Seymour’s Tradey Mates

Mark Seymour blogging on his friends in trades and their politics.

Author: Mark Seymour.

Date: 26 May 2007.

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I’ve got a couple of tradey mates who both make good money at what they do but one gets way more that the other.

One is a gate-builder. He’s on about $80,000 a year. He’s got three kids who go to state schools. Mum’s a house wife.

The other bloke is a rigger with twenty years experience in Oil and Gas. He recently took up an A.W.A. with New Holland at Port Headland. He sends both his children to the most expensive private schools in Melbourne. They board because Mum’s disappeared. He’s what you might call a “battler on a good wicket.”

Like really bloody good!

Both these blokes are highly skilled workers who have a pretty good idea of what they’re worth “thanks to the boom”, they say. They are the kind of blokes you’d think would be solidly behind Howard.

Not so.

What does the first bloke think of the federal government’s workchoice legislation? Well, he doesn’t like it but he admits that I.R. isn’t crucial for him because he doesn’t employ anybody. His number one priority is climate change. What does he think of John Howard? Hates his guts.

The port Headland bloke says, “I’m making truckloads.” Voting intention? Labor, but voted for Howard last time. What does he think of A.W.A.’s? Well, he says “they’re only worth what he’s getting,” which means in a round-a- bout way, what ever deal was on offer to get the kind of money he’s on, he would’ve signed at the drop of a hat. What does he think of Howard? Doesn’t trust him. Likes the new guy.

And neither of them belong to a union.

What does this tell you? Well to start with, the way these blokes come across in person, they’ve made up their minds. They are absolutely adamant.

This points to one thing. Whatever the polls are telling you right now, none of them have gone near my two mates, which is possibly why things are looking so confused in politics.

Big Business and the media have been going hard to make Julia Gillard look like she’s a trade union puppet but the majority of Australians still keep polling no to “Work choice”. At the same time consumer confidence is at record levels. Wage growth is down. Inflation’s down, and yet Rudd’s smelling like a rose. And my mates? My mates are laughing and neither of them will vote for Howard.

So how do you explain the polls when it appears like the Liberals are pressing all the right buttons economically?

Well, maybe the pollsters are looking in all the wrong places or worse, asking the wrong questions. My greenie mate thinks that Australians never really “liked” Howard in the first place, they just put up with him because the economy was improving. The other bloke says Australians aren’t as “gullible” as Howard thinks. Let’s just take this “workchoice” thing he says. Why abolish the “No disadvantage test” then re-introduce it with a different name? That just looks like a bloke who’s helplessly swinging in the breeze. You kind of have to agree. It doesn’t look good. I mean, let’s face it, why take away something called a “no-disadvantage test” if you aren’t saying to employers “Okay. If you slip up and screw some worker we’re not going to come and get you?” and then he puts it back again later, calls it a “Fairness test” and seriously expects Australians not to question where he’s really coming from?

Come on John. Give us some credit. We’re not stupid. Then again, maybe
a lot of us have wiped him off long ago and that’s why the polls look
weird. After all, my two mates have. They just think the “fairness
test” is another “back flip” and he’s been doing those ever since he
got the job.

The difference is of course, that we’re talking about peoples’ take home pay. And this is where you begin to wonder if workchoices really is the tipping point? How much do you need to buy your groceries each week? Some of us are scrimping every last cent. Others don’t ‘even read their bank statements. There is a huge difference between rich and poor in this country and everyone’s working harder than ever to stay “relaxed and comfortable.” Sure, there’s plenty of money around, but as my mates keep saying, there are some filthy rich people around too. Way richer than them.

This isn’t just some side issue. Wages are crucial. Hell, I hear you say, they’re even more important than interest rates! When do you start thinking about politics and how it affects your day to day life? After all, you don’t buy food with interest rates! Maybe “work choices” is just a bit too close for comfort for some people and no matter how loudly the mining industry keeps banging on about A.W.A.’s the majority of Aussies aren’t on them yet and it seriously looks like they don’t want to either. But that’s democracy isn’t it? Maybe it means something.

As for my mates, well, one of them thinks climate change is it so there’s no way Howard’s going to get him no matter what he says. And the other one, the Port Headland bloke, well, he’s actually on an A.W.A. and he’s in the mining industry! So he’s well and truly working at the pointy end. And is he loyal to big business? Does he nurse some special feeling for the magnificent job his bosses are doing, looking after the rest of the Australian economy? Does he have a special affection for his precious A.W.A.? “Hey,” he says, “they’re paying me, but I don’t have to get into bed with them do I? Give me the money is what I say. Let me tell you, if you think I’m on a lot, well their incomes are astronomical.”

My mates are hard working Australians and the simple fact is, they’d be hard workers under Labor or Liberal. These are the real people who are driving the economy and they’re not going to vote liberal. Interesting thing is, there’s one thing they agree on: Australia should never have gone to Iraq.

Mark Seymour May 2007.