By Peter Boyle
and Vannessa Hearman
MELBOURNE — The More Not Less Campaign (a coalition of 28 groups) and the Campaign Against Newstart are organising a "rank and file contingent" at the September 10 Jobs and Justice rally to demand a "militant and democratic campaign in defence of living standards and jobs".
Community and activists groups have criticised the "Jobs and Justice Campaign", launched recently by the Victorian Trades Hall Council and the Victorian Council of Social Service. They say it is a token action launched too late.
The critics say the VTHC and VCOSS have supported Labor government policies which created unemployment and attacked the rights of the unemployed. They point out that the VTHC, in the face of massive job cuts announced in the Kirner government's budget, is reluctant to launch united opposition.
In a September 3 speech at Melbourne University, VTHC secretary John Halfpenny said that there wasn't much to be done about the cuts in the state public service because there wasn't any money in government coffers. The union movement "had to be realistic" and accept that these jobs had to go.
Halfpenny's main proposals for job creation was for the federal government to increase assistance to private businesses and to protect Australian industries from foreign competition.
These "solutions" were prioritised by the Jobs and Justice Campaign. It calls for more direct government assistance to industry, the compulsory risking of a proportion of superannuation funds in new export or import replacement industries, anti-dumping legislation, more export assistance and buy Australian campaigns. In addition it calls for more government spending on infrastructure projects to make the economy more efficient.
The VTHC-VCOSS campaign also calls for government spending on education, training, housing, health, child-care, transport and the environment, but assistance to business is prioritised.
The problem with this approach, Harry Van Moorst of the Campaign Against Poverty and Unemployment says, is that it seems to ignore the way big business squandered much of the money thrown at it in the 1980s through easy loans, direct assistance and tax cuts. If big business could not solve the problem of high unemployment during the last boom, why should anyone trust it to do so now?
The VTHC-VCOSS "solutions" also fail to address
the problem of growing structural unemployment. Their campaign statement notes that unemployment has rarely dipped below 7% in the last 15 years but does not raise the demand for a shorter working week with no loss in pay. Sharing the work around is a rational response to job displacement by technological improvements, said an activist in the More Not Less Campaign.
The More Not Less Campaign has been endorsed by the Victorian Branch of the Australian Social Welfare Union, which has called a stop-work to support the rally on September 10.