Contributed by Joe Montero
One certainty for this year and beyond, is that most Australians will face challenges beyond anything we’ve seen for some time.
JobSeeker and JobKeeper are soon coming to an end. Last December, a Bill was tabled in the parliament, ultimately aimed at de-unionising workplaces, increasing the level of insecure work, and pulling down wages. They are calling this the omnibus bill.
Government expenditure on a range of services will begin to be cut back further, because it will be argued, the budget deficit must be brought down. This will further increase the disadvantage already experienced by many Australians.
All this comes on the back of an unprecedented attack on basic rights, like the right to belong to a union, the right to report, and a range of rights under law. On top of this, there is the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the longer going economic crisis.
Help stop the Omnibus
Video from the Electrical Trades Union
Given that the Scott Morrison government is the hand administering these changes, it is understandable that many will see an urgent need to get rid of this government. They are right to think this way.
The downside is that this brings the temptation to put everything into waging a marginal seats campaign, geared to a possible election later this year. This is a mistaken strategy. Putting all the eggs in this basket will not work, and it is likely to guarantee the Morrison government another term.
Far more important is to get on with the work of building a movement, which is much mOre than canvassing for votes. It is about organising workplaces and communities into actively defending targeted rights.
It is about organising thousands upon thousands to stand together, not just at election time, but every day in their workplaces and communities. This is what will inspire conficence and belief that it is possible to stand up and win.
The campaign against John Howard’s WorkChoices more than a decade ago proved this. Not everyone appreciates this legacy. Some even choose to turn their back on it. In some quarters, the history has even been rewritten. This must change.
A cartoon from the Howard era. Some things have not changed.
Defeating WorkChoices did not rely on a marginal seats campaign, although It became part of the mix in the end. But it was never confined to this.
Victory was won by organising workplaces and local communities to act and make WorkChoices unworkable. With a flood of varied activities, backed by massive amounts of information, there came a sense that this was an unstoppable movement. It won more support each day.
In Melbourne, which was the epicentre of the campaign, about successful 60 strikes or responses to lockouts, backed by strong community support, made made a huge difference.
Melbourne March against John Howard’s WorkChoices
The combination of all these efforts drew people in from all quarters
There is a lesson for today in this.
Another lesson, is that it is much better to call a spade a spade. WorkChoices was about de-unionising Australia, imposing individual contracts, and labour imposing big employer friendly labour market flexibility. The Omnibus Bill is about the same stuff and then some more.
To call it WorkChoices Two is right on the ball. Pussyfooting around this only brings confusion and opens opportunities for the Morrison government to exploit.
Contrast the WorkChoices campaign with the 2019 Change the Rules , which centred around a marginal seats campaign. It failed, despite the fact of an immensely unpopular Prime minster, whose standing was still reeling from his betrayal of Malcolm, and a set of unpopular policies.
Too few were convinced. The campaign failed to inspire. People were merely asked to cast vote on the day. Other than this, they were left as spectators and not participants.
Repeat the strategy, and the result will be the same.
There is still time to set matters on a proper footing. Although We must take the possibility of an election into account, we must not let us divert us from the main game.
This will finish the industrial relations attack and help to turn away the other attacks as well.