Tuesday 21 September 2010

"The Premier has new clothes" - Peter Simpson, Electrical trades Union

With the battle over the Queensland Government’s plan to sell a number of public assets, Electrical Trades Union State secretary Peter Simpson says the sale of large sections of Queensland Rail, State forests and certain ports, has also brought other political and industrial issues into sharp focus.

Peter Simpson says all it not well with Premier Anna Bligh's grip on power. He shares this column with CairnsBlog, that also appears in today's Courier Mail...

The asset sales issue has also bought into sharp focus the relationship between Unions and the ALP, the relationship between Union officials and Labor politicians, the role of election promises, communication of policies to the community and the role of Unions and political parties in the 21st Century.

The recent Federal Election outcome indicates a widespread unhappiness in the community with politics and politicians. Given the way the State Government has behaved during this privatisation debate I can see why. The Union movement itself also has some serious thinking to do if it is to remain relevant to working people.

Union leaders have faced a tough task in this anti-privatisation campaign. It is never easy fighting your own - people that we as a movement helped put into power, people that in some cases, although not nearly enough, have themselves been Trade Unionists and Trade Union leaders in their past lives. However, when ALP policy is detrimental to working people we are obliged to take issue with it, especially when it is in clear breach of the party’s own platform.

The State Government, despite ruling out privatisation in letters to Unions and claiming the economic sky wasn’t falling in during the last State election campaign, has charged ahead with privatisation. It has not listened, has certainly not negotiated seriously and has now put forward things like the “Renewing Queensland Plan” and “Walk in my Shoes” stunts as the solution to the government’s woes.

This is despite Unions, through the eminent professor of accounting, Professor Bob Walker, putting forward alternatives to the asset sales, in a comprehensive report that has sat with the Queensland Treasurer now for many months without comment.

Union leaders, who represent hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders, cannot let politicians get away with such behaviour. They also cannot let Labor politicians and the ALP machine fall into the trap of believing that all wisdom resides in George Street.
There is a lot of wisdom within the wider Queensland community and Queenslanders are saying, by an overwhelming majority, they do not support these asset sales and they do not believe they are necessary.

However, there is no doubt the State Government is desperate to push ahead with these unpopular and unnecessary asset sales. On the other hand the Union movement is increasingly aware, although many won’t say it publicly, that it is going to cost Labor government at the next State election.

The latest evidence, a devastating Newspoll published on September 9, shows the State Government would be wiped out if a State election was held now. Labor’s primary vote has sunk to 29 per cent, which confirms Labor’s poor performance in Queensland during the recent federal election.

The breach of trust with the electorate is so bad that Anna Bligh also lost the preferred premier poll. I have personally been advised by senior figures in the federal ALP that the Anna Bligh and her government were a significant problem for federal Labor during the federal campaign.

In is clear from the LNP ads that their polling showed the same thing.

Yet sections of the State Government and State ALP machine continue to bury their heads in the sand. The claim there is plenty of time to turn things around ignores the hard fact that the latest polling does not show anything new. It simply confirms all polling since the asset sales announcement was sprung on the Queensland people just six weeks after the 2009 State election.

This issue is not turning around and the reason is, it is not about the specific issue of asset sales alone. It is the breach of trust with voters created by the way the issue has been handled, which makes the State Government in its current configuration terminal. The Premier has done her dash with the Queensland people and no amount of time between now and the next State election will restore that.
State Labor needs a change of direction if it is to turn its electoral prospects around. And that means a change in the leadership team.

The idea that such an approach is simply “repeating the mistakes of the NSW government” is nonsense. There is no comparison. After eighteen months, the Queensland ALP would not be “panicking”; it would simply be accepting the reality that it mishandled a major issue, in terms of involving the electorate, and that it needs to repair its relationship with the Queensland people through a new leader who can better articulate the government’s other and future achievements.

Anna Bligh has said she will stand aside if she becomes a liability for Labor. Well, how much more evidence does she need?

If she will not honour that commitment, then it is for the Labor caucus to show the necessary courage and act in the interest of the entire Labor movement to give the government a chance in 2012. The caucus should not be intimidated by spurious and irrelevant arguments about what happened in NSW or to Kevin Rudd. The circumstances are different and there has been plenty of public discussion of how the current parliamentary leadership got itself into this position through the asset sales doublecross.

Unfortunately, in a phenomenon reminiscent of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, the Emperor’s New Clothes, the vast majority of the ALP Caucus continues to tell the Premier how nice she looks in her new clothes, whilst the rest of us see the naked, unadorned truth - a leader stripped of political capital because of her unpopular and unnecessary asset sale policy.

It is time the Caucus faced the reality of the situation they and the wider labour movement finds itself in.

1 comment:

Bill Kilvert said...

I certainly endorse these comments....Now is the time for Anna Bligh "to make the strong decisions" and RESIGN.

I am a Life Member of the ALP with 40 years membership and I have been a union member for 47 years. This is the worst case of being sold down the drain that I have ever seen. It's time for a big reshuffle at the top and a big rethink, otherwise Labor will be crushed at the next state election.