UNION POWER: THE WINGS OF AN EAGLE ATTACHED TO A PIGEON HEAD

By Con George-Kotzabasis

The following article was written on April 2000. It’s republished here on this blog as I think it’s still relevant as unions continue to have a strong grip on the Labor Party. And with a possible impending recession in the US that would inevitably effect the Australian economy, a Rudd victory in the coming election will bring the unions exercising their pernicious behind the times influence on the front benches of a Labor government. And hence exacerbate the peril of the economy of the country in conditions of recession. Lest we forget, it was in the UK in the mid-sixties under Labor governments that ‘trade-union-led “wage push” was the driving force behind inflation and subsequent breakdown of Keynesian policy’. Richard Kahn, one of the closest disciples of Keynes, when he was asked about this breakdown of Keynesian policy, he answered, ‘we never thought the leaders of the trade unions could behave so stupidly’. This stupidity was coined at the time in the term of stagflation, the proud creation of the unions. And this doltishness of the unions is alive and well in our times as it’s still fuelled by the false Marxist doctrine of class struggle. This is the danger that trade unions could inflict to the Australian economy under a Rudd government. As for Rudd’s “education revolution” by providing students with laptops, the mountain has brought forth a mouse. Australia is already among the top nations that provides computers to its students. But on the quintessence of education revolution which has to deal with its human capital, i.e., its teachers, who have to be selected on merit and ability and on their teaching methods, two burning issues on which the education unions will not budge, Rudd remains silent. He also claims that his government will be a government of “fresh ideas and new leadership”. But after his lustful embrace of me tooism of some major liberal policies during the electoral campaign, Rudd pellucidly reveals that his government will not be a government of “new leadership” but a government of mimicry. 

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The ascendancy of the Labor Party to the treasury benches in Victoria, has churned in its wake a billow of waves of industrial action by an amalgam of union power that threatens to shipwreck the economic vibrancy of the state. The outcome of such fatuous action by the unions will be to induce a flight of investment capital from Victoria to other states, as current and would-be employers of this state would feel too insecure to invest in an environment of industrial turmoil. This is especially so when the Labor government and its leader Steve Bracks are perceived to be irresolute and too weak-kneed to control and rein in this outdated aggression and belligerence of the unions against employers.

The excessive and irrational demands of the unions for a thirty-six hour working week and a 24 percent increase in wages, which if they were successful in obtaining initially in the construction industry and their inevitable flow into some other industries, would have the ineluctable result of throwing thousands of workers among the ranks of the unemployed. This would be a tragic repetition of what happened in the metal industry in the late 80s as a result of excessive union claims, under the then Federal Secretary of the Metal Trades Union, George Campbell—a political stallion of the Left and presently a Labor Senator who is going to be replaced by another stalwart left-winger Doug Cameron who has indisputable credentials of being in the past a real “communist under the bed”—whom the Treasurer Paul Keating accused of having a necklace of 100,000 dismissed metal workers around his neck.

It’s obvious that the unions are afflicted by an innate inability to learn from their past sloppy errors. And like a recurring malady they are bound to contaminate the economy of the country with the calamitous mistakes of the past. The consequences of a repeated mistake, however, are more tragic than the consequences of an initial one and therefore carry a greater responsibility. An action that is performed for the first time is experimental in regard to its consequences, as no one, without the gifts of Tiresias, can predict or foresee whether its results will be benign or malign.  (Not that the unions could be excused for their first error. There was ample evidence of a global scale at the time, and enough forewarnings by eminent economists, that excessive union claims within the confines of global competition would inexorably lead to the flight of capital from regions these claims were impacting upon, and hence to unemployment.) But an action that is repeated deliberately and wantonly in spite of knowledge of its harmful effects in the past is intellectually malevolent and morally culpable.

