades Hall Council Affiliates in 2003.

On that day 10,000 people rallied against the Howard Government's industrial, education and health policies. Women for Peace attended with flowers and a banner reading, "War is murder, rape and grief - Peace in the 21st century." At one point, things got unruly when two minor and extreme elements clashed. However, the workers stood silent to remember the loss, sacrifice and futility of war.

But these facts were all glossed over as the likes of Charlie Lynn and David Oldfield engaged in a basic attempt to demonise unions and unionists.

The Conservative attack was led by Charlie Lynn:

"I don't want to say I'm a union basher because I'm not. I believe that unions have a proper role in society in the genuine protection of workers' rights. However, when we get an ideological mix and unions become involved in issues that have nothing to do with workers' rights... they misrepresent issues or they are hijacked by ideologists who use them as fodder for their cause...."

Charlie's rant was extreme and unbalanced...

"Our troops were running out of ammunition. They had no food. They were living on cans of bully beef...while the unions in Australia went on strike. It's the most shameful chapter in union history...

The same heroic unions identified our vulnerability during the Vietnam War and stopped the mail... the mail stopped coming and letters did not arrive for often a month at a time... unions attacked us by cutting off our link with our home... and they attacked us again when we returned to Australia. It is a shameful episode in our history."

Well, let's have a look at some history that was omitted by the Liberals and One Nation.

Lest we forget Robert Menzies - Menzies undertook military training and was a Commissioned Reserve Lieutenant in the militia unit, the Melbourne University Rifles. But he quickly decommissioned himself in 1914 and avoided going to war. Unlike many of his male contemporaries, Menzies did not enlist in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) for overseas service. At the time the war broke out, he was 19.

Lest we forget that as a prominent undergraduate, he had declared himself a patriotic supporter of the war and an advocate of conscription for overseas service.

Lest we forget while the men and women of Australia went off to fight the war, Menzies commenced his legal career. He achieved early notoriety for his work as a gun for hire in the Engineers case. The result ultimately meant the Commonwealth had made substantial inroads into State authority in industrial relations and other areas.

The Liberals use of war and nationalism to put a wedge into the working class knows no bounds. In late 1938, Menzies was the Attorney General and Minister for Industry. When Port Kembla waterside workers refused to load a ship with pig-iron bound for Japan, workers stated their actions were political. It was a protest at Japan's aggression in China and concern that Australia could become the next target of Japanese militarism. Cabinet, deciding the ban must end, threatened the workers involved with the 'dog-collar act' - the Transport Workers' Act 1929 - that facilitated the hiring of strikebreakers on the wharves.

Menzies' defence of the matter was to state that it was not whether the strikers were right or wrong in their views, but that only a duly elected government could determine policy. So much for the rights our forebears died protecting.

Lest we forget Menzies had earlier banned the export of iron ore to Japan on the grounds that Australia barely had enough for its own needs.

Lest we forget his own party, the United Australia Party, was due to dump Menzies when he resigned on 28th August 1941.

The Curtin Labor Government came to power on 7th October 1941. It was the Curtin Labor Government that navigated Australia through WWII, our darkest hour, and developed the vision for a post war Australia.

It was the Curtin Labor Government that implemented social welfare legislation to ease the burden of workers and the disparity of sacrifices imposed by a nation at war.

It was the Curtin Labor Government that raised old age and invalid pensions and increased soldiers' pay by a shilling a day, a sixpence of which was sent to dependent partners and children. Chifley built further on Curtin's work.

Lest we forget it's the manipulators of the means of production who always benefit most from conflict and division. And Menzies, the ultimate opportunist, was back again in 1949, having created the Liberal Party during his absence.

Menzies inherited the gains of the extensive economic work, management and sacrifice of Curtin, Chifley and the many hard working Australian men and women of the day.

Menzies then set himself to capitalise through more division and callous manipulation of the upcoming Cold War.

History has shown Menzies lied to the Australian people when we went to war in Vietnam, solely for political reasons.

History has shown John Howard lied to the Australian people when we went to war in Iraq, solely for political reasons.

But I digress. Back to the Macquarie Street Divide and Conquer tea party - your hosts are David Oldfield and Charlie Lynn.

"David Oldfield: The Hon. Charlie Lynn is right to remind us of union action, or perhaps reaction, during WWII. Frankly, the scum involved ... should've been tried for treason.

Charlie Lynne: Indeed, they should have been.

David Oldfield: They should have been. Those unionists left our boys to die unassisted in New Guinea whilst they were home safe and sound hard at work, not for our troops but aiding the Japanese. Unions must improve their record in relation to such actions. Their record of assault on Australian's fighting men and women is disgraceful."

Be afraid - these statements come from people who on the one hand preach their version of Christian values, pledge to fight against abortion and then happily send kids off to war to kill and be killed...

Lest we forget the Howard Government will spend $55 million each and every day this year on our ability to fight wars.

John Howard and the Coalition's hypocrisy knows no bounds. Howard will stand at Gallipoli savouring the 90th anniversary and say the Anzac spirit lives through Australians looking out for each other, through courage and compassion in the face of adversity. Yet every move the Conservatives make contains another hypocrisy - cuts to pensions for ex-servicemen and women being just one example.

He'll ask his Turkish counterpart that Gallipoli be Heritage Listed, then defend yobbos who leave behind their garbage - again for wedge political gain.

Back to Macquarie Street...

"Charlie Lynn: So let's start by honouring the three great days we celebrate each year: Remembrance Day, Anzac Day and Long Tan Day.

Celebrate? Celebrate what? It's no time for celebrating. These days are for solemn reflection on the sacrifice and futility of war. They should be commemorated. The RSL is right to say these days should be commemorated.

But don't stop there, Charlie!

How about this...

Remembrance Day - 11th November - join with employers and honour the working class who serve and are abused in peace-time as factory fodder and in war time as cannon fodder.

Next Anzac Day 25th April ensure no work is done.

The same with Kapyong Day - 24th April - no less important in terms of reflecting on the sacrifice of the working class Australian youth and the futility of war. Ensure your employer is made aware of this date upon which this battle of the Korean War took place.

Recognise Long Tan Day - occurring on Thursday 18th August - the well known battle between Australian soldiers and the Vietnamese Liberation Army.

Your employer should be able to tell you more about this! They will probably have set that day aside to stop work and remember the fallen on both sides!

Make sure you commemorate Europe V Day - on May 8th - appropriately, with the full support of your employer and their representatives in the Liberal Party.

You should be very clear with your boss about V Day in the Pacific - 15th August - working is not on. Neither is protest.

Your boss will understand...

Charlie will vouch for you!

Email me your story. Leave me a contact. I am interested to hear feedback and ideas--you can contact my office at Parliament House on (02) 9230 2052 or email me at [email protected].


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