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Change the Rules! Change the System!

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Mike Williss

The Australian Unions’ (ACTU) campaign to Change the Rules is deserving of the full support of all working Australians.

It is a comprehensive response to injustice and unfairness across a range of issues: social inequality, taxation, rights to industrial action and representation, wage theft, penalty rates, enterprise bargaining, insecure work, minimum wage, working women and working families, temporary visa workers and the construction “watchdog”, the ABCC.

The campaign statement reads: We all want a country that is fair, but right now the rules favour big business and the very rich…. Working people need more power to swing the pendulum back.

It would indeed be a very great thing if the ACTU campaign succeeds in restoring the right to strike, abolishes the ABCC, wins substantial increases to the minimum wage and Newstart Allowance, restores full rights of entry provisions for unions, and restores penalty rates. The rights of temporary visa workers, insecure and part-time workers, working women and working families also need new rules.

As well, one third of the largest multinationals pay no tax in Australia. Exxon-Mobil hasn’t paid for three years in a row. Others pay ridiculously small amounts. Changing rules to force them to pay would be great!

It’s a massive agenda. It requires strength and defiance.

Major victories have always come on waves of struggle on the job, in the streets and communities. Victories don’t come from the so-called “independent umpires”, the courts, politicians or parliaments.

Has Australia ever been “fair”?
Even if all the ACTU demands were won, that can’t be the end of it.

“The rules that made Australia fair are broken,” says the ACTU. This is a dangerous illusion for the people.

Rules and laws have always been written by and for the ruling class of big business and corporations. They’ve always tried to make Australia “fair” for the super-rich and “not fair” for the majority, the working people.

A quick glance at Australian history will show that unions have always been subject to heavy fines, their leaders and members have been jailed for defending workers’ rights, and that any improvements to wages and conditions have come by and large from action on the job rather than the benevolence of the so-called “independent umpire”. It has never been a fair country for working Australians.

The very worthy demands now being put forward by the ACTU would provide a breathing space for workers for a while, but pressure from big business to cut costs and remove conditions will always remain and  intensify.

Time to get off the treadmill
That is why the ACTU campaign Change the Rules is worthy of support, but the missing piece is that only when workers unite to Change the Capitalist System will fundamental sustainable improvements in workers’ lives take place.

Given that the decisive sections of the economy are in foreign, and predominately, US hands, the first stage in Changing the System must be the demand for a genuinely independent Australia – economically and politically.

Such an independent Australia must necessarily be a socialist Australia with all working people becoming owners of, and benefitting from, our natural resources and the enormous wealth created by the labour of workers. Only the working class has the capacity to unite and lead the Australian people to Change the Rules and Change the System.

It’s time to unite, not just to Change the Rules, but also to Change the System!


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