Before proceedings got underway Council rose for a minute’s silence remembering the victims of two recent disasters – the sinking of the El Faro and the attack on a peace rally in Ankara, Turkey.
After welcoming Councillors, guests and observers National Secretary Paddy Crumlin launched into his report on the current political climate and taking the union forward.
Despite a change of leader, Crumlin said, the need to get rid of the Liberals was just as important as ever.
“Malcolm Turnbull hasn’t changed the policy settings, all he’s done is change the language to appear more inclusive,” he said.
“However, we have to understand that Turnbull is more effective than Abbott and that presents a challenge.”
The afternoon panel session was dominated with similar discussion with the ACTU’s Sally McManus, AMWU’s Paul Bastian and the AWU’s Scott McDine.
After Crumlin’s introduction which congratulated the ACTU on a return to a grass-roots campaigning model, campaign gun McManus took over outlining the basics of the Build a Better Future project.
“Things have changed with Turnbull but the public has high expectations of him, (expeciations) that he will drop the agenda Abbott had,” she said.
“The higher the expectations the better and the attacks are the same; the attacks on Medicare, the attacks on penalty rates, the attacks on working people.
“And these the core issue people think about when they go to vote.
She said it was important that the public was reminded that, regardless who was in charge, it was in the Liberal’s DNA to dismantle items important to working men and women.
As a result, she requested that the union and its activists become involved in the campaign and volunteer time to ensure the Liberal Party only govern for one term.
AMWU National Secretary Paul Bastian hammered home the importance of ridding Australia of the Liberals and the conservative’s anti-worker stance.
Bastian spoke about how manufacturing, particularly auto manufacturing, was one of the first targets upon Abbott’s election, but he said a Labor Party Government was not an outright solution.
“The Labor Party aren’t ticking all of the boxes we need to be ticked,” he said.
He then went on to speak about how his union had secured a local procurement policy, which was passed at the recent ALP Conference and that the party would have to be held accountable to legislate these policies should they form Government.
Like Bastian, McDine said his union was struggling from a general downturn in manufacturing and was calling on the ALP and wider community to support a campaign similar to the AMWU’s in its Reserve Our Gas campaign, which aims to have a domestic gas reservation to benefit consumers and producers
He said because of the relentless attacks his union was under, he would encourage his membership to hit the streets.
“Grassroots campaigns is not necessarily something the AWU has not been very good on but that’s something we want to change,” McDine said.
Crumlin wrapped up the panel in saying that manufacturing, like shipping, was not dead.
“The neo-conservative agenda wants to kill off manufacturing to break the unions,” he said.
“They’ll kill off the industries and then bring them back like they did in the United States where in the South they had the right to work states where they had no union and minimal wages and conditions.”