Tuesday, 27 November 2007


(and a sad Farewell to a great hero of the Union movement).

by Klaatu Congrejo

Before my report on the Australian elections I would like to announce the sad death (early morning 27th Nov. 2007) of Bernie Bantam - a great advocate for the union movement here who was considered a national hero when, only ten days ago and in his hospital wheelchair, he was protesting outside the offices of the outgoing health minister and delivering a huge petition demanding fair compensation for victims of asbestos-related diseases. The health minister, true to form, was not there to accept the petition - despite being informed well in advance.
Bernie contracted asbestosis through his employment with James Hardie Industries, a building & construction company and, with union support, he fought almost 30years for fair compensation for himself and other stricken workers.
A couple of months ago his illness progressed to mesothilioma, the final cancerous stages of the disease, and he was given only weeks to live.
As recently as 3 days ago, and on his deathbed, he appeared (by video link) at a court hearing against James Hardie Industries.
A fighter and true comrade to the end, Bernie will be remembered as a great hero of the union movement here.
As a journalist, I met him several times during these struggles. Even though his death was imminent I was still shocked and saddened when I received the phone call at 6am this morning. I was proud to call him a friend!
On a side note, when I heard that Bernie's days were numbered, I started setting up a block of land in Second Life to be called 'Bernie Bantam Memorial Park'. I will contact his family, at an appropriate time, to inform them of this.
More details of the opening of Bernie Bantam Memorial Park, and a detailed obituary, at a later date.....

This election was often called "a contest of ideas, not ideology" - and last weekend the Australian people made sure of that.
While it is satisfying to see a Labor government in charge at last - many people are already starting to ask "so whats new?"
Well, the sad answer is that it looks likely that nothing has really changed - apart from the things that any half-decent democratic government would be expected to do.
Oh sure, Kevin Rudd (Labor party leader) promised to "tear up" workplace agreements introduced by the previous government to neutralise the unions and leave workers at the mercy of unscrupulous employers.
Sure, he's promised to "immediately" sign the Kyoto Protocol and bring Australia into line with the rest of the world on global warming discussions.
Sure, he's promised to formally "apologise" to the Aboriginal people for years of neglect under white rule since the British first settled here 222 years ago.
And sure, he's promised to revamp the health and education systems after years of asset-stripping and reduced funding by the previous government.

But, in these early days of the Rudd government, it's becoming clear that he may be just another Tony Blair.
After a hard-fought campaign (supported by huge funding from the unions) and a historic landslide victory, Kevin Rudd is already turning his back on the union movement and left-wing groups by claiming that the huge popular vote gave HIM the authority to govern on HIS agenda - and that he would not be 'pandering' to any 'special interest' groups.
Bernie Bantam, of whom I spoke earlier, would be deeply ashamed and angry to hear those words!

The left-wing parties (Greens, Social Equality Party, Socialist Alliance) all recorded increased votes in their electorates. And, under our complicated voting system, it was the 'preferences' from those minor parties that ensured Labor such a resounding victory!
Kevin Rudd will do well to acknowledge that fact in these early days of his Prime Ministership - or we may find the landslide tipping down the other side of the mountain at the next election!

After years of subjugation under the right-wing Liberal government here, I fear it may be many more years of hard work before we get a government that is truly representative of the people.

Join us in celebrating a victorious win for the left in Australia (at least we are heading in the right direction) but be prepared for many more hard struggles ahead!

- Klaatu 27 nov07

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Eyva Matova said...

I just wanted to put two cents in. First, I think it's a bit much to begin to write Kevin Rudd off when it's been less than a week since he was elected. Let's see him actually take office before accusing him of anything. Secondly, I would be more offended if he DID give special preference to unions. I'm a huge union supporter but when anyone contributes to a candidate's election fund, it should be supporting that person's policies, not in expectation of any gratuities or policy favours.

I am a supporter of Kevin, as you seem to basically be, I'd say let's just wait and see. He has some optimistic promises to fulfil and it makes me more hopeful that we can really show the world how forward thinking we are, that we're not just a bunch of American ass-kissers.

Neil Scott said...

Have to say - well done Aus for lifting the yoke of the Howard Thatcherites. Here in the UK, we did that in 1997, but found that we had a Government elected by a huge majority who were then able to continue to pursue Thatchers ideals, and we now have the most watched populace in the world through cctv, the threat of ID cards from a Government who cannot even keep existing information safe and a country where profit comes before people. Our sxervices are still in the process of being sold off - the latest is pre-school care/ nursery schools etc. We have a new so called left wing Premier who said whilst chancellor that he would fund the troops as much as it took to oust Saddam and find WMD, though troops have been dying in the killing fields of Iraq for want of rudimentary safety gear. A left wing premier who has ensured the prolonged stay of British troops and a left wing premier that has shown he has nothing but contempt for the unions. We are spun the lie of 100percent employment, though 1/3 of children living in some of our cities are growing up in poverty (1/4 countrywide). Labour in the UK are implimenting some of the most disgusting immigration laws in Europe - the right wing BNP is profitting from the right wing press and the toothlessness of a Government who seem to think if we are horrible to immigrants, then the BNP will go away. Nazi-ism doesnt work like that.

Australia - remain vigilant.