Lawless Filth: Unions, Greens, ALP Show True Colours

A CALL by ACTU secretary Sally McManus for unions and workers to break laws they find “unjust” is a clarion call to thugs and militants who think they run Australia; downplayed by ALP “leader” Bill Shorten and lauded by the Leftist filth of Communists Greens, McManus has confirmed what most people always knew: unions are lawless. If ever there was a pretext to smash union power — rather than cloak it in fatuously soaring rhetoric — this is it.

There are a couple of issues I want to try to cover off on today, so I will keep it fairly straight to the point; yet again, my week has once again panned out in rather time-consuming ways, and with a Newspoll probably due out tonight or tomorrow — it skipped the usual fortnightly cycle this week in the aftermath of the WA state election — we need to come up to date.

But the midweek outburst from incoming ACTU secretary Sally McManus — an explicit sanction by Trades Hall for unions and workers to break industrial laws they think are “unjust” — was rightly and correctly slammed by federal Liberal minister Christopher Pyne as “anarcho-Marxist claptrap.”

The comments were made in the context of a campaign to wind back restrictions on the right to strike; some additional coverage from The Australian may be accessed here and here.

Bill Shorten — always happy to play both sides of the fence when it comes to appeasing his Trades Hall chums — claimed he didn’t agree with McManus’ prescription for breaking laws she didn’t agree with, but left the open-ended assertion that “if you think the law is unjust or unfair, you change the government and you change the law” hanging as a clear wink-and-nod to both the position McManus outlined, and to expected lawless union tactics in the lead-up to the next federal election.

As is always the case, Shorten has tried to have his cake and eat it too: he deserves to choke on the crumbs.

And predictably, almost unqualified support for this new ACTU campaign of thuggery and thumbing its nose at authority was quickly forthcoming from that despicable hotbed of left wing extremism, the Greens, with leader Richard di Natale congratulating McManus and claiming she had said “what many Australians know and understand.”

Anyone who takes any notice of di Natale and/or his party needs their heads examined, frankly.

McManus pointed to “international labour standards” that she claimed enshrined the right of any person to “withdraw labour” as a justification for the secondary boycotts and other outlawed industrial behaviour that has led to the notorious CFMEU being repeatedly slapped with fines running into the tens of millions of dollars; I simply say that nobody should care less about these “international standards:” this is Australia, and Australia is governed from Canberra — not through some convenient assortment of international accords struck by unelected partisans, which too often provide excuses for the anti-Australian behaviour of the Left.

And that applies to a whole lot of other areas than just the whims of the bloody unions.

It is a disturbing new development to find Australian unionists (and leadership figures within their movement at that) dispensing with claims that their organisations always act lawfully, and instead now advocating wilful and knowing illegal behaviour.

It strongly suggests that Trades Hall is growing immune to the threat of prosecutions of its minions, and this — along with the quickly growing threat of a return of the ALP to government federally within the next couple of years — ought to alarm decent, law-abiding Australians who simply want to go about their business.

What makes it worse is the fact that unions now count just 9% of private sector workers among their membership: the union movement is now nothing more than a fringe movement. Comments such as those made by McManus during the week merely show (once again) that this minuscule and largely irrelevant little junta genuinely thinks it runs this country. It most certainly does not.

During the coal miners’ strike in the UK in the mid-1980s — an attempt by the Trade Union Council (the British equivalent of the ACTU) to bring down the Thatcher government — Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously characterised the TUC campaign as “an attempt to substitute the rule of the mob for the rule of law and that it must not succeed;” Thatcher won that battle, which is more than anyone can say about the present government and its adherents when it comes to curbing the excesses of union power.

Bleating about the Senate simply doesn’t cut it when the unions and the ALP raise money for high-profile national mass communication campaigns that cut through and win votes, when the Coalition and its business friends, quite plainly, do not.

Thanks to a Productivity Commission ruling that mandates modest reductions in penalty rates on Sundays for some workers — which currently see the absurd situation of restaurant workers being paid $60 and $80 per hour to make coffee, and clean tables, and wash dishes — the Turnbull government is being skewered by an ALP/union campaign against which it seems incapable of mounting a persuasive defence, and has been all but abandoned by its alleged allies in the business sector.

This would be the same business sector that begged the Howard government, in 2005, to use its Senate majority to enact labour market deregulation; WorkChoices was in fact a reasonably moderate platform, especially once the “no disadvantage” test was restored after an oversight. But to listen to the unions at the time, ordinary workers would end up being paid just a few cents per hour unless the laws were repealed. On that occasion, as on this, the business community and its various lobby groups and industry bodies sat on their hands, kept the coffers closed, and allowed the Howard government to be sacrificed to a $13 million union campaign that was mostly comprised of lies and fairy stories.

Unions claim their “role,” especially in the construction sector, is predicated on “safety:” on a recent flight back to Melbourne, I sat next to the wife of a very senior union figure, from whom the admission was eventually extracted that industrial injuries and deaths occur on union-controlled sites just as they do on non-unionised sites. There goes that theory.

Rather, the privileged position unions have ensconced themselves in is more aimed at riding roughshod over the companies that employ their workers, freezing out people who don’t want to join a union (which is in itself illegal), and driving up construction sector costs, which — using the international comparisons so beloved of the Left in this country — are the highest in real terms in the developed world.

Is it any wonder the unemployment rate in Australia is rising?

In other sectors — such as Education — unions work almost exclusively to entrench mediocrity, and to make it impossible to pay the very best teachers more than the no-hopers at the bottom of the pack who give the profession a bad name.

And I say “almost exclusively” because when they aren’t working to entrench the institutionalised socialist instrument of uniform pay scales irrespective of ability or results, teacher unions have in recent years evolved into a willing instrument for the propagation of contemptible left-wing doctrinal misadventures. The insidious “Safe Schools” program, with its agenda of destroying traditional values masquerading as an anti-bullying package, is a case in point.

In the wake of McManus’ remarks, take a look around social media: there is no shortage of hardcore union and socialist activists posting quotes from people like Martin Luther King to ennoble and promote the law-breaking spirit McManus has sought to foster. Such diatribes dishonour the likes of Dr King, and further cheapen the message from a union movement that starts from a position of very little value in today’s Australia anyway.

