Williamson without bite


Life of Riley: The importance of being earnest

The difference between the value created by a worker and the cost of maintaining him or her is not as constant as the business community would have us believe. Generally, wages must be driven down or the labour force sweated longer or harder for profits to rise. There is simply no other way to do it.

JENNIE GEORGE: Generally, that may be true but ...

Either it is or it isn't. It's a simple question.

CHERYL KERNOT: Hang on. Don't be so belligerent. Get off your high horse for a moment and listen: That's a very crude, very simplistic formula.

Is it? I view it as a basic capitalist fact of life.

GEORGE: Perhaps it is. But money, you see, does make the world go round. Unless employers can see a return for their investment they won't be stimulated. Before you know it, we're all in a right pickle. Jobs don't grow on trees, you know.

KERNOT: The quest for profit is a thoroughly decent pursuit.

GEORGE: I wouldn't be that keen. I'd call it a necessary evil.

And I'd call it theft.

KERNOT: Call it what you will, but our 171 amendments to the new IR bill now protect hard working Australian men and women from the very worse excesses of naked greed.

GEORGE: But the bill has your support.

KERNOT: Now it has, after we have amended it — need I remind you — in 171 places! We talked them down, Jennie. We made them sit up and take notice. What a great day for the Democrats.

GEORGE: Somehow I expected more.

Maybe you were banking on a few more amendments? Another 19 perhaps to bring it up to an even 200?

KERNOT: Fiddledeedee. The unions have got all they are going to get. We tried to find the right balance in the arrangement.

GEORGE: We were hoping that Cheryl's party would be more considerate of our case. We pleaded. We did lunch. Faxed up a storm. Made all the right moves. But no one seems to be listening to us any more.

KERNOT: I do Jennie, I do.

GEORGE: I know you do, luv. That's the way we women are. But it seems to me that no matter how much we jump up and down there's this juggernaut bearing down on us determined to destroy trade unions in their current form.

So that wages can be slashed still further and profits raised.

GEORGE: Unfortunately, that seems to be the case. I don't mind telling you that sometimes I think it's hardly worth the effort.

KERNOT: Oh, come on, Jennie, don't talk like that. Trade unionism is a great idea going begging. Mark my words, the workers will come rushing back. All you need is more pep in your service delivery.

But in the meantime?

KERNOT: In the meantime the ACTU should put its own house in order. That's Jennie's job — prove that trade unionism is still relevant. I wish her all the best in that task, truly I do.

GEORGE: Thanks Cheryl.

KERNOT: As for the Democrats ... liberty, nationhood and the keen pursuit of a decent profit will be our primary endeavours. While Jennie may see employers as a bunch of profit hungry bar...

GEORGE: No I don't. I'd call them greedy.

KERNOT: We take a different tact. Bastards they may be, but if we want the system to work, the Democrats are true to their charter. The people of Australia can depend on us to keep the bastards earnest.

Dave Riley