Sally McManus, the hero

Sally McManus is the hero of workers. Turnbull is welcome to try to villainise her, but in doing so, he’s only making himself the enemy.

In her first television interview as head representative of people who work, McManus was involved in what media-insiders call a ‘gotcha moment’. Courtesy of the get-me-a-gotcha-moment-in-place-of-any-useful-political-analysis-queen, Leigh Sales. In their version of events, McManus was in hot water for backing the safety of workers at any cost, even if that cost is breaking laws designed to help employers shirk any responsibility for protecting people who work for them.

Right wingers squealed in delight when Sales drew supposably controversial comments out of McManus so early in the piece. The attacks came thick and fast from all the obvious places, including many journalists, who tut-tutted about law-breaking as if the law-breaking in question was home invasion or carjacking. Even those from Fairfax, who were more than happy to illegally strike in protest at their own colleagues being sacked, apparently can’t see the irony of criticising workers who do the same thing when a colleague is killed. Christopher Pyne, jumping on McManus like a seagull on a chip, called on her to resign. Turnbull, grasping for something to divert from his own failures, said he couldn’t work with her.

A year ago, this whole episode would have been yet another predictable, not worth mentioning, union bashing media-beat-up. But things have changed in the past few months. People have woken up to wealth inequality. Australia saw this wake up contribute to Brexit and the election of Trump. Closer to home, we’ve had One Nation pop up in Turnbull’s double dissolution, only to be over-egged and come crashing back down in the WA election, where, low and behold, Labor achieved an 8% swing in their primary vote without any help from minors.

Throughout this time, Turnbull’s government continues to be a mixture of insipid do-nothing indecision, scandal and destruction, infighting and chaos, ideological bastardy and economic incompetence while they sidestep from one policy disaster to the next. Amongst the attacks to Medicare, the undermining of welfare through the Centrelink debacle, the failure on energy policy, the distractions from fringe fundamentalists such as anti-marriage-equality and repealing hate-speech laws, there is one policy which stands shiny and red as the most detestable, a pimple on a bum of failure: an attack to wages through a cut to penalty rates. This decision was the nail in Turnbull’s coffin. Commentators and Federal Liberals can claim all they like that the electoral result in WA was a result of local issues. But there is absolutely no doubting that a cut to wages saw voters melting off Liberals like sweat from Turnbull’s, and Hanson’s brow.

Let’s get something clear. Wages are the central concern of the electorate. Yes, most of us have other concerns, including climate change, education, healthcare, infrastructure, housing affordability, energy policy, immigration, just to name a few. But first on Maslow’s Hierarchy of political needs for left-wing and right-wing voters alike is an economic indicator which is being felt personally in homes from Broome to Launceston, from Townsville to Bankstown: record low wage growth. To put it bluntly, workers aren’t paid enough for the productive labour they contribute to the economy. There is plenty of money being made. It’s just not reaching those who create it.

The electorate knows this. They might not be able to pinpoint exactly what the problem is, but they feel the anxiety of having to do more with less. They are working harder. They are paying more for housing, groceries, petrol, energy bills, healthcare and education. But they are not getting the hours they need to cover these costs, nor the pay-rises they deserve, to show how their contribution to profit is valued. Their jobs are too often casual and insecure, their wages stagnant and their lives feel stationary.

This tension and anxiety means the relationship between worker and employer, between labour and capital, is fraught. In turn, the relationship between those who represent workers – unions – in this case – Sally McManus, and those who represent capital – Turnbull, Pyne, big business, business lobbyists, Liberal donors, is more-than-usually-difficult.

When Turnbull said he can’t work with McManus, he was admitting he can’t work with workers. This isn’t a new state of affairs. Turnbull has never done anything positive for workers. Instead, he defends the employers who, as well as preferring to reward shareholders instead of workers, constantly fight for lower wages and less protections for workers. The penalty rate cut was just the latest in a long line of anti-worker policies rolled out by the Liberal government, including cuts to social and environmental policies which hurt all of us, worker or not.

When Sally McManus explained to Sales that her priority is to defend workers rather than defending laws designed to hurt workers, she wasn’t being caught in a trap. She was doing her job. Whether the media and right wing elite recognise it or not, we, workers, applaud Sally McManus for her principles. In that 730 interview, we saw a union leader standing up for us when our employers refuse to do the same. We saw a union leader standing up for us where the Liberal government refuse to do the same.

The political environment has changed in the last 12 months. Unions have been framed as the enemy for so long that the Turnbull government think they’re on a winner when they find a stick to beat unions with. What they’ve neglected to realise is that when they bash unions, they bash workers. Workers are sick of being the victim of Liberal governments. Workers are sick of being the victim of big business lobbying, which results in them taking home a shrinking share of the profits from their work. When Liberal governments bash unions, workers don’t see a hero fighting against a villain. They see a villain threatening their hero. With wage growth at record lows, workers need a hero. They have one in Sally McManus. Anyone stupid enough to fight the hero of workers, better be ready for an army poised to join their hero into battle.

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9 Comments on “Sally McManus, the hero”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great Victoria you are my heroine. Keep up the good work.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Excellent synopsis of the situation. Today’s West Australian posits that the Liberals will lose big time in WA Federal seats. We can but continue to show them for the nasty, pathetic creeps they really are!

  3. leighton8 says:

    I agree with you … she seems like a stalwart ….

  4. Well, I am astounded, I have just this minute discovered what Australia paid in corporate welfare in 2014 https://theaimn.com/lets-talk-energy-subsidies/ and it shocked me that in this country this government is sending debt notices to the hapless unemployed in some cases for debts they have not incurred, yet this LNP government subsidizes the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $550 Billion and remember this figure is three years old.

    In other words, even though they have trebled the budget deficit, they could have paid all of Australia’s so called debt 5 times over with the amount of corporate welfare they pay just this one industry, an industry by the way that is producing carbon pollution and harming our desperate fight against the effects of dangerous climate change/global warming. Why we have not heard this information from the ALP also astounds me.

    To create in excess of 3 million Australians living below the poverty line, whilst hosting foreign mining corporations who pay no tax, with a possible addition of Adani why wouldn’t any mining corporation come to Australia, they get the raw materials for FREE they make billions in income, and income tax is FREE, but wait, there’s more, this LNP federal government uses our PAYG taxpayers money to give them an extra $550 Billion sounds like a terrific deal for the foreign multinationals, but a very poor deal for the citizens of Australia.

  5. I wonder how many have noticed that they chose the industries with the weakest unions the AWU and the SDA thankfully the retail and fast food workers have a new union vying to truly represent these workers. The unfortunate news is that both these weak unions control the ALP behind the scenes. We need a ‘strong’ labor leader to expose these tory bastards, c’mon Bill, where are you? If you can’t stand the heat in the kitchen, get out and allow someone who will.

  6. troppo dill says:

    how sad when the media attacking her, by using a disingenuous twist of words, probably break the law in a myriad of ways, every day.

    notice trump and a woman
    the rabbott and women
    trumble?
    diludbransims?
    are labor women no more prominent than above?
    the church
    islam
    judaism

    Are women biding their time, marking it or wasting it?

  7. bensab3 says:

    Reblogged this on MI-VU.


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