Our Common Cause

Those who believe empowered communities are the best defence to politics-as-usual are celebrating the re-election of two hard-working socialist councillors — Sue Bolton and Stephen Jolly — in Victoria’s local council elections held on October 22.

CFMEU members and police

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and Registered Organisations bills passed in the House of Representatives on October 18. These bills, first introduced by the Tony Abbott government in 2013, were twice rejected by the Senate, triggering the double dissolution election earlier this year. 

This is the latest attempt to extend the John Howard era’s union busting agenda. The ABCC was first established by the Howard government in 2005, targeting the militant unions that covered workers in the construction industry. It was opposed by the union movement.

Today, there are 55 workers still camping outside Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) in Melbourne, 16 weeks after they were sacked when their employer lost the maintenance contract for the brewery.

Most of these workers were directly employed by CUB until their jobs were outsourced in 2009. There was a hard fought campaign to keep the positions permanent but, in the end, the workers were forced to settle for contracts with no loss of income or conditions. Supposedly it was a “win/win”.

On September 20, days after the passage of the “omnibus” legislation that enabled the implementation of the federal budget, Minister for Social Services Christian Porter released the Baseline Valuation Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), as part of the federal government’s “Priority Investment Approach”.

In what amounted to a financial audit of the welfare system, the report focused on the costs to the welfare system over a prolonged period of three categories of recipients: young carers, young parents and students.

Newly elected Senator Pauline Hanson gave her maiden speech in the Senate on September 14 — 20 years after her first appearance as a parliamentarian in 1996.

Her incendiary speech outlined a far-right agenda of racist bigotry, misogyny and attacks on welfare rights.

Since 2003, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has had the power to detain people for up to seven days, without charge, for questioning in relation to a terrorism investigation.

That person does not have to be a terrorism suspect or even an associate of a terrorism suspect; is compelled to answer questions; and is forced to keep the detention and interrogation secret.

Treasurer Scott Morrison's speech to a Bloomberg business breakfast in Sydney on August 25 echoed previous warnings by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that Australians were heading for economic trouble if the new parliament fails to pass the government's "omnibus" budget package.
When a gang of right-wing goons from the Party For Freedom (PFF), dressed as stereotypical Muslims, stormed the Sunday service at the Gosford Anglican Church on August 14, their actions were nominally disowned by Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party in a written statement. However, the statement also sought to justify and excuse the actions of the PFF.
In the recent controversy over the proposed sale of key NSW state-owned electricity company Ausgrid to Chinese bidders, the primary issue seems to have been lost: a vital public asset such as Ausgrid should not be privatised in the first place, whoever the potential buyers might be. A storm broke out over the planned sale of Ausgrid by the state government to either of two Chinese corporations: the government-owned State Grid Corporation of China; or the privately-owned Hong Kong-listed Cheung Kong Infrastructure Group (CKI), controlled by billionaire Li Ka-shing.
The shocking abuse suffered by children in Darwin's Don Dale detention centre revealed by the ABC's Four Corners on July 25 has angered wide layers of the community. It has also prompted a nationwide demand to take immediate action against the perpetrators and ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again in the juvenile detention system. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's decision to call a narrowly focused royal commission into Northern Territory youth detention centres has been met with justifiable scepticism and criticism.
Pauline Hanson came across a racist and incoherent cartoon character on the ABC's Q&A program on July 18. But it would be a mistake to think that Hanson, and the more than half a million people who voted for her in the July 2 federal election, can simply be laughed away. They represent, in a distorted way, the deepening contradictions in our society that have to be addressed at their root. The myth of the egalitarianism of Australia is cracking up after 50 years of Coalition and Labor Party governments helping the super rich get even richer at the expense of the rest.
Malcolm Turnbull's very slim majority is no mandate to re-introduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and other anti-worker legislation that he could not get through the previous Senate. The silence from the government was deafening during the election campaign, even though the ABCC legislation was the trigger. The ABCC was hardly mentioned. It only highlights the fact that Turnbull did not want to give the average worker the opportunity to scrutinise the finer details of his proposals to attack workers' rights.