Interview: Minority Report
Industrial: Girl Power
Unions: Made in NZ
History: Spirit for a Fair Go
Economics: Fool's Gold
Politics: Worth Fighting For
Health: The Force Behind Medibank
Legal: Robust Justice
International: After the Revolution
Poetry: The Sound of Unions
Review: Bad Santa
The Locker Room
Not A Casey Fan
The Westie Wing
On December 3rd 1854, thirty gold miners died on the Eureka Stockade in the name of justice, democracy, fraternity and equality--worthy sentiments still in need of defence against the conservatism that pervades our everyday lives.
The diggers' movement from Eureka successfully won, amongst other things, the right to vote for men over 21, a parliamentary government for Victoria, more extensive land rights and an 8-hour day. After strikes of miners, shearers and many others, the Australian Labor Party was formed in 1891.
Compared to this important progress in Australia's history, the current Federal Labor grieving process is a hiccup. In the meantime, the labour movement through its political wing is struggling to articulate its socially essential message in a hostile environment heralded by a mainly captured mass media.
Part the message is the importance of equal bargaining forums and structures and that employee unions do not exist to thwart business and the economy.
Newspaper articles often read more like editorials. One recent howler I read related to Howard's plan of removing contractors from the scope of the Workplace Relations Act. A front-page article in the Australian Financial Review opined:
"Companies see this legislation as crucial to stopping union attempts to prevent further deregulation of workplaces and contracting out. Unions rope in independent contractors and labour-hire firms through enterprise agreements and applications to industrial relations tribunals."
If unions had the power that the press make out they have, the movement would be a strong force indeed.
Another example is the skewed reporting of views on industrial issues. Commonwealth Bank's CEO, David Murray, decried existing NSW OH&S legislation as the worst he'd ever seen and judged the proposed legislation on workplace deaths penalties as "absolutely abominable".
Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca issued a robust Media Release rebutting Murray's ridiculous statements. Despite only the final few paragraphs of the original article quoting Della's spokesperson, I can find no further attention given to the issue.
This is where the labour movement is not getting its message across and is being starved of relevance as a result. That's why innovative approaches are required because Howard's not about to open up the media market.
It has been encouraging to see articles from Workers Online or union websites being lifted by mainstream print media journalists--that is a great victory against the parroting of conservative spin-doctors. (Though it may be a sad indictment on the work ethic of print journos!)
What we need is a bit of fire in the belly in Labor politicians, the unions have not lost the fire as they battle for workers' survival in this hostile environment. By getting back on the road with those good labour values of justice, equality and responsible government we might get more achieved in 2005.
For my spin on What's On in NSW Parliament, go to Ian West's Online Office at http://www.ianwestmlc.com.au/new.html
I am interested to hear feedback and ideas--you can contact Antony Dale or myself at Parliament House on (02) 9230 2052 or email me at [email protected].
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