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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

some questions « Previous | |Next »
May 28, 2007

I'm wondering if we have approached an 'its time' moment in the forthcoming federal election. Are we approaching and election that comes down to a simple choice: change or more of the same? Is this what is happening? So what do Australians really want right now? Change? Or more of the same?

Do Australians want more of the old white guys currently running the Howard Government? Or do they want something new and refreshing and more in tune with a modern liberal Australia? Are they tired of Howard's Australia? Do they want to say goodbye to the politics of fear? Do they yearn for, and desire to embrace, Rudd's Australia--conservative, Christian and progressive? Is this a safe change?

John Spooner

My judgment is that there is a mood for change and that the ALP is now competitive, finally. So things are finely balanced: the electorate is giving Rudd a bit of a look over whilst Howard is carrying a lot of baggage.

Rod Cameron on Lateline observed that it is finely balanced:

50-50, Virginia [Trioli ] but that 50 per cent… I've never had Labor at 50 50. I've got them up to 50 50 now... That's not confident, that is 50 50. But two months ago I was 35, 40 per cent chance for Labor. I think it's 50-50.

Cameron then gives a pen picture of the person who he reckons is going to determine the next election:
This is oversimplifying it but it's not distorting it. The person who will decide the election is going to be living in the outer suburbs of Sydney, or Brisbane or Perth, or a regional centre right throughout the country. He will be a skilled blue collar worker, or a contractor, or subcontractor or self employed. She will be a part time worker, clerical or sales assistant. They'll have a couple of kids who are going to low fee independent schools, they'll vote Labor at a State election, they had voted Labor federally in the past but haven't for a decade. They're telling opinion pollsters they're going to be voting Labor federally, but will they if Rudd is seen to be too close to the unions? This, I think, will be the actual key point.

Michael Kroger reckoned that Cameron had the first 80 per cent right.
Rod Cameron identified I think the symbolism is correct that those people have mortgages and they all have jobs with 4.5 per cent unemployment. They've all got jobs, got quite big mortgages and they've also probably bought or owned a property for some years, they've had increased equity in the property, they value of that property has gone up and they've made money, capital gains, tax-free. They've got money put away for holidays, for kids' schooling, for healthcare, et cetera, et cetera.

Kroger doesn't think the big issue will be whether or not Kevin Rudd is seen as too close to the unions. He reckoned that people have got a view Labor is heavily union-influenced. I think they've worked that out, and that will scare some and won't scare others. He says:
The big question is, are people, when it comes to polling day, when their finger, hand goes over the ballot box, are people going to risk Howard and Costello for Rudd and Wayne Swan? And I think this is the big issue which Labor yet, which we haven't seen in this campaign. It's been all about industrial relations. When it moves away from that onto the Coalition's main ground, I think that's when you're going to see a change in the polls.

So there you have it. IR or economic management are the decisive issues.Kroger is basically arguing that the economic fundamentals of low inflation, low interest rates, low unemployment and rising wages will turn the tide in the Government's favour as we approach the election. Cameron highlights the significance of a negative campaign depicting Labor's industrial relations platform as harassing and belittling small businesses and reinstating union power.

Note how climate change does not figure. It should, as it is not a beltway issue.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:24 PM | | Comments (45)


Competitive! You've really drawn your line in the sand there! So are you saying that its even money?

I agree with Rod Cameron at this point, which means that I discount the consistent pattern of polls that place the ALP ahead.

Why the high polls? I'm not sure. People are not listening or engaged, or hooked into politics yet. It is too far out from the election. So they are not tuned in. Many will return to the Coalition.

However, I'm quite happy to see the polls cause consternation and unease within the Coalition's ranks. Some of them look quite unhappy in Parliament when they are not smiling for the media cameras outside to give the latest spin; and their performances within during Question Time have a hysterical edge.

The mask is slipping.

When the mortgage belt stands in the ballot box they will fear the unknown and tick the coalition or the greens

The mortage belt? Do you mean inner city? Middle suburbs? Or the outer suburbs? They all have mortgages--and big ones.

