||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
Coke or Pepsi?
Both sides want you to believe they are tough on crime and support nurses and teachers; and they're spending millions telling you how they'll spend millions doing exactly what their focus groups tell them you want them to do. That's how modern marketing works.
Of course, the union movement is loyally backing the brand it created, though with an enthusiasm dimmed somewhat by the battle over workers compensation and stalled progress on key issues like labour hire, casualisation of the public sector and the thorny issue of rural rail.
Few unions are openly backing Labor; while union resources are committed to targeted seats with financial and logistical support, this is has become a love that cannot be spoken.
But despite the blandness of the campaign and the imperiousness of Labor's political leadership, the union movement offers its support and endorsement of the Carr Government with good reason.
As the Tories let slip in the heat of the election battle, a Coalition Government would attack unionised labour in a way never before contemplated in Australia through the use of 'union recognition ballots' which would strip members of the right to be represented by their union in wage negotiations.
Meanwhile, for all its faults, the Carr Government can point to a harmonious industrial relations framework that has delivered real benefits to the broader community, not least the oft-cited achievement of an Olympics delivered on time and under budget.
And, despite appearances, the Carr Government has pushed the envelope in the important area of purchasing policy, with landmark codes requiring the Department of Public Works and Services to look at a firm's industrial practices before awarding it lucrative contracts.
It's just that the government has been at pains to keep these good deeds out of the media for fear they may upset the corporate horses that are bankrolling the current advertising orgy.
It's this gap between genuine progress for working families and the carefully constructed public message that has made it hard for unions to sing this government's praises. In a battle for the middle ground, the best parts of Labor must remain hidden.
The temptation for unionists is to say a pox on both the big parties' houses and vote Green; but the only winner will be John Brogden and his radical IR agenda.
In contrast, a third term Carr Government will have the sort of political authority that few could command. The challenge for the broader labour movement will then be to build on the successes of term two to mould a Labor agenda we can be proud to support in four years time.
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