Page 1

ISSUE 2 2009 $4.50 (INC GST)

After the Apocalypse Fires, floods and healing the community

Come on Aussies! Saving Australian jobs

Farewell Old Mate A tribute to Labor legend Laurie Short


ISBN 978-186396379-4



Run only to profit members Super is about saving. So it makes sense to be with a fund like AustralianSuper that is run only to profit members, doesn’t pay dividends to shareholders or commissions to agents, and has low fees. As one of the largest industry super funds AustralianSuper looks after the retirement savings for over 1.4 million everyday Australians.

“I like AustralianSuper because they’re an industry fund run only to profit members.” Mark Sinclair, AustalianSuper member

Put us to work for you. Call 1300 300 273 or go to

Low fees Union appointees on our board Run only to profit members 16 investment choices

This information is of a general nature and does not take into account your personal objectives, situation or needs. Before making a decision about AustralianSuper, consider your financial requirements and read our Product Disclosure Statement, which is available on our website or by calling us. Statements made by members have been reproduced with their consent and this consent has not been withdrawn at the date of publication. ‘Industry SuperFund’ logo used with permission of Industry Fund Services (IFS) and this consent has not been withdrawn at the date of publication. AustralianSuper Pty Ltd ABN 94 006 457 987 AFSL 233788, Trustee of AustralianSuper ABN 65 714 394 898.

AUSS 28596

AustralianSuper was formed on 1 July 2006, when ARF and STA merged.

contents Issue 2 – 2009

Features 06 OUR COUNTRY YOUR FUTURE The government is investing billions of dollars in muchneeded infrastructure projects. However, there’s a chance that the resources required will come from overseas – at the expense of Australian jobs.

12 FAREWELL, OLD MATE When labour legend Laurie Short passed away – friends from far and wide gathered to pay tribute.


18 HERE’S THE DRILL Rough seas and wild weather. We take a look at life on an off-shore oil and gas platform.

22 AFTER THE APOCALYPSE How are those heroic workers who helped save lives during this year’s devastating fires and floods coping now?

42 A BLOODY LEGEND! Behind the Jack Howe legend, shearing’s perfect artist “was always a prominent Labor man”.

44 SUPER STAYERS In this chaotic economic environment, we show why industry superannuation funds are still the best option.


49 GROUP THERAPY Social networking allows us to connect up with likeminded people. So log on now!

52 TWICE THE TALENT If you think those who can compete and achieve at the highest level in one sport have a gift, what about those who manage to do it in two?


22 52

Greater South Australian Branch Secretary Wayne Hanson loved his beer – but now wine is his tipple of choice and he has some top tips about buying and enjoying “plonk”!

58 ALL IN A GOOD CAUSE Raising funds for picketing workers is a fantastic way to show solidarity – so whip up a batch of our yummy sweet treats and they’ll sell like hot cakes – pun intended!

Regulars P04 National Opinion P27 Frontline News P40 Meet the Delegates/Officials P62 Kidding Around P65 Bindi & Ringer P66 Life Moments


EDITOR Paul Howes, AWU National Secretary AWU NATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS CO-ORDINATOR Andrew Casey AWU NATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER Henry Armstrong Address: Level 10, 377-383 Sussex Street, Sydney NSW 2000 e: Telephone: (02) 8005 3333 Facsimile: (02) 8005 3300

ACP Magazines Ltd Publishing EDITOR Kyle Rankin ART DIRECTOR Wayne Allen SUB-EDITORS Graham Lauren, Kate Barber PRODUCTION SERVICES Jasmin Connor PREPRESS SUPERVISOR Klaus Muller PUBLISHING DIRECTOR Phil Scott PUBLISHER Gerry Reynolds PUBLISHING MANAGER Nicola O’Hanlon

Published for The Australian Workers’ Union (ABN 28 853 022 982) by ACP Magazines Ltd (ACN 18 053 273 546), 54-58 Park St, Sydney NSW 2000. © 2009. All rights reserved. Printed by PMP, Clayton, Vic 3168 and cover printed by Energi Print, Murrumbeena, Vic 3163. Distributed by Network Services, 54 Park Street, Sydney, NSW 2000. Articles published in The Australian Worker express the opinion of the authors and not necessarily ACP Magazines Ltd. While all efforts have been made to ensure prices and details are correct at time of printing, these are subject to change.

PRIVACY NOTICE This issue of The Australian Worker may contain offers, competitions, or surveys which require you to provide information about yourself if you choose to enter or take part in them (Reader Offer). If you provide information about yourself to ACP Magazines Ltd (ACP), ACP wil use this information to provide you with the products or services you have requested, and may supply your information to contractors that help ACP to do this. ACP wil also use your information to inform you of other ACP publications, products, services and events. ACP may also give your information to organisations that are providing special prizes or offers and that are clearly associated with the Reader Offer. Unless you tell us not to, we may give your information to other organisations that may use it to inform you about other products, services or events or to give to other organisations that may use it for this purpose. If you would like to gain access to the information ACP holds about you, please contact ACP’s Privacy Officer at ACP Magazines Ltd, 54-58 Park Street, Sydney, NSW, 2000. Cover photo: Getty Images

theaustralianworker 3



Lest we forget NZAC Day has just passed us. It is a day when we traditionally take time to remember those who sacrificed so that we can enjoy the freedoms we now have. This most sacred of days is made even more poignant by the fact that young Australian men and women are currently on active service far away from their loved ones. Our thoughts are with them for a safe return home. When thinking of all Australian service personnel past and present, we should take an extra moment to think of the sacrifices that previous AWU members made in all conflicts. So many AWU members served in World War I it was suggested an AWU division should be formed. An AWU ticket was found in the mud of France. Australia’s first winner in World War I of the Victoria Cross, the highest medal that can be bestowed on an Australian soldier, was Albert Jacka, an AWU member. Jacka launched a counterattack on Turkish soldiers who had overrun an Australian trench, killing five with his rifle and two with his bayonet. He was found casually smoking a cigarette in the trench by an officer. When asked what had happened, Jacka replied, “I got the beggars, sir.” When we take time to reflect on the qualities that the Diggers showed, we think about mateship, toughness, ingenuity, sticking together and a fair go. These qualities are now integral to the ANZAC legend, and considered the very essence of what being Australian means. When we look at what AWU members have

Left: AWU member Albert Jacka was the first Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross in WWI.



Russ Collison Greater NSW Branch Secretary

4 theaustralianworker

Bill Ludwig National President Queensland Branch Secretary

“Australia’s first winner in World War I of the Victoria Cross was Albert Jacka, an AWU member.”

endured over our 123-year history, we see those same qualities shine through. In the latest of a long line of successful struggles, AWU members took up the fight against John Howard and his hated WorkChoices and won. WorkChoices stood against everything that we think of as being Australian. WorkChoices made it nearly impossible for workers to stick together. WorkChoices tried to force people to turn against their mates, rather than stick up for them. WorkChoices was un-Australian. We should also spare a thought for those workers and their families who have lost their jobs, and who are facing uncertain futures as a result of the global recession. AWU members in the 1920s and ‘30s bore the terrible burden for the greed, failures and callous indifference of big business. Another generation of workers now faces the possibility of a similar fate. The contemptuous actions of Rio Tinto serve as a reminder of the un-Australian attitudes of some multinational corporations. Workers in Gladstone were told just before Easter that more than 500 of them would lose their jobs in the coming weeks. The failure of unfettered free-market capitalism combined with the total lack of human compassion shown by some powerful companies highlights the need for government and unions to play a strong role in ensuring that fundamental Australian qualities such as a fair go, mateship and sticking together are enshrined in every aspect of Australian life. Post your letters to: The Editor, The Australian Worker, Level 10, 377-383 Sussex Street, Sydney NSW 2000 Or email them to:

Richard Downie Newcastle Branch Secretary

Andy Gillespie Port Kembla Branch Secretary

Cesar Melhem Victorian Branch Secretary

Loyalty, mateship and the AWU he AWU is calling for a New Deal for Australian steel, to ensure that an industry which employs thousands of AWU members is still operating on our shores once the global economic crisis is over. The AWU is a union based in regional Australia and we know that steel is a mainstay employer for many regional centres – places such as Whyalla, Westernport, Port Kembla, Newcastle, Sydney and Brisbane. That’s why we have begun a major national campaign to protect this important jobcreating industry for Australians. The AWU has been meeting with industry leaders, Union members and Labor MPs and senators representing steel communities, as well as members of the Rudd cabinet, on elements of our New Steel Plan to look at how we best face up to the threats facing steel and the living standards of our people. We have circulated copies of the 30-page New Steel Plan to federal and state politicians – you can download a copy of the complete plan, or a onepage flyer from the AWU website: Because of the global crisis the short-term outlook for steel production in Australia is poor. Since the final quarter of 2008, demand for steel has fallen rapidly. Now we are worried that other countries with subsidised steel mills will dump their surplus product in our markets, delivering another blow to our local industries. The future viability of the local industry hangs in the balance, and with it the employment prospects for thousands of AWU members and the financial security of their families and communities.



Wayne Hanson Greater SA Branch Secretary

Graham Hall Whyalla Branch Secretary

Paul Howes National Secretary

“Every 1000 tonnes of lost steel production results in the loss of 60 direct and indirect jobs.”

Every 1000 tonnes of lost steel production results in the loss of 60 direct and indirect jobs. I am therefore focusing on ensuring the progress we have made in restructuring the industry as a viable manufacturing force is not simply lost to the nation. The AWU is working with the steel industry to ensure that the industry: • continues production at full capacity for as long as possible; • commits to current expansion plans; • fights hostile takeovers aimed at shutting companies down; • escapes the consequences of injurious dumping onto the Australian and other markets in which our supplier industries compete; and • is positioned to take full advantage of government spending on nationbuilding infrastructure and thereby offer the quickest and most effective return to the local economy. The AWU’s 10-point plan – a New Steel Plan for the 21st Century – has two main aims: 1) Immediately stimulating domestic demand, including through investing in nation-building infrastructure projects, in time for support in the 2009-10 budget; 2) Getting serious in dealing with the reality of subsided product from other countries contaminating steel markets such that competitive, quality Australian product is unable to compete here and abroad. That is why the AWU supports a strong preference for Australian steel in the proposed government infrastructure stimulus package. We also believe our government needs to overhaul trading safeguards to protect the nation from countries wanting to dump their subsidised products onto the Australian market. When I launched the New Steel Plan in Canberra in April, I was joined by steelworkers from Port Kembla who helped me explain to cynical political journalists in Canberra why the Rudd government should react positively to our proposals. Following the launch, I have started a regional tour of steel centres to meet with workers to explain our strategy for defending the industry and securing our future. If you would like more information, please contact me through our national office email address:

Stephen Price West Australian Branch Secretary

Ian Wakefield Tasmanian Branch Secretary

Norman McBride Tobacco Branch Secretary

theaustralianworker 5


OUR COUNTRY, YOUR FUTURE The Rudd Labor Government is investing billions of dollars in much-needed infrastructure projects. However, there’s a chance that the resources required will come from overseas – at the expense of Australian jobs. Cate Carrigan investigates why Australians need to support Australian industry. WRITTEN BY CATE CARRIGAN PHOTOS GETTY IMAGES

6 theaustralianworker


ver the next couple of years, Australia’s 9540 schools will undergo a multi-billion dollar facelift, with new school halls and extensive maintenance programs carried out as part of the Federal Government’s $42 billion stimulus package. The aim is to provide new jobs and building activity to stimulate the economy, but how would Australians feel if the products used were cheaper imports brought in from countries such as India and China, when Australian alternatives were available? Is the idea just to create jobs or also to bolster Australia’s hard-hit manufacturing sector? It’s a question being asked by the Australian Workers’ Union which will be launching a new campaign aimed at pressuring the Federal Government to ensure the companies awarded the school and other major infrastructure projects being funded by the stimulus package will, where possible, give preference to Australian products. And the Union’s new “Buy Australia” campaign, to include advertisements, stickers and a special website, is not only aimed at all levels of governments and business. The AWU wants all Australians to think twice when they go to the shops and take the time to look at locally made alternatives for everyday items such as food, clothes and tools in the neighbourhood hardware shop.

When Pacific Brands announced it was moving offshore, loyal employees were devastated.

BlueScope AWU Delegate Boris Baradi says, “I’ve been in the steel industry for 29 years and I’ve never seen it this bad.”

Offshore moves The move comes as more and more Australian companies move jobs offshore, including the Bonds, Berlei and KingGee maker, PaciÞc Brands, which recently unveiled plans to axe 1850 jobs and shift some local manufacturing to China. That decision underlines the growing pressure on jobs across the country, with other recent losses in the banking, airline, mining and meat sectors. Unemployment has ballooned in recent months, rising from 4.8 to 5.2 per cent in February. The AWU is particularly concerned about Australia’s 24,000-worker strong steel industry, which has been hard hit by the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). At a time when domestic orders and exports have slumped, major expansion has taken place in global steel production in countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China

“AWU National Secretary Paul Howes says Australian taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be supporting the jobs of Indian steelmakers...”

and more and more prefabricated steel imports are being used in Australia. AWU National Secretary Paul Howes says Australian taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be supporting the jobs of Indian steelmakers or Chinese steelmakers or Brazilian aluminium-makers but should go to support local manufacturers. “Our steel plants are empty; our aluminium plants are empty. We have no customers for our products,” he says. Boris Baradi, an AWU Delegate at BlueScope Steel at Port Kembla in the New South Wales steel city of Wollongong, says urgent action is needed to address slowing demand. “I’ve been in the steel industry for 29 years and I’ve never seen it this bad,” he says. In the hot roll section where Boris works, there’s been a 50 per cent cut in orders and he says “rumours are ßying around” that the company may have to shut the plant for a month or two. A 44-year-old father with two young daughters and one of the 3000 AWU members in BlueScope’s 5000-strong Port Kembla workforce, Boris believes a “Buy Australia” campaign will beneÞt the steel industry through creating and boosting jobs while ensuring Australians buy a better quality local product. He argues the major hardware chains such as Bunnings and Mitre 10 favour cheaper imports, rather than BlueScope Steel products. “They’re importing these cheaper products and this is undermining Australian  theaustralianworker 7

NATIONAL ATTENTION Australia’s carbon footprint at a time when there’s growing concern about greenhouse gas emissions. “There is a real carbon cost to buying foreign alternatives to many of the goods that the 135,000 members of the AWU currently produce in this country – such as steel and aluminium,” he says. “Sourcing these products from overseas will increase Australia’s carbon footprint.”

Local suppliers for infrastructure

The Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Kim Carr, is opposed to any trade barriers.

Steve Devir, AWU Delegate at BHP’s OneSteel in Perth, remains confident about the outlook.

8 theaustralianworker

jobs… My greatest fear, and a fear for all who work in manufacturing – not just steel but gas and other industries – is to explain to our families how we couldn’t sell our superior product to anyone for any price. How can we let that happen?” AWU National Secretary Paul Howes argues that using Australian steel, aluminium and other products to build the infrastructure being funded by the Federal Government stimulus, will boost orders for companies like BlueScope and help keep jobs in Australia during the downturn. “We have companies who prefer to buy these things from overseas because they’re cheaper,” Paul says. “But if they don’t support these industries now, then our steel and aluminium companies may close down. Then, when the economy bounces back, we won’t have the steel and aluminium factories anymore because they will be too expensive to start again.” The Union argues that at a time when private sector spending has collapsed, governments hold most of the spending power around the world. “If they have that purchasing power, they also have the power to choose what they buy and to impose certain rules favouring Australian products.” Paul says that buying local will also help cut down

The Australian Steel Institute (ASI), Australia’s peak steel industry association, has been watching the growing number of prefabricated steel imports with concern. “The increase in the import and use of prefabricated steel around the country is certainly a major threat to our local industry and we’re currently looking at ways to turn the trend around,” says the ASI’s National Industry Development Manager, Ian Cairns. He cites Rio Tinto’s US$1.8 billion expansion of its Yarwun Alumina ReÞnery in north Queensland as an example of this trend. “The project’s used 12,000 tons of steel from China which we believe could have been supplied locally. Our manufacturers were competitive but they weren’t given full, fair and reasonable opportunity in that project.” “There are also many jobs in the west [of Australia] that are going the same way, where thousands of tons of prefabricated steel are being imported from China and other Asian countries.” Ian says the ASI supports the AWU’s campaign to ensure money from the stimulus package is used in a way that gives some preference to Australian goods. “We are not advocating protectionism because many of our members are exporters and they need to keep selling their goods overseas,” he says. “But we do believe the Government could enforce policies to ensure there are full and fair opportunities for local manufacturers in bidding for projects in Australia.” The ASI argues governments should ensure Australian industry is afforded early and meaningful engagement in bidding for infrastructure projects to ensure that the stimulus package does what it is intended to do – help Australians keep their jobs. For his part, the Minister for Innovation,

Australian Made, Australian Grown campaign – how can it help consumers? * The campaign helps consumers identify Australian-made products throughh the th distinctive green and gold trademark. * The number of licensees joining the campaign is increasing at a record rate and consumer trust in the logo is unmatched. * There is 98 per cent recognition of the logo domestically and rapid growth in awareness internationally. * The logo has received strong backing from the fresh and packaged produce industry as an effective way to identify Australian grown goods. * The AMAG logo can only be used on products that are registered with Australian Made Campaign Limited and which meet the criteria set out in the code of practice, ensuring products are what they say they are. Information from the AMAG website:

Industry, Science and Research, Kim Carr, says he’s sympathetic to supporting Australian-made products but is opposed to any trade barriers. Kim – who says he wears Australian-made suits and drives an Australian-made car – argues the Government can have a policy of preferring local products without forcing anyone to use them and can also encourage people to use Australian inputs for major projects. “There are big resource projects in this country being built almost entirely using imported products – including, for example, railway rolling stock. It is perfectly legitimate to ask whether competitive Australian products could be used instead.” But, he says, as a trading nation Australia must have access to overseas markets and that shu!ing our trade partners out will only provoke retaliation and destroy Australian jobs. The Minister sounds a warning on mandating the use of Australian steel in Commonwealth-funded projects. “Australia exported $1.7 billion worth of iron and steel and $5.8 billion worth of aluminium in 2008. Does anyone really believe pu!ing a wall up around the Australian economy is in the best interests of these industries?”

