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John Passant

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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)



The Construction Union – stirrings against Labor?

John went to a CFMEU activist meeting on Thursday in Canberra.  There were about 120 people there, including members of other unions and ALP members.

Speakers included the CFMEU SA state secretary Martin O’Malley, the national secretary Dave Noonan, the local secretary Sarah Schoonwater and academics Humphrey McQueen, John Buchanan and George Williams.

There was a good video (available on rightsonsite) about the criminal proceedings against Ark Tribe, a CFMEU member in South Australia.  Here is what rightsonsite says about Ark’s case:

Ark Tribe is a construction worker from South Australia facing six months in jail. He has been charged with not attending an interview with the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

Ark was working on the Flinders University site in Adelaide. Conditions were so bad that workers drew up a petition calling for safety improvements, on a handtowel. It took an intervention by the union and the state government safety regulator to get the most pressing problems fixed and finally, after several days, things began to get back on track.

One by one workers from the site were called before the ABCC. The penalties for those who don’t cooperate with ABCC investigations are frightening – fines of up to $22,000 for things like stopping work to make sure workers are safe and jail for up to 6 months if you don’t answer their questions.

Even the police don’t have the powers the ABCC have. In Ark’s words, “If I’ve done something wrong, I’m prepared to cop it, but I won’t be treated unfairly.” We need to get the Rudd Labor Government to get rid of these laws, before another construction worker faces jail.

So opposition to Labor possibly jailing a unionist for union activity was what got everyone together at the meeting.

Most of the talk was about outreach to the community, telling them what was really happening and how draconian the ABCC laws were.

Dave Noonan, the national secretary, spoke about industrial action if Ark Tribe is jailed.

John spoke towards the end of the meeting about an injury to one being an injury to all and that that was why he was there. 

John stressed that these were Labor’s laws, that lobbying MPs and passing motions at the ALP national conference wasn’t going to change a thing and that cutting off profit to the bosses was the way to force them and the Government to back down.

Others had mentioned Clarrie O’Shea’s jailing in 1969 and the strikes across Australia that saw him released and made the penal powers a dead letter.  But the conclusion they drew was that those were different times and so strikes weren’t possible.

John rejected this, saying in fact that workers’ anger coupled with leadership saw the penal powers defeated and the same anger existed today about Labor’s laws, designed specifically to smash one of the main unions prepared to stand up for its  members.

There was an undercurrent among the workers there of wanting an answer about what to do, and John seemed to have filled the gap, at least rhetorically.

Unions ACT leader Kim Sattler talked about not rushing off and being picked off by the ABCC but being disciplined and united. This is code for ‘don’t take industrial action and follow the orders of your leaders’.

While the support John got might have been satisfying personally, it showed that there was no organised oppositional group or even anyone thinking along those organised lines within the union.

Unless such a group develops to challenge the ‘lobbying not strikes’ approach of the leaders of most unions across Australia, the campaign may well peter out or end up in the dead end of advertising.

Nevertheless there was a strong sense of disquiet with the ALP and the possibility of Labor jailing Ark.  The task now is to build on that anger and turn it into action. 

As John argued, the bosses only understand one thing.  Cut off the flow of profits and they can be forced to back down.

If you don’t fight you lose.

For an analysis of why Labor’s Fair Work Australia is Work Choices Lite, read John’s December 2008 article Rudd’s Work Choices.


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