In truth, all McManus’ words are good for is to justify a determined assault on the malodorous presence of the union movement in Australia that far transcends its actual support or a proportionate degree of influence, when judged against that pathetic 9% take-up rate outside the ranks of the teachers and the public servants.

They should encourage and embolden, not deter, a renewed focus by law enforcement agencies and the likes of the Australian Building and Construction Commission to penalise transgressions of industrial laws even more heavily, for penalties are no deterrent if they fail to discourage recidivist actions.

And they should motivate the Coalition, and its followers in the business community, to get serious about tightening curbs on secondary boycotts, industrial thuggery and other militant (and often violent) union behaviour even further: it is not right, for example, that unions should bring whole cities to a standstill over relatively isolated incidents (such as the dispute with Carlton and United Breweries in Melbourne a couple of years ago), and especially when the marauding union pack is mostly comprised of workers with no direct connection to the companies, the industries, or even the actual unions involved in those incidents.

I’m known for my dislike of unions, and especially the more militant and thuggish ones; I’ve never shied away from that perception, although I have always maintained that people have a right to join a union if they want to: it is the way those unions behave that I take issue with.

But when one of the leaders of the peak industry body in this country openly advocates lawless, anarchic, gratuitously unlawful behaviour until or unless Trades Hall gets what it wants — to the exclusion of being held to account, facing penalty, or acting in a way that most people would regard as acceptable — then its time for the whole citadel to be smashed, and for incitements to union members to ignore the law at will to be heavily punished indeed.

If anyone wonders why I’m such an enthusiastic proponent of smashing unions and breaking the ill-gotten influence they enjoy in this country, McManus’ remarks go very close to the mark; and if anyone questions why I think unions are out of place in today’s Australia, or why I think they add nothing whatsoever to constructive economic and social outcomes, McManus couldn’t have served up a more fitting answer if she had tried.

 

Nurses, Firefighters, Union Thugs: Election Stunt Must Be Outlawed

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.

 

Industrial Sabotage: Make Casuals Permanent, Says ACTU

A CHARACTERISTICALLY DESTRUCTIVE proposal from ACTU head Ged Kearney for casual employees to be made permanent would disadvantage workers, reduce employment, add cost and administrative burdens to business, and destroy more of the precious little flexibility left in the industrial system in the wake of the Rudd-Gillard government. Yet again, the ACTU seeks to harm the workers it claims to represent in its crusade against business.

You can say what you like about Bob Hawke — and I’m no fan, just to be sure about it — but at the very minimum, his tenure as head of the ACTU in the 1970s was marked by at least the attempt to strike some kind of consensus between business and labour and, unlike a lot of unionists before and since, Hawke at least understood that hard reality meant industrial outcomes had to benefit both employer and employee: even marginally, and however grudgingly, where business was concerned.

It says much about the post-1996 union movement and the old-style, inflexible Fair Work regime it extracted from the last ALP government just how far the pendulum of union focus has swung, with plenty of evidence that ingrained anti-business union mentalities have cost tens of thousands of jobs in recent years.

I could be talking about the demise of the car industry, for example, where EBAs stuck in “good” faith by unions priced their workers out of their markets and led to the big car manufacturers abandoning Australia as a place to make cars; or I could be talking, for example, about the stout refusal of unions to budge on things like weekend penalty rates for restaurant workers that can see hourly rates in the vicinity of $60 per hour payable on Sundays, with the direct consequence that increasing numbers of hospitality businesses are choosing not to open on Sundays at all in our supposed “24 hour world economy” because it is simply too expensive to do so.

Yep, those unions have looked after the jobs — and the interests — of their members in recent times, and the apparent mentality that no job is preferable to the one an employer is literally able to afford to provide has a lot to do with the results of the unions’ handiwork.

The latest shot in this misdirected campaign is set to be fired by ACTU president Ged Kearney — not a patch on Hawke, of course, or those such as Simon Crean who followed him — with a submission to the Fair Work Commission that casual staff be made into permanent employees.

I will leave it to readers to go through the article to which I have linked; this morning’s post will be a relatively quick one, as I am going to be otherwise busy for most of the day. But this great new idea raises far more questions than it purports to answer, and I suspect the redoubtable Ms Kearney is happy to revel in the “we’re standing up for exploited workers” signal this sends but would struggle to provide meaningful (or satisfactory) answers to any of those questions.

The most obvious of which is an answer to the charge — made by Kate Carnell, the CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry — that for many businesses, if they couldn’t use casuals, they wouldn’t use anyone.

Does Kearney think she can legislate the behaviour of business? Does she think big, blunt and counter-productive instruments like the Fair Work Act can deliver tokenistic outcomes that make for good headlines whilst eschewing responsibility for the cost? And does she think legislative and executive amendments to industrial instruments can radically alter the nature of business simply to fit the agenda of her anachronistic union movement?

Who knows. But the fact she stipulates her proposed changes would not apply to “genuine casuals” such as students working “irregular shifts in bars or restaurants” tends to suggest Kearney is at least aware of just how destructive what she advocates could be in terms of the employment market. Or perhaps it’s simply a pre-emptive measure to insulate those industries already placing existential burdens by way of penalty rates from the additional lunacy for which she now says she wants to fight.

What I want to know is which causal employees in particular have pleaded with the ACTU for their hourly wages to be cut, given these currently include loadings of about 25% to offset the fact no annual leave, sick days or other benefits provided to permanent employees. The flipside is that casuals take this money home in their pay upfront, and rely on it when planning out their expenditure and savings. How is Kearney planning to explain an effective 25% wage cut to these people?

She claims her “initiative” applies to those casuals “who genuinely work permanent hours,” but who is the union movement to dig deeper into the circumstances surrounding those arrangements and/or to impose unilateral change to them irrespective of the situation of each business and/or employee?

What does Kearney propose businesses who need to take on seasonal workers do — give these workers, often travellers and students who will leave the country soon enough, employment agreements that confer benefits like holiday pay and long service leave that will never be used?

