Daily Archives: June 23, 2010

From where does change come?

“Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground” — from ‘Fire and Rain’ by James Taylor.

We were reminded yesterday that the Australian people do not choose the Australian Prime Minister.

Kevin Rudd was elected as the member for Griffith by about 30 or 40 thousand people voting for him. The ALP won the 2007 election where Howard lost his own seat of Bennelong. It was the ALP parliamentary caucus that elected Kevin Rudd as leader of his party and then the Governor General (the Queens Representative) who made him Prime Minister. Similar machinations occur when the Liberal Party wins an election.

So why was Kevin Rudd, a former public servant in foreign affairs and in Qld government, sacked from the job of Prime Minister by his own party and replaced by Julia Gillard, a former industrial relations lawyer in the 1990s? Was it

A )  The Labor Government’s attempt to introduce a new Mining Tax?
B)   The failure of the house insulation scheme and the subsequent deaths of Australian Workers?
C )  The wastage of money in the building of school halls and libraries in the  ‘building education revolution’?
D )  The failure to introduce an Emissions Trading Scheme to slow down Climate Change?
E )  Increased interest rates on home mortgages that are sending working people into more and more debt so that the government can prop up the banking system?
F )  All of the above?

The Left has spent a lot of time and resources to change the ‘Kevin Rudd’ Labor Party on Palestine, on the environment, on the stolen generations, on union rights, on workers wages and conditions, on refugees  — but all this becomes a high risk strategy in the world of parliamentary politics. There is even doubt that the the elected parliamentarians are in control of the process of reform. For example, much of the tax review was left in the hands of Ken Henry and his bureaucrats.

‘Electorialist’ politics deliver dubious outcomes for those who wish to bring about fundamental change.

Perhaps it was the mining companies that got rid of a Prime Minister? Indigenous people know that the mining companies control their land. Home owners know that banks increase interest rates. And workers know that the means of production is in the hands of the bosses. Big corporations run the country

Only workers who produce the benefits we enjoy can change the world for the better. That is if you accept that society is run on class lines.

With this in mind it is workers we should be speaking and organising with.

The Labor government votes for laws that discriminate against workers. It set up the Australian Building and Construction Commission that ignores serious breaches of workplace safety (i.e. the faulty installation of insulation batts in homes) yet attempts to prosecute rank and file unionists for calling for a OH&S committee on a construction site at Flinders University in South Australia [the case of Ark Tribe].

ACTU Congress in Brisbane (2009)

The current Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, voted for these discriminatory laws that mean a worker can be jailed for refusing to dob in his union. So did Kevin Rudd [see Inside the ACTU].

A number of different responses by organised workers are possible:

1. Accept the IR legislation and the current system
This means seeking to reform the anti-union laws through parliament. This was tried with the Rudd government but failed. Now we are expected to accept Simon Crean as the replacement for Gillard. Crean is a former ACTU secretary who sold out the SEQEB workers in Qld by calling off a transport workers blockade against the Bjelke-Petersen government. Can we trust him during a recession not to use Industrial Relations laws against unionists like Ark Tribe?

2. Defy the laws in a piecemeal way

This is what the building unions have done with the Ark Tribe campaign. It has been effective in highlighting the nature of the ABCC but has resulted in activism confined to court wins (Noel Washington) with little change on the ground i.e. workers are still dying on construction and mining sites at the rate of one per week (says Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU)  federal secretary, Dave Noonan).

3. Defy the laws in a concerted campaign

This strategy presupposes the only weapon that workers have to stop the government and employers’ attacks is their unions’ industrial power. It recognises that union power based on collective bargaining is stronger than organisation based on enterprise bargaining. How to go about this is outlined in courses of action

Please incude comments below on how the organised Left should respond to these immediate challenges.

Ian Curr
June 2010


Inside the ACTU

After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet – courses of action

Gillard accused of soft line on Tel Aviv

Pro-Choice Action Collective update

Dear friends,

Please find attached a campaign newsletter from the Pro-Choice Action Collective – featuring reports about the growing national support for the campaign against the abortion charges in Cairns.

The trial date for the Cairns case has not yet been set, but we do know that on the Saturday before the trial there will be a national day of action to demand the dropping of the charges. We are appealing for support for the rally – please find attached a sign-on form to add your organisation to the list of supporters.

The Cairns couple has now faced over 18 months of being dragged through the legal system, media scrutiny and have had to put their lives on hold, facing the prospect of years in prison if the charges are upheld. This case threatens to destroy many more lives as women’s access to abortion is threatened. We cannot let this happen – which is why your support is needed now more than ever.

Please fill in the attached form and help spread the word. The Pro-Choice Action Collective can provide speakers and/or information about the case and the growing campaign – please get in contact if you are able to organise a meeting in your local area or with your organisation.

in solidarity,
Kathy Newnam
Pro-Choice Action Collective

Endorsement form – National Day of Action – Drop the abortion charges.pdf

Pro-Choice Action Collective newsletter.pdf