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To the Future and Beyond!

Should the Labor Party sever its long-standing ties with the union movement? In this guest post, well-known blogger Hillbilly Skeleton argues that they might suffer politically if they don’t.

Can we talk?

How can I put this?

I can either try and put this delicately, as some partners try to do when a long-term relationship ends, and hedge around the truth which is usually as clear as day in your own mind, hoping you won’t offend the other party’s feelings, or, you can be brutally honest and believe that by doing so you can have a positive, not negative, cathartic effect.

So, as I have never been one for humming and hawing, let me get straight to the point here.

It’s Time for the Australian Labor Party to cut the ties that bind it inextricably to the Australian Union movement and divorce itself from the overwhelming and over-weaning and disastrously destructive (in recent history) control they have over the parliamentary Labor Party.

“Heresy!!!” I can hear 90+% of you shouting at their computer screens. Also, “Aren’t you a member of the ALP? So, why are you saying this?”

Well, no, and, yes.

No, I don’t think I’m being heretical, and, yes, I am a proud member of the ALP and will continue to be unless they kick me out for this blog. Lol. Which I doubt because I am increasingly not on my Pat Malone in the modern-day ALP. I know this because I have had many conversations with fellow ALP members about this subject, many of them members of unions too, and they agree that a redefining of the relationship needs to occur. Something needs to be done about the overt ALP/Union nexus. Major transformational change to the party scaffolding must occur. Or the ALP will simply bleed to death slowly but surely, as the Unions in Australia (and globally), with membership in Australia at a paltry 13% in private enterprise, are doing right now.

Which is not to say, most definitely and wholeheartedly, that I agree with the presumption of the Abbott government and it’s fellow travellers in the business community and in ideologically-bent union-smashing outfits such as the HR Nicholls Society and the IPA, that the very concept of workers organising for their mutual benefit is anathema and all stops should be pulled out, both legislatively and persuasively via the bully pulpit, to bring about their demise.

Not. At. All.

On the contrary, I fully support the concept of Unionism and collective organisation of employees for their mutual benefit as they attempt to gather strength from their numbers against any employer with the whip-hand who seeks to exploit and capitalise on their honest toil for their own profit, whilst the workers pay, and hard-won but reasonable work conditions languish or die on the vine by neglect and design. More power to the workers in their constant struggle against this and strength to their arms in their fight against the oppressive forces of global and national monopolistic capitalistic enterprise. It’s only fair and reasonable after all and the basis of a cohesive, harmonious, equitable and content society. I’m a Social Democrat, after all.

Nope, what I think needs to be the transformative change that the ALP should, no must, undertake, is that it must change from being a party OF the Unions and BY the Unions, to being a party FOR the Unions, but first and foremost, simply a 21st century Progressive Social Democrat political party, whose narrative encompasses Unionism as but one of the pillars upon which the scaffold of the party is built.

Yes, over more than 100 glorious years the ALP has been the longest-lived, continuously surviving political party in the land, and it’s a proud history which should be fulsomely embraced. However, times change, situations change, environments change, and relationships, one with another, change.

Such that the cardinal rule of relationships kicks into gear. ‘Adapt or die’.

That’s what the Liberal Party have successfully done, to the extent that they are presently cannibalising their Coalition partner, the National Party, by taking rural seats off them at elections. Also, they have aggressively identified and gone after new constituencies as they have appeared on the horizon, and legislated to accommodate them felicitously, which has been repaid with loyalty to and membership of the party and enough votes to be winning elections more often than not.

New constituencies such as the Tradies, who are now also small businesspeople, the Franchise owners and operators, Small, Micro and Home Businesspeople, and ‘New Professionals’, if I can coin that term, in the Alternative Therapies disciplines. Not to mention their traditional constituencies in Big Business who never desert them.

Yet Labor have doggedly stood by the Unions as this transformation of Australian society has occurred. And turned a blind eye to the canker of corruption, all too obviously on display now and serving to aid the enemy. Not only that, but if you play your cards right, in this Closed Shop, you could end up sitting in a comfy chair in parliament. Not as a result of having any other talent beyond playing the Union Stepping Stone game well.

Well, in the words of that great Monkees song, ‘I’m Not Your Stepping Stone!’

It’s Time for the Australian Labor Party to undertake the necessary structural change that will see it survive and prosper against the Liberal Party in the 21st century in Australia. We need an effective force for good (if you want to cast everything in terms of ‘Goodies and Baddies’ as Mr Abbott does) then Labor are the ‘goodies’ and the Coalition are the ‘baddies’, as so much of what made Australia a utopia in the 20th century is now under threat in the 21st.