Families in general with school age kids or younger.


So Rudd stands for the unknown? And fear is the ultimate driver? The future looks frightening?

I'm not so sure that's the case. The big fear of a union dominated ALP trashing the economy does not square with a nice Rudd, who agrees with Costello on managing the economy. They are running dead on the economy and agree with the Coalition.

Rudd is also managing to wind Howard up ---he did so in Question Time today with the censure motion debate. Howard is failing around accusing Rudd of "puffed-up hubris "and arrogance ("cock of the walk"). There was panic in the performance. It did not look good

Howard looked bad on climate change with his appeals to nativism, and his denunciation of foreigners (Nicholas Stern) and extremists (the ALP). It was a very edgy performance on an issue that is about the future.

Howard does not have big business on his side on this issue as he does with IR and Work Choices. The 'its time' meme stands for, or signifes the future. That does not just mean decent jobs for the kids; it also means that Howard has to come up with a convincing story on climate change that goes beyond protecting the coal industry and the big energy users looking for protection.

At the moment he is looking stranded in a corner and he is the one who put himself there. Personal attacks are no substitute for good policy, and it is good policy that is needed to address climate change.

those people with kids are not going to be voting for the Coalition and Workchoices.

I think we are past the tipping point now, and I am 90% confident that the ALP will win.

As I discussed on another site, rightly or wrongly many people feel that they are not doing particularly well. The harder the Coalition push the economy is doing great line, the worse these people fell.

There is a disconnect between what the government feels is an economy going gangbusters and the tightness of many household budgets that makes their statements just annhoying to the average voter.

The battle is being fought on the ALP's terms and the Coalition just don't seem capable of mounting a coherent counter argument.

A good example of what you are saying about families struggling is the stories coming out of Jackie Kelly's seat based around Penrith, Sydney. People there---Howard's battlers--- are doing it pretty hard according to the small business people.

They are saying that the benefits of economic growth are not trickling down to them. The average income in Kelly's electorate of Lindsay is around $35,000 and people don't have the money to spend any more. They cannot afford to have their hair coloured anymore. Business gets worse and staff are being laid off.

The Government's survival may turn upon whether its industrial relations laws cost the support of the "Howard battlers" - the blue-collar workers in industrial suburbs where the Coalition has won seats from Labor.

Do you think that Howard's safety test modifications will ease concerns about Work Choices? Or has the judgement already been made, and Howard has lost this issue no matter what he does to ease the concern and unease of the battlers?

the work/family balance is shifting for the mortgage belt, with work coming to dominate family life in many cases.Thus:

The figures show 37 per cent of employees work overtime or extra hours - and about half of them do so for no extra pay.Thirty per cent said their shifts regularly overlapped the hours between 7pm and 7am as part of their main job. Three in five said they had no say about when they started or finished.

This would not be seen as a cause of celebration.


I would be surprised if the "Fairness" test had any traction.

Principally, I think that the issue of trust is coming back to bite Howard hard.

The Battler's were prepared to trust him more than Latham, but that trust has been burned by Workchoices.

you can see the battle being waged in The Australian--in comments in the Matt Price blog, or those on the Janet Albrechtson blog. This critique of The Australian's defence of Work Choices and attack on the ALP's IR policy has been going on for some time. Most of the comments, and they are informed, are very critical of The Australian's position.

Another perspective is reading what is being said in Lindsay---a classic mortgage belt (Jackie Kelly's bellweather heartland electorate) in western Sydney--- then economic management and IR are woven together. People don't have the money to spend because interest rates have gone up, as have petrol prices, mortgages, house expenses And their kids, who are getting casual jobs, are adversly affected by Work Choices. They are doing it hard, even though the boom time is making some people very wealthy.

Will the battlers in Lindsay be bought by tax cuts and family benefits? Costello reckons so.

