ARROGANTLY SMUG in knowing they got away with it in Victoria, Australia’s militant, anti-democratic, lawless unions are readying to deploy nurses and other service workers in dozens of electorates to campaign against the Abbott government at next year’s election. Campaign they might, but to do so in uniform must be outlawed as an abuse of trust. Any surplus union thugs masquerading as nurses and the like should be prosecuted.
Something I wanted to talk about on Tuesday — until Bill Shorten decided he would bask in the glory he thought he could milk out of two gay marriage bills to be introduced to Parliament by persons unconnected with the ALP, that is — concerns a despicable little stunt used by Labor and its thuggy brethren over at Trades Hall at the state election in Victoria last year, and which probably cost the Coalition government.
Regular readers will recall that I spoke about this in the washout from that election back in November, and I would encourage anyone who did not see my article at that time to read it here before we progress too far: the reason will become apparent soon enough.
For the ACTU has announced it will replicate the campaign used to devastating effect against the Napthine government in Victoria, and roll it out across Australia at the federal election due in less than 18 months’ time; and aside from being incandescent with rage that something like this could once again be used to unseat a conservative government, my anger derives not from the unions exercising a right to protest, but from the abuse of taxpayer-funded services, the misuse of responsibility, and the abuse of public trust this particular style of campaign is predicated on.
To some extent, it is also fraudulent, and we’ll come back to that point.
But sending out “uniformed firefighters and nurses” to campaign against a federal government is one of the most deplorable intellectual deceptions the Left has yet managed to conjure up, given firefighting services and hospitals are all operated by the states; what makes it worse is that one of the seats singled out in the report — Corangamite — sits in Labor-governed Victoria, and with a change of government here six months ago the buck for any trouble in the state’s hospitals stops with the very beneficiary of the unions’ efforts last time they wheeled this outrage out, Premier Daniel Andrews, not the Prime Minister or his MPs.
Still, when you’re Labor and the unions, facts and honesty and the truth can never be permitted to get in the way of a good story, and the most telling truth of all is that it wouldn’t matter how well a conservative state government managed to run schools and hospitals and emergency services: the same lies would be trundled out by the same vicious thugs in the knowledge enough gullible people would trust the people in the uniforms — and believe it.
I watched ambulances drive around Melbourne for months last year, scrawled with anti-Liberal slogans; it was obscene, and the most disgusting thing of all is that when the ambulance employees’ union settled with the State of Victoria over their pay claims — less than a week after Labor beat the Coalition in November — it was to accept a “deal” that was, to all intents and purposes, virtually identical to the one they had spent most of the year knocking back from a Liberal government.
I am going to keep my remarks as succinct as possible from this point; there are few things as incendiary to me personally as the union movement and the unmitigated bullshit it carries on with, and to the extent I get called a “hater” by my opponents — a tag I dispute — it is in any case necessary to look only as far as Trades Hall to see why I might attract such accusations at all.
I don’t dispute the right of unions to protest (although I disagree with them vehemently) and I don’t advocate making it illegal for publicly employed and/or funded essential services personnel to campaign against a conservative government.
I do, however, think that having been caught unawares last year by both the “trial phase” of this sort of misbehaviour at a couple of state by-elections in Queensland and then subjected to the patent lies and downright reprehensible misuse of public services in a full-blown state election campaign in Victoria, the Coalition — which has now been served advance warning that the same treatment awaits it federally — needs to act, and act quickly.
To be clear, I would be just as adamant that if peak industry groups (for example) or other business-based entities were doing what the unions now regard as their universal right, that should be knocked on the head too: there is a “red line” that is being crossed here, or several in fact; this kind of campaign is indecent, to say the least, and a flagrant abuse of positions of privilege.
Much as it pains me to acknowledge it, the unions do enjoy a position of privilege too: as advocates for their members, it is incumbent upon them to deal fairly and honestly in their interactions with their membership base, the public, and politically. They don’t, of course. But that’s not my problem to fix.
What I do think should happen as a matter of some urgency is that uniformed workers in public service — nurses, firefighters, paramedics, Police, SES personnel, the armed forces, the whole box and dice — should be summarily dismissed if they campaign politically, especially during official election campaign periods, in uniform: it should be a sackable offence.
Any of these people who get on the phone to voters in marginal seats in their official capacity (as the unions also did last year) with fabricated stories about medical negligence, budget cuts that didn’t exist, horror stories about specific cases that might or might not have been invented, and all the rest of the bullshit unions got up to in Victoria should also be subject to dismissal.
Anyone joining these campaigns in facsimiles of official uniforms (or, worse, in genuine garments “borrowed” for the purposes of political campaigning) should be charged with impersonating public officials, and prosecuted.
And any person or persons found to have vandalised public property in the way the ambulance union had its employees do in Victoria should similarly be charged with property damage offences and prosecuted.
(I don’t give a rat’s arse that Fair Work Australia — a keystone regime set up as a sop to unions, and to enforce their industrial will, by the Gillard government — declared the defacement of ambulances to be lawful, either: it was a disgrace).
Penalties for union personnel found to have organised, influenced, coerced or otherwise orchestrated this kind of stunt should be set steeply as a permanent deterrent: up to a million dollars for individuals, and up to $10 million per union per offence.
If the unions have $13 million to bankroll a campaign predicated on the abuse of public trust in essential service personnel, then they can afford the kind of penalties that should accompany them.
And the Abbott government can do this; enabling regulations might or might not require legislation, but could be applied under either the commonwealth Electoral Act or the federal criminal code: either way, the means to stamp this sort of thing out once and for all is well within the Abbott government’s grasp.
To reiterate — and for clarity — if nurses and ambulance drivers and firefighters want to campaign for Labor and/or against the Liberal Party, they should remain free to do so, in plain clothes, on their own unpaid time, and to do so without the legitimising imprimatur of acting in their official capacity.
But when the ambulances and fire engines and the rest of the union bullshit apparently set to confront voters at the next federal election is rolled out, nobody can say they weren’t warned; and equally, nobody should pay the slightest attention to the message.
I know I have used the word “outrage” and others similar to it perhaps a few times too many in this article, but if you can’t win an election on facts and argument you shouldn’t win an election by union manipulation and a dishonest stream of taxpayer-funded lies.
Attorney-General George Brandis should get onto drafting up the required measures to outlaw this obscenity as a high-order priority when he returns to his office next week.
Nobody is calling the average voter stupid, but allowing such audaciously fraudulent campaign strategies to flourish and be propagated is hardly a recipe for genuinely democratic choices or outcomes either.