|Issue No 92||20 April 2001|
The Bunny or the Swamp-Fox?
Watching the State Opposition sniff around the workers compensation issue this week has been like watching a small, furry animal on heat. The question is, what sort of animal does Chris Hartcher most resemble?
As Della cops the heat for his compo reforms, the Liberals have been trying to stay in the corner hoping no-one will notice that the whole mess is their fault. Yep, in 1992 when the scheme was looking peachy Premier John Fahey and his IR Minister Kerry Chikarovski absolutely botched an actuarial surplus through serial boondoggling. The scheme has been hurting ever since.
The Libs have another incentive to shut up as anger turns on the Government. At the end of the day the Libs would support something a whole lot nastier than the Della Bosca package. That's not to say this one is good, just that their's would be worse.
The disciplined silence has allowed some members of the Coalition to inform themselves about the issue. John Ryan and Brad Hazzard, have given every indication that they want to understand the trade union movements' issue - without seeking political points.
Not so Chris Hartcher - who with mate and shadow IR spokesman Michael Gallagher - attended the Parliament House workers' forum the other week for precisely as long as it took to sign the attendance book.
Then this week, Hartcher could contain himself no longer and stormed into print in the Fin claiming that the day's ALP argy-bargy amounted to a "constitutional crisis". It' s not saying much but as a legal expert he makes an excellent politician.
By the end of the week he had turned conspiracy theorist: turning the rolling campaign of industrial action into a charade and accusing Costa of a conflict of interest - "a poacher about to join the game-keepers".
It was all opportunist and facile. In other words, vintage NSW Libs.
Hartcher has previously come to our attention, where the Premier's dubbed him the 'Swamp-fox' in State Parliament, partly in reference to his mono-tonal baying, partly because he continues to defy the Liberal tradition of meritocracy by eyeing off the leadership and waiting to snap his prey.
But we at Workers Online have known him for years as the 'Bunny in the Headlights' which was the demeanor he took the last time he forayed into workers compensation policy.
For those who don't remember, one of the packages of incremental reforms brought through by Jeff Shaw after (Della's office, please note) full consultation with the trade union movement included special provisions for miners - arguably the most at risk class of worker in the economy.
AS IR spokesman Hartcher had carriage of this piece of legislation and - after a couple of snifters with the Minerals Council - decided these provisions should be removed. Using his brilliant skills of persuasion he convinced a majority of the phalanx of cross-benchers that this was a good idea.
For a few short minutes Hartcher celebrated his brilliant play, until it was pointed out to him that the funeral for the miners tragically killed in the Gretley disaster was being held the very next day. What followed is perhaps the first ever statewide mining stoppage against a State Opposition. The Government could only sit back while the Liberals faced a barrage of outrage and anger from bereaving relatives.
In what was later conceded by embattled leader Peter Collins as the low-point of 1996 (the beginning of the end?) Chris Hartcher earned his nickname with a string of wooden, yet doey-eyed performance that went very close to drawing universal sympathy. Like a bunny in the headlights.
Having charted his career, one can only hope Hartcher bites back this week to give his own personal take on Kamikaze politics. Swamp-fox or bunny, it's irrelevant. This man is a Class A Tool.
Interview: Beyond the Accord
Simon Crean cut his teeth in the trade union movement, now he's gearing up to run the economy.
Politics: In Defence of Della’s List
The proposition that trade unions should ask members of the ALP for a commitment that they uphold Party policy should hardly be controversial.
Corporate: The Real Rorters
The unspoken sore of the WorkCover Scheme is non-compliance by employers. None more so that in the construction industry, as this CFMEU paper details.
Legal: In the Real World
Lawyer Ross Goodridge exposes the defficincies in the new medical assessment guidelines for workers compensation by looking at real case studies.
International: The Docklands and Global Labour
Ma Wei Pin and Jasper Goss recount how the struggle of a group of Indonesian hotel workers effected a lucrative Melbourne contract.
History: Sweatshops in America
Since the dawning of the Industrial Revolution, many generations of Americans have toiled in sweatshops.
Unions: Losers Never Start
At the end of her six week vigil, Grenadier delegate Michelle Booth gave her heartfelt thanks to the trade union movement.
Review: Working Classes: Global Realities
The Socialist Register 2001 looks at class realities and the lives of workers in the new century.
Satire: Democrats Change Leader
The Democrats have a new leader after belatedly discovering that Meg Lees had become the second Democrats leader in a row to defect to another party.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005