What good is $10-20 a week tax cut when your employer decides to cut your penalty rates and you lose $200 a week.

All while being in the position of having your head on the chopping block all the time, no matter what size your employer (the operational reasons defence is incredibly wide).

People will take the tax cuts and still feel insecure.

It is an interesting turnaround, the government has used fear as a theme previously, portraying themselves as the protector, now they are the cause of the fear, how can they be the protector anymore?

re your comment:

It is an interesting turnaround, the government has used fear as a theme previously, portraying themselves as the protector, now they are the cause of the fear, how can they be the protector anymore?

The Coalition will protect the struggling battlers from the big nasty unions who want to run the country and who will destroy the wealth creation that brings a better life to the battlers.

This message is being pushed very hard: the ALP is controlled by the unions---eg., uglies like Kevin Reynolds and Dean Mighell. They're hammering it in Question Time. It's very hackneyed and repetitive. The same stuff and examples are rolled out again and again. Does this stuff ever escape the Parliament House bubble?

I don't think that has the resonance it may have had.

Most people know that the union movement is gutted now - a rump of it's former self.

Whatever your view on the performance of state ALP governments, they certainly haven't been rollovers for unions.

More importantly, the Coalition is siding with and being supported by the big business unions. This does not play well with the average Joe, they know that big business is not interested in their circumstances. If it is good for big business, it probably isn't good for me.

I'm not sure whether you can dismiss the Government's pull back from allowing market forces to determine the setting of wages and conditions to protect its backside just like that.

Under the new fairness test there does need to be compensation for trading off penalty rates and award conditions (leave loading and public holidays etc) and the workplace agreements need to be benchmarked against the relevent award.

The IR stoush is now about the fairness test. For business it is a return to the old system as the new fairness test means business will need to have all agreements with its workers scrutinised by the umpire.

So the policy gap between the ALP and the Coalition has closed significantly.

Hasn't the IR debate now shifted to fairness?

Possibly, but what is fair?

The move feels rushed and unready - and I think people see that.

The other part is that we know that the Coalition have been dragged kicking and screaming to this point. We know that things become non-core very quickly with Howard. We know that Howard feels there is more to do with IR, and has stated so much this week.

Most people, I believe, will see straight through this and go "Well, it's a backdown, but how long will it last?"

I am unconvinced the Labor party have the confidence of the people to bring the interest rates down. Whereas the coalition has been seen to of lowered them and kept them down.
I am still unconvinced that Labor will at the post win enough seats.

I hear that NZ labor is on the nose and interest rates are 9%

When she was interviewed by Tony Jones on Lateline Gillard defined fairness thus:

What I think is fair is to have contracts that make sure that they abide by the applicable award safety net standard ... Contracts need to comply with the award, there is obviously an honest mistake here about award compliance, and that is why restitution is being made. It is fair to comply with the award. That's certainly what I support.

I can do a bit of philosophy here. Justice means giving each person what he or she deserves, or, in more traditional terms, giving each person his or her due. This happens if we are treated with justice and fairness is employment contracts abide by the applicable award safety net standard.

So we determine fairness---what people deserve---by deploying the criteria and the principles to be used to determine what is due to this or that person in terms of contracts abiding by the applicable award safety net standard.

It is interesting that the word justice as not being used. So we have justice piggy backing on fairness.

The most fundamental principle of justice -- one that has been widely accepted since it was first defined Aristotle more than two thousand years ago -- is the principle that "equals should be treated equally and unequals unequally." In its contemporary form, this principle is sometimes expressed as follows: "Individuals should be treated the same, unless they differ in ways that are relevant to the situation in which they are involved."

For example, if Jack and Jill both do the same work, and there are no relevant differences between them or the work they are doing, then in justice they should be paid the same wages.

I reckon Gillard could strengthen her case by talking in terms of justice as fairness. But she won't.

That argument does not hold. Interest rates have risen several times under the Coalition in the last couple of years, whilst housing affordability has declined. Mortgages in Sydney now absorb more than 30% of a household income. Australian families are under increasing financial stress.

