In perhaps the worst kept secret in Australian politics Greg Combet, the current leader of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), has announced his decision to leave his job and stand for a federal parliamentary seat as a Labor candidate. The ALP executive has made the decision to ignore the pre-selection process and install Combet as the preferred candidate despite objections from the party rank and file.
Combet will stand in the safe Labor seat of Charlton, in the Maitland area of NSW. This seat is currently held by Kelly Hoare. Combet will have to move into the area as he currently lives in Melbourne. Embarrassingly, Combet was unable to name the main street in the area when he was asked by journalists earlier this month. Hoare for her part has threatened to claim ‘unfair dismissal’.
Hoare heard the news about her seat through the media and the local party members were not informed until after the decision. This and other examples of celebrities replacing sitting MPs demonstrates the contempt in which the Labor Party holds its own members and MPs.
At a May Day rally in Newcastle, Combet stated that he felt he could better fight for worker’s rights in parliament than as a representative of the ACTU. Combet has led the ACTU campaign against Work Choices which has included advertising, picnics and a few token rallies. The main thrust of the campaign has been to base the union movements fight on getting Labor elected ‘to save workers rights’.
If the might of the union movement had been used in an industrial campaign of stop works and general strikes the legislation would be dead by now. Instead workers have had to put up with losses of pay, conditions and poor leadership. While better than the current Work Choices legislation the Labor IR policy maintains bans on the right to strike and they have already caved in to big businesses on many other issues. In fact they appear to have started their own re-election campaign by sacking one of their own workers – good luck to the rest of us.
By SP reporters