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catallaxy in technical exile

What is the point of today's demonstration?

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The ACTU is predicting that today’s demonstration against industrial relations reform will attract up to 500,000 people. But will it help the ACTU’s cause?

It isn’t as if the government doesn’t already know that the reforms are at least a short-term political liability. Every poll shows that, and the absurd amount of money spent on the propaganda campaign in favour of the reforms reflects the government’s understanding that they have a problem. The polls also show that the campaigning on both sides – including largish protests in the middle of the year – has had little or no effect. For all the activity, the poll numbers are very stable.

Perhaps the unions hope to demonstrate not the scale of support for their views, which we know already, but the intensity. But even if they get the half million people they hope for, this doesn’t tell us much. Again, the polls already tell us that more than 500,000 people are strongly opposed to just about everything the Howard government does. It will be easily dismissed, as I heard on the radio this morning, as ‘the usual suspects’.

It’s not as if protests have any recent history of achieving their political goals. The huge rallies opposing the Iraq war in 2003 were followed by a swing toward the government position. I doubt they caused it – the shift was probably a desire to show personal support for the troops rather than political support for the war – but they did not stop it. And The Age’s report of today’s protest notes a previous big industrial relations demonstration against the Kennett government’s transfer of IR powers to the Commonwealth. That too went ahead, unimepeded by protest.

I don’t think today’s demonstration will have any impact on the passage of the legislation, and I doubt the union leadership seriously believes that it will. However, they know that street protest is part of the left’s culture, and in these market-driven days they must give the punters what they want. Demonstrations are political therapy for leftists, a chance to let off steam and enjoy camaraderie. Whether they achieve anything else or not is beside the point.

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Written by Admin

November 15, 2005 at 6:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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