Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Bump me into parliament!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“We will not be intimidated! Unions must continue to stand up for people. As a union leader let me make this clear, I will not pay a $33,000 fine for asking for people to be treated fairly.” These were the fine words of then ACTU Secretary Greg Combet at the mass rally against Howard’s IR laws on November 15, 2005.

Also at a speech in Canberra on November 2, 2005 Combet gave this undertaking “We’re not going to pay these fines. You know, and we’re not going to be intimidated, some of us will even go to jail under these laws.”

How quickly things seem to change once you are a Federal Labor MP!

The Sydney Morning Herald reported last month that the same Greg Combet who is now a Labor MP has thrown his support behind the Iemma Government’s plan to privatise the NSW state electricity generators!

Combet who was once allegedly prepared to go to jail for the cause of the working class revealed in a speech to a business lunch in his electorate of Charlton, that he had a responsibility as a member of the Federal Government to back the PM’s support for electricity privatisation.

Combet’s position puts him at odds with power industry unions and almost 90% of the NSW population who oppose privatisation on the basis that it will lead to job losses, increased prices and reduced services. So much for standing up for working people Greg!

Despite being bumped into parliament by the ACTU, Combet seems to be ignoring the needs of the electricity workers, even in his electorate in the Hunter region, which is one of the centres of opposition to electricity privatisation. Instead it looks like Greg is much more interested in supporting the big business allies of the ALP. I guess we won’t see him in the jail cells anytime soon.

Meanwhile current President of the ACTU, Sharan Burrow has undermined a bid by public servants for six months’ paid maternity leave, calling it an ambit claim! Burrow came out in late March in support of the position of Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin who has said that 26 weeks paid leave was too expensive.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) is pushing for 26 weeks paid maternity leave for federal public servants by 2013. Leaders of the CPSU have said it was “absolutely committed” to the 26-week claim.

But Burrow suggested it was open to negotiation. “It’s absolutely a reasonable ambit to put on the bargaining table,” she said. Her office later said she had misspoken, and had meant to say the claim was ambitious!

Perhaps not as ambitious as those in the ACTU who are looking to be bumped into parliament you might say!

By Socialist Party reporters


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