With former Commonwealth Bank Employees Union industrial officer Morris Iemma back for another term as NSW Premier, John Howard did a doorstop at Kirribilli yesterday to crank up the scare campaign about unions running the country if Kevin Rudd leads Labor to victory.

It’s a fair point given the prevalence given to Workchoices during the NSW campaign and the constitutional control that unions have over the ALP. Therefore, we’ve decided to dust off our lists tracking unionists in Parliament.

We’ve included the batch of unsuccessful candidates from the 2004 Federal election and will compare this with what Labor serves up to voters later in the year.

Whilst there are clearly good and bad union officials, the PM was lumping them all together when he pointed out that Bill Shorten and Doug Cameron were coming into the next Parliament and Greg Combet was also a chance, although the ACTU secretary denied it again last night.

The PM missed ACTU assistant secretary Richard Marles, who ousted Gavin O’Connor, the only farmer in Parliament for the ALP, in a tough preselection battle for the federal seat of Corio last year. Marles is said to be a good talent.

One of Kevin Rudd’s great strengths is that he is not a long-term Labor hack or the son of a Whitlam government minister, as his three predecessors were. He’ll have a lot of personal power if he wins, but that won’t blunt the huge powers that the union movement will have across the country. Rudd’s industrial relations policy, as developed by former union official Julia Gillard, will be the key test of this point.

Joining a union is the fastest way to get into an Australian parliament, but working in the media certainly helps. We’ve currently got three Premiers or chief ministers who were journalists – Alan Carpenter, Mike Rann and Clair Martin – and three who were union officials: Morris Iemma, Paul Lennon and Peter Beattie. Only Steve Bracks and John Stanhope came via that other well worn route – political staffing.

If Labor candidate in Newcastle Jodi KcKay gets over the line, she’ll be the 69th former journalist we’ve identified who made it into an Australian parliament. That’s a lot, but still miles behind the hundreds of former unionists who’ve done likewise.

Check out the unionist lists and keep the feedback coming to [email protected] so we can update them.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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