What is the feeling within the Australian Labor Party about the campaign against the Howard government's industrial-relations laws, and about the weakness of the ALP leaders' statements about what they will legislate as an alternative? Today (4 November) I went to the local ALP members' conference (for the electorates of Brisbane, Moreton, Ryan, and Griffith) to find out.
A presentation by an organiser from the ACTU's Your Rights At Work campaign, Andrew Ramsay (from CFMEU), was given top billing in the conference, and several people were wearing YR@W t-shirts. So, the issue is certainly live.
Andrew Ramsay's presentation was about how bad Work Choices is, and how
we should get out to convince broad public opinion.
I asked about whether the ALP was going to go for a US or British style
"50% plus one" union-recognition law and sideline the stronger bits of
the new ACTU policy.
Andrew Ramsay's answer was, basically: yes, that's a big problem. Let's
do the best we can.
Wendy Turner (ASU), another Your Rights At Work organiser who was there, said she'd
been at the ACTU congress, and that at the congress all the unions had
committed themselves to pushing for the full ACTU policy at ALP
conference next April.
Whether the union leaders will stick to that is of course is another
question, but the fact that they're even talking about it is
There was no response from the rest of conference - neither apparent
anger at Beazley's weakness on the issue, nor apparent feeling that my
questioning of that weakness was sectarian or gratuitous.
On this issue as on many others, I fear that the general sentiment of the
conference was that it would be nice if Labor policy were more left-wing, but (shrug) you know how things are...
That is something that could be changed - transformed into a positive will to fight for workers' rights - given an energetic lead by the union tops.