Two pieces of legislation will come before the parliament in the near future.
One is an industrial relations bill to expand the powers of Government to go after both unions and union officials.
The other is some sort of religious freedom bill.
About the same number of people are trade union members as attend church regularly. Both are around the 15% mark.
This government has branded trade unionists as lawless thugs, yet the occupations with the highest union membership are education and training (33%) and public administration and safety (30%).
They talk endlessly about the CFMMEU and the many convictions they have received. The vast majority of these have been for people withdrawing their labour or for union officials entering sites without the appropriate approval.
Which hardly compares to the extraordinary number of allegations and convictions against religious men for child sexual abuse.
When the Royal Commission suggested that priests be compelled to report child sexual abuse disclosed to them in the confessional, they just said no.
A succession of religious Prime Ministers have even hastened to provide references for priests accused of abuse or of covering it up.
The government talks of how unions waste their members’ money on political campaigns.
Yet religious organisations spend an enormous amount on political campaigning without anyone showing concern. If they want more money, they just hand round the plate. Or introduce a rule that you have to give them 10% of everything you earn.
Then there are their profit-making businesses, subsidised by government and exempt from paying any tax.
If they want more public money for their schools, they just exert political pressure via letters home to parents, sermons from the pulpit, and private meetings with government ministers.
They are organised and cashed up and making a significant push to expand their political power. They have a ready-made band of devoted followers accustomed to doing whatever they are told to by the church hierarchy. They are infiltrating political organisations and providing concerted support to religious candidates.
The unions can threaten to down tools if employers don’t do as they say. The churches can threaten eternal damnation burning in the fires of hell.
Unions seek better workplace conditions for their members. Churches seek power and control through fear and indoctrination.
As a primary school age altar boy, my husband was punched in the face by a priest so hard that he hit the wall opposite. This was not done in a moment of rage. It was in the vestry after mass because he had apparently pulled a face at one of his friends.
He then attended a catholic boarding school where physical violence from the brothers was an everyday occurrence.
So who are the bullies and thugs and criminals?
Why is the government, on the one hand, wanting to introduce legislation to allow religious organisations and individuals to be exempt from the laws that govern the rest of us and, on the other, insisting that they need legislation to make union officials adhere to the laws that govern business executives (who btw don’t really seem to be held to any sort of account at all) with the right to expel the whole union if they don’t toe the line.
They want legislation that, on the one hand, protects religious people from abuse and vilification, and on the other, enshrines their right to vilify others as freedom of speech.
It does not fill me with hope when I hear government ministers say they are praying for an end to the problems we face and speaking about miracles.
I would much rather see the collective voice and bargaining power of workers protected than the archaic rituals and superstitions of cults that worship a supernatural being.
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