Campaign support But BlueScope worker Boris Baradi argues that it isn’t protectionist to give preference to Australian products. “I don’t think we as a population of 21 million will spark global protectionism. But in Australia, the spin-offs would be signiÞcant in

expanding the economy and protecting jobs.” Another Port Kembla BlueScope worker, Risto Tanecevski, says giving priority to Australian products could be a lifeline for the company. Risto, who has two teenage daughters and works at Blast Furnace Number Six, says he’s not sure what will happen if orders don’t pick up. “The company will run out of cash eventually,” he says. “They are selling product now at less than it costs to make it. They can’t keep losing money.” In Western Australia, Steve Devir is one of 80 workers at BHP’s OneSteel reinforcing plant in Perth. An AWU Delegate, Steve remains conÞdent about the outlook but says the company has been affected by the economic slowdown. There was a move to cut back overtime but then the decision was reversed because orders came in for urgently needed product. “At the moment, OneSteel is only guaranteeing overtime until May.” Australian businessman Dick Smith, himself a long-time advocate of Australian-made products through his “Dick Smith Foods” brand, welcomes the AWU initiative but warns that it will be hard to get governments and consumers to change their habits. One major problem Dick sees is that the Federal Government won’t want to “offend the powerful foreign multinationals” by giving preference to Australian companies. “It’s a very good initiative but it will be difficult in the long term because most Australians tend to buy the most advertised product or the cheapest, which will most o$en come from China,” he says. “I’d 

Port Kembla BlueScope worker Risto Tancevski says giving priority to Australian products could be a lifeline for the company.

The Australian Steel Institute’s National Industry Development Manager, Ian Cairns, warns that increased importation is a major threat.

theaustralianworker 9


Dick Smith, a long-time advocate of Australianmade products through his “Dick Smith Foods” brand, welcomes the AWU initiative.

“Manufacturers realise that consumers are increasingly looking to support local jobs and buy locally grown and manufactured goods...”

like to ask all Australians, if you can afford it, buy Australian products because other countries will be looking a"er their own people and we should look a"er ours.” The Australian Made, Australian Grown (AMAG) campaign, has been encouraging Australians to buy local product for more than 20 years, and its Marketing and Communications Manager, Vibeke Stisen says it makes sense for consumers to look for Australian-made products because this supports local jobs, helps the economy and ensures they get quality products. Vibeke says the past months have seen a big jump in the number of companies registering to use the distinctive green and gold kangaroo trademark, now one of the country’s most recognised and trusted logos. “I think as PaciÞc Brands and other companies make decisions to move overseas, consumers realise if they don’t buy Australian-made then everything

How buying Australian helps manufacturing Every $1 million spent in the manufacturing sector creates: ● $600,800 in tax revenue ● $1,772,500 in value-added dollars (wages, salaries, taxes paid and profi fits)) ● $170,000 in welfare benefits (social security payments that would go to assist and sustain people who are unemployed) ● 17 full-time jobs (four direct and 13 indirect) SOURCE: The Industry Capability Network (ICN) – an initiative of Federal and State governments and

business that works to boost import replacement by promoting Australian-made alternatives and by supporting Australian exports.

10 theaustralianworker

will one day be made elsewhere,” she says. “Manufacturers realise that consumers are increasingly looking to support local jobs and buy locally grown and manufactured goods, so it makes sense to make it easier for them to Þnd them.” Apart from saving Australian jobs, Vibeke says it’s also about ensuring we continue to have manufacturing in Australia. “It’s not just about Australian consumers helping the Australian economy and looking a"er their own jobs, it’s also about having a sustainable future as a country that exports rather than having to import everything. “We do manufacture world-class products here, so why wouldn’t you buy them?” ◆

For a brighter financial future

Plan for change Your financial situation is constantly changing. It could be a new job, a change in your family circumstances, redundancy or an impending retirement… So are your financial plans keeping pace with your circumstances?

FSS Financial Planning

✹ Strategies for superannuation, insurance, retirement planning and wealth creation

✹ No commissions paid to your adviser ✹ Flexible payment options

Any number of events can prompt a need to reconsider your financial situation. Whatever the change, there’s a good chance that the right financial advice will improve your situation.

Contact us: Visit Phone 1800 665 756 (toll free) Email

Issued by FSS Trustee Corporation (FTC) ABN 11 118 202 672, AFSL 293340, the trustee of First State Superannuation Scheme (the Fund) ABN 53 266 460 365. Q Invest Limited ABN 35 063 511 580, AFSL Number 238274, trading as FSS Financial Planning, provides financial planning services under its own Australian Financial Services Licence. Neither FTC nor the Fund is responsible for any advice given to you by FSS Financial Planning. While FTC is not involved in the provision of financial planning services, the Trustee has retained FSS Financial Planning to provide financial advice to Fund members relating to their Fund account. The information contained in this document is current as at April 2009.



When union legend Laurie Short passed away – friends from far and wide gathered to pay tribute.


Laurie Short outside the old Federated Ironworkers Association building in George Street, Sydney, after winning the court-controlled ballot in 1952.

12 theaustralianworker


n the Þnal days of his life, the only words Laurie Short muttered were “I love you”. He would say it to his daughter, Susanna Short, and to the nurses who were caring for him. It reßected, Susanna says, the gentle, caring and incredibly humble side of a man who had fought, and won, some of the toughest battles in Australian union history. In recognition of his historic contribution to unionism and Australian politics, Laurie was farewelled in April with a state memorial service at the Sydney Trades Hall – a rare achievement for a unionist. Under the Federated Ironworkers Association banner hanging proudly on the wall, more than 200 people – including NSW Governor Marie Bashir, family, friends, Liberals and Laborites alike – gathered to pay their respects. Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard sent a letter of condolence, describing Laurie as a “great Þgure of the Australian union movement in a truly historic time”. Highlighting his status as a world-class union leader, international president of the United Steelworkers of America, Leo Gerard, also sent his condolences. “He was a Labor hero, and we will miss him,” NSW Premier Nathan Rees said, speaking of Laurie’s pivotal role in holding the NSW Labor Party together in the 1950s. Former NSW Premiers Bob Carr and Barrie Unsworth paid tribute to Laurie, as

did AWU National Secretary Paul Howes. The fact that Laurie managed to a!ract mourners from both sides of politics and from all walks of life is testament to a man who lived his life striving for fairness and equality.

Vale Laurence Elwyn Short AO OBE December 18, 1915 – March 24, 2009 “Laurie Short was a great Australian who proved what I always thought – that Australians can do anything, and he did it,” said Bert Evans, former chief executive of the Metal Trades Industry Association. “He was an inspiration to other Australians of what you can do from a humble background to make your mark.” And make his mark Laurie did, in an extraordinary life that saw him win praise across the board, from Australian political leaders to American presidents, for his contribution to a democratic Australia and visionary approach to unionism. “We have our considerable freedoms today because of Laurie,” AWU National Secretary Paul Howes said. “Laurie always fought the good Þght for a democratic trade union culture, free of thuggery and mindless authoritarianism.” Born in 1915, Laurie grew up in inner-city Sydney. He le" school at 15 and worked in a radio factory, where he discovered communism. His involvement with the Young Communist League was short-lived, with him becoming impatient at the insistence always to follow the party line, and ultimately because he was expelled from the party for “disruption”. Laurie became a Trotskyist (a member of the movement dedicated to the principles of early 20th century Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky), helping to establish the Balmain Workers’ Social Club. But he eventually abandoned Trotskyism, saying: “I generally came to the conclusion that our Western-style pluralist, parliamentary democracy with all its faults is preferable.” He later became known for his staunch anticommunist views – views he held until his death. Laurie joined the Federated Ironworkers Association (FIA) in 1937, and in 1949 challenged the

Laurie with his wife, artist Nancy Borlase, and her portrait of the couple.

“He was an inspiration to other Australians of what you can do from a humble background to make your mark...”

Stalinist Ernie Thornton for its leadership. Laurie won the ballot – but the Communist leadership rigged the result and Laurie didn’t become Secretary until the courts discovered that Thornton had rigged the ballot. Laurie became FIA National Secretary in 1951, a position he held for 32 years. Laurie, more than anyone, is credited with holding together the Labor Party in NSW during a time when it threatened to be torn apart. “In an era when it could have all come unstuck he saved the Labor Party,” Premier Nathan Rees told NSW Parliament. “He deÞned for all Australians what it was to be a social democrat in an era of ideological intemperance and that close call we had with tyranny, the McCarthyism era.” Laurie was a supporter of multiculturalism and ensured that the FIA was the Þrst union to support and organise the inßux of migrant workers in postwar Australia. Those who knew Laurie remember him as a courageous, digniÞed and loyal man who had a unique talent for seeing the big picture. He was there, they agree, to make things be!er, but it did come at some personal cost. Laurie’s daughter Susanna Short recalled that her father’s work meant that he was out a lot of the time.“He used to be in meetings every night, and in my naivety I would say ‘you lucky pig, you’re going out again’, and he’d say ‘if you knew’. “ Laurie was married for almost 61 years to the artist Nancy Borlase, who died in 2006. He died on what would have been her 95th birthday. He is survived by Susanna and two grandchildren. 

theaustralianworker 13

LAURIE SHORT Bill Hopkins Paul Howes

William (Bill) Hopkins, Assistant National Secretary, FIA

AWU NATIONAL SECRETARY PAUL HOWES We, in today’s labour movement, are fortunate to be able to stand on the shoulders of the giants of the past. And of those giants none have ever stood as tall as Laurie Short, for in the labour movement’s worst crisis, Laurie saved it from itself. We have a united and successful movement today because Laurie Short, in the ‘40s and ‘50s, in a miracle of tenacity and persuasion, got good union people, good labour people to stand together inside the Labor Party. The reasons for Laurie’s evolution to becoming a democrat are clear and understandable – it was clear to him in a time when it was still unclear to many that communist ideology doesn’t work, it tends towards corruption, bureaucratisation, warmongering, torture chambers and show trials in what is now a very predictable way. But of course in the ‘40s and ‘50s it was less predictable, and less obvious, and his achievement, therefore, was much more remarkable. Many of Laurie’s opponents have characterised his fight as simply a factional conflict between right and left – they were, of course, wrong. His fight was a battle for the soul of our nation, which Laurie’s quiet achievement comprehensively won. Bob Hawke once famously remarked to Laurie, “As the red flag was lowered for the last time over the Kremlin on the 25th of December 1991, you were entitled to more satisfaction than most.” It was this big picture that he was able to preserve – freedoms that we are so fortunate to enjoy today and that are still so shamefully out of reach for billions of others across the globe. Laurie Short is a beacon of inspiration to us now. He was a guiding light, a burning bush and a pillar of fire to all, who in Shakespeare’s words, “will never see so much, nor live so long”.

14 theaustralianworker

“His loyalty was something else. When Sir John Kerr sacked the Whitlam Government, it was a great tragedy for Laurie because he was bitterly opposed to the action taken. But he was a good friend of John Kerr’s and that friendship remained. Even to the end, Laurie actually felt very sorry for John and what happened to him and was not frightened to admit it. It was another trait of a man with a lot of courage.” Joel Newman

Joel Newman, Laurie’s grandson

“The Laurie that I knew wasn’t the political Laurie, he was Granddad. I would describe him as a generally quiet and somewhat reserved man. He was a kind and generous man.”

Bert Evans

Susanna Short paid tribute to her beloved father at Sydney’s Trades Hall. Bert Evans, Evans former Chief Executive, Executive Metal Trades d Industry Association

“Laurie was there to make things better. He was there to find solutions to strikes. He was there to get a proper settlement and when you’re in industrial relations that’s what it’s about – fairness.”

Peter Coleman

Peter Coleman Coleman, former Liberal Leader in NSW Parliament

“Laurie’s anti-communism was not McCarthyism or fanatical. It was based on the principal of integrity. There were lots of anti-communists around him you didn’t want to meet, but Laurie was an honourable man, uncompromising and highly principled.”

Michael Easson

Michael Easson, former Secretary, Labor Council of NSW; Executive Chairman, EG Property Group

“The Laurie I remember was inspiring and also had a great sense of humour. He was serious and very committed to the Labour Movement, and yet he had a self-effacing beautiful sense of life. He was an intellectual who was so proud of his heritage, but curious to find out more. I think his seriousness and strength of character goes with being a person who wakes up wondering ‘what new things can I find out today?’” theaustralianworker 15

Bob Gould

Bob Carr

Laurie Short’s strength of character and tenacity was the reason that the Federated Ironworkers Association became the only unskilled workers’ union with right wing Labor politics. But it was a difficult struggle. Expelled from his union, verbally abused and physically assaulted, Laurie also suffered a rigged election in the 1949 leadership ballot. When finally he was installed in 188 George Street, he was consigned to a desk in the corridor. Finally successful in reshaping his union, and redirecting the Australian Labor Movement, Laurie ensured the strength of the movement through helping to develop his younger colleagues. Of the people in the Labor Movement who believed in a free society there were none more tireless, none feistier than Laurie Short.

Bob Gould Gould, bookshop owner and veteran left-wing left wing activist

“Like a lot of people who have changed their political positions he had a certain amount of amnesia about some things, which is entirely human – you can’t really knock him for that.” Justice James Spigelman

“Of the people in the Labor Movement who believed in a free society there were none more tireless, none more feistier.” FORMER NSW PREMIER AND FORMER LABOR COUNCIL OF NSW SECRETARY, BARRIE UNSWORTH Barrie Unsworth

Justice James Spigelman, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of NSW

“I grew up at that end of George Street where my parents had a shop three doors down from the Iron Workers’ building, so I remember Laurie coming into the shop to talk to my parents. Later in life I got to know him in other capacities but I really have a personal sense of knowing him for over 50 years. He was always calm – I just remember that more than anything else. He had an extraordinary capacity to make decisions, but his calmness contributed to that capacity.” 16 theaustralianworker


To later generations of unionists who served under his leadership in the Federated Ironworkers Association, he was a legendary figure and a valued mentor. One such person was John Ducker who, like Laurie, came from a humble working-class environment and who, similarly, toiled at the task of being a boilermaker’s labourer. Laurie brought John into the Sydney Branch of the FIA and, as Laurie’s protégé, John was taught political skills, which were to subsequently impact on the Australian Labor Movement, and promote its revival and success in the 1970s. In her book Laurie Short: A Political Life Laurie’s daughter, Susanna, quotes John Ducker on attending a dinner party held at the Shorts’ in the mid-1950s: “The conversation was on a higher level than I was used to,” he said. “There were paintings everywhere and lots of books. After going there, I started buying books on literature and going to art openings.” Laurie established relationships with significant elements of the intellectual, academic, artistic, legal and professional groups in Australian society. And yet he innately understood the needs and aspirations of his union membership and fought vigorously on their behalf.

Laurie Short at his 80th Birthday celebrations


Nathan Rees

NSW PREMIER NATHAN REES Laurie Short defined for all Australians what it was to be a social democrat in an era of ideological intemperance, cultural bigotry, sectarian violence and the close call we had with tyranny during the McCarthyist era. He saw the big picture, and he saw it plain. He saw the true menace to Australian civility lay in the Left and Right. And when, in other states, the Australian Labor Party was breaking up, he held the centre… He lost much personal tranquillity and some friends in his anguished and honourable quest to preserve the decent heart of Australian egalitarianism from Communist takeover on one side, and from sterile conservative dimness on the other. He was a true patriot, and a man whose conscience, like George Orwell’s, took him first where young men went in the early twentieth century, to the Soviet fantasia and then back to the social-democrat decency of heart and firmness of purpose that so suited Australia, and the Australian spirit. He worked hard for our good, and gave us by his efforts, through the brawls and litigations, the bad blood, and bitter compromises and long nights of the soul, the true-hearted and worthwhile Australia we have today. He was a Labor hero, and we will miss him.

“He saw the big picture, and he saw it plain. He saw the true menace to Australian civility lay in the Left and Right...”

The Federated Ironworkers Association (FIA) became a registered union back in 1911. The FIA was an amalgamation of smaller iron and steel industry unions with a combined membership of approximately 5000. The new union soon grew with the establishment in 1915 of the modern Australian steel industry when the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited (BHP) commenced steelmaking operations at the Newcastle Steelworks. Back then, like the AWU, the FIA soon ran into difficulties. During 1916-17, poor working conditions and wage cuts prompted by the continuing home-front demands of WWI led to a wave of strikes in the steel industry, culminating in the Great Strike of 1917. The FIA joined most other NSW unions in strike action across a wide range of industries. The NSW government, determined to defeat the strikers, used scab labour to maintain essential services. The result was a defeat for the unions. BHP dismissed the strikers, employed nonunion labour and organised a “company union”. The FIA was deregistered in NSW as an industrial union. During the 1920s, a weakened FIA held amalgamation talks with the AWU, but rivalry between the unions and job cuts at BHP led to a decline in union membership and the collapse of the amalgamation talks. However, while the FIA began to revive – it was then confronted by the Great Depression of 1929-33. Australian steel production collapsed to 1901 levels and the FIA’s membership of 16,000 in 1929 was halved. In the years after the end of WWII, tension between the United States and the Soviet Union developed into the Cold War, with sporadic “hot” conflicts erupting in Korea and Vietnam. In Australia, the Cold War was typified by the 1949 Miners’ Strike, which saw the Communist-led Miners Federation mount an aggressive challenge to the Chifley Labor Government. Simultaneously, the intense faction fighting in the FIA reflected these Cold War tensions. Dissident unionists, led by Laurie Short, supported the Australian Labor Party, which resulted in him becoming FIA National Secretary in 1951.

