Unions have dodged a bullet after Morrison’s Ensuring Integrity Bill was narrowly defeated in the Senate last week. But we can’t rely on lobbying One Nation and the Senate crossbench to stop the Liberals. The Ensuring Integrity Bill is now being brought back to Parliament, but is not likely to be voted on until next year.
The ACTU has claimed the result as a victory for people power, saying “the efforts of ordinary workers defeated this bill” after “months of intense campaigning”.
One Nation and Jacqui Lambie joined Labor and The Greens to vote the bill down.
But with union movement still reeling from the failure of the Change the Rules campaign to defeat Morrison at the election, the whole campaign amounted to no more than appeals to email Senators, combined with lobbying efforts in Canberra. There was not a single demonstration or stopwork rally.
The ACTU claims it was able to convince Hanson that anyone who voted for the bill would be seen as “union bashers”.
Central Queensland CFMMEU organiser Chris Brodsky, formerly with the mining division and now at the construction division, was credited with organising numerous meetings between union officials and One Nation.
The new laws would make it even harder for unions to effectively organise by increasing the sanctions for unlawful strike action by providing for the disqualification of militant union officials and the threat of deregistration for whole unions.
But the answer is not to retreat from protest or stopwork action. Behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts do not build working class power or the fighting ability of the unions.
Mass demonstrations against the Ensuring Integrity Bill would have shown very clearly the strength of opposition in the community. And, crucially, they would also build more confidence to keep fighting Morrison’s anti-worker agenda.
There is no guarantee that One Nation or Lambie won’t backflip when the bills is next introduced—Lambie’s capitulation to Dutton over the repeal of the refugee Medevac legislation shows that. Hanson and Lambie have said that they would support a bill that was more targeted on the CFMMEU. Hanson is trying to position her party as holding to account both the “big unions” and the “big corporations” like Westpac.
Rather than celebrate, we need a strong call from the ACTU for demonstrations and industrial action in defiance of the law, if Morrison is going to be defeated.
Worse still, by appealing to and discussing legislation with Hanson, the union leadership ends up sending the message that she is a legitimate political figure who deserves respect or even gratitude.
Hanson has been spewing hateful racism for the last two decades. She has called for a ban on Muslim immigration and said Islam was a disease, feeding on the Liberals’ own Islamophobia over refugees and the war on terror. She is also whipping up anti-Chinese racism, claiming they are buying up houses and agricultural land.
Hanson tries to paint herself as a friend of workers (and is looking to the Queensland state election next year), but she votes with the Liberals over 80 per cent of the time. She has supported their tax cuts for the rich and penalty rate cuts for hospitality workers.
One Nation has traditionally taken votes from Labor and the Nationals in areas hit by unemployment and austerity. The party hopes to pick up some support from workers sick of low pay and cuts to services by using anti-refugee and anti-Chinese racism.
In May’s federal election One Nation recorded strong gains in regional Queensland and the Hunter Valley on the back of their strident support for coal mining. Most of the gains were at Labor’s expense.
The CFMMEU mining division in Queensland threatened to campaign against Labor candidates over the issue of Adani—a move that opened the door to some of their members voting for One Nation. This is a disaster. Any support for One Nation among workers and unionists will only help spread their racism.
Racism is poison for the working class. It divides workers against each other, eroding solidarity and effective struggle against the bosses. We can’t rely on lobbying racist politicians like Hanson to beat Morrison’s anti-worker agenda. It’s not too late to build a fightback based on mobilisation and strikes that can stand up to the Liberals and Hanson.
By Miro Sandev