Some businesses, especially those struggling to survive, or adversely affected by other market forces, may simply not be in a position to provide permanent, guaranteed employment; others — such as government departments in hiring freezes, for example, as has been the case in Victoria for some time — are not in a position to take on permanent employees at all, yet those who join these organisations get significantly more each week in their take-home pay than those on full employment contracts. What is Kearney’s solution? That unions run the employment and personnel functions of these bodies?

Some workers are perfectly happy to accept regular casual employment in the knowledge there will be no paid leave, for whatever reason. How does Ms Kearney propose to explain to these individuals that her union is acting in their best interests by destroying the conditions under which they prefer to work?

There is a greater burden on businesses in terms of administration, payroll management and compliance with a roster of permanent employees that does not exist compared to the better suitability  — again, for whatever reason — of providing causal employment within their business models. Is Ms Kearney happy for these businesses to close, at the cost of whatever jobs they nonetheless provide, if the difference in the burden is too wide for them to cover?

And more broadly, where business has a short-term but intensive need for additional labour that permanent employment is an ill fit for, the changes Kearney apparently advocates might see them opt simply to increase the workload of their additional employees, and hire nobody extra at all. How does that reconcile with the advancement of either the conditions of the existing employees, or the employment prospects of those who might otherwise join their ranks?

I could go on, but as I said, today’s post is more of a discussion starter than any comprehensive analysis. But I would make the observation that once again, the unions — under Kearney’s stewardship — seem to be embarking on a tangent that sounds great from the PR perspective of their anti-business agenda, but which falls down badly when the inevitable pitfalls are exposed, questioned, and prove unable to be satisfactorily resolved.

What is that union rallying call — a claim to support “your rights at work?” With friends like these, Australia’s unions represent the last thing the country’s workers need when it comes to thrashing out the finer points of their employment arrangements.

 

To Prosper, Labor Must Jettison Union Link

THE LANDSLIDE DEFEAT of the last Labor government — substantially controlled directly and indirectly by the union movement — should sound the death knell for Australian Labor’s formal links to the trade union movement; increasingly irrelevant, economically destructive and, it now seems, infested with rampant criminality and corruption, the mainstream Left must choose: fundamental reform, or oblivion.

One of the (many) reasons the Liberal Party enjoyed 23 unbroken years in government between 1949 and 1972 — a hegemony reflected in and variously overlapped by long-term conservative administrations in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia — was the endemic division in the Labor Party and in turn, the influence of its union flank in creating, perpetuating and compounding that division.

A key factor in sparking such disarray — and Labor’s “great split” of the 1950s — was, of course, Communism. Yet as Labor’s years in opposition rolled drearily on, the greater enemy was the one within.

Labor parties in the states — which, from the 1960s on, had started to more directly feel the influence of their union wings, as rising numbers of union personnel found their way to Parliament in safe Labor seats — were rendered unelectable, facing successful scare campaigns against socialism, communism, and the trade union culture of industrial anarchy and thuggery waged by formidable conservative leaders like Sir Henry Bolte, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, and the wily Sir Thomas Playford.

In some respects these were Labor’s halcyon days: seemingly consigned to opposition permanently, the ALP actually stood for something, despite the growing presence of its union masters in its ranks; perpetually faced with the prospect of electoral defeat, Labor had to fight if it were ever to succeed, and the only way to do so was to convince a conservative electorate that it stood for something other than the excesses of the union movement and the “nasties” that were widely perceived to accompany them.

To this end, the ALP owes an enduring debt to Gough Whitlam and his election in 1972: the party’s emphasis on education, health, and social welfare under Whitlam paved the way for Australian Labor’s most successful political period; the ALP has held office for a majority of the past 40 years federally and in every state bar Western Australia (where it formed government for 18 of those 40 years).

To further underscore the point, of the 63 years between Federation and 1974, Labor held office federally for just 18 of them.

Clearly, there is a dividend to be reaped by standing for something meaningful, as simplistic as that may sound.

I wanted to post on this today — and yes, I’m keeping it very general for now — in light of the current public debate over the Abbott government’s policy to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and given revelations of rampant criminal misconduct and corruption in a number of unions are now coming to light as “whistleblowers” start to emerge from union ranks to volunteer details of such things.

The prospect of a Royal Commission into the union movement is no doubt helping to motivating these noble actions, too. The unions and Labor — to say nothing of those of their members who may find themselves jailed as an end consequence of the process that will soon commence — have much to fear from a judicial inquiry, and everything to lose.

The risks, however, fall disproportionately upon the ALP, as the political arm of the wider labour movement.

Since the federal election last September, we’ve talked a lot about the unions, the wider political Left in this country, and what should be done about them and rightly or wrongly, I’ve taken a fair bit of heat both through direct comment on this site and elsewhere on account of unapologetically kicking the anti-union can around.

I do believe, however, that we’re on the cusp of a fundamental shift in both the way the Left operates politically in Australia (or we should be, if it wishes to survive) and the way it is perceived in the wider community.

And this will mean that for Labor to survive and prosper as a party, it will need to cut its formal links — once and for all — with the trade union movement.

We have already spoken of the stream of Labor figures either currently before the courts, under investigation over allegations of criminal misconduct, or already prosecuted and convicted: it is perhaps no coincidence that this group has to date been overwhelmingly composed of people whose backgrounds lie in the trade union movement.

As I mentioned, we’re starting to learn of details of alleged criminal activity, corruption and other inappropriate conduct within those unions: the CFMEU, in particular, has in recent days been hit with accusations of misconduct that have found their way into the press; one of the main issues in the Melbourne press has centred on practices at union-controlled construction sites that boil down to blackmail, extortion, abuses of market power, and outright corruption.

(I reiterate: I’m keeping things general; I don’t want to bog down in haggling over the merits or otherwise of specific allegations, people, what they may or may not have done — there will be time for that in due course).

The general public has already witnessed the tawdry saga of the Health Services Union being played out nightly on their television screens and in the press; one senior figure in that fiasco has already been jailed, whilst another — former Labor MP Craig Thomson — will soon learn whether he faces the same fate.