Whose Culpability is Greater the Union’s or the Government’s

Two questions therefore arise. Is the intelligence of unions commensurate with their powers? Or is it the case that union power is more like the wings of an eagle attached to a pigeon head? If the answer to the second question is affirmative, then one further question is posed, i.e., why then was the political wing of the Labor Party, which is now in government and having the expertise of knowing better about the dire economic effects of industrial unrest to the country nonetheless was unwilling to intervene promptly and decisively to block the irrational and pernicious claims of its industrial wing, which as a government of all Victorians—Premier Brack’s slogan—was committed in doing? Furthermore, why was the government’s immediate reaction to blame the Federal government’s industrial legislation for the ongoing industrial unrest instead of doing something that would have stifled the industrial dispute in its initial stages, for which it had prior knowledge, and using the subterfuge of an excuse that it was constrained by the legislation and could do nothing effective toward its resolution? Both the deputy leader of the government John Twaites and the Minister of Industrial Relations Monica Gould, used this feeble argument, when in fact with the return of the Premier from Davos  the latter forced the union involved in the dispute of the Yallourn power station to return back to work by imposing hefty fines upon its members, hence demonstrating that the government had the power to do something effective to resolve the dispute? Wasn’t it rather, the attempt to shift the blame to the federal legislation, a poor ruse, indeed, a camouflage, to cover its lack of will to intervene timely and decisively and derail the union from its “crashing” course? Yet, the belated action was effective, even if it was done halfheartedly. But what other alternative the government had, at the end of its honeymoon with the electorate, other than to send the stalled fire engines out to extinguish the full blown fire, if it was not to be seen, and impugned, in the electorates eyes, as politically effete and incompetent?

This is a basic characteristic, however, and an irreversible syndrome of Labor governments. To intervene in industrial disputes only when political necessity dictates, i.e., only when these disputes have reached a high point with the potential of harming the economy, and hence would be politically damaging. For organizational and ideological reasons Labor governments are not prone to intervene in the wrangles of their comrade-in-arms with employers, but do so only as a last resort.

This general inaction of Labor governments in industrial disputes is a result first, of a common ideology shared with the unions whose core emanates from the principles of socialism, and secondly, from its constitutional organizational structures that tie the political and industrial wings of the Party into a powerful body and into a compact of consensus that determines the functions of each wing. In conference after conference of the Party, the common and often repeated refrain is that Labor occupies the treasury benches only for the purpose of implementing policies which are discussed and ratified in state and federal conferences in whose conception the unions and its sundry representatives, mainly academics, have a major input. The union’s dominance is illustrated not only in the generation and formation of policies (Its architects generally are academics from the Left, whose intellectual frustration is at a boiling point because their ideas and policies cannot pass muster among other academic luminaries, but who do find a paradisiacal outlet for their “time-stopped” ideas, as well as an adulatory audience among their comrades in the unions, who normally cannot separate the wheat from the chaff of these ideas), but also on the conference floor as sixty percent of its delegates must be union representatives according to the Party’s constitution.

The larger and, especially, the more militant unions have such a firm grip in the election of delegates to Party forums, that even ministers and would-be premiers often cannot be elected to these meetings. Many ministers , therefore, who are unable to be elected to conferences on their own authority, resort to “begging” less militant unions to be placed in their delegations as constitutionally the unions have the authority to do so. Hence only as supplicants to the unions are ministers able to participate in conferences. For example, Jim Kennan, the Attorney General in the Cain Government, for many years was a delegate of the Clothing Trades Union. Likewise too, Steven Bracks, the current premier, was a delegate of the same union, who had taken Kennan’s place with the latter’s departure from politics. Other ministers who are not as fortunate to be union delegates attend conferences as visitors and observers without the right to move, or vote for, resolutions of the conference. Hence, ministers and many of their advisers are left out from the formulation and ratification of the Party’s policies. Such is the power and influence of unions in the organizational procedures of the Party, that often they cal “lock-out” important ministers who are not close to their ideological positions, from the highest policymaking bodies of the Party.

