Crikey Says

Apr 23, 2014

Crikey says: will the unions get on board Labor reform?

What do you get for $12 billion? Almost 60 flying white elephants. Bernard Keane on the politics, Andrew Davies on the military strategy. In the currency war, we're completely unarmed. Why our foreign affairs commentator can't fly to Indonesia. Could newspapers outsource more subediting to Asia? Plus Jane Caro on mediaeval science.

Bill Shorten is being as ingenuous as humanly possible. Sure, he's a labour movement careerist. Sure, he's a veteran union organiser and leader. And yeah, he's been a factional warlord and backroom puppet master for the Labor Party in Victoria and in Canberra. But now he's facing up to the "hard truths" of Labor's unhealthy relationship with trade unions. This time he really means it. Which is more than you can say for the unions. Most labour heavies wisely kept quiet about Shorten's reform proposals yesterday. But others couldn't help themselves. Like Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams on 4BC yesterday:
"Trade unions will fight tooth and nail to make sure they have an influence within the party. Australia is a better place because trade unions had an influence under Labor governments."
And Rail, Tram and Bus Union national secretary Bob Nanva to The Daily Telegraph, branding Shorten a "mug" for his "thought bubbles":
"If they view our relationship as nothing more than being a cash cow and finding foot soldiers for them, then ­unions such as ours would be entitled to consider its future arrangements [for donations and affiliation fees]."
Unions have every right to wonder just what they're going to get for their substantial buck in future. But the smarter labour movement heads know they only have a seat at the big table if the Labor Party gets anywhere near office again. Voters won't forgive another failed attempt at desperately needed reform.

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2 thoughts on “Crikey says: will the unions get on board Labor reform?

  1. CML

    Of course Shorten should go for it. Those of us who support the Labor Party know that it is now reform or die. What will the union movement get for their bucks if the party disintegrates?
    As for the second quote in this editorial from Bob Nanva – he seems to think that the membership should just shut up, do all the work and keep paying their dues without having any say. Why do the unions think they should be the only ones with influence and the right to select candidates for election to the parliament? They haven’t done a very good job for the rest of us so far.
    The time has come for a compromise on all these things. No one, in this day and age, is going to continue to support Labor if they are locked out of the decision-making process.
    Think about the future of the movement/party, Bob, instead of feathering your own nest and those of your mates!

  2. Sir Leigh Curmudgeon

    For my money, unions that mount sound arguments within the ALP will get support regardless of the numbers.

    The union bosses that demand support because of their ‘numbers’ will reinforce views that are out of touch with the unselfish working people whom they aspire to represent.

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