Page 4809 - Week 15 - Wednesday, 14 December 2005

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If they want people like me to take unionism seriously, they need to give us better Senators and stop sending their rejects to Canberra.

How true those words were. Latham went on to say:

No wonder union membership is in free fall. People work hard, pay their union dues and then watch union officials spend all day playing internal Labor Party factional politics …. the average union worker could not give two hoots whether their union sends delegates to the Labor Party conference.

He said:

… they hate the idea of people being owners, not just workers. If people are becoming self-reliant they don’t need to waste their money on the union fees that fund long lunches and piss-ups—

to use his term—

in Sussex Street.

Latham also said:

I’m not opposed to unionism per se, just the idea of six union secretaries sitting around a Chinese restaurant table planning the future for everyone else.

This is the sort of nonsense that even Mr Latham, last year’s hero, managed to identify. So I say to Mr Gentleman that one can see why they do not have any credibility, one can see why they are struggling with less than 20 per cent membership in this territory. He must ask himself why so many people in this territory—an area where there has been a strong Labor vote, I do not deny that—are writing off the trade unions that operate in this town with such enthusiasm. I would be asking myself a serious question on that. I would say, “We have lost the plot, we have lost our relevance to people.”

Of course, he cannot afford to say that because, since 1995-96, the Labor Party has collected $47 million in so-called union donations, but they are not really union donations. It is a bit like talking about governments having money. They do not have money. The governments take money from the community. It is the community’s funds that governments spend. The unions do not have money per se. The unions take money off ordinary people. They go around the work forces doing so. They are particularly prevalent with regard to young persons. They nail the people who are 18 and say that they had better join up to the union, they are expected to, and then they take their money and hand it over to my friends opposite and federally.

That is what funds Labor’s activities. So there is a high level of indebtedness. Mr Gentleman’s union—I believe that he was a TWU person—handed over $2.782 million. Its donation sits alongside those of illustrious groups such as the CFMEU, which gave nearly $5 million, the shoppies at $6.8 million, the LHMWU at $5.7 million, and on it goes.

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