||Issue No. 313||30 June 2006|
Interview: Rock Solid
Industrial: Eight Simple Rules for Employing My Teenage Daughter
Politics: The Johnnie Code
Energy: Fission Fantasies
History: All The Way With Clarrie O'Shea
International: Closer to Home
Economics: Taking the Fizz
Unions: Stronger Together
Review: Montezuma's Revenge
Poetry: Fair Go Gone
The Locker Room
Dare To Dream
Better Get A Lawyer
The Last Laugh
This week the tone of the Prime Minister is particularly desperate - first trying to turn a Greg Combet joke into a threat to national security; then flailing around about how China would somehow stop buying resources from us.
The significance of this line of defence is that Howard has basically given up trying to convince anyone that the laws won't make workers worse off.
Instead, he is constructing his own scare campaign around the ALP's commitment to tear up the laws.
This scare campaign is built on a series of lies, lies that the PM is somehow being allowed to propagate without being forced to justify them.
First, the mantra that his IR laws are good for the economy. He says they create jobs - but no one asks him how. BIS Shrapnel was the latest independent analysts this week to brand this economic theory as the pure bunkum it is.
Secondly, the mantra of the 14 per cent real increase in wages under Howard. More than a year ago, Unions NSW released an academic analysis of that claim showing that when the top 10 per cent of income earners were removed from the equation, the picture was not so rosy. When you look at median wages, the results under Howard have been downright mediocre.
Third, the line that 'the sky didn't fall in when we made changes in 1996 even though the union movement said it would." The point, that not even the journos who were in Canberra at the time seem capable of challenging, is that the Senate blocked those changes because the government didn't have control.
What is it about Howard? Is it just that he is so boring that he induces catatonia in reporters? Surely any political reporter worth their salt would not be letting him rewrite history so brazenly.
Meanwhile, you have the head of the business lobby, ex-Reith staffer Peter Hendy, basically slipping on the jackboots and indulging in a sort of sneering commentary that belies his visceral hatred of the union movement.
If big business had any desire to win this debate the first thing they should be doing is sacking this creature - one dismissal we would all welcome.
There's a common element in all these responses - a reversion to ideology and dogma when faced with unpleasant truths.
It's almost a reversal of the position in which the ALP found itself in the death throes off the Keating Government. Back then it was a combination of economic fundamentalism and identity politics that rendered the government disconnected from the electorate.
Back then the bubble was burst by an Ipswich shopkeeper who struck a chord; this time around the union movement is putting a human face to an economic agenda that ignores people, minus the xenophobia.
But there are echoes of 1996 - the government has stopped talking about the people it represents - its reference point is now an abstract theory - and it is that, which gives me hope that this campaign will succeed.
Of course there's another player in the debate - a media that seems unwilling to report the debate with any level of objectivity.
In the case of the Murdoch press it is worse, particularly in the neo-con Australian, now a caricature of a newspaper - the reporting is brazenly designed to shape and win the debate, not chronicle it.
But the ABC, through timidity caused by an ongoing process of political bastardisation, and the Fairfax press through its complacency, are also playing into the federal government's hands by failing to nail it for the paucity of its arguments.
You end up shouting at the TV set - how can you let the assertions go unchallenged? How can the bogus stats, the economic voodoo and political revisionism be allowed to pass as a legitimate response?
Only the tabloid TV shows and talkback radio seem to be tapping the sentiment, perhaps a sign of the closer connection these models of newsgathering have to the grass roots.
This media bias is the wildcard and the great unknown of this debate - can a community move on a government despite the propaganda services being provided by large chunks of the media?
One things for sure, if WorkChoices rolls the Howard Government, it will also be a profound moment in the history of Australian media, a pricking of the bubble of influence with a dose of impotence.
In the meantime, we know we have the momentum spinning our way. We just have to keep it going.
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