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July 2005   
F E A T U R E S

Interview: Battle Stations
Opposition leader Kim Beazley says he's ready to fight for workers right. But come July 1, he'll have to be fighting by different rules.

Unions: The Workers, United
It was a group of rank and filers who took centre stage when workers rallied in Sydney's Town Hall, writes Jim Marr.

Politics: The Lost Weekend
The ALP had a hot date, they had arranged to meet on the Town Hall steps, and Phil Doyle was there.

Industrial: Truth or Dare
Seventeen ivory towered academics upset those who know what is best for us last week.

History: A Class Act
After reading a new book on class in Australia, Neale Towart is left wondering if it is possible to tie the term down.

Economics: The Numbers Game
Political economist Frank Stilwell offers a beginners guide to understanding budgets

International: Blonde Ambition
Sweden can be an inspiration to labour movements the world over, as it has had community unionism for over 100 years, creating a vibrant caring society, rather than a "productive" lean economy.

Training: The Trade Off
Next time you go looking for a skilled tradesman and can’t find one, blame an economist, writes John Sutton.

Review: Bore of the Worlds
An invincible enemy has people turning against one another as they fight for survival – its not just an eerie view of John Howard’s ideal workplace, writes Nathan Brown.

Poetry: The Beaters Medley
In solidarity with the workers of Australia, Sir Paul McCartney (with inspiration from his old friend John Lennon) has joined the Workers Online resident bard David Peetz to pen some hits about the government's proposed industrial relations revolution.

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
State of the Union
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson lifts the lid on ‘The Nine Myths of Modern Unionism’

The Locker Room
Wrist Action
Phil Doyle trawls the murky depths of tawdry sleaze, and discovers Rugby is behind it all.

Culture
To Hew The Coal That Lies Below
Phil Doyle reviews Australia's first coal mining novel, Black Diamonds and Dust.

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Our favourite State MP, Ian West, reports from Macquarie Street that the Premier is all the way with a State Commission.

E D I T O R I A L

After the Action
After a National Week of Action that has had everything from mass rallies in all capital cities to IR chat rooms opening on the Vogue Magazine website it’s fair to say that the first objective of this campaign – to raise public awareness – has been achieved.

N E W S

 Don't Get Angry, Get Organised

 Feds Threaten Hardie Battlers

 Beasts of Bourbon Play Dog

 Churches on Workplace Mission

 Unions Are The New Black

 Muster Has Bosses in Fluster

 Workers Flood to Protests

 Official: Libs Don’t Know Own Laws

 Schools Out For Uni Bosses

 IR Campaign Taxing Andrews

 Air Safety at Risk

 Carr Runs Over Lib Laws

 Aga Khan Workers Gaoled

 Activists Whats On!

L E T T E R S
 Workers Give In FNQ
 Power and the Passion
 Mao and Then
 The Third Way Hits A Dead End
 Unfair For All
 What Is To Be Done?
 Black Hawk Up
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Culture

To Hew The Coal That Lies Below


Phil Doyle reviews Australia's first coal mining novel, Black Diamonds and Dust.

Greg Bogaerts' useful book, Black Diamonds and Dust, takes us into the workplace of the 1880s, and into a working-class culture that is still remarkably familiar.

Not that Australia's first coal mining novel is full of modern sensitivities, far from it, but the characters exhibit the same reluctant and frustrated engagement still found across a lot of Australian working class communities.

The anti-hero of the piece, Edmund Shearer, and his fractured, muddling but surviving family would be at home in the Western Suburbs of Newcastle today.

It is a graphic and sometimes violent work that exhibits a style of writing that familiarity with TV and film has tended to banish. There is plenty more showing than telling in this yarn.

There are surprises here but they are not contrived, but rather very human. It lauds a knowledge that comes from bitter experience, from failure. It is also remarkably illustrative of the double bind many people still find themselves in today.

Shearer is a coal miner in Newcastle's estuarine collieries. The ones that used to just out under the harbour; yards below the water level. It opens with the inevitable cave in from burrowing too close to the sea and continues on through the life of a community finding its feet in more ways than one.

As a fable it bears a remarkable parallel at times to Icarus' flight too close to the sun. Teasing out the relationships between fathers, sons, daughters and mothers. But don't let that put you off, it is also a ripper read; a gut-wrenching page-turner with its fair share of humour amidst the grinding life of Adamstown before it was a weatherboard suburb.

The fact that this book is published at all is a cause for celebration. It has been put out by that unashamedly working class publisher, Melbourne's Vulgar Press. It is hard to see this sort of story being valued or so exquisitely crafted on Penguin‚s list since the advertising copywriter Bryce Courtney mortgaged their values.

Boegarts himself is a scion of the 'castle. A sometime taxi driver who has worked at the BHP and this is his first novel. Not that you‚d know, it reads like a modern classic. Let's hope it's not his last and that Vulgar can keep the bank manager away for long enough to see him in print again.

Buy Black Diamonds and Dust, read it, and learn something about who we are and why we are.

- Phil Doyle

Visit the Vulgar Press website for Black Diamonds and Dust


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