Wednesday, 30 May 2007

ALP sacks union boss for doing his job.

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).

1 comment:

Red Wombat said...

This is not a joke. Printed here in full because it is so ridiculous.

Radio Interview 3AW Melbourne
31st May 2007

NEIL MITCHELL: …on the line is the Shadow Minister, Deputy Leader, she
seems to have been appointed the opposition spokesperson in charge of
Mitchell she is on so regularly. Julia Gillard, good morning.

JULIA GILLARD: And it was a job everybody fought for Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL: Oh Julia, all lined up to do it. Now, Dean Mighell
didn't break the law did he?

JULIA GILLARD: No but his comments are right over the line Neil, right
over the line.


JULIA GILLARD: I am not going to repeat them on radio, I suspect that
wouldn't be something your listeners want to hear. His comments were
way over the line.

NEIL MITCHELL: A union leader using bad language, I mean you have been
known to use bad language yourself.

JULIA GILLARD: Oh Neil, let's be clear here. Sure, if I drop my
suitcase on my foot I can say the occasional word; there is a
difference between that and getting on a stage and using that language…

NEIL MITCHELL: But it was a union meeting.

JULIA GILLARD: …using allusions to people being paedophiles, those
sorts of things. That is right over any line that anybody would find
acceptable and because of that Kevin acted decisively yesterday.

NEIL MITCHELL: So Dean Mighell has been expelled because of bad taste,
is it?

JULIA GILLARD: Dean Mighell has been expelled because his comments are
way over the line and they are the sort of conduct that we find
unacceptable. We don't want to see an industrial movement that behaves
itself like that and it was made perfectly clear to Dean yesterday.

NEIL MITCHELL: But was it his language, was it his turn of phrase or
was it what he did in 1993, getting pay rises for his members?

JULIA GILLARD: All of the above interrelate, don't they Neil….

NEIL MITCHELL: What did he do wrong? What did he do wrong in getting
that pay rise for his members?

JULIA GILLARD: The language was right over the line, the language
bespeaks of an attitude that is over the line and it is unacceptable.
And Kevin made that clear yesterday in, what I think, was a very firm,
focused and decisive act.

NEIL MITCHELL: So what did he do wrong, in getting that pay rise for
his members?

JULIA GILLARD: Neil, what he did wrong and you obviously are familiar
with the language he used, he used language that was right over the
line, it was unacceptable, it was berating third parties in a way that
is completely unacceptable and…

NEIL MITCHELL: I understand your point.

JULIA GILLARD: …it is an attitude that doesn't have a place in the
modern labour movement.

NEIL MITCHELL: I understand the point about the language. Has he been
expelled just for the language and I repeat the question, what did he
do wrong when he got that pay rise for his members?

JULIA GILLARD: In describing getting the pay rise for the members he
exhibited an industrial attitude which is unacceptable in the modern
age and in addition to that, his language at that meeting was
unacceptable in the way it referred to third parties and its allusions
to their conduct and it was right over the line, Kevin said it was
right over the line, I thought it was thuggish, I thought it was
stupid, I thought it was unacceptable, we made those views clear
yesterday and Kevin decisively acted.

NEIL MITCHELL: What did he, I will try once more, I promise the last
time. What did he do wrong in getting that pay rise for his members in
1993? You are objecting to his language, fine, although this is coming
from the party that turned the word scumbag into popular usage but
what did he do wrong?

JULIA GILLARD: I am objecting to an attitude that is about industrial
thuggery and that is what the language spoke of and…

NEIL MITCHELL: So he did nothing wrong, is that right?

JULIA GILLARD: … that is what the language meant. I can't make it
clearer than that, he was…

NEIL MITCHELL: You can make it clearer because I have asked you four
times now, what did he do wrong?

JULIA GILLARD: And I have answered you exactly the same way four times.

NEIL MITCHELL: Yeah, language, you have referred to the language. I am
talking about his actions, how were his actions wrong?

JULIA GILLARD: When you use language, it means something. When you use
language that is being used to describe conduct, that conduct…

NEIL MITCHELL: So on that debate [inaudible]

JULIA GILLARD: …that conduct is part of an attitude that in our view…


JULIA GILLARD: … shouldn't be in the industrial landscape in the
modern age.

NEIL MITCHELL: Was he wrong to con employers into paying more than he
was willing to accept, was he wrong to get 10 per cent for his workers
rather than 6 per cent?

JULIA GILLARD: It is wrong to breach industrial law…

NEIL MITCHELL: But he didn't.

JULIA GILLARD: I can't tell you everything to do with the
circumstances of the dispute that you refer to…

NEIL MITCHELL: No but you agreed with me that he didn't break the law.

