Unions have given further indications they expect to get their way if a Rudd Labor Government is elected, Senator Simon Birmingham said today.
It follows Kevin Rudd failing to stand up to the unions, allowing Right faction powerbroker and union heavyweight Don Farrell to be pre-selected on Thursday at first spot on the South Australian Senate ticket, while first-term Senator Linda Kirk was knifed.
Giving evidence to a Senate Committee inquiry, the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) and the Australian Council of Trade Unions both said they expect Mr Farrell – the SDA’s South Australian state secretary – to toe the union line.
Senator Birmingham actually broke the pre-selection news to gleeful SDA National Secretary Joe de Bruyn on Friday:
Senator Birmingham: “I believe he secured – not so surprisingly – the number one spot on the ticket.”
Mr de Bruyn: “Well, I am very pleased to hear it.”
Senator Birmingham: “And you would expect him to uphold the SDA policy when he gets here?”
Mr de Bruyn: “I certainly hope so.”
                                    Senate committee Hansard, 8 June 2007
Labor says it would allow certain workers to remain on workplace agreements for up to five years after the election if happy with their contract, and allow some unfair dismissal law exemptions.
But, giving evidence on Friday, Mr de Bruyn and the ACTU’s Sharan Burrow both confirmed their intentions to lobby for the abolition of all Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) and to reintroduce unfair dismissal laws for all workplaces. *Committee Hansard excerpts attached
“Kevin Rudd didn’t have the fibre to stand up to Don Farrell and the unions to protect the career of Senator Kirk – one of just two South Australian MPs to have supported Rudd in his successful December leadership challenge,” Senator Birmingham said.
“Does anyone seriously believe he would be able to stand up to the union heavies on industrial relations policy?
“Remember, Mr Farrell’s no Robinson Crusoe when it comes to union heavyweights ready to step into safe Labor seats at the coming election – Greg Combet, Bill Shorten, Doug Cameron, Mark Butler and others are all on their way to Canberra.
“Remember also that they’ve been making very clear their intentions to run the show.”
“I recall we [the unions] used to run the country and it would not be a bad thing if we did again.”
                        Greg Combet, union, rally Adelaide Town Hall, 26 June 2006


Friday, 8 June 2007 – Excerpts


de BRUYN, Mr Joseph, National Secretary and Treasurer, Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association 
Senator BIRMINGHAM-Mr de Bruyn, is it fair to say that you and the SDA have a fundamental objection to AWAs and individual agreements?
Mr de Bruyn-Yes.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-Also, you believe that unfair dismissal laws should be reintroduced to cover all workplaces?
Mr de Bruyn-Yes.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-So, no matter who was sitting at this table or who were the government of the day, you would actively lobby them to abolish AWAs and individual agreements and reintroduce unfair dismissal laws for all workplaces?
Mr de Bruyn-Of course.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-Including of course people such as your state secretary in South Australia, Mr Don Farrell, whom I expect will be joining us in the Senate from 1 July next year?
Mr de Bruyn-I understand that whether he is going to join you was the subject of a meeting yesterday, but I have not heard the result.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-I believe he secured-not so surprisingly-the No. 1 spot on the ticket.
Mr de Bruyn-Well, I am very pleased to hear it.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-And you would expect him to uphold the SDA policy when he gets here?
Mr de Bruyn-I certainly hope so.
BURROW, Ms Sharan, President, Australian Council of Trade Unions
Senator BIRMINGHAM-With respect to broader policy issues-and I previously asked Mr de Bruyn similar questions-as a general principle, the ACTU stands opposed to AWAs and individual agreements, does it not?
Ms Burrow-Yes, because the way the legislation is written is about unilateral power. The employers hold all of the power: ‘Sign the contract or you don’t get the job,’ the threat of unfair dismissal and no collective bargaining rights. On any analysis, it is stacked against the working person.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-You also believe that unfair dismissal laws should apply to all workplaces?
Ms Burrow-Yes, we do. We do not think that principles of rights should actually be divisible. That does not mean that we do not understand that we have to make it possible for small business not to incur unnecessary costs in having those things examined. But we do think that any son or daughter should have the same rights, no matter whether they work in small or large businesses.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-And you would lobby whoever was sitting at this table or whoever was in government, whether it is those of us here now or whether it includes Mr Combet, Mr Shorten, Mr Farrell or others, to abolish AWAs, abolish individual agreements and to bring back unfair dismissal laws?
Ms Burrow-Yes, indeed.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-And you would hope that, given their close affiliation with the ACTU, they would act on that?
Ms Burrow-I would actually hope all parliamentary people would understand that you have to have a fair go all round and that the system is not in balance. It does not actually represent the test of any sense of fairness when unilateral power is held by one person, in this case the employer.