AN UNEXPECTED political bonus seems likely to be gifted to the Coalition in the near future, with increasingly marginalised unions set to all but assume control of the ALP’s preselections of MPs and parliamentary candidates; the move — flagged ahead of Labor’s upcoming national conference — is supported by all five candidates for the party’s federal presidency, and would permanently entrench militant union dominance of the ALP at every level.
It’s just a short post from me this morning, but you have to wonder at times just how stupid some people can be: and when it comes to the renewed embrace between the Labor Party and its cousins on the militant wing of the union movement, that stupidity appears to know no bounds.
An article appearing briefly on The Australian‘s website last night details a plan to enfranchise up to a million card-carrying union members at ALP preselections as a way of increasing “member” participation in selecting parliamentary candidates.
As that article notes, Labor’s membership currently stands at a little over 50,000, so the measure — if formalised — would overrun rank-and-file ALP members by a 20 to 1 margin and effectively cede complete control over both the endorsement of parliamentary candidates and the parliamentary Labor caucus to the union movement.
And this plan — supported by all five of the candidates standing to become Labor’s federal president — is said to be aimed at “democratisation” of the ALP, along with “increasing accountability and transparency.”
The notion sounds about as opaquely transparent as a cesspool.
At some point, the revival of union prevalence (and dominance) within the ALP that began, more or less, with the union-funded campaign against the Howard government’s WorkChoices laws a decade ago is going to come full circle, and assert a permanently deleterious influence on Labor’s electoral prospects; I just wonder whether this move, if pursued to implementation, represents that point.
Already in the past year, we have seen Labor win government in Victoria — bankrolled by monies from the violent, militant, lawless CFMEU — through a union-infested campaign using emergency services workers and other unionists masquerading as nurses, ambulance drivers and firefighters that bordered on electoral fraud.
We have seen Labor reclaim government in Queensland (again substantially funded by fat wads of cash from the CFMEU) with the resulting minority Palaszczuk regime seemingly beholden to the demands of unions which now seek to flex their muscles, and to collect on the debt to which they believe themselves entitled.
And just a few short months ago, we saw federal Labor combine with the
Communist Party Greens to scuttle a bill in the Senate that would have enforced the same standards of governance and corporate diligence on unions as entities as already applies to the corporate sector: as a response to evidence of widespread illegality and corruption uncovered at the Heydon Royal Commission into the trade union movement, it was a disappointing and counter-intuitive move indeed.
Depending on whose figures you accept (or how much interest you have in distorting the facts), membership of unions in this country has plummeted in recent decades, and now stands at somewhere between 13 and 17% of the Australian workforce.
It’s hardly the mark of a movement that is representative of the community in the broadest sense, and when it is remembered that a huge portion of that remaining membership is tied up in the same construction unions that were mostly the trigger for the Royal Commission in the first place, union membership beyond its confines is virtually negligible.
Still, the unions have spent a decade pouring vast sums of cash into the Labor Party; the fact most of its leaders now hail from the militant Left of the party and/or occupied senior leadership roles within the union movement prior to their ascension to elected office is a direct consequence of this trend toward the purchase of authority and power by irrelevant unions that have little or nothing meaningful to offer to the vast majority of ordinary Australians.
Now, these lawless, thuggish, intermittently violent union gangs are set to seize permanent and total control of the ALP through its preselection processes across the country.
The implications for the Coalition are obvious; there are good reasons for union membership to have collapsed so drastically over the past 30 years or so, and they go to the heart of the obsolete nature of the union movement’s offering to ordinary men and women who fail to identify with the union creed, and vote with their feet by declining to join it.
And tellingly — despite the best efforts of the Gillard government in particular to reverse this decline in union numbers — their membership levels stubbornly continue to fall.
Were the Coalition inclined to do so (or suitably equipped in the areas of strategy, tactics and communications), a big opportunity to tear the ALP apart politically over this latest manifestation of its surrender to its masters at Trades Hall beckons.
But at some point, perhaps the disinclination (or inability) to turn the blowtorch on Labor over its unhealthy sellout to the unions will become moot: only those already riding aboard the union cart perceive any enduring sense of responsibility or ethics about the unions nowadays, and most people sense “union” has become a byword for thuggery, lawlessness, and the pursuit of a narrow agenda of self-interest at the direct expense of the best interests of the community as a whole.
Now, the unions are set to be handed untrammelled power over who sits in Parliament for the Labor Party, and who does not.
It remains to be seen how the newish ALP state governments fare (although the early signs are not good), but this latest incarnation of union control over Labor might just be the thing to plunge the party back into the complete irrelevance in which it dwelt for decades only a generation or so ago.
The more things change, the more they stay the same; the difference is that today, unions represent around one in seven working Australians, as opposed to almost one in two just 30 or 40 years ago.
If this is Labor’s idea of “democracy,” I’d shudder to think what it might be capable of if it ever turned its mind to totalitarianism, state socialism, and open illiberal brutality.
Then again, there is plenty of evidence to suggest the “modern” ALP is an adept proponent of just those objectives. The complete surrender to the unions now set to be enacted will simply entrench those anti-democratic tendencies even further.
For Australia’s conservative parties, a very big opportunity is about to be handed to them on a platter. Whether they are able to exploit it remains to be seen.