From “Pig Iron Bob” to “The Mad Monk”

Once upon a time it was “Pig Iron Bob”, and justly deserved it was. I am talking about Robert Menzies former Liberal Prime Minister and devoted anti-unionist, among other craven things. He who begat in a political sense Malcolm Fraser (who happily wanted to jail union leaders in 1978 and thereabouts for being strong and intelligent), John Howard, and now Tony Abbott.
But what will we call Abbott? “The Mad Monk” does not quite fit in this new situation, especially in the light of his Royal Commission into unionism, as it truly is, and his swing last week through Japan, South Korea, and China.
Today’s Sydney Morning Herald carries commentary by John Garnaut about all of this. Garnaut refers to the Menzies backdrop to the Abbott free trade expeditIon and like most others, including Labor’s own free trade champion Craig Emerson, finds in favour of the Abbott effort although with some fault lines.
It’s not a surprise but Garnaut neglects why Menzies’ was called “Pig Iron Bob.” Because, as Deputy Prime Minister and Attorney General (Brandis and Abetz know it well) he launched a war against waterside workers who followed their consciences in 1937 to refuse to load pig iron that Menzies said should go to Japan. The when wharfie sand their leaders KNEW that it would be coming back from fascist Japan as weapons of war. And they were dead right. Millions were slaughtered by Japan in Korea and China, and other parts of East Asia as well. And tens of thousands of Australians, mainly workers, did also, defending our peoples from something that a Liberal icon had complied with. (Note that in the discussions with Japan Abbott suggests that Japan can re-arm. )
Abbott’s ruling class Royal Commission aims to destroy such union activity and its underpinning – a profound collective intelligence about fairness, justice, social progress and peace.
So far, there is no sign of ANY FAIRNESS, for Working Australians or their counterparts in Japan, Korea, and China, in these so-called free trade deals. There are no ILO core labour standards let alone arrangements to ensure they are complied with. Labour standards will be left in the hands of those workers determined enough to struggle for them against their so-called masters, their employers.
Each of these free trade deals rest upon the extra exploitation of workers across all 4 countries, and seek the continual handover of democratic sovereignty to the enhanced power of transnational corporations.
Against this, we must struggle and in doing so discover anew the possibilities of a society not based upon the exploitation of humans and of nature.

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I am a retired left wing and labour movement activist. Before that I worked for a long time in the Australian union movement in union education, Australian and international solidarity and organising. I am also active in Cuban solidarity, the SEARCH FOUNDATION, and promoting discussion, debate and action about green socialism based on workers control and social ownership.

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