PM plays a dangerous game of bluff

Labour looks like its told the unions what for, but will that translate into votes? And finally, some good economic news.

Richard Farmer

Crikey political commentator

A dangerous game of bluff. Kevin Rudd was no doubt pleased this morning with the headlines that resulted from his deputy Julia Gillard paying a visit to the ACTU Congress: “Gillard booed at ACTU meeting” — Adelaide Advertiser; “Gillard refuses to bow to union anger” — Sydney Morning Herald; “Union fury as Gillard talks tough” — Melbourne Age; “Unions threaten Labor on IR laws” — The Australian; “Unions demand to know where MPs stand over Queensland assets sale” — Brisbane Courier Mail. All the papers conveyed the message that Labor has decided best suits its electoral chances — we are no longer a party beholden to trade union bosses.

The thinking behind this strategy is easy enough to see. The best place to win a government majority is by occupying whatever is the middle ground on any issue — to place yourself in the median position of public opinion. With their declining membership and hence relevance to a majority of even working people, trade unions are well out of the mainstream. Having unions criticise you is thus probably a vote winner but there is one major proviso.

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