Opposition leader Kevin Rudd today demanded - and got - the resignation from the ALP of Dean Mighell, Victorian Electrical Trades Union Secretary for daring to do his job: get better pay and conditions for workers in his industry.
As this item indicates, however, the implication seems to be that it was the dirty language that got Mighell the boot. While calling John Howard "a skidmark on the bed sheet of Australian politics" isn't the worst of it (and actually appeals to me as quite apt), the real reasons for taking his scalp are a bit more complex.
A tape surfaced recently on which Mighell was recorded boasting about using some 'slightly questionable' (but still legal, it should be noted) tactics to get pay increases across the board - in essence, pattern bargaining in a situation where any protection has been entirely stripped away by WorkChoices. While some of the language Mighell used - especially about workplace inspectors - was colourful, that's probably not the reason either, and Mighell has already tried to put the record straight.
Mighell - as the media is at pains to point out - is a "maverick union boss", but pulling a clever shifty like this against a conservative government hell-bent on destroying workers' rights should - by rights - get the support of a real workers' party.
However, the leaking of the tape (and there are claims in was recorded to fit him up) has a pretty suspicious timing. It comes soon after the kerfuffle about Rudd's millionaire wife, Therese Rein, using AWA's to exploit workers, and generally benefiting from WorkChoices. With the Government trailing badly in the polls, the more pressure they can put the ALP under over what seems to be the key election issue, the better, and if that means attacking the ALP fom the left, well...
Then of course, it's time to attack from the right.... And the Union-scare-campaign continues....
As Mighell himself said:
"Here we have a political stunt from the Howard Government out of Canberra," he said on Sky News.
"We knew it was coming a week ago - it's designed to drive a wedge between unions and the ALP and that's fine, we don't get sucked into that."
This isn't to discount the fact that conservative forces in the ALP, including those around Rudd, will be happy Mighell is out. Mighell signed onto an open letter opposing the ALP's decision not to bring back the Right to Strike under their proposed IR policy. The articles condemning his "stunts" make no mention, for example, of the opposition Mighell put up to Rudd's "WorkChoices-lite" at the ALP National Conference (although he didn't vote against it). And, Mighell, who publicly quit the ALP in disgust in 2002 with a fair bit of media attention, and subsequently rejoined, probably isn't the most popular of individuals in the party.
This story should be another nail in the coffin for those that think the ALP is really the party of the working class. Perhaps they might join Mighell in harking back to what he said in 2003: “The Labor Party as we’ve known it, as unions have known it, is dead.”
Time for a new workers' party? We think so (and it wouldn't be the first time this has come up).