Democracy has not been the bruvvers strong point for a long, long time. Just try measuring up “No ticket, no start” against the principals of the UN Declaration of Human Rights and its provisions for freedom of assembly.

Now, the union movement seems to have discovered democracy. (They also seem to have read Crikey’s coverage of the Roy Morgan Research that found up to 43 per cent of Labor’s support could be soft, but that’s another matter).

The Telegraph reports today that unions are targeting churches and sporting clubs in a campaign to defeat John Howard and his government’s workplace changes:

News Limited has exclusively obtained a secret union blueprint designed to swing the election in Labor leader Kevin Rudd’s favour in marginal seats and convince voters WorkChoices robs them of their rights.

The 75-page Australian Council of Trade Unions 2007 Union Political Strategy Manual tells members to arrange “street BBQs” during which a DVD outlining the Your Rights at Work campaign might be slipped on. “Host a Your Rights at Work street BBQ, where friends and neighbours are invited and you show a DVD we provide,” the ACTU manual says.

That’s their right. It’s a democracy.

And government strategists will have noticed that this is a pretty clear indication that the ACTU knows that even a good chunk of unionists feel that they’re doing pretty well under the Libs, with salaries swelled by skills shortages.

“It is strongly suggested that callers refrain from negative comments about John Howard,” the Tele says manual tells activists. “These people may agree to exercise their vote to get rid of the WorkChoices law, even if they continue to respect John Howard.”

Workplace relations minister Joe Hockey told ABC Radio this morning the manual was “a very detailed guide in how to trick people into voting Labor at the next election”.

He says it’s American style politicking.

Actually, it’s called mobilising your base. Peter Hendy does it too. Joe shouldn’t sweat. There’s nothing new in the idea.

The government Joe’s a member of, after all, had the PM cold calling carefully selected punters on their home phones in the 2004 election campaign with a recorded message asking for their votes and has no qualms about spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars to convince taxpayers that they have never had it so good (the language is slightly different).

The government is offended because the Your Rights At Work campaign has worked well so far. A well-organised but low key doorknocking campaign in marginal seats might work even better.

The Opposition has been right to take the moral high ground on the issue today.

The Labor conference was full of Neanderthal knuckleheads wearing logo covered union gear and wrap round shades. Mighell’s mates and others like them. They looked like bikies or bouncers – or both.

The union movement is showing some sense. And voters can make up their own minds. It’s called democracy.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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