“ Here’s different, workers are union proud,” my friend Josh tells me. He’s just moved to Melbourne and for the first time has joined a union. His pay packet is double that of what he would have earned in New Zealand. The collective agreement means workers who used to not get home til midnight can now leave work on time and see their kids. He understands now the benefits of a strongly unionised worksite.

But Tony Abbott and his Murdoch aligned media buddies have been telling workers like Josh across Australia that their unions are corrupt and bloated. Telling them its so bad that the government needs to spend $100 million investigating the unions through a Royal Commission. A terms of reference released yesterday by the Australian government confirm the Commission will focus on “exposing union corruption”.

When John Howards Work Choices act passed in 2005 it received widespread condemnation from the working class Aussie voter. “Don’t you dare come for our work rights and our unions , Mr Howard” was heard loud and clear in the voting booths in 2007 . The Liberal-National coalition lost the election.

So Abbott is taking the back-door approach this time around. Rather than directly attacking conditions and labour laws , his government is trying to foment distrust between union members and their representatives. Sowing seeds of suspicion amongst members about whether their money is being used correctly. Every paper and TV news show is saturated with anti-union propaganda. In “The Australian” newspaper I read seven articles trumpeting Abbots plan to investigate unions and watched numerous panel shows lambast union officials. They are linking the word ‘union’ with the words ‘corrupt’, ‘bloated’ and ‘useless’ on as many occasions as possible.

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Use of union money must be carefully managed. If and where there is genuine misuse of union funds , those in power must be held accountable by their membership. But make no mistake, this is no moralistic crusade from a government that cares about workers , its a cynical and shameful move intended to divide and conquer the working class.

The result of one worker being separated from the next is loss of wages and the hard-fought conditions that make for a decent work life for the average Australian.

Rather than respond defensively , waiting for outcomes from this corrupt Commission, Australian unions need to derail Abbots narrative and out this witch-hunt for what it really is – deliberate and malicious union-busting. Back home, we need to be mindful of the tactics employed by the Australian government, to be better prepared for what might be next on the agenda for Abbots professed soul mate, Mr Key.







  1. If Australian workers want to see their wages drop to their New Zealand counter-parts, they need only permit Abbott to bust their unions…

    The assault on workers in Australia has begun.

  2. I fervently wish more people were aware of the battles that had to be fought against employers so workers had the right to form unions. How many workers knows some union organisers were even murdered by the likes of the Rockefellers as they struggled for the rights we take for granted today?
    Watching the DVD “Matewan”* and reading various books on union history, all on free loan from Auckland Libraries, certainly gave me a better appreciation of early union formation.

    [Matewan: (1987-James Earl Jones, Chris Cooper, Mary McDonnell, Kevin Tighe) Beautifully portrayed story of a group of coal miners in rural 1930s Matewan West Virginia and their strike against coal company’s unfair, unsafe, unhealthy and discriminatory labor practices. The music is haunting and lovely. Chris Cooper’s character of Joe Kenehan is loosed based on Joe Hill.]

    *full movie also available on YouTube

  3. Unions have historically gained some much needed reform for workers, but they have lost their way in the modern, global economy. I believe they have a role to play, but most seem intent on running the tired old ‘worker v’s boss’ narrative, rather than work with employers to lift efficiency and growth, and therefore wages.

    The corruption in the unions in Australia is epidemic, and Abbott’s review is long overdue.

        • The workers can lift the productivity but the employer is inclined to keep the profits from that lift without raising the wages.(see Mike Treen articles).

  4. Hope Graeme Grace from the Rosebery Action Group is called up. He stopped Hillsong with a help from Keneally & Co. He does not want a Garbage Collection Centre in his area. I would love them to build a huge Mosque in Rosebery and bring all the Muslims in at the new Otto Complex.

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