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August 2005   
F E A T U R E S

Interview: On Holiday
Historian Richard White looks back on the Aussie vacation - and finds a way of life is under threat.,

Unions: One Day Longer
Nathan Brown travels to the Boeing picket line and find a group of workers with a steely determination to stick together.

Industrial: Never Mind the Bollocks
Jim Marr plays the Howard Government's industrial relations spin job on its merits.

Politics: Spun Out
Canberra’s latest campaign underlines the need for controls over government advertising, according to Graeme Orr and Joo-Cheong Tham

Economics: If the Grog Don't Get You ....
Evan Jones explains how the way we purchase alcolohol reflects the type of economy we live in.

History: Taking a Stand
Neale Towart looks at two books that chronicle how to build community support against social injustice.

International: The Split
Amanda Tattersal outsider's account of an insider's shake-out at the AFL-CIO Convention 2005

Legal: Pushing the Friendship
George Williams argues that the federal government’s constitutional powers are not sufficient to enact a comprehensive national industrial relations scheme

Poetry: Simple Subtractions
The latest blitz of taxpayer-funded advertising has revealed a crisis of arithmetic in government ranks has moved resident bard David Peetz to prose.

Review: Sydney Trashed
Sydney band SC Trash are on a mission to give new life to folk and country music – and the politics of common sense. Nathan Brown had a beer with them

C O L U M N S

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP, Ian West, goes away for a couple of weeks and look what happens…

The Soapbox
The Last Weekend
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson's speech to the Last Weekend - how the Howard government laws will undermine the Ausrtalian way of life.

The Locker Room
A Concept Is Born
In which Phil Doyle helps the proponents of the vision thing across the road.

International
Workers Blood For Oil
A new book by Abdullah Muhsin and Alan Johnson lifts the lid on the bloody reality of US backed democracy for Iraq's trade unions

Postcard
London Post
During his recent stay in London IEU industrial officer John Shapiro was living only a few hundred metres from the site of one of the bomb blasts.

E D I T O R I A L

Iemma’s Dilemmas
The past fortnight has seen the sort of upheaval in NSW that reminds us all that politics is a very tenuous game with few certainties and even fewer rules.

N E W S

 Carmen's Boss No Fun Guy

 Discriminating Centrelink on Charges

 Uproar Over Holiday Plans

 Do The Bus Stop

 Taxpayers to Fund Advertising Orgy

 Get Up Stands Up

 Andrews Provokes Showdown

 Thousands in Super Rort

 Constituents Don’t Trust Andrews

 Skill Shortage Fabricated

 Yanks Short Change Tradesmen

 Howard Steamroller Hits Building Sites

 CFMEU Bans Ferguson

 Activists Whats On!

L E T T E R S
 Back To The Past
 AFL-CIO Not The Only War
 Be Afraid
 Frame Up
 We Love Morris
 ANew Development
 A Readers Suggestion
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Parliament

The Westie Wing


Our favourite MP, Ian West, goes away for a couple of weeks and look what happens…

I'm in the basement of Parliament, sitting with cleaners from a diversity of backgrounds, in a storeroom stacked to the ceiling with cleaning chemicals and agents.

There are no facilities, just the nauseating smell of sewage and kitchen waste coming through a tiny ventilation hole and mixing with the artificial sweet smell of detergents. There's exposed pipes overhead.

This subterranean storeroom doubles as a lunch room. The contract cleaners are crammed in, and they're washing down dry biscuits with tea.

Above them, directly employed cleaners are sitting in the subsidised cafeteria. Those direct employees earn eight pounds an hour.

The mostly migrant contract cleaners I'm sitting with can't go into the subsidised lunch room above them, they're not allowed. It's sort of ironic, they couldn't afford to eat there anyway. And most of them work at least two jobs.

Besides the appalling conditions, the contract cleaners get five pounds an hour, have no paid sick days, no superannuation, and just a third of the annual leave of their directly employed counterparts.

The difference between these two sets of employees is the unfolded vision of John Howard's mentor Margaret Thatcher. I'm in Margaret Thatcher's Britain, 2005.

Surveying the cramped scene, I'm thinking this is the endgame for the Australian workforce. One set of workers, the majority, invisible to the outside and without a voice, hidden underground.

Is this what John Howard might explain with a "Nobody can give a guarantee that no single individual is going to be worse off in the future." Or "Real wages have risen under blah blah blah..."

"Bob Carr just resigned."

"Yeah sure, good one."

I've got 48 hours to get back to Sydney.

I'm back in Caucus, Morris Iemma is talking about his parents labouring as machinists in clothing factories and metal factories throughout the 1960s and 1970s and later. Among the variety of jobs, Morris acted as the interpreter for George, his father, at interviews for jobs in factories. His mother Maria was also a nursing home cleaner.

Morris Iemma is the only nomination for Premier of New South Wales. And John Watkins will be the Deputy Premier.

Morris has indicated he wants to be judged on the work he does, not what he says he might or might not do. As he said, "Not just 'can do' but 'will do'."

And let's face it, we've got plenty to do in the next 20 months.

The Iemma story is one of a struggle by a family to sustain itself with food, clothing and shelter - the most fundamental building block of Labor politics.

I believe his experiences underpin his intellectual and political approach - from the time of his inaugural speech when he was defending workers rights against attacks from Fahey, Greiner and Chikarovski - to his inaugural statement as Premier-designate where he pledged his opposition to the Federal Industrial Relations attack and talked about the personal experience of his father's retrenchment in the 1980s.

In the observations and interactions I've had with Morris in my previous life as an LHMU Official working on the school cleaners campaign, when he was Public Works Minister, he showed a genuine capacity to listen and an empathy with the struggles and tribulations of workers.

Morris has indicated social policy - things like public and affordable housing, mental health and care and assistance for the disabled - as matters where if he can't point to progress, he will have judged himself to have failed.

Importantly, Morris has made a strong start as Premier on Howard's Industrial Relations attack, committing to use all powers at his disposal to fight for and protect the rights of workers and their families and communities in NSW.

Morris Iemma and John Watkins are our State leaders. They've committed to fighting the Conservatives and their divisive State and National agendas.

The NSW and Federal Conservatives will hit Morris and John with everything they've got. The Iemma/Watkins Labor Government has less than 20 months to impress. And we've got at least three by-elections in the coming months where people will want to vent.

But John Brogden has his own worries. Barry O'Farrell enjoys majority support in the NSW Liberal Party. The two of them will be trying to hold it together to see if they can get traction in this new state political environment.

John Howard knows Brogden and O'Farrell will hand over IR to him if they get a chance. There'll be no fight for workers and their families and their communities from the State Conservatives.

And I think with admiration and respect of those cleaners in the UK Parliament last month, and how they came to Britain with the hope of changing their lives. And how they ended up as contractors working underground eating lunch next to petrochemicals and cleaning agents in a room with no windows.

And how those cleaners got up one day and said "Stuff this, we didn't come to this country to live like this again, let's stand up and fight back, let's call the union, let's tell the world what these bastards are doing, and stick together."

They will win their struggle and live to tell their children the stories of the working class, and so too will we, here in Australia.

If you require assistance accessing information from a NSW Government Department or a Minister, or have feedback and ideas for speeches, or if you believe you know an issue that should be looked at by one of the Parliamentary committees, contact me at Parliament House on (02) 9230 2052 or email [email protected]


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