Unions are a social good; however, the times whereby workers are herded into unions are gone. Unions should be there for workers to choose them if they want to, and Labor should fight to the political death for unions to be allowed to exist in every workplace, and their practices should be their own best advertisement for the benefits of unions and unionism. And each and every union member should have the choice whether they join and fund the ALP, or any other political party, and thus they should get one vote with one value only in the ALP. The days of bloc votes and union Secretary control and string-pulling must be gone and we should see those ties that currently bind the Unions to the ALP severed. Even if it does upset all the union factional heavyweights to do so. Anyway, if a stronger Union Movement, with broad community support, arises from the ashes, then that can only be good for the Labor Party.

As I fear that if the party isn’t reconstructed along more democratic lines and the pre-selection of candidates not necessarily in a union, but who believe in unions, doesn’t occur, then all those people who recently formed a new relationship with the party after those liberating and refreshing signs of reform which broke out in the ALP after the last election, will come to the same conclusion.

ALP, I’m just not that into you anymore. You’re a dud.


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  1. bighead1883

    Why sever?,just get rid of the Right Wing Union Bosses and the members have their union back and Labor goes back to being a Left Wing Social Democratic Party,instead of the Right Wing US Democrats style Party it wants to become.
    We already have one RWNJ Party why do we want two.
    Come on you union members,rid yourselves of the likes of Howes and Cathy Jackson et al.

  2. Anon E Mouse

    Better still democratise the Unions along with the ALP. Get rid of the LibLites. Encourage new membership and ensure pre-selection comes from local branches.

    Cutting the unions out of the ALP dismisses the party’s origins. But I agree the unions need to do better. They are too expensive and should have some form of membership available for those between work – especially now.

    The ALP needs to put a lid on those parochial old members who chase prospective members away. The ALP needs to encourage young socially active people, and put out education on our political system. There is so much it can do – but don’t exclude unions, include them but curtail the powerbroker mentality through greater democraticised membership.

    And get rid of Shorten – he is missing in action unless it is for a photo shoot sidled up to Abbott.

  3. Gary Shepherd

    I’d be happy to see the Labor movement cut ties with the Unions as I believe they’re far better place with the Greens.
    With the Union movement Labor are irrelevant

  4. Fed up

    Carol, I am a great admirer of unions. In fact, for a civil and fair society, unions are an essential part of the mix.

    Since the late 1980’s while visiting the UK, I came to the conclusion that the two arms of the Labor movement in this country would benefit from severing links.

    I believe both would be stronger going it alone.

    Yes, there are positives, that have served us well in the past, being linked as they are.

    In this day and age, the aims of each are no longer the same. They serve a different need.

    Yes, time for the parliamentary party and industrial arm to separate.

  5. Shaun J

    G’day HS,

    I kind of agree with you but from a slightly different angle, you suggest that the Labor party ditch the Union movement for survival, I on the other hand have constantly suggested to the Union movement that since the right wing of the Labor party have been in ascendancy then the left wing Unions should switch their support to the Greens, as it is obvious as the nose on your face that the right wing Labor rulers are just supporters of the elite, then the best thing that left wing unionists can do is to support those that support them.

  6. charybds

    I believe we need unions .. but …

    They should remain separated from government,

    No churches, no unions, no corporations. = no vested interests.

    Party funding needs to be drastically remodelled for all parties.

  7. Fed up

    We definitely need unions. They do not have to be tied to the political arm of Labor.

    Both would be stronger, going it alone.

  8. Fed up

    I believe Australia is one of the few countries, were they are joined.

  9. Skoteesh

    The libs have not adapted! They’ve continued to do what they do best, stir up fear in the ignorant and make deals with the obscenely wealthy.

    The unions DO need to clean up their act and make a place for themselves in this fast changing world.
    Aggression and standover tactics have stopped working. Somehow, the education and support aspects have to get out to the general public.

    ALP have to work together and become a truly united party. The constant division and in-fighting provides fodder for the libs. Even I’m finding them hard to support when the leader’s facebook page makes no mention of the disaster on Manus Island. understand your support base and support them! It’s a 2-way street!

