Oz Blog News Commentary

Shorten’s perceived unpopularity

April 14, 2019 - 12:05 -- Admin

It is ironic that an
article attempting to explain Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten’s perceived
unpopularity has appeared in a Newscorp media outlet1, when it is Newscorp
which has been at the forefront of the attempt to damage Shorten’s ‘image’
among its readers ever since he became opposition leader. The only conclusion
that the article came to, was that, as Shorten himself said: “When you’re the
Opposition Leader, the only time you get on the media is by opposing. When you’re
prime minister, you can be constructive.” This may be part of the problem, but
it goes much deeper than this. It goes back to his connection with the union

governments, with a great deal of help from Newscorp, as well as big business
and their lobby groups, have been waging a propaganda war against unions for
almost as long as I can remember. This went into overdrive under the prime
ministership of John Howard2  and all came to a head with Prime Minister
Tony Abbott instituting the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and
Corruption under the clearly biased lead of Dyson Heydon. Even
the name of the Royal Commission (…and corruption) suggests prejudice, and it
was clear that this was mostly a fishing expedition. Indeed, Heydon’s report
said: “It is clear that in many parts of the world
constituted by Australian trade union officials, there is room for louts,
thugs, bullies, thieves, perjurers, those who threaten violence, errant
fiduciaries and organisers of boycotts.” But despite the
best efforts of Abbott and Heydon, who referred just over 40 individuals and
organisations to various authorities, including the police, the various directors
of public prosecutions, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission
and the Fair Work Commission, very few people have been convicted of any
criminal activity3. Subsequently, whenever the Morrison government
refers to members of unions, they tend to associate it with the epithet ‘thugs’
just so the populace are constantly reminded who the baddies are. Contrast this
with the abbreviated Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking,
Superannuation and Financial Services Industry which, despite its limited
timeframe, uncovered malfeasance on an industrial scale. Unions do corruption;
bankers only do misconduct. It pays to wear a tie to work, so that despite your
criminal activity you’ll never be called a thug.

Bill Shorten and Julia Gillard were both called before the Union Royal
Commission in an unsuccessful attempt to smear them4. Subsequently,
the raid on the Australian Workers Union offices by the Australian Federal
Police, seemingly at the instigation of the Registered Organisations Commission5,
also drew a blank for the federal government. This turned out to be such a
disaster for the government, that it seems crimes may have been committed by
members of the federal government, or their staffers, in covering up their
activities in relation to this raid6.

I was a member of a union for almost all
my working life, as were many of my colleagues. Our union negotiated our
workplace agreement, and despite the best efforts of assorted federal
governments, they were reasonably successful. I was happy with the union that
represented me and did not see a thug among them; just fairly adept

I have never met Bill Shorten, so I don’t
know him or what he is like. Like most people, I have only seen him on
television and, in politics, this is always stage-managed, so you do not get to
see what the person is like. Some time before Shorten entered politics, there
was a cave in at the gold mine at Beaconsfield on April 25th, 2006, which
killed Larry Knight and trapped Todd Russell and Brant Webb underground for 14
days7. Shorten was there almost all the time and was often the go-to
person for the media when they needed information. This was, in part because, as
he said: “The reality is, unions often know what’s going on before other people
because these are our members”8. No ministers from the Howard
government ever came down to Beaconsfield.

This anti-union propaganda has been
constant for decades and continues today. There is no doubt it has infested
every part of Australian society, much to the glee of conservative political
parties. And it has been one of the tools used by them to attempt to smear
Shorten. So, I doubt that it is only being opposition leader that has led to
Shorten being ‘unpopular’. It is the association with the union movement which
has been demonised by conservative governments ably abetted by Newscorp and
other media, and big business’ lobbying organisations. However, the tide is
beginning to turn, and despite the intention of the government in setting up both
the Union Royal Commission and the AWU raid, the failure of both may hasten the



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