Saturday, November 13, 2004

A Middle-Class Hero is Something to Be

Today's Age reports:

Government action could cut the flow of millions of dollars of unionists' money into ALP coffers, sparking fears in the party of a financial calamity.

The Labor Party could face a financial crisis as the Federal Government considers banning trade unions from funding the party without their members' consent.

Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews has told The Age the Government could force unions to let members vote on political expenditure.

Andrews justifies the proposal thus:

Mr Andrews said unionists should know where their money was going.

He acknowledged that the question of how the ALP was funded was not a matter for the Government, but said he received regular complaints from unionists unhappy about their money being handed over to a party.

"I've had many people raise this issue and I tell them that as a general principle, people... ought to have a say in where it is going," he said.

Various union and ALP heavies are variously pissed-off or shit-scared by the idea which seems to fly in the face of the Stainless Steel Weasel's statement (on the 7.30 Report) that:

I want industrial relations change in this country not to satisfy some ideological drive of mine, but because I think it's good for the country, it delivers productivity and higher wages and more jobs and greater growth in the Australian economy. [my emphasis]

On the face of it, Andrews' proposal appears to have as little to do with delivering higher productivity as the introduction of “voluntary student unionism” (VSU) has to do with improving the efficiency, competitiveness and worldsbestpracticiness of Australia's higher education sector. I'm well out of student politics these days, so I'll leave the VSU issue to the young 'uns even though the recent Pandagate affair which exploded across the blogosphere does suggest that Brendan Nelson may have a point when it comes to using students' fees to fund student politicians.

I think it best to accept the sincerity of John Howard's statement that the government's industrial relations agenda is not ideologically driven; after all he's an honourable man who certainly didn't become a liar in the last two years. No doubt whatever regulatory regime the government imposes on trade union funding of political parties will be matched by equivalent restrictions on peak employer bodies.

Afterword: The Australian Electoral Commission now has a handy on line report generator for those who're curious about where our political parties are getting the money from.

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