Jun 212007

Union crackdown no gimmick
I’m reminded of a knock-knock joke my dear Mother taught me when I was just old enough to appreciate humour but too young to understand what double entendre meant.

Knock! Knock!
Who’s there?
Isabelle who?
Is a bell necessary on a bike?

Boom-boom! An oldie, but judging by the reaction of my grand-daughter, still a goodie.
I’m reminded because Kevin Rudd seems vowed and declared to distance the modern day ALP from the Union movement in this country as quickly and as surgically as is humanly possible. Probably a sensible tack, given the foolishness of some Union representatives. I’m driven to ask though, does he really have anything to be concerned about? A couple of morons said ‘Fuck!’ in front of a camera. So what! I strongly suspect this ‘zero tolerance’ policy to violence in the workplace is a simple knee-jerk reaction to a perception by Labor that the Howardians might fashion a blunt instrument from the performances of such luminaries as Dean Mighell and Joe McDonald. Well, fashion the blunt instrument they have. It’s called Joe Hockey, but just what can the government make of these buffoons showing the public just who they are? Not a whole lot in my estimation. If Rudd and his advisors see political distress in these antics, then the ALP is not the ALP that I grew up believing in.
Not that I’m condoning clowns like Messrs McDonald and Mighell, but let’s be serious for a moment, and admit that these people exist, and not only in the Union movement. They exist in all avenues of the workforce, indeed, everyday life. So, Joe McDonald wouldn’t leave the business premises he’d been instructed to vacate. Big deal. Call the police, have him forcibly evicted and charged with trespass. Problem solved. The Mighell scenario might have been subtly different, but I’m not fully around that issue so won’t comment. In the final wash, I repeat, so what?! As the head of NSW Unions quite rightly stated on Radio National this morning, Unions have never been and never will be a political force in this country. Neither does the movement desire to be. It’s only the conservatives who would have us all believe that because it suits their political purposes. Again, just fear and loathing. That’s conservatism. Attack that which you don’t understand and cannot ideologically countenance, as an agent for denigration of lifestyle. What conservatism doesn’t understand is that Unionism, in the main, has engendered the lifestyle conservatism says it is now endangering. I certainly don’t believe the Union movement engages in self-mutilation, and don’t seriously believe many other Australians do either.
Boofheaded Union officials aside, just what damage does Labor envisage from its Union movement roots? Conservative bad-mouthing, and that’s about it. Sticks and stones may break political bones, but baseless inferences cannot never bring a government down, nor in my view effectively damage a potential government on the rise. Expulsion of the McDonalds and Mighells from the Labor Party for behaviour which has been part and parcel – rightly or wrongly – of the Union movement for well over 100 years, is never likely to make or break public opinion. Yes, I’d agree that some behavioural change may well be appropriate, especially in these ‘enlightened’ times, but I fail to see how that change is likely to be effected by the party, which grew out of those very same behavioural roots, expelling those members which it sees as no longer socially acceptable.
Labor and more particularly Kevin Rudd, needs to realise and accept the history of the party and where it grew from. Certainly, create a political distance from the Union movement. That’s sensible and appropriate, especially in a country which, by dint of its overwhelmingly conservative demographic, simply won’t understand nor tolerate buffoons and idiots on any level. I’m a rusted-on Labor supporter, but most definitely will not condone the antics of the recently departed from the parties ranks. Not because their behaviour was violent because plainly, it wasn’t. It was crude, thuggish and devoutly unprofessional. The Union movement has moved beyond those 1930’s era tactics.
My stance is a simple one. It’s not the Party which ought to be meting out due justice to these reprobates. It’s the movement they claim to represent which has that responsibility. Politics is politics and workers rights are workers rights and never the twain ought to meet. Again, as the head of NSW Unions inferred this morning, if and when Labor takes government, it’s a given that the Union movement will have issues with some elements of Labor policy, just as it has issues with conservative policy. It’s the way of things. For far too long the ALP has allowed itself to be held to account for the activities and ethics of the Union movement. This pseudo-burden of implied guilt over the supposed cheek-by-jowl allegiance Labor owes to Unionism needs to be cast off. It’s not real and never was. It’s only convenient for those who need it to be so.
So, back to the knock-knock. Is Union allegiance necessary to a successful Labor government? Can a bicycle still be ridden if it doesn’t have a bell?

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