I believe that inadequate regulation has been under-enforced for too long on the labour side of industrial relations, but at the completion of the Liberal party’s Royal Commission, sensible policies can be adopted to restore labour unions to a position of respectability that they have recently foregone.
While it is true that all economic activity starts with the entrepreneur, it does not end there. No matter how many economists devote their time to free market theory, someone needs to their hands dirty collecting, processing & constructing a pencil from raw materials. These labourers deserve a proper quid for their quo, if they’re pros. Value added production requires, well, production.
Educated, motivated networkers are able to find and finance high quality advise and counsel from other educated, motivated networkers. Of course they will compete to sell the most products to the most customers at the highest prices for the lowest cost. It’s not too hard to deduce that a head-worker will value entrepreneurial ability over any other means of production. After all it is their profit.
Why should labour not have the access to advice and counsel? Why should labour not seek the greatest reward possible?
When slavery was abolished in the postbellum U.S. their economy benefited from black salaries for labour. When Israel erected their wall and lost cheap Arab labour, their economy benefited from higher Israeli salaries for labour. As Unions have successfully striven for a better deal for labour, the Australian economy has also benefited.
It is a modern complaint that the ALP is too close to the trade union movement, but it was specifically founded to be a political force for labour. Since Whitlam’s reforms to allow membership in the ALP for white collar types, the party and Union movement have seen themselves diminish. Sometimes the ALP gives the impression that, any day now, they will file for a change of name to the Australian Lawyers Party. It is a famous statistic that the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government oversaw an increase in lawyers and public servant roles at the same time as the number of blue collar jobs shrank dramatically.
The ALP has lost itself and turned it’s back on workers in the quest for power, while loosening enforcement of civilised conduct by some union organisers.
There is not much that is more true than the ‘few bad apples’ inflicting the union movement with their involvement. This is a profound disservice to those organisers who genuinely care. They are passionate about advocacy, but the collective is still tarnished. The stink of 5 mouldy apples overpowers the fine scent of 50 deliciousnesses.
Workers see this, and would rather be relegated to the award until retirement that be cast into a barrel with the thugs who mean something quite different to lawyers when they brag about “Fighting for the Working Man”, or depend of the sleazy shonks, whose words given with sincerity face-to-face are not worth the paper they are written on, passing through to political preselection.
To deny the reality of lawless unionists is as naive as to deny the white collar rogue. One key difference that has led to Australia’s current state is regulation, and enforcement, of business, with a grey area of organized labour where the ends justify the means, which shows why governments are a necessary evil.
With a Royal Commission into Union Corruption to inquire into, and report on the adequacy and effectiveness of existing systems of regulation and law enforcement, there is hope that the coercive powers of the state can be harnessed to provide a lightly regulated but level arena for the contest between labour and capital.
- Management’s right to manage must be defended.
- The freedom to contract must be defended.
- Freedom of association must be defended.
- Freedom from association must be defended.
From the terms of reference
1.b. the adequacy of existing laws as they relate to such entities with respect to:
ii. the accountability of officers of registered employee associations to their members in respect of the use of funds and other assets in relation to such entities;
1.c. whether such entities are used, or have been used for any form of unlawful purpose;
6. Any conduct in relation to such entities which may amount to a breach of any applicable law, regulation or professional standard by officers of registered industrial employee associations who hold, by virtue of their position, a position of responsibility in relation to any such entities.
have the most potential for trade unions to join the 21st century Australian economy constructively. They also have the most potential to be used for a corresponding decrease in the regulation of business. If transparency and good faith can be found among the parties, a number of our existing rules will become superfluous. If faith in unions can be restored among the labour force, and a lighter regulation of business can be politically realized, Australia stands ready to herald in a brighter culture.