The Challenge of Change The 1980s brought the first significant changes to an industrial relations system born in 1904. The Labor governments of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating introduced a more workplace-based system of industrial relations through enterprise bargaining. At the same time, employers and the political activists of the “New Right” began to attack unions and the arbitration system, claiming that the system hindered economic growth. Unions were no longer necessary, the New Right said: employers should be allowed to negotiate directly with their employees. Throughout the 1980s and ‘90s both FIA and AWU members were affected by increasing unemployment – a result of technological change, falls in tariff protection, and poor economic performance from employers who had deferred modernising their operations during the “good” years. Unions had to regroup to fight for job protection, and to resist the anti-union strategies of the New Right. Faced with these challenges, many unions reorganised in a series of amalgamations. In 1991, the FIA amalgamated with the Amalgamated Society of Engineers to form the Federation of Industrial, Manufacturing and Engineering Employees. Both the AWU and FIMEE had traditional industrial bases – the AWU in the bush, FIMEE in the steel industry – but both, by the early 1990s, were essentially manufacturing-industry unions, but also sharing common coverage of a number of sites in the construction and mining industries. In 1993, the AWU amalgamated with FIMEE to forge the AWU-FIMEE Amalgamated Union. Then, in 1995, the union became known officially as the Australian Workers’ Union – the union we know today. Extracted from The War That Never Ended, by labour historian Mark Hearn

theaustralianworker 17


Here’s the

DRILL Michael Blayney discovers that in the wild waters and weather of Bass Strait, a tight-knit community of 800 workers braves the waves while drilling for oil and gas. PHOTOS GETTY IMAGES


eill Tacey is living the peak-hour motorist’s dream: the AWU Delegate commutes to work each day by helicopter. A production operator on a Bass Strait oil and gas rig, Neill has no work-day traffic jams to suffer, no car-parking hassles at the other end and road rage is a computer game not a red face in your face. On a good day, his 72-kilometre chopper ride from the small Gippsland town of Longford to work takes just 30 minutes. It all sounds too good to be true, and sometimes it is. “You have to remember that one chopper can hold up to 12 people and it could be heading out to any number of platforms,” Neill says. “If it’s not going directly to [my rig] Mackerel, the trip can take up to an hour and a half.” Once on the rig, Neill’s duties take him indoors and out: computerbound or exposed to the elements on the platform itself. Responsible for machinery operation and maintenance, regulatory testing, and separating and monitoring the oil and gas at all stages of production, he sometimes has to drill to a depth of 4 kilometres in order to get to the good stuff. His Bass Strait neighbourhood is home to 21 platforms and installations, serviced by roughly 800 workers (just seven females!) and 600 kilometres of underwater pipelines. Open for business 24 hours a day, almost 4 billion barrels of crude oil and 7 trillion cubic feet of gas have been piped back to the mainland since production commenced in 1969. Understandably, life on a rig revolves around work and the 12-hour shifts each employee completes. Down time can involve anything from a hit of pool, reading a book, or watching television. “You’re fairly isolated,” Neill says. “If you go outside the quarters, you have to be fully covered – safety boots, helmets, glasses, gloves, 

18 theaustralianworker

The delegate… Neill Tacey: AWU Victorian Branch Executive member Neill Tacey is a production operator and AWU Delegate on a Bass Strait rig. His 72km chopper ride from home to work takes just 30 minutes.

“You’re fairly isolated. If you go outside the quarters, you have to be fully covered – safety boots, helmets, glasses, gloves...”

The workmate… Gary McCulloch: Neill’s colleague, Gary, works on Snapper platform (all the rigs are named after fish). He was off duty and asleep when a “fairly large gas blow-out” occurred.

The organiser…


Dave Healy: Dave says the facilities (on the rigs) are getting older and subjected to a saltwater environment. “Updating infrastructure and pipework is high on our agenda,” he says.

theaustralianworker 19


“By the time you reach 55, your body’s pretty ratshit... the longer a person stays in the job, the more fatigued they become.”

the lot. It’s not like you can go outside and throw a line over the edge and get a suntan.” And outside can be the most unwelcoming of places. When the strong winds and high seas decimated the 1998 Sydney-to-Hobart yacht-race Þeld, reinforced steel was ripped clean

20 theaustralianworker

from platform decks. “If you get a decent enough wave, the rigs do move. It’s nowhere near as bad as being on a boat, but I’ve been out there when it’s pretty rough and the platform shifts under your feet,” Neill says. Inevitably, accidents occur. Neill’s colleague, Gary McCulloch, from Snapper platform (all the rigs are named after Þsh), was off duty and asleep when a “fairly large gas blow-out” occurred due to a faulty O-ring. “It was pretty frightening,” Gary says. “The alarms went off and the platform was shut down. We have ageing pipework, so there’s always a chance something could go wrong.” This is one of the biggest health and safety challenges facing workers and employer Esso, according to Dave Healy, AWU Organiser and former rig worker of 24 years’ standing. “The facilities are getting older and they’re out in the middle of the ocean, subjected to a saltwater environment. Updating infrastructure and pipework is something that is high on our agenda,” he says. Managing worker fatigue is another. Mackerel’s sleeping quarters are “not much bigger than a prison cell”, Neill, now entering his 14th year of Bass Strait platform work, says. “I do a week of day-shift offshore, then I’m home for a week. Then I go back out again and do a week of nightshift before another week off.” “By the time you reach 55, your body’s pretty much ratshit,” Dave Healy says. “Say you’ve just done a night shift, and then you try and sleep. A helicopter lands on top of your sleeping quarters a minimum of four times a day, and then you have all the general noise from plant and machinery. The longer a person stays in the job, the more fatigued they become.” Although most workers are happy with the current roster arrangement, it can be tough on families. “I’ve missed a lot of birthdays and Christmases and special occasions, but I just got Christmas off for the next seven years,” Gary McCulloch says, his shift moving into a new phase. “The young blokes all want New Year’s Eve off, but I’d prefer to be with my family at Christmas.”

The veteran… T Russ Collison: Russ, our Greater NSW Branch Secretary, was a lad of 20 when he worked on the Barracouta platform way back in 1969. It was a different work environment to the one today.

Russ Collison’s story Greater NSW Branch Secretary Russ Collison had just turned 20 years old when he worked on Bass Strait’s Barracouta platform in 1969. It was a different work environment to the one today. “Initially, I went down to Bass Strait as a TA (Trades Assistant). I got my rigger’s ticket during the course of being there and was a rigger and scaffolder from then on. “One of my stints on the rig went for 43 days without a break. We were working 12-hour shifts. Normally the roster was 28 days on and seven days off. I can remember this TA who stayed on board for 63 days. Not many were complaining, though. It was an opportunity as young men to work hard and put a bit of money aside for a house deposit. “But people got fatigued and I saw a few blues on board. People were getting on each other’s nerves. It’s a small, conÞned area and outside it’s dark, windy, cold and with a lot of rain. You can only play cards for so long. It doesn’t matter what your disposition, nerves jangle. “A couple of blokes would smuggle grog onboard. Bags weren’t searched and you could smuggle on a couple of bottles of whiskey, no dramas. People hadn’t had a drink for a while, and they’d get stuck in and get a bit homesick. Silly things happened and blokes got belted. “Working out there really was a young man’s game. It can be a huge sacriÞce to your family when you get older. I don’t begrudge them the money they get. I reckon they’re underdone when you consider what they’re giving up.” ◆

“It’s a small confined area and outside it’s dark, windy, cold and with a lot of rain. You can only play cards for so long.”

theaustralianworker 21

SPECIAL REPORT DSE Forest Firefighters put in a heroic effort to contain the horrific fires in Victoria.

After the


Earlier this year, Australia was hit by floods and fires that caused incalculable damage. So how do those who survive recover from disasters such as these? Melissa Sweet talks to some true heroes, who worked amid the carnage to help others, about how they coped and how they’re faring now.


hen Janene Serio set off for work one Monday in February, the ßoodwaters in the north Queensland town of Ingham were high, and expected to rise to heights not seen for decades. Fortunately, she had the foresight to take some extra clothes, as another eight days would pass until she saw her home again. Janene, Operational Services Manager at Ingham Hospital, was one of several AWU members stranded there through the worst of the ßoods, working horrendous hours to look after patients and staff. “We all just hung in there, and everybody helped everybody out,” she says. “We were that tired by night-time, we could have slept on 22 theaustralianworker

cement, I reckon. It’s an experience that you don’t want to have every year.” Many AWU members have had similar thoughts in the wake of a summer of horrifying extremes. While more than 2500 millilitres of rain inundated Ingham and much of north Queensland in the Þrst few months of 2009, Þrestorms in Victoria claimed more than 170 lives and more than 2000 homes. History teaches that such disasters can be expected to take a long-term toll upon physical and mental health, health experts warn. But those affected often are reluctant to seek help. “A lesson from the Ash Wednesday Þres is that victims often delay seeking care for at least 18 months, despite experiencing considerable suffering,” two prominent psychiatrists, Professor Alexander McFarlane and Professor Beverley

February’s floods in Ingham, Queensland, caused terrible distress to the community.

Raphael, wrote in The Medical Journal of Australia recently. “When they do present to GPs, it is o!en with physical symptoms and the signiÞcance of these is missed.” Even though the economic impact of the ßoods in north Queensland is still being felt, Janene and her colleagues in Ingham count themselves relatively lucky. “Going through ßood is not as traumatic as Þre,” she says. When she eventually returned home, Þnding her bedroom Þlled with stinking mud, her thoughts were with the Þre victims. “We used to sit there at night-time, and say ‘why can’t this rain be going down south’?” she says. “We really felt for the Þre victims. Everyone up here at the time said, give us a ßood any day [in preference] to Þre.” The hospital’s cook, Gail Bison, another AWU member who worked long and hard during the ßoods, was one of many Ingham locals who donated their $165 Queensland government hardship grants to the Victorian bushÞre appeal.

When the shock hits

“We felt so bad for those people down there,” Gail says. “What we went through, we recovered from.”

Mass destruction Thousands of AWU members have been devastated by the Þres of February’s Black Saturday, which struck at communities close to the Union’s history. “The wide swathes of regional Victoria hit by bushÞres – towns like Marysville, Kinglake, Churchill, Healesville, Yarra Glen, Narbethong, Bendigo and Ballarat – are the heartland of the AWU,” AWU National Secretary Paul Howes says. “Our Union traces our proud history back to this part of Victoria, where we were formed in 1886.” Up to 20 AWU members and their families, including six Victorian Forest FireÞghters, lost homes, while many others have been traumatised by the destruction of their communities, according to Ben Davis, Vice-President of the  Victorian Branch.

Con Cosmas, a DSE Forest Firefighter Crew Leader, thought he was coping pretty well with the horrors he’d seen during 18-hour shifts fighting the blazes of Black Saturday. But two weeks after the worst of fires were over, as he stood in the shower washing his hair, the shock suddenly hit him with a whammy. Realising he needed help, he contacted the AWU and subsequently began seeing a counsellor. Con continues to suffer the after-effects of the fire trauma. He has difficulty sleeping, has lost weight, and becomes stressed in crowds. “You have good days and bad days,” he says. While he continues to be haunted by the memories of Black Saturday, he also remembers the burns victims who his team helped and who are now recovering well. “Amongst all the terrible things that we saw, there was at least one good story that came out of it,” he says. Con wants other firefighters to accept that they are human and not to be embarrassed to ask for help. “We all suffer from the Australian-male persona in that we think we’re tough and can deal with these things. It has been difficult to share this story but I have done so to help those who are feeling the same or worse [to let them] know that they are not alone.”

theaustralianworker 23


How the AWU is helping

DSE Crew Leader Con Cosmas in the line of fire.

• The AWU has raised more than $150,000 to support bushfire victims • The Victorian Branch is paying $5000 to all members who lost their homes • The AWU is fighting for improved pay and conditions for DSE Forest Firefighters. • AWU workplaces are organising donation drives for the Bushfire Appeal • Members needing assistance should contact the Victorian Branch directly on 1300 362 298

The forgotten disaster For nine weeks earlier this year, the towns of Normanton and Karumba in far north Queensland were isolated by floodwaters. Phillip Grieve, town foreman with the Carpentaria Shire and an AWU member, began to feel as if the rest of Australia either didn’t know or didn’t care. “We were cut off for about four weeks before anyone knew what was happening,” he says. “We didn’t get noticed because of the bushfires down south.” Even though the floodwaters have receded, the flood damage will keep Phillip busy for quite some time, with roads, signs and grounds to repair. “There’s plenty of work,” he says. “We can do as many hours as we like with all the damage.”

24 theaustralianworker

Nearly a thousand members, working for the Department of Sustainability and the Environment, Parks Victoria, the Department of Primary Industries and construction crews on the North-South pipeline put in heroic efforts Þghting the Þres over several weeks. Many were also involved in recovering the casualties. “I’ve had many phone calls from stressed-out members,” Ben says. “The people who dealt with deceased and injured are really struggling. We’re Þnding that when the adrenaline and emergency wears off, they’re starting to show the effects, and a number have sought counselling. “They’ve been exposed to the worst Þres in the history of Australia.” Rod Lynn, a Work-Centre Coordinator with the DSE, has worked on more Þres than he can remember, both as a Þrst-attack-bulldozer operator and out of aircraft. “Not in my 23 years with the DSE have I seen a Þre that big,” he says. “This Þre was so hot, so Þerce and moved so quick, you could have had all the best technology in the

world, you were never going to stop Mother Nature.” Rod provides peer support to colleagues, and knows Þrsthand the toll that Þres can take. After two narrow escapes in recent years, he developed serious depression. He got through it with help from a psychologist and his colleagues, but he knows that many others are now also struggling. “I don’t know how long it will take them to recover,” he said. “All the training in the world doesn’t prepare you for what you saw on that day and in the days after.” Rod believes his colleagues’ problems are being exacerbated by the lack of public recognition for DSE Forest FireÞghters, with most acclaim going to the Country Fire Authority. “A lot of the thing that’s hurting blokes is they don’t feel they get the recognition, because all you see on the posters and the trees is ‘thank you CFA’,” he says. “CFA weren’t the only agency Þghting these Þres. We’ve been left out of it and I’m really, really angry about it because what we go through is just massive. “A little bit of recognition helps you get over what you’ve just gone through.” ◆

Gail Bison donated her $165 Queensland Government hardship grant to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal. ‘We felt so bad for those people, what we went through we recovered from’.

CONTACTS For more information about mental-health issues, call Sane Australia: 1800 187263 (9am-5pm weekdays EST. Request free InfoPack 24 hours). Or see and

Disasters and health

As flood waters continued to rise, people – and animals – sought shelter wherever they could.

Studies have found that: • Women, children, the elderly, the poor and people with pre-existing health problems are most likely to be killed or injured in disasters. • Those who were already vulnerable through physical and mental health complaints before the disaster are more likely to suffer health problems afterwards. • Many disaster-related injuries result from the breakdown of safety controls, infrastructure and from individuals’ attempts to adapt to the disaster. During hurricanes in Florida in 2004, for example, the use of portable generators led to dozens of cases of carbon-monoxide poisoning, including six deaths. • Search and rescue personnel are at high risk of injuries. Clean-up activities, which may take years, also place workers at risk. • The provision of practical help as quickly as possible – for example, with finding accommodation – minimises the risks of mental health problems. • Psychological distress can cause physical symptoms, such as headaches, faintness or dizziness, pains in heart or chest, lower back pain, nausea or upset stomach, muscle soreness, difficulty breathing, hot or cold spells, numbness or tingling, lump in throat, feeling weak and heavy feelings in arms or legs. • Man-made disasters (such as bombings) have been shown to have psychological effects lasting up to 14 years, while the mental health impact of natural disasters can be evident for up to three years afterwards. • Social connections – such as being with someone at the time of the disaster and receiving appropriate support afterwards – can help reduce the risk of mental health problems. • Time is the biggest healer. Many problems, such as post-traumaticstress disorder and depression, become less common as time passes. • Alcohol problems, smoking and child abuse tend to increase after disasters.

Right: DSE Work-Centre Co-ordinator Rod Lynn says he has never seen anything like the Victorian bushfires.

Ingham Hospital Operational Services Manager Janene Serio (right) and her colleagues worked around the clock.

Flood-affected Ingham in Queensland.

SOURCE: Professor Sandro Galea, an expert on the health effects of disasters, from the University of Michigan.

theaustralianworker 25



National News Read about what YOUR union is doing for YOU...

Left: The Canadian oil industry tragedy is a reminder to oil unions and workers around the globe about the dangers of working in this dangerous industry.

■ Canadian oil industry

tragedy a harsh reminder 17 Canadian oil workers were killed after a helicopter crashed on its way out to an oil platform on the Grand Banks, about 300km off the Canadian province of Newfoundland. The accident, which left just one survivor, sent a reminder to oil unions and workers around the globe about the dangers of working in this dangerous industry. The AWU and the Maritime Union of Australia jointly organise offshore oil workers across Australia through the MUA-AWU Offshore Alliance, so AWU National Secretary Paul Howes, immediately sent the Union’s condolences to the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers union, the union that covers oil workers in Canada. “I wrote to the CEP union to express our heartfelt support to the Canadian union members and their families,” Paul said. “We know the anxieties that families go through when loved ones leave to work far away in

this often dangerous industry. Our unions will always demand the highest possible safety standards for oil workers but when a tragedy like this hits it is especially hard to accept.” An official from the Canadian union covering the workers said he believed that some workers will be so affected by the tragedy the will leave the industry. “We have a fairly mature workforce

offshore, a lot of guys in their late 40s and in their 50s,” Sheldon Peddle, CEP union Local Branch President said. “And this is the kind of thing that is probably going to tip them over the edge and say, ‘You know what? I’m done with this.’” And to salute our own offshore oil industry workers, turn to page 18 for “Postcard from an offshore rig”.

“We know the anxieties that families go through when loved ones leave to work far away in this often dangerous industry.”

