Contributed by Jim Hayes
The ban imposed by the Australian Building and Construction Commission on building sites and the promised punishing employers who do not police it, with the loss of government contracts, is causing an outrage. And so it should.
It goes to show the Commission is a political tool in the hands of a government that is hell bent on waging an ideological and physical war against the existence of unionism in the construction industry and Australia in general.
This is not new. The commission’s former chief Nigel Hadgkiss was forced to make an inglorious and hasty departure last September, after being found that in his one sided zealousness, he had breached the Fair Work Act. The new government appointed leadership is the same.
Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) national construction secretary, Dave Noonan, said this about the new directive.
“Nigel Hadgkiss acted like a partisan attack dog for the Turnbull Government. We can now see that the new leadership of the ABCC is no different. It is very clear that the Turnbull Government’s ABCC is not about productivity or industry reform.
“The ABCC is merely a taxpayer-funded vehicle for the Liberal Party’s culture war against unions.
“There are real problems that require the PM’s attention, like stagnating wage growth and casualisation of the workforce.
“Yet they have gone out of their way to make a specific set of rules … a flag that represents a struggle for democracy and fairness”.
One doesn’t have to be a fan of unions to realise that banning the Eureka flag has implications that go much further than building sites and a government war against unions, acting as a wedge that drives full steam, towards outlawing the most iconic symbol of that Australia has.
The eureka flag was raised 163 years ago at Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill, by diggers standing up against tyranny, and it came to represent a nation fighting for represent justice, multiculturalism, mateship, egalitarianism and democracy.
Today we have a government that is increasingly feeling threatened by these very things, and ever more fearful of criticism, moving in the direction of tyranny.
But Eureka has resonated so much over the years that the Southern Cross is even included in the official flag, just under and to the right of the British symbol. This is the enduring power of the rebellion on the goldfields and why the government is so uneasy about the Eureka flag.
To many, it is the real flag of Australia, truly representing the people and not clinging onto the colonial heritage that accompanied white settlement. It is about a people standing on their own feet, making their own decisions and carving out their own destiny.
Banning the Eureka flag is more than an assault on free speech. It is the outlawing the recognition of who we are. Eureka is inseparable from what it means to be Australian.
Unions display the flag for these reasons and they have the right to do it. After all, they are an important part of the tradition of fighting for a better life for most. But this does not mean that it is just a union flag. It represents he community at large.
Nor is it the property of white supremacist and race hate groups. They might use the Eureka symbol, but they have nothing in common with what it really represents, and for this reason, others are entitled to feel that this way is wrong.
The Australian government’s approach is not driven by opposition to the misuse of the Eureka flag, but by an increasing intolerance of criticism and its shift towards despotism.
The Building and Construction Commission was set up as a political tool to create an appearance of separation of powers, but really works to provide the illusion that the government keeps its hands clean. Once in operation, it is but a short step to use the same method in other areas. Criticism can be banned by decree and those who do not abide punished. It goes hand in hand with setting up scapegoats and this may be what is setting the scene for the next election.
That is the very threat that makes the Eureka symbol more important than ever.