THE SPECTACLE of tens of thousands of union stooges clogging cities, abusing passers-by and interfering with others going about their business is unacceptable: in Melbourne as elsewhere yesterday, the disruptive and at times almost riotous presence of militant unions — replete with children cynically denied their day at school — seeking to damage a conservative government is an insidious phenomenon whose day has well and truly passed.
The right to protest is one near and near to the collective heart of the Left, and to trouble-making militant unions in particular; just like the movement itself which has failed to evolve into the 21st century, the unions yesterday put on a 1970s-style show of disruption in the name of “peaceful protest” that really ought to have taken place in parks or sports stadiums where it could not interfere with the ability of law-abiding citizens to go about their business and get to their places of work.
This week is one in which I am flat out, as readers will have already deduced from the small number of articles posted; it’s actually a relevant point in context, affected as I was by the chaos and mayhem unleashed in Melbourne yesterday in the name of “workers’ rights.”
And my remarks this morning will be brief.
But what took place in Melbourne — replicated elsewhere across the country with a cavalier disregard for anyone or anything except the obsessive and fanatical objective to destroy a conservative government — was unacceptable, and it is time the streets were insulated from the kind of anarchy and disturbance the smouldering remnants of Australia’s union movement unleashes for political gain at will.
I found myself in the legal precinct in the Melbourne CBD at 9am yesterday on my way to a meeting in Carlton (which is where — for those unfamiliar with Melbourne — the unions’ national seat lies, with Trades Hall and several large, militant unions headquartered within a few blocks of each other).
Even at that hour, the road trip from William Street near the Supreme Court to Drummond Street in Carlton — 3km in total — took 45 minutes, and the cause became obvious as soon as I made it onto Russell Street at the northern edge of the city: unionised workers, thousands of them, obstructing traffic there, on Victoria Street and on Lygon Street, to the extent that even the six-lane thoroughfare of Victoria Street was reduced to one lane in each direction.
Dozens of Police lined the streets, to little effect, and who could criticise them? Members of the union pack strayed at will onto roads, walking in front of cars, and abusing motorists in the most colourful of terms whenever someone remonstrated with them: never mind the fact that these idiots could have been killed, or that motorists did not wish to be responsible for killing them, the clear message was that road users should not have been there at all.
It got worse, of course; late in the morning word filtered through that it was “time” for the union horde to “bring central Melbourne to a halt” by way of a lunchtime protest: the shenanigans in the morning had been preparatory only. The real event was to get underway several hours later.
And so it was, yesterday, in other major urban centres around Australia.
I can speak only from a Melburnian perspective; I think it is an embarrassment and an ugly blight on our majestic city that an insidious marauding band of thugs should be permitted to bring it to its knees and choke the life out of it — if only for half a day, and irrespective of the frequency of such events — in the name of an ambit political agenda.
As I repeatedly noted in social media yesterday, the protest could have happened at Fawkner Park, or at Etihad Stadium, or somewhere else where ordinary decent folk would not have had to look at it or, more to the point, been affected by it.
After all, if some other group of 50,000 people tried to bring Melbourne to a standstill — not least, in furtherance of a political agenda of the Right — its ringleaders and key protagonists would be rounded up and jailed. What in hell entitles and privileges the union movement to differential treatment?
In sharp contrast to this, ACTU chief Dave Oliver took to posting “solidarity selfies” on Twitter.
Ostensibly, the unions were protesting Tony Abbott’s “attack on workers’ rights” which is curious indeed, given the Abbott government has made no attempt at workplace reform, and will not do so without an electoral mandate for explicit proposals arising from the present Productivity Commission review.
Yet the unionists had that covered: the review is a “Trojan Horse” aimed at reviving the Howard government’s WorkChoices program.
Ah, of course. WorkChoices again.
It was also a purported protest over Medicare changes, despite these having been unilaterally abandoned this week by the Abbott government. Perhaps news travels very slowly where unions are concerned.
But the spectacle of hundreds of thugs wearing shirts emblazoned “Fuck Tony Abbott” and wielding banners making similar proclamations is just not on; I noticed several groups of school kids obviously on excursions in the vicinity of the thuggy union pack. How can anyone deign this appropriate?
Not to be outdone, of course, the unions came with a contingent of their own children — cruelly denied a day of the education their leaders rattle on so incessantly about — and these kids carried banners asking that their “futures” were not affected by the Abbott government, and other messages of cynical exploitation foisted upon them by their irresponsible militant parents.
It is always easy to spot a unionist on these occasions; they turn up in their work uniform, a free day off apparently an impost on their employers they have no trouble inflicting on the hand, literally, that feeds them.
And I make that point because very few — if any — “ordinary” folk were in evidence as part of the disruptive farce that played out in Melbourne yesterday.
It’s not as if they are convincing anyone except themselves.
And the only people interested in or motivated by the sort of bullshit propaganda that gets spouted on occasions like yesterday are the perpetrators themselves; one of their ilk tried to tell me that they were performing a public information function, and that their messages were of “information” and “education,” and readers will forgive me for saying so but aside from the gullible and the stupid very few — if any — people are likely to have been “informed” by yesterday’s antics at all.
I would never deny anyone the right to protest.
Even so, the days of “events” like this being allowed to disrupt cities of international stature in the name of making grubby political capital from them are, like the militant union movement itself, a relic of the 1970s that cannot and should not be tolerated.
Public order is a higher imperative than the indulgence of a band of troublemakers who are incapable of articulate expression or of accepting the result of a highly democratic exercise called an election.
Next time, this kind of thing should only be permitted if conducted at a private venue or public space away from key transport, logistical and infrastructure links, chartered by the movement itself, and kept well away from the overwhelming majority who really couldn’t care less for the unions.
Nobody is denying the unions their right to protest. But it is time the shameful spectacle that played out yesterday is consigned to the dustbin of history.