The corporate media, especially the Murdoch press, has given Julia Gillard rave reviews for her "brave" stance at the ACTU congress in the face of union "muscle".
The government has faced increasing calls from the industrial wing of the organised labour movement to implement further worker friendly changes to the industrial relations system. The Rudd Government however, which now opposes neoliberalism we are told by our erstwhile philosopher king, shows no interest in fundamentally reversing labour market deregulation. The deregulation of the Australian labour market has been a core tenet of neoliberal doctrine.
Gillard declared that the government will not submit a second wave of industrial relations reforms.
It is interesting to see how comrade Gillard actually faced down the unions. Many delegates to the congress demanded that the government close down the Howard era commission overseeing the construction industry, which is directed against the construction industry unions.
In Victoria, as every motorist would know, there are innumerable road works going on around the Melbourne metro area. One of these is on the Westgate Bridge. A bitter demarcation dispute has broken out between the CFMEU, a left wing construction union, which is allied with the left AMWU against the AWU. The AWU is a right wing union formerly lead by Bill Shorten, corporate Australia's favourite trade unionist.
A large feature profile of Bill Shorten in the Australian Financial Review (September 25, 2007), the newspaper that caters to the rich, revealed that Shorten flew around on private jets provided for his use by the billionaire Richard Pratt. It also revealed that the boardroom's favourite union man was also put up in a luxurious pad in New York. Naturally when Shorten moved up into parliament he did so by grabbing a safe seat in the working class suburbs of Melbourne.
Of course, in this demarcation dispute the corporate media is barracking for the AWU. One thing that has caught their attention is allegations of balaclava clad CFMEU members engaging in thuggish behaviour.
At the ACTU congress Gillard made much of this. She used this to denounce violence. She declared that the government would not succumb to pressure to abandon the commission because thug-like behaviour cannot be tolerated.
Meanwhile, on May 6 a US air strike in Afghanistan killed some 90 to 100 people. Most of the people killed were women and children. This mass killing was not an isolated occurrence. Reports of scores of deaths in Afghanistan due to the wanton use of US military power have become almost daily occurrences. Such mass killings occur because the US is free to do as it pleases in Afghanistan. The resort to violence is unconstrained. The consequences are thereby all too predictable.
On April 29 Kevin Rudd, a Christian, indicated that Australia would expand its presence in Afghanistan. In the budget just handed down the government boosted spending on defence in order to fund this expanded commitment. Most of Australia's "public intellectuals" are silent when it comes to Afghanistan. Tomes have been devoted to Rudd, but with barely a word on Afghanistan.
Earlier this year the Australian Financial Review reported that Julia Gillard gave an address to the Australian American Leadership Dialogue in 2008. This Dialogue essentially consists of the rich and powerful. What did Julia Gillard have to say at this Dialogue gathering?
Did she bravely denounce the US for its wanton violence in Afghanistan, which leads to the frequent killing of scores of innocent women and children? Did she bravely stare down the delegates and tell them that if such killings continue the government will reconsider its support for the war in Afghanistan?
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