Everyone knows, too, that an alleged fraud involving the AWU is being investigated by Police in Victoria, despite the very best efforts of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard to prevent this — and any involvement she had in it — from ever seeing the light of day; indeed, this being the union once led by current Labor “leader” Bill Shorten, the issue has the potential to become very messy indeed, and potentially to implicate a lot of people directly connected to the ALP.

And of course, if you live in NSW, ICAC has provided a steady stream of revelations about the rotten, corrupt Labor regime that ran that state for 16 years — and it, too, was heavily populated by former union officials.

But if we move beyond the alleged criminalities of the Labor/union edifice, the political effects of the unions on the ALP’s fortunes are a time bomb seemingly ready to detonate.

I don’t think most Australians have really had a great level of comprehension to date of the minutiae of the kind of enterprise bargaining agreements (EBAs) that various unions have struck over the past 20 years with major companies such as SPC, Qantas, and the car manufacturing companies — to name a few.

Those agreements, however, are being thrown into stark relief as companies that have long been household names (or “Australian icons,” if you like) are either shutting up shop and leaving the country, or are at grave risk of going broke as spiralling labour costs help turn once-viable businesses into basket cases.

The “high dollar” excuse rolled out by unions as an excuse for car makers in particular ceasing to manufacture vehicles here really doesn’t cut ice any more; the value of the Australian dollar has declined 20% against its US counterpart in the past year, and is expected to fall further: were it not for the presence of a shiny new conservative government to take its anger out on, the union movement would have nowhere to hide when it comes to the punitively high real wages its EBAs have inflicted on major businesses.

The other thing to take note of is the conduct of the ALP itself, and the direct correlation between the huge increase in the number of former unionists in its ranks and the deterioration of what the ALP passes off as reasonable or even decent conduct of itself.

Obviously, democratic government (and especially within what is essentially a two-party system) is highly adversarial; there’s nothing wrong with that.

But if readers think back to the last time the ALP was booted out of office federally in 1996, the consequent opposition led by Kim Beazley didn’t behave like the one “led” by Bill Shorten does.

The present incarnation of Labor in opposition bullies, lies, smears, abuses, and misleads; it would rather peddle incorrect information publicly in its quest to cheaply score votes than to evaluate its failures as a government, to develop reasonable and meaningful policies to underpin its claim to regain government, and to get out and sell these new policies to an electorate that is fresh from ejecting it from government by a country mile.

Even the issues Labor likes to claim ownership of, and the “successes” it likes to trumpet from its time in office, are tainted: it is an open secret that the so-called Gonski reforms were more about legislating huge amounts of recurrent expenditure on Education to sabotage the ability of a Liberal government to manage the federal budget than they were motivated by any real interest in education, other than to arrogate the tag of ownership to itself on the basis of a pot of money.

Labor’s National Disability Insurance Scheme is tarred with the same brush, being largely unfunded and dependent on the borrowing of tens of billions of additional (foreign) dollars just to implement the first stage of the intended eventual program — money the country simply can’t afford, irrespective of the merits of the idea. But again, never mind: the Liberals will have to deal with it.

And as the tentacles of union influence have slithered into every aspect of the operations, policies and parliamentary representation of the ALP, it has moved that party further and further from a correlation with the majority in the middle of the electorate as a whole.

One of the reasons the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government was as obsessed with minorities as it was is very simply due to the fact that programs to pander to those minorities require bureaucrats to run them, and the easiest source of new bureaucrats — if you’re from a Labor government — is over at Trades Hall.

And I make the point that the insiderish, bovverish, spiv-like hack mentality that characterises the way Labor’s foot soldiers conduct themselves — the abuse, the spin, the victimisation of those who cross them — is a straight import from the culture of union organisers across the country.

Try having a debate on Twitter with any of the thousands of Labor-operated accounts that spew out endless streams of misleading political drivel. At best, they’ll dismiss you as “a troll” and block you. At worst, the abuse you’ll experience will dispel any doubt about the point I am making quicker than you can click your fingers.

Yet unions still have a 50% say in how the ALP is run, in spite of the surfeit of evidence of the damage all of this is doing to the ALP and to its prospects of regaining office in Australia, either on its own or in yet another unholy alliance with the Communist Party Greens.

In short, all of this is a turn-off to the everyday Australians Labor — and the unions, for that matter — claim they act in the interests of.

Labor — and the unions — are right to note that companies like Ford, and Mitsubishi, and Holden, and Qantas collectively employ tens of thousands of people: their concern for the jobs of those people is admirable.

Or at least it would be, were it not for the fact that the rising tide of wage costs inflicted on those companies by union-negotiated EBAs is driving them out of business. At some point, decent folk who might be sympathetic to the “fair pay and conditions” rhetoric of the unions are going to wake up to the fact, en masse, that that rhetoric — in light of the usurious conditions already enjoyed by those workers — is just hot air.

The point of this post is really just to lay some ground in the most general of terms in view of the prominence the unions are set to enjoy (or endure) as 2014 progresses; I think the year could prove pivotal — and not in a positive way — to the future of the ALP-union axis, and it brings me to a point I have occasionally but repeatedly made over the lifetime of this column.

Very simply, it is that Labor — far from working out how to shield and exonerate the unions that nourish it financially — should be working to extricate itself from that nexus, with a view to abandoning it altogether: what has clearly become an albatross around the party’s neck in terms of its ability to connect to ordinary voters is set to become lethal.

The Abbott government shouldn’t be blamed for that; no government should tolerate criminal activity, even in its own back yard, and in any case is obliged to do all in its power to stamp it out.

In fact, it’s a damning indictment on the ALP that it has allowed the kind of misconduct a Royal Commission will expose to continue at all, let alone flourish unfettered: and make no mistake, a Royal Commission into the union movement (and the findings from it)  has the potential to keep Labor in opposition for a very, very long time, irrespective of any short-term optimism current opinion polls or a possible win at a by-election might inspire.

Treating the union movement — and its cash — as just another vested interest in a wider coalition of causes lobbying to advance their objectives should be the direction Labor heads in; the union movement won’t change, so if it is to secure its position as the pre-eminent political force on Australia’s Left, then it is the ALP that must change.

