If 1996 was the revenge of the nerds, 2007 offers no choice at all: whatever the outcome a nerd wins.

Christopher Bantick writes today in a tendentious piece of Rudd’s essential weakness in dealing with militant unions, but it made me wonder why we don’t have people like Dean Mighell, of the Victorian Electrical Trades Union, in parliament because these are the people who really scare the pants off Howard and co, not the tame Rudds and Swans and the besuited front bench.

Rudd has gone out of his way to distance himself from union strongmen like Mighell, but has Howard curbed the militant elements on his side of politics? No way. The shameful waterfront operation of the late 1990s by Chris Corrigan was done not only with the Government’s approval but its active connivance. Peter Reith was the larrikin of the right.

Of course, Rudd wants to get elected and he is spooked by the anti-union campaign, but by going to water he is playing right into the Government’s hands.

Mighell and other union leaders are repeatedly portrayed as violent and disruptive, but this overlooks the obvious that for many Australians the workplace is both those things – violent in increasingly unrestrained employer power and disruptive of personal and family life as conditions are eroded.

And Howard is not only a supporter of this violence; he actively encourages it. How else can one explain his stance on unfair dismissal laws? To abolish unfair dismissal protection is surely to condone unfair dismissal. What a weapon to create fear among workers.

We actually need people of the calibre of Dean Mighell – articulate, keenly intelligent and an incisive analyst of what is happening – to counter current trends in which Labor has been merely a meek and pliant accomplice, not an opponent.

John Howard always likes to deride the idea of class war, but since 1996 he has waged it ruthlessly and unrelentingly against workers in the name of “flexibility” and “productivity” and all those weasel words that are designed to sound reasonable but are in fact quite unpleasant and merely serve already powerful vested interests.

We need the Dean Mighells as never before and the likes of the late Stormy Normie Foster, whose larrikin wit and turn of phrase have no place in Kevin Rudd’s impeccably behaved classroom.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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