  10. JayWar69

    Separation g would be completely and utterly stupid. We have a first rate economy largely thanks to the union movement keeping wages fair. The u.k. And u.s. Were wrecked without u ions. They need to be more democratic and need to offer discussions on the economy and the workplace.
    The only way for the left right problem to dissolve is for workers to own their own work democratically, like mondragon.

  11. kgb16Ken Brown

    Forget about the unions….Labor should break its ties with the big coal mining and CSG companies. Do something for the environment!

  12. Trevor Vivian

    When the union movement allows the unemployed workers union to affiliate it may become relevant again.

    When the Ludwiigs of the union movement no longer control the ALP the union movementay become relevant again.

    When the union movement supports workers instead of a personal fiefdom of power mongers looking for their man to have lifelong sinicure in parliaments the unions may be relevant again.

  13. joe maric

    The unions are becoming irrelevant labor heading in same direction. Community Alliances are about democratising Labor by candidates coming from the community rather than the direct union’s choice. Community alliances will make union’s even more irrelevant if their not involved. This concept is based on rank and file activism but larger scale of wider community involvement. As a founding member of central west community union alliance I can tell everyone don’t waste time get involved asap and organize.

  14. Anomander

    I lived through the excesses of union power in the 60’s and 70’s. I saw my unionist father on strike for months on end forcing my mother to work several jobs just to make ends meet. I vividly remember the transport strikes every school holidays, the fuel rationing, the airline strikes. But times changed, most unions matured and a balance was forged through the 90’s and 2000’s, until Howard, cajoled by big business, commenced his WorkChoices pogrom to destroy unions.

    We had slowly recovered from WorkChoices and had again found a reasonable balance, but balance is not enough for big business, they need to control everything. So Tony and his mates have launched another attack, hoping to finally put all remnants of resistance to the sword, once and for all. And we are blithely allowing it to happen.

    Now, more than ever in our history, have we needed unions. When our hard-fought rights and entitlements are under concerted attack from the forces of Neo-Conservatism and Libertarianism.

    For too many years the right-wingers, ably supported by a compliant media, have been given free rein to debase and disparage the efforts of unions in fighting for workers rights. For too long have we been told the lie that we are better-off negotiating as an individual – that by competing with each other we can secure a better deal for ourself – and screw everyone else.

    More and more power is being fed into the hands of business, as our collective structures evaporate, creating an unequal playing-field that favours big business and leaves the individual powerless, especially our children, who start their working life with little skills and at the mercy of businesses whose sole purpose it to make profit.

    As each day passes, these businesses seek ways to reduce their overheads, to create a highly casualised workforce, where workers rights are entitlements are eroded and they live daily in fear and uncertainty when their next pay packet will arrive, whether they will get any work at all. Powerless to challenge the might of the business and unable to leave, knowing everywhere else is the same.

    These businesses organise themselves into associations, institutes, focus groups, lobbyists, and their combined wealth and influence gives them immediate access to government, forcing changes that benefit them and attack the conditions of everyday workers.

    Yet, workers seeking to do the same, by forming collectives, are tarred as trouble-makers, intransigents, inflexible impediments to society. When all they are doing is standing-up for their rights and trying to equalise the field.

    Like any power structure, all it takes is a few dangerous idiots to undermine the integrity of the organisation, as happened with the HSU, etc. But that too presents an opportunity for the membership to stand-up and re-assert their control through their numbers.

    Union members need to assert their place, to throw out the bums stealing from them and elect leaders who will further the cause of members, rather than those who want only to line their own pockets. Unions also need a voice in the public sphere, to stand-up to the bully-boy tactics of big business, to show how rights are being eroded, to provide a vision of what our nation will be without collectivism. Whether they need the ALP to do this, I don’t know – I only know that them MUST have a strong voice and a way to influence public policy for the betterment of everyday workers and their families.

    If they don’t do this, then working life for our children will be vastly different, and far worse, than it was for us.

  15. joe maric

    I agree with the comments solution is to rebuild the rank and file in unions and party this can be done goggle central western daily joe maric and central west community union alliance see what we are doing we have two alliance members standing next state election and 6 local government elections.

