Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Note to Labor: Don't Delay, Possible Relevance On Its Way!

I was beginning to think a turn-up of half a million workers at yesterday's National Day of Protest - including 150,000 in Melbourne alone - was pretty encouraging.

Then I read the Ozzie's take on it and was assured that "old-fasioned unionism accomplished nothing". See, "the vast majority of Australia's workers were not united in protest. They ignored the strike and kept on working". Which I'm sure has nothing to do with the fact that many workers - myself included - feared fines, warnings or possible dismissal if they did actually take time off work to rock up. Since I'm not currently a member of a trade union (don't hate me, I don't know any legal editors who are), obviously "the industrial action by the shock troops of unionism...(and) their message did not mean much to the 75 per cent plus Australian workers who are not union members". On Planet Oz, if you're not a union member, you're automatically a Howard-lovin', free-market, IR deregulation patriot, just like 75% of the population. Clearly, you can only be one or the other.

Propaganda from the Daily Liberal Party Press Release notwithstanding, I see all this as a prime opportunity for Labor - finally - to credibly promote itself as an actual alternative to the government on something - anything. Robert Manne argues the point perfectly. Kym Beazley cannot be his usual soft-cocked self here. When campaigning for the 2007 election, he needs to commit Labor uneqivocally to repealing the Workplace Relations Act should his government win power. He needs to promise to restore the powers of the IRC, and not in some vague, "GST roll-back" sort of way. He needs to make Howard's agenda here clear to swinging voters - WorkChoices is not warm-fuzzies about employment choices, it's about destroying trade unions, Howard's 30-year political wet dream, and it's about lowering the minimum wage.

I'm currently reading Annabel Crabb's Losing It, which is indeed "the sort of 'alternative history' (of the Labor Party in post-1996 Opposition) you want alongside you as you're ploughing through the polemic and invective of 'The Latham Diaries', a touchstone of reality" - or, more simply, The Latham Diaries without Mark Latham's poisoned perspective. Anyway, reading the book you become depressingly aware of the current shambolic state of the federal Labor Party and how, without a Big Issue on which they can differentiate themselves, Howard will remain PM until he's 129 as Labor continues to implode.

Well kids, this is it. Like the magazine, take it to the streets and sell it. Give those aspirationals a reason to vote for you again. Then the rest of us won't have to suffer another decade of Howardism.

This is another reason why I didn't attend the rally yesterday. I know showing numbers is important, but I also know that Howard, even as the swinging populist he is, will not budge, even if there's the threat of losing votes. This is his legacy. This is what he wants to be remembered for. Friends of mine are saying he'll go out on this as he has nowhere left to go. I disagree - I think he now has his eye on the prize of surpassing Menzies as the longest-serving Australian PM - but it's certainly his most immediate potential jewel in the crown.

So I'm very resigned to this Bill passing parliament and becoming law. If it's going to be the sword on which this government falls, then unfortunately it's a necessary evil, as blue-collar workers who abandoned Labor for Howard get suitably fucked over and come crawling back to the party that, while exceptionally far from perfect, does not instantly respond with violent diarrhoea and vomiting upon hearing the phrases "worker solidarity" or "earning under 60k a year".

So bring it, I say.


At 16/11/05 11:27 am, Blogger JahTeh said...

I hate to say it but Beazley sounded almost like a leader yesterday.
As for those who didn't go, my sister is a nurse and couldn't leave her patients as there aren't enough nurses as it is and won't be in the future.
Lowering the minimum wage is a real worry as age and disability pensions are indexed to it. I think the age pension is now 25% of the minimum wage.


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