Bob Gould, 2007

The Labor national conference and industrial relations

Source: Green Left Weekly discussion list, May 1, 2007
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter

I’m working on an overview of the Labor Party national conference and the subsequent hysteria of the bourgeoisie about the new industrial relations policy, and what it means. These are contradictory developments that require careful description and analysis.

The incorrigible Dave Riley belts out a nonsensical better-worse-the-better position about Laborism and in his inimitable way claims for the 200th time that Laborism is totally finished and the Socialist Alliance can arise from the ashes. He’ll be a long time waiting.

Norm Dixon posts a leaflet signed by some trade union activists, in the first instance Dean Mighell, titled An Open Letter to the ALP Conference. The difficulty with that document is that despite its sensible sentiments, I and others saw no evidence that it was distributed to delegates at the conference.

What I and others did see was the ubiquitous Jacqueline on behalf of the Socialist Alliance yelling aggressively hostile remarks at the delegates as they went in.

In the industrial relations debate there were 18 speakers, including Michele O’Neil, Dean Mighell, Dave Noonan (Victorian CFMEU) and Dave Oliver (AMWU), who the DSP is quite sensibly supporting in the current metalworkers union election.

These four, in particular, were properly critical of the aspects of the IR proposals that were unacceptable to militant unions. Nevertheless, they all stressed that on balance they supported the IR proposals despite reservations, as the best that was on offer. They all voted for the resolution, which was carried unanimously.

Since the conference the media and many employer organisations have gone ballistic, saying the Labor IR policy makes far too many concessions to unions and workers. The situation is clearly contradictory. The four senior union officials I mentioned are important figures in the broad labour movement and are often presented by the DSP leadership as part of the militant trade union current.

In they normal course of events they have much more clout in the workers movement than either Bob Gould or the DSP. I strongly suggest to Norm Dixon and Green Left that they interview these four militant ALP union leaders to get their views on the current situation facing the workers movement, which ought inevitably to include their views on why it was necessary to vote for the resolution at the same time as being critical of it.

Sensible, in-depth interviews like that would be more use than Potemkin village meanderings from Dave Riley or leaflets produced after the event for the record that don’t appear to have been widely distributed to conference delegates.