||Issue No. 288||04 November 2005|
Interview: Public Defender
Legal: Craig's Story
Unions: Wrong Way, Go Back
Politics: Queue Jumping
History: Iron Heel
Economics: Waging War
International: Under Pressure
Poetry: Billy Negotiates An AWA
Review: A Pertinent Proposition
The Locker Room
Truth in Advertising
What a Woman!
It's Not Pretty
No sooner had the legislation lobbed than the PM was diverting the media with talk of an imminent terror attack; and all eyes went straight to the birdie.
We are not denying the PM has some intelligence that needs to be addressed, although why he chose this moment to go public when he admits he had the briefing for a week, it does make you wonder.
And it would have been interesting if a single journalist had asked a question like: how many terror threats of this nature have crossed your desk in the past four years? And if he had said this is the first, then maybe we would be a bit less cynical.
At least we have the political dynamic of the next 18 months in stark relief. The Howard Government will use everything in its power to shift the focus to national security to divert attention from these nasty, extremist, ideologically driven laws.
How else can we describe a set of laws drafting by corporate laws that, in the name of deregulation, set out to criminalise industrial activity, give the government unprecedented power to impose its will on individual workplaces and strip the long-held rights of Australian workers.
There is no pretence of balance in the laws and, with the obscene government advertising campaign proving to be an absolute dud, the government knows that its chance of winning the IR debate is dead.
That's not the game now - there will be no meaningful IR debate -
Barnaby might huff and puff but the PM will place his jewel in the crown some time before Christmas. Then, barring a successful High Court challenge, the laws will take affect early in the New year. Then it will be on for young and old.
The political battle from this point will be to stake out the battleground between the major parties - and that will be about the government using its control of national defence agencies to keep security at the centre of politics.
For a government that has been prepared to lie and cheat to keep office - think Kids overboard, think interest rates - this is a relatively easy task; just keep tweaking the terror level up whenever things get sticky, aligning the election with a major threat - real or constructed.
The much harder task is the one confronting the labour movement - both its industrial and political wings - to hold the government accountable for these destructive laws.
This begins and ends with a simple premise: from today every member of the Howard Government is individually responsible for the worst behaviour of the worst employer.
As the excesses that these laws come to light, our job is to keep the spotlight on the victims and the heat on the villains, while developing a set of workplace rights with the capacity to rebuild from the social wreckage.
But we also need to blunt the Government's terror, supporting measures that are reasonable while having the courage to stand up to the gross abuses that this government will attempt in order to draw out a political advantage.
To thread this needle, we need to do more than duck and weave, we need to draw a consistent narrative between the attack on workers personal economic security and the threats to our external national security.
This narrative has at least two elements: first, that a fragmented society is the breeding ground of extremism and that these workplace laws will make our communities less cohesive. And secondly, a government prepared to fine and lock up workers for expressing their political and industrial views should not be trusted with our broader civil liberties.
What this week has confirmed are two things: there is nothing fair about the WorkChoices laws; and there will be nothing fair about the political fight to follow.
It's time to take the gloves off.
|Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue|
© 1999-2002 Workers Online