||Year End 2002|
Interview: Taking Stock
Bad Boss: Pushing the Envelope
Unions: The Year That Was
Republic: Still Fighting
International: Global Ties, Global Binds
Politics: Turning Green
Technology: Unions Online 2002
Industrial: The Past Is Before Us
Economics: Market Insecurity
Review: Shooting for Sanity
Poetry: The PM's Christmas Message
Culture: Zanger's Sounds of Summer
The Locker Room
Vale: Phil Berrigan
Anita Ceravolo is a young trade unionist hoping to tear another strip off labour movement support for the Labor Party when NSW goes to the polls in the New Year.
The 24-year-old personal assistant to CFMEU assistant secretary Brian Parker represents a trend that must have Labor Party powerbrokers scratching their heads. She won't just vote Green in March she will contest Bligh, held by Independent Clover Moore, for a Party luring away chunks of Labor's core constituency.
And she will do it with a policy program that sounds much more familiar to labour traditionalists than sniffer dogs, strip searches for teenagers, or anything else Bob Carr is likely to come up with.
Ceravolo is already out and about, promoting a petition that would see NSW sign up to an ACTU-developed call centre code that has got the nod from Labor administrations in Brisbane and Perth.
She did time in the industry herself and says its lack of regulatory oversight is a disgrace, leading to unnecessary levels of RSI and acoustic shock syndrome.
Regulation, of course, is anathema to the New Right and, increasingly, to political Labor, as well, it would seem. Ceravolo and her Green comrades have few such reservations.
She is arguing for strict regulatory control over residential development in Bligh, for a start.
The NSW Greens will also go to the electorate with highly-developed IR and Industry policies that, at their essence, reject laissez faire capitalism and insist on broadened roles for workplace collectivism. This is not entirely surprising as a number of trade unionists have been central to putting them together.
Sean Marshall, an industrial officer with the CFMEU's construction division, is the NSW Green's IR spokesman. But it is not the just in the CFMEU where trade unionists are unwinding the ties that have bound political and industrial labour. Officials from the AMWU, CPSU and LHMU have also been active in the development of Green policies.
Ceravolo says her campaign in Bligh is being actively supported, on the ground, by paid-up Labor Party members who are also union officials - with the FSU and ASU, amongst others.
While Simon Crean sits doggedly in the middle of the road many who once supported his party are casting about for alternatives.
It might not be quite true to say - scratch a Labor Left activist and you will uncover a Green voter - but neither would it be fanciful. This reporter could, but won't, name several high-profile Labor Party activists who, in more honest moments, will admit to casting their first ballots for the Greens in the last Federal election.
But it is not just out-of-sorts unionists the Greens are picking up. They appear to have made significant gains in two other groups on which successful Labor campaigns have historically banked - idealistic youth, and the soft urban liberals who might, in recent times, have sided with the Democrats.
These constituencies have been grafted onto the ecological base from which the Greens sprung in a move predicted by international analysts, and foreshadowed locally by the likes of BLF trend-setter Jack Mundey.
It is producing some interesting results.
Cunningham was probably something of an aberration where widespread antagonism towards branch stacking and Labor local body shenanigans, along with a Liberal Party boycott, helped the Greens to their first federal lower house seat. But, at least as important, was a preference deal with disenchanted trade unionists, headed by South Coast Labor Council president, Peter Wilson, which delivered more than 7000 votes.
That result was backed by a strong showing in Victoria, especially inner-city seats like Melbourne and Richmond.
One senior Labor Party figure, who wouldn't be named for this article, conceded it was a "distinct possibility" that future Labor Governments would have to enter formal power-sharing arrangements with the Greens.
That the Rigid Right is worried was underscored by spokesperson, Miranda Devine, whose work as an IPA apologist was low-lighted by her campaign to discredit calls to protect clothing outworkers. Devine ran her disinformation through the mainstream media, concurrent with an IPA propaganda exercise, before leading retailers publicly signed-off on the protections.
Last weekend she warned NSW voters that Ceravolo and her cohorts were red wolves in green drag.
"Voters might vote Green in protest against the major parties, or because they imagine they're saving trees, when in fact they are unleashing an incoherent grab bag of socialist policies that have little to do with the environment and a lot to do with wrecking the economy," Devine wrote.
She underscored her intellectual dishonesty by highlighting German statistics, under Gerhard Schroeder's red-green coalition, without considering it necessary to mention the slight difficulty posed by the reintegration into that economy of the old east. Nevertheless, on the fairly-sound principle of knowing and understanding their adversaries, her critique of the Greens is one many old-school Labor supporters would likely have worn with pride.
Devine is probably as fearful of policies like beefed-up workers comp; industrial manslaughter; anti-trust legislation and repeal of Trades Practises restrictions on trade unions, as labour traditionalists are hopeful.
Ceravolo sees herself as typical of a new generation whose roots are bound up in trade unionism.
When she finished university, with a degree in political economy, it was where she wanted to work.
"My Dad's an old trade unionist," she explained, "He's retired now but he still pays his $20 a year. It's something we believe in because we are a working class family."
Fair enough. But what about forests, whales and all those other things that not just Miranda Devine believes distract Green-types from the main game? It's a criticism plenty of union officials echo, arguing that, in the long run, environmental idealism costs blue collar jobs.
"I don't hug trees," Ceravolo counters, "but I don't want to chop them all down either."
When it comes to knocking down the doors of the old boys club that is Australian parliamentary politics plenty have flattered to deceive.
In 10 years time, will the Greens have gained entry? To an increasing extent, trade unionists hold the key. What they do with it will be every bit as significant for the Labor Party as the newcomers.
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