Change the government and you change the country, Paul Keating predicted – lamented – after his government’s 1996 election loss to John Howard’s Coalition. The political priorities of Labor’s thirteen year reign would be swiftly reorganised and replaced with a wholly different national agenda. Organised labour knew that it would be in for a particularly tough ride. And it was, with a Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry whose ultimate consequences for unions in that industry were troublesome. The establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission led to prosecutions, interrogations and an atmosphere of ongoing tension.
Today, the industrial and political wings of the labour movement perceive that they’re once again under attack from a new Coalition government. Abbott’s Royal Commission begins today in Sydney. Its Commissioner, Dyson Heydon, has for a long time wanted unions to be regulated and policed by the corporate regulator – now ASIC – rather than an alternative system of courts of industrial law. He first proposed this idea publicly in 1989, during his findings for the Greiner government’s inquiry in NSW.
Coalition governments habitually inquire into the union movement. The last Liberal prime minister who didn’t was Billy McMahon. But the interventions by three old Labor men – John Faulkner, Barry Jones and Geoff Gallop – suggest that organised labour’s problems don’t begin and end with Liberal governments. The Labor Party really needs to get its own house in order.
On that note, I bid my farewell as editor of PoliticOz. Your new guide will be my redoubtable colleague Russell Marks, as I will be taking the reins of the Monthly magazine. So stay tuned, you’re in safe hands.
Thank you for your attention, your contributions and advice over the journey – it’s been a wonderful experience.
"In a letter to Labor party members in NSW last Thursday, Faulkner said the ALP must take responsibility for the fact that its own culture made possible the kind of corruption being exposed by the Independent Commission against Corruption (Icac). “The party’s culture made possible their behaviour and a confidence such behaviour would not be held to account,” he wrote. “Our present system rewards intrigue, trading favours and doing deals.”"
Also: Can Labor recapture the will and capacity to win the big debates? (Barry Jones, theconversation.edu.au)
And: The Australian Labor Party and the pitfalls of the politics of avoidance (Geoff Gallop, theconversation.edu.au)
"Abbott favoured an FTA with Japan because Japan was “vastly more of a market economy” and, like Australia, a pluralist liberal democracy. China would be pursued of course, but this was a more problematic agreement because China was not like us. There were questions “to what extent China is a market economy”. This observation, while self-evident in one sense, was nonetheless a jolt."
"Tony Abbott is facing a plethora of demands in return for the votes he needs to repeal the carbon and mining taxes as trading begins to secure crossbench support for government policies opposed by Labor and the Greens. Interviews by Guardian Australia indicate crossbench senators may attach conditions to their support for the carbon and mining tax repeals, budget cuts and the reintroduction of temporary protection visas."
"The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption opens today in Sydney, with the inquiry's recommendations due by the end of December. The inquiry, led by former High Court judge Dyson Heydon, will investigate allegations of bribery, secret commissions and improper fundraising within five of the country's most powerful unions. While unions argue the inquiry is a witch-hunt, business is hoping it will lead to culture change in Australian workplaces."
Also: CFMEU agrees to slash wages in WA (Jonathan Barrett, Australian Financial Review)