Cutting through the bullshit.

Sunday 25 November 2007

Ding dong

Eleven long, dark years of Liberal (read Thatcherite) rule have come to an end. Today we can look forward to a bright new dawn of Australian Labor Party (read Thatcherite) government. Triumphant ALP leader, Kevin Rudd, has, after all, proclaimed himself an ‘economic conservative’. In his victory speech, Rudd asserted ‘I will be a prime minister for all Australians’. And there’s no mystery about what he means by that – his government will work for the ‘national interest’ - profitabilty of Australian business – ‘it’s the economy, stupid’, a rising tide lifts all boats, prosperity trickles down…

[AFP photo]

For the past six weeks, the Liberal Party has bombarded us with adverts proclaiming that 70% of the Rudd front bench will comprise ‘anti business’ former union officials. You’d expect the Labor Party to have countered by pointing out that 100% of the Liberal front bench comprises people not with historical links to the labour movement, but with current, active, real, material vested interests in businesses. I surmise the reason this never happened was that those union thugs themselves have business interests of their own.

When Bob Hawke led the ALP to victory in 1983, the received wisdom was that because of the links between the ALP and the union movement, organised labour would tolerate attacks by an ALP government that we would never have tolerated from the Liberals. That turned out to be correct. It was the ALP that over the following 13 years proceeded to tame the union movement through its Prices and Incomes Accord, offering the union officials the seat at the bargaining table they’d always coveted. Rank and file union activity came to a virtual standstill, while the government smashed the militant Builders’ Labourers’ Federation, privatised Qantas, the Commonwealth Bank, and many other publicly owned services. It was the Hawke and Keating Labor governments that introduced ‘enterprise bargaining’, which precluded workers organising on an industry wide basis and forced us to reach agreements from a position of weakness on a workplace by workplace basis. This smashed down the door and strew rose petals in the path of Howard’s ‘Workplace Relations’ agenda that eviscerated minimum award pay and conditions, marginalised unions, and forced many to work under inferior non union ‘certified agreements’ and individual contracts.

Almost everybody associates the atrocity of detaining refugees in remote concentration camps with the Howard government. In reality, it was ALP left winger, Gerry Hand, who as Minister of Immigration in the Keating government introduced mandatory detention in 1992.

The union officials have been running a campaign under the slogan, ‘Your rights at work – worth fighting and voting for!’ It goes without saying that the bit about fighting is just empty rhetoric. All industrial issues have been unceremoniously relegated to the back burner while they devoted their efforts to the electoral campaign. Now that the election is over, there is little cause for optimism either that a Rudd government will implement radical changes to industrial relations or that the unions will mount the kind of fight that can win such changes. With union membership at an all time low of about 20% and Australian working class militancy a dim memory, it’s still going to be up to us to act in our own interests and win back our rights at work.

But all is not gloom and doom. The silver lining is that the incumbent PM, the execrable John Howard, W’s ‘deputy sherriff’ in the Pacific, appears to have made history as the first sittiing Prime Minister to lose his own seat since Stanley Bruce in the 1929 Federal election. The latest results, with one booth left to count, show former ABC journalist Maxine McKew, held a lead of 51.84% on a two party preferred basis. The Liberal pundits on tv last night warned against writing Howard off too soon, projecting that uncounted postal votes could deliver an extra percentage point to Howard, but McKew’s lead is big enough to accommodate that, even if it eventuates.

May he enjoy a very uncomfortable retirement.,


  1. Lenin's insightful analysis: