Daily Archives: April 26, 2008

May Day 2008

AS Australia totters on the brink of recession AND with the continuing decline in union struggle workers will assemble in union ranks on May Day 2008 facing a tough future.

Union Membership 1911-2007


It has been 10 years since the MUA dispute of 1998. On the eve of the dispute, at Wynnum in Brisbane, John Coombs, the then secretary of the MUA, said to MUA members:

“This is the big one.” The MUA secretary then warned of the weaknesses that could destroy the union. He talked of scabs and informers. Coombs announced that they would not win the dispute in the courts, and he added that ‘win or lose’ he would be back to cop the flak. Then and there, all of the officials and members pledged support. For the first time, the union leadership was fully briefed. Despite Coombs’s espoused mistrust of the courts, it was in the courts the union took its first steps to defend themselves. No industrial action was called.” — Excerpts from After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet.

On May Day 1998 in Brisbane, the MUA declared victory in the courts and in the dispute. The long decline in unionism was to be halted.

Yet the decline in union participation and struggle has declined even further. Recent Australian Bureau of Statistics ABS figures reveal that the decline in union numbers has continued even at the height of the Your Rights at Work Campaign which brought Labor to power federally.

Now that the Howard government is defeated, the Labor government has told the unions that they are on their own. Does Labor even want union support any more?

The industrial landscape offers little change; the employers are still on top. Added to this, inflation is out of control, high interest rates and the financial crisis that has already begun to hit housing affordability and superannuation for retirement.

How can workers and their unions deal with these setbacks? After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet advocates the formation (actually a reformation) of Workers Political Organisations [WPOs] to change Jachie Howeunions from bureaucratic organisations to fighting rank & file industrial unions.

Who is the most famous member of the WPO?

It was Jackie Howe who in the 1890s set records for shearing sheep and was a member of the Shearer’s Union whose struggle led to the formation of the Australian Labor Party. In 1909, Jackie Howe was President of the Worker’s Political Organisation in Blackall.

AFTER THE WATERFRONT– the workers are quiet

This book is 10 years in the making. It was written collectively by LeftPress members with input from other unionists.

image Begun during the 1998 MUA dispute, After the Waterfront — the workers are quiet analyses the last 20 years of unionism in Australia.

The book aims to discuss ways to arrest the decline in workers struggle.

After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet will be for sale at the stall this May Day 2008 in the Exhibition grounds under the LeftPress and “Workers of All Countries Unite” Banners.

You can buy this 144-page book by sending $13 (includes $3 postage) and your return address to:

PO Box 5093,
West End, Q.4101.

You can read the book online at After the Waterfront website and make comment and participate in discussion arising from it.

You may download a PDF of the book by clicking on the cover above.

Union Solidarity: Boeing Community Assembly


Editors Note: Please find below a notice from the Melbourne based Union Solidarity Group. These activities are at Fisherman’s Bend in Melbourne in support of the Boeing Workers. For May Day activities in Brisbane see “May Day 2008”.

1. Family Day / Fundraising Concert
2. Workplace Ombudsman Moves Against Dave Kerin.

Family Day / Fundraising Concert
Saturday 3rd of May
Boeing Community Assembly

Wharf Rd, Fishermans Bend
11am onwards.

*Live Music
*Kids Games
*Novelty Events

All proceeds to striking Boeing workers.

On Monday 28 April striking workers at Boeing’s Fishermans bend plant will have entered their fourth week in dispute. During the strike Boeing have went to extraordinary lengths to bully employees to return to work. Boeing has threatened rank and file union members with millions of dollars in damages (1 million a day) a Federal court has been set for May 7.

In spite of this workers have continually voted at mass meetings to continue the dispute. They have received support from other sections of movement and that support is building. For the strike to continue, for workers to get a good result Boeing workers need to feel that the union movement is behind them. Sunday 3rd is a great opportunity to show your support.

Please print and distribute the attached “Boeing Workers Fundraising Concert” leaflet.


2. Workplace Ombudsman Moves Against Dave Kerin.

Union Solidarity coordinator Dave Kerin was served with an order by the Workplace Ombudsman to produce Union Solidarity documents relating to the Boeing dispute by the 8th of May. If Dave fails to comply he faces up to 6 months in prison.

Union Solidarity wishes to make it clear that we will continue to throw all of our support behind the Boeing workers. Many have expressed concern about Dave being served. In the short term the best way to defend Dave Kerin is to throw your support behind the Boeing strikers. A victory at Boeing will make it hard to move against Dave.

It doesn’t take a genius to realise that Union Solidarity have been targeted because our strategies and tactics have largely been successful. Now more than ever we need to strengthen our organisation and build our supporter base.