  16. Dr Jeff

    This is just another expression of a liberal trend in the Labor Party. I’m sure the author is well meaning (at least I hope so) but if the Labor Party is to remain a social democratic party then it must retain organized labour within its organizational structure. The problem identifiied by the author is noted and accepted. Organized labour has been erroded over the last 40 years. This has been the result of numerous impacts (endless propaganda, new production strategies, political attack). One apparent feature of this errosion is that there are a very few right wing union members who are corrupt. None of this means that the Labor Party, if it is to remain social democratic, must decouple itself from the unions. What it means is that the union movement desperately needs reform. It needs to move into the 21st century. The Labor Party could be one instrument to help it to achieve this shift. The union movement needs new strategies when confronted with new workplace relationships. It needs to leverage more using less. Iot needs to be much more democratic and seen to be more democratic. It needs to weed out scum who use the labour movement for their own career advancement. On the other side the Labor Party needs to draw on other democratic popular movements that can help it to navigate in the interests of the working class. The working class are under assault. I’ve only in the last 5 years realized that we have been in the midst of a militant, sometimes violent, somtimes strategic, sometimes poitical, class war ever since the end of WWII. Since the 1980’s things have not gone well for the working class. Our employment conditions are more fragile, our income in real terms have been annihilated, we work longer, our entitlements are now under attack, we get a smaller part of the wealth which is the product of our labour. One thing we must do is to keep true to social democratic principles, try to retain workplace politicisation through the union movement but remember to keep on changing to confront new challenges. The class war is reaching towards its final stages, will we be a country of low pain workers without rights or will we keep up, indeed intensify, the hard fight.

  17. edward eastwood

    Well said and well argued Anomander! The real problem lies not as much in union influence in the ALP but the ALP’s shift from a commitment to full employment to the ‘supply side’ economics introduced by Keating which demands a permanent pool of unemployed of between 5 – 6% ( the real figure now stands at around 13% when you include the underutilized work force and is climbing)
    If the ALP wants to regain lost electoral support and balance union ties, then the first thing to do is immediately distance itself from its Neo-liberal lite stance which it has adopted for the last 23 years. Only by representing itself as a genuine alternative party will it remain relevant.
    As for its current leadership, Shorten is the Oz-Lotto Leader of the Opposition; He’s still waiting for his balls to drop!

  18. Stephen Tardrew

    Great post Anomander: In any organization there will be a variety of personality types.The problem is to set out a clear mission statement and develop rules and regulations that constrain and maintain goals and objectives and to be vigilant that they are adhered to. The hope that there is going to be a perfect union of members is naive and unobtainable especially with the size and diversity of the union movement. Develop a new organization and soon there will be factions driving their self interest. The Greens have their own problems.

    The self interest of the right is simply to drive a selfish agenda based upon economic rationalism, social Darwinism a minimally regulated free for all for business. They are not overly concerned about ethics and pander to the selfish whims of those in society willing to compromise equity and utilitarian distribution. Their power lies in the ability to buy out the media and control the message. This is all too evident at the moment.

    The right of any party are going to be a concern for progressives and those interested in social justice. Baring psychological testing it is difficult to screen out antisocial personalities in any organization. Some businesses are reverting to psychological testing to identify sociopaths.

    It comes down to ordinary members participation yet there is a certain obligation on the executive to inform members of their activities. The right of the party, is in many respect, the antithesis of the original objectives of the union movement.

    I do bash on about it but Labor needs to utilize empirical evidence that people do not chose their circumstances and positions in life and therefore the idea of free will, choice and personal responsibility are debatable. The union movement needs to rely upon solid empirical evidence to support distributive ethics and a compassionate approach to suffering and hardship. It can be done.

    The only way to counter magical and mythical thinking is to revert to scientific facts and experimental evidence to counter ridiculous notions that anyone can chose to be whatever they like. Only then is it possible to frame a new paradigm that can replace subjectively generated ideological beliefs.

    I would start with the interplay between selective advantage and mutual cooperation as a foundation for Union based justice and equity for working people. The environment is a dynamic and necessary interplay of all aspect of existence from the amoeba and cell to vital and complex organisms and self-referential beings including laborers and executives. All are absolutely necessary to the holistic gestalt functioning of our planet as James Lovelock demonstrated. We need to provide physical security and sustenance to all people regardless of their social status because our society depends upon all its participants not just a few elites.

    The fact that we are acting like viruses and destroying our environment demonstrates that we are not in equilibrium proving that selfishness is self-destructive. Greed is in the process of eradicating us. The whole modus operandi of the right is being challenged by the empirical facts and it is these facts that progressives, and the left, can utilize to drive an equity based agenda. We need clear fact based messaging and a strategy to utilize the media effectively and most of all we need to challenge the right.

  19. James Dupree

    The smoke screen of political complexity only serves to hide a simple truth.

