"Like giving Dracula the keys to the blood bank"
by Tom Pearson "Vanishing girl Natasha Ryan on her years in the cupboard" was an article in the Murdoch tabloid Daily Telegraph, about a girl who went missing for five years since the age of 14 hearby thought to have been murdered, but was discovered living with her boyfriend. The capitalist media love that stuff. Kerry Packer's Nine Network shelled out a small fortune to get exclusive rights to the television version of her story. Natasha Ryan is hot property, for TV ratings and newspaper sales. On the other hand you have to search harder for stories on things that have a profound effect on workers. Such as the new rules allowing ASIO to hand over strictly classified material to employers to deal with "terrorist threats". The Federal Government's terror legislation is sweeping in its scope and vindictive in its draconian state powers: action by organised labour will be considered a threat to national security. Never mind that the criminal nature of the employing class is to be seen every day, everywhere. Like the King Brothers Bus Group on the NSW north coast whose owners have disappeared, leaving debts of $220 million and owing their 450 drivers three week's wages. The company is contracted to the NSW Transport Department to provide school bus services. The Department has distanced itself from the debacle, saying it has no responsibility to question the financial viability of the companies it signs contracts with. The son of one of the owners capped it off with "I know absolutely nothing of where he is". Meanwhile, King Brothers' drivers are fuming. "The workers in the yard have been trying to get a hold of them", said one, "but both their mobile phones are disconnected". The drivers' super hasn't been paid for more than three months by the company and as a result they have no insurance cover. All this while the Australian Bankers' Association carries out a campaign to have draft legislation scrapped that would give maximum priority to the payment of workers' entitlements when a company goes bust. Said the banks: "Our strong conclusion from examining the maximum priority rule is that it will significantly impact on the lending and loan security arrangements of many businesses". Translation — "Stuff the workers who created the profits, we want the money". Perhaps even more vicious and underhand is transnational James Hardie, whose criminal negligence saw thousands of its employees exposed to asbestos for decades. Now the company is blackmailing current and past employees by demanding they hand over their personal medical records in exchange for a medical program that monitors the effect of their exposure to the deadly asbestos fibres. The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union points out that James Hardie wants the medical records because it will give them more leverage to avoid paying compensation. "James Hardie has a track record of opposing any attempt by employees to gain compensation for asbestos-related diseases", said the union's Victorian branch. "They will do anything they can to minimise compo payments. For people to sign away their prior medical history is a bit like giving Dracula the keys to the blood bank."