‘Change the Rules’ for Big Coal

Paradigm Shift, Friday 3 May 2019

Today’s show
Senior officials split with their unions on coal
Rocking the foundations – Building Labourer’s BLF Green Bans
Ian interviews Michael McNally – Qld State Secretary of the National Tertiary Education union


Zellanach – Song for the Djap Wurrung people in Victoria
Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi
Jumping Fences – On the chain
Phil Monsour – One more day than them


Consensus vs Class Politics
The Australian Labor Party was formed by the unions to gain parliamentary political power. From its formation a debate constantly raged as to the extent of compromise acceptable to achieve this goal. In the 1980s and 1990s this internal battle chose between adherence to the working class or opportunistic pluralism to attain parliamentary power. It was finally resolved during the Hawke-Keating Labor governments. The importance of parliamentary power became paramount. This meant that the intellectual base of the party was embroiled in the conventional debates of the ‘pluralistic’ society, whose parameters were dominated by the ruling elites. ALP politicians and trade union officials followed, avoiding a socialist critique of society, in an attempt to increase credibility across classes. Consensus politics superseded class politics.

Queensland is a coal state. In the lead up to May Day 2019 we investigate whether  Queensland unions have effective policies on climate change. This research is taken in the context of statements this week by two senior officials breaking ranks with their unions and ALP policy on the proposed Carmichael Mine in Clermont in the Galilee basin in Central Queensland. It is 12 years since former ALP leader Kevin Rudd declared that climate change is ‘the great moral challenge of our generation’.

So let’s go to the National Climate Summit at Parliament House, in Canberra in 2007 to hear what Kevin Rudd said:

Neither the ALP nor the union most concerned with mining coal, the Construction Forestry Mining and Maritime and Engineering Union (CFMMEU) have come out against opening up new mines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. But the cracks are starting to show.

State Secretary of the Maritime Division of the CFMMEU, Bob Carnegie, came out this week and said:

“We stand by our mining brothers and sisters in the CFMEU mining division but as Queensland state branch secretary I do not stand by the fact that another coal mine is going to be built to further enrich the world’s CO2 emissions. The world doesn’t need another thermal coal mine.”

Despite Bob Carnegie’s comment, the CFMMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor said “the union has a single position regarding proposed coal mine developments”.

If they meet the appropriate economic, social and environmental approvals and offer secure, well-paid employment, then we support them.”

There is no questioning Bob Carnegie’s sincerity on this issue. He has a long association with the Miners and their federation. Listen to Bob introducing Chris from the Miners during the 2015 Hutchinson Dispute at the Port of Brisbane. Bob Carnegie (MUA) and Chris from the Miners chained themselves to the railway track  during the ’98 MUA Here to Stay dispute:

Bob Carnegie’s challenge to his own union is based on the approach taken by Jack Mundey from the Builders Labourers Federation when he led his union into the Green Bans against Sydney’s Rocks development. Carnegie urged the union movement to follow in the steps of “the finest living trade unionist“, Builders Labourers Federation NSW secretary Jack Mundey, who led the union’s Green Bans in the 1970s.

So lets go to the National Film and Sound archives to hear the opening sequence of Pat Fiske’s 1985 documentary Rocking the Foundations about the BLF’s Green bans.

In contrast to the ALP and the CFMMEU, the National Tertiary Education Union has a policy on the opening up of a 20 year coal mine at Carmichael in the Galillee Basin. It states:

NTEU will continue to advocate to see the Carmichael Mine stopped and will work with our allies to campaign against this mine and other similar proposals.

There have been many claims about the number of jobs that the Adani mine will create but Peter Ong, the Qld State Secretary of the Electrical Trades Union was reported as saying that Adani had refused to engage with his union and warned the mine was unlikely to provide decent wages or conditions.

You open up another coal mine and all it’s going to do is put further downward pressure on the price of coal – and it’s basically flat at the moment – and it’s going to put pressure on the already operating coal mines.” – AFR article “MUA leader declares opposition to Adani

He said the mine should not get the go-ahead on that basis and Labor should focus on ensuring decent jobs in renewable industries such as solar.

“As a Labor government they should be saying this is the way of the future. We should be looking to transition, not opening up more coal mines, especially not in this current climate.”

Ian Curr
3 May 2019

To be continued …

MUA leader declares opposition to Adani

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