||Issue No. 170||14 March 2003|
Coke or Pepsi?
Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Interview: League of Nations
Industrial: 20/20 Hindsight
Organising: On The Buses
Unions: National Focus
History: The Banner Room
International: The Slaughter Continues
Legal: A Legal Case For War?
Culture: Singing For The People
Review: The Hours
Poetry: I Wanna Bomb Saddam
Satire: Diuretic Makes Warne's Excuses Look Thin
The Locker Room
A Plea for Legal Action
Johnny's Green Card
Veto The War
Law and Order
It was too good to last. A Liberal leader who actually believed in liberalism, standing to the Left of our centrist Premier and promising the status quo on industrial relations. His IR spokesman Mike Gallacher talked up his worker creds and promised that the NSW system would remain intact, testimony to the broad support of employers and employees after John Fahey's disastrous experiment in deregulation turned the state system into a dog's breakfast.
Then came the election campaign; where the lad with the big teeth struggled to gain any traction. As polls slipped, the corporate dollars dried up and the Libs reverted to type, and turned to the Right in a desperate bid to hold onto their heartland. It has not been a good campaign for young Jo-Bro. Carr has elevated campaigning to a new level, conquering the women's vote with magazine lift-outs and Helena's endorsement - "if I can put up with him, so can you"; trumping the Libs on education and health; and forcing the Libs so far out there on law and order that they appear to be frog-marching in colourful uniforms. And who could forget his wonderful own goal on drugs? Fuelled by mock outrage at the Greens' loosely worded harm minimisation strategy, the one time supporter of safe injecting rooms takes a stand by ... delivering Port Jackson to Labor.
Nowhere has the panic of a campaign off the rails been more obvious than in their policy on industrial relations. From a considered and minimalist position to a raving right manifesto that makes Tony Abbott look like a peace-maker. We wonder if they ever intended releasing it to the public (as opposed to a select corporate audience), until the Daily Telegraph's Matthew Denholm rang Gallacher and asked him what his policy was. Gallacher committed the ultimate political gaffe in a campaign - he told the truth. And what a truth he told - employees would have the 'right' to vote unions out of workplace agreements; providing employers with a mechanism to run US-style recognition ballots.
These types of ballots have been the bread and butter for US 'industrial consultants', brought into workplaces on a mission to de-unionise. In recent years it has also been the structure that has provided the spring-board for US unions' much-vaunted organising campaigns, strategic actions based around recognition ballots. Ironically, these have successfully re-invigorated many workplaces as union sites. But it does not mitigate against the basic contradiction to Liberal philosophy - the Brogden plan would actually strip union members of their right to be represented in negotiations. Neither does Brogden endorse the other side of the US recognition laws, the right of unions that win recognition ballots to levy bargaining fees for non-members, a necessary corollary of the free market ethos from the States.
Once the policy was outed, Brogden had the option of ruling it out or running dead. Instead he hit the airwaves singing the ultimate cliché of the Tory run out of ideas, the "union strongarm tactics" line. With no evidence to back his case he sounded like one of the counsel assisting the Cole Commission as he set up the straw 'union bully boy' and blew it down. It's the same lazy rhetoric that has seen his workers compensation policy attack 'compo cheats', raiding the funds of the industry health and safety schemes to harry injured workers.
Brogden came to the leadership promising to be a small 'l' liberal but under the pressure of a campaign he should never have expected to win, as he emerged as something altogether more odious: just another Tory opportunist prepared to kick workers when they've run out of all their other ideas.
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