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Labor wrecker of 2007 claims union anti-privatisation campaign a threat to re-election of federal Labor

In 2007, Andrew Fraser, as Local Govenment Minister, imposed council amalgamations against the overwhelming wishes of affected residents, even threatening to dismiss councillors who dared hold ballots on amalgamation. For many months, the angry backlash threatened Labor's federal election prospects. In 2010, the same Andrew Fraser, as Queensland Treasurer, claims that the unions' campaign against his unpopular $15 billion fire sale, opposed by 79% of the Queensland public, will threaten Labor's federal election prospects.

What you can do: Attend Queensland Council of Union's Rallies to stop the Sell-off before it starts: Innisfail - 28 Feb, Cairns - 2 Mar, Mackay - 3 Mar, Rockhampton - 3 Mar, Gladstone - 6 Mar, Brisbane - 10.30AM 9 Mar at Roma St Forum
Sign the petition calling for new state elections and the repudiation of assets sale legislation. (You have until 2 March. See also "Why Queenslanders must demand new and fair state elections" of 12 Jan 10).
See also: "Unions 'aiding and abetting' Abbott: Fraser" by Jessica Marszalek in the Brisbane Times of 27 Feb 10, "Anna Bligh faces rural anger in Queensland" in the Courier-Mail of 28 Feb 10 , "Peter Beattie bent on destruction of Rudd's chances" of 9 Aug 07 by Margo Kingston in WebDiary, "Cate Molloy : Forced council amalgamations planned by Property Council of Australia" of 7 Sep 07. ...


Andrew Fraser, who almost destroyed federal Labor's 2007 election prospects with his threats to dismiss councillors for consulting their constituents over forced council amalgamations, now wants unionists to call off protests, such as the above protest of 31 July 2009 in order to save federal Labor embarassment in the 2010 elections. (See "What you can do".)

Queensland's Treasurer Andrew Fraser has accused Queensland's unionists of "aiding and abetting" a return to Work Choices under a federal Coalition government according to a report in Brisbane Times. He claims their efforts to force the holding of a new state Labor Party conference to to overturn his Government's plans to sell $15 billion of publicly owned assets, would embarass the Federal Labor Government's re-election campaign.

Mr Fraser said unions should consider the "national dimension" of their fight. The Brisbane Times quoted Mr Fraser:

"I just say to unions that are continuing to carry on here in Queensland that they should focus on the real enemy here and that's (federal opposition leader) Tony Abbott and Work Choices," he told reporters.

"And if they continue on this path, they are only aiding and abetting a Tony Abbott-led Work Choices reintroduction and that means they need to think about what is in the best interests of working people, not only in this state but around the nation."1

Coming from member of a state Government which had, since it came to power in 1998, notoriously and repeatedly placed its own selfish sort-term interests ahead of those the federal Labor Party as well as the broader community, an appeal for unions to consider the "national dimension" would appear to be the utmost hypocrisy.

In fact, as this article will show, Work Choices would almost certainly not have become law but for state Labor Governments, including the Queensland state Labor Government, having made unprincipled deals with the same Howard Government that brought about Work Choices.

1999: Peter Beattie's unprincipled GST deal

The State Labor Government, which came to office 1998, two years after John Howard's Government won office in 1996, did as much as anyone else to perpetuate the misrule of the latter.

A factor which would have helped the Howard Government regain offices in 2001 every bit as much as the so-called "War on Terror" and the Tampa affair, was the whiteanting by then Premier Peter Beattie of the grass-roots opposition to John Howard's unpopular Goods and Services Tax (GST). During 1998 and 1999 Peter Beattie and the other state 'Labor' premiers fell over themselves to negotiate with the Howard Government over the distribution of GST revenue, even at a time when the passage of the GST legislation through the Senate was far from assured. Their efforts undoubtedly gave the necessary encouragement that allowed Democrats Senator Meg Lees and the majority of Democats Senators to turn their back on their own members and their election commitments and provide the Senate majority necessary for the passage of the GST legislation.