Readers will have heard me suggest that becoming a true party of social democracy, unencumbered by virtual ownership by the union movement, should be the end destination for Labor — if, indeed, it were to continue to refer to itself as “Labor” at all after such a fundamental restructure.

But that party has a choice. It can reinvent itself from the top down, or it can face the consequences of its past, content at least with the bitter consolation that nothing ever changes if things are done as they always have been.

The various looming inquiries into the union movement are almost guaranteed to reveal a citadel of criminality unprecedented in the history of this country. If the ALP wants to get the jump on them, it had better start running now.

 

AND ANOTHER THING: with the union movement staring down the barrel of a Royal Commission into corruption and other alleged criminal misconduct, calls from the likes of ACTU president Ged Kearney — in effect, to allow such matters to be dealt with by Police — should be ignored. Stretched state Police forces do not have the capacity to investigate such matters as thoroughly or systematically as a dedicated, properly-resourced judicial inquiry with sweeping powers and terms of reference, and Ms Kearney knows it. Calls of this nature are a red herring designed to divert attention from the problem, not to deal with it, and only add to the impetus for such an inquiry to be instituted at all.

 

Political Stink Bomb: Gillard To (Attempt To) Legislate Penalty Rates

PERHAPS eyeing the likely Liberal landslide at the coming election, or perhaps to shore up support for her leadership of the ALP among the unions that effectively control it, Julia Gillard today pledged to legislate penalty rates. It is economic vandalism, and a flagrant act of political hypocrisy.

The Prime Minister has seemingly capitulated to the union thugs at the helm of the Labor Party; the Murdoch press reports today that as recently as last month, there was little support within the ALP for this change to be made.

Yet being a leader under siege, and at risk of the metaphorical bullet, can sharpen and focus a politician’s mind to an astonishing degree; for this reason it comes as little surprise that Gillard is giving the union movement a prize item from its wish list.

There is a direct correlation between Labor-affiliated unions and Labor Party leadership votes, and when the message to the poll-obsessed ALP is that seven in ten voters want somebody else* to lead it, and if you’re Gillard, there’s probably a need to keep all the friends you can on side.

But I think there’s something a bit more basic — and nastier — behind this too: just as Wayne Swan has tried to do with the issue of election costings (the self-important one thinking he is far cleverer than he actually is), Gillard too is laying in a stink bomb she thinks will explode in the face of Tony Abbott and his Liberal government.

It has nothing to do with “workers’ rights,” either. God forbid.

The purpose of the legislative change is to guarantee higher pay for penalty rates, overtime, shift work loading and public holiday pay, enshrining these into the Fair Work Act to effectively make them a right for anyone working long or irregular hours.

The problem (and this is an old story) is that the small businesses who would mostly be required to pay them are financially strained enough as it is; the rate of business closures since Labor came to power in 2007 has skyrocketed, and many of those still in business might still be standing, but only just.

I have to ask a very simple question: where do Gillard, and her union buddies, think the money is coming from?

Not so long ago, prominent restaurateur George Calombaris campaigned to have penalty rates abolished; his rationale was that to open his upmarket restaurant on a Sunday, for example — paying staff double the rate it would cost on a Saturday or a Monday — was simply not commercially viable.

It’s a fair point, and one I’d add to by simply pointing out that your average diner at Calombaris’ trendy Melbourne restaurant might be willing to pay $135 for one of his eight course degustation dinners, but would they pay $270?

And the reason it’s a fair question is because unless someone like a Calombaris can double the asking price for their goods or services, their business cannot operate at a profit whilst attempting to absorb double the costs.

(Especially not in restaurants — trust me. I spent a few years operating restaurants in the early 1990s, the margins are a lot tighter than you might think).

This is an isolated example, but similar stories can be found in hundreds of thousands of small businesses across Australia who already struggle with the cost imposition of penalty rates and the like.

It’s certainly true that Gillard isn’t seeking to legislate something that doesn’t already exist.

But it is also true that real wages in Australia have grown strongly and almost without interruption for several decades now, and under governments run by both of the major political parties.

And for that reason, if there is to be any movement on the issue of penalty rates it ought to be toward getting rid of them, not trying to extend them in perpetuity.

One of the reasons jobs in so many industries in Australia are disappearing to places like India, or Thailand, or the Philippines, is precisely because of the high real wages in this country: in many areas, our labour costs price us out of the market.

Now, I don’t advocate a wholesale slashing of real wages (which is what I will nonetheless be accused of in some quarters).

But the fact is that penalty rates (of whichever variety) are an archaic relic from times when wages across the board were far lower, poverty was widespread, and checks that now exist on unscrupulous employers did not exist.

They were the times of mainstream union relevance, indeed!

So in case anyone think I’m making light of the issue, I’m not; but what I am saying is that whilst real wages in Australia may have rocketed over the past 40 years, the profits of small business as a whole certainly haven’t.

If there are no businesses to employ people, there are no jobs. It’s really very simple.

And the unions would do well to keep that in mind, as their ongoing struggle to bend the hated employer over a barrel eventually prices the worker out of a job, and the employer out of existence.

Like I said, there is no concern for workers’ rights and entitlements underpinning this latest policy of Gillard’s: they won’t have any rights or entitlements if they don’t have jobs.

All that said, I come back to the stink bomb this announcement by Gillard pretty clearly seeks to leave on the doormat of The Lodge as a welcome present for the Abbotts.

I’ve already hinted at its intent: those ghastly, hated Liberals, in their rush to bring back WorkChoices, will abolish penalty rates for hard-working folk and drive hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people below the breadline.

What an absolute load of twaddle.

Gillard probably thinks she’s being oh-so clever; it’s likely she believes she is setting up for an “Abbott Attacks Workers” campaign destined to render him unelectable.

Firstly, this will be the third consecutive election Labor has attempted to fight on the back of WorkChoices, and the second at which the Coalition has pledged to never reintroduce that Howard-era industrial policy.

Second, Gillard’s promise of legislated industrial change — less than five months before the dissolution of Parliament for the election — is unlikely to be passed whilst Labor is in government, and the bills will be thrown out very early in the order of business of the incoming Liberal administration. The point, in practical terms, is moot.

