||Issue No. 217||23 April 2004|
Interview: Terror Australis
Unions: Graeme Beard's Second Dig
Industrial: The Hell of Troy
Organising: Miners Strike Gold
Economics: The Accepted Wisdom
History: Vicious Old Lady
International: Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Review: War Unfogged
The Locker Room
Mark Textor is the man who masterminded three federal election victories, the author of the mandatory detention strategy that kept the CLP in power in the Northern Territory for so many years and, infamously, the Tampa election.
Textor's job is not just to chart voter preferences, but also to understand the values driving those opinions. And his message is that many of the accepted wisdoms that drive union campaigns are becoming out-moded.
Most notably, Textor argues that the public has moved on from anger at globalisation to something more complex: as consumers they benefit, as citizens they feel disenfranchised; on the one hand they benefit from DVDs and cheap sneekers, on the other they have a vote worth less and less.
The issues that resonate are those that speak to this lack of civic control - the USA's decision to place import restrictions on Australian lamb, the chase of the illegal Patagonian tooth fish thieves and, the Tampa.
But they recognise that anger is no longer enough - the outrage with excessive corporate pay, for example, has subsided in the past year; replaced by a demand that these corporate giants earn their money by building sustainable industries and providing shareholders with real democracy
For unions, the message is that anger is no longer enough - campaigns need to include realistic solutions - be they leveraging shareholder power through super funds or lobbying government for achievable work and family measures.
Another of Textor's messages is that in the post-September 11 environment, the very notion of 'security' has changed - and has almost become a term devoid of meaning. How can we, after all, equate the desire for a sustainable job with the fear of being blown away by terrorists. It may be time for a rethink on our language here.
But most potent was this Liberal guru's spin on atttitudes to unions.
First the double-egded sword. People see unions as a big brother - who will be there to help them at work; but might act in their own interests - or worse bully them - in their down time. The idea that members are the union has just not got through to the punters.
The good news is that in this age of Terror, Textor sees people taking comfort in established institutions - the rule of law, government regulation, the family, the community. And unions are there too.
The challenge is that hand in hand with the desire for institutional stability is an equal desire for individuals to take control of their own destiny. For unions, this means taking on a role as supporter, advocate and work coach, rather than presuming to speak for members in all their diversity
What makes Textor's analysis fascinating is that it comes from an observer on the opposite side of the political divide - a man who has made an administration that sees itself as the union movement's mortal enemy.
But, if even from this perspective, there is a place for unions, then the future can not be all gloom and doom.
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