In Canberra the typical price of a Canberra home the CBA financed for a first-time buyer rose 5.6 per cent, and over the past year the price has increased a 26 per cent. Household incomes have failed to keep pace, rising 6 per cent. A typical first home in Canberra now costs $403,800, compared with $370,500 a year earlier.The acceleration in house prices, three interest rate rises and wage rises that have failed to keep pace mean that a Canberra first-home buyer's mortgage payments now take up an estimated 36 per cent of their disposable income a record high. A year ago the figure was 32 per cent.

Households paying more than 30per cent of their disposable income in mortgage payments are said to be in "housing stress".

Yes but I don't think we will see a rise before the election.
Another point about Rudd. He has began the Marathon race and is sprinting where as the Coalition is jogging. The Coalition has many joggers that they can pass the baton too where as Rudd is too greedy for the line and lacks the confidence in his bench to let them run with it. Hare loses tortoise wins again.

your comment:

Rudd is too greedy for the line and lacks the confidence in his bench to let them run with it.

How does that square with Gillard?

Well she appears to me just an accessory really like a handbag or perhaps a golf umbrella.

I didn't see the press club. How did she go?

you should adopt a more questioning stance to the Murdoch tabloids.They are not known for their balance or objectivity on the way gender and politics works in Australia.

What Gillard said at the National Press was that the Dean Mighell comments were dumb, thuggish, stupid and disgusting. She that Labor would insist on:

tough compliance in industries that have persistent and pervasive unlawful conduct problems and the building industry is certainly one of them". If Mr Mighell thinks that he can get away with conduct like this, then I have got news for him. Under Labor's laws, everything he is talking about will be unlawful.

Pretty straightforward.

Gillard outlined a substantial breaking down of the old "industrial relations club" by proposing a broad selection panel be consulted before non-judicial appointments were made to Fair Work Australia. She also announced the retention of the Australian Building and Construction Commission for a further three years.

I question the motives of all commercial media.
I am quietly anticipating James Packer to ride into town on his white horse and crown his mate Costello

I don't get all this union-bashing stuff.
If the only alternative is a society dominated by the likes of James Hardie,Murdoch Macquarie and HIH, I'd have thought a little balancing out would be a GOOD rather than bad thing.
Am unequivocally with Big Bob on this one, any way. The 'Union threat'line is baloney; an attempt to resuscitate the old MaCarthyite malarkey of the'fifties.
The unions were, indeed, 'gutted'. And decades ago, too.
If any threat emanates from "the unions" nowadays, it actually comes from the obviously unconsidered socially conservative and reactionary, careerist and opportunist, Labor Right.

a panicky Coalition doesn't have that much in the locker room to punch the ALP at the moment, and the senior ministers really do need to take the "celebrity" gloss off Rudd. He's looky very glossy and attractive.

Hence the IR card. Rudd is run by the union bosses, who are just thugs, and will hold the country to ransome etc etc

Rudd's 'get tough' with stoppy unionists like Dean Mighell shows that he is not beholden to the union bosses. That reassures business and the public.

Who knows. Mighell's audio leak may have come from within the ALP itself. They may even have slipped it to a desperate Coalition through the back channels into Costello's office.

I guess one aspect of it is that it depends if you are an employee or employer.
Business walks a fine line at the moment for many reasons. We have huge amounts of Bankruptcies and lots more businesses where the employees earn more than the employers while they wait and hope that things get better. Yes you could blame the coalition for the way things are. You could blame the Real estate prices that have driven up commercial tenancy prices too. Or many other things. But the reality of the situation is that if the Labor gets in and brings the unions with them lots of borderline business (and I mean big numbers)with shut the doors. It will be the last straw.

that is not what the small business people said in Lindsay---a classic mortgage belt (Jackie Kelly's bellweather heartland electorate) in western Sydney.

Did you read the above comments?

