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John Passant

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October 2009



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Defend Ark Tribe: defend the right to strike

Ark Tribe is  a building worker. He and other unionists held a lunchtime meeting over safety issues.

They drafted their concerns on hand towels and took industrial action. The safety concerns were eventually addressed.

Enter Kevin Rudd’s Australian Building and Construction Commission.  This Spanish Inquisition wanted to know what the unionists had discussed at the lunchtime meeting.

They demanded Ark attend a hearing to tell them what the workers discussed. He refused.

It is an offence to refuse to attend ABCC hearings or to refuse to answer their questions. The penalty is six months jail.

What is the ABCC? John Howard set up this draconian body to smash the building unions, almost the last vestige of any militancy in unions in Australia.

The building industry is a brutal one.  Unions have won better wages and conditions, and better safety, only through a long history of industrial action against the bastard bosses.

Labor’s Workchoices Lite has kept the ABCC.

From 1 February 2010 Labor’s ABCC will be called the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate.  Changing a body’s name doesn’t change its functions.

Julia Gillard paints this anti-union body as an attack on ‘thuggery’ in the building industry.  Here is what our ‘left-wing’ the deputy Labor Prime Minister said:

The Rudd government is determined to encourage lawful behaviour and a change in the culture of the building and construction industry.

This is exactly the argument John Howard used.

The Cole Royal Commission recommended setting up the ABCC to quash this supposed ‘lawlessness’. It recommended prosecutions begin.

And how many successful Cole prosecution have there been of unionists? None. 

How could that be?  Because it’s all rubbish. 

If there was all this lawlessness and thuggery the police would be all over it.  They aren’t and there isn’t.  

The ABCC’s real task is to stop strikes.  Gillard spelled this out when she said:

The Rudd government’s new Fair Work Act ensures that industrial disputes are governed by clear, tough rules. Under Fair Work, industrial action will only be protected during bargaining and if it has been authorised by a mandatory secret ballot.

Under Rudd Labor, strikes are illegal unless they occur in certain limited circumstances of the type Gillard has outlined.

The building unions’ long history of industrial action to defend lives and jobs, and win better wages, would threaten the whole edifice of strike suppression both the Liberals and Labor support.

So the ABCC has draconian powers, not to stop non-existent thuggery, but to stop strikes.

This means building workers now often don’t take action over safety.

In the year before the ABCC was set up there were no deaths on sites in Victoria.  Last year there were ten.

The ABCC is part of a wider ongoing  Government attack on workers and their right to strike. 

Unions have meekly paid millions upon millions in fines for striking (often wildcats over safety.) 

So we have fines and jail for workers undertaking a basic human right, the right to strike.

In 1969 a group of 27 left wing unions went on strike across the country to have Clarrie O’Shea, jailed by John Kerr over fines, released from jail. 

He was, and the penal powers became a dead letter. The bosses were too afraid to use them.

We might be heading for another showdown. As Dave Noonan, head of the building workers’ union, the CFMEU, said:

If someone is jailed under these laws, there will be mass industrial action.

The peak trade union body, the ACTU, has given verbal support. But to defeat these laws may require more than building workers shutting down the industry.

Even now it is not clear that the leadership of the CFMEU  is really prepared to even go that far on this, but the pressure from their rank and file may hopefully be forcing them to threaten industrial action. 

The demonstrations on 30 October when Ark appeared before the magistrates court were a good first step in the fight for the right to strike. (The hearing was postponed to 18 December, the beginning I believe of the building industry 6 week shut down over Christmas.)

The demonstrations are only the first step.

The issue is too important to leave in the hands of the trade union leadership. 

It has to be the rank and file running this to take the struggle forward and prevent only a tokenistic response to the possible jailing of Ark.

If the ABCC and their Labor masters can get away with jailing Ark and beating the CFMEU we face a prolonged period of reaction in Australia and the complete dominance of capital over labour in not only the building industry but every industry in Australia.

Is the  rank and file prepared to push the struggle for the right to strike all the way, and bring in members of other unions on and off building sites across Australia?

If so, we could see a re-run of 1969, with Rudd’s anti-union laws destroyed.

If not then Ark and many others who will surely follow should get ready for 6 months in jail for talking about industrial action.



Pingback from En Passant » Defend Ark Tribe: defend the right to strike « Blogging
Time October 31, 2009 at 10:25 am

[…] Read the original:  En Passant » Defend Ark Tribe: defend the right to strike […]

Comment from Marco
Time October 31, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Ok, John, I’m willing to help.
Tell me anything useful I can do.

Comment from John
Time October 31, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Thanks Marco. Depends on your circumstances. Building workers need to build a rank and file organisation that takes the running on the immediate issue of Ark’s possible jailing and the more general one of the right to strike. Read rights on site ( which has links to Ark’s case. Send support messages to Ark. Join the demonstrations for Ark if possible and get others along if possible. (There was one on 30 October in Adelaide where he appeared, and one in Sydney, to name two I know of.) His next hearing is 18 December so I assume there will be demos then. The building unions have also been holding information nights. Go along to them if they are still being held.

Pingback from Blogging – En Passant » Defend Ark Tribe: defend the right to strike
Time November 7, 2009 at 5:39 pm

[…] Read the rest here:  En Passant » Defend Ark Tribe: defend the right to strike […]

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