But third, people don’t really believe Gillard any more, and no longer take her seriously; she is widely and rightly perceived as a manipulative, dishonest hypocrite who will say and do anything in the name of short-term expediency, and whose promises are as durable as ice in the desert.

Don’t believe it? “There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.”

It took six months to openly break that promise, and Gillard’s word to the unions need only hold good until or unless she secures re-election in September: an extremely dubious prospect indeed.

I think people will see through this, as they increasingly see through all of Gillard’s “initiatives” these days, and recognise it for what it is.

And that, my friends, is a slavering pledge to her trade union masters to save her arse as Prime Minister, and an absolute disregard — even contempt — for the very workers she professes to be acting for, and for the hard-working business people who employ them.

Bring on 14 September. There is still six months of this to endure.

 

 

*I want Julia Gillard to remain Labor leader, right up to to 6pm on election day. 

Bill Shorten Attacks Conservatives; Proves Unready To Lead

In a speech to the ACTU Congress today — variously described as “powerful” and “rousing” — Bill Shorten claimed, extraordinarily, that conservatives seek to adopt “third world work practices.” Not only is he wrong, but he is out of step with an evolving, changing Australia.

I want to go through the key points of what Shorten has had to say fairly carefully, and comment on each; in some ways Shorten is right in his remarks, but in others — like his claim that conservatives advocate “third world work practices” — he is delusional. And on other markers again, I’d question whether his perspectives are soundly based.

Shorten’s speech has been comprehensively covered by both the Murdoch and Fairfax press, and rightly so; it is fitting that what is essentially a keynote speech to a union conference, by a man who aspires to one day lead the ALP, should be given airtime.

But this coverage has not — as yet — been matched by any critical comment or analysis and, whilst attempting to be concise, I want to pick through what he has had to say. In no particular order. And with no holds barred.

And from, of course, a conservative perspective.

Which makes the obvious starting point Shorten’s remarks about conditions; he takes aim at unnamed “conservative commentators” who purportedly advocate the idea that to achieve competitive workplaces in Australia, wages and conditions must be slashed; he speaks of “conservatives (selling)…this myth that our workers can’t compete … unless we slavishly imitate the (work practices) of Third World nations.”

Australian workplaces — and the laws and regulations that govern them — need to change; the days of a heavily regulated, arbitrated and protected industrial system are long gone. Similarly, nobody (reasonable) advocates the adoption of hourly pay rates at $4 or $5 per hour.

What is required is a balance; and thus far neither of the major parties have found it.

I have written previously that WorkChoices was actually a fairly sensible, and reasonably modest, policy platform; however, it was never presented at an election, it was abominably sold, and it left hundreds of thousands of unduly terrified workers fearful that their pay would drop by hundreds of dollars per week — a fear fuelled by a $13 million union scare campaign that probably won the ALP government in 2007.

And the ALP’s record in this area hardly shines either; restored to government in 2007, it set about not just repealing WorkChoices, but removing flexibilities that had been introduced to the labour market, re-regulating to some extent industrial laws, skewing the employer-employee balance far too far in the direction of the employee, and generally winding back 20 years of IR reform delivered by the Keating and Howard governments.

I think the initial basic approach of the Howard government was probably correct, and remains a model on which to build: binding minimum conditions and a no-disadvantage test. Perhaps one way forward is to look at agreements that replace things like penalty rates, leave loading and the like — inflexible fixed costs offering no additional incentive — with negotiated and binding bonuses for achieving mutually agreed productivity targets.

Most employers are willing to pay more in return for better outcomes, and such a change would mean that rather than simply being entitled to a pot of money each week — regardless of how little or how much work is actually done — employees would be given more control over how much they could earn over and above an agreed basic wage, with real incentive for hard work and delivery of results.

I understand where Shorten is coming from, but the world is changing, whether he or we like it or not; and just as an example — I can wander down to any number of dealerships selling imported new Japanese cars, and for the same price, or less, than a comparable Australian-made car, buy something that is better designed, better engineered, better manufactured, more reliable, and backed by better aftermarket support.

And before anyone yells about falling tariffs — an artificial industrial protection at any rate — it bears remembering that cuts in tariffs have largely been offset by direct subsidies to the automotive industry from government of billions of dollars each year.

It is just one example of why Shorten is wrong; there are many, many others.

(If readers feel I am glossing over issues as I move on, I apologise — and the debate on industrial relations could easily fill a 2,000 word column on its own — just for starters. However, the focus of this article is Shorten’s speech rather than any single issue; if people want a dedicated IR debate, I’m happy to kick it off with a dedicated column if a reasonable number of people indicate so by way of comments).

Shorten also took aim at “elements” who sought to use the scandal engulfing the Health Services Union as a tool with which to attack the union movement generally, and to tar other unions with the same brush.

On one level, this is fair enough — unions that abide by the requirements of the law and conduct themselves appropriately do not deserve to be stained by the misdemeanours of those in the HSU who have dragged it into disrepute.

By the same token, I don’t think it’s an objective of mainstream elements to use the HSU to attempt to break all of the other unions; what I do see is that legislative changes to bring the standards of governance across the union movement in line with what would be expected of business is welcome, and perhaps even urgently required — it simply isn’t good enough to have one set of rules for everyone else, and another arrangement for the union movement on the basis they will, effectively, give their word of honour that what has happened at the HSU won’t happen anywhere else.

And Shorten himself acknowledged that unions could “always improve governance.”

Rather than have the good sense to stay away from the hornets’ nest Wayne Swan has attempted to stir up and leave well alone, Shorten plunged into the debate over “class warfare” and its role in contemporary Australian politics.

It has happened so many times over the years that Labor has sought to play the class card; traditionally a socialist party and seemingly returning to that position under the tutelage of its coalition partners in the Communist Party Greens, the resentment and envy, coupled with the dogma of punitively redistributive income programs, has often coloured the ALP approach.

Certainly, there was plenty of it in last week’s budget.

But Shorten has gone a step further, and a step too far; in attempting to turn the tables on the Abbott-led Coalition, declaring the Liberal Party is waging class war on families and the working class, Shorten is on dangerous ground: living conditions for families and members of the working class rose significantly under the last Liberal government; since 2007, they have fallen sharply, as cost of living pressures and uncertain economic circumstances conspire to drastically reduce real wages.

