Following a protest at Trades Hall in Melbourne last week, sections of the pro-Labor Party trade union bureaucracy have launched a slanderous campaign of lies against the Socialist Party and one of its leading organisers, Anthony Main.
The protest was held outside a ‘cocktail party’ organised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) to mark International Women’s Day. Scandalously the ACTU had invited Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin to speak about women’s rights and equal pay.
As part of Macklin’s portfolio she oversees the Northern Territory Intervention of which one component is the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP). Under this scheme Aboriginal people no longer receive Award wages. Instead many are forced to work in exchange for quarantined welfare payments.
It has been widely reported that there are cases of Aboriginal people working up to 40 hours a week for as little as $120 as well as $110 on a ‘Basics Card’. This equates to around $5 an hour, plus rations, making it one of the most racist and unequal pay regimes in the advanced world!
The effects of the Northern Territory Intervention on Aboriginal women have been nothing less than devastating. In September 2008 a group of 100 Aboriginal women met in the Northern Territory and made the following statement:
“We don’t want the intervention. We want to manage our communities the proper way, the way we want it…There’s no new houses, schools or anything for communities. They’ve only built new houses for the new intervention staff…Community programs have been taken away. They’ve taken away our night patrol, community bus and women’s centres…For old people the intervention is bringing up bad memories of the past, the old days, the ration days, the dog tag days and the mission days”.
The fact that Macklin was invited to speak at a trade union building while implementing these policies is an insult to all those who have fought for workers, women’s and indigenous rights. Without any exaggeration the NT intervention would have to include some of the most discriminatory measures in the world – and all this is being implemented by the Labor Party.
The reason for the Labor Party’s support for the Intervention flows from their support for big business. Big mining, agribusiness and tourist corporations have long demanded unrestricted access to mineral-rich Aboriginal land. The Intervention facilitates this and as a bonus pushes Aboriginal people into the cities where they can be used as cheap labour.
While the ACTU and a number of unions claim to be opposed to the NT Intervention the fact that they invited Macklin to speak at a union event highlights their real attitudes. In reality the pro-Labor Party trade union bureaucrats are defenders of their party’s policies. By day they walk around in union t-shirts pretending to be supporters of workers rights while by night they are in Labor Party meetings kissing up to ministers and trying to organise themselves safe seats in the parliament.
It is this contradiction that most of these careerists want to keep covered up. But on the occasion of the protest outside Trades Hall last week a little glimpse of their hypocrisy was highlighted for all to see. As is to be expected these people don’t like to be shown up as fools. They feel that their cocktail party was ruined and as such, in an act of revenge, they have launched an attack on the Socialist Party who they view as the main organisers of the protest.
It seems that being embarrassed in front of their Labor Party peers is more upsetting to these people than anything else. None of them have the confidence to enter into a debate about Labor’s NT Intervention, or the ACTU’s slavish support for Jenny Macklin. They have instead resorted to a campaign of lies and defamation against Anthony Main who is a long standing Socialist Party activist.
In the days following the event the Trades Hall Women’s Officer made false allegations against Anthony. She alleged that Anthony was abusive towards her as she left the building. Thankfully a number of independent witnesses came forward to state that Anthony was not abusive and did not act inappropriately in any way.
Once the Trades Hall Women’s Officer and her allies realised that credible witnesses were prepared to make statements in Anthony’s defence, they concocted another bogus story aimed at slandering Anthony and damaging the Socialist Party. They falsely claimed that on another occasion during the night (when there were no independent witnesses) Anthony was abusive and made sexist and derogatory remarks.
Anthony agrees that an interaction took place but he wholeheartedly denies being abusive or making any such remarks. While colourful language was used all round the exchange was political and not of a personal nature.
Despite colluding for a number of days, it seems that the statements and comments of those making the allegations are full of holes and contradictions. Despite lies and bureaucratic manoeuvring being the modus operandi of the Labor Party, they have not even been able to execute a proper witch hunt with any precision.
The slander campaign instigated by Jenny Macklin’s supporters has not been confined to spreading rumours within the labour movement. The unprincipled nature of these Labor Party hacks was on show when they “anonymously” spoke to the Herald Sun – the most anti-union newspaper in Australia. This big business mouthpiece was more than happy to run a story which took a swipe at Anthony and the Socialist Party despite not having a shred of evidence.
Far from having any real effect, the dishonest actions of these pro-Labor Party bureaucrats have only further exposed their corrupt politics. Their actions are an affront to genuine trade unionism and to all those who campaign for women’s rights. Making false allegations about abuse and derogatory language only cuts across the ability to be able to genuinely combat these problems in the labour movement.
The Socialist Party condemns all violence and abuse against women. We are opposed to sexist and derogatory language in all forms. That said we are not about to cower to campaign of lies and slander orchestrated by a group of unprincipled careerists.
Currently the Trades Hall leadership is conducting an investigation into the events surrounding the protest. The Socialist Party is co-operating with this investigation and looks forward to clearing Anthony Main’s name. We call on Trades Hall to make their findings public and to discipline any trade union officials who are found to have made false allegations.
The main lesson to be taken out of this saga is that the pro-Labor Party union leaders that dominate the union movement are rotten to the core. The methods of lies, slander and defamation are merely a cover for a political agenda that is in the interest of big business and not ordinary people. Everything else is subordinate to this including women’s and Indigenous people’s rights.
The challenge ahead is to rebuild the trade union movement along fighting and democratic lines. This will require a break with the Labor Party and the establishment of a new leftwing party that genuinely puts the interests of the working class and the oppressed first. When apologists for the likes of Jenny Macklin attack us with such ferocity we know we are on the right track!
By Socialist Party reporters