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

I’ve “excavated” this essay of mine from the deep-end of my archive in view of the powerful CFMEU’s threatening decision to publish the names and addresses of building watchdog inspectors with the aim that their “kids will be ashamed of who their parents are.” This union as king-maker, whose power is unparalleled in the industrial history of the country, which can crown and dethrone leaders of the Labor Party, as it did by appointing Bill Shorten as the federal leader of the ALP, has not the slightest concern that by naming the families of these inspectors puts at high risk the safety of their spouses and children. Moreover, its impending amalgamation with another militant union, the Marine Union of Australia, MEU, will make the CFMEU the power-broker extraordinaire. And inrease more its forte to continue to break the rules and regulations of the Industrial Court with total impunity. I hope the readers of this blog will find it to be of a bit of an interest.

 

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 fueled 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.

I rest on my oars: Your turn now

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Union power: The Wings of an Eagle Attached to a Pigeon-head

In view of the debilitating strikes that are continuously surging in Greece at this critical moment that the Samaras Government is attempting to pull Greece out of the crisis and put an end to the great sufferings of the people, I’m republishing this essay that was written twelve years ago.

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. For John Howard there is still a good chance that the minders of Kevin Rudd, couple days before the real poll, will be telling him that the only bad news is that there is no good news. 

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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 “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.

I rest on my oars: your turn now

FORMER PREMIER SAILS HIS INTELLECTUALLY FLOATLESS PLOT AGAINST MOUNTAINOUS McGUINNES SEA

By Con George–Kotzabasis

The intellectual lightness of former premier Bob Carr’s critique of Paddy McGuinnes lies in the opening of his article published in The Australian, on January 30, 2008., ” ‘Don’t get too close to that crowd of Quadrant’, instructed Paddy McGuinnes…The year …is fixed in my memory as 1976 or 1977, when I was an employee of the Labor Council of NSW”. ( A period when the latter was employing standover goons from the Sydney underworld to bash and threaten the lives of left-wing members of the Labor Party, and which McGuinnes dubbed as the right-wing thuggish Labor Council of NSW.) As if this statement of McGuinnes in 1976-77, would be the ‘fixed’ Gospel truth about Quadrant from which McGuinnes would never deviate with the passing of time. Carr claims that “Quadrant’s anti-communism was too unfashionable for him.”[McGuinnes] As if the latter was picking his political “fashions” from the ‘cat walks’ and designs of other conservatives and was intellectually incapable of designing his own anti-communism, which he did, and during his journalistic career brilliantly articulated and exhibited.

Carr claims that “McGuinnes contribution was a different one” and “deliciously counterproductive”, which the Labor party relished. He was the Godfather of the three deadly sins that would cast the Howard government into the political abyss of Hades: Climate change denial, support for George W. Bush in Iraq, and loss of workers’ rights. “For ten years, whatever Howard did or said he would be supported by a group of columnists…none more bottled-up angry with Labor than McGuinnes”. This was Howard’s “Praetorian Guard”. And “when the electorate wanted Howard to ratify Kyoto and wind back the commitment in Iraq, the symbiotic link with Praetorians made it impossible for the emperor to shift”. It was this attachment of Howard to the orthodoxies of the Praetorians “that did him in”. Carr caps his argument by saying that “McGuinnes and his allies had won their man for their program, but their program had lost Australians”. And “McGuinnes was haunted by ghosts… Women from the Push days, his Labor Party buddies from the past, above all the imaginary leftists who seemed to occupy a large part of his mental space”.

Well let us deal with Carr’s argument about Paddy and Howard’s Praetorian Guard that “did him in”. The three issues that presumably ousted the Howard government, i.e., climate change, the war in Iraq, and WorkChoices were present during  Kim Beazley’s tenure as opposition leader without in any way increasing his polls against Howard , So there must have been other factors that brought the Coalition government down that Carr hardly even attempts to probe. And all the pre-election polls had shown that at least the two issues of climate change and the war, scarcely made any ripples in the calm lake waters that the electorate was paddling its canoe. The issues that led to the defeat of the former government did not emanate from the “program” of McGuinnes and his allies, but from a number of tactical mistakes made by the Coalition prior and during their lackluster electoral campaign and its inability to cut Rudd’s populist wings that would make the pigeon land, in the guise of an eagle, on the Lodge.