Voters are smart enough to make this distinction; just as they are smart enough to recognise that the so-called “schoolkids bonus” was, largely, a simple repackaging of monies already available in a different form under a previous scheme, and hardly constitutes anything extra.

Shorten should be more worried about the carbon tax — which, as we have oft discussed, will jack up living expenses well beyond the quantum of any so-called compensation measures — irrespective of anything Shorten or his colleagues care to say to the contrary.

Voters are smart enough to work that out, too, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that they have already done so.

Shorten also treads dangerous ground in rattling off lists of the government’s achievements; Gillard is already damned by nominating things like the carbon tax as enduring and crowning achievements of her government, but I would expect Bill Shorten to be astute enough to sidestep such obvious electoral poison, and come up with some original matter of his own.

Which he did, to some extent, talking of better pay for women, and of transport conditions, for example; but including things like the NBN in his snapshot of achievements — with the NBN already perceived as a white elephant stomping along at a snail’s pace, and at ridiculous (and unnecessary) cost, he skates a little too close to the line.

But his arguments about the number of women on company boards, for example, is spurious, and — like the issue of women in politics — it ignores other factors, and not least the fact that fewer women than men actually aspire to those types of roles (in the same way, for instance, the ladies virtually “own” the profession of nursing — for most males, it’s not a career choice).

I do agree with him, however, that the important thing is that the climate exists in which any woman who wishes to aspire to politics, or company directorship and the like should and must be able to do so; he and I would also agree there is more work to be done in this regard.

Shorten was correct to identify in his speech that the burgeoning Asian middle classes represent an opportunity for Australia, not a threat; late last year I posted on a Coalition policy discussion paper for a proposal to turn vast tracts of viable land into foodbowls which collectively could feed 120 million people.

Perhaps — when Shorten is opposition leader after next year’s election — he could provide bipartisanship support for such a policy.

But the issue is also relevant, and provides a tieback to the wages and conditions discussion we started with.

Food security (like minerals and energy) is, potentially, Australia’s own competitive advantage in the 21st century, and beyond. Other countries, including those in Asia, may have inexhaustible stocks of cheap labour to undercut us in some parts of our industrial base, but by contrast, they can’t adequately feed themselves and will become increasingly reliant on food imports — whether through lack of expertise or, through topographic considerations, degradation and pollution caused by explosive populations and the like, they simply don’t have the arable land.

And governments shouldn’t be allowing foreigners — least of all state-run enterprises from Asia — buy up Australia’s prime agricultural lands. It is one thing to buy imported cars, computers and electronic goods from these places, for example; it is another thing altogether to make policy decisions today that will tomorrow also see us buy food from them, grown on our own soil, and at ridiculous markups.

And that should give Bill Shorten something to think about, by way of balance, when he talks about working conditions: things have to change as the world changes around us; the sorts of jobs unions protect today are disappearing, and one day may not exist. But there are plenty of opportunities for new jobs to be created in areas and industries that will underpin workers’ futures — as well as that of the country.

I think Bill Shorten is a work in progress; he is an obviously capable individual and despite sometime denials, possesses considerable ambition.

But he isn’t ready yet, and today’s speech has shown it; there is still some work to do on “the product” before Shorten presents it, in the first person, to the Australian public as the leader of his party.

And he should take his time; acknowledging that the present political climate is extremely difficult for the ALP, he said it wasn’t hopeless. I would have to disagree, not as a conservative but as a realist: the Labor Party will lose the next election, and probably very badly.

Shorten has a few years to work on the finished version of his product.

 

Hypocritical Gillard “Disgusted” — But Not Disgusted Enough

The two faces of insincerity, crisply personified by Julia Gillard, have been on display yet again this week; Gillard ranted about her “disgust” at events at the Health Services Union in front of a roomful of trade unionists yesterday, yet stubbornly fails to address the issue with action.

It strikes me that the Prime Minister is possessed of a rare talent; in some quarters and in some company, her aptitude for saying precisely what her audience wishes to hear is formidable.

Her speech yesterday to about 1,000 delegates at the ACTU Congress in Sydney was, all things considered, an excellent speech.

It hit all the notes the occasion demanded, playing to an audience of her faithful: the leadership of the trade union movement, Labor’s most loyal constituency, which more than ever is the only constituency apart from long-term welfare recipients that the ALP can rely on.

Confronting the issue of the scandals at the HSU head on, Gillard told her audience she was distressed that the saga was damaging the reputation of the union movement, saying the misconduct of one union risked tarnishing the lot, and that “that dismays you and it dismays me as well.”

Gillard added: “Members have been let down very badly – instead of the sole focus of those union officials being on those members.”

Gillard went on, belting the tired old can of WorkChoices five years after an election signalled its demise, and claiming that her government had “eradicated the days of fear in workplaces that Mr Abbott and his friends brought.”

There was more of this, typically predictable enough to make me feel it’s pointless to  regurgitate more of it — readers get the point, and they know the story only too well.

It underlines my point that in some quarters — be it the unions, the Greens, the Independents (prior to the betrayal of promises to them), the faceless hacks in NSW Labor’s Sussex Street bunker, and others — Gillard is adept in saying exactly what people wish to hear.

But where it really matters — in wider electorate, talking to the silent majority of her countryfolk — her message is anathema; polls over 18 months consistently indicate nearly two-thirds of Australians disapprove of Gillard’s performance, and this is driving close to 60% of the electorate toward voting for the Liberals and Nationals.

The Coalition primary vote is at or near 50%, a level last achieved at a federal election by Malcolm Fraser in 1975.

And the reason? Simply, people are looking for answers from the Prime Minister, and they don’t like what they hear.

Carbon tax? Some will be “compensated” and some won’t; but never fear, nobody will notice the carbon tax when it begins anyway. Oh, and we’ll block its repeal in the Senate — even if the pending Liberal government has a mandate to get rid of it.

Serial dishonesty and broken promises? Talk about Tony Abbott and WorkChoices.

The intensifying public demand for an election? Tell people you’re proud of “achievements” such as the carbon tax, which have no mandate and no legitimacy, and say you’re going nowhere.

