[Marxism] election time in Oz

Stuart Munckton stuartmunckton at gmail.com
Tue Jul 20 01:49:06 MDT 2010

One other issue is Work Choices, a savage anti-worker set of laws pushed by
the conservative Liberal government that aroused strong opposition and was a
decisive factor in the 13-year-long Tory reign ending in 2007. Therre were
large demonstrations against it and the union movement, which is
overwhelngly tied to Labor, ran a strong campaign against it.

The Labor governmetn tinkered around the endges with it but kept most of it.
However,there is not much conscouisness of this int hepublc with a much
begin made of Labor "abolishing" it. Therefore Labor and the unions are
making a big deal of the threat to Work Choices coming back in if the Tories
win again - playing on very real and justified fears among working people.

That is a factor in the elections - with the Liberal leader making a meal of
the whole issue as he tried to ignore his longstanding support for these
polices and promise "Work Choices is dead, buried and cremated". In a silly
stunt, that made him look silly and dodgy, Liberal leader Tony Abbott even
signed a pledge on a sheet of paper that he would not bring Work Choices
back on a talk back radio show the other day.

Of course, the unions are silent on Labor keeping most of Work Choces, while
playing up the threat fromt he Liberals. this is even while one of the worst
aspects is kept - a building industry secret police targetting the
relatively militant building unions.

This body is so extreme it can call any member of the union into a secret
hearing *and the person called has no right to silence*. They can go to jail
for refusing to answer questions about a union meeting. It is also backed up
by the ability to levy crippling fines on individuals and the union as a

When workers have walked off the job over safetey concerns, this has been
targetted by this secret police force.

Labor has not abolished this and it is a sign of *how* tied to Labor the
unions are that they have largely rolled over on this issue. (in some small
breaks, the electricians union in Victoria voted to disaffiliate from Labor
and the building workers union in that state are supporting voting for the
Greens in the upper house).

This issue has been kept up as one that can;t be totally swept under the
carpet become  building worker from South Australia, Ark Tribe, off his own
bat refused to attend one of these witchhunting trials when he was called -
risking jail. (I know Ark Tribe sounds like a religious sect, but he is
actually a building worker...)

He was called before this body to answer questions about... a stop work
meeting over safety.

A number of workers die in construction and other industries in Australia
every year doe to poor safety and at absolute worse the bosses get a minor
fine - a dock worker just died at work last week, one of a number on the
wharves this year already, causing dockworkers to walk off the job across
the country.

Tribe had a court hearing today and there were marches of construction
workers around the country. There were about 3000 mostly building workers at
the rally I went to in Sydney, very militant and angry.

But from the stage, despite this being now Labor's policy, there was almost
no word of criticism of hte Labor government - we are now in an election
campaign after all.

Unlike other times, the speakers platform did not even have a Greens
politician on it - even though the Greens are opposed to the secret police
force. Instead they had a Labor senator and former manufatoring workers
union boss (who conspired with the bosses and right-wing media to smash  a
militant rank-and-file leadership in Victoria) telling the workers he spoke
up in the Labor politicians caucus in favour of abolishing the secret police

(The Labor senator in question, Doug Camreon, is totally opposed to
unionists going to jail - unless you were AMWU Victorian secretaray and
Socialist Alliance member Craig Johnston, who was jailed for nine months a
couple of years back thanks to a frame-up in which Cameron was complicit.)

So workers' rights is an issue in this election, but largely a defensive
mechanism for Labor and pro-Labor unions to attack the Tory opposition and
pointing out the threat that the Tories will be worse — even while the Labor
government does 95% the same as its predecessor.


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