The Guardian July 24, 2002


Editorial:

They're deadly serious

The revelations coming from the Royal Commission into the collapse of 
HIH Insurance and the vendetta against trade unions in the Federal 
Government's Royal Commission into the Building Industry throw into sharp 
relief the anti-union agenda of the Howard Government. All manner of 
collusion, underhand dealings and illegal activities are seeping out about 
HIH directors who were instrumental in its collapse with debts of $5.3 
billion.

The Cole Royal Commission into the Building Industry, while exposing some 
corrupt activity of employers, has been primarily used to attack building 
unions. And while a few individuals, like HIH board member Rodney Adler, 
who milked the insurer of millions of dollars even as they knew it was 
going under, have been given a slap on the wrist, the attack on the 
building unions threatens the conditions, wages and livelihoods of hundreds 
of thousands or ordinary workers.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott has been berating employers for 
not making enough use of his Government's union-bashing laws. The Howard 
Government sees the suppression and eventual annihilation of unions as 
fundamental to providing big business with a union-free environment to 
allow for unlimited profit making.

They are deadly serious in this.

In the 1980s the "New Right", an organised collection of reactionaries, put 
in train a process that leads directly to the current Government, its 
leader John Howard and its vicious anti-worker agenda.

Charles Copeman, the then chief executive of resources giant Peko Wallsend 
and close associate of John Howard, carried out a ruthless offensive 
against unions at his Robe River mining operation. Copeman set out his 
corporate vision for Australia at a Liberal Party function in 1986.

"The House of Representatives would be abolished, only experts would get 
jobs in the Senate and most federal departments would either be scrapped or 
absorbed by the States", said Copeman. "There would be no federal elections 
as such. Members would be chosen only after they had completed two terms in 
a State Parliament. Without such a change, I frankly believe that the over-
government of Australia can only get worse and worse until some brave 
leader will emerge to answer the nation's needs."

Of the Robe River dispute, he said: "The resolution of the Robe River 
dispute and the demolition of Australia's unnecessary structure of 
government are part and parcel of the same striving for freedom which has 
been lost in the mistaken belief that we could create equality where none 
exists in nature."

Howard has always hated organised labour and has champed at the bit to 
trample trade unions for all his political career. Comes the time, comes 
the man, and Howard is the man for big business and mega-profits: that is 
why he 's still the leader of the Liberal Party.

Smothering culture
If you appropriate the means to record a voice, you own that voice. This is the significance of the Australian Film Archives being moved into Rupert Murdoch's Fox Studios in Sydney. The perpetuation and development of a national culture requires an active, not passive, approach: it is a class question. It is instructive to see how the Hollywood takeover of Australia's film industry is promoted in the media. Murdoch's Sydney Daily Telegraph tabloid last week ran with a story on American filmmakers exploiting Australian-made expertise, exchange rates and government tax breaks with the heading "No dramas on foreign films made in Australia". By foreign, of course the author meant the USA. It played up a study by the Australian Film Commission that happily concluded that local and foreign film industries should work together for "mutual benefit", The report apparently "should silence those who believe foreign, particularly US, productions filming here were overwhelming the local industry." The drive to profit is at the forefront of US film giants coming to Australia. They offer nothing but token participation by the local industry and if their operations here are taken to their logical conclusion that is if there is no resistance they will smother Australia's film industry. Under the Telegraph article was the latest box office figures in Australia: 1) Star Wars, 2) The Lord of the Rings, 3) Spider-Man, 4) Ocean's Eleven, 5) Ice Age.
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