In another thread, commenter amused has written that:
The effect of not having to go out, and actually mix with the hoi polloi to do your reporting is becoming obvious, as is the effect on the quality of ‘reporting’ (if one call it that), of not having someone who actually specialises, and knows something about, the issues on which they report. It’s like having a agoraphobic write pieces on travels across the Gobi desert. It lacks the essential qualities of closeness to topic, and engagement with the experience: consequently it lacks conviction and credibility.
It appears that Labor speechwriter Dennis Glover has caught the disease of avoidable punditocratic ignorance, judging by his column in today’s Australian which largely consists of well-meaning advice to the Mining and Energy Division of the CFMEU.
the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union’s divisions [are] set to give the [Labor] party merry hell about forests and coal at its 44th national conference, which opens in Sydney next Friday….
…although unionists are right to make environmentalists acknowledge inevitable conflicts between environmental and social goals, there’s a danger that by overplaying their hand, some unionists will play into John Howard’s hands and deliver him a majority at the next election. If the results of the recent NSW state election are any guide, Howard will be looking to add Hunter Valley coalmining seats to the Tasmanian logging seats he won in 2004. If he succeeds, it’s difficult to see Labor winning. And if an ongoing alliance is formed between extractive industries unions and the Coalition, Labor may be out of power for some time to come.
Allowing themselves to be turned into the 21st-century equivalent of a pro-Tory mob would be a sad end for the radical spirits whose predecessors created the labour movement.
Can a climate-change split between Labor and the unions be avoided, especially as science suggests we have no alternative but to reduce dependence on dirty coal and abate emissions through protecting forests?
…One can’t imagine a carbon-addicted Howard or Costello government staying friendly with the CFMEU or other unions for long.
Eventually the unions would be destroyed by the combination of uncontrolled industrial restructuring, Work Choices mark II and even tougher welfare reforms.
It’s something for union leaders in our extractive industries to contemplate as they ask themselves which political path to take at the start of the new post-industrial revolution and what to do at Labor’s national conference.
Now I don’t expect Dr. Glover to write a Doctoral thesis chapter, as I have done, on the Mining & Energy Division’s involvement in the greenhouse debate, but surely he could have checked out the union’s website and spoken to its officials before he wrote such glaringly wrong stuff.
Let’s begin with the notion that the CFMEU’s “divisions” are going to give the ALP “merry hell” about “forests and coal”. The Construction Division will not be doing this because it leaves forests and coal to the other CFMEU Divisions which cover workers in these sectors. The usual gang of idiots from the Forestry Division will be making a nuisance of themselves over forestry, but the Minng and Energy Division has made it clear on multiple occasions that it has no significant differences (if any) with Labor’s current policies on climate change as they delate to coal.
As for the broader implication that the Mining and Energy Division are playing, or likely to play, a reactive role in the greenhouse debate and run on a unity ticket with Howard at this year’s election, Glover could have relieved his misprision by taking slightly more than eight minutes to watch these two videos at the union’s web site. For that matter, he could have read what I’ve written for LP on the matter here and here.
Finally, the NSW election results in the Hunter Valley are far more likely to be due to the dysfunctional and disordered state of the ALP in that part of the world than the greenhouse debate. Glover should surely know about those problems.
The pity of it all is that the thrust of Glover’s advice to the unions is entirely correct, but risks being lost on many unionists as a consequence of his having undermined his own credibility and raised unionist hackles by patronising them from a position of ignorance – ignorance which he, as a long-standing and senior Labor adviser and public intellectual, is surely in a position to have avoided.
Postscript. My linking to the Mining & Energy Division videos should not be taken as endorsement of Tony Maher’s dig at Bob Brown. Also, and it should not really be necessary for me to say this, this and my previous posts on these matters should not be read as 100 per cent endorsement of every line of ALP or CFMEU policy on climate change. My ethic of environmental conviction leads me to support a stronger greenhouse policy response than what the party and union are proposing, at the same time as my ethic of environmental political responsibility leads me to welcome the way Rudd and the union are handling the politics of this issue in an election year.