Moreover, the grip of the unions is extended to the pre-selection procedures of the candidates of the Party as well as in the choosing and changes of the parliamentary leadership, both in the state and federal domains. Who can forget for instance the telephone call that Paul Keating made, during his challenge of Bob Hawke, to Wally Curren, secretary of the Meat Workers Union asking him for his support in the coming challenge to Hawke for the leadership of the government? And Curren obliging, by forcing those MP’s from Victoria who owed their position in parliament to his patronage, to vote for Keating? This irritated Bob Hawke so much asking who Wally Curren was pretending thus ironically that he himself who had ousted and replaced Bill Hayden with union support was not cognizant of the influence trade union leaders have in pre-selections. As for the branches of the Party they play a superficial role in the pre-selection of candidates as they too in turn are influenced in their decisions by the organizational power of the unions.

Labor Politicians at the Mercy of Unions

Being therefore at the mercy of unions for their parliamentary positions and for the buttering of their bread, labor politicians, with some exceptions, are cast as toadies of the unions. Only the Federal Executive of the Party can intervene can intervene and save a ministerial or a backbencher’s scalp from the tomahawk of the unions. This occurred when John Halpenny, the Secretary of the Trades Hall Council in Victoria. were placed in the number one position on the senate ticket, with massive union support, in the 1988 federal election, relegating the leader of the Senate, John Button, to the second position. And in the election following the one in 1988, some of the left-wing unions were deliberating whether or not to place Gareth Evans, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in the second position on the senate ticket. Only some sober heads at the last moment saved the glitterati Minister from the rusty and blood-stained tomahawk of the unions and from posthumous obloquy. (But the power of the Federal Executive is limited, as is illustrated in the present coming election of 2007 in the seat of Coreo, where the current seating member, Gavin O’Connor, is replaced by an assistant secretary of the ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions), against the wishes of the Executive.)

It’s for all the above reasons, this congeniality of interests between Labor governments and unions that prevents the former from acting timely and decisively in industrial disputes. And even when they do as a last resort they cannot be impartial in their involvement. The Brack government being captive to the unions has to cater to the latter’s voracious appetite on a number of issues: On the restoration of common law damages for injured workers, which has already being done by passing the relevant legislation in parliament, on the restitution of industrial policy back to the State Government, so the latter can abolish the industrial contracts of the Federal Government, whose aim is to eliminate union dominance in industry negotiations, and to replace them with collective bargaining, hence restoring union coercion and thuggery during negotiations with employers. On these issues and on many others, the Labor government is hamstrung by union power. Whether the former will be able to deliver on these issues will depend on the political climate of the day and on the degree of resonance such a delivery will have upon the electorate.

Steve Brack’s therefore, like a trapeze artist, has to walk on a tight rope whose one end is held by the unions and the other by the community, and perform his balancing act. While gratifying the union claims, with potentially destructive consequences to the economy of the State, at the same time he has to keep its economic robustness, inherited from his liberal predecessor, Jeff Kennet, intact, hence erasing any fears or consternations the community might have about the new industrial course of his government.

It’s with this purpose in mind to win the confidence of Victorians and of some naïve employers that Steve Bracks lately set up a new stage with an old play. His government lacking any originality or lateral thinking in policymaking ransacked the ram shackled spider web storehouse of past Labor policies to bring out the nostrums of “old age”. The summit of “Growing Victoria Together”, chaired by that scion of Labor power, Bob Hawke, was such a nostrum. Imbibing a strong dose of self-deception, Bracks was hopeful that by attracting some old and new celebrities from the industrial club and from business to the summit the public would be hoodwinked and believe that something substantial would come from the coupling of these celebrities. What in fact happened, was that each spokesperson of this divided house of unions and employers, voiced plaintively their complaints and grievances against each other with the result that they were not able to reach an agreement as to how and by what prudent set of actions, they would carry out the growth of Victoria. The rhetorical statement at the end of the summit, spun by the golden threads of the cerebral and literary qualities of Bob Hawke and his wife, respectively, could hardly hide the practical hollowness of the summit. What the latter did was to set up a number of committees to look at a number of issues.  Such as education and training, investment in training, industrial relations, health and wellbeing indicators to measure performance in meeting social goals, infrastructure, the impact of payroll tax on job and wealth creation , and the audit of government services in country communities. It also set up an advisory body to strengthen community input, oblivious of the fact, that while the latter is important it is not a substitute for political leadership. Forgetful also of the fact that the achievement of this laudable “prospectus”, is absolutely dependent on calm industrial relations. And therefore cannot be achieved while the agitated firebrand steam of the unions continues unabated.

