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Our Very Lives Depend on a Labor Government

Ross Kenna

Elections matter. It is that simple.

The outcomes of elections have real world consequences for those who rely on the power of government. The idea that all politicians and all political parties are the same has real world consequences. I hear this story within my workplace every single day. Many believe that no political party does anything that will not serve their own interest. As Labor members we know this to be a lie.

Labor creates, and the Coalition destroys. Whether it be Medicare, access to education, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the National Broadband Network, the car industry or superannuation; generations of Labor initiatives have been destroyed or privatised under the Tories.

This brings me to why I am excited reading our national platform. A platform that if implemented will improve the lives of working Australians. Never has there been such a stark difference of policy between the major parties of Australia.

The Tories have spent the entirety of their time in office attacking the workers of Australia; through Royal Commissions, the stacking of the Fair Work Commission, a beefed-up Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) and Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), attacks on superannuation, the disgusting “ensuring integrity bill” through to their recent attack in their industrial relations (IR) “omnibus” bill. All their IR legislation is aimed at keeping the balance of power firmly in the hands of business and their donors, at the expense of the worker and the economy.

In stark contrast, Labor’s platform sees key reforms in the industrial relations space that will fight the negative trends exposed by the pandemic. Firstly, the policy of full employment. This is not a new idea but full employment set post-war Australia up for the next two decades. I am proud that our platform will do the same. Labor’s local procurement policy, massive infrastructure spend, and development of a national infrastructure agenda will get Australia working and out of recession. It gives 2 million Australians who find themselves without a job a chance at the fair go.”

But simply getting a job is not the whole story. The pandemic exposed Australia’s reliance on insecure work. Wages and conditions have flatlined, a country that was once the workers’ paradise is no longer. This was by design, former finance Minister Cormann admitted as much in 2019 we he claimed unemployment and wage suppression were “a deliberate design feature of our economic architecture.”

Labor’s policy platform commits to good faith bargaining and stopping employers unilaterally ending “fairly bargained” agreements. Hopefully, we will never again see situations where loyal, hard working employees have their wages and conditions ripped away from them by bosses rorting loopholes as was the case at CUB in Melbourne and Esso in Longford.

Labor will also modernise Australia’s award system to reflect the current situation in the workplace, a much needed review of the National Employment Standard, seek consistency across the country in public holiday pay and conditions, protect penalty rates, protect the right to organise, abolish the ROC and the ABCC, establish strong wage theft laws, abolish phoenixing and sham contracting, and introduce a portable entitlement scheme within industries. These policies will ensure workers are better off.

Labor have also committed to the development of national industrial manslaughter laws. If you kill a worker through negligence, then you should go to jail. Reforms like this are Labor values.

But it doesn’t stop there, Labor’s commitment to new standards to measure the health of society, not just the economy, will be transformative. Standards that measure societal wellbeing, inequality, technological progress and Australia’s sustainability in the economic, social and environment sectors. Giving government a holistic view of Australia, not just the market value. The pandemic has exposed that we are not an economy we are a society.

As a manufacturing worker, I am proud to be a member of a party that will “buy Australian.” Labor’s policy to rebuild the manufacturing sector contrasts with a government who willfully destroyed our car industry and continues to ensure manufacturing shrinks, choosing to focus on a donor’s gas profits over a manufacturing plan.

The pandemic also impacted women in the workforce the hardest, widening the gender pay gap. In contrast to the Coalition’s inaction, an elected Labor government will implement the Respect@Work report recommendations, will ensure the 12.5% superannuation increase is implemented, will legislate 10 days paid Family Violence leave and will ensure childcare is affordable.

I started with the statement elections matter, never has this statement had more relevance. We must ensure Labor forms government at the next election. Our very lives depend on it.

Ross Kenna is Vice-President of the Ballarat Trades and Labour Council.


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