Sue Bolton

In her 1993 book, The End of Equality?, Anne Summers admits to being puzzled by the Howard government’s concern about Australia’s low birth rate and its call for women to reproduce more while, at the same time, it refuses to provide inexpensive and quality childcare to help this happen.

Despite having won formal equality, the lack of an organised women’s movement means that the Howard government has been able to take back a lot of the reforms won as a result of the struggles of the 1970s and 1980s. No reform is permanent under capitalism, and without a strong movement that mobilises to defend and expand reforms to improve women’s lives, the capitalist class can easily remove, or knobble, the gains that have been won.

Many Australians would assume that death squads, disappearances, harassment by the military, violent dispersal of demonstrations and political prisoners were features of the Philippines that vanished when Ferdinand Marcos’s dictatorship was overthrown in 1986.

The Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union (TCFUA) has won its drawn-out dispute over carpet manufacturer Godfrey Hirst’s attempt to force more than 300 Feltex workers to sign AWAs (individual contracts) with reduced rights and conditions in order to keep their jobs.

Across Australia on November 30, hundreds of thousands of workers answered the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ call to protest against Work Choices. The ACTU estimated that around 270,000 people took part, the majority hooked up to the Sky Channel broadcasts from the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

On November 15, 2000 members of the Electrical Trades Union packed Dallas Brooks Hall to discuss an initial response to the federal government’s denial of a common law agreement between the ETU and National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) that covered 10,000 workers and about 1000 employers.

Kim Beazley’s speech to the Australian Council of Trade Union (ACTU) Congress on October 25 illustrated the limitations of the Labor Party today regardless of who ends up being its federal leader. Beazley told the delegates that he will “govern in the interests of all Australians, never just for the vested interests of a few”. This is the same sort of language that PM John Howard uses, but what exactly does it mean?

More than 600 delegates representing 2 million union members met for the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) congress on October 25-26.

Forty-nine workers at the largest workshop in the Latrobe Valley have been locked out for almost three months by Mechanical Engineering Services (MES). As soon as he’d locked out the workers, the company owner, Anthony Elliott, went overseas for several weeks.

Geelong Trades Hall was packed with unionists on October 28 exchanging ideas and experiences about surviving and fighting Work Choices. Some 130 unionists travelled from Victorian country centres such as Port Campbell, Portland, Hamilton and the Latrobe Valley to join unionists from across the country.

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