||Issue No. 276||12 August 2005|
The Power of One
Interview: On Holiday
Unions: One Day Longer
Industrial: Never Mind the Bollocks
Politics: Spun Out
Economics: If the Grog Don't Get You ....
History: Taking a Stand
International: The Split
Legal: Pushing the Friendship
Poetry: Simple Subtractions
Review: Sydney Trashed
The Locker Room
Govt Has No Case
Logon to IR
Ears and Minds
Howard on the Couch
Kevin the Tool Man
Tom On Safety
The Power of One
For the Howard Government, there is now absolute power and a determination not to waste this once in a generation opportunity. After nine years in power, the PMs challenge is not how to get laws through a hostile Senate, but what policy he will steam roll into law.
It is sign of the obsessions and self-focus of the Howard Government that the three priority areas are: selling off what's left of Telstra ; wiping out student unionism and destroying workers rights.
The common theme of these three 'priorities' are that they are based on ideological fixations; they are deeply unpopular with the people and they were hardly mentioned at the last federal election.
There's another common theme that emerged in the first week of the new Parliament - the federal government has not done it's homework - it is giving every impression of having sat back since last year's election waiting to just waltz in and do to the Australian people what Julian McGaurin so eloquently did to the Senate this week.
On Telstra, they are arguing about how big a slush fund to give the bush to sell off the Nats; on VSU they are arguing about how big a slush fund to give the bush universities to sell off the Nats and on IR., they are just arguing and hoping the $20 million slush fund will be enough to convince Australians that taking away their work rights will make their life better. As Andrew Robb betrayed this week, deep down some are beginning to wonder whether this is possible.
As for the Nationals, the attention has focused on the fighting words of Barnaby Joyce; and the charming welcome his 'friends ' in the Liberal Party have given him. Who knows, he may be bought off or turn to water in the long run; but right now he is giving every indication of a politician who takes his responsibilities to his electorate seriously. A rare creature on either side of the House.
But the deeper concern for the Nats is that in these three issues the party may well be sowing the seeds of its own demise. Without the cross-bench Senators to save them the embarrassment, Nation al senators are being asked to act against the interests, values and express wishes of the people who have put them in power. Question is, can any amount of money save them from what they are about to do?
(As an aside; am I mad or does there currently appear to be more in common between Labor and the Nationals than the Liberals and the Nationals? Could this agenda actually create the first cracks in a seismic shift in the Australian polity?)
Then we have the new Family First senator; who has already dispelled any notion that the Howard Government will be able to take his vote for granted. How's this for a line from a Maiden Speech: "Where once the labour market respected the fact that workers had family responsibilities, today workers struggle to balance their paid work and family life."
We'll skip over the Greens and Democrats, who are only there to make up the numbers; although the play between the rising Greens and the ailing Dems could have a long-term impact on the political agenda.
Which brings us to Labor; finally in genuine Opposition after nine years as a government in exile. Will they use this new environment to free themselves of minutae and run with the people? Will they make use of the momentum being provided by the successful union campaign? Or will they get bogged down in the technical details and let another chance go by?
Sadly, the initial signs aren't good. Their determination to finesse a position on AWAs rather than oppose them outright, needlessly takes the sting out of their attack. Develop modern workplace policies by all means, but get the principles right.
So all the players enter this new arena with opportunities as well as threats; and I suspect that how these are addressed will have an impact, not just on the next election but the next 10 to 15 years.
How all these dynamics play out over the coming two years will have an enduring impact on the Australian way of life. And that's no game.
|Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue|
© 1999-2002 Workers Online