Hence, the mountain (the summit) has brought forth a mouse which is at the mercy of the cat’s paws, the unions. Furthermore, as so many of the issues are to be shoved to committees, whose members are deeply divided on the central issue of industrial relations, they are inevitably going to be dealt with in a banal hackneyed manner, since their members will be unable to reach a mutual agreement on the key issue of industrial relations. Hence the summit’s “debris-deliberations” will be proven to be a barren exercise.

The Bracks’ government by its farcical and enervating stand toward the unions and by its populist stand toward the public threatens to throw Victoria into the doldrums as well as empty the coffers of the treasury. This is not a government of substance but a government of images—the images of a dead past. But funeral rites for dead images can be very expensive to the general community, both in terms of tax increases and unemployment. 

Your opinion on the issue…                                             

     
   
 

                                   

IRANIAN NUCLEAR HEAT AUGURS NO END TO “COLD WAR”

2007: The Cold War Ends By Ali Ettefagh Postglobal, Washington Post, January 2, 2008

A response by Con George-Kotzabasis

The Iranian commentator Dr. Ali Ettefagh has laid Iran’s libido dominandi on his psychoanalyst’s couch and has given us his professional prognostic diagnosis that it’s rapidly finding its gratification not in the acquisition of nuclear weapons but in “common sense”, “stronger friendship, good neighborly conduct and removing doubt…(by ‘holocausting’ Israel?), in trade…and in the launch of an Egyptian –Iranian car”. According to Ettefagh, “stability and peaceful co-existence” is President’s Ahmadinejad’s agenda. He states, this is “the stark reality of today against the fog of yesterday”.

But the fog has not disappeared! And it’s behind it that Ahmadinejad’s regime is building its nuclear arsenal by which it will dominate the region and find ultimately its gratification in the establishment of the twelfth Imam Mahdi’s prophesy of a Caesaro-Ayatollah state, seizing the leadership of the Muslim world and posing a stupendous threat to the existence of Western civilization.

This is why a politically and historically prudent U.S. administration should have all options on the table.

Your turn now

NEW YEAR FAIRY TALES OF AN EDUCATED MUSLIM MASQUERADING AS REALITY

A reply by Con George-Kotzabasis to:

Domestic Issues Return To Spotlight
By Waleed Aly, The Australian December 27, 2007

The lawyer and commentator on political and Muslim affairs Waleed Aly argues in his latest co-ed like someone who has a brief as an undercover agent. To disseminate a false sense of peace in times of war purportedly to disarm those who are attempting to defend themselves from an external and internal deadly foe. Therefore the whole argument of his article is far from being disinterested, from a political and religious point of view.

He claims that there has been a “paradigm shift in the politics of the Anglosphere…September 11, the London bombings, the war in Iraq—are losing their political bite” and “politics has entered a post terror phase” (My emphasis). He continues, “Australians’ fear of terrorism was diminishing… Iraq barely appeared on the radar” during the election campaign and “the issues of the day are indelibly domestic in nature…Improbably 2007 may prove to be the year that the politics of terror passed into history”. But at the end of his piece he offers as a lawyer his professional and wise caveat—but only as an afterthought—and at the same time willy-nilly uncovers the falsity of his sense of peace and his “defusing” of terror, by stating more realistically that “of course one bomb would rapidly change all that…as I say, nothing is inevitable”.

