Kim Beazley
and Labor don’t come out all that well from the analysis of Newspoll findings
presented in The Australian this morning (and that’s before a certain redhead gets a mention). Will IR be the saviour?
Er… It’s amazing that more attention hasn’t been paid to Kimbo’s “solidarity
forever” visit
to the workers at Canberra’s Belconnen bus depot last week.

The trip’s
largely been written up as a photo-op gone wrong.

“The
Opposition Leader had every right to expect he would receive a rousing
reception when he took his fight against the Government’s industrial relations
overhaul to the workers,” said The Canberra Times. “Instead, he came face to
face with some disgruntled bus drivers offering their frank assessment of Labor’s
failings.” Piers Akerman also had some good details on the chasm between
workers and the party of the workers.
Actually, it was a lot worse.

One of the
workers, Bill Nicholls, told the opposition leader that Labor and the ACTU had been AWOL
– sitting around singing songs and eating sausages on the picket lines instead
of taking to fight to the Government. “[The ACTU should be] picking up the
telephone and getting on to [Prime Minister John] Howard and saying ‘bring it
in and the nation is out for 48 hours’. That is what unionism is about, that is
what Labor is about”, he told The Canberra Times.

Actually,
Bill, that’s why the Government might just get away with its WorkChoices
legislation.

For a
start, the nation can’t go out. Just look at union membership rates. Twelve
months ago, the ABS produced figures that found only 17% of private
sector workers actually belonged to a trade union.
That wouldn’t be much of a gesture.

Of course,
union membership is still higher in the public sector. They might have more
luck with strike action. But the public sector, by and large, is the monopoly
provider of significant services that are either needed to keep business
ticking over or assist some of the most underprivileged people in our
community. If Bill and his mates from the depot stopped the buses for 48
hours, they wouldn’t exactly endear themselves to their fellow Canberrans.

That’s
Labor’s bind. WorkChoices seems to already be hurting some of the people in our
community who are least able to speak up for themselves. But the union movement
and its members don’t seem to acknowledge the damage they’ve done. These
blokes just don’t get it that the world has changed. Beazley’s lucky he didn’t
get nipped harder during his visit to Jurassic Park.

Peter Fray

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