Saturday, 21 July 2012

My money would be safer with the AWU/AMWU coalition of trade unions than with Fitzgibbon and his motley crew

When there is nothing substantial by which to read the tea-leaves of the future, one falls back on past behaviour as a surer predictor of future behaviour.  One also has to look at the fit of the jigsaw pieces.  It seems to me that the majority of those dishing out political commentary in the second decade of the 21st Century have no memory or research skills which they can reference for past behaviour.  They also, for the most part, have no idea where the pieces fit.


Back in the late '80s in Queensland, Labor had been out of power for generations.  Bjelke-Petersen had been got rid of a blaze of corruption revelations and the Fitzgerald Inquiry.  But Labor had yet to find its way back and leadership options were not easy.  There was the quirky Peter Beattie and the loner Wayne Goss and not much else to choose from.  

Eventually, in December 1989, Labor came to power in Queensland with Wayne Goss as Premier.  Goss came to power because of the two powerful pragmatic unions of the Right and the Left in Australia, the Australian Workers Union (AWU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU).  It was called by some 'the unholy alliance'.  It frightened the living daylights out of then State Secretary, Peter Beattie, who had fallen out some time before with State Secretary of the AWU, Errol Hodder.  He knew his days as State Secretary were numbered and was soon superceded in the position by Wayne Swan, now Labor's Federal Treasurer.  Goss prided himself on being non-factional and independent.  It was agreed that he should continue to present himself as such to the Queensland electorate as it was seen as a plus for Goss and Labor.  The partners in the 'unholy alliance' would look after the political background and work to keep things on an even keel.  Labor victory in December 1989 came out of this pragmatic relationship within the Queensland Branch of the Australian Labor Party.

This same pragmatic partnership seems to be at work currently in support for Julia Gillard as Prime Minister as against the opportunism of Rockin' the Boat Rudd.  Gillard came to her parliamentary career out of the Victorian Left.  She is maintained in the position by the right-wing AWU.  Rudd is definitely not a shoe-in with the union movement.  He has no base there.  The AWU placed Gillard in her current position - and it is not about to backdown for Rudd.  The AMWU also finds Gillard a safer bet in support of the interests of its membership, particularly those in manufacturing, than the peripatetic Rudd.  The AMWU, now under the leadership of the canny and competent Dave Oliver, will drive the politico-industrial support for Gillard.  

Commentators have this week massed up quite a few column inches decoding the statements of Joel Fitzgibbon on last Monday night's Q & A.  If I were a betting person, I reckon my money would be safer with the AWU/AMWU coalition of trade unions than with Fitzgibbon and his motley crew.  

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