From what source does Aly derive his knowledge that makes him feel confident that his analysis of events is correct and that the fear of terror is abating? It’s none other than the gut feeling of ordinary people who a lot of them in their somnambulistic complacency do not consider terror to be a great threat, and as a consequence are against the war in Iraq which presently is the template of global terror. Moreover, laymen who are not cognizant of the plans of the jihadists, like professionals in this field are, and therefore cannot make a prudent judgment on the issue of terror. It’s by this reading of the gut feelings of hoi polloi that Aly makes his prophesies. Disregarding completely the serious cogitations of professionals in the fields of anti-terrorism and war strategy. Who have gathered their information from concrete evidence about the plans and strategies of the holy warriors against the infidels of the West and the Great Satan America. In this Aly is like the artless trite person who is attempting to tell a scientist how to formulate his equations or, more cognate to Aly’s profession, of telling someone who studies law how to do his articles. One would have expected Aly as a professional not to have committed this ‘carnal’ sin by putting the ignorance of a freshman above the knowledge of a professional. Yet this is exactly what he does on the issue of terror and its continuous and conspicuous presence in our times.

The American think tank Strategic Forecasting in a recent study avers that with the defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq members of the latter are preparing to move into Pakistan. And the assassination of Benazir Bhutto by the extremists is a fillip to the holy warriors of al Qaeda and its affiliates to move into the country and form a chain of command that would attack its present political status quo with the aim of overthrowing it and establishing an Islamist regime. Another savvy observer of the plans of the jihadists William Arkin of the Washington Post states that “beginning early next year, U.S. Special Forces are expected to vastly expand their presence in Pakistan… to train counter-terrorism units”. Within this context of the intact ability of jihadists either as a group or as individuals to move in and out of countries to engage in their stealthy murderous war against both the so called apostate regimes of their own and against the infidels of the West, to state, like Aly does, that ‘2007 may…be the year that the politics of terror passed into history’, is the ultimate inanity.

Even as a ‘moderate’ Muslim he should know that the fundamentalist doctrines of Wahhabism and Salafism have been propagated for many years now constantly and with the intensity of religious fervor among the Muslim intelligentsia and the middle classes—both of which are the cradle of pretenders for Islamist political power. It’s because of this long “gestation” of terrorism that makes it inextinguishable in the short term. Furthermore, these doctrines have such a hold among the masses that make even moderate Muslims to be held in awe before the enormity and influence of their ideological power and hardly dare to challenge it. That is why we often see moderate Muslims jumping on the Wahhabi Salafi band wagon especially when it succeeds running like a juggernaut over the powerful infidels of the West, such as the U.S., or at least not to put any spokes in its wheels, and Aly may be of the latter category.

Further Aly knows full well, and he cannot fool anybody by hiding this fact, that there are radical Sheikhs and imams that preach the Wahhabi-Salafi doctrines to their followers and especially to young Muslims whose religious fervor makes them vulnerable to the “heroics” of martyrdom and to the chase of the seventy-two virgins. One of those Sheikhs is Mohammed Omran of Brunswick whom a Somali mother accused him of being responsible for her son’s abandonment of his family and going to Somalia to fight on the side of the Islamist extremists. Also The Australian reported on December 28, 07, that young Muslims in Australia go to the internet searching for information about fatwas and jihad from local and ‘ultramontane’ imams. And I would add that ASIO has reliable information that some Australian Muslims have gone overseas to join the Islamist battlefronts against the apostates of Islam and of course against the infidels of the West.

In the post 9/11 global political constellation, the trajectory of Islamist fanatic terrorism is developing a momentum of such magnitude that if it’s not going to be stopped by the civilized nations of the world it will threaten the existence of Western civilization. Only one with a fool’s cap or with a sinister agenda pertaining to the anti-terrorist laws of this country could  believe and inculcate that this trajectory of fanaticism will be entering in 2007 a ‘benign’ orbit of post-terror. And that the “spotlight” will “return” on “domestic issues”.  It seems that Santa has given a unique gift to Waleed Aly as a Christmas present: Aladdin’s magic lamp. All he has to do is to rub his lamp and the geniis of terror will disappear. But there is still the possibility that one terror ‘fairy’, among so many, will appear with “one bomb” and destroy Aly’s fairy tales masquerading as reality.

Your Turn now...