2011 presents opportunities as well as problems for MUA members and the union must continue to work hard to secure and build on our industrial, political and economic rights.
Strange days have found us, as the song goes. Laissez-faire Capitalism, where anything went as long as you made money, has dominated markets and the intellectuals and technocrats that fed off those markets for as long as one cares to remember. It certainly goes back to the collapse of the Eastern European socialism and the creation of the optimistically-termed New World Order. Now it should be better and more accurately renamed the Old World Disorder.
The view that unregulated markets would deliver some type of global economic nirvana was the creation of a group of intellectuals who wore their neo-conservative colours as proudly as any Bandito or Hells Angel.
They presided over an extended period of greed, intellectual elitism and power politics that changed the world. The circumstances they engineered made it easy to elect crooks like Dick Cheney, power trippers like Donald Rumsfeld, John Howard and nitwits like George Bush.
They were ably assisted by the me-tooism of many social democrats and Labor politicians who embraced the new ideology because of the bankruptcy of their own convictions or from purely opportunistic motivations. Think Tony Blair mostly here who was presented with a extraordinary opportunity to redefine economic development by aligning it with a commitment to social justice and an equivalence of opportunity through industrial and economic development and achieved through increased access by all in our society to education, employment and community services that are just and sustainable.
He failed miserably. And, worse, he succumbed to the political bullying from Washington to legitimise one of the most disgraceful and morally unsubstantiated wars Western democracies have ever committed to in Iraq.
Think also here the sycophantic hugging of the new ideology by the Keating Labor Government and subsequently the intermediate social democratic thinkers like Mark Latham and, more lately, Michael Costa in Australia.
The current Financial Crisis is not about the failure of generating resources - it is about the failure to properly redistribute those resources in an effective and sustainable way that creates opportunity for all in a society like Australia, and to new economies in developing nations such as those in Africa. Instead the wealth polarised around the powerful and elite who deemed that existence was purely connected to self-interest and personal opportunity.
It has proven to be a failed and miserable vision that created the Workchoices Legislation, for example. It was one of the more striking examples of policies promoting the elimination of all opposition to their ideas at any cost, including the breaking of trade unionism for no reason other than it is at its core a co-operative mechanism of redistribution of wealth and resources.
It is galling to read ex-Labor parliamentarians Mark Lathams and Michael Costas rambling exoneration of markets in the media after their personal long and unquestioning embracing of them. Both are failed politicians with no real-life experience who now find it convenient to hold hands with the political storm-troopers of the neo-conservative media, all of whom having prostituted their journalistic independence to cuddle up to and grow fat on the policies of greed and elitism of their bosses. One can only guess that this is the only place any of them can get work these days but it would hardly be defined as decent work.
Kevin Rudd showed courage and character to challenge the conceptual flaws of this type of capitalism and its advocates and has drawn the predicable brickbats from all the usual suspects including from Murdoch who has lost 4 billion bucks chasing his commercial megalomania. On the bright side this hopefully means so-called journalist like Piers Ackerman and Chris Pearson have more difficulty feeding their faces these days and others like Glenn Milne have stopped self medicating and joined Alcoholics Anonymous.
This disgraceful period of greed and self-serving promotion deserves to have the perpetrators along with their braying supporters properly exposed so that we can rebuild our financial public and political institutions in the hard light of recognition of the failures that have brought the world and the majority of its population to this extraordinary brink.
Theres not a better example of the moral calibre of the new executives and their overriding attitudes created by the New World Order than at Pacific Brands.
They engineered a very straight-forward equation of getting wealthy on the backs of sending Australian working women and men into unemployment in a recession with all the deprivation of difficulty that translated into for them and their families.
The MUA, TWU and RTBU jointly determined that the machinery partly paid for by Government subsidy from taxation revenue would not be exported by our members.
The three Unions received tremendous public support, including the only supportive editorial in living memory from the Daily Telegraph. We received very wide political support including from Queenslands Independent Bob Katter, who put a private members Bill up that our unions be exempted from secondary boycott prosecution for our principled position. Strange Days.
IN THE FIRING LINE
No-one feels an economic downturn like stevedoring and maritime workers. Our working lives are intrinsically linked with trade - both inside Australia and internationally.
At the recent ITF Dockworkers Committee an extensive program of defending our members employment and working rights was endorsed by the large group.
In the face of a 30-50% downturn in throughput of containers and cargo from LA through Singapore and on to Rotterdam, a new generation of wharfies and dockworkers are dealing with the fall-out of capitalism for the first time in their lives.
We determined that in each country we take up the issue when it comes to financial injections by Government of Why Banks and
The efficiency and maintenance of our ports and wharves will be essential to accelerating the economic recovery. Keeping a skilled, highly competent and safe work-force is the foundation of the capacity to translate quick and sustainable improvement to trade in
our ports and on into our economies. Governments have an equal responsibility with employers to maintain and continue to improve our Port infrastructure and employment base, and the International Dockworkers Section is committed to networking and support in getting our message across.
In Australia that means the Rudd Government continuing to invest in Port infrastructure and employers matching that investment in maintaining the stevedoring and maritime workforce as extensively as possible.
MUA Committees and officers around the country are working hard to find intermediate solutions to keep the wharves turning over with the maximum number of members employed. Employees have an equal responsibility. Any concessions will need to be reversed as the economy picks up, as well.
The MUA has worked night and day to ensure the new Fair Work Bill also extended our new era of fairness to Australian seafarers.
We made extensive submissions, in writing and face-to-face with many politicians and public servants including a long session with the Senate Committee, on ensuring coastal shipping services were underpinned by Australian working conditions whether on licensed or permit vessels.
The High Court found in favor of Australian Industrial jurisdiction to apply, only to have Howards Workchoices snatch it back with their local version of the international power-play of the neo-cons.
Our arguments were accepted and the offensive regulation in Workchoices will be amended in the new Industrial Act.
Together with the opportunities presented by the Senate Inquiry into Coastal Shipping, there is now a strong framework for the revitalisation of our Shipping Industry. The Rudd Government has another opportunity to make history to secure our Australian Shipping Industry and merchant navy that cant be sunk by Flag of Convenience vessels, political vandalism or market manipulation.
The three Maritime Unions have particular responsibility to work coherently and functionally together to ensure ongoing industry and government support and investment. Like stevedoring, shipping is the powerhouse of an economy overwhelmingly reliant on international and domestic trade. Like stevedoring, securing our shipping industry around efficiency and our national interest particularly in employment opportunities will in turn secure our long-term economic security.
Overcoming the damage by the cannibalising of our economies and lives by free-market capitalism in general, and the Howard Government in particular, needs talking - but mostly needs walking - by the Rudd Government, and all the other interests in our industry.