    That simple truth is there is a conflict of interest between those who are organised on “majority interest rules OK” principals.i.e.unions and those who aspire to social democratic values.i.e it is hoped the ALP.

    There is no position worthy of total annihilation that would or in fact could change this simple fact.Hence both must survive but each in its own space and time.

    This is not to say that the arguments of one ought not persuade the decisions of the other.

    It is to say, however, that the dross of one ought not and must not be weight in the saddle bags of the other.

    Separate “halls of wisdom” is one of the clues to the “correct weight” i.e the principals determined by one become the property of that group in circumstances where the “conflict of interest” question plays no part.

    Membership of one “hall of wisdom” must not be corrected to or dependent on membership of the other, That is not to say that a member in one might not be a member of the other. It simply means that the regulation of one does not impinge on the regulation of the other.

    Similarly decisions of one can not be binding on the decisions of the other

    It is the “separate halls of wisdom” question that presents as the greatest challenge for the ALP.

    Why should not such a structure be created in the interest of the ALP so as to prevent the dictatorship of the minority (the position presently enjoyed by Unions in respect of the whole of those who are the working men and women of Australia) being,as it is, the majority in the present structure of the ALP.

    Conversely should the Union have its separate “hall of wisdom”(and I do not mean the present Trades and Labor Council structure – however it is described) this movement would be able to properly and fully regulate the cancers that are presently evident that movement.

    the sunlight of financial rectitude and transparency are more likely to happen when it is your comrades “wielding the blow torch” and the requirements of the highest intellectual rigor is being demanded.

    No doubt with the “sun light of the upland” those who toil with their heads down and their backs bent may well look up and “join in”.

    However, if the “separate halls” idea took hold there would be many who should rightly fear for their job.This fear might well be the death Nell of the idea. For whom (objective) does that bell toll.

    It would seem that there is a calling to account within the ALP. Might this be a tolling of a bell?

  20. Bill Morris

    Unfortunately Carol it would appear that a number of commenters have not fully read or understood your post. I concur with what you have said and that there is a necessary role for unions but there should not be any automatic elevation into politics. The ALP should support unions in their legitimate activities but the perception that unions run the Labor Party is detrimental to the democratic process and the election of politicians that truly represent their areas.
    The other element working against the ALP is factionalism, again this a another indicator that Labor politicians put their factional loyally ahead of any commitment to the community that elected them.
    Labor should be promoting its philosophy as a major part of its platform supported by proposed methodology, anyone out of step with the resulting policies should never be endorsed.

  21. Maree Elizabeth

    the unions ought to be separate and the ALP relaunched minus bill shorten incognito liberal…. Doug Cameron for leader ALP.

  22. Dr Jeff

    Well said Edward and ‘Oz-Lotto Leader’, what a laugh!

  23. Anon E Mouse

    I would like to see unionism diversify – so that self-employed tradies can form and association (which is really a union just like the AMA), and align with Labor. How many small self-employed sub-contractors are shafted by dodgy companies going broke, leaving the workers unpaid while the parent company comes out of it with the asset and smelling like roses.

    The way I see it, is that union power within the ALP has been a source of problems for a while as individuals build their own fiefdom of power, often seduced by the big end of town. Union fees are not cheap, and with wages being expected to stretch further and further the cost can be a real impost.

    Another issue is that people begrudge paying union dues when they see their union dictated to from outside (these powerbrokers again), ignoring local workplace issues, and often selling the workers out to progress the standing of the union big-wigs. Workplace union reps can be the best of people, but if the union machine does not stand up for them, then what is the point of being in a union.

    I have assisted people negotiate with their union on workplace bullying and racism. Now the boss and protagonist were also union members, so the lowly worker was getting slowly cooked by their union. The union of course refused to even consider the issue of racism and merely blamed the worker. To cut a long story short, I had to get onto the national, and state union bosses to even get the local rep to take an interest. The union was more interested in siding up to the bosses and held their lower paid member in contempt. While we were fighting for a fair go for the member it was obvious the union, the CPSU, was on the same side as the employer Howard’s Govt. A reasonable outcome was achieved, a win of sorts, but with no help from the union except at the end when they were put in a position (by me and my client) to do the final paperwork.

    Now I have been schooled in union history and ideology from as young as I can remember, I strongly support unionism, but is it any wonder that my client can not see the point of being in a union after that episode.

