Saturday, October 27, 2007

Normal Service Will Resume...

I’m not on the air at present as I am recuperating from some minor surgery. I hope to be back at the microphone in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, here’s something to think about.

It’s always a mad time during an election campaign. The carousel of endlessly elevating hysteria known as election advertising can be relied upon to reach ridiculous levels of hyperbole, and thus provide more entertainment than Sex & The City. If election advertising was to be held to the same standards of truthfulness that are applied to ordinary everyday commercial advertising then there wouldn’t be one campaign director amongst them who would escape serious jail time. The coalition’s union bashing fear campaign is nothing short of an assault with a blunt instrument.

The sanctimonious tone in which judgement upon all unions and unionists is handed down would be in any other context offensive. Here we see a gallery of Labor Party frontbenchers lined up like mugshots, with almost three quarters of them identified as unionists. Fair enough. The Labor Party is supposed to be the political wing of the union movement. It’s like saying most teachers at a Catholic school are usually Catholic. Derr. Then to drive the point home with the subtlety of a bloodstained axe those identified as unionists are stamped with the slogan “Anti-Business”. From the morally superior ground of the hard core right wing the two are assumed to be interchangeable, and together an indictment of a person’s character as being only slightly removed from Satan worshipping child abusers. It’s a campaign that rivals McCarthyism for both its paranoia and its stupidity. The sad thing is that they do it because it works. Some people actually believe that anything related to a union must be, by definition, undesirable.

Joe Hockey has proudly proclaimed that this is a fear campaign. He says it is a fear campaign rooted in fact, but of course it is important to recognize the difference between the facts and the opinions that people have about those facts. It is a fact that lightning bolts do sometimes kill people. But it is an opinion that all storms are evil and we’d all be safer if it never rained at all. If I campaigned to have all rain made illegal because thunderstorms are dangerous, that would be a fear campaign, but a fear campaign that I could claim was rooted in fact. That’s the level of logic we are currently being dealt in this election campaign.

To blithely label every unionist as “anti-business” completely dismisses all common sense. Yes there have been any number of “colourful characters” in the unions over the years who have at times been fond of business bashing. Where are they now? Have those characters ever actually advanced the cause of unions and their members? Natural selection has seen those dinosaurs gradually edged out of existence because those who genuinely support a union movement know and understand that such behaviour is unsustainable. By the same token, there have been many monsters of business who have raided, plundered and pillaged, leaving only bankrupted investors and retrenched workers somehow trying to piece together broken lives. But a handful of corporate cowboys doesn’t prove that all business people are greedy, unscrupulous thugs sucking the lifeblood out of their workers, their shareholders, and their customers.

How can unionists be anti-business? If there are no businesses, then there are no jobs. If there are no jobs there are no workers. If there are no workers, then there are no union members. If there are no union members, well then, who’s going to pay those union dues to cover the salaries of union officials? And yet people actually believe this nonsense. Of course the shoe fits on the other foot too. If there is no business there can be no jobs, but at the same time, if there are no workers there can be no business. Did I hear somebody say “skills shortage”? The reason we have these problems is because of a lack of forward planning and investment in the future inspired by bottom-line thinking. It’s that same thinking which marginalizes the value of ordinary everyday people and their place in the community. But that’s a topic for a whole other discussion.

By Joe Hockey’s logic, it would be perfectly legitimate for the Labor Party to launch a counter campaign with mugshots of the Coalition frontbench lined up on the screen. Given the contention that the introduction of Work Choices has undermined workers’ rights it could be concluded that those ministers are anti-workers’ rights. Now let’s not get confused between facts and opinions again. It is a fact that the Work Choices package removed unfair dismissal rights. It removed the No Disadvantage Test. It reduced the number of guaranteed conditions in awards. It reduced access to collective bargaining. Those are facts. Whether or not those are good or bad things is a matter of opinion. But if you are of the position that those things are bad for workers then it is entirely reasonable to denounce those Ministers who supported them. So, in our hypothetical Labor Party advertisement, every minister in the gallery could have stamped across his or her face the slogan “Anti-Worker”. Or even better, “Anti-Family”.

That makes just as much sense as Joe Hockey’s ludicrous propaganda campaign. Probably more.

So what do you think? Feel free to leave a comment, that’s why this blog is here.


Anonymous said...

You're right. As much as I'm a strong Liberal supporter, I have to agree that stupid ad is embarrassing to us all. Better to focus on the positive.

Anonymous said...

The Liberal party seems to be in panic mode. They have all their excavating equipment out shovelling as much dirt as they can.