Unions are cool – It’s official! Recent findings from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal that there has been an increase in union membership of more than 56,000 workers and that, excluding casual workers, almost one in four Australian workers belongs to a union. According to the ABS survey, more than 1.75 million Australian workers are now unionised and that unionised workers earn, on average, $96

more per week than non-union members. AWU National Secretary Paul Howes says that the data proved, yet again, the relevance of unions in Australian working life. “It is essential that workers belong to a union,” Paul said. “It’s all about protecting jobs, protecting workers’ rights and improving working conditions. Unions work tirelessly to protect and represent the interests of their members. Workers’ entitlements

such as sick leave, annual leave and leave loading, access to industry superannuation and legal representation in workplace issues all came about because unions fought for them – and continue to protect these rights.” Paul said that unions were born out of necessity and they remain paramount in protecting the livelihoods of working people everywhere.

theaustralianworker 27


■ Good luck to the Workers’ Icon This year marks the 150th anniversary of Queensland’s formal separation from New South Wales. And, to mark the occasion, Queenslanders were asked to vote for their favourite state icon. “The Tree of Knowledge” at Barcaldine was among a short list of 300 muchloved Queensland icons and union members and Labor supporters were encouraged to give their vote to this remarkable piece of history. While the tree is dead (it was poisoned – and whoever committed this crime remains at large), its site (and its memorial) and the town of Barcaldine figure prominently in the minds of Australians who believe in fairness and justice and workers’ rights. Back in 1891, striking shearers gathered under the branches of a tree in Barcaldine, Queensland, and made the critical decision that hard won workers’ rights had to be consolidated in law and protected in legislation from future attacks by pastoralists. It was a long and bitter strike, but the ghost gum, which became known as the Tree of Knowledge, came to be associated with the birth of the Australian Labor Party and has remained a symbol of the cause of democracy and Labor ever since. The irony wasn’t lost on AWU National President (and Queenslander) Bill Ludwig that while John Howard’s Liberal government legislated WorkChoices, effectively undermining the right of workers to collectively bargain, it was that same government that gazetted the Tree of Knowledge on the National Heritage list! The gazette cites the tree as important to the nation as a scene of actions and decisions, which had a profound effect on the future of labour and politics in Australia. We’ll let readers know the result of the ballot in the next issue. ■ Own a beautiful memento of our proud history On the Labour Day weekend in Queensland this year the AWU celebrated the opening of a fantastic new memorial at the Tree of Knowledge in Barcaldine – the memorial to the great shearers’ strike of 1891. The original of this watercolour depicting the shearers’ union camp at Barcaldine hangs in the foyer of the Australian Workers’ Union in Brisbane. Chapman, the artist, assisted union funds by making crayon and ink drawings of the military and labour camps at Barcaldine during the strike. Pairs of the paintings were sold off for half a sovereign but few survived, as they were not framed. Two big fires at Barcaldine destroyed most of those that were framed. The AWU painting survived because a former Official of the AWU kept this particular copy hung on the wall of his Aunt Tilly’s dining room in Blackall, Queensland. The Official’s father had been imprisoned during the strike and the work had great personal significance to the family. At some time the painting was packed into an old washing machine box and removed to Brisbane where it resided for decades in a large old Chubb safe. A historian recognised the painting while doing research about the AWU – and it quickly became an icon of the Union and the Labor Party. To celebrate the memorial in Barcaldine we will give away two posters of this painting to the first two people to email: members@ asking for a copy of this piece of AWU history. 28 theaustralianworker

Queensland Branch News Read about what YOUR union is doing for YOU... ■ Sweet smell of success for Beaudesert

sewerage workers The AWU has achieved confidential settlements for members engaged at the former Beaudesert Council (now known as Scenic Rim Regional Council). The AWU had raised concerns about the underpayment of live sewerage allowances to employees engaged as sewerage treatment plant operators and assistants. Investigation revealed they had not been paid their entitlements in accordance with the award. The AWU filed a case before the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission and after the first compulsory conference the council negotiated a settlement. ■ Disability Services Queensland members

force management backdown Meetings with members this month at Disability Services Queensland Loganlea resulted in management backing down away from unsafe practices they had implemented or were about to implement. AWU members had been outraged that management decided to remove a door to the house kitchen without any consultation with AWU or workplace health and safety representatives. No risk analysis had been conducted to ascertain the consequences of such an action. The result had detrimental effects on clients and staff in the house, with clients accessing the fridge in an unhygienic manner, and clients gorging on food found to cause health and behavioural problems. After meeting with members, management was informed that a dispute would bbe lodged in the industrial commission if the door was not pput back on. The door was put back on. On the day of the union meeting members also received in information that due to budget restraints support hours to assist with client banking, shopping and lifestyle activities w were to be ceased in the next roster. Members voted uunanimously to stop work if management went ahead with its pplans. When informed of AWU members’ intentions to stop work, m management relented and kept the support hours in place.

FRONTLINE NEWS QLD ■ Big pay rises in Union Cape York deal

■ Swan’s trip to Everhard

The AWU’s Far North Queensland Branch has secured significant pay rises for hundreds of indigenous council workers under a collective agreement with the new Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council. AWU Far North Queensland Branch District Secretary Darryl Noack congratulated the council for its role in negotiations on the deal, which he said by guaranteeing award wages or better for Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council’s (NPARC) 300 employees ends yearsof unfairness.

Workplace delegates at Everhard Industries met with Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan to discuss the impacts of the global financial crisis. Everhard workers were deeply concerned about the effects of the current global financial crisis had on their livelihoods, and were keen to find out firsthand what the Australian government was doing to minimise the impact. The meeting was facilitated by the AWU and Swan’s office. AWU Delegate Robin Birrer asked the Treasurer what plans the Federal Government had for assisting the Australian manufacturing industry by encouraging the use of locally made products. The Treasurer stressed that the main aim of the second stimulus package was to assist the industry through the building of public infrastructure, such as schools, roads, and major civil construction projects; these would then create a demand for Everhard products, he said. The decrease in the value of the Australian dollar had also stimulated demand for Australian products, Swan said. Swan also said how important it was that the government help stimulate demand when the private sector was in decline. Robin Birrer commented that he was pleased that Swan took the time to speak directly to delegates on site about their concerns. “It was great to be able to ask him directly about issues. I’m pleased the Union asked him to come along,” Robin said.

Mayor Joseph Elu welcomed the agreement as a significant step forward for the council. “It will introduce a set of fair and consistent conditions for all council employees and provides us with flexibility to build our skills and capacity for the future,” he said. The agreement standardises job classifications, reporting structures, career incentives and a code of conduct across the workforce, while providing wage-cost certainty for the NPARC.

“It will introduce a set of fair and consistent conditions for all council employees.”

AWU Far North Queensland Branch District Secretary Darryl Noack (back row, left) and Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council Mayor Joseph Elu (front row, second from right) at the signing of the union collective agreement.

The life of Maureen Bain, 1936-2008 Long-term loyal AWU member and loyal employee of QHealth, Maureen Bain, passed away in December 2008. Maureen was employed for 38 years at Nambour General Hospital as a cleaner. During her service she saw many changes and many workmates come and go. But no-one will ever forget her happy, boisterous personality and her positive attitude to work. Over the years, Maureen made

many true friends; she organised and paid for Christmas parties, gave great wedding presents and made sure any of her workmates who had a baby were looked after well. Maureen was a great unionist and a lasting memory is of her at the QHealth rally in Brisbane where she proudly led the hospital’s contingent. On December 3, 2008, Maureen did not

arrive at work, which, given her work ethic, was unusual. When police went to her house, they discovered her body. Maureen’s funeral was like all of her parties, well attended and with plenty of refreshment. She will be greatly missed by everyone that knew her. By Maree Duffy, AWU Gympie/Sunshine Coast Organiser

theaustralianworker 29


Members lead charge against Rockhampton water plan AWU members have marched on Rockhampton Regional Council to send the message to chief executive Alastair Dawson that they won’t let him sell of the city’s vital water assets. Council management announced a review in January that proposed a number of options to consider. Because of activity on the ground, the council’s management was forced to admit its preferred option was to corporatise the water assets of Rockhampton Regional Council. The plan was to create a new private sector organisation which would be run separately to the council to manage water supply. This meant council employees working in water services would no longer be employed by Rockhampton Regional Council and would lose the protection of the local government award and their enterprise bargaining agreement.

To oppose the plan, over 300 AWU members and other unionists met at Stapleton Park in Rockhampton at a lunchtime protest rally. A number of elected councillors also attended. To ensure chief executive Dawson did not miss the point, council workers voted unanimously to march on City Hall. Local organiser Peter Ward said he was buoyed by the commitment shown by members in protecting their conditions. Even though workers were threatened with having their pay docked and were told by management they could attend the meeting only in their own time, members weren’t intimidated and stood firm. Key AWU representatives worked relentlessly to ensure that people were well informed of the ramifications of corporatisation and that action had to be taken. As one member stated, “Action speaks louder than words”.

Collective action by members sent a strong message to all players that the AWU members will react swiftly to anything that places their employment at risk. Other members commented that the “spirit” of the campaign reminded all who took part in the action that “the members are the union, they have the power, they are the voice”. The huge turnout was a result of systematic and targeted contact with members in the workplace and a new organising call centre. This was the first time the call centre was trialled, and the results speak for themselves. The elected councillors will not make a decision on the issue for several months. In the meantime, AWU members will be campaigning in the community to ensure everyone understands the risks of setting their water supply up for privatisation.

■ AWU member no “bludger” After a long fight, Ron Bowman, an AWU member at Lockyer Valley Regional Council, has won his fight to be reinstated in his job. The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission has found that his sacking by the council was harsh, unjust and unreasonable. Ron was first employed by the engineering department of Lockyer Valley Regional Council (LVRC) in 2001. His job included road construction, traffic control, the laying of wastewater mains and electrical conduits, truck driving and traffic-sign repair. In August 2005, he underwent surgery to repair a work-related hernia. The following year he injured his knee, also in the course of his employment. The injuries resulted in him being issued with a series of medical certificates forbidding him to lift weights in excess of 20kg, and recommending that he avoid frequent bending and rotational movements. Despite that medical advice, he was 30 theaustralianworker

regularly asked by his supervisors to take on heavy work, which caused him severe pain. When he complained, Ron was accused of being a “bludger” and a “no hoper” by the director of the engineering department – despite his long service and unblemished record. In February 2008, the director of the engineering department sent a memorandum to the council chief executive stating that Ron’s medical constraints restricted his “capacity to be gainfully employed” within the department. He was subsequently sacked from his job. The AWU office took Ron’s matter to Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC), believing Ron had been treated unfairly. The commission found, however, that he was a diligent and industrious employee who had been diagnosed with an injury which limited his capacity to lift. He had sought alternative duties which would enable him to continue his employment but the council had

“In a great win, the QIRC ordered Ron be reinstated. Ron proudly returned to work...”

rejected his request and terminated his employment. Further, it found that his termination was harsh, unjust and unfair. In a great win for Ron and the other members of the AWU at Lockyer Valley Regional Council, QIRC ordered Ron be reinstated. This sent the message loud and clear to the LVRC executive that the AWU would not stand by while its members were unfairly targeted. Ron proudly returned to work on April 1, 2009.

FRONTLINE NEWS NSW ■ AWU’s sweet victory for sugar workers

NSW Branch News Read about what YOUR union is doing for YOU...

G James action reveals glass jaw When G James Glass & Aluminium called workers from both morning and afternoon shifts together for a 7am meeting for Monday, March 16, 70 workers assembled to be informed that 30 redundancies would take place. With a form letter, the company’s NSW extrusion manager David Usher then called out each worker to be laid off, wrote their name on top of the page and issued the redundancy notice during the meeting. No prior notice had been given to the Union concerning redundancies or negotiations undertaken. Management found one of the most heartless and demoralising ways to make workers redundant. AWU Organiser Ted Mitchell said, “There is no easy way to make workers redundant but this was among the most shameful and disgraceful ways of sacking workers I have seen in

my 23 years as a Union official.” Russ Collison, AWU NSW Branch Secretary, was at the workplace soon after the announcement. Russ immediately ordered the AWU to take action in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. Russ said, “What a low-life act [to be] undertaken by management. They have disregarded industrial relations laws and have treated the workers with contempt. Years of service by workers ends with a final inhumane act when being made redundant.” AWU Industrial Officer Vern Falconer presented the case to the commission, arguing that the company’s action was in contravention to section 668 of the Act because it had failed to consult and give prior notice of the redundancies. Commissioner Larkin ordered the company to begin negotiations with the union. The case continues.

Sugar cane farmers have been negotiating with RTA representatives to have the proposed new freeway bypass through Pillar Valley near Grafton relocated since it was designed to go through some of the most fertile cane farms in the region, rendering the farms useless. This would have a devastating impact on local employment with massive job losses on the farms and the possible closure of the local sugar refinery. Members of the Clarence Canegrowers Association, Scott Rumph (AWU North Coast Organiser) and AWU Delegate Jeff Ross approached Russ Collison, AWU NSW Branch Secretary, to organise a deputation to meet with NSW Roads Minister Michael Daley for a last-ditch attempt to save the farms. The AWU-led delegation had lengthy discussions with Daley and RTA representatives. As a result, Russ was able to announce, “We have successfully negotiated a great outcome where the freeway will be rerouted. This will allow the productive areas of the farms to remain intact with little to no relocation of family properties. More importantly, workers retain their jobs. A great outcome for all involved!” ■ National Park and Wildlife Service

pay settlement After protracted negotiations with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, workers have voted by a substantial majority to accept its offer but are preparing for a continuing two-year fight. Over 400 members gathered at various locations throughout NSW over a one-week period to discuss the pay offer with Greater NSW Branch Assistant Secretary Stephen Bali and NPWS Delegates Garth Toner and Stephen Moore. Senior delegate Garth Toner said, “It’s a ridiculous offer where we receive a pay rise and then for the next 12 months are expected to have cost savings to wages of 1.5 per cent. But we have secured back-payment of the increase to July 2008 and we will fight hard to retain all our conditions!”

Compassion during family crises When John Jolly died suddenly while holidaying with his family in Queensland last December, his family was devastated. They returned to Sydney and approached AWU Delegate and Leighton Contractors work colleague Paul McKinley. Together with AWU NSW Branch Vice President Kevin Brown, they approached Leighton’s rail project management office for assistance.

Without hesitation, Leighton organised and paid for return flights, accommodation, meals for the family, two close friends and the foreman. This allowed for a dignified and respectful funeral to take place. On returning home to Sydney, the family arranged a private service for friends and workmates. The workers raised $7500 through a workplace collection and this was matched by Leighton. On behalf of the family, Paul McKinley

thanks everybody involved in their overwhelming and admirable show of compassion. AWU NSW State Secretary Russ Collison said, “That’s what AWU workmates are about, helping each other in their hour of need. “John was a respected workmate and the family can take solace from how his workmates rallied after hearing the sad news. He will be sadly missed.” theaustralianworker 31

FRONTLINE NEWS NSW/NEWCASTLE ■ Leave entitlements protected

■ Welcome to new members

AWU Organisers and Delegates are prepared to work with management to ensure there are future employment opportunities for members but won’t allow advantage to be taken of members. Unfortunately, at some workplaces management is using the economic slowdown as an excuse to drive down leave entitlements. Stand-downs must be negotiated on a site-by-site basis. The AWU believes long-service leave can only be used as a last resort and after extensive consultation with members. Management often seeks the easy option of forcing people to take leave. Non-union workers have no choice but to do as they are told. The AWU has helped in negotiations at many locations including Cement Australia (Kandos), OneSteel (Rooty Hill) and Crane Enfield. Hedley Fryer, Senior Delegate at Crane Enfield, said, “All leave was bundled into one group and we were expected to use it. We stood our ground on long-service leave, since this is an entitlement for a decade of hard work and should not be whittled away. We won! No worker will be forced to take long-service leave this year. Hopefully the economy will pick up next year and if not, the fight will be on again!”

The economic slowdown has resulted in many redundancies. The manufacturing industry workforce is expected to decrease by up to 20 per cent – approximately 200,000 workers in NSW face losing their jobs. Union membership is now more important than ever before. Union members have the ability to influence the redundancy process, to negotiate the taking of leave, protect conditions and to ensure a safe work environment during these cost-cutting times. Union strength lies with its members and workplaces where a high proportion of employees are union members are in a strong bargaining position to deliver the best results. Substantial membership increases have been delivered at Trend Windows, D&D Traffic Control, Jalco Group, Tyco Water and many other workplaces. We would like to welcome all new members at the various worksites and look forward to help you deliver great results in the workplace.

“Non-union workers have no choice but to do as they are told.”

Newcastle Branch News Read about what YOUR union is doing for YOU...

■ Newcastle in the GFC: shopfloor outlook round-up since February 2009 • Rod Mill Newcastle (produces steel rod that ends up as wire): While it was operating six days a week with a four-panel system, since the Christmas shutdown, the plant has effectively been one week on/one week off, Monday to Friday, working a 24-hour day on a two-shift system. The plant has also accumulated a stockpile, which is not ideal. Australian market share is well down since the Australia-wide market is down. • Wire Mill (makes wire in various degrees for fencing and clothes line, and so on): The Australian market share is well down, so business is stagnant. • Ropes Mill (makes ropes for drag lines, 32 theaustralianworker

clothes lines, and so on): Is doing well, maintaining production, seems unaffected thus far and still has orders. • Waratah Manufacturing (products are used in construction, manufacturing, housing, mining and rail): Mostly exports to Indonesia and America. There are reductions across plant in shift rosters, but production of grinding media and rail products is still strong. • BlueScope Lysaght (makes steel roofing, walling, rainwater, fencing, home improvement, house framing and structural products): No loss of people at this stage but work has slowed. This is a fickle business because it is dependent on the health of the building industry.

“The Australian market share is well down, so business is stagnant.”

• BlueScope Steel Distribution (distributes products including steel plate, sheet and coil, reinforcing fabric, bar and building products): Mostly sells to engineering shops and fabrication companies. No loss of people, maintaining its market position. • Sims Metal Management (metal recycling scrapyard): One-third of its shopfloor workforce was made redundant in April, seven out of 18 members being AWU members. Prices for scrap metal are low and a steel industry in a downturn means requirement for scrap metal is limited. (For more information about these redundancies, contact John Boyd at the Newcastle office: 02 4967 1155.) • Sankey (makes manufacturing metal products for industry): 12 people made redundant due to the downturn (eight of a total 44 being AWU members). Is affected by businesses that require motors, such as the car and pool-pump industries, demand for both of which are depressed due to financial crisis.


Colongra gas-fired power station One of the major construction projects currently underway in the Hunter Region is the Colongra gas-fired power station being constructed by Alstom. To date there have been 47 contractors and sub-contractors performing work on the site, all of whom have entered into union collective agreements with the various construction unions. The agreements all nominate the New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission, as presently constituted, as the dispute-resolution provider. To this point, the services of the commission have not yet been needed. As part of the continuing communication on this project, the construction unions meet on a monthly basis with delegates from each of the contractors on site, after which a mass meeting of all employees is conducted. This is followed by a meeting with management representatives and most issues raised at the mass meeting can be resolved immediately. On average, approximately 240 people work on site each day but its numbers have peaked at 300. The project has currently been going for over 500 days with over 600,000 man hours worked. It has an exemplary safety record as seen in just five medical treatment injuries, 47 first-aid treatment incidents and one of lost time. Since the last lost-time injury, the site has recorded 250 LTI-free days. In addition to the structured communication process involving delegates and officials there is an active safety committee functioning on site. In conjunction with the project review group for hazard reporting and identification, it has made a significant contribution to general safety on site and has resulted in the presentation of 37 safety awards. The safety and industrial record of this project is an example of what can be achieved when active union involvement is engaged prior to a project’s start. Reaching agreement with the primary contractor to deliver consistent wages and conditions across the site and ensuring all contractors and sub contractors have agreements in place prior to starting on the job allows employees to focus primarily on safety while maintaining efficiency and productivity.

Port Kembla News Read about what YOUR union is doing for YOU...

