The Morrison government’s union busting Integrity Bill has been shot out of the water. At the end of the day, One Nation joined in the vote against it in the Senate. As good as this is, it must be remembered that the main force behind this win, is the campaign run by unions and others from the ground up.
This does not mean that the matter is over. The government has already let it be known, that the Bill will be re-introduced in some way. Even if this doesn’t happen, the same end will be tried by other means.
Scott Morrison, his government, and the big end of town that are behind them, still have the ambition of destroying the Australian union movement, to get more for themselves and leave much less for everyone else.
Ongoing vigilance and preparedness to continue to meet the threat head on is extremely important.
Unions are necessary. They are the major organised force that has won and continues to protect jobs, wages and working conditions. Without them there to do their job, Australia would quickly be sent backwards by a long way.
Even if many may not be aware of it, unions have also been behind many of the rights that we enjoy outside the workplace.
Without them, we would not have pensions. Inequality suffered by women would be far greater than it is. Environmental destruction would have been much worse. Achieving recognition of the First Australians would have been tougher. We would not have won the vote for everyone. Unions played a central role in the campaigns for these and a range of many other rights won over the ages.
This means that the Integrity Bill in any form would soon escalate into an attack on exiting rights across the board, falling into line with the increasing authoritarianism of the Australian government.
Fighting this attempted attack by the Morrison government has been an important component of the overall effort to defend our democratic rights.
According to Pauline Hanson, the problem with the bill is that it is one sided against unions and the same standard is not applied to others. Westpac’s latest money laundering scandal brought this home in sharp relief.
Although one may disagree with Hanson and One Nation on much, this time, they were.
Jacqui Lambie also opposed the Bill.
To their eternal shame, the rest of the cross bench went along with the government.
There is still a more fundamental reason why the Bill is wrong. The whole purpose is to attack unions. Even if it was more universal in words, its application would be one sided. We see this with the Workplace Relations Act, which is supposed to apply to employers equally. It never is. Would it be any different in this case?
Here lies a danger. It is on the cards, that an apparent concession or two that does little to change the substance will be used to try and sneak the Integrity Bill through.
The bottom up campaign must continue. Alongside this, must be an even greater collective effort to build the unions. We all need them. Especially at a time when so much is being taken away from us.