Class warfare in the Sydney Morning Herald

by

Ed Lewis

In a tumultuous world, it’s comforting that some things don’t change. As the neoliberal global dystopia plunges deeper into financial crisis and the associated so-called trade liberalisation pushes parts of the world towards famine, the Sydney Morning Herald editorialises against a leading trade unionist.

The Herald has been publishing since 1831, and throughout that time it has been editorialising against trade unions and trade unionists, so Unions NSW leader John Robertson, the subject of Monday’s attack, can consider himself part of a very large, and overwhelmingly courageous and honourable, group of people.

Robertson cops a serve from the Herald‘s editorialists for persisting with opposition to the plans of NSW Premier Morris Iemma and his treasurer, Mick Costa, to sell the state’s electricity generation and distribution assets.

The Herald is clearly unhappy that Iemma and Costa are heading for certain defeat on electricity privatisation at next weekend’s NSW Labor Party conference, and comforts itself that Iemma and Costa have committed themselves to defying the conference.

It will be interesting to see how many of the Labor caucus are willing to back up the Iemma-Costa tough talk after the conference, even with the blessing of the usually staunchly anti-Labor and anti-labour Herald. Does anyone in the Labor caucus think a grateful Herald will abandon its usual support for the Liberals at the next election if Labor pushes through with privatisation?

The Herald has a swipe at Robertson for saying: “If it reaches a point where it’s a decision between union members and a Labor government, then in the end I’m union.”

This, according to the editorialists, makes Robertson an old-fashioned class warrior. Well, the Herald should know. As one of the oldest weapons of class warfare in NSW, it has had a lot of experience in siding with big business against