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February 2006   

Interview: Court's in Session
As the silks line up to challenge WorkChoices, Jeff Shaw is fighting for his own legacy - the NSW IR system.

Industrial: Whose Choices?
The Howard Government's WorkChoices legislation has been dissected by lawyers and the commentariat; now it's the turn of political economists.

Politics: Peter's Principles
Forget John Howard. The force behind WorkChoices is Peter Costello. The Prime Minister-in-waiting has devoted a lifetime to undermining the security and living standards of Australian families, Jim Marr reports.

Environment: TINA or Greener?
What does the greenhouse effect and legislation to control workers have in common, asks Neale Towart

History: Its Not Just Handshakes and Aprons
Power. They have it, we want it. Friendly societies tried to keep it for working people, writes Neale Towart

International: US Locks out Jose' Bove
The US Government has refused to allow France's most famous farmer Jose Bove into the country to address a conference

Education: No AWA - No Job
The Howard Government has given the Australian community its first view of the future by forcing new staff at Ballarat University to sign an Australian Workplace Agreement if they want a job, writes Jenny Macklin.

Culture: Jesus was a Long-Grass Man
The writings of a Middle Eastern theologian may provide guidance to those grappling with indigenous issues, writes Graham Ring

Review: Charlie the Serf
Nathan Brown takes the sledgehammer (and sickle) to Mr Wonka's Chocolate Factory.


The Soapbox
Hitler in Bowral
Political censorship has made its wasy to the sleepy Southern Highlands, wrties Rowan Cahill.

The Locker Room
No Laughing Matter
Phil Doyle tries to take Australian sportspeople seriously, and fails.

The Westie Wing
Ian West is mistakenly sent an advance copy of John Winston Howard’s Little Blue Book of Australian History…


Total Impact
The long hot summer, the calm before the storm, is finally passed; and as March 1 approaches the new world of work is looming and the extent of the attack on organised labour is becoming clear.


 Capital Punishment on the Menu

 Della Builds Fortress NSW

 Unfair Sackings Face Challenge

 Slave Contractors Sprung

 Holden's Bad Deal for Adelaide

 ACCI Never Sleeps

 STOP PRESS: Guest Worker Plan Goes to Water

 Taking a Punt on Melbourne Cup

 Backlash on Job Cuts

 Howard Coy on Ad Orgy

 Newcastle Rails Against Contracts

 Union Man Eyes Cuts

 Free Enterprise Kills Hundreds

 Aussie Icon Moves to China

 Activist's What's On!

 The Best for the Best
 Belated Merry Whatmas?
 The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
 I Think Therefore I Scam
 A Taxing Answer
 Leslie John Turner
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Charlie the Serf

Nathan Brown takes the sledgehammer (and sickle) to Mr Wonka's Chocolate Factory.

Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (DVD).

It's no secret that Roald Dahl was a fascist.

Many have long been suspicious of the Welsh-born writer's political views, from his odd anti-Semitic jibe to his marriage to the star of Ayn Rand's econo-Darwinian how-to manual The Fountainhead.

But nothing stands more as a testament to Dahl's seig-heil-ism than his tale about a kid and a chocolate factory.

Most people are familiar with the story from the 1971 film version, which was hailed as a cinematic masterpiece by LSD users everywhere.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory follows a dirt-poor Charlie Bucket who bumbles around with his hapless family for a while, hoping to get his hands one of five golden tickets, which are hidden in chocolate bars and entitle the bearer to a tour of Willy Wonka's mysterious factory.

But Charlie isn't alone in his quest. Pandemonium sweeps the world as people of all nations behave like rabid dogs scavenging chocolate wrappers for the elusive tickets.

Wonka, who is an eccentric recluse, hasn't let anyone into his factory for years and a tour of his complex is considered a rare privilege.

Not even workers are allowed into the factory. He laid off all his local staff because of a paranoid belief people were stealing his secrets and selling them to competitors.

Adding to people's desperation to get tickets is there is a promise of a 'special prize' for one of the ticket holders.

Given the similarities between Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka and Michael Jackson, I'm surprised so many are interested in this 'special prize'.

But gradually the ticket-holders emerge - all children - and each with a flaw.

We have a gluttonous German, a morbidly competitive gum-chewer, a spoilt English brat and a precocious American video-gamer.

And we have the sweet little innocent, hard working, humble Charlie, who is lucky enough to win ticket when he buys chocolate with money he finds on the ground.

The five children proceed to Wonka's factory, where one by one their flaws lead to a predetermined punishment, master-minded by Willy Wonka himself, and exclude them from the 'special prize'.

The story is a fable with a very strong message. That message is that the boss is always right, and the only way for the working class to succeed is to keep their heads down and not to ask for too much.

This is Dahl's idealised society.

He sees nothing wrong with Willy Wonka's industrial relations practices.

Wonka has put thousands of locals out of work because a few underpaid employees sought to boost their incomes through work for other chocolate makers.

To replace the ungrateful townsfolk, he has displaced an entire race - which he derogatorily calls "Oompa Loompas" - to work in unsafe conditions and pays them in chocolate.

The "Oompa Loompas" are not allowed to leave the factory and have no idea of their exploitation. Through the whole movie, I never saw one of them on a break.

Dahl also gives the green light to Wonka's sadistic punishment of bad little children, at least one of whom - Mike Teavee - poses a direct threat to his authority.

Another child, the obese Augustus Gloop, is shown no sympathy, despite the fact that his weight problem stems from addiction to Wonka's chocolates.

Clearly, Wonka is no better than British American Tobacco when it comes to corporate responsibility.

Director Tim Burton is left to explain this sociopathic behaviour with flashbacks of Wonka's past, which aren't in Dahl's book. Apparently his father was too strict.

On the other side of the coin, Dahl gives the thumbs up to Charlie Bucket and his family.

Held up for their humility, the Buckets are actually too cowardly to take a stand against Wonka's exploitative corporation.

I found it mind-boggling Grandpa Joe holds no grudge against an employer who has sacked him without reason, leaving his family living in abject poverty.

In fact, in a sick way, Grandpa Joe seems to elevate Wonka to a god-like figure and successfully imparts this Wonka-worship onto his grandson.

Without giving away the ending, the Buckets are duly rewarded for their obedience.

Everything works out well for everyone who isn't an Oompa Loompa or out of work.

Charlie becomes a capitalist and everyone else can go to hell.

**** Actually, it wasn't a bad flick.


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