The political thug Bill Heffernan has exposed, inadvertently, a weakness in his own ranks in his intemperate attack on Julia Gillard. Presumably, he meant that if you do not have children, then you are not in a position to relate to the wider populace, an idea that is simply absurd.

The record-breaking premier of Victoria, the childless Henry Bolte, stayed in power for 17 years because, in part, he understood the electorate so well. Similarly, the childless Bob Askin, a man with close community links, is the only Liberal premier in Heffernan’s home state of NSW ever to have won more than two elections.

But staying on this issue of understanding the community, just how in touch is the Howard Cabinet with the daily issues that confront employees? How many of them have ever endured workplace bullying and harassment? Or the frustration of reporting to a despotic and incompetent superior, the sort of manager that the ironically named WorkChoices empowers?

A glance through the biographical details of the ministry shows a gaggle of relatively autonomous lawyers and other professionals along with self-employed farmers like Senator Heffernan who call their own shots, and the privileged children of family business owners. How many of these have ever been subjected to the petty humiliations and indignities that are common every day to most Australian employees?

How many, if any, of them have ever known the fear and loathing instilled in most of us by the prospect of another day at work in an environment in which we have no say, no control and no power?

If Senator Heffernan and his party wants to go down this track of who is in touch with the majority of the community, then let them try to explain what they know, individually and collectively, of the wholly distasteful experience of work where democracy is unknown and, worse, actively opposed by existing government policy. Then we might find out who is in touch and who is not.