Former senator Fraser Anning (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

Industrial strength Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter has announced that the government will intervene in support of seaport operator Patrick's application to the Fair Work Commission to halt industrial action by the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).

Porter called the MUA's action -- which so far totals one four-hour stop work meeting and a ban on overtime -- a "slap in the face", while Health Minister Greg Hunt talked gravely of hypothetical threats to the supply of medicine.

Of course the government needn't bother, and it knows it. The process of initiating industrial action is an involved one, and once it's approved it can be struck out by the Fair Work Commission on extremely broad public-interest grounds -- such as the cost to the economy or the threat sick people. Patrick's application is more or less guaranteed to be successful.