■ Port Kembla Branch helps employers face GFC In its response to the financial crisis sweeping the globe, the Port Kembla Branch is to focus its efforts on maintaining the current levels of employment on every shopfloor of the companies within its region. To help companies get through these tough times, the branch is encouraging workers to consider taking long-service or annual leave. These are simple debts to workers that employers can reduce, and a way in which workers can help them. “It is important that companies hang onto their skilled workforce for when the market turns around, and encouraging our members to take long-service leave and annual leave now is one way to assist them,” AWU Port Kembla Branch Secretary,

Andy Gillespie said. “Those companies who survive this downturn and manage to retain highly skilled staff will find themselves much better placed to meet the upswing when economic recovery comes.” Recruitment has also become an important focus in the financial crisis. In conjunction with the National Office, Port Kembla Branch will be taking on a new recruitment officer to head its membership drive and to help address the problem of employers taking advantage of nonunionised employees. “With the economy the way it is, employers are taking advantage of people without union protection, so it is important that we reach out to those people who are being severely disadvantaged,” Andy said.

Port Kembla Branch plays key supporting role in Steel Plan launch Port Kembla Branch Secretary Andy Gillespie and shopfloor Delegates Boris Baradi and Sean Burk recently played key roles in the AWU’s April 17 launch of its New Steel Plan when they were involved in presenting the plans first to Delegates at Port Kembla and subsequently at the national launch in Canberra. The Port Kembla Branch had played a key role in framing the plan with AWU National Secretary Paul Howes. “The launch in Canberra was a success. The number of inquiries from employer, government and industry groups

has been encouraging,” Andy said. “The 10-point plan put forward is sound, reasonable and well researched by our Union. Steel is a key manufacturer within the economy and there are a large number of jobs indirectly related to the industry that would disappear if it wasn’t to survive.” “Australia has a key manufacturing industry that the government must maintain. Many developed countries in the world have viable steel industries and Australia’s is one of the best. We must maintain this industry for the future security of Australia and manufacturing in general,” Andy concluded.

theaustralianworker 33

FRONTLINE NEWS VIC ■ Pride amid disaster

Victorian Branch News Read about what YOUR union is doing for YOU...

■ Fire heroes win parity pay rise The AWU heroes of Victoria’s deadly bushfires have won significant wage rises as part of an intensive campaign to be paid on an equal basis with other State Government Firefighters. AWU Victorian Branch Secretary Cesar Melhem praised the unity and determination of the Forest Firefighters despite the obstructive tactics of some of their managers in the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE). “Congratulations are in order for all DSE Forest Firefighters involved in this campaign, especially the excellent work of our Delegates, Negotiating Committee Representatives and lead Organiser, AWU Branch Vice-President Ben Davis,” Cesar said. “These negotiations were protracted and difficult, coming just after the global financial crisis’ squeeze on Government budgets. But by sticking together we have achieved a good outcome,” Cesar said. The Victorian Government in March intensified pressure on the negotiations by cutting its public sector salary increase limit from 3.25 per cent per annum to 2.5 per cent for all agreements not signed off by May 4. The new DSE agreement provides for an up-front increase of up to $5350 a year in Firefighters’ base salary rates, plus 15.75 per cent in pay rises over three years to be delivered by wage 34 theaustralianworker

increases and progression payments. Senior AWU Delegate and Victorian Branch Executive Member Rod Lynn welcomed the deal as “a major step forward after years of systemic underpayment.” “Our campaign is at last starting to achieve the recognition that the Forest Firefighters deserve,” Rod said. Cesar stressed that while the new agreement was an important breakthrough, it was not the end of the DSE campaign. “The AWU will continue to fight to achieve our goal of full pay parity during the lead-up to the next agreement. With the ongoing support of DSE members, I am confident that we can win.” The Forest Firefighters’ campaign involved extensive use of new media, including the production of a DVD, the AWU’s web TV and community television Channel 31, as well as effective lobbying of MPs in regional areas. Learn more about our DSE Forest firefighters! For a free copy of the AWU’s Forest Firefighters – Unsung Heroes DVD showing their extraordinary work, simply send your name, address and contact details to Cesar by email at:

“Congratulations are in order for all DSE Forest Firefighters involved in this campaign.”

Immediately after the tragic bushfires of Black Saturday in Victoria, hundreds of volunteers stepped forward to help, many at the Diamond Creek Recovery Centre. A small group of Diamond Creek volunteers later got together and recognised that many more people in the broader community wanted to help, but did not know how. In order to harness this positive, generous energy, volunteers established People Responding In Disasters and Emergencies – PRIDE Inc. One of the group’s first achievements has been to create “documentation packs” to assist survivors in organising the important paperwork they need to get assistance from bodies such as Centrelink and DHS. The “documentation packs” consist of an A-Z expandable file and include essential stationery items including a 2009 diary, A-Z address book, pens, note pads, stamped envelopes and highlighters. The essential items were either donated by organisations or purchased through PRIDE Inc from donations. Every cent PRIDE Inc has received has gone directly to the survivors of the bushfires. Denise Power, partner of National AWU Organiser and MUA Alliance Coordinator Rod Currie, is one of the PRIDE Inc organisers. “PRIDE Inc has managed to produce 700 documentation packs to date,” she said. “The packs are distributed via case managers and recovery centres who work directly with the survivors. We are all very proud of what PRIDE Inc has been able to achieve in such a short space of time.” PRIDE Inc is now gearing up for its next round of distributions – this time of “winterwarmer packs” that will include umbrellas, gloves, scarves, beanies, mugs, tea, honey, hot chocolate, and playing cards. Anyone interested in finding out more about PRIDE Inc can phone 0488 580 745 or write to: PO Box 587, Diamond Creek, Vic 3089.

FRONTLINE NEWS VIC ■ AWU rep wins his job back

■ Women in industry flock to AWU seminar

Long-time AWU Representative and oil-industry Operator Andy Pearse has won his job back at Shell’s Geelong Refinery after the AIRC found that his sacking was harsh and that he was disciplined unfairly and inconsistently by the company. “Getting my job back just goes to show the benefits of being an AWU member,” Andy told The Australian Worker after returning to work at the refinery in March. AWU Organiser Sam Wood thanked the AWU site executive members at the Geelong Refinery for their support in the major legal challenge mounted by the Union to reverse Shell’s dismissal of Andy last November over a disputed safety incident. Over five days of hearings, the AWU’s unfair-dismissal claim heard evidence from 14 witnesses

More than 50 women AWU members and industry group representatives packed out this year’s fourth Annual Victorian Branch AWU Women’s Seminar, which was held on March 6 to mark International Women’s Day. Special guests this year included three enthusiastic members from AWU alliance partners, the MUA, as well as AWU West Australian Branch Organiser Rebecca Malysz. The audience was inspired by keynote addresses from AWU National Industrial Officer Zoe Angus, Mildura Organiser Amy Knight, AGL Delegate Anne Davies, Assa Abloy Delegate Ida Palermo and new Stable Employees Association Organiser Emma Davies. In his welcoming speech, Victorian Branch Secretary Cesar Melhem pledged his full support to the

including expert testimony from occupational health and safety officer Dr Yossi Berger and former refinery operator Jim Ward. Esso had previously unsuccessfully tried to blame Jim for the 1998 explosion at its Longford plant which killed two workers and dislocated Victoria’s energy supplies for weeks. “The Geelong Refinery AWU site executive put in more than 1000 hours of work. We provided mathematical equations detailing issues such as the wind speed on that day of the incident, the slightest changes in pressure, and where people were in the refinery at that moment,” Sam explained. AWU Victorian Branch Secretary Cesar Melhem congratulated those members involved on winning the case. “Obviously, it pays to belong to the AWU,” he said.

continuing recognition of the significant role women play in the AWU. Seminar chair and Branch Training Officer Samantha Bond told The Australian Worker that a raffle raised funds for the AWU-sponsored Women’s Sewing Project in El Salvador. No less than 15 popular raffle prizes were sourced thanks to the tireless efforts of AWU Branch Training Coordinator Kerrie Elsley. Excerpts from this year’s seminar were broadcast on the Victorian Channel 31 Union Show as part of their International Women’s Day special on March 10. An email network of AWU women members and supporters has been established and more activities are planned for later in the year. Interested women wanting to join the network may email Samantha at:

Pipeline workers to the rescue Scores of AWU members working on the North-South Pipeline of the Sugarloaf Project north of Melbourne risked their lives to battle the Black Saturday bushfires in February, using their heavy construction equipment to protect people and property from the fatal infernos. Forecast soaring temperatures and dry winds on February 7 meant construction crews were not working on Black Saturday. However, firefighters were delighted by the flood of volunteers from among the 300 AWU members on the project when the Department of Sustainablility and Environment and the Country Fire Authority asked for their help during the afternoon, as fires engulfed areas around the pipeline. The Sugarloaf workers operated graders, backhoes, bulldozers and water-carting equipment for up to 48 hours straight to combat the deadly blazes – including those at Toolangi,

Kinglake, Murrundindi and Glenburn – with the battle continuing for more than four days. On Saturday night, fires encircled the project’s potentially explosive Glenburn compound, where more than 60,000 litres of liquid fuel and 300 gas cylinders were stored. Later that night, the plastic covering of the Geotech equipment caught fire in the back of the yard, sparking concerns that the site should be evacuated and abandoned. At that point, John Hogan, the general superintendent on the construction project who coordinated the workers’ response to the fires, remarked to a colleague: “I don’t know if we should be here, but I don’t know if there is anywhere better to go.” They stayed and fought and saved the compound, as well as many surrounding properties. Meanwhile the workers were hearing reports of the deaths at Kinglake. “You can’t help thinking

about the human side of it. We tried to minimise the impact around here, save the houses and farms, because we had the gear,” Garry Auld, the project’s site superintendant later told the Sugarloaf Pipeline Alliance magazine. Days later, during the clean-up stage of the battle, Garry had to bury the burnt corpses of four horses. “It was very hard and is something you’d rather not have to do, but the sooner the better, I guess,” he said later. AWU Victorian Branch State Secretary Cesar Melhem said that apart from the construction crews and the frontline bushfire fighters in DSE, the union has more than 2000 members and their families living and working in fire-hit communities. “The AWU family is continuing to support these members of our community through our ongoing fire-prevention work, cash donations and in-kind assistance from local members,” Cesar said. theaustralianworker 35


South Australia Branch News Read about what YOUR union is doing for YOU... ■ Whyalla and Greater South Australian Branch amalgamation proceeds

Fight to narrow gender pay divide continues Unions should be able to run test cases for competency-based pay outcomes to help close the gap between women’s and men’s wages, AWU Training and Education Officer Samantha Bond says. After giving evidence on behalf of the Victorian Trades Hall Council to a hearing in Melbourne of the Rudd Government’s House of Representatives inquiry into pay equity in April, Samantha told The Australian Worker that with the right legal changes, union test cases could help redress the historic injustice experienced by women working in traditionally undervalued industries. Unions have proposed 55 separate recommendations for the Federal Government to achieve systemic changes under the new Fair Work Australia legislation. It is currently estimated that despite legislation for equal pay since 1972, women workers still earn less than 83 per cent of the average male worker in Australia. Despite some significant test cases run in NSW and Queensland via their state industrial relations commissions, the former Liberal government’s WorkChoices laws weakened the ability of lower-paid workers to achieve equitable pay rises – especially those with little or no access to collective bargaining. “As a result, ongoing segregation of the workforce has meant that significant percentages of unfair individualcontract AWAs were introduced into industries with higher percentages of female employees,” Samantha said.

36 theaustralianworker

AWU members based in Whyalla and its surrounding area will benefit immediately from the wider range of services the Union will be able to offer following the formation of the new South Australia Branch, Wayne Hanson, its Secretary, says. The renaming of what was the Greater South Australian Branch comes as a result of its merger with the Whyalla-Woomera Branch and the departure of its current Branch Secretary Graham Hall. The Whyalla-Woomera Branch was a significant servicing facility as the principal union in Whyalla’s shipyards. Now, however, it mainly services the OneSteel Whyalla steelworks whose members now represent about 90 per cent of its membership. Through steady reductions in numbers, the Branch has depleted to a point where additional injections of funds would be needed to make it more viable. Graham Hall, who acted as Branch administrator, organiser industrial officer and workers’ compensation officer all rolled into one said, “We need to reshape the focus, we cannot go on the way that we are, it is just not fair to the membership. “In these ever-changing times where industrial matters and WorkCover have become so complex, we need to rely on more than one person (with specialised expertise) to look after our members’ interests.” Wayne Hanson, who will administer the new South Australian Branch as Secretary, to be based in Adelaide as of July 1, says he can’t applaud enough the selfless qualities

Whyalla-Woomera Branch Secretary, Graham Hall.

of Graham, who has made this possible. “Graham has effectively made the decision that it would be in the best interests of members of both Branches – and the AWU broadly in South Australia – if there is an amalgamation. “Let’s not forget, Graham made the decision to make himself redundant for this to happen. That to me solutes the qualities contained in the person. He’s worked tirelessly on behalf of the membership for a protracted period of time.” As a result, however, Wayne says that a significantly larger branch, more than 10 times the size of Whyalla’s, will offer all the expertise needed. Through a full-time Industrial Officer, full-time Workers’ Compensation Oficer, and a full-time growth coordinator, the Union can expand its capacities to better meet the needs of those members who live in the WhyallaWoomera area.


Jim Doyle: the new old star on the AWU celebrity list The AWU now has a new and valuable member on its speaking circuit, and he is a unique asset to the Union and a genuine living treasure. Jim Doyle, now in his 91st year, has been a member of the AWU for 76 years and he is someone of whom Wayne Hanson, Secretary of the soon to be established South Australia Branch, can’t speak highly enough. Wayne says, “Jim is a person who joined the Union who I can talk to and tap into the history that goes back to the actual founders of the Australian Workers’ Union in 1886. The people Jim Doyle sat around the camp fires with were actually the direct descendents of the founders of the Union. Of course, even at that time they were guys more senior in years, but Jim was there, a guy who sat around the camp fires at the shearing sheds with them. “Moreover, Jim may be advanced in years, but Wayne says, he was and remains a man of great

principle. Jim’s birth year was 1918, our proud Union was then only 32 years old, the AWU now boasts 123 years of existence. When Jim joined the Union in 1933 and later volunteered for active service in WWII, he had the presence of mind to guarantee that his union dues were paid while he was overseas so that he never became unfinancial. “He maintained that commitment throughout his life and as a result of that he has been a continuously financial member of the AWU for every year of his life since he joined. “What an incredible person – these are the real qualities of a genuine trade unionist of that era. And in Jim, you’re talking about a complete, encapsulation of AWU history.” Yet, Wayne says, “In terms of his organising ability, Jim was given the rough end of the pineapple in the South Australian Branch – even though he enjoyed quite a bit of success in his elections against some of the tall poppies of the AWU.”

Jim was an associate Clyde Cameron, the former Whitlam government minister for industrial relations. In late 2007, Wayne had the pleasure of announcing at the annual Australian Workers’ Union dinner dance that Jim had just ticked over the 75th anniversary of his continuous membership. And although he never sought high profile, Wayne says, “The Union took him out to a restaurant and National Secretary Paul Howes flew over and we gave him a presentation and a certificate.” It seems that since then there have been expressions of interest by Branch Secretaries, and the Western Australian Branch is especially keen, that Jim should come over to speak to its delegates. Describing his old friend as “still as sharp as a tack” and someone who will never change, Wayne says, “And when Jim gets on the stump, don’t expect it to be a five-minute affair.”

■ Prime Minister visits SA Prime Minister Kevin Rudd came to South Australia on April 20 to attend a local jobs forum organised by Mayor of Salisbury Gillian Aldridge. Greater South Australian Branch Secretary Wayne Hanson attended the forum and posed questions to the Prime Minister about the prospects of extending subsidised training opportunities beyond those who had been made redundant to include those being forced to take a shorter week and those who are underemployed. Wayne explained to Kevin Rudd that it was just as important for those now employed on shorter time to be skilled up and ready for new employment opportunities when the economic slowdown turns around and Australia once again faces likely skills shortages. The PM acknowledged Wayne’s comments, saying he would raise the issues with his deputy, Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard, and agreed that the Government’s skillstraining policies needed more flexibility. Wayne then probed the PM about procurement policies in industries such as steel. He says he was extremely disappointed, however, when Kevin Rudd evoked the argument of protectionism that suggested he was more concerned about free trade agreements and international relationships than he was about Australian workers.

theaustralianworker 37


West Australian News Read about what YOUR union is doing for YOU...

■ Back in the groove Following a stressful fight against unfair dismissal, Alcoa worker Mick Lally wants to make sure that all AWU members recognise how valuable their membership can be. Here is his story: “Monday June 23, 2008, was a day shift five at Wagerup won’t forget in a hurry. We’d just completed a production shift in the Alcoa alumina refinery when the group leader who had come for a meeting asked me to come into another room, where he alleged I was asleep on the previous Friday’s night shift with two crew mates in the crib room. He said the other three shift members had been in the control room at the time I was allegedly asleep. “I denied the allegation. He then asked my colleague Keith Plater to talk to him, whereupon he made the same allegation to Keith. Keith likewise responded that it wasn’t true. The third of us of whom the allegation was made was on sick leave and not confronted until later. “By mid-morning all five shift members were asked to attend the operation centre manager’s office so an investigation could be launched. We were advised that we should bring union representation if we wanted. Keith was first in at 1pm. By 1.45pm five crew members had been interviewed and the investigation process dispensed with, with all members of the crew denying the allegations. “The shift’s end came at 6.30-7.00pm, and at 5.45pm, the production group leader instructed Keith to go to the operation centre manager’s office. I was to follow. At that meeting, we were confronted with a 38 theaustralianworker

letter from HR alleging serious misconduct and asked to show cause within 24 hours as to why our employment shouldn’t be terminated. We were then escorted off site. “The three shift members who weren’t alleged to have been asleep were also taken to the manager’s office and asked to sign a letter from HR – a first and final warning for gross misconduct for knowingly being in a room in which a fellow worker had been asleep. They too denied it and said they couldn’t sign because the allegation was false. The letters were withdrawn and the workers told that on the following day the manager would discuss with the refinery manager a different discipline for them. “That next day was turmoil at its best. Although not yet terminated by Alcoa, we were confronted with the show-cause letter. Help came from AWU Convenor Darren Lee, and we needed to establish our rights. “The day was draining for Keith and I. Not allowed on site to discuss the matter with Darren, we had to meet at Keith’s house. After lunch, a request for us to go to Darren’s office to provide a response to the letter was finally agreed. This was something the operation centre manager had not wanted to happen. Martin Pritchard, the AWU alumina representative, helped present our response. “On Wednesday, a training day for the crew, the two members who attended were given a HR letter alleging serious gross misconduct with 24 hours to show cause why they shouldn’t be terminated. In the meantime, they were to be suspended for two weeks.

