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Why we’re backing Bill Shorten and Labor

Allen Hicks

Australia deserves better than the past six years of Liberal Government failures. 

In this federal election the Electrical Trades Union has decided it's time we throw our full weight into the campaign and fight to elect a Labor Government.

Because it's Now or Never, we need to Change the Government.

There are many reasons why we're backing Labor, which I will go into below, but one headline reason is that if Australian workers have to suffer another three years of a Liberal-National Government then we will see inequality continue to rise and workers' rights stripped further away.

The Liberal-National Government has failed ordinary Australians.

Big business profits and the bosses' power continued to grow under this Liberal Government, but workers have been missing out on the benefits. That's why Australian Unions have been fighting long and hard to Change the Rules.

Another term of this Tory government will see workers’ rights and unions put to the spear. Wealth will continue to transfer upwards, corporations will keep avoiding tax obligations. The Liberals will still blame Labor for their failures.

We can see where the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government's priorities have been when we look at their contemptuous handling of the TAFE and training sector, which largely benefits young Australians.

Since coming to government in 2013, the Liberals have slashed more than $3 billion in funding from our TAFE and training sector. Over the same period we've seen the number of students in TAFE and training courses fall by 45%.

This is a sector that has always been central to our union because we know that strong TAFEs make strong trades and tradespeople. But looking at these figures it's clear the Liberals don't care about Australia's future because they are failing to invest in our young people.

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By failing to invest and strengthen this foundational sector the Liberal Government is failing our nation’s future.

Thanks to the Liberals’ Building Code, we’ve also lost the ability to ensure apprentice numbers on big jobs. The Code has also stripped out mandated numbers for women workers and mature-age apprentices.

Despite how the Liberals dressed the Code up in lies that it was supposed to protect workers, it has only been used to weigh workers and unions down and make our working lives harder.  

The Australian Building and Construction Commission, the Code's enforcers, have rarely used their remit to go after bosses and companies for safety breaches or cutting corners. Instead, they have pursued individual workers with threats of $42,000 fines for engaging in political protests and gone after union officials for allegedly using foul language.

The ABCC's biggest concern has not been industrial manslaughter but harassing workers for showing their union pride at work. Just last week a “goon squad” of ABCC enforcers were on an Adelaide job site – not inspecting safety breaches or corner cutting. No, they were there to inspect workers' hard hats because they had union stickers on them.

Harassing workers and their unions: This is the Liberal Government's priority.

Nowhere has this been clearer than when the supposedly independent Registered Organisations Commission tipped-off the media to a Federal Police raid on the offices of Bill Shorten's former union, the Australian Workers Union, over some meeting minutes and notes from a decade ago.

Far from finding any dirt on Shorten or the AWU, the raids proved Liberal Industrial Relations Minister Michaelia Cash was too clever by half and that the ROC was anything but independent.

The raids of course sparked another AFP investigation into the leaks while taxpayers were left to cover Cash and the Liberal Government's $1.2 million legal bill.

The raids also proved that the Liberals are inept at governing. Even when they use the specifically designed tools of their partisan political games, they could not get it right.

The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Liberal Government has failed too many of our members by allowing bosses to exploit our visa system and bring in foreign workers while denying opportunities to locals.

We've seen this play out across the country with our members struggling to find meaningful, well-paid and full-time work while unskilled and unlicensed backpackers have been put on jobs in their communities.

Labor has committed to tightening the laws that allow employers to bring visa workers to Australia for areas where this is a genuine skills shortage. The ALP has also pledged to enforce stricter controls on skills and licensing. This will mean our members are not cast aside from jobs in their community because bosses cut costs and corners by using unlicensed and unskilled workers.

The Liberals have allowed casual work to explode as unregulated labour-hire companies have kept skilled tradespeople on the books but never tried to find them long-term employment. This system is failing our members and their families.

Labor will introduce a labour-hire registration scheme and give casual workers the right to request a transition to full-time work after 12 months of employment. This will ensure workers are not kept in limbo with no security. This is just one aspect of Australian Unions’ Change the Rules campaign that we have been fighting for.

Keeping workers in these precarious employment situations prevents them from making plans for the future. It’s a failure of our industrial system and it’s failing workers. On so many fronts the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has failed Australian workers and families, but nowhere is that more apparent than its failure to prepare for the future.

We've seen this in the gutting of TAFE funding that hurts future generations of workers, but we've seen the continued failures of the Liberal Government when it comes to climate and energy policy.

Tony Abbott rode into office on a plan of ripping up the carbon tax, a policy that was not only working in the reduction of carbon emissions but had minimal impact on power prices and encouraged renewable energy investment.

When the Liberal Government repealed that policy, it left a vacuum that has never been filled after nearly six years and more than a dozen failed energy policies and thought bubbles.

I could list the Liberal-Nationals’ energy policy failures, but that’s only more wasting of everyone’s time.

Bill Shorten and Labor accept that climate change is happening, our carbon emissions are contributing to it and we need to do something about it. The Liberals are still ripping into each other and tearing their party apart because they don’t believe the science. So forget about them pursuing meaningful policy.

If you want to do something about climate change, if you want a government that invests in young people and TAFE, if you want to Change the Rules and get a fairer system that works for workers, then it’s time to back Bill Shorten and Labor because they are backing us and what matters.  

Tell your family, friends and workmates to vote for Labor this weekend. Then when we Change the Government, we can continue on our fight to Change the Rules.

It’s Now or Never.


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