May 13, 2021
Politicians are about as popular as used car salesmen, but their commitments and actions make a big difference to working people. When it comes to elections, it’s worth finding out what you’re really voting for.
May is Budget time. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has delivered a big-spending pandemic Budget and commentators are trying to read the tea leaves about whether it is priming voters for a federal election before the end of the year.
We are not due a federal election until 2022, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison can call an election earlier – and if he thinks he can win, he will.
For many people, politics and politicians are somewhere between boring and infuriating. They reluctantly pay attention for just long enough to decide who to vote for when elections come around – and sometimes resent having to vote at all.
But politics affects the fundamentals of our lives.
For working people, there is so much at stake in the boring-sounding decisions that get made day in and day out by politicians at all levels of government. It’s the rate of your superannuation guarantee, how much tax you pay and how it’s spent, whether your local school or TAFE is funded, whether your ageing mum gets well looked after in aged care.
Industrial relations laws are a major issue for our members. While some argue that ‘all politicians are the same’ when it comes to representing workers, there is a big difference in what the major parties have committed to on workplace laws relating to casuals and labour hire.
The Morrison Liberal National Government, with One Nation’s support, introduced new laws that have stripped rights from casual coal miners and given the green light to mining companies to continue replacing permanent jobs with casual labour hire.
Federal Labor has committed to uphold our wins in the Skene and Rossato Federal Court decisions with a fair definition of casual in the Fair Work Act – and to legislate ‘same job same pay’ for labour hire workers. This would make an enormous difference in our battle against the ‘permanent casual’ labour hire rort in mining.
Our Union has an official running in the crucial Upper Hunter by-election in NSW. Jeff Drayton worked at Mt Arthur for 10 years, he talks to thousands of coal miners each year in his capacity as a union official and he understands the pressures on coal miners.
Jeff has committed to introducing legislation into NSW Parliament using every available opportunity at the state level to limit use of casual labour hire on mine site, improve worker safety and strengthen accountability for mining companies.
Coal is a major contributor to NSW’s economy, but there is no coal miner in Parliament. There are very few from any blue-collar background.
Whether we go to a federal election this year or next, or if you are eligible to vote in the Upper Hunter by-election in NSW – it’s the electorate with the highest proportion of coal miners in NSW by the way – I encourage everyone to look closely at what candidates are committing to. Don’t just go by hearsay. If you have questions, go to candidates’ forums, make contact with the candidates themselves and make sure you get your information from trusted sources. Politics might be frustrating and sometimes boring, but your vote is precious and it really does make a difference.