Rail Tram and Bus Union Queensland Branch
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Muzzling opposition is what Government does when they don't like what they hear

There’s been a lot written recently about some proposed changes by Campbell Newman’s LNP to laws governing trade unions. The changes are pretty clearly designed to muzzle unions from being able to speak out against this government or any other for that matter.

It’s been a firm feature of politics in Qld that conservative LNP style governments have hated criticism so much as to attempt to outlaw it. Joh did it to power and electrical workers and now Newman is attempting to relive these ‘good old days’ with a few changes of his own.

We have joined with other unions and commenced a campaign to fight these unfair laws. So far the proposed laws have gone to a review committee and while still outrageous we have achieved some movement.

The measures around accountability were always a smoke screen for the LNP’s desire to increase the administrative burden on trade unions. Unions are already some of the most regulated organisations in the country and the proposals would just add more red tape. The RTBU has always been open and honest about its affairs and we don’t fear scrutiny – we do however firmly resent wasting member’s money.

The most outrageous proposal was that we should ballot members for every decision required to oppose unjust actions of our employers and it has remained. Maybe you've visited http://saveyoursay.org.au/ (link at end) - if not, have a look. Following Union action there was some proposal to tinker with some of the detail but so far no commitment to major changes.

For some it may seem quite democratic to ballot everyone on a range of issues regularly. The truth is that the things we would need to ballot for are much more than you’d expect. We would have to ballot members if we wanted to produce a circular such as the one you are reading now. We would have to ballot members to see if we could undertake research into every members’ views on issues important to them.

The requirements for a ballot to succeed are that they have to be run by a third party at the union’s expense. We could expect that to cost in the vicinity of $10,000 or more per ballot. More than half the membership in total would have to vote for it to be valid. It is designed to stop unions from being able to quickly and effectively voice opposition to matters that affect members – it has nothing to do with democracy.

Despite the proposals the RTBU and other like minded unions will continue to campaign in the community, and in the courts. We have launched a high court challenge to these laws given the fact that they attack some fundamental democratic rights. We also look to tough but certainly more sensible legislation in the federal sphere which provides some avenue for unions such as ours to operate.

For the Newman LNP Government to talk the importance of democracy when it has broken pre-election promises left and right while introducing the most radical agenda for privatisation in Queensland history with no mandate whatsoever is so stunningly arrogant to be unbelievable.

Unity is Strength

Bruce Mackie
Qld State President

Save Your Say - Defend democracy in Queensland