JULIA GILLARD: …which happened in the early 1990s? So Neil I am not
going to speculate…

NEIL MITCHELL: But you told me he didn't break the law, at the
beginning of this interview you agreed he didn't break the law.

JULIA GILLARD: Well Neil I can't go through the circumstances of a
1993-1994 dispute. All I know about that dispute…

NEIL MITCHELL: So is it possible that he broke the law?

JULIA GILLARD: All I know about that dispute is what Dean said in this
tape and the attitude displayed in the tape is an attitude in terms of
industrial thuggery that is not appropriate in modern Australia.

NEIL MITCHELL: So he has been expelled for his attitude, not because
of what he did.

JULIA GILLARD: He has been expelled for language and conduct which we
find unacceptable and over the line.

NEIL MITCHELL: Do you remember a bloke called Mark Latham and his
language? Do you remember Paul Keating, one of the foulest mouths I
have ever come across? Who objected to him?

JULIA GILLARD: Well Neil, Kevin Rudd is Leader of the Parliamentary
Labor Party today, I am Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party
today. We are calling it as we see it.

NEIL MITCHELL: You were in trouble yourself for saying shit publicly,
weren't you?

JULIA GILLARD: And I freely conceded to you Neil that when I drop a
suitcase on my foot or whether, in that case, I dropped a sausage at a
barbeque, I am capable of using the occasional word but Neil you can't
sustain an argument that basically, using a word like that when you
have dropped something is comparable with what Dean Mighell did, that
is not a rational argument.

NEIL MITCHELL: I would say that he picked his audience, he was at a
union meeting and yes he used bad language and he has got a shocking
turn of phrase, I mean I thought what he said about John Howard being
a skid mark was offensive, didn't you?

JULIA GILLARD: Yes and I went to an ETU meeting and specifically
repudiated those remarks because they were offensive, they were
disgusting and they don't have a place in modern politics.

NEIL MITCHELL: So he has been expelled because of bad manners, is that
it really?

JULIA GILLARD: Neil, I have explained to you he has been expelled
because of language and conduct which we saw as right over the line.

NEIL MITCHELL: So if you have any other union leaders using similar
language and similar tactics, will they be expelled?

JULIA GILLARD: Kevin will be tough on these matters, he showed he was
tough yesterday and he will be continuously tough on them.

NEIL MITCHELL: The building and construction unions in this town has a
no ticket no start policy which is basically illegal, will the leader
of that be expelled, Martin King?

JULIA GILLARD It would be in breach of the freedom of association
provisions that are part of Labor's policy and…

NEIL MITCHELL: So will you investigate that and expel Martin King if
they're doing that?

JULIA GILLARD: If there is no ticket, no start breaches and breaches
of the law then that should be dealt with by the Australian Building
and Construction Commission. That is…

NEIL MITCHELL: Martin King also swears a bit and if he is doing these
sorts of things, are you going to expel him? You have set a precedent

JULIA GILLARD: What I have said to you Neil is Kevin was tough
yesterday, you can't get me to speculate on a million things that may
or may not happen. He was tough yesterday; he will be tough everyday…


JULIA GILALRD: If there is a comparable incident that comes to Kevin's
attention then he will be tough about that as well.

NEIL MITCHELL: So union leaders are on notice they could be expelled?

JULIA GILLARD: People are on notice that there is a line in industrial
relations, there is a line in conduct that ought not be crossed.

NEIL MITCHELL: Is scumbag an acceptable word?

JULIA GILLARD: I wouldn't use it.

NEIL MITCHELL: Would you expel somebody for using it?

JULIA GILLARD: Obviously Neil you are going to go back to Paul Keating
and his use of…

NEIL MITCHELL: And Mark Latham, a bit more recent, you were his mate.
You have got to admit he had a turn of phrase which makes Dean Mighell
look calm.

JULIA GILLARD: The things Dean Mighell said, the allusions about the
people who work at the ABCC they were grossly unacceptable and they've
been dealt with. You can't get me to go back in time…

NEIL MITCHELL: Fair enough.

JULIA GILLARD: …and say what could have happened five, ten, fifteen,
twenty, fifty years ago. Kevin is the leader of the Parliamentary
Labor Party now, I am the Deputy Leader and we made a judgement call
yesterday and I defend it as the right judgement call.

NEIL MITCHELL: Did Kevin Rudd consult you before it happened?


NEIL MITCHELL: And did you consult others in the party?

JULIA GILLARD: No, I spoke to Kevin about it.

NEIL MITCHELL: But nobody else in the Party, you have got three former
ACTU presidents there were any of them consulted?



JULIA GILLARD: This is a leadership decision and it was taken at a
leadership level.

NEIL MITCHELL: It was a Party decision wasn't it? You don't expel
somebody from the Party, since when can someone from the Parliamentary
Leader expel people?

