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September 2005   
F E A T U R E S

Interview: Polar Eclipse
Academic David McKnight challenges some sacred cows in his new book "Beyond Left and Right".

Industrial: Wrong Turn
Radical labour reform is on the horizon but some workers, like Sydney bus driver Yvonne Carson, have seen it all before, writes Jim Marr.

Unions: Star Support
It wasn't just families who backed workers' rights at The Last Weekend, but a bunch of musicians who set the tone, writes Chrissy Layton.

Workplace: Checked Out
Glenda Kwek asks you to consider the plight of the retail worker, and shares some of her experiences

Economics: Sold Out
The Future Fund and industrial relations reform are favourite projects of the PM and the Treasurer. Both are speculations on the future and the only guarantee with them is that you will be worse off, writes Neale Towart.

Politics: Green Banned
The impact of new building industry laws wonít be confined to one industry, writes CFMEU national secretary John Sutton.

History: Potted History
Lithgow is a place with a proud history as a union town. The origins of broader community solidarity lie in the early industrial development of the town and the development of unions. The Lithgow Pottery dispute of 1890 was a key event.

International: Curtain Call
The curtains have opened for East Timorís young theatre performers, thanks to a Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA project.

Review: Little Fish
At last! An Aussie film with substance, suspense and a serious dose of reality, writes Lucy Muirhead

Poetry: Slug A Worker
In a shock development, the Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello, gave a ringing endorsement to the poetry pages of Workers Online, writes resident bard David Peetz.

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Families First
New Senator Stephen Fielding turned a few heads with his Maiden Speech to Parliament.

The Locker Room
The New World Order
Phil Doyle declares himself unavailable for the fifth and deciding test.

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP, Ian West, reports from the NSW Government's Safety Summit

Postcard
On The Bus
A bright orange bus travelling the state has become the focus of the campaign against federal IR changes. Nathan Brown was on board.

E D I T O R I A L

Middle Australia
The Prime Minister rarely responds directly to criticism, so when he rushed out a media release rebutting an ACIRRT analysis of wages data this week, it was clear that they had a hit a raw nerve.

N E W S

 Trucks Run Down Mums

 Boom! Biff! Itís Howard Unplugged

 Fun Guy Spreads Fertiliser

 Doors Close on Battered Mums

 Bing Lee Peddles Rubbish

 Bless This Bus

 High Court: Ads Do Kremlin Proud

 Families Water Win

 Tesltra Cuts Get Poor Reception

 Vegetable Campaign Sprouts

 Check Work/Family Balance Here

 Tim Wins For Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA

 Activists Whatís On!

L E T T E R S
 Care Confusion
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Politics

Green Banned


The impact of new building industry laws wonít be confined to one industry, writes CFMEU national secretary John Sutton.

*****

It may have gone under many people's radar, but one of the first pieces of legislation passed by the new Senate will have a profound impact on the Australian way of life.

The so-called Building Industry Improvement Act is the Howard Government's response to the Cole Royal Commission, a $60 million with-hunt designed to paint a picture of corruption in the building industry which failed to come up with the goods, leading to just a single case and a $1,000 penalty.

The legislation passed by the Senate drastically cuts the industrial and political rights of building workers; leaving them open to fines and imprisonment if they refuse to divulge details of industrial meetings to a government agency set up to 'police the industry'.

Why should the general public care about the plight of a bunch of building workers?

Well first, the government has made it clear these laws could be applied more widely over time. If you think the proposed changes to industrial relations are scary, this regime for the construction industry takes it to an entirely new level, effectively criminalizing union activity in all but the most narrow of parameters.

More broadly, the changes will produce a domino effect, crashing into hard-won 'rights' the wider community holds dear, such as the uniquely Australian Green Bans.

Thirty years ago, construction workers joined forces with community groups to become Australia's first urban environmentalists. They imposed Green Bans for developments that weren't up to standard and this phenomenon soon spread around the world.

Under the Building Industry Improvement Act, such activities will be illegal - developers would have the power to sue unions and individual workers for damages where they take such a principled stand..

If the developer did not take the action, the government's new Australian Building and Construction Commissioner could seek fines against the union of $110,000 per breach and individual workers of $22,000 per breach.

So let's be clear about the impact of these laws. There will be no more green bans to save Centennial Park, or Kelly's Bush or the Rocks; no action to protect Redfern Oval or the literally hundreds of other parks and heritage buildings that have been saved over the decades.

Under the new regime Green bans are just one of the areas where unions and their members will be constrained from acting.

The CFMEU has a proud history of supporting community causes, the anti-war movement, the South Sydney rugby league club; our alliance with the community is a deep and abiding one.

By passing this legislation, building workers become a special class of citizen in Australia - with fewer rights than other Australians to take part in industrial and political action.

It will be harder to bargain for wages and conditions, to stand up for safety and to eke out an existence in an industry that has always been subject to the peaks and troughs of the market.

But the Australian community loses too, if one of the organisations that has invested its energy into building up our social capital becomes hamstrung and litigated into submission.


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