||Issue No. 138||31 May 2002|
Interview: The Star Chamber
Politics: The Odd Couple
Media: Audiences Before Politics
International: The Off-Side Rule
Economics: The Fake Persuaders
History: Terror Tactics
Poetry: Food, Modified Food
Review: Spiderman Spins Out the US
Satire: England's World Cup Disaster: Star Hooligan Breaks Foot
Cole Suffers Credibility Crisis
Councils Armed To Drown Sweatshops
Bracks Crew Not Family Friendly
Waterfront Truth One Step Closer
Speedy Flow-On for NSW Workers
Star Sin-Binning Prompts Inquiry Call
New Chief Puts ABC Back In The Picture
Gravy Train Gets Richer For Max and Mates
Reward For Delegate Who Stood Up
Casino Workers Hit Mat Leave Jackpot
Drug Haul Sparks Security Warning
East Timor’s MPs Take Australia On
ACTU Officials Denied Visas Into Fiji
Commemorate 100 Years of Votes for Women
The Locker Room
Week in Review
In Defence of Latham
Swans A Pathetic Con-Job
Labor Council of NSW
The political orthodoxy has trade unions as the whipping boys of public discourse; backward looking thugs too consumed with their own power plays to offer anything meaningful to the community. A slow-moving target for any Tory with a wedge to wield.
But wait, something's wrong - the facts don't back the rhetoric. Labor Council polling consistently finds unions more popular than any political party, the only thing stopping a resurgence in union membership being employee fear (see Issue 103).
Those figures backed qualitative research conducted by the Liberal Party's official pollster Mark Textor that workers were "largely supportive of unions" with favourable attitudes driven by the need for security and self-esteem .
Meanwhile, the slide in union membership ends as many unions transform themselves into the sorts of grass-roots organizations that political partiers can only envy.
Even the CFMEU, targeted by Tony Abbott as the bully-boys of the movement, find massive support amongst their rank and file and a widely held belief that the Cole Royal Commission is just a political stunt.
It makes you wonder how out of touch the Canberra political cabal really is, caught up in a debate based on a false premise, that organized labour is a political liability.
That the Liberal Party would spend $60 million orchestrating such a witch-hunt is an outrage, albeit a predictable one. By choosing his target Abbott has set up an inquiry that will turn a blind eye on the real scandal in construction - the widespread rorting and evasion by phoenix companies.
But for the ALP to fall into this trap is a tragedy. As Neville Wran said at the NSW ALP State Conference last week, the union movement's involvement is what differentiates Labor from just another social democratic party.
The federal leadership may have the power to force through cuts to union influence on the Conference floor, they may have the pigheadedness to ignore resolutions the conference passes, but they fall into the trap of treating unions as a liability at their own risk.
A sobering statistic for both sides of politics from the CFMEU's survey of its rank and file: just 51 per cent would vote for the Labor Party if an election were held today. On the ground at least, the clichés of political discourse just don't wash anymore.
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