JULIA GILLARD: Kevin Rudd, yesterday, directed the National Secretary
to obtain Dean Mighell's resignation and that's what occurred. Of
course, the Leader, Kevin consults with me frequently, I am the Deputy
Leader, you would expect that to happen in a political party. In the
same way I suspect that John Howard consults with Mark Vaile and Peter
Costello about some key matters.

NEIL MITCHELL: Is it wrong, in principle is it wrong for a union
leader to trick an employer into paying more than they intended?

JULIA GILLARD: It's not wrong for a union leader to engage in tough
negotiations. It is always wrong to cross the law. What…

NEIL MITCHELL: He hasn't crossed the law.

JULIA GILLARD: …I am just about to say Neil, what the word `trick'
means in that context I don't know.

NEIL MITCHELL: Well you know what happened here. He has convinced one
employer that another employer has already caved in and then they both
caved in. Is that wrong?

JULIA GILLARD: Well our industrial policy would actually say people
have to bargain in good faith which would require people to be
forthright. I want people to be honest with each other in
negotiations, I think that is the best way to negotiate.

NEIL MITCHELL: Fair enough, so it was wrong. Why have you decided to
retain the Australian Business and Construction Commission, the
watchdog on the construction industry?

JULIA GILLARD: Yes, it's the Australian Building and Construction

NEIL MITCHELL: Building, I'm sorry.

JULIA GILLARD: There are a lot of acronyms in industrial relations,
too many alphabet soups but…

NEIL MITCHELL: Sorry, Australian Building and Construction Commission
which is really the industry watchdog.

JULIA GILLARD: Yes, it is an industry watchdog. What we said in our
policy, when we announced it is we would have tough building industry
compliance through a specialist division of the inspectorate of Fair
Work Australia. Currently, we have the ABCC. It came to my attention
that there was confusion and certainly apprehension in the industry
that the ABCC would be abolished or run down first and then there
would be a period where there wasn't anything before we built the new
compliance division. That was never my intention; my intention was
always to have a seamless transition from one to the other. So I spelt
out yesterday the best way of doing that is to have the ABCC stay, and
we have nominated the date, 31st January 2010, then you can be
building up the new watchdog and do a seamless handover.

NEIL MITCHELL: Was there any consultation with the Party on that?

JULIA GILLARD: No, I made that decision and we announced it yesterday.
I announced it at the National Press Club.

NEIL MITCHELL: Fair to say the unions won't be happy about it?

JULIA GILLARD: No they weren't happy about it but it is the judgement
call I made and I think it is the appropriate judgement call.

NEIL MITCHELL: Can you tell me whether any businesses went broke as a
result of what Dean Mighell did?

JULIA GILLARD: I don't know Neil, I can't tell you.

NEIL MITCHELL: Isn't that relevant?

JULIA GILLARD: In what sense?

NEIL MITCHELL: Well in the sense he is being accused of doing
something dreadful here, did he drive anybody to the wall or did he
just use bad language?

JULIA GILLARD: We judged on the matters that became public yesterday.

NEIL MITCHELL: Is that the first you knew about it yesterday?


NEIL MITCHELL: You weren't aware of what he did back in 1993?

JULIA GILLARD: No I was not Neil.



NEIL MITCHELL: You would have been aware of the settlement, above 10
per cent which was above the odds?

JULIA GILLARD: No I wasn't Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL: That's strange.

JULIA GILLARD: I mean, 1993 it may have been in the newspapers I don't
know, I don't recall, obviously we are talking more than a decade
later here but I have got no personal knowledge of the circumstances
of the 1993 dispute.

NEIL MITCHELL: Did you see the transcript of what he said before it
was made public?

JULIA GILLARD: No, I did not.

NEIL MITCHELL: So the first you knew of it was when it appeared?

JULIA GILLARD: Yes, that's right.

NEIL MITCHELL: How much money has the ETU provided the Labor Party?

JULIA GILLARD: Look I don't know that Neil, donations are a matter
dealt with by the National Secretary.

NEIL MITCHELL: Why did you kiss him?

JULIA GILLARD: I was walking into an ETU shop stewards meeting, I was
actually there to deliver a very firm message. The very firm message I
was there to deliver was that the statements Dean Mighell had made at
National Conference about Mr Howard were unacceptable, that some of
the ways that he was characterising Labor's industrial relations
policies were wrong, that Labor's industrial relations policy was
different from what the ETU wanted and I was there to explain those
differences. In the modern world, when you move round in professional
circumstances, as I do, sometimes men shake hands with you, sometimes
they kiss you and there we have it.

NEIL MITCHELL: Peter Costello I think is claiming that the union
handed over I think $3.8 million over the years to the Labor Party,
will all that be returned?

JULIA GILLARD: As I have said, the National Secretary deals with these