They are saying that people don't have the money to spend because interest rates have gone up, as have petrol prices, mortgages, house expenses And their kids, who are getting casual jobs, are adversly affected by Work Choices. They are doing it hard---the average income in Kelly's electorate of Lindsay is around $35,000--- even though the boom time is making some people very wealthy.

You cannot blame the ALP for business not being good because people don't have the money to spend.

I am in business and I talk to a lot of others. I can only tell you what people tell me and that is above.

the way that you expressed it is in terms of a general fear.

Which parts of the ALP's IR policy are causing concern for small business now that the Coalition has adopted compensation for trading off award conditions?

My feeling is that it is a general feeling that Labor will stuff the economy in general and a large percentage of the population will have a lot less money to spend.
If you go to your local shops tomorrow and ask all the shop keepers if they think things will be better for them with Labor I can say that 90% will say NO.
Whatever the IR laws are now most employers see that when Labor/unions ride into town it will be worse for them.

I'm afraid that I interpret the union bogey of the Howard Government and the Murdoch media as akin to the 'Reds under the Bed' bogey of yesteryear.

That bogey--the Other-- was also firmly believed by conservatives and small business people.

Les, you say you are business.
That's ok; nothing against battlers either side of the employment divide. The ones who bother me are the big equity funds and so forth weo want to expropriate capital from our economy.
But you could consider that for some businesses there is going to be fallout, as the public's share of the pot is cut and money is no longer available for anything but necessities. Depending on your business, it could be you that is squeezed out and not by rising wages, but wages in effect being lowered as capital is misappropriated offshore.

Nan, some one told me the leakactually came courtesy of a mob called "Media Monitors", a rightie "flying-squad" sort of mob that make a point of taping and bugging various exercises such as Mighell's and then selling off the result.
On another pont of more general interest, Spooner is the first to capture the essence of Therese Rein.
The cartoon is a gem, except that he has misdrawn Howard's expression from the pugnacious, petulant scowl it should be to a sort of benign idiocy.
Howard's face is exponentially more interesting than Spooner's interpretation would have it. The odd thing is, most cartoonists get it right as to Howard, yet Spooner, who succeeds in contrast so so hansomely with Therese Rein, misses the set shot.
Howard is more knockabout and a feral political survivor, so Stepfording his mug does him an injustice, as much as the rest of us.

yes I know Media Monitors--they monitor the media across the country on a daily basis and cost a fortune for their service. Someone would have had to go back through the archives knowing it was there ---unless it was a fishing expedition through google, which is unlikely since it was a union meeting.

That's why I suspect Mighell's words being made public comes from within Labor's own ranks. They would know what was said at the meeting.

You could probably blame businesses like Burnings for a lot of Bankruptcies. I had a friend who had a quite successful Paint and supplies shop. A large shop with high turnover of trade and retail. He had been there for 20 years. Then Bunnings opened 1 kilometer away and was selling paint cheaper than what he could buy it from the maker and still are.
After 1 year he shut the door.
You see big companies like that say to the manufacturers and suppliers OK this is how much we will pay for your product. There is some give and take but basically they hold all the cards and if you want your product on the shelves you must play the game.
A Bunnings opened in my suburb 2 years or so ago. When building began I drove around the nearest commercial area and counted 3 for lease signs ( its a large precinct) After 1 year I drove around and counted 25.
I am not saying that these 22 businesses went under. It is just a gragh of the situation