2004: Beattie clamours for signing of Australia US Free Trade Agreement

In 2004, as the Federal Labor party was still considering its position on the iniquitous Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) that was before the Australian Parliament, the Labor premiers, with Peter Beattie foremost amongst them, clamoured in public for the signing of that agreement. Then Opposition leader Mark Latham felt cornered into accepting the rotten agreement as a result. Paradoxically, Latham suffered criticism from militant left-wing unionists in the months prior to the 2004 elections as a result. Whether or not outright opposition to the AUSFTA on the part of the federal Labor Party would have made matters better, their electoral prospects had been needlessly damaged.

2007: Anger at Qld Government forced council amalgamations threatens federal Labor

Three years later, as another federal election was approaching, the Queensland Labor again threatened to destroy federal Labor's electoral prospects by suddenly calling off negotiations with Queensland councils for local govenment reform and imposing forced council amalgamations. On 10 August 2007, Andrew Fraser, as Minister for Local Government, rammed the local government amalgamation legislation through State Parliament against an outcry from many of the affected communities. Tacked on to these bills at the last minute was a provision to allow the Government to sack any councillors who attempted to finish holding the ballots that were then underway to guage community attitudes on amalgamation.2

As a consequence, Prime Minister John Howard emerged as the unlikely champion of Queensland democracy3 when he enacted legislation in Federal Parliament, with the support of Kevin Rudd and the Federal Labor Opposition, to over-ride Andrew's punitive provisions. Howard also instructed the Australian Electoral Commission to conduct further ballots on behalf of the Queensland Councils.

Fraser and Beattie faced no choice but to back away from their threats against the councillors, but not from the amalgamations. The amalgamations proceeded despite the fact that they were rejected overhelmingly in all the ballots and unanimously in the case of Waroo Shire4

Unsurprisingly, the actions of the state Labor Government, yet again threatened to destroy Federal Labor's chances. The Courier-Mail newspaper, itself an aggressive promoter of the amagalmations, hypocritically gloated at the harm that the amalgamations were expected to inflict on the Federal Labor Party. The headline of its page 1 story of 20 August 2007, screamed "Rudd to Pay". The subeading gloated "Council merger backlash to deliver ballot blow". It continued, "Queensland ratepayers have vowed to vent their fury over forced council mergers on Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd at the federal ballot box."

"Four in five respondents to Courier-Mail online poll said Premier Peter Beattie's decision to slash local council numbers had made them less likely to vote for the Labor Party at the upcoming federal election."5

Although the article briefly mentioned that Kevin Rudd was critical of the Queensland Government's threat to sack defiant councillors, it failed to point out to its readers that punishing Federal Labor for decisions outside of its control and which it had opposed was hardly fair.

In September the anti-amalgamation Friends of Noosa group attempted to also scapegoat Federal Labor for the actions of the state Labor Government by putting up huge "Dump Labor" hoardings on the main northern road into Brisbane.6

Luckily, in spite of the best efforts of Beattie, Fraser, the Courier-Mail and some misguided opponents of amalgamation, the Queensland public was able to distinguish between the Federal and State Labor Party on that occasion and Labor won the 2007 federal elections. It is no thanks to Andrew Fraser that Howard was not able to set the Work Choices in concrete.

2010: Anger at Qld Government fire sale threatens federal Labor

Now in 2010, Federal Labor party faces yet another threat to its electoral prospects as a result of actions by the Queensland Labor Government. Its $15 billion fire sale, enacted without any electorates and opposes by a still 79% of Queenslanders threatens to turn Queensland voters against Labor at the federal elections.

