HOW ARE ATTACKS ON WORKERS AND ATTACKS ON WELFARE RECIPIENTS RELATED?
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Vanguard has received a copy of a speech given by former CFMEU (SA) State Secretary and SA Unions President Martin O'Malley (above) to a meeting of the Anti-Poverty Network (SA). The focus of the speech is the identity of interests between workers and welfare recipients.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
I would like to acknowledge that we are meeting on the traditional lands of the Kaurna People and we respect their spiritual relationship with their country and their culture.
I will commence with a suggestion. It appeared to me that we really do need to rethink how we portray people who rely on the State for their income. Using the term "welfare” conjures up people receiving a handout, a negative mental picture for those struggling through difficult times, rather than a positive mental picture of the State fulfilling its obligation and duty to ensure all members of society are adequately taken care of.
We must frame our arguments and our positions to reflect what we believe in and stop contributing to those who attack us through use of their terminology. So during my talk for want of a better name, I will use the term "community entitled persons".
The attack on workers is being directed firstly through attacks against organised labour, the unions and their members. Another Royal Commission (RC) into union affairs is again trying to flush out even the most tenuous connection to anything which could be suggested as corrupt behaviour which is dished out day after day through a compliant media hoping to find the "smoking gun" to allow the Abbott Government to declare the corruption of unions is so endemic they must be fully supervised on a continuous basis or, I suspect, found to be beyond redemption and deregistered.
At the same time connecting the ALP to any purported corruption will give the government an opportunity to argue that severing ties with the union movement should be obligatory and all union funding should cease.
Unfortunately for the government, the uncovering of full-on endemic corruption within the unions is harder and harder to find mainly because there is no evidence it exists. With the exception of already known corrupt behaviour of some individual union officials of which the courts have already looked at or are looking at, there has been nothing the Royal Commission has exposed regardless of all its propaganda. A recent Financial Review article referred to the inability of the Royal Commission to achieve the government’s aims of finding evidence of corruption on a large enough scale to achieve its goals. The article went on to say many in the government were getting frustrated and the worse that could be aimed at the unions (CFMEU in particular) was naughty boy behaviour.
Of course more is to be heard from the Royal Commission and who knows where it will end up. But one thing is for certain, the outcome will be a further attack on organised labour and the ALP just in time to be used as propaganda for the next federal election.
But without proof of endemic corruption, the government is very aware that it will be extremely hard to convince the public, or a majority in the Senate, or even some of its own members that such draconian measures, not normally accepted in a so-called free democratic society are warranted.
Getting rid of unions or at least union influence is what it's all about, for the express purpose of minimising workers' wages and entitlements. Suggested changes to laws and criminalising certain union activities and introducing US style laws like the "Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organisation Act", have been raised by the Royal Commission and so it is now seeking submissions for the purpose of renewing the public’s interest in this matter. (This is to be read as opening the doors for the right wing think tanks supported by employer organisations peddling their filth and denigrating working people and unions.) This is an attempt to divorce unions from their members on the work sites and to scare both union officials and workers from standing up to the bosses.
What has all this to do with the original question? Well, frankly everything.
Have you noticed how the word "privilege" is being used by politicians lately? Out of work people are "privileged" to be paid a pittance, single parents are "privileged" to be paid an amount not worthy of discussing, the elderly are privileged to have a pension. We are all "privileged" to be Australian citizens until of course we support an act of terrorism or terrorists or other yet to be defined activities, and then we can be declared not Australian, because privileges can be removed. When did our birth right and/or citizenship become a privilege and not a right?
Just as an aside who will decide what terrorism and terrorist are. Will future Tory history books refer to the Eureka Stockade as a terrorist haven? What about the First People and their resistance to colonisation? Were they terrorists and can we declare them as non Australian?
The point is this all goes to the heart of the ideology of those in power. Everything working people and community entitled persons are entitled to is seen as a privilege and not an entitlement or a right. Earning a wage is seen as a privilege given by the boss, that is why the boss should have the final say to sack someone, lower their wages, force more work hours from them, not pay penalty rates etc. etc. Receiving assistance through the bad times and bad luck must be limited because disadvantaged people have to be discouraged, it's their problem to resolve, not the government’s. And their favourite activity, pitting different sections of society against each other to outbid and argue who should get more or less of the "cake". The winners and the losers, or as Joe Hockey so inelegantly stated, "the lifters and the leaners".
We are an extremely wealthy country, the workers make and baked the "cake" yet we are all expected to fight over the crumbs. The first thing we must do is work together because there is more than enough for everyone who needs it.
Now back to the question. Whatever happens to workers also impacts on those not working at any particular time, and vice versa. The only difference between these two groups is the timing. A wage worker today - unemployed tomorrow. A single parent today - back to work tomorrow. A worker today - disabled tomorrow and so the comparisons can go on and on. Some people remain in one group or the other for longer times, others for shorter periods. But finally we all end up, like me, on the old age pension, if we live that long.
It is the same ideologically-driven needs of the ruling class to force down the unit costs of labour to increase their profits. As we know, lower wages will then determine lower rates of income for community entitled persons and keeping a pool of hungry unemployed is always a good idea to encourage those working to moderate their claims.
The attacks on community entitled persons and workers are therefore intimately related. Throughout our lives we all weave and dodge through the myriad of issues we face on a day to day existence, feeding our families, paying rent or mortgages, educating our children and being ripped off by the filthy rich ruling class which controls a parliamentary system which continues to prop up their system of capitalism which continues the exploitation of the working class. Time we put an end to it.
Bringing workers and community entitled persons together can start by recognising where we all stand. The above is my view of this issue and when people look around their workplaces, their families and their communities it becomes very clear that an attack on one is an attack on all.
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