|Issue No 29||03 September 1999|
Damned If You Do, Damned If You Donít
Kim Beazley, Arch Bevis and the rest of the federal ALP have copped some heat in the past week for cutting a deal with Peter Reith over youth wages - trade unions, the Democrats, students and fair minded people everywhere.
But the last people they would have expected to jump into the ring were Peter Reith's conservative cheer squad who have railed so long and hard against the notion that it may be discriminatory to structure a wages system on the basis of age.
Think again boys. When it comes to the choice between approving a policy position you have previously advocated and scenting some blood from your political enemies, they will always go in for the kill.
Take Piers' work this week. It may have been contradictory, transparent, bitter and twisted but it is a warning to Labor of the dangers of pandering to a right-wing media - because even when they agree with you, they won't.
A far as Piers is concerned, the youth wages deal is not just about the issue of whether or not you should be paid according to your age, but a repudiation of 100 years of Labor. By cutting one deal, all principle is now dead.
"After years of thinking that federal Labor actually stood for something we learn that it stood for nothing," Piers trumpets.
"Its policies were foistered upon it by thugs and brutes, bullies and naysayers from the left before it capitulated and obsequiously fell into line." We think he's talking about us.
But he doesn't stop there. He manages to bring in the idea that this supposed repudiation of history leaves labour's traditional social justice base disenfranchised. Railing against "the basket-weavers and thespians" who "baaed and bleated their support for Labor during recent elections".
We think he's referring to the myriad of groups who have publicly backed Labor in the Nineties, largely because of their progressive and tolerant social policies which have stood in stark contrast to the cynical wedge politics of their opponents.
He concludes by predicting Beazley's total overhaul of Labor policy, although to where is unclear, given he concludes by regurgitating Neal Blewett's recent reference to the Opposition leader's timidity.
It's a classic debating tactic - build the straw man then blow him down.
Of course,. there's a more interesting analysis that Piers ignores - the innate tension between a Party founded on ideals and the reality of daily politics. And at a time when the union movement is transforming, the challenge for its political arm is even greater.
A conflict over an issue like youth wages is newsworthy because it highlights these changing priorities. In the absence of an Accord arrangement, the fluidity of the labour movement's political and industrial ties will continue to shift - although always within a framework of the recognition of mutual interest.
It's an issue ripe for a searching analysis. Pity it was left to Piers to do the job.
Activists: Virtually Here - Eric Lee
From the Kibbutz to cyberspace, Andrew Casey profiles the work of an Internet class warrior.
Interview: Net Benefits
Sean Kidney has been combining business savvy with social justice for more than a decade. He gives us his take on unions and the Net.
International: Dateline Dili
As the United Nations attempts to begin counting the votes from East Timorís independence referendum, the capital Dili is rapidly spiralling out of control.
Unions: Secret Herbs and Spices
Read KFC worker Claire Hamilton's speech to last week's Second Wave Rally.
Politics: Loosening Laborís Links?
Is Labor under Kim Beazley fundamentally changing its social appeal and turning itself into the Australian equivalent of Bill Clintonís Democrats?
Labour Review: What's New at the Information Centre
Our regular update on papers and articles for union officials and students.
History: Immigration, Racism and the Labour Movement
An upcoming conference asks some hard questions about the politics of immigration.
Satire: Crime Figures Down: NSW Elections Postponed
The release of statistics showing decreasing crime rates has threatened to delay the next NSW election.
Review: Trains of Treasure
A new CD of poems and songs pays tribute to our rich locomotive history.
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