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Issue #1539      14 March 2012

Editorial

A fair go for their mates

“All Australians have an inherent right to be treated equally under the law regardless of our race or means or where we live. We are one nation, with a diverse and rich background.” This fine sounding call for equality comes from an unusual source whose concerns are for a small minority who he claims are denied this right. Its source is Clive Palmer and the small minority the billionaires club. Palmer, whose personal wealth is more than $5 billion and rising daily through the sweat and hard labour of workers, has joined mining magnates Gina Rinehart (beneficiary of Lang Hancock inheritance) and Andrew Forrest of Fortescue Metals in an all out offensive to unseat the Labor government and install Tony Abbott.

Palmer’s references to being “treated equally” do not apply to the workers on non-union agreements, slaving long hours in difficult conditions in his mining operations. Nor are they based on concern for the low paid working poor in other industries. Far from it, he wants lower taxes, the abolition of the carbon tax and mining resources tax, less government spending and non-union workplaces.

Palmer has launched a vitriolic attack on Treasurer Wayne Swan, calling him “an intellectual pigmy” in an article he wrote for The Age (05-03-2012). Palmer said Swan “should not just be concerned with workers’ rights but the rights and needs of all Australians”. He was referring to an essay by Swan in The Monthly magazine, in which the treasurer said, “A handful of vested interests that have pocketed a disproportionate share of the nation’s economic success now feel they have a right to shape Australia’s future to satisfy their own self-interest.” What Swan says is correct, but unfortunately, Swan is not fighting for workers’ rights or to redress the gross inequalities in income.

In the Age article, Palmer, in true demagogic fashion, boasts about his patriotic family, what great Australians they are, and proclaims his readiness to protect “the precious democracy we value in this country.” He is not only the champion of democracy but supports “a share society” – except he doesn’t want to do the sharing himself.

“I truly believe in democracy and accepting the people’s will,” he says, while using his money and the power that comes with it to try to override democratic electoral processes and unseat the government. He is an ardent and generous financial supporter of the Liberal Party. His nomination by the National Trust (NSW) as a “National Living Treasure”, based on a vote of Women’s Day readers, has done a lot of damage to the Trust’s reputation; it is not enough to save his reputation. He is a dangerous, reactionary, waging a war against the working class of Australia while wearing a cloak of equality, sharing and democracy.

Rinehart is all heart too. “Please consider the terrible plight of very poor people in our neighbouring countries in Asia. We should, on humanitarian grounds, give more of these people the opportunity of guest labour work in Australia, so that they can feed and clothe their families and pay for medical and other pressing needs”. Her concern for the poor is just as phoney as Palmer’s appeal for equality. The poor of Asia are a source of cheap, non-union, vulnerable labour to be imported, exploited on low wages, under appalling working conditions and then shipped off home for another batch if they show signs of demanding their rights. Gina, also, would like to be rid of Labor and a return to individual contracts and union-free workplaces.

Herb Elliott, deputy chair of Fortescue Metals, joined the fray. He accused Swan of inciting class envy. “Mr Swan’s actions seem to be an attempt to polarise and incite resentment within our Australian community, turning mate against mate.” Palmer and his company launched an advertising campaign with full page ads in the daily media, saying “Swan’s attack” was “unfair, untrue and divisive” and saying how much Fortescue has done for Australia.

The big three magnates have launched an all out war to get rid of Labor and bring back the Liberals with their individual employment contracts. They want to take back even more past gains of workers’ struggles and open the way for even lower taxes and larger profits. It is called the class struggle. The trade union movement has a long fight ahead of it. The CFMEU Mining Division has launched a satirical “Fair Go For Billionaires” campaign, with a sub-theme “Abbott Understands”.

Videos can be seen on fairgoforbillionaires.com.au/fairgo

Next article – Victory at Botany for unions and unionism – MUA Picket at Port Botany March 10

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