Peter Slipper? Get him to stand down, but keep paying him at $160,000 per annum more than the rate for a backbencher.

And Craig Thomson? Repetitively state full confidence in the member for Dobell; when that wears thin, get him to “voluntarily suspend himself” from the ALP to sit on the cross-benches.

People are being treated as fools; Julia Gillard is no fool — let there be no mistake — but she is a cold, calculating, dishonest and wilfully manipulative individual who wears the two faces of insincerity as one.

People might cut her a little slack on the carbon tax if she acknowledged economic times are about to get rocky, admitted the electorate should have its say on the policy after all, and — giving her Communist Green allies the shaft — agreed to defer the policy until after an election.

People might forgive some of the bumbles and stumbles of her government, were it not for mishaps like members of her staff attempting to start a race-based riot into which to dump Tony Abbott.

People might even cut her a little slack over her own appalling ineptitude as Prime Minister and the clear incompetence, as a whole, of her government if they stopped treating voters like idiots, stopped the smear campaign against the opposition leader, stopped parroting on about WorkChoices at every opportunity, and started behaving with a little more integrity.

Indeed, speaking of Tony Abbott, I note a unionist this week — whom I will not name — has instituted a defamation action against the opposition leader; apparently this fellow has taken umbrage with Abbott’s description of him as “a thug” and with other slurs allegedly made against him by Abbott.

Whether or not that case is upheld, I wonder — I just wonder — how this fellow feels about the smears and lies that are constantly thrown at Abbott, by the ALP, in the name of its constituents.

Or how he feels about the distortions and misrepresentations that are made of Abbott’s character by government figures including the Prime Minister; or even — despicably — the airing of a 30-year-old sexual assault allegation against Abbott that he was acquitted of at the time, raised for no reason other than to illegitimately and dishonestly damage him.

Does the unionist in question approve of these tactics?

But in returning to the hypocrisy of Gillard, Thomson and Slipper represent the ultimate proof of it, yet both provided opportunities that Gillard thumbed her nose at in the interests of political expediency, to the great outrage of the majority of voters.

Firstly, a story.

As opposition leader in 1995, John Howard was confronted with a rogue Senator from WA, Noel Crichton-Browne; the short version is that after the Senator disgraced himself by behaving inappropriately with a female journalist, threatening to “screw the tits off (her),” Howard saw to it that Crichton-Browne was excluded from the parliamentary Liberal Party, and from all Liberal and Coalition meetings in Parliament during sitting weeks. He was also disendorsed.

At the time, Howard was roundly criticised in the community: why was Crichton Browne still in the Senate, and why wasn’t he charged?

Howard explained that he had done everything the Liberal Party’s constitution empowered him to do, and that charges could only be brought against the Senator if the Police laid them, acting on a complaint.

The criticism abated very, very quickly.

Today, we have a Prime Minister — now confronted with findings of breaches of civil law against the member for Dobell, Craig Thomson, by the inquiry undertaken by Fair Work Australia.

Thomson has not been expelled from the ALP (an option open to her under that Party’s rules that was not available to Howard); Thomson has not been disendorsed at the Labor candidate for Dobell; the ALP has been paying Thomson’s legal expenses; he has enjoyed the oft-stated support of the Prime Minister; and he has repeatedly refused to co-operate with Police inquiries into his activities.

The government also made no attempt to impose any type of deadline on FWA at a ministerial level that might have drawn these proceedings to a close years ago.

The public is baying for Thomson’s blood, yet the ALP merely asserts that he is entitled to “the presumption of innocence” — a presumption which, in an excellent essay by shadow Attorney-General George Brandis, SC, and appearing recently in The Australian, it was shown that such a presumption neither applies nor exists in the Thomson case.

Then there is Peter Slipper; faced with potential civil and/or criminal charges if complaints of sexual harassment and misappropriation of travel expenses are upheld against him, he is simply asked to stand aside — on full pay as Speaker, whilst retaining the title.

Gillard’s handiwork in achieving this “solution” to the Slipper problem has led to the farcical situation in which Deputy Speaker Anna Burke is now performing the role, but has not been appointed “Acting Speaker” by Parliament.

And this means Slippery ‘ol Pete can, in practice, slither back into the chair and control the House of Representatives whenever he sees fit; Burke, is quite literally a seat warmer — and an impotent one at that.

Yet Gillard has told voters that she fixed both problems; that in Thomson’s case at least, a “line had been crossed” and — without stipulating what that line was, or where it was, simply asserted she had taken strong and decisive action to resolve the matter.

Unlike the ACTU delegates the voters aren’t buying it, and won’t — and that’s the point. Gillard tells voters what she wants them to hear; voters listen to this and disagree with everything she has to say.

And that is what happens when political hypocrisy — coloured by malicious intentions and expediency and shaded by dishonesty and self-interest — is taken to its logical, inevitable conclusion.

And whilst all of this has been going on, in other news concerning Gillard — and on a related yet different subject — a “500 day countdown” as been commenced by the Prime Minister today as a lead-up to the coming federal election.

(Whether Gillard and her government even survive 50 days, let alone 500, is another question altogether).

Its date, at the expiry of 500 days, would fall on 28 September next year: coinciding with the 2013 AFL Grand Final, as well as with school holidays in various parts of the country.

After the story had a run in the morning media — and the requisite, overwhelmingly negative feedback began to pour in — Gillard issued a statement saying she could rule out an election on Grand Final day because “(she) will definitely be at the MCG cheering the Bulldogs on to a very notable victory.”

There are two points to make in relation to this.

Firstly — to quote former Foster’s boss and President of the Liberal Party and of the Carlton Football Club, John Elliott, Footscray has only ever won one premiership in its tragic history (in 1954), and I don’t see that tally being added to any time soon.

And secondly, the last time Gillard rattled on about the Footscray Football Club — in 2010, stating that there was more chance of her playing at full-forward for the Bulldogs than there was of her contesting the ALP leadership — we all know how that storyline ultimately played out.

This woman is a hypocrite, and anything she says is, frankly, beyond belief.

She should not be trusted in any circumstances.