    It seems to me that unions, like the ALP, need to get back to the grassroots, re-examine their historical roots, and set about making changes that reflect the egalitarianism of unions with modern-day democratic governance, at an affordable price.

    I know there have been cases for yonks, but I have total contempt for union reps/leaders/bosses who sell out their workers, but I fear that has become the norm.

    The ALP would be fools to cut ties with the union movement, the founders of the ALP, but they should be helping to bring greater transparency and democracy to the union movement.

    Without the unions (not union control) the ALP will rapidly become irrelevant and just another right winged political party.

  24. C@tmomma

    I think the point that I was trying to make here(yes, the C@t & I,HillbillySkeleton, are one & the same person), is that the control of the ALP BY the Unions is what is stifling the growth of the party in the 21st century. Left or Right Union.

    Whilst it is overt, you have a problem. Such that it can be used as a stick to beat the Labor Party around the head with by the Coalition. Now, I acknowledge that the Coalition are the funnel through which big business pours it’s heart and soul out to the people, however it is not as overt as that which links the ALP to the Unions. The Coalition doesn’t give special bloc voting rights to the BCA at their conferences, etc.

    That is all I ask for. One vote, one value.

  25. Sandra Searle (@SandraSearle)

    Bill Morris, I think that you are right. A lot of the commenters here have not really understood where Carol was coming from.
    To have a democratic socialistic party (ALP) that is not beholden to the Unions, but acknowledges them, is prepared to listen & work with them is what I think Carol was trying to say. I have great difficulty at the moment that a great many of the front bench of the LNP are Catholic. So what is this so? Isn’t it the same thing as having Unions controlling the ALP, pushing their idealism.

  26. C@tmomma

    Anon E. Mouse,
    I agree with you that socially & politically-active young people are not finding their natural home in the ALP as much as they used to, many going now to The Greens. My son is one, who joined the ALP but left to go to The Greens. I think when they look at the ALP they see lots of middle-aged Union bosses (and Paul Howes 😉 ) as the face of the ALP, and with the modern environment of work being what it is for them now, they don’t identify with it too well. So they look elsewhere and see a party with asylum seeker & environment policies they wish Labor had.

    As far as Middle Australia goes, though, it’s a different kettle of fish. They are more and more expressing an active disdain for unions and turning away from the ALP and to the Liberal Party for that reason. Which is why I believe the ties that bind the Unions to the ALP should be loosened, for both these reasons.

  27. C@tmomma

    Shaun J.,

    I think, rather, that all union members should be free to join the political party of their choice. They already vote for whomever they choose at election time. Some even voting for the Liberal Party. Go figure about that, but there you go.

    Union Secretaries and their bloc votes in the ALP, and the control it affords them, is what Joe Public doesn’t like and it turns some of them off joining the ALP as a result.

  28. C@tmomma

    I agree with you. The funding argument is the one thrown back at me when I bring this subject up with Union secretaries in the ALP. They say, “So, if that’s what you want, figure out a way for the ALP to survive without the money the Unions put into it.” Good question, I suppose. However, I believe it IS possible.

  29. C@tmomma

    Fed Up,
    ALP and the Unions are like conjoined twins, and even they these days are having operations to separate them!

  30. C@tmomma

    Yes, we absolutely need unions. Yes, we need to have the discussion about their role becoming more sophisticated than it currently is.

  31. C@tmomma

    Trevor Vivian,
    I agree with you! Where’s the democracy in a Union controlled in perpetuity by someone like Bill Ludwig? Which control flows through to the ALP.

  32. khtagh

    I totally agree with you, for 2 totally separate reasons, firstly the way things are going there won’t be much of the union movement left in 2 yrs time by the looks of it. Abbott’s main aim at the moment is to totally destroy the union movement anyway, he will try to use the RC to make it illegal to be a member of any union would be my bet, another look over there moment & allow Abbott to claim all members of the ALP are criminal, after all we know the legal system won’t stop him from slandering anyone he wishes.
    Secondly I don’t see why Labor thinks it owes so much to the union movement either after all, it was the union movement backing John bloody Howard of all people which stopped Mark Latham beating Howard. That was the point at which what you suggest should have happened, we would be in a totally different political situation now had they done so.
    Unfortunately Labor has to find alternate electoral funding, this could be achieved by banning political donations completely, which MUST happen if we are ever going to get our democracy back, where it actually works for us instead of big business.
    Labor could get better support from some sections of the rural vote if they tried, great opportunities seeing a large % of rural voters are waking up to the fact than the Nationals do not represent them at all, start to wedge the lib/nat vote, after all it is what Abbott is trying doing to Labor & the unions.

