We’ve mentioned before – Thug Life: John Setka celebrates International Women’s Day – that the trade unions, especially the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), remain one of the last holdouts of the old Australia, masculine, rowdy, brawlish, and today some of its members have protested the union’s official, craven attitude towards the Victorian government’s vaccine mandate for construction workers:
No.1 on the Victorian Charts.
*sound Up pic.twitter.com/8EdGnWDEOY
— shane whitely (@newsheli) September 20, 2021
They seem to be shouting, even singing, in a garbled sort of ethnic way, “Dan Andrews’ Bitch” at John Setka, the boss, who is holding the megaphone.
They attempted to reason with the leadership:
— Kire (@Millberry80) September 20, 2021
But did not receive satisfaction:
This is what happens when unions betray their members… who are not stupid. pic.twitter.com/eak7ifXQ5h
— Melinda Richards 🇦🇺🇺🇸 (@goodfoodgal) September 20, 2021
“F*ck the jab”
I went down to the CFMEU headquarters to listen to why they were upset. Don’t believe the lies. It’s not about tea rooms. They don’t want coerced medical procedures. Neither do I.
They are chanting : “Fuck the jab” pic.twitter.com/jOQgpHtL50
— David Limbrick MP (@_davidlimbrick) September 20, 2021
Thinking of the children:
— Sarah Ashlee (@Sarah77414568) September 20, 2021
It all got pretty ugly in the end:
— Dr Rafiki OAM (@Ausiecountryboy) September 20, 2021
Scenes outside CFMEU headquarters in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne after 4pm as building pelted with missiles. pic.twitter.com/NFg85kt3va
— Ewin Hannan (@EwinHannan) September 20, 2021
The view from inside the besieged CFMEU office:
— Aritheangryranter (@Aritheangryran1) September 20, 2021
Police fired rubber bullets:
These protests are an ephemeral thing that may be forgotten about shortly but it brings up the issue of why trade unionism is, or largely was now, such a strong force in Australia, particularly compared to North America, especially in its loyalist half and perhaps in its rebel counterpart as well, and it’s heavily due to the ubiquitous “tyranny of distance“, the thesis put forward by historian Geoffrey Blainey that much of the peculiarities of this country were a result of being located at the – in Prime Minister Keating’s poetic phrase – arse end of the world.
The journey from Britain to its fledgling and for a long period precariously situated colonies in the Great South Land was too far, dangerous, disease ridden, cramped, long (4-7 months for much of the 19th century), and above all, for the average person, too expensive, such that few free men, and especially women and family groups, were willing to risk it, risk it for all the preceding reasons but also because if they found their new home to be a terrible disappointment, then they would have to work for years to earn the fare to take another exhausting, dangerous voyage back to the mother country. If it needs stating, the journey to Canada (& the US) was far quicker, safer, and more affordable.
For these reasons until about 1850 few free settlers came, until the authorities decided to put a tax on land sales and just straight up pay the fares of anyone who wanted to come from Britain (at the same time convict-slave shipments ended). This policy was enormously important for the development of the country, but it made organised labour unhappy, in the end, and by the time of Federation at least they managed to get the policy rolled back substantially through their representatives in the colonial parliaments (when the Labor Party still actually worked in the interests of its voters), because obviously lower immigration levels leads to a tighter labour market which keeps wages high and gives workers a lot more power than any had in the overcrowded cities and towns of the Old World, and the New.
To fast forward, Australia is obviously being really hollowed out by mass immigration, weakening wages, workers and trade unions, not just in number terms but ethnic or social solidarity/cohesiveness terms, but the construction sector is the most resistant to this, as it is hard and dirty (but skilled) work and is (really stupidly) looked down on by many (these blokes get $paid$), and your average brown or yellow immigrant is not going to be attracted to it or really fit for purpose, at least in the first generations.
Perhaps inevitably, and in probably hopeless fashion and maybe going against the sworn mission of this site to avoid cliches, will finish with this quote:
If there was hope, it must lie in the proles, because only there, in those swarming disregarded masses, eighty-five percent of the population of Oceania, could the force to destroy the Party ever be generated. The Party could not be overthrown from within. Its enemies, if it had any enemies, had no way of coming together or even of identifying one another. Even if the legendary Brotherhood existed, as just possibly it might, it was inconceivable that its members could ever assemble in larger numbers than twos and threes. Rebellion meant a look in the eyes, an inflection of the voice; at the most, an occasional whispered word. But the proles, if only they could somehow become conscious of their own strength, would have no need to conspire. They need only to rise up and shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies. If they chose they could blow the Party to pieces tomorrow morning. Surely sooner or later it must occur to them to do it.