In 2010, unlike in 2007, the Federal Labor Government is not an innocent party. Its squandering of $43 of taxpayers' in its stimulus spending program as supposedly the only possible way it could stave of recession in this country,7 ensured that there were far fewer funds available to deal with emergencies such as the Queensland floods which were seized upon as the Queensland Government's initial excuse for the fire sale. When the fire sale was first announced the Federal Government said that they had no extra funds to help the Qld Government over come the difficulties from the flood.8.

However, those considering voting for the Coalition, should bear in mind that the Howard Government privatised Telstra in 2005 against the wishes of 70% of voters. In recent days the Liberal Party has again raised the spectre of privatising Medibank Private.9 So, with this as well the prospects of a Federal Coalition government reviving Work Choices, voters may well find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place at the forthcoming Federal elections. They should should seriously consider voting for a third alternative.

Regardless of how voters decide to express their objections to privatisation at the 2010 federal Elections, it is hard to imagine how unions could, on this occasion, make federal Labor's prospects significantly worse than Fraser himself already has, either in 2010 or 2007.

If Andrew Fraser wanted to demonstrate that, for once, he genuinely wanted to help federal Labor win the elections, then surely the onus would have to be on him to repeal his fire sale legislation rather than the unions to give up the fight to save public assets that is supported by 79% of the Queensland public.

What you can do

Attend Queensland Council of Union's Rallies to stop the Sell-off before it starts: Innisfail - 28 Feb, Cairns - 2 Mar, Mackay - 3 Mar, Rockhampton - 3 Mar, Gladstone - 6 Mar, Brisbane - 10.30AM 9 Mar at Roma St Forum
Sign the petition calling for new state elections and the repudiation of assets sale legislation. (You have until 2 March. See also "Why Queenslanders must demand new and fair state elections" of 12 Jan 10).

See also: "Unions 'aiding and abetting' Abbott: Fraser" by Jessica Marszalek in the Brisbane Times of 27 Feb 10, "Anna Bligh faces rural anger in Queensland" in the Courier-Mail of 28 Feb 10 , "Peter Beattie bent on destruction of Rudd's chances" of 9 Aug 07 by Margo Kingston in WebDiary, "Don't let Peter Beattie save John Howard's political hide" forum disucssion of 8 Aug 07 on Online Opinion, "Federal election and Queensland local council amalgamations" of 28 Nov 07 by James Sinnamon in WebDiary, "Cate Molloy : Forced council amalgamations planned by Property Council of Australia" of 7 Sep 07, "Beattie pledges to stay on" in the Courier-Mail o 11 Aug 07.

Footnotes

1. "Unions 'aiding and abetting' Abbott: Fraser" by Jessica Marszalek in the Brisbane Times of 27 Feb 10

2. "Queensland mayors defy dismissal threats to consult their communities" of 12 Aug 07, "Rebel council faces the sack" in the Courier-Mail of 10 Aug 07.

3. "Will John Howard save democracy in Queensland?" of 13 Aug 07, "Rebel council faces the sack" in the Courier-Mail of 10 Aug 07.

4. Beattie 'drunk with power': PM of 16 Aug 07 on ABC News Online.

5. "Rudd to Pay" by Roseann Barrett and Patrick Lion on page 1 of the Courier-Mail of 20 Aug 07. (URL to online version unknown.)

6. "Friends of Noosa's 'Dump Labor' campaign punishes the wrong people" of 13 Sep 07.

7. "Krazy Kevin Rudd video by Cyrius01" of 7 May 09.

8. I don't have the Courier-Mail and Sunday Mail articles on hand, but I recall the stories commencing from Sunday 23 May claiming that the recent floods had pushed Queensland into financial peril. This claim was dropped not long after in favour of just the Global Financial Crisis made the fire sale necessary.

9. "Medibank Private sell plan in Coalition policy" in the Courier-Mail of 17 Feb 10.

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Comments

This is a fantastic article. What a clear history of how the Libs and Labor have used the state and labor tiers for wedge politics, with no concern for democracy, aided and abetted by the commercial and public media.

More articles like this please.