  33. C@tmomma

    My point is, that for so long as the power structure and Union voting blocs within the ALP exist, then the sorts of bums and careerists that are cruelling unionism in Australia and the fortunes of the ALP as a result, will keep on propagating. To no one’s ultimate benefit because they provide too ready a stick for the Coalition and their fellow travellers to beat the ALP around the head with, and thus enable their anti-worker’s collectives propaganda to resonate.

    I think that this is the nexus that needs to be weakened between the Unions and the ALP in order for the ALP to grow and prosper in the 21st century. For example, Ged Kearney would be a lay-down mizarre to be pre-selected as a Labor candidate in the future. This should be because she is classy. Not because she is the former Secretary of the ACTU. That should only be part of the consideration for ALP candidacy.

    Yes, we need Unions more than ever. We also need MPs in the ALP who are not Union members but believe in fighting for the right to be a union member for others, simply because that would acknowledge that not all work environments can accommodate a Union. A Fair Day’s Pay for a Fair Day’s Work, is what the ALP should always aspire to. For union member and non-union member alike. For all employees.

  34. C@tmomma

    Dr Jeff,
    Yes, the Working Class is under assault. Just look around the world for copious examples of that. Which is why the ALP needs to broaden it’s base to include the workers who cannot, or will not, join a union. But who need protection from the full frontal assault that they are experiencing as a result of the Class War that is going on right now. As Warren Buffett said, “There is a Class War going on now, and my class is winning.”

  35. C@tmomma

    James Dupree,
    Eloquently put.

  36. C@tmomma

    It’s actually my blog post but Carol has put it up because I am a Guest Contributor. 🙂

  37. allenmcmahon

    Yes – Abbott has the union in his sights and Yes- he wants work choices back.

    It is also the case that the unions have provided him with the weapon to do this and an almost unlimited supply of ammunition.

  38. C@tmomma

    I agree with you and I had forgotten about the Unions supporting Howard in Tasmania against Latham. They can be fair-weather friends, to be sure. Funny, I think it was the CFMEU. The same union Abbott is attacking now.

  39. Fed up

    Wake up call for those who believe they have no need for unions. The middle class is also under attack. If one finds this hard to swallow, divert your attention to what has happened in the USA.

    Yes, people with degrees unable to afford a r9oof over their head. Living with families in cars.

  40. Anon E Mouse

    Put the power of the unions into better relationship with other members is good.

    Cutting them out of the ALP is not good – it is exactly what the far right want.

    Lets face it, the base of the ALP needs to be broadened and power devolved to its members.

    I fear that if this is the discussion going on in the ALP then the reforms Rudd initiated are desperately needed.

    Perhaps the ALP will end up split along the lines of the LibLite (and their union supporters) and the traditional Left. Down that path is the death of the party. LibLite will wither and members will drift to the Liberal party. The left will be decimated in this event as the LibLites have already wreaked havoc on them. Compassion and environmental issues appear to be sins with the Lites.

    There is a reason why so many of us who are the traditional supporters of the ALP are not, will not be, members.

    ALP needs to continue its grassroots reform, and retain their links to the unions (not to be controlled by).

  41. fryaduckf

    Carol, time to resign.

  42. diannaart

    I agree with many of the posters here that the time has come for trade unions – which remain a necessary protection for workers, be severed from Labor. Not so much to save Labor, but, in fact to save the unions from too much behind the scenes politicking between some Labor politicians and some wanna-be politicians from the unions.

    This would completely negate the LNP rant of Labor being controlled by unions – which Labor is not and why we only got as far as ‘work-choices’ lite when Rudd won the 2007 election.

    Then unions would be far more accountable to their members, rather than to back-room deals with whoever is in government. Just a thought.

  43. khtagh


    I also wonder if it was done fast enough would it pull the rug out from under the union RC, if Abbott could not beat Labor over the head with the RC would it actually happen? I’d say he would be in a bind, he couldn’t drop the RC because people would see how blatantly political is was to start with.

  44. doctorrob54

    NO.You will always find fault and some criminality in all institutions,the rotten apple BS.Abbott is doing it again,propaganda and manipulation with help from MSM.Don’t fall for it for gods sake.Labor must get back to the left or they are finished.If Labor turns on Unions,they turn on workers.If they turn on workers,go limp wrist on environment,and swing with business,they are the same as Libturds.

