Rank and file newsletter for Queensland MUA

Submitted by martin on 13 September, 2020 - 3:46 Author: Bob Carnegie
Bob Carnegie

'Special edition' newsletter on the Queensland MUA: This newsletter is written and published by concerned MUA R&F members

'Human Beings are many, but MEN are few'

The above is a quote from the great Greek historian Herodotus referring to the heroic stand of the Spartan 300 at Thermopylae in 480 BC: Where despite being technically defeated the Greeks through their bravery and tenacity put in place the moral and military foundations to, in the end, defeat and drive from their homeland a far larger and stronger army in the Persians.

Occasionally over the last few months I have interjected in the debate over the dysfunctional and unprincipled events that have enveloped the MUA Queensland Branch and indeed the National Leadership of the union to intervene to do the right and principled position in relation to the unlawful sacking of Carol Conlon and the totally unjustified warning letter presented to Asst Branch Secretary Paul Petersen. It has given me no pleasure to do this but as a trade unionist and financial member of the union I had no choice. Silence would have been consent.

This along with the 'Bug Investigation', the second-hand TV selling and 'buy back the CCTV affair' has made the branch an object of ridicule amongst many in the working-class movement. A joke in other words. Myself I find it very sad.

On a personal note the vicious personal attack, particularly on social media against myself, a totally unprincipled 'whispering campaign' and attempts by a senior national official of the MUA to interfere in my efforts to find work are not only actionable legally, but much more importantly an utter disgrace to the entire principle of what trade unionism stands for. Telling senior shipowner management that l have, and I quote 'A Black Cloud' over my head is tantamount to blacklisting a man. I wrote to the National Secretary Crumlin of this recently, he was as usual, was lacking in moral decency to respond.

The overt and covert role played by National Office of the MUA in supporting my opponent in the 2019 election should be well known. As the Queensland Branch Secretary, I raised contentious issues and debated National Officials on several issues. I earnestly believed, as I told members on numerous occasions, one's head is made for shaking not just for nodding. MUA Members in Queensland got, by unscrupulous methods, and by a narrow margin; in the election of my opponent, the candidate the National Office wanted, a person incapable of putting together cogent oppositional arguments to them. A head-nodder not a shaker.

I'll let my supporters talk and write of the achievements of the branch under my leadership but I'm proud of the fact I was the only elected official of the entire CFMMEU who publicly spoke out against the Adani Coal Mine based on the scientific premise that the construction of a Thermal Coal mine could not be justified in a world where global warming is still the number one issue facing the survival of humanity. I was criticised by National Officials and some rank and filers, but I knew it was the right thing to do, life is not a popularity contest.

On the issue of the merger with the CFMEU, I stood alone in debating the reasons why more caution should have been shown before rushing headlong into a merger. The issues I raised have been prescient and shown to be correct, but no member should hold their breath waiting for a National Official to admit it.

My push for the Queensland Branch to join the IDC was not met with welcome arms by the National Secretary as he saw it as somehow not supportive of his presidency of the ITF. I saw it as strengthening the position of Dock Workers not only in Queensland but around the world. The Hutchison dispute proved me right in this, as the IDC played a pivotal role in us reaching a settlement.

The political and industrial pact the branch signed under my leadership with the ETU was enormously productive and successful. During the 136-day long Hutchison Dispute the ETU's support physically, financially, morally and politically was absolutely critical and unmatched by any other union. I'm proud to have been a driving part of that along with Peter Simpson of the ETU. The ETU's magnificent support for the MUA Queensland Branch, in assisting in opening up the doors of key decision makers, played a critical part in rolling back the drive towards partnerships in towage. At one stage in Queensland we were looking like a similar debacle that exists in Western Australia engulfing our entire North Queensland towage operations. However, by hard work and the political pull that our pact with ETU gave us we were able to push back and isolate the partnership push.

The hard work I put in as Branch Secretary in driving a Parliamentary Inquiry into Coastal shipping was vigorously supported by the ETU. Shane King who chaired the committee is a former ETU delegate.

This will be my last foray into the politics of the MUA, (and I'm glad this short article is to be published in a rank and file newsletter), for some time, maybe for good, other vistas are opening to me where I can be intellectually and physically engaged, on a part time basis in assisting working class people, away from politics of annihilation, character assassination and despair which sadly so much typifies the intolerance of differing opinions in the MUA.

I think this 'Politics of annihilation' as I have termed it can be best summed up by National Secretary Crumlin's keynote address at the March Quadrennial Conference where he spent a goodly amount of his address attacking anyone with opposing ideas to the National Hierarchy. He quite wrongly but quite purposefully used the term '5th Columnists' to describe any opposition to his designs for the union. This term which has deep roots in the Spanish Civil War, was so over the top to depict anyone wavering from the union hierarchy's Stalinist construct. it serves a purpose however, Crumlin is a man of some intelligence, he used the term to specifically cement in the minds of those present, that if you have differing opinions or ideas for his leadership grouping you are the ENEMY

I've spent much more time on picket lines, been arrested 29 times, been bashed senseless by the police, spent weeks in maximum security prison, been charged with 54 counts of criminal contempt and fought much harder for working class people on the ground, and paid a much higher price, than mediocrities such as Crumlin and Co in the hierarchy of the MUA. However, they can class me as an enemy, a fifth columnist. If it wasn't so serious and so deeply hurtful I'd write it up as a comedy skit. However, it is not a comedy it's a working-class tragedy. My first fallout with the National and a section of the State Leadership of the MUA began in 1995 where once again I was the only elected official of the MUA who spoke out against a deal with BHP which marked the death knell for New Zealand seafarers working on Kiwi vessels on the Trans-Tasman Trade.

25 years is a long time to be on the nose but then again, I was never one to take a hint. Sometimes I wonder whether standing against the tide for so long, with all that it has cost, physically, emotionally, and financially if it has been worth it. I guess I can only answer that, I can look at myself each morning and know, to paraphrase Shakespeare 'That to my own self I have been true'.

I wish most of the rank and file well and I hope there is continued support for Carol Conlon as she is deserving of all the solidarity you can give. Every industrial principle the MUA hierarchy espouses, was thrown out the window in her treatment. Sacking a woman in her sixties without due process, in the midst of a pandemic is beyond the pale.

Those responsible for it on the Queensland Executive and National Office ( with the notable exception of Paul Petersen) should not only hang their heads in shame but, they have proved in their treatment of Carol, to be bullies trying to pass themselves off as trade unionists .They certainly do not have the soul of a true trade unionist. For In the end, despite everything it is the soul of unionism which is its dynamic factor and it's driving force, the rest is just show. As a great thinker once said 'Truth in the end will assert itself'. In Carol's case I'm confident this will ring true.

As I write this, I have heard that member Mike Barber is coming under attack by a section of the Branch Executive. Whilst I won't comment on the charges, I will say this, 'Mike as a union man and as a committed believer in human rights and freedom and is a man I'm proud to call my friend and comrade'. He is a genuinely good person. Please remember that when attempts no doubt will be made by some in so called leadership positions (once again except for Paul Petersen) to sully his name.

As these are my last words (at least for a considerable period) directed to MUA members, I'd like to say a special thanks to the team at Qube, who have been so decent to me. To Wayne, Graham, Noel, the Grub and all, thanks for everything. To my great friend and comrade Jeff Langdon, in my entire working life you were the best man I ever worked with. That is the biggest wrap I can give.

And finally please remember, 'Your head is made for shaking not just for nodding' .

Good health and luck to all Bob Carnegie, Union number 9029940

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