“I became sure that after family, the greatest friend you can have is the Australian Workers’ Union.”

“Following termination of our employment on Monday, June 30, Keith and I had a series of meetings with the Union Reps. Darren and Martin’s knowledge and advice on how the process was going to be followed was invaluable. Then, after finally returning to work, our colleague Paul suffered the same fate as Keith and I. “I’ll never forget the stress of this whole experience; it occupied my thoughts day and night, affecting all of my daily activities. “With the dispute process in effect the next week, the Union was able to negotiate a deal with the company under which it would keep us on full pay while it (and eventually the unfair dismissal) process was followed. It became extremely drawn out – expediting the matter turned out to take six weeks, where I had expected it to take just two. “After three conciliation processes between ourselves and the company, for which the AWU engaged lawyer Mike Lourey, it was finally agreed the matter would go to arbitration in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. “After five months of meetings and discussions, I became sure that after family, the greatest friend you have is the Australian Workers’ Union. But the real support comes when the AWU engages lawyers to fight your case in the commission. This is simply a financial burden that the average punter wouldn’t be able to afford. Finally there was a light at the end of the tunnel. “Barrister Mark Cox was to fight the case in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC). This provided an insight into just how much work one person could do and how much he could absorb in a short period of time in ensuring that our case would ready for the arbitration hearing. “We spent four days in the AIRC with Mark on our side. The company had no less than four people fighting its case over the four days of hearings. Then on Tuesday, December 2, it was over. An experience none of us will forget. With the evidence heard and

FRONTLINE NEWS WA/TAS final submissions given, it was time to reflect on the whole process, on what we did well and what we could have done better. Mark, however was very confident in the way the case had been presented, but also warned that anything could still happen with regard to the result. “On December 23, over a cold beer with a mate, I was discussing what had happened over the previous six months when the call came through from the lawyers with the result. I took a deep breath, then heard the words I didn’t think would come: you have won your case and the commissioner has stated that you are to be reinstated in your employment with Alcoa. An unbelievable weight lifted from me. Within minutes, the phones were ringing, as if everyone knew the result. “After 29 weeks, on January 12, Keith and I returned to work at Alcoa in the old operation centre. Without the support of the AWU and the individuals involved, the outcome would have been much different. “Now back in the groove of shift work, we would like to thank many for the support they have shown us, including Brad Eyears, shift five AWU shop steward, Dean Levett op centre AWU Convenor, Darren Lee Site AWU Convenor, Martin Pritchard AWU Alumina Rep and Stephen Price AWU State Secretary, and Mike Lowery and Mark Cox for the legal help. To all of you, thanks for your support and help over this period, it has been greatly appreciated. “To Keith Miller, Gary Wilson and Barry Holland, the other half of shift five, your support throughout this ordeal has been way over and above what people expect of their shift buddies. That is what makes you all such special people to work with. “And to those who should ever begrudge paying their union dues in the belief it isn’t worth it, believe me the day when things go wrong, the AWU is one of the greatest friends and supporters you can have.”

Tasmanian Branch News Read about what YOUR union is doing for YOU...

“The AWU in Tasmania will not support or endorse requests for workers to take a wage freeze.”

■ Wage freeze not an option The Global Financial Crisis (GFC), created by the greed and excess of corporate high-flyers, has hit the world economy hard. The impact on working people throughout the world has, in many cases, been devastating. In Tasmania, some working families with dual incomes are now without any employment-based income at all. In such an environment things are tough and it’s in such times that employers begin to implement measures which impact on workers’ earnings to bolster the corporate balance sheet. “The opportunism of senior executives and others at the ‘Top End’ of town can never be underestimated,” Ian Wakefield, AWU Tasmanian Branch Secretary said. “From state government and private sector employers in mining, manufacturing, forestry and construction.”

The AWU in Tasmania has been hit with a barrage of employers seeking a wages pause in order to protect their corporate balance sheets. These are the same people who demanded wage restraint during the so-called boom at the same time as company directors and CEOs doubled and tripled their own earnings. “The AWU in Tasmania will not support or endorse requests for workers to take a wage freeze. Balance sheets which show earnings and profits below forecasts are no excuse to ask workers to bear the brunt of the GFC. Clearly, bad planning and bad management underpin such results,” Ian said. Tasmanian Branch members in the state service and private sector industries have overwhelmingly rejected such requests and will continue to do so. theaustralianworker 39






Richard Downie

Newcastle, Central Coast and Northern Regions Branch Secretary

Former plumber, former Trade Union Training Authority Training Officer, devoted surfer

became the Branch Secretary up here in January 2009 after coming back to the AWU in 1997 as Branch Organiser and Union Trainer. Prior to that, I spent approximately two years as Newcastle Branch Organiser with the Federated Clerks Union, looking after members from the Central Coast of NSW to the NSW/QLD border. This move was a “forced” change in my employment due to the closure of the Trade Union Training Authority in July 1994 after a shift in methodology by both the then Labor federal government and the ACTU in how union training was to be delivered. I started at TUTA late 1989 as a National Industry Training Officer and quickly realised how lucky I was in getting this gig. Meeting unionists from all over the country, doing what I loved most – face to face training and taking what I learnt from one course onto the next, made for a truly great five years. I left high school at the end of sixth year (Year 12) having had more than enough of schooling and got myself an apprenticeship in plumbing. After 9-10 years digging holes and putting my hands up pipes and so on, I moved onto the then Tomago Aluminium Construction site. I left there to work for my father-in-law’s aluminium-fabrication business as a welder for a couple of years before returning to Tomago Aluminium – firstly on “start up” in potline 1 and 2 and then as a full-time casthouse operator until 1989. The Union has played a part in most of my working life and I was brought up under a number of rules, one being never bludge on your fellow worker, as in join the Union, support the Union and don’t get the shits if it doesn’t go your way.


40 theaustralianworker

Richard Downie

“Being a Union official can be the worst job in the world at times, but thankfully the good outweighs the bad.”

This is something, I believe, that is lost on a lot of members in this day and age, irrespective of what age they are. Being a Union official can be the worst job in the world at times, but thankfully the good outweighs the bad, with great rewards coming on the back of good recruitment campaigns and collective-agreement negotiations, as well as seeing good occupational health and safety processes implemented. It is also rewarding to see motivated and caring individuals become workplace Delegates, which in turn sees a sound union working on that particular site. In what spare time I have, I love surfing and Newcastle is great for that. There are great challenges ahead for me and my team here in Newcastle, what with the economic crisis and the Rudd Government’s carbon trading scheme and its direct impact on our membership, a confronting issue. But, with a strong leadership group and their support staff capable of working to address these problems, we will come through this as a much stronger AWU.





Rod Lynn

AWU Delegate, Work-Centre Coordinator and forest firefighter with Victoria’s Department of Sustainability and Environment

Burnover survivor, workplace peer-support person, proud dad and top bloke

hen I joined the Department of Sustainability and Environment in Victoria as a firefighter 23 years ago, unions were a part of it. You just joined up. After I transferred from one department to another, I became a delegate and have done that for about 15 years, which has been very challenging. I got invited to join the AWU executive committee when Bill Shorten was in charge. It was really challenging when Jeff Kennett was Premier because of the industrial relations changes at that time. Union membership dropped right off and it was difficult to make people, particularly younger ones, understand the benefits of being a member, and that there is more power acting as a group. But over the last eight or nine years it has gotten easier. I reckon John Howard’s WorkChoices was really a godsend to the unions. Memberships began to rise again. At the age of 14, I left school basically illiterate. When I was seven, I lost my big brother in a car accident. He was 17. I was the youngest child of eight kids. I reacted very badly to his death. When it happened, I started wagging school and going to the wrecking yard where his car was and just sitting in it. My mother didn’t really know how to deal with that, because of her own grief. After a serious illness, including kidney failure and time in the Alfred hospital intensive-care unit, I left high school for the “school of life”. I did odd jobs and went to live in Melbourne for a while. Then in about 1985, I got on a summer fire crew with the Forestry Commission, as it was back



Rod Lynn

“I work as a peer-support person in the department, and that is very rewarding. We help each other through the tough times.”


then, in Orbost where I grew up, and it went from there. I live just out of Donvalley now. I’ve been fighting fires for 23 years and I’ve gone from machine operator to my current position as Work-Centre Coordinator. Being a firefighter, and I guess my childhood traumas, have taken their toll on my personal life. I pushed people close to me away. My marriage broke up, but I’m now good mates with my ex. We have two beautiful daughters aged 15 and 10, Cassidy and Madison. During a bushfire last year I got caught in a burnover while driving the first-attack bulldozer, which is used to create escape routes when roads are blocked and to make fire breaks. The machine started breaking down and the temperature in the cab increased to the point where I nearly passed out. I thought “this is it”, but miraculously I got out. I was driving first-attack-bulldozer again during the recent fires and the same thing happened, causing me to have a lot of anxiety. I have been having counselling provided by the department, which is helping a lot. The recent fires were Mother Nature at her most fierce. They were like a freight train. I was in the Bunyip [State Forest] and we DSE blokes worked out we couldn’t get at it, so we evacuated, to re-evaluate the plan of attack, which was to try to protect houses. I went up in the chopper with an air-centring machine which drops balls with glycol-powdered crystal that ignites after about 40 seconds of hitting the ground, to do contained burn-offs, so it really is “fighting fire with fire”. Some of the blokes saw some pretty horrific things during these fires – dealing with the seriously injured and finding corpses. I work as a peer-support person in the department, and that is very rewarding. We help each other through the tough times. It doesn’t replace formal counselling, but it is a very important strategy. I think the state government needs to change its thinking and recognise us as full-time firefighters. The AWU is backing this push and the state is slowly acknowledging the nature of our work, that we are not just construction and management. We need to recognise everybody. I’ve got nothing against the volunteers, they are important too. But let’s be inclusive. My goal is to have everybody acknowledged for the work they do. theaustralianworker 41


A bloody

A legend B hi d the Behind th Jack J k Howe H legend, l d shearing’s h i ’ all-time ll ti Gun “was always a prominent Labor man” WRITTEN BY JEREMY VERMEESCH PHOTOS NEWSPIX/FAIRFAX

s AWU stalwart Jack Howe made world history 116 years ago – by shearing 321 sheep in seven hours and 40 minutes at Alice Downs in western Queensland – disbelieving punters tried to slow him down by jumping on his back, tickling him, and throwing his sheep back into the pen. That was the memory of Harry Dunn, Jack’s pen mate on the legendary day – Monday, October 10, 1892 – as recounted by Jack’s grandson-in-law, Barry Muir, in his excellent book, Jack Howe – the man and the legend (Blackall, Qld, 1989). “Someone made the mistake that weekend of betting that Jack couldn’t be able to shear 300 in a day, and so Jack bet on himself, his mates bet on him and other fellows bet he couldn’t do it because it was an impossibility,” Barry told ABC TV’s Landline in 2004. Like Don Bradman’s, Jack’s all-time world record, which is all the more remarkable and unlikely to ever be surpassed because he used blade (and not machine) shears, remains unbeaten to this day. Indeed, 58 years passed before even a machine shearer exceeded Jack’s blade record, when Ted Reich shore 326 sheep in a day at Julia Creek in 1950.

Jack of all trades Unlike many blade men, Jack had adapted quickly to machine shearing, and tallied up the then world record of 237 sheep in one day at Barcaldine Downs in 1892. There is also an unconÞrmed account in The Australian Worker (October 7, 1968) of Jack shearing 319 sheep in one day at the new machine shed at Alice Downs in the late 1890s. Certainly, as Barry says, those who lost their money on Jack’s impossible achievement had “underestimated his sheer physical power and determination”. Jack was a giant of a man, but uniquely well proportioned: weighing 114kg, he had a 127cm

LEFT: The legendary Jack Howe has been immortalised by this stunning statue at Blackall in Queensland. Blackall was home to the Universal Hotel – Jack’s favourite pub which he purchased in 1900.

42 theaustralianworker

chest, 43cm biceps, 70cm thighs and hands “the size of a small tennis racket”, according to one of his sons. Renowned for running 100 yards in 11 seconds (in his socks!), Jack also won prizes for Irish dancing. Barry points to other clues behind Jack’s success. His blade shears were of the best-quality steel and Jack sharpened them so neatly that they glided through the wool with a single push. The shears were assisted by a driving strap with attached “knockers” – and therefore made no “clicking” sound, as is erroneously celebrated in the eponymous popular song. “Jack had a reputation as an artist in his trade, and a perfectionist,” Barry writes. Perhaps some of these traits were inherited from his father – Jack Howe senior – who enjoyed some fame in his own right as a skilled circus acrobat and “Australia’s Þrst clown”, as one newspaper dubbed him.

The man and the shirt Jack’s name remains most famous because he originated the “Jackie (or Jacky) Howe” – the singlet-style garment still worn by shearers almost everywhere. Previously, shearers traditionally had worn long-sleeve ßannels both to protect their skin from cuts and to keep themselves warm even when dripping wet with sweat. But Jack found the long sleeves too restrictive and had his wife Victoria, a seamstress, make a sleeveless top, which quickly became popular throughout the industry and is now sold in cotton. Apart from his legendary shearing, the historical record offers little about the real Jack Howe. Certainly he was a dedicated family man, bringing up six sons and two daughters (two other children died in infancy) during his 30 years with Victoria. Photographs of Jack sporting his two gold shearing medals, wearing his suit and posing with his Model-T Ford might suggest otherwise, but the records show that despite his talents and a lifetime of hard work, Jack struggled Þnancially. He did not retire from shearing until he was aged 39, when he bought his favourite pub, the Universal Hotel in Queensland’s Blackall, in 1900. Two years later, he moved on to run the relatively more salubrious Barcoo Hotel for Þve years.

In 1907, Jack bought back the Universal – which had become more of a family home than a hotel – selling the Barcoo to do so, and stayed there another 12 years. Nevertheless, the pub remained mortgaged until his death– largely to fund his son Leslie’s property, Tambo, which Jack called “Shamrock Park” . In 1919, Jack Þnally moved out of Blackall to develop Sumnervale – the pastoral lease won in a government selection ballot in 1915 by another of his sons, Darsey – as a sheep station. Typically, Jack’s departure from Blackall in The 1919 is remembered for the biggest send-off party Australian in the town’s history. But the decades of hard Worker labour had worn him out, and he died a physically reported Jack broken man the following year at the age of 59. Howe’s death That life of economic hardship, despite his on page 10 brilliant skills and extraordinary determination, helps explain the other great passion of Jack’s life – of the August Labor politics. 5, 1920 issue. From at least 1887, Jack was an idealistic However it but shrewd activist in the ßedgling AWU’s reported bitter struggles to improve shearers’ wages and Jack’s record conditions, and a senior office holder for years shearing in the Blackall Workers’ Political Organisation. time as being During the historic shearers’ strikes of the 8 hours and 1890s, Harry Dunn remembered Jack as the only ng the Union man brave enough to keep manning 40 minutes. office in Blackall after police had n shearer in locked up the other leading JACK HOWE, champio at Blackall the blade days, has died is credited officials and organisers. Before his we Ho . ess after a long illn arrest, local organiser Bill Kewley sheep in 8 with having shorn 321 h blades at wit tes nu left Jack in charge of all the Union’s hours and 40 mi we quitted Alice Downs. When Ho on to the books and Þnances, which he is nt we w e he ks the shearing ran rock Park and reputed to have hidden under his land, purchasing Shamro ently Howe qu equ bse Sumner Vale. Su and Victoria’s bed. rn hotels. ste we o tw of see en was lic nt Labor Jack was instrumental in ne mi pro He was always a Workers’ the of rer asu tre a ng engineering the Þrst election to the man, bei some for n tio isa Political Organ Queensland parliament of Tom years. ll for his Ryan, who went on to become When Howe left Blacka , he was ago r yea a n tha s les selection Premier from 1915 to 1919, when ff in the given the biggest send-o will be we he moved on to federal parliament. Ho . all ck Bla o history of stralia, Au er ov n to workers all wn When Jack died in 1920, Tom’s know tion, era sid con er o oth y an fr m apartt fro telegram to the newly widowed cky “Ja the of r ngg the ooriginato ein as bei nt me gar s les arm the – Victoria said: “I have lost a true and rt Howe” shi e th in ere wh no w in use ev ery trusted friend and the Labor Party has 6 by ed viv sur is He h. alt Commonwe lost a champion.” ◆ sons and two daughters. theaustralianworker 43


Super stayers Superannuation funds have been hit hard during the global economic downturn. But superannuation is still an important component of any worker’s financial future. Tom Scahill investigates why industry funds are by far the best option for your superannuation investments. WRITTEN BY TOM SCAHILL PHOTOS GETTY IMAGES


he global Þnancial crisis continues to exert its toll on job security and workers’ rights, while at the same time shredding their retirement savings. In the 12 months to the end of February, the Australian sharemarket shed a substantial 37 per cent of its value, while commercial (but not residential) property dropped a massive 58.2 per cent. Regrettably, super funds are not exempt from the rout, although not-for-proÞt industry funds, which manage the retirement savings of vast numbers of AWU members, outpaced the retail competition (see ‘Median performance by industry segment to 28 February 2009’). Overall industry funds, which include the likes of AustralianSuper, Cbus, First State Super and Sunsuper, lost 17.2 per cent, compared with 44 theaustralianworker

Median performance by industry segment to 28 February 2009 (%) SEGMENT



1 YR

3 YRS (PA)

5 YRS (PA)













Note: The allocations for master trusts reflect the average strategic allocations for master trusts and consultants in Chant West’s Strategic Asset Allocation Survey. Source: Chant West


Ian Silk of AustralianSuper says that Union members can be absolutely confident union representatives on boards have their best interests at heart.

CLUB PLUS SUPERANNUATION $302 Source: 5/4/2009

the 25 per cent losses incurred by commercial funds. It is worth noting that industry regulator the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority says there are 70 industry funds with $200 billion in assets.

as commercial property and infrastructure and a higher weighting towards lower risk assets such as cash has helped it minimise losses. He explains, “We take a member-focused, not proÞt-focused approach to asset allocation.”