  45. Dissenter

    Labor is the UNION movement. Labor cannot sever. It needs the UNIONS to GROW and GROW fast back to where they USED to be…with a membership that is viable.
    2 Million members is not viable out of a workforce of 12 million and including the retired.
    BOTH labor and the UNIONS need to TRANSFORM. FACTIONS need to be abolished. LABOR NEEDS to FUSE and create a single MUCH more left leaning policy as SINGLE policy UNITEd with the UNIONS on this.

    THERE must be LAbor/Union TV/ radio/ newspaper and a a much LARGER presence in ONLINE site.
    A common LABOR UNION site for all to read and view and comment.
    THis is to REEMPOWER labor and UNIONS in the MSM. THEy have to regain CONTROL of their MESSAGE, and policy PROJECTing and also educating and THIS IS TO REGAIN THAT LOST CONTACT with members and supporters.
    WE don’t need SKEW NEWS on msm if we can hear REAL TRUE news with LABOR and Unions.

    An Advertising campaign from the grassroots has to take place with UNIONS and labor entering all workplaces and joining up new members.
    AND much more.
    THE ACTU COnference is on today at ETIHAD STADIUM.

  46. Bill Morris

    In a word Dissenter “CRAP”

    The union glory days of the 50’s & 60’s are gone, as is Menzies. (Do you see the connection?)

    Yours is the very thinking that nowadays deters union membership and debilitates the ALP.

  47. Dissenter

    Thanks Bill Morris.
    There is no Labor without Unions.
    I know that there is a small number of neo conservative Right Labor members who believe so but it is not the case.
    My thinking is ONLYmy thinking and cannot possibly DETER either Union membership or DEBILITATE THE ALP. It is my thinking.
    I BELIEVE that BOTH the UNION movement need to TRANSFORM to UPDATE their viability BUT their GREATEST strength is to TRANSFORM together.

  48. Dissenter

    The Union which I am a member of is apolitical. It has huge membership and resources but it is self seeking.
    IT works for membership to a certain degree of success and negotiates wages.Most members say that the Union does nothing to help anyone.It publishes a newspaper which discusses international poverty and initiatives but does not mention LOCAL politics state or federal. It is a state union.
    This union needs to be reformed and transformed for increased viability in the current environment.

  49. Dissenter

    I do THINK THAT IT IS IMPERATIVE that IT CEASES to be compulsory to be a union member in order to become a member of the ALP.
    THat is an outdated procedure.

  50. Bill Morris

    Perhaps I should rephrase –

    re “There is no Labor without Unions.” “UTTER CRAP”

    It is the people who think like Dissenter (if such vintage dogma is considered thinking) who scare off potential union members.

    Unions are about the workplace and should confine themselves to the workplace and lobby government on workplace matters only.

    Government has far wider responsibilities and should be composed of politicians who represent the community that voted for them, without bias.

  51. Paul Raymond Scahill

    I am probably totally confused with much of the talk above, however, I do believe that the A.L.P. and the Unions certainly hold similar views. If this is perceived to be strength, then so be it. One could not pen me as either a Union or A.L.P. stalwart, however, it appears to me that their ideals are similar to my own. It most certainly is my belief that we should be promoting on-shore processing and that we should make this a corner-stone of our policy to attract an increase in the number of votes that we secure to get rid of this obscene rabble in Canberra. Starting with the King (Abbott) Queen (Bishop) her grand-mother (Bronny) and the rest of the idiots.all have out stayed their welcome and they have not been in government for 6 (six) months yet. If need be we could use the orange lifeboats that Snott had to have, to ensure safe passage and I am sure there are plenty of smart minds out there who could come up with some methodology on the use of same. I fear we have lost our way and we need to find it again pronto to oust these shitbags in Canberra.

  52. doctorrob54

    UTTER CRAP yourself,all things being equal and just you might have a point,but that is not the way it is.If the Labor Party or/and the Greens deserted the Unions,Menzies or Howard would have wiped out the unions many years ago.Liberal Party agenda/ideology is to destroy unionism by any means possible,they have maintained it a political issue from the year dot.Maximum resistance must come not from just other political parties but from everyone who cares about a fair,just society.

  53. Dissenter

    Perhaps Bill Morris works for the LNP. THat is what Abbott would like. Unions are Ok so long as they have no members, no resources, no powerbase and no political arm.

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