your comment sums up my own initial reaction.
Didn't Mighell vigorously take on the ALP Right in Victoria over the Latrobe Valley five or six years ago?
And it would go without saying what the Tories would feel about him.
Also there was past talk from him of organising unions to shift financial backing from Labor to the Greens. OK, so much of the stuff between Mighell and Bracks would have been ritualised bluster for public consumption, while deals were done behind the scenes. But no doubt the right and left have always had problems with each other's outlooks, motives etc.
A friend reckons that, like the Rein incident, the Mighell one was presented, deliberately, out of context by the tabloids for a beat-up anyway.
Nonetheless, watching telly this morning, I couldn't help noticing the tinge of bitterness mentioned by the commentator, in Mighell's comment that he was being pinged for winning results for workers by an ALP leader whose wife may have employed Howard IR to reduce her workers conditions.
Still, Mighell largely stuck with Rudd despite his apparent harsh treatment, which means he understands the symbolic significance of his political execution in electioneering terms.
This shows the "anything but (Costello) Howard" mentality seeming to to kick in, which combined with its psychological affiliate; "its time", could prove as dangerously toxic for Howard as it did when last blended in 1995 for Keating Labor.
Finishing, having Turnbull shunted out as "human shield" for Howard doesn't amuse this writer, either.
It in no way salvages Howard for me and just increases my already almost-limitless contempt for Turnbull. Rather, the nonsense about Rudd's mild ambit concerning reductions of Greenhouse by 2050 being the End of Life as We Know It, just demonstrates me how bankrupt the Tories are and realising this, are "losing it".
Personally, I worry more about future governments of either colour taking the "easy" out of gouging up energy prices for consumers, without doing anything to actually deal with underlying issues and mentalities, or a fair distribution of costs ( what's new?- I know! ). Issues I'm thinking of could be summed up in the mentioning of examples like the Carbon credits v. Carbon tax, Murray Darling, Public v Private transport and Deforestation/Land clearance conversations.

Nan + Paul,
according to a commentator over at Leftwrites it would seem that Dean Mighell was taped by the Australian Building and Construction Committee (ABCC). If you recall Julia Gillard, at the Press Club, announced that a Labor Government would retain the ABCC until 2010.

I presume that what we see here is a critque of inherent in Laborism --what socialists used to call the ideology of official trade union movement in the 20th century from the perspective of voices around the Socialist Alliance rather than those aligned with the Greens.

I guess what the Dean Mighell issues raises is the whole issue of the union's right to strike that is on the agenda of militant trade unionists ; or more broadly, what is the way forward for the Australian revolutionary left.

My suggestion would be, given the importance of global warmign, to try to bring themselves to some environmental savvy-ness .

good link. Thanks. Judging from many of the comments to the post, the Left in the ALP has real problems. I'm not sure why they haven't linked up to the Greens--too deeply entrenched in building the unions they are the only institutions that are capable of being conscious communities of resistance to capital perhaps?

Paul, I'll change my view of the Dean Mighell incident--his sacking as " rogue element" (ie., ‘politically conscious militancy’) by Rudd was theatre---political theatre. Mighell, after all didn't do anything (his bad language etc) that was so terrible, went quietly, and few voices on the militant union left were raised in his defence apart from the Kevin Reynolds fellow in WA.

It was political theatre designed to defuse the attack by the Howard Government and their media hacks on the ALP .

yes I concur. There is a lot more happening the economy than miltant building unions destroying the economy.

Capitalism is very restless and dynamic---a revolutionary mode of production Marx called it ---and one of its tendencies is concentration of economic power, which is at the expense of small business. Petrol stations is a good example.

What is need is a strong regulatory environment that ensures acutal competition --not just competition between Coles and Woolworths.

I am not sure what can be done about it but I thought it is a good sign that Coles isn't working and needs to be carved up.
Big stores like to argue that they employ large numbers of people. Yes they do but they actually have less staff per sq meter of letted space in shopping centres than the smaller concerns.