Industry funds are member focused, not profit focused

Low fees

Michael Dwyer, Chief Executive of First State Super, says, “It’s times like this when not-forproÞt funds have a clear advantage.” While lower fees are important (see ‘Top 10 lowest average fees based on a $50,000 account balance’), industry funds have also charted a more conservative path with their investments. In the case of First State Super, Michael says a combination of sensible hedging strategies, minimal exposure to unlisted investments such

Lower costs shouldn’t be underestimated and the scale of industry funds, according to Michael Dwyer, consistently delivers affordable fee structures to members. “Industry funds represent millions of members, while retail funds represent tens of thousands of members,” he explains. “The fee deal is virtually transferred to the members without a proÞt being added to it.” Tony Lally, Chief Executive of Sunsuper (with 1.1 million members and assets of $12 billion),  agrees and says his company charges a theaustralianworker 45


“The reality is retail funds don’t have the same motivation we have to look after members.”

46 theaustralianworker

member fee of $1 a week and an administration fee of 0.05 per cent of a worker’s superannuation savings. “This is a small amount and if you have $10,000, it works out at $57 a year. It’s very little,” Tony says. In addition, industry fund members pay investment fees – expect to pay around 0.8 per cent of your retirement savings in a balancedi vestment option, which w investment invests in a mix o of cash, bonds, shares aand property. It’s worth noting that most Australian iÞcant majority of their workers have a signi signiÞ b op superannuation in balanced-investment options, s researc which specialist superannuation researcher saays balanced funds Chant West says d shares and commercial commercia outpointed y by dropping only 15.8 property cent in the 12 months to per cent Feebruary. However, mor February. more complex investments such

as international shares usually charge higher investment fees.

The industry fund difference Originally established by unions and employer associations in the mid 1980s, industry funds have always aimed to service the retirement savings requirements of workers by providing decent returns and lower fees. On the ßip side, retail funds such as master trusts share the proÞt spoils between shareholders and customers. Ian Silk, Chief Executive of AustralianSuper, which manages $27 billion worth of assets for 1.4 million members, says member focus represents the important difference between industry and retail funds. Sunsuper’s Tony Lally concurs: “The reality is [retail funds] don’t have the same motivation we have to look after members, and most sell their services through Þnancial planners, who are very expensive,

given their high fees and commissions.” Most industry funds also originated from speciÞc industry sectors, according to David Atkin, Chief Executive of Cbus, which manages assets worth around $13 billion for more than 550,000 members. Established in 1984 for the construction, building and allied industries, Cbus is now a “public offer” industry fund, and can offer a membership to workers from any occupation or industry. David Atkin explains, “It means that industry funds have an appreciation for [speciÞc] industry issues and their demographics. “If you’re focused on an industry and know the key players, you’re more likely to have the support of the unions, and employers and are more appreciative of the vocational issues and able to support professional development in a more active way through sponsorship programs.” Cbus actively supports apprenticeship-ofthe-year awards and offers health-care programs targeted at its majority male membership. Massive scale also delivers signiÞcant buying power to industry funds, which enables them to offer members competitive insurance deals. First State Super’s Michael Dwyer explains, “It comes down to the scale of the funds and the fact no proÞt margin is taken by [them].” David Atkin adds that industry specialisation is also at play here: “Cbus knows its construction and building members are working in dangerous work sites. We’ve been able to use the leverage of our 500,000 members to get a great deal on [insurance] premiums for those members [which is much better] than if they approached another fund.”

Workers have a say in where their super is invested AustralianSuper’s Ian Silk explains that the management and administration of industry funds puts members Þrst. “Retail funds are managed by employees of the relevant Þnancial institution they work for and they’ll be on the trustee board of the super fund,” he says. “With industry funds, workers and employers

have equal representation on the board, which is there to act in the best interest of members.” He adds, “Union members can be absolutely conÞdent union representatives on the boards have their best interests at heart.” In the case of AustralianSuper, AWU National Secretary Paul Howes is a member of its trustee board. “This is the supreme decision-making body of the fund and the AWU has a seat at that table through Paul Howes,” Ian Silk says. As for investment decisions (known as “asset allocation”), this is often the responsibility of an investment committee. Ian Silk says most industry funds outsource their investment management – which is paid for by the investment fee described above – to the very best specialist investment managers in each sector. This could be Industry Funds Management, which specialises in investment management for the not-for-proÞt sector or, on occasion, a commercial organisation. “We’ll sometimes invest money with an organisation that might be a retail competitor, such as AMP, if we believe they’ll deliver the best returns for members.” Besides 16 managed options, AustralianSuper also allows members to invest their super savings directly in one or more of Australia’s top 200 companies and trusts listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. “Macquarie manages the transactional side of this for us,” Ian Silk conÞrms.

Michael Dwyer, Chief Executive of First State Super says that it’s times like this when not-for-profit funds have a clear advantage.

More investment choice and services That they offer limited investment options and services was a criticism regularly levelled at industry funds and one that has now clearly been addressed. Sunsuper, for example, now offers members as many as 27 different investment options, from shares to ethical investments. Tony Lally says, “Most members opt for our balanced option, while our growth fund is available to people with a longer-term perspective and who are comfortable with more active assets such as infrastructure, hedge funds, property and shares. “These higher risk assets generate higher returns over the longer term and this is our second most popular fund.” ◆

David Atkin, Chief Executive of Cbus, says that industry funds have an appreciation for specific industry issues.

theaustralianworker 47



therapy The internet is playing a fantastic role in bringing people together. Social Networking allows us to connect up with like-minded people, or those whose circumstances are similar to our own. Aidan Ormond logs on to investigate. WRITTEN BY AIDAN ORMOND PHOTOS GETTY IMAGES


uess which age group has witnessed a 40 per cent surge in home internet connections over the last two years? It’s the 65-to-74 year-olds. Surprised? Leigh Kostianen isn’t. With this in mind, she’s launched her own social-networking site especially for this emerging market of web-savvy Aussie seniors. Just like Facebook and MySpace – the two most-recognised and popular social networking portals with millions of users worldwide

– Leigh’s users utilise social networks and social media in the same way as their younger counterparts. Called Grandparents Network (www., the site has already hit 400 members after launching in August last year. The penny dropped after Leigh observed relatives and family friends, whereupon she realised there was a need for a new twist on social networking, as this enlightened internet entrepreneur explains.  “It’s a place for them to be valued for

“Guess which age group has witnessed a 40 per cent surge in home internet connections over the last two years? It’s the 65 to 74-year-olds.”

theaustralianworker 49


Online campaigns for activists If you want to set up an online campaign, first conduct some research to see how other groups do it. A good place to start is http:// Also be clear on what your group actually does, who it’s targeting and how it benefits your members. For example, your group might want to highlight the third wave of asbestos victims, or provide a veterans’ support group. If you get the foundations right, the net can be a valuable tool. Facebook is, of course, highly popular but it’s also a commercial enterprise with limitations. For instance, one Canadian union organiser was so good at signing up friends that he was blacklisted by the site. UnionBook ( is different. It’s owned and run by trade unionists for trade unionists. Launched this year, it’s a place to create groups, campaign and discuss issues relating to working Australians and other global work and justice-related matters. But unions can still have a Facebook presence. The Australian Workers’ Union has come up with its own web application allowing supporters to place the AWU badge onto their own Facebook profile. And the Transport Workers Union recently launched a Facebook page called “Keep Bonds (Pacific Brands) Down Under” ( php?gid=53626159705&ref=ts). Nimrod Nyols, the site’s administrator, says the site is a hub for those involved in fighting for the estimated 1800 workers’ jobs set to go over the next 18 months. The page publicised rallies in support of the workers and there are useful links, discussion boards, wall posts, news, videos and picture-upload features. “It’s cost-effective as we don’t have the budgets to run multimillion dollar TV ads,” Nimrod says.

50 theaustralianworker

Don’t forget your own Union! The AWU’s Facebook page has a whole lot of information about the Union’s work and other issues that you really need to know about, so log in at:

their experience. There are no ßashing banners or widgets to confuse them. And they enjoy GpN for its safe environment as they have contact with the owner and its demographics, as they know the whippersnappers won’t be there.” Leigh’s users enjoy playing online games, join groups and develop common interests or support networks amongst themselves. It’s Facebook for older kids, you might say, and as one GpN user reports happily on the site: “You should be so proud of yourself for giving us ‘oldies’ friendship and company.” So, can social networking online have a socially beneÞcial role? GpN members may think so. And others may also agree. Livewire ( is a new social-networking site aiming to help improve the emotional and social wellbeing of sick youngsters. Backed by the Starlight Foundation and

supported and co-funded by the Federal Government’s Clever Networks program, Livewire facilitates “safe” social networking with other sick youngsters in similar situations. An estimated 450,000 young Australians between 10 and 21 currently live with a serious illness, chronic health condition or disability, so you could say there is a market for it. In doing so, it is believed that this social interaction (albeit an online one) can have therapeutic beneÞts by reducing feelings of isolation and mood disorders. Child and adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg says the concept of social networking is ideal in this context. “Livewire is wonderful because you have 24-hour-a-day, immediate connection with a community of people feeling exactly the same way.” Livewire hopes to connect 20,000 young people, siblings and parents by the end of 2009,

Online social networking can have a potentially beneficial social impact on elderly, sick and disabled internet users.

and plans to work with Diabetes Australia and The Spastic Centre and to provide access for its eligible members. Another site that uses an online socialnetworking component to help is Disaboom ( It provides disabled internet users – and, importantly, their carers – with blogs, forums and shared knowledge about various disability-related topics. “It’s a place to make friendships and discuss the day-to-day challenges with others who understand,” the site explains. So as you can see, it seems a little online social networking can have a potentially beneÞcial social impact on elderly, sick and disabled internet users. It might just make life a little more bearable, and perhaps even fun. But consequences might be unintended. As another GpN user comments: “Wild seniors on the loose ... you better believe it.” ◆

Who’s watching you? Social networking at work is something that many employers frown upon. Some companies have strict policies on the issue, while others have guidelines about when, who and how employees can use the company’s communications systems – even at lunchtime and other breaks. In view of this, don’t log on at work, keep social networking as a home-based hobby.

theaustralianworker 51

SPORT Cricket and soccer are both equal firsts for elite sportswoman Ellyse Perry.

Twice the

talent 52 theaustralianworker

If you think those who can compete and achieve at the highest level in one sport have a gift, then what about those who manage to do it in two? WRITTEN BY AIDAN ORMOND PHOTOS GETTY IMAGES

From rugby league to boxing was a natural progression for Anthony “The Man” Mundine.

Identifying cross-over talent


llyse Perry is no ordinary Aussie teen. In fact, she’s a sporting whiz kid. The 18-year-old has done what few, if any, athletes have ever done – she’s been picked to play for two senior Australian teams in different sports at the same time. In the last 24 months the fresh-faced Sydneysider has debuted for Australia’s women’s soccer team and been handed her baggie green cap by Australia’s cricket selectors. What’s more, in a miracle of time management, this saintly-faced superwoman has juggled her secondary education with her budding career as Australian sport’s next big thing. Ellyse’s batting and bowling was a major part of Australia’s campaign at the recent women’s

cricket World Cup. And she is also considered a key part of Australia’s Women’s Football World Cup plans for 2011. So, how does she do it? Well, to start with, she’s a naturally gifted athlete. “Playing different elite sports can actually beneÞt her,” her national football coach Tom Sermanni says. “The key is to manage her in such a way that’s in her best interests.” Thus far both sports have realised this and cooperate amicably when they require their star athlete, says Tom. “I think both sports have done a proper job of looking after her welfare, which is the important thing.” Ellyse has said that one day she may have to choose between sports. She’s just not sure which one. And with this in mind her football coach 

Finding such talent is Australia’s The National Talent Identification and Development program run by the Australian Sports Commission. Tammie Ebert, a senior coordinator of the program, says various testing protocols are used to identify whether such athletes will succeed but agrees there has to be a desire from the athlete to want to excel. “They find out pretty quickly perhaps if it’s not really what they want to do. Mostly they’ve finished with their sport and want to try a different one and achieve at the next level.” Recent examples include Bridie O’Donnell who went from rowing and triathlon to road cycling. And Emily Rosemond is a very promising sprint cyclist after moving from speed skating. If she achieves her dream, Rosemond would be only the second athlete to represent Australia at a summer and winter Olympics. Tammie adds: “These athletes, they already have that mentality, commitment and understanding of what it takes.”

theaustralianworker 53


Nova Batman (formerly Nova Peris) has represented Australia at the Olympic Games in both hockey and track and field.

“Scott Draper reached a career high in tennis. After retiring, he switched to golf and gained his 2007 Australasian PGA tour card.” 54 theaustralianworker

notes: “We don’t want her to want to make everyone happy, and she ends up burning herself out.” On a similar track to Ellyse are Aussie athletes who excel at one sport then move to another and continue their heroics. Take Anthony Mundine. He was a talented rugby league player with St George before making his boxing dream become a reality in 2000. “The Man” has since become a two-time World Boxing Association Super Middleweight champion. Likewise, Scott Draper reached a career high

42 ranking on tennis’ ATP tour in the 1990s and was a three-time Australian Davis Cup member. After retiring, he switched to golf and gained his 2007 Australasian PGA tour card. That same year he lifted the New South Wales PGA Championship trophy. And back in 1984, Aussie Paul Narracott ran in the 100m and 200m at the Los Angeles Olympics before contesting the two-man bobsleigh at the 1992 Winter Olympics. Then there’s Nova Batman (you may remember her as Nova Peris). She was also the Þrst athlete to win international gold

After a successful career in pro tennis, Scott Draper is now making his mark on the fairways.

From speed skating to sprint cycling, Emily Rosemond may well become the first athlete to represent Australia at both the Winter and Summer Olympic Games.

medals in two different sports – Olympic hockey in 1996 and Commonwealth Games athletics in 1998. “I was nine when I said I wanted to run at the Olympics. I was 12 when I said I wanted to play hockey for Australia,” she tells The Australian Worker. After winning gold with the Hockeyroos in 1996, Nova craved a new challenge and it was her long-held dream of running at an Olympics that spurred her on. Four years later, she ran at the 2000 Olympics. “I knew what I wanted to do well before I changed sports,”

Nova adds. “I guess I lived my dream.” But moving from one sport to another can be very difficult. “I had my critics and there were jealousies,” says Nova, who has been immortalised in the National Museum in Canberra. “There were those in track and Þeld saying I’d never be able to do it, and those in hockey who said told me I still had years ahead of me. It requires sheer determination and self-belief,” she says. And that’s something Ellyse Perry has plenty of as she looks to write her own dual chapter in Australian sports history. ◆

“I was nine when I said I wanted to run at the Olympics. I was 12 when I said I wanted to play hockey for Australia... I guess I lived my dream.” theaustralianworker 55



Looking back, it was dopey me buying all the crap stuff.” It took Broken Hill-raised Wayne some time before he felt comfortable drinking wine, let alone spitting instead of swallowing. His father, a hard rock miner and dedicated beer drinker, wouldn’t touch the stuff; wine was a beverage he disparagingly called plonk at every opportunity. Even in “enlightened” Adelaide, drinking wine 35 years ago was often perceived as the preserve of the well-heeled and well-bred. “Times have certainly changed, but it’s always been a little bit different over here. A lot of our members have always loved their wines. South Australians have never been ignorant when it comes to wine, and it’s rare that you go to a gathering these days and the only drink available is beer. People may have a few cleansing ales, but they’ll give the wines a crack at some stage.” Greater South Australian Branch Secretary Wayne Wayne is particularly fond of matching foods to Hanson has four passions in life – the trade union complement his wine collection. When twirling the tongs movement, furniture restoration, outdoor cooking, outdoors, he likes to sup Sauvignon Blanc with barbecued Þsh, and suggests bubbles go well with red meat. “If you and an unquenchable thirst for the finest Aussie like your meat rare and you’ve never tried a sparkling Shiraz, wines. So what wines make Wayne pop his cork? give it a try. I’ll cook a steak on high for a minute and a half Charge your glasses and read on to find out! to two minutes on each side, and it’s off and I’m into it. WRITTEN BY MICHAEL BLAYNEY PHOTOS BEN SEARCY It’s a sensation.” n the hot, dry Adelaide summers of the early ’70s, Through much testing and tippling over the years, Wayne’s Wayne Hanson would return home after a hard day favourite grapes are Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz. Even so, of toolmaking, conditioned to reach for an ice-cold he believes the enjoyment and appreciation of wine is a beer. His wife Janine soon put a stop to that... subjective caper. “Everyone has their own distinctive sense of “The temperature would be nudging 40, and I’d taste and smell. I prefer not to be hard and fast about it. If you sit under the pergola in the backyard, and crack open enjoy drinking a particular wine that costs under 10 bucks, a long neck,” says Wayne. “My wife’s always hated the smell keep drinking the thing. I don’t see a need to go for the more and taste of beer, and she would say to me that it was a pity expensive examples if you’re satisÞed. But people do get duped. that she couldn’t sit down and enjoy a drink with me out If you buy a cheap bottle of wine without tasting it Þrst, don’t of the same bottle.” kid yourself that it will improve with age.” The pair came to an arrangement. Living on the Wayne is coy about the size of his cellar, although his stocks doorstep of the Barossa Valley wine region, were depleted over the latest Christmas holiday Wayne replaced his bottle of West End Export period when his extended family “came over with a local bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and and gave it a thumping”. His cellar houses a drinking partnership (and love affair with a 22-litre port keg that has been “humming “Drinking port is a real part of our the grape) was formed. since 1987”. His American daughter-in-law, culture, the AWU’s culture, the shearers’ culture,” Wayne says. “It was a time of initiation and in particular, has taken a liking to the port. “We drink port in small glasses, experimentation,” says Wayne, casting his “The keg has French oak tops and American but those bastards used to pour mind back to those early days. “We kicked oak sides. Over time those timbers go through themselves a schooner of the stuff after a day shearing sheep. off with some pretty ordinary wines, but the wine, and it has a brilliant taste of They’d sit around the campfi re Þnished up with some decent selections. cinnamon, raisins and sultanas. All I do is top it and get stuck into the port every I made a few mistakes, but because of my up with Tawny port. It’s got to the stage where evening. It’s good to keep a wife’s exceptional senses of taste and smell, I can top up my keg with cask port. Morris is tradition like that going.” she made some very good selections. one I’ve used in the past. ◆




A grand old tradition!

56 theaustralianworker

Wayne’s Winners

Wayne was a dedicated beer drinker, but wine is now his tipple of choice.

