August 21 was a nice day to be out on Sydney harbour with my best friend. But we were at Circular Quay not to go on a romantic ferry ride but to protest against the planned privatisation of Sydney ferries by the NSW Labor government.
The rally, organised by the Maritime Union of Australia, drew support from other unions including the Australian Nurses Federation (ANF), whose members are on the frontline of a hospital system in crisis after years of cutbacks by neo-liberal Labor governments.
O'Bray Smith, a midwife representing the ANF, told the protesters she had been taught at school that, in the late 19th century, trade unions had formed a party to represent the interests of the working class. But today, she and other trade unionists are fighting attacks from a privatisation-mad Labor government.
"I've spoken to many rank-and-file members of the Labor Party and they can't believe what is going on", Smith said. "And many are not going to vote Labor in the next elections as a result."
This echoes the message at another anti-privatisation rally organised by trade unions less than a month ago, against the Rees Labor government's attempts to privatise jails. Before that, workers fought the privatisation of the power industry.
The same story of Labor betraying its traditional support base is being played out all around the country. Yet every year trade unions donate millions of dollars to the ALP. This is money wasted propping up the alternative party of the corporate rich in Australia.
The money would be better spent building a political alternative to the Labor Party, on supporting projects like Green Left Weekly, which presents the news and ideas the corporate media won't.
GLW tells the truth about the struggles of ordinary people, in all their richness and diversity. It exposes the lies of big business in its ruthless pursuit of profit
at the expense of human values and the environment on which our very existence depends.
GLW has a proud record of covering trade union issues, from local struggles — such as this year's hard-fought West Gate Bridge dispute in Melbourne — to the ongoing national campaigns to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission and get rid of all of the Howard-era anti-union laws.
For many trade union activists, GLW has become an important source of
information and a much-needed forum of discussion about the key issues of the day.
Despite its high production quality, GLW runs on a shoestring budget. We have to cope with high and constantly rising costs but our income is not so elastic.
In the interests of the widest possible accessibility, for many years we have kept the cover price of the paper at a low $2.
If you are a member of a trade union, you should consider trying to persuade your trade union to make a donation to the GLW fighting fund. Direct deposits can be made to: Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, account no. 00901992.
You can also send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or ring through a donation to1800 634 206 (free call within Australia) or +61 2 9690
1220 (outside Australia).