The utes of politics

Utes, the exchange and discussion thereof, could not be more Australian. Any Woza, Bluey or Macca will tell you that simply anything to do with utility vehicles is real men's business.

So it should come as no surprise that so much of our interest recently has been drawn to whether our prime minister Kevin Rudd, or his dedicated treasurer Wayne Swann, are ute-friendly.

Utes also function to sustain the national society of blokeness as indicated by such odes as "She's My Ute", "Scrubbabashin", "Baptise the Ute" and "Love Shack".

At stake, it seems, is the federal government's true blue-ness.

So the whole OzCar finance supplement scheme brought in by the Rudd Labor government should be viewed as a generous attempt by a few everyday blokes to save a national icon from what may be a totally unnecessary failure on the part of the locals to visit a car yard.

It's mateship at its best.

Or is it? As one online ute chat forum raged: "Who would of thought the big political up roar would be over a ute and not only a ute but a ute that would win a feral ute comp at that." And: "Bloody Ruddy probably hasn't even driven the damn ute." And finally: "id like to see them hit a roo at 110 see what bloody happens ay? mind you a polly in the bush that'll be the day."

So, to then have our beloved two-door automobile (with integrated cargo bed on a light-duty unibody platform) associated with political corruption is a national scandal. It has given the ute a bad name.

And those headlines!: "Utegate: police chief to shed light on fake email". "Utegate: The private life of Mr Grech". "Utegate: PM calls in police". "Utegate email: Turnbull quizzed on Grech link". "Utegate debate heats up". And finally, as national resentment boils over: "Vandals attack: Godwin Grech's house egged".

This is obviously very serious stuff. Much newsprint has been dedicated and television programs interrupted so that the nation's presumed need to know is satisfied.

Forget such headline grabbing acronyms as the ABCC (Australian Building and Construction Commission) — all you are going to be fed are stories on utes.

While Utegate was upon us column-inch-by-column-inch, the Senate was working itself up to reject any change to the coercive powers of the construction industry watchdog.

Nick Xenophon and Steve Fielding lined up with the Coalition to stop even purely cosmetic changes being proposed by industrial relations minister Julia Gillard. What was supposed to be Rudd's ABCC lite remains old ABCC heavy.

It wasn't that the ALP was going to change much of what the ABCC gets up to or the way it persecuted workers on building sites.

Now that the Senate has rejected any change to the governing legislation, the trade union movement faces a conundrum — it must fight or surrender.

This is tad more significant than a fake email. As any building worker will tell you, many lives are at stake if the ABCC regime prevails. Australia's building workers need a struggle against this law even more powerful than some blokes' love of utes.

[Satirist Dave Riley is a member of the Socialist Alliance national executive.]