That last reply from Gary to Les made me think of things like international trade/commerce laws including contraptions like AUSFTA.
Becomes increasingly difficult for locales and regions to regulate on the basis of local concerns and interests. As Gary said, it (capitalism/globalisation) is a "revolutionary" mode of production, in essence and "little" people have been up against it since the Luddites.
The Keynesian compromise was 'progressive' in a social sense, but in capitalist terms became too "conservative".
As international rules translate through to locales through intermediary mechanisms like "competition policy" at local/state/federal levels, good things come through economies of scale, but trade often also becomes "free" at the expense of "fair".
On Gary's second point regarding Union militants VERSUS the Greens, I always feel the critical rupture came back in '94, with the overruling of environment minister Faulkner by forestry minister Beddall, as to conservation of hundreds of forest "coupes". This triumph of expediency over principal proved the template for the next tragic decade as to Tasmania (also vic and nsw) and unrealised by the pragmatists and econnomic rationalists who just wouldn't have had the mentality to understand the concept of "principle", anyway, undercut that public respect for Labor, the one thing it had going for it, becoming an ingredient in the origin of the '95 electoral disaster. Many had pinned their hopes on the ALP as natural protector of "the national project" and "community" before profit and the scales fell away after '94. Both the ALP Right and the "Marn" Ferguson "Left" still maintain an abhorrence for both ecology and "consciousness" born out ignorance.
Besides, as Tasmania proved, so-called militants are often actually part of cosy and rusted -on crony relationships with business obscured from public scrutiny any way.
But the other part of the old alliance, the intellectual middle class left, have seemed unable, due to social "background" reasons, to grasp that fear of unemployment that created the blue-collar "Howard Battlers", on both ecology and (im)migration.

The ALP Socialist Left will not leave the ALP despite all the defeats, insults and policy reversals that the ALP right heaps upon them. Their life has become one of an endless battle for numbers in a struggle they can never win. The ALP right hates them more than they do the conservatives. But the Socialist Left persists in the belief that the ALP will one day be theirs.

From what I can make out With the crisis of socialism, both as an ideology and as a practical political force, there is little patience, with the or social liberalism that underlay the rule of Deakin and even of Menzies, which aimed to give capitalism and liberalism a kinder face through social welfare plans and government intervention.

My understanding is that Socialist Left expresses the views of the working-class followers of the ALP, have a nagging feeling of betrayal. Betrayal in the sense that the techncratic middle class ALP does little to protect Australian workers, particularly in manufacturing, that present economic (ie., market orientated policies) mean a future of a dual working class:- one portion in full time work, the other moving in and out of casual jobs and welfare.

Am bereft of a reply to your comment, Nan. Will wait 'till the prozac kicks to see if things look any different, but curently stumped for words.

Penny has dropped way too late, but must investigate your comments re Socialist Alliance, Greens as opposition TO traditional Trotskyitism.
Remember doing a uni environmental philosophy course and being STUNNED at the chasm that has opened between left thinking and certain more romantic green threads ( also consider certain feminisms, gay theory, subaltern ethnic theory etc).
A bit like stuff that turned up in the recent case involving Rudd's missus, as to mid-class feminist property rights versus employment conditions, as to what constituted the main game.
As to the right to strike, feel am catapulted back like the Steppenwolf, to youthful times when a myriad of left splinter groups used to argue incessantly about consciousness and consciousness-formation, working within the system versus revolutionary action, strikes, and whether or not striking became just a means for preserving the status quo, as a form of repressive tolerance ideology. All Appearances v. Substance as to meaningful social change- limited dissent; but no wholesale changes, please!
The sort of insights people like Marcuse and Barthes developed back in the Golden Age, concerning consciousness and opinion-formation and creation and cultural mythologies.
On the other hand things DO appear to have changed in some respects.
We were once an industrial society; now the slums of the Philipines bear the agonies of an Australian generation of a century ago.
Globalisation wrought its black magic, allowing the system to bypass or aenesthetise conscience and the imperative for progressive change.
Age wearies those isolated few who have had time to ponder these questions.
Particularly when we observe the destruction of Tassie carbo sinks, greenhouse proliferation including in a China that used to understand the value of use against exchange as to modes of trandsport like bicycles- and Gillard capitulating on ABCC.
On the later, it is no use saying unions fight phantoms, though. The bosses are still the bosses, and I fervently hope something remains to spare us the tender mercies of people like Trujillo, Mansfield and Hendy.