My God it’s a pleasure reading the newspaper these days. As Labor and Kevin Rudd’s numbers hold, as everything the Howard Government does backfires, as a purported former jihadist warrior becomes a more sympathetic figure than a prime minister of 10 years, the Right has gone deep into the sort of fantasy territory that used to be characteristic of the Trotskyist Left of the 80s (‘there have never been so many revolutionary opportunities’ one stalwart group wrote in the depth of the Thatcher period) — thinking that saying it can make it so.

Having faced a classic one-two punch over the past couple of years — the first was the defection of support over WorkChoices, the second was the decisive dumping of support for Howard when Kevin Rudd was elected Opposition Leader — the Right glimpsed light at the end of the (train) tunnel, with news that trade union membership had fallen by 6.6%, after having risen for the last couple of years.

Bigfoot himself, Paddy McGuinness, was first out of the cave with a warning that the ACTU’s anti-WorkChoices campaign would ultimately sink the movement. After grizzling that the unions are unfairly misrepresenting the Government’s wish to “encourage a greater variety of possibilities in the workplace”, Shaggy goes on to suggest that the real problem was that the Government “made the legislation so complex that few people have had the opportunity to familiarise themselves with it in detail” and that part of the success in the campaign was due to a “barrage of propaganda from the unions and their sympathisers in the media, the education system and in public sector employment”.

Next out of the box was Gerard Henderson who, despite innumerable polls suggesting that WorkChoices was crucial in people switching their preferences concluded that “WorkChoices appears to be a negative for the Coalition, but it may or may not be a vote-changing issue when the election is held towards the end of the year”. He also cried poor: “Last week the Prime Minister suggested that business should do more to support WorkChoices by the way of paid advertising. Whatever the merits of the proposal, this is unlikely to occur. Employer organisations have limited budgets.”

But the doozy was Janet Albrechtsen, who suggested in her News Limited blog that it wasn’t a fair fight, and asked the union movement to make this declaration: “The ALP and all Australian unions believe their fight against WorkChoices is an honest and honourable one. It should be won, or lost, on the power of its ideas alone. A victory won by intimidation or by simple weight of union money is no victory at all’.”

Jesus, borrow my hanky, sister, and have a good cry. Albrechtsen, who’s written umpteen columns on victim culture, is suddenly getting all teary because her side is losing — even though the Government has outspent the unions six-to-one on selling WorkChoices (with taxpayers’ money). The idea that business has less money to spend on campaigning than the unions is fictional, of course. They’re just not spending because of two old business law: don’t throw good money after bad, and cut your losses.

The poor old Right has spent so many years believing that they’re the voice of middle Australia that they can’t get used to the idea that middle Australia still believes in arbitration, protection, collective bargaining and awards. No doubt the ALP could still snatch defeat from the oesophagus of victory, but failing that the commentariat are going to have many, many years to sob about how unfair it all is.

Peter Fray

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