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John Passant

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June 2009
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Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
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Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

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Rudd Labor: anti-union to its rotting core

For building workers it is work choices all over. 

Rudd Labor will keep the draconian and repressive powers of John Howard’s Australian Building and Construction Commission.  It will move the body to Fair Work Australia.

Here is what John wrote in December last year about Rudd’s Work Choices, and the ABCC in particular:

Finally the Government is folding in the Australian Building and Construction Commission into Fair Work Australia from 1 January 2010.  The ABCC has powers that are draconian and do not apply in any other industry.  Building and construction workers should be treated like every other worker.

The reason for the existence of the ABCC is not to clean up the industry – no successful prosecutions of workers came out of the Cole Royal Commission – but to tame militant building unions from winning better pay and conditions.

So Rudd’s Work Choices will keep this abomination till 1 January 2010.  But folding it into another body is not abolishing it.  It is merely changing its name.  So the ABCC will continue to harass and bully and possibly jail workers in the building industry.  

Abolish it, not keep it.

This Labor Government is on the side of the bosses generally and building bosses – hardly saints – in particular.

As one Labor left winger remarked, the ABCC has nothing to do with stopping thuggery – that’s the role of police.  The ABCC enforces industrial laws, including ‘unauthorised’ safety stoppages. 

Not testifying before the ABCC kangaroo court (my apologies to kangaroos) can see a building worker jailed for 6 months.

Even the cops don’t have these powers. 

In the year before the ABCC began operation, there were no deaths on building sites in Victoria.  Last year there were ten. 

Without strong unions able to penalise bosses for slack safety standards – which is what the ABCC prevents – more will die.

The much quoted Wilcox report, used to justify this ongoing attack on building workers, makes not one mention of safety in its diatribe against building workers. 

Some on the left of the ALP, like Senator Doug Cameron, a former union leader, have condemned these Rudd Labor anti-worker laws.

Caucus has rolled him and the rest of the Left fighting against the ABCC. This means those ALP members opposed to these laws (including my own Labor senator, Kate Lundy) will vote for them in Parliament.

One of the  favourite arguments of the Labor Left has been that at least being in the ALP puts you in a position of power, able to influence Labor Government outcomes.

Afghanistan, the racist Northern Territory intervention, the untrammeled power of banks, the pro-business, pro-polluter Emissions Trading Scheme,  and now Rudd and Gillard’s Work Choices, all show that this is at best self delusion and at worst a lie.

The Labor Left gives cover the reactionaries in charge of the ALP.

And often that Left moves to the right to accommodate being in power.  John Faulkner, Lindsay Tanner, and the person leading the charge against unions, Julia Gillard, are all from the Labor Left.

How much better it would be to have socialists currently in the ALP leave and join with the revolutionary and radical left in fighting against Rudd Labor, not providing protection for him and the conservatives who dominate the party.

Even if this is unrealistic, it makes a lot of sense for a united front of all the left uniting to fight against the ABCC in the streets and workplaces. (I accept the revolutionary left does not have the ability to mobilise thousands in the streets and I suspect the Labor left on its own doesn’t either.  But the Left unions do.)

Rudd Labor is rushing this legislation through before the ALP’s National Conference.  So that talkfest will be as useless as ever in forcing through change in the interests of workers.

Is there a solution to this bosses’ attack on building workers?  I think what John wrote six months ago in Rudd’s Work Choices is apt:

In 1969 left wing unions organised rolling general strikes (especially  in Victoria) after John Kerr jailed Clarrie O’Shea from the Tramways Union for refusing to pay fines imposed for industrial action.  After 5 days a mysterious benefactor paid the fines. The strikes shut down major industries. The bosses were too scared to use the penal powers and they became a dead letter for a decade.

That’s the way to defeat Rudd’s Work Choices.

There have been stirrings on building sites about using industrial action to defend workers attacked by the ABCC.  Let’s help build that into a groundswell of industrial opposition to the ABCC and see the building unions drive this battering ram of the bosses into the dust.



Comment from Earth
Time June 22, 2009 at 11:21 am

I am a strong supporter of Howard’s laws controlling these unions because I have met and listened to what has been said. One such fella had to move away and change the names of his family.

His crime was not agreeing with a motion the building union was pushing where even after being a good union man, they turned on him by giving his wife threats of rape and murder. They threw bricks through the bedroom window where they knew a baby was sleeping.

Were I the Prime Minister, I would have illegalised this union and ban all members from joining any workers movement whatsoever. It is that corrupt.