On the two pivotal issues of security and economic management, on which the Coalition had no peers in the political spectrum and was politically unassailable, the Howard government failed to concentrate the mind of the electorate. Instead of making these two issues the axis upon which the safety and continued economic prosperity of the nation depended, it squandered this political capital it had in its hands by ‘hoarding’ the first, that is, by keeping silent about the great importance of the security of the country during the electoral campaign¬—and considering that the war in Iraq was being won by the Coalition of the willing with hardly any Australian casualties, which was vital to the security of the West, the reticence of this fact was politically astonishing—and by treating the second, i.e., economic management, as a ‘safe haven’ in the electorate’s mind and a safe protectorate that could not be ‘stolen’ by the me tooism economic conservatism of  Kevin Rudd.

Rudd owes his victory to the humdrum desires–that had nothing to do with the war or climate change–of Howard’s battlers and to the self-employed tradesmen, both groups drenched with middle-class conservative values. Once Kevin 07 established in the minds of these two groups his economic conservatism coupling this with his promises of lower food and petrol prices as well as ending the ogre of Work Choices, which the unions’ advertising campaign successfully managed to depict, then Rudd was bound to win the race, as the unbreakable momentum of all the polls had shown during the long campaign, without steroids.

Howard’s campaign strategists committed the error of thinking that they could take the wind off the sails of Rudd first by a profligate and luxurious spending, and secondly, by tampering with the Work Choices legislation with the aim of making it more palatable to the electorate, and in the process bungling it, which instead of making it acceptable to the latter it created the strong impression of Howard’s guilt about Work Choices as being an anti-working class measure and hence generating a great distrust of Howard. From this point on whatever Howard was saying was falling on deaf ears and no monetary offers lining the pockets of the electorate would change the latter’s choice to have a go with Rudd. Indeed, “the electorate had moved”, to quote Carr, and ‘de-latched’, from Howard not because of Kyoto and the war in Iraq, as Carr claims, but to the failure and inability of the Coalition’s strategists to expose the falsity of Rudd’s so called “new leadership” and to take the wind off the sails of  his bloated populism, as it’s written in Kevin Rudd’s stars that his “new leadership” will be led by the weathervane of populism.

 Carr ends his tirade against McGuinnes by stating that the latter “was haunted with ghosts…above all the imaginary leftists who seemed to occupy a large part of his mental space”. As if he himself and the left in general, were free of their own ghosts planted in their dragons’ teeth by that great intellectual landlord absentee from history Karl Marx, class struggle, the proletariat, capitalist exploiters, the universal man, who would work during the day, play the harp in the afternoon, and write and “practice” poetry during the night. Not to mention its more modern up to date fads such as “make poverty history” in countries such as Africa where political corruption is rife and when one gets on the sleaze racket of a governmental position it becomes a way of life and where a free rein of insatiable cleptocracy reigns.

Just-in-time news, Bob Carr has drowned…It was never wise for lake swimmers to swim in the mountainous sea of Paddy McGuinnes. 

I rest on my oars:Your turn now

LABOR IS “OUTSOURCING” THE SOVEREINGTY OF THE NATION

The following paper was written on May 2000. It’s republished here to remind readers that the detachment of the Labor Party from the political “sins” of its past is still to come, as it continues to relish them by increasing them. It’s clear that a Rudd government would sign up to the UN declaration on indigenous rights whose article 3 gives aborigines the right to  freely determine their political status, and article 4 the right to autonomy or self government, thus championing indigenous separatism that would lead to the fracturing of the unity and strength of one nation, without bettering the political, economic, and social status of aborigines with their separation from the nation. Once again Labor under the populist leadership of Kevin Rudd, who by this definition will be too feckless to deal with the critical issues of the economy and security of the country in these dangerous times, will embrace all the external remedies and shibboleths that issue from the politically incompetent and morally corrupt UN and apply them to the internal affairs of the nation that with mathematical precision are bound to be so destructive to it.  

Con George-Kotzabasis

There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify the evils, of the present time. Edward Gibbon

A curse is haunting the Labor party, the curse of Paul Keating’s ‘Banana Republic’. Whereas for the latter, however, the Banana…was merely a slippery future economic threat under the feet of the country, for Kim Beazley, the banana republic is virtually a political reality. It’s for this reason therefore, that he is implicitly calling, and more explicitly supporting, the individual and institutional cries for the United Nation’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) to intervene and redress the plague of inequities and injustices that has inflicted the country, as a result of an unjust and uncaring government. The lack of compassion by the coalition government on two issues, (a) its unwillingness to utter the word “sorry” to the aborigines of this land, and (b) its “stand-aloofness” in regards to mandatory sentencing, its reluctance to intervene directly and abrogate a state law that jails children for apparently minor offences.