Please take the time to convince someone you know to join our SMS alert system


Yours in Solidarity

Union Solidarity.

"The Shooting of (Jose Ramos) Horta"

Comments by Robert Wesley-Smith.

Editors Note: On Wednesday, 16 April, 2008 SBS Dateline broadcast a program titled “The Shooting of Horta” where Video Journalist Mark Davis travelled to East Timor and reported on the aftermath of the near fatal shooting of President Jose Ramos Horta.

A long time East Timor activist, Robert Wesley-Smith, made the following comment on the circumstances surrounding the events depicted in Davis’s report. Wesley-Smith was unable to get his opinion published.

BushTelegraph, as a publisher of last resort, posts his comments here:

“What is amazing in all the events since Feb 11th is the focus on Angelita Pires, as though she is the only one to blame for the shooting of the President. Why is it that the entire media seems to be ignoring this brilliant research and filming by Mark Davis and Jose Antonio Belo? Why is it that this classic manifestation of the macho society in East Timor is playing out without proper scrutiny and coverage? Are people scared? Why is it that a man who admits having planned to have her killed is not pulled in and charged?

Well the East Timor Government hasn’t totally ignored it as it is pulling Jose Belo in for questioning tomorrow Tuesday. It wil be interesting to see what they feel is legitimate to ask this courageous journalist and resistance hero, and how insistent they will be. Could it be that they feel the current ongoing conspiracy against Angelita has been exposed by the Dateline program? Jose will be getting support from sbs and also the IFJ.

I have not seen it reported that Angelita Pires was taken in for questioning today just as she was trying to provide her family with an authority to check the repeated allegations by President Horta that she had $800,000 stashed in a C’wealth Bank a/c in Darwin. Perhaps by monitoring her phone they decided to act before she could send this authority – what have they to hide? The irony is that whilst Horta has told the whole world, and even threatened to go to the Security Council for some imagined investigation into this bank a/c, the Bank will no doubt refuse to provide access to the immediate family on the grounds of “privacy”. Wanna bet? What a sick joke!

Horta is currently obsessed with this issue and publicly blaming Pires, (who had refused an offer to work with him). The Prosecutor General also makes public comments about her yet pretends he can’t make public comments when it suits him. Is this a modern day witch hunt and farce, or what? It is time for the Australian Government to stand up for the rights of this citizen.

It would be better for the President to explain what he knows of events of 10 February 2008, and what orders he gave to MUNJ to go to Ermera to say to Alfredo. There is a cover up going on here.

It is time for the President, as I tried to advise privately last week, to exit centre stage and leave the job to LaSama for another 2 months until he gets his mental physical and emotional faculties back in full. He should also stop grandstanding on this issue, as he knows full well, having lectured within the law faculty of UNSW, that publicly interfering and prejudicing a criminal investigation is improper and unacceptable, and in Australia could lead to charges of interfering with the course of justice.

It is also timely to comment that in all the allegations against Angelita Pires which I have seen, and on which the worst connotations are put by some journalists, there is nothing nil zilch which has any substance in indicating that she planned either the meeting with Horta or any attempt to assassinate him. Lets face it, there WAS NO PLAN to assassinate him, he was shot only after the leader Alfredo was shot dead by ambush, by a scared leaderless young man with a big gun – who shouldn’t have been there but who followed limited orders or explanations by Alfedo. So how can Pires be blamed for a plan which didn’t exist? Salsinha said that on Dateline.

There is no evidence she drank alcohol with Alfredo or gave him drugs, in fact the opposite is evident. If they exchanged messages, well, they were confidantes and lovers. Perhaps Alfredo got angry on hearing news from MUNJ about what seemed to him to be a betrayal, perhaps Angelita was warning him over the months to watch out for treachery. The fact she called him Dragon King was a private matter but made public via releases from phone intercepts and a program of demonising her to somehow suggest that that too is evidence of a conspiracy to kill Horta. Excuse me! Credibility is being stretched here.

I make no judgement about information yet to be released, but on evidence so far she has committed no crime, and may indeed be seen to have been assisting the authorities in getting a peaceful resolution to the Alfredo business. Indeed perhaps that’s all that could be inferred from today’s questioning as she has just been released to go home. I hope its before the curfew or she would get arrested again. So where are the media in reporting this, or do they just fly over with Horta and report his every utterance and then come home and forget?

Rob Wesley-Smith


(yes I have known Angelita since she was 9 years old. This does not scramble my brain in looking at this witchhunt. Many key players in this Tragedy have known Angelita in Dili, so they should be careful they are not acting from prejudice, and making her life impossible or in danger.)”