RED RECOMMENDATIONS UNDER $20 “The Zema Estate Shiraz from Coonawarra is a very reliable wine with excellent ageing potential up to seven years. The taste is mainly berries and a plum finish, and the older it is, the more plum will come through. It has a beautiful flavour and is brilliant with roast lamb. You should be able to pick up a recent vintage, say 2006, for close to 20 bucks. Keep an eye out on the specials and you might get it cheaper.” OVER $20 “A Penfold Bin 28 that’s been sitting there humming for seven years is as good as it gets. It’s a lovely powerful wine with plenty of red berries. Sometimes you can pick them up for $25. Ideally, buy it as a 3-year-old to drink as a 7-year-old. For a big occasion, I’d recommend John Riddoch, Neil Ashmead Command Shiraz, or a Rockford’s Basket Press. They’re all top drops, but we’re talking about wines that are around about $100 in value.” WHITE RECOMMENDATIONS UNDER $20 “There’s a host of wines around this price range. You can pick up Giesen “The Brothers” Sauvignon Blanc on special for close to $20. It has a superior taste and finish to the regular Geisen’s drop. It has a concentrated dried apricot taste. Chilled perfectly on a hot day, this is a bottle of wine you can knock off in one sitting with ease.” OVER $20 “Although it’s not much more than $20 a bottle, the Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc is great value. This is a popular local wine from the Adelaide Hills. The fruity flavours go well with an Atlantic salmon fillet, but any fish or poultry matches up with this wine.”

theaustralianworker 57


all in a good

cause Little Abby saved her pocket money to shout picketing workers a cuppa.

Sweet treats for solidarity fundraising are always winners. But knocking up a batch of something tempting needn’t be a chore – and homemade cakes and slices are always the best. School fetes and strike fundraisers never tasted so good! PHOTOS JOHN PAUL

basic vanilla biscuits makes 30 prep time 20 minutes baking time 15 minutes 200g butter, softened ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 1 cup (160g) icing sugar 1 egg 1¾ cups (260g) plain flour ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 1. Preheat oven to 160°C/140°C fan-forced. Grease oven trays; line with baking paper. 2. Beat butter, extract, sifted icing sugar and egg in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Transfer mixture to medium bowl; stir in sifted flour and soda, in two batches. 3. Roll level tablespoons of dough into balls; place on trays 3cm apart. 4. Bake biscuits about 15 minutes; cool on trays.

variations cranberry & coconut Stir ½ cup (65g) dried cranberries and ½ cup (40g) shredded coconut into basic biscuit mixture before flour and soda are added. pear & ginger Stir ¼ cup (35g) finely chopped dried pears, ¼ cup (55g) coarsely chopped glacé ginger and ½ cup (45g) rolled oats into basic biscuit mixture before flour and soda are added. brown sugar & pecan Substitute 1 cup (220g) firmly packed brown sugar for the icing sugar in the basic biscuit mixture. Stir ½ cup (60g) coarsely chopped pecans into basic biscuit mixture before flour and soda are added. choc chip Stir ½ cup (95g) dark Choc Bits into basic biscuit mixture before flour and soda are added. Roll level tablespoons of dough into balls then roll balls in a mixture of 1 tablespoon caster sugar, 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon.

58 theaustralianworker

quick-mix patty cakes

rock cakes

makes 24 prep time 2 minutes cooking time 20 minutes

makes 18 prep time 15 minutes cooking time 15 minutes

125g butter, softened ½ teaspoon vanilla extract ¾ cup (165g) caster sugar 3 eggs 2 cups (300g) self-raising flour ¼ cup (60ml) milk

2 cups (300g) self-raising flour ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon ¹⁄³ cup (75g) caster sugar 90g butter, chopped 1 cup (160g) sultanas 1 egg, beaten lightly ½ cup (125ml) milk 1 tablespoon caster sugar, extra

1. Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan-forced. Grease oven trays. 2. Sift flour, cinnamon and sugar into medium bowl; rub in butter. Stir in sultanas, egg and milk. Do not overmix. Drop rounded tablespoons of mixture about 5cm apart onto trays; sprinkle with extra sugar. 3. Bake about 15 minutes; cool on trays.

1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Line two 12-hole patty pans with paper cases. 2. Beat ingredients in medium bowl with electric mixer on low speed until ingredients are just combined. Increase speed to medium; beat about 3 minutes or until mixture is smooth and paler in colour. Drop rounded tablespoons of mixture into each case. 3. Bake cakes about 20 minutes. Stand in pans 5 minutes; turn, top-side up, onto wire racks to cool. 4. Top cakes with icing of your choice.

variations chocolate & orange Stir in 1 teaspoon finely grated orange rind and ½ cup (95g) dark Choc Bits before putting mixture in cases. banana & white chocolate chip Stir in ½ cup overripe mashed banana and ½ cup (95g) white Choc Bits before putting mixture in cases. passionfruit & lime Stir in 1 teaspoon finely grated lime rind and ¼ cup (60ml) passionfruit before putting mixture in cases. mocha Blend 1 tablespoon sifted cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon strong black coffee; stir in before putting mixture in cases.

glacé icing


2 cups (320g) icing sugar 20g butter, melted 2 tablespoons hot water, approximately

chocolate Stir in 1 teaspoon sifted cocoa powder. passionfruit Stir in 1 tablespoon passionfruit pulp. coffee Dissolve 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules in the hot water.

1. Place sifted icing sugar in small bowl; stir in butter and enough of the hot water to make a firm paste. 2. Stir mixture over small saucepan of simmering water until spreadable. ww ww. aw awu. wu.n net.t.a t.aauu

 theaustralianworker 59


marmalade almond coconut squares prep time 30 minutes cooking time 35 minutes makes about 18 125g butter, chopped 1 teaspoon almond essence ¼ cup (55g) caster sugar 1 cup (150g) plain flour ¼ cup (20g) desiccated coconut ¹⁄³ cup (15g) flaked coconut ¼ cup (85g) marmalade, warmed

topping 90g butter, chopped 2 teaspoons grated orange rind ¹⁄³ cup (75g) caster sugar 2 eggs 1 cup (90g) desiccated coconut 1 cup (125g) almond meal 1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Grease 19cm x 29cm rectangular slice pan. 2. Beat butter, essence and sugar in small bowl with electric mixer until smooth. Stir in flour and desiccated coconut; press into pan. Bake 15 minutes or until brown. 3. Meanwhile, make topping; spread over hot slice, sprinkle with flaked coconut. Bake further 20 minutes or until firm. Brush hot slice with marmalade; cool in pan. topping Beat butter, rind and sugar in small bowl with electric mixer until smooth; beat in eggs until combined. Stir in coconut and almond meal.

Kitchen solidarity Raising funds for picketers is a fantastic way to show solidarity and help ease some of the financial pain fellow workers experience when fighting for their rights.

60 theaustralianworker

These recipes are from The Australian Women’s Weekly 1000 Best-ever Recipes from ACP Books RRP$74.95, available from selected bookstores, newsagents and online from

Low fees At Sunsuper, it’s super simple. Low fees. No commissions. Our profits go back to our members. Phone 13 11 84 or visit

Products issued by Sunsuper Pty Ltd ABN 88 010 720 840 AFSL No. 228975 RSE Lic No. L0000291 RSE Reg No. R1000337. You should read the Product Disclosure Statement before making any investment decisions. For a copy call 13 11 84. bcm:sun 0257


kidding around A big day out for the family needn’t cost a fortune. Jayne D’Arcy takes a tour of Sydney to discover some fun, family-friendly activities to please everyone. WRITTEN BY JANE D’ARCY PHOTOS GETTY IMAGES/JOHAN PALSSON (ART GALLER Y OF NSW)

1. Walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge There’s no way the kids will forget the Sydney Harbour Bridge if they’ve walked all 1149 metres of it. We’re not talking “climbing” here: this is the pretty adrenaline-free, and free, alternative. The walk starts at Cumberland Street at The Rocks (you may need help if you need to get a stroller up the stairs) and you simply follow the pedestrian path all the way over to Milsons Point, near Luna Park (cyclists use the other side of the bridge). Check out the views of the Sydney Harbour and Opera House on your right, and don’t panic; high fences mean you don’t need to worry about kids getting too adventurous. Expect the walk to take up to 30 minutes, bring the sunscreen and some water and tie your hat on. There are no seats on the walk, but plenty of pretty places to rest at either end, including a small playground at Milsons Point. when: You can walk across the bridge whenever you want as it’s open 24 hours, seven days a week. where: Begins at Cumberland Street, The Rocks, and ends at Milsons Point Station. Once you get over the bridge you can catch a ferry from Luna Park or a train from the station.

6622 ttheaustralianworker heaauussttraalilian he anw woorrkker keerr

2. Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) There’s nothing quite like taking kids to a contemporary art gallery and watching their facial expressions change. Nah, not in a bad “I wanna go home” way, but into a confused “what the?” way. There’s always going to be something there that will scare the bejesus out of them, and Sydney’s MCA is no different. From a life-sized Superman staring at a strange little hairy face, to coloured mirrors slicing down a wall, there’s a lot here that will provoke a bit of curiosity. For something a little more structured, ask at the entrance for an activity sheet and pencil and follow the instructions to Þnd art that engages kids further. The sheet is aimed at 5-12 year olds but even three-year-olds will get something from it. when: Daily 10am-5pm. where: 140 George Street, The Rocks (close to the Circular Quay ferry terminal, Circular Quay train station and the free Sydney CBD shuttle bus 555). contact:; (02) 9245 2400.

3. Art Gallery of NSW Adults used to be the only ones who beneÞted from hiring audio tour guides, but at the Art Gallery of NSW there’s now a kids option, too. Just download the kids audio tour from www. (click “collection” then “kids audio tour”) onto an MP3 player for free, then pick up the accompanying brochure at the Gallery. The Gallery’s Þve collection areas are colour-coded and, armed with the photos of the child-friendly art, kids will be able to locate the pieces, press play, then listen to a recording of children talking about it. Another option is using an iPhone or similar to go online and listen to the description once the piece is found. If you’re not into downloading stuff, maybe the free Sunday performances for kids are a better option. They’re held every Sunday at 2.30pm and there’s usually something different on every week. Coming up is cartooning, miming, puppeteering and didgeridoo dance, but for a complete list check the website or give them a call. when: Daily 10am-5pm (except Wednesday when it’s open 10am-9pm) where: Art Gallery Road, The Domain. It’s a 10-minute walk from St James and Martin Place train stations, or catch bus 441 from the Queen Victoria Building. contact:; (02) 9225 1740.

4. Royal Botanic Gardens The Botanic Gardens is home to some great wildlife, though some take more effort to locate than others. The easy ones to spot are the Grey-headed Flying-foxes. The Garden’s population ranges from 10,000 to 20,000 and they certainly make their presence felt; many heritage trees have received permanent damage from their little claws and it’s not surprising that they’re being discouraged from roosting here. The best place to see them is Palm Grove, where they hang and cackle above you in their thousands. A lot quieter is the Golden Orb-weaving Spider. There are plenty of them around the Gardens, look for their large webs in the bushes and trees. Also keep an eye out for Tawny Frogmouths hanging out near the Government House entry (they huddle and make themselves look like a branch), eels in the ponds at Farm Cove and Sulphur-crested Cockies near the Henry Lawson Gate. Kids are welcome on daily guided walks that run at 10.30am from the Palm Grove Centre, and early piking is Þne. when: Opens at 7am daily but closing hours range from 5pm-8pm depending on the month. where: Nearest train station is Martin Place, or catch bus 441. It’s an easy walk from the Sydney Opera House. There are a number of entrances. contact:; (02) 9231 8134.

5. Customs House There’s a secret under the ground ßoor of this building, but luckily it’s there for all to see. Under a glass ßoor is a complete replica (1:500) of 10 square metres of the Sydney CBD. There are no labels on the buildings, so it’s up to your imagination or knowledge, but the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Circular Quay are pretty obvious. It’s most fun to visit this at the end of a Sydney adventure, when the kids can actually recognise where they went, stayed, ate and played, and it’s certainly one of the few opportunities anyone gets to leap tall buildings in a single bound. If you visit this after an exhausting day of visiting everywhere else, there’s even an adjacent bar and newspaper reading area where you can relax while the kids crawl over Sydney. when: Customs House is open weekdays 8am-midnight, Saturdays from 10am-midnight and Sundays from 11am-5pm. where: 31 Alfred Street, Circular Quay (just behind the ferry terminal). The free Sydney CBD shuttle (bus 555) stops nearby. contact:; (02) 9242 8595. theaustralianworker 63

Need financial help because of a personal injury? Just Ask Every day, we at ASK Funding talk to injured people who have to struggle with the expenses of daily living. And often this is made worse by delays in legal negotiations. If you are waiting for a personal injury legal case to settle, an ASK Personal Injury loan can relieve your financial hardship and help to level the legal playing field. ASK can advance from $5,000 - depending on your expected legal settlement. Your loan will cover virtually all of your bills and daily living expenses, including medical bills, day-to-day living expenses, legal costs, special needs, rehabilitation and family bills.

Apply for an ASK Personal Injury loan today without obligation.

We help when banks and other lenders won’t Loan approval normally within 72 hours No repayments until legal settlement No security over your home, car or personal assets

(1800 587 827) These products are issued by Ask Funding Limited. ABN 22 094 503 385. Level 7, Market Street, Brisbane Qld 4000. Terms and Conditions apply to approved applicants only.

ADNRG 44786




adventure, there was no way they were going to miss out on all the fun, so they’ve come along too! Colour in the picture of our friends having fun in Sydney. What city sites can you identify? There’s the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and Centrepoint Tower. The friends have also met a new pal – Splash the dolphin.

Illustration Myles

indi & Ringer are a long long, long way from their home in the outback. They are very excited because they are having a holiday in Sydney. When their friends Gum Leaf the koala and Hopscotch the kangaroo heard that their friends were off on a big city

theaustralianworker 65


name game If you have a plain name like John Smith or Sue Jones, perhaps you’ve always yearned for a monicker a little more original. Well, maybe you should be happy with what you’ve got! WRITTEN BY ANDREW STEVENSON


n 1930 in Australia, names were a piece of cake. When Crow, and prepare yourself for a lifetime of sniggers. you married, one name would do for a whole family. Or maybe not. Maybe there are so many strange names, Just as a woman promised to love, honour and obey so variants and combinations that it no longer matters. Maybe did she accept that her Dad’s surname no longer had any Dakota will grow up and marry Christopher Lloyd-Jones and use after marrying the love of her life. When the bride decide the name game has gone too far, that bestowing on a tossed the wedding bouquet over her shoulder child a name like Montana Lloyd-Jones-Black-Crow is beyond she also left behind her name. For years it had ridiculous. Well, we can only hope… been the only one she’d known, from now on Who’s going to put a stop to it? No one really. it was a relic: her maiden name. You can’t keep on changing your name willyHere are just some of the whacky When she had a child, things were pretty nilly (now there’s a possibility) but good taste names some celebrities have simple, too – especially if it was a boy. It was standards are unlikely to be enforced – beyond bestowed upon their kids… very hard to argue with a name like John the school playground that is. • Frank Zappa although, if you already had one of those, Apparently, we’re normally only permitted Dweezil, Moon Unit and Diva you might try William or Robert. Margaret to change names once in a year, but they may • Rapper Vanilla Ice Dusti Raine, Keelee Breeze would do for a daughter, with Patricia and still be refused. The law says, “If a proposed • Jamie Oliver Joan as fallbacks. name is considered obscene, offensive, too long, Poppy Honey, Daisy Boo • Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban But John’s gone. Last year in Victoria, John consists of symbols without phonetic Sunday Rose Urban Kidman ranked 89th in the state’s most popular names, signiÞcance or contrary to public interest’’. So, • John Cougar Mellencamp Justice beaten by – wait for it – Jett, Kai, Seth, Cody sorry Taylah Rabbit-Burrows, you can’t change • Michael Hutchence and Paula Yates and, of course, Jayden. your name to “Ώ“ even though the rock star Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Prince did, when he changed his name for a time Margaret, Patricia and Joan have faded • Glamour model Jordan and pop star Peter Andre to some strange symbol that was supposed to into obscurity, replaced by the “boutique” Princess Tiaamii signify love. names, such as Summer, Amber, Taylay and • Gwyneth Paltrow Apple So what’s the alternative? In a designer age, Taylah. And, ahem, Dakota. Does anyone else • Elle Macpherson with a wardrobe full of designer clothes (and, think it’s a little odd how the names of US Aurelius Cy perhaps, a designer baby) there’s nothing to stop states are starting to label our kids? • Bono Memphis Summer from inventing her own family name to But that’s just Þrst names! • Sylvester Stallone be shared by her husband and all her children Pity the kindergarten teachers trying to Sage Moonblood to come. Daze, perhaps? help children who can only just hold their pen And all will live happily ever after. At least to learn how to write their names. Some of until Summer and Chris split up when the whole battle to them continue over two or three lines of kiddy writing, with decide who we are and what we should be called begins again. Þrst names, second names (using all manner of unique Just as we choose our own email addresses – maybe in spellings) before the ultimate challenge: working out what future people will choose their own names. Maybe their birth a child’s surname might, in fact, be. Mum brings her daughter to school, so that gives the teacher name will be just something they carry around until they're ready to change it to something else. Don’t like what you were a head start. Let’s say she’s a Ms Black. But, then, here comes born with? Don’t worry. Log on and register another – as long Dad, a Mr Crow. Don’t tell me, thinks the teacher, as she looks at as no one else has beaten you to the punch. ◆ the girl. It can’t be true. Yes, it is. Take a seat, Dakota Black-

Star file

66 theaustralianworker

From 1984 until now, it’s always been the two of


And we wouldn’t have it any other way. For 25 years, we’ve looked after the superannuation needs of our members. • By investing back into the industry to help create and sustain jobs for our members. • By keeping fees low and paying no commissions to financial advisers. • By being experts in super and ranking among Australia’s top superannuation funds. • By being run only to benefit you - our members. Cbus. Working for you and your industry. Call Cbus on 1300 361 784 or visit


Steven Saunders - Member since 1999 General Advice Warning. This information is about Cbus. It doesn’t take into account your specific needs, so you should look at your own financial position, objectives and requirements before making any financial decisions. Read the Cbus Product Disclosure Statement to decide whether Cbus is right for you. Contact 1300 361 784 or for a copy. Cbus’ Trustee is United Super Pty Ltd ABN 46 006 261 623 AFSL 233792 Cbus ABN 75 493 363 262

The Australian Worker Magazine Issue 2 2009  

The Australian Worker Magazine is the quarterly magazine published by The Australian Workers' Union.

The Australian Worker Magazine Issue 2 2009  

The Australian Worker Magazine is the quarterly magazine published by The Australian Workers' Union.