Editorial: Don’t wait for Labor—we need to break the rules

Malcolm Turnbull is a walking dead man. As Turnbull notched up his 30th Newspoll defeat in a row, the jockeying for the leadership of the Liberal Party after Turnbull goes stepped up a notch.

Former deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce nominated Christmas as the deadline for changing leaders if the polls don’t move. Seven front-benchers declared their interest in taking over from Turnbull, including Peter Dutton, the darling of the right-wing.

The Coalition is split wide open over coal and renewable energy. While Turnbull pushes to keep the Liddell power station going, a right-wing cabal of Tony Abbott and 19 other conservative warriors has launched the “Monash Forum” to campaign for the government to build new coal power stations.

Almost every other day Dutton launches another racist campaign.

In February he opened the door to cutting immigration, blaming it for “overcrowded” cities and claiming it had already “come back considerably” under the Coalition, “and if we have to bring it back further… that is what we will do”.

Turnbull was left looking like an idiot when he claimed he hadn’t rebuffed any proposal to cut migration by 20,000. Dutton contradicted Turnbull, saying the cuts had been discussed.

Then it came out that Dutton was already cutting migration levels using his regulation powers.

Meanwhile Dutton and other Liberal MPs are still backing the racist marches to give “special attention” to white South African farmers (see p10).

Turnbull hopes to buy a bounce in the opinion polls with the May budget. Both Turnbull and Morrison are talking up personal tax cuts and infrastructure spending.

Turnbull is still trying to get the massive $65 billion corporate tax cuts for the bosses through the Senate, while hundreds of thousands of low-paid workers face a further cut to penalty rates from July this year.

Every day that Turnbull is in office means more handouts for the bosses and more cuts for us, while they try to use racism to divide us.

Breaking the rules

The ACTU is beginning its Change the Rules campaign, claiming 25 rallies in April and May are kicking it off. But 24 of them are the usual May Day marches.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus told ABC’s Insiders, “enterprise bargaining is failing… because working people don’t have the power to negotiate fair pay rises”. The criticism of enterprise bargaining is a welcome recognition that there is a problem with it.

But while the ACTU is pushing for the right to bargain across a whole sector or industry, the more fundamental problem is that enterprise bargaining restricts the right to strike to a “protected period”. It also requires ballots to authorise industrial action and for employers to be given advanced notice of any action.

The restrictions on the “right to strike” limit our ability to fight for decent pay and conditions, whether at enterprise or industry level. Without the ability to take effective industrial action, unions have no bargaining power against employers.

There are countless disputes where obeying the law has crippled effective union action. At Oaky North in Queensland, workers spent 230 days locked out before they went back to work with little to show for it. The company ran the mine with a scab workforce the whole time.

Fear of the law stopped the union calling solidarity action at Glencore’s other mines across the state. At Esso in Victoria, workers have now spent 300 days on the picket line.

The unrestricted right to strike has to be at the centre of the campaign to Change the Rules. But, so far, it is barely mentioned by the ACTU.

We are not going to Change the Rules, by playing by the rules. So far, apart from the May Day rallies, the campaign is limited to social media and TV ads.

We need an industrial campaign of national stoppages like the Your Rights at Work campaign that drove Howard out of office in 2007.

We need it to get rid of Turnbull. We need it to tell Labor that tinkering with the laws is not enough. But we also need it because workers can’t wait for the next election. Bosses are using anti-union laws and the Fair Work Commission to cancel agreements and put a gun to workers’ heads.

Workers at Esso, Australian Aluminium Finishing and at the Port Kembla Coal Terminal are just a few places that are having to deal with the anti-union laws now. The bosses’ rules will have to be broken.

An angry mass delegates’ meeting in Melbourne on 17 April pulled 2000 delegates together to vote for a stopwork rally on 9 May. All unions need to back the call to stop work.

We need stopwork rallies in every city. The power to beat Turnbull and the bosses is in the streets and workplaces.


Solidarity meetings

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