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Issue 576, 7 December 2007 - Union Campaign Smashed Howard

Bennelong: the sweetest blow of all

John Howard's defeat in his own seat of Bennelong symbolised the rejection of his government. Mary Yeager, co-ordinator of the Bennelong Your Rights at Work campaign spoke to John Morris.

Bennelong: the sweetest blow of all"No one in their wildest dreams thought we would [defeat Howard in his own seat].

So we were anxious, just like in the other seats targeted [by Your Rights at Work] of Robertson and Dobell on the Central Coast.

There was a 'time's up' factor and Workchoices was certainly the main issue. Since the election it's noticeable that people seem happier [wherever you go] in shops or the gym.

On election day over 19 booths there were ten workers per booth [spread] over two hour shifts.

The [local] teachers started activity eight months out, particularly Judy King, the Principal of Riverside Girls High School. She had a sign outside the school saying  'We are a society not just an economy ' prior to the election.

There was John Howard's visit to Eastwood Public school [for the school fete] where the federal police wouldn't let us in.

But the highlight was the Granny Smith apple festival [in Eastwood]. We had a marching group, with a brass band and slogans such as "Your Rights at Work: the core issue " we kept it positive.

When we stopped in front of the prime minister, Maxine McKew came over and danced in front of the band and the crowd gave an enormous cheer - it couldn�t have been better!

In the Lindsay electorate [where I also helped organise the campaign] we had been doing street stalls and leafleting stations for two years but were not targeting workplaces and we needed to get in to see union members there.

So in the lead up to the NSW state election we conducted a campaign in Nepean Hospital against the Liberal opposition who had promised to move state workers over to the federal IR system.

Over six weeks we received 2000 signatures on our petition - that's 2000 conversations.

Radiographers and nurses didn't want to go onto the Federal IR system. We then had a billboard put up and drivers hooted when they went past.

When we went doorknocking, in every third house people said we know all about that, we work at Nepean Hospital�the hospital has 3500 workers.

After that we came up with [the idead of] collecting 100,000 signatures to present to Kevin Rudd [during the federal election campaign]."