It’s ludicrous to believe that the word sorry has some magic quality that could sanitize or make less bloody any injustices or atrocities of any scale that have been perpetrated by institutions and governments in the past against aborigines. Within such a context the word sorry would be a crude joke, as it’s not a matter of someone stepping over the toes of another and apologizing for this. No human apology can exculpate criminal actions committed against humanity. This is “God’s bailiwick”. (One can only wonder that associate professor Robert Manne, a brawny votary of the “sorry” campaign accepts, with apparent philosophic equanimity, the apology of the German government for the gassing of the Jews.) The demand for such an apology arises from pious, soft thinking. Furthermore, the official expression of such an apology, could lead to “wealth by inadvertence” for some groups and professions in a society that inchoately moves more and more toward a litigious state, at the vast expense of the taxpayer.

Also, on mandatory sentencing, Labor’s accusation that the government is heartless and inhumane in its refusal to abrogate laws that are targeting aboriginal children, is political theatrics and is not serious. The abrogation of these laws by the federal government would be an infringement of states’ rights and would add another plank to the coffin of these rights, which Labor during its tenure in office had been carpentering, furthering thus the advance of the centralization of power in Canberra. The coalition government therefore, has acted prudently in refusing a casting role in Labor’s “play”. But to Labor, it’s this remissness of government on these two issues that shames and censures Australia in the eyes of the world and irretrievably damages its international reputation.

The Federal Opposition, like so many Mr. Feelgoods, is self-appointing itself as the conscience of the nation. Heavily burdened by this conscience, it can only alleviate it by invoking the External Affairs Power in the internal affairs of the nation. But like most politicians, it has a further and more valuable interest in this exercise that goes beyond its moral ken. By tarnishing the government as inhumane and unjust it hopes to put it beyond the pale in the electorate’s eyes and hence augment its own political stocks in the coming election. Its libido dominandi, its surge for power is so virile that it hardly baulks at the prospect of prostituting the sovereignty of the nation and its inalienable right to determine the laws of the land.

As the intervention of the United Nations HRC in the internal affairs of the country would be no less than the defloration of the nation’s sovereignty, as it would inexorably have a corrosive effect on the legislative power of government. The latter would be looking over its shoulder for Big Brother every time it passed a bill in parliament in regards to its domestic affairs, which might not be in accord with the letter and spirit of international conventions and treaties that Australian governments had signed in the past. Moreover, such intervention would be adding insult to injury in respect to the nation’s mores, as it would imply that Australia is a “crooked nail” on moral and human issues, like a truly banana republic, and would need the vise of the HRC to straighten it and hence making it fit to enter the family of civilized nations. Therefore Australia is not fit from its own record and reputation on human rights to have its place among civilized societies and needs an “usher”, the HRC, to find its seat among these societies. 

Labor’s Mental Blindness

It’s mind-boggling that Labor is so myopic and cannot see that the invocation of the External Affairs Power would open a Pandora’s box. It would place parliament under a  “spooky” surveillance, as all legislation in relation to human rights laws will have to be written under the shadow of the HRC. In other words, the legislative power of  government will be held to ransom. It would also open the floodgates of litigation and provide a gluttonous banquet to lawyers and their clientele as the menu of human rights would be in the hands of all interest groups and individuals who have an inordinate appetite to be seen as trailblazers of social and political change, like Senator Bob Brown, or who more prosaically would settle for a substantial financial payment. Moreover, it would spur a promiscuity of legal activism among judges from the lower courts to the High Court, and would widen the windows of opportunity for active “progressive” judges to throw their flat earth judicial stones from their glass-house existence-like that avatar of “creative” activism Justice Kirby of the High Court of Australia. Such creative activism by the judiciary however would be the usurpation of the legislative power of government. Hence, it would strike a sledgehammer blow to the cornerstone upon which the separation of powers rests.

Two cases of the High Court illustrate this whittling down of the constitution by the judiciary. In the Commonwealth v. Tasmania (1983), the Commonwealth prohibited the construction of a dam by the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Commission under the provisions of the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act (1975). (Chief Justice Gibbs, with his characteristic wisdom, dissented against the majority decision 4-3 maintaining some basal distinction between external and internal affairs to ensure the integrity of the Constitution’s federal division of authority.) Also, in the Koowarta v. Tasmanian Dam (1983) the laws upheld treaty obligations. That triumvirate of goody-goodies Justices Mason, Murphy, and Dean, all considered that the External Affairs Power extended beyond obligations and embraced benefits and rights. 

That this raid of the judiciary, not to mention others, on the Constitution, leaves Federal Labor under the leadership of Kim Beazley insouciant and unconcerned speaks volumes of its poverty of thought, its lack of foresight, and political dilettantism. Of course Labor may deceive itself and believe that it will have a safeguard against the intrusions of the judiciary in laying the latter on a Procrustean bed. It can always cut to size its appointees to the courts of the land (this equally applies to the Coalition) as it has done in the past , to fit its own agendas. Judges, however, like all others appointed to high positions by government, whilst they might owe their positions to the latter, they own their reputations and amour proper. This fact alone does not bear good news for governments that judges will toe the line.
 

Academics Toe the Line of Labor

What is startling, if not alarming, however, is that this poverty of thought finds solace and support among some academics. But on second thought it may not be so surprising. As what else could one expect from the mass production lines of most universities than the entry into its teaching faculties, especially in sociology and law, of a stream of intellectual usurpers who are more proud of displaying their radicalism than the rigor of their mind?

Professor of international law at the Australian National University, Hillary Charlesworth, in an article in the Australian subtitled “The Victory of States’ Rights over Human Rights has Impoverished our Social and Political Culture”, remarks, that the UN’s legal opinion is, “that Australia’s mandatory sentencing laws violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention of the Rights of the Child”. On the pivot of this opinion she mounts (molehills?) her own argument that because “Australia has freely agreed to abide by the principles set out in the relevant human rights treaties” we are bound legally and morally to accede to them. Furthermore, she continues, “under the human rights treaties, it’s the Federal Government that bears the international responsibility to ensure that all Australian laws ( this is no diminutive, this is “matronly-sized” outsourcing of Australia’s sovereignty) conform to our treaty obligations…Internal political or constitutional arrangements can be no excuse for failure to live up to its treaty commitments”. Capping her argument, she claims that even in the event that mandatory sentencing is popular, “public policy cannot be driven by political popularity alone or on purely utilitarian grounds”. 

No sensitive and sensible person can defend mandatory sentencing—except perhaps if she/he is a victim of the particular offence—especially if it applies to children. It’s obviously a “desperate” legislative action by the Western Australian Government and the Northern Territory to protect mainly household residents from a spree of serial burglaries and break-ins that previous laws were unable to stop or abate. An impartial objective evaluation of this situation however, sans academic metaphysical nonsense, would consider not only children’s rights but the rights of the victims as well. More importantly, a deeper probing of the matter, would consider children’s rights in the continuum of their life, and the repercussions of the social conduct and behavior and the successes and failures of juvenile life upon adulthood. It’s essential therefore to make children not only conscious of their rights but also of their responsibilities and duties. Indeed, to shield them from self-punishing failure in later life, it’s necessary to make them aware that punishment is the price one has to pay for unsocial, law-breaking actions.

The bone of contention therefore should be, and is, what kind of effective punishment should apply to these minor crimes committed by juveniles that would prevent major ones committed in their adulthood. Academics therefore who passionately emphasize and advocate the rights of children would have been more fecund in their deliberations if they were just as passionate in their search and discovery of programs and laws applying to children, laws that not only would protect victims from the crimes of children, but more crucially protecting children from failure in their adult life. As even petty crime committed by minors, especially when it takes a serial form and is inadequately punished, ensures with certainty the “success of failure” in later life.

Professor Charlesworth with enviable Olympian athlete’s ease jumps over the hurdles of these issues. Neither the erosion of the Constitution, nor the plight of the victims, or the double jeopardy that children would be placed in by their serial petty crime nor the punishment in the present and the more severe serial self-punishment that hovers over their future, concerns her. All these things seem to be peripheral, indeed, satellites to her fixed universal position. But to respond to the basal argument of her article, that the government should adopt international laws and implement them in our internal affairs, one cannot do better the great German jurist philosopher Friedrich Savigny. “The legal institutions of a nation are part of its individual life…and of the whole of its historically determined situation. They fit as does the skin of the human body. And to replace them by a rationally excogitated code is like tearing off a body’s skin in order to replace it with a synthetic product”. He denounced theories of rationalism which deduced legal theories from general and universal principles, irrespective of past history and national peculiarities. This illustrates tellingly why some professors of jurisprudence in this country are dusted off and drop from the shoulders of giants.

But let us return back to the leader of the Opposition Kim Beazley. The definition of a strong and farsighted political leader is an “animal” that protects its own territory from the incursions of foreign assailants. Beazley as leader of the Opposition and as potential Prime Minister (God forbid) does not fit this definition. Instead of  vigorously protecting and making unassailable our sovereignty from the incursions of foreign bodies, in this case from the United Nations HRC, he prostrates himself before it and willingly and wantonly out sources the sovereignty of our nation to alien bodies.   

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