By Joe Montero
After hundreds of thousands of workers hit the streets around Australia over the this week, the Morrison government and its big end of town backers have been left reeling. It was not only the visible banner carrying and determined multitudes. They were a visible representation of overwhelming public opinion.
When the militantly anti-worker Murdoch media is compelled to reluctantly admit that up to 150,000 turned up in Melbourne, although it held the story in the inside pages s a fairly minor event, it has obviously had an effect.
Even before the rallies, it is now known, the government appointed Fair Work Ombudsman was used to put the pressure on to prevent the turnout. On 10 October, a letter was sent out to employers, advising them that “workers joining the rallies could be breaking the law by withdrawing their labour or failing to attend work,” and that the Ombudsman’s office was prepared to “investigate any legal breaches of the Fair Work Act.”
The threat did not work. If the Ombudsman’s office should now carry out its promise, the prosecution of hundreds of thousands will cause a political storm. This is not likely to happen. The Ombudsman’s office has been weakened.
When even the Reserve Banks says that the loss of the national income share going to wages has gone too far, something is seriously wrong. When those on the receiving end get angry about it, and more than a few are landed with the added burden of cut penalty rights, something is going to give.
Then the government arrogantly displays its class based wouldn’t care less attitude and keeps on opening the purse for the silver spoons, as it turns a blind eye to those who are suffering as a result.
Australia has a government, led by a prime minister who did everything he could to block the banks from being taken to account for their wrongdoing. Not surprisingly, this is the same government, whose industrial relations minister, former bank executive Kelly O’Dwyer, came out punching, as big numbers came out into the streets, and warmed about the streets being turned into battle grounds. She insisted that it is all a conspiracy concocted by the unions.
Unions were accused of class warfare, when all they have done is call for equality, within the context of w work law regime that heavily tilts in favour of the employer.
It is the employers, the government they own and the big privately owned tabloid media that have been engaged in undisguised class warfare, pushing a little more each day, until they have caused a counter reaction.
The lesson in it is that the battle must be joined. Big numbers are the best weapon. They are hard to answer. It is the unions who are in touch with public feeling, and this has suddenly dawned on the government and its backers, who have suddenly button their collective lip, hoping that if they pretend it’s not there, it will go away.
Eventually they will respond. There is no intention to change the direction. It means that those who do want to bring about change, are compelled to keep on fighting for it. There is absolutely no doubt that this will intensify efforts to get rid of the Morrison government at the coming election.
There is a growing understanding that the electoral strategy is not enough. An ongoing, organised, committed, active and determined movement is needed, to make sure that equality is achieved. The success of the past week has lifted the possibility of what can be won. But it is only the start.