Monday, November 12, 2007

10 reasons why I'm preferencing Labor at this election: Part 2

Previously, on QueerPenguin ...

8. WorkChoices/Work+life balance Even though this will probably be the issue that decides this election one way or another, the reason it's lower down on my list is that even though I was put onto an AWA after WorkChoices was rammed through, changes to my overall working and pay conditions were minimal - same shit, different contract to sign.

But I think at issue here is a fundamental difference in perspective between Labor and the Coalition regarding work generally. On the whole, Australians work very hard. We're renowned internationally for our hard work ethic and long hours. It's great that as a nation we're channelling so much productivity, but WorkChoices takes that enthusiasm too far, to the point of exploitation. Its overarching goals are firstly to lower the minimum wage in Australia so that we have an edge in the international labour force, and secondly to render unions completely redundant - John Howard's raison d'etre for his 33-year political career.

Of course, while we're cruising along the nice freeway of labour shortages and an upward wage-driving resources boom, plenty of individuals will be happy to negotiate themselves a cushy AWA - but I don't see this as sustainable in the long term, especially when the bough finally breaks. Service industries like nursing, teaching etc still rely on good collective bargaining for their basic work conditions and entitlements. Yes, union membership only accounts for around 20% of the overall work force, far less than under the Hawke glory days for the unions, but this doesn't mean they still don't have a place. Think of the key negotiating role both the ACTU and Unions NSW played in reaching a compensation agreement for victims in the James Hardie asbestos case. Under an unfettered Liberal government, unions would be neutered in this situation.

I don't say this as a particularly big fan of unions - I was a reluctant member of the SDA, the most right-wing, homophobic union in Australia, and saw absolute power corrupting absolutely an organisation that certainly wasn't representative of me or my interests. Likewise, I have first-hand experience of how quickly public sector unions abandon their members when it's politically expedient to do so. But just because unions don't always operate in practice as well as they should in principle does not mean they should be completely decimated.

I don't buy the Liberal scare campaign that the big evil union bosses will be in charge again under a Labor government - it's obvious Kevin Rudd has very few senior union friends - so I want to give them an opportunity to reprioritise, ideally to show that working long, hard hours to earn thousands of dollars to buy McMansions, gas-guzzling SUVs and plasma TVs and/or donate to Hillsong should not be the only goal to which all Australians should aspire.

This is the one election where voters actually have an opportunity to do what they should have been allowed to do last time - vote for or against WorkChoices. It only became a reality when the Coalition gained Senate control and the legislation was rammed through without any legitimate mandate. I firmly believe the hard economic warriors of the Liberal Party - Costello, Minchin etc - wish to take WorkChoices to its furthest possible extreme, and unlike this election people should be able to bear this in mind when they cast their vote. We were duped last time, but if we vote to keep the Howard/Costello government and its Senate majority in tact, we will only have ourselves to blame when WorkChoices is progressed to its natural extremity(ies).

7. Referenda on Republic and fixed elections This one is pretty self-explanatory. Both are exercises in democracy to which Howard is vehemently opposed. I believe the majority of people want both and should be allowed an opportunity to vote accordingly. Rudd is committed to both. Both will strengthen Australia's democracy, enhance our independence on the global stage and, perhaps most importantly, remove the pain of waiting for the PM in charge to capriciously determine when we go to vote according to the most favourable opinion poll. We now have fixed dates in most states and it's time for the Commonwealth (which hopefully won't be called the 'Commonwealth' much longer) to catch up.

The 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' argument against Australia severing ties with the monarchy is rubbish. The Australian Head of State should be Australian and should not be representing a redundant queen. I'll always have a soft spot for Lizzie #2 but I think Australia is all growed up now, that we can move out of her home and no longer be beholden to her in any way. The 1999 Republic referendum, which denied Australians the opportunity to express their genuine desires, highlighted that the majority of us did indeed wish to become a republic - we were just split on how to get there. I have major reservations about a directly-elected presidential model but I'd still much prefer this to the current alternative.

A lot of people are of the opinion that both these issues are just two of those things that will naturally sort themselves out - but don't seem to understand this won't happen until Howard is removed. Now's the time.

Coming up next on QP: 6 confronts 5, and sparks fly.

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At 17/11/07 8:31 am, Blogger Colin Campbell said...

It is a source of wonder to me that Australians haven't grasped their collective balls and become a Republic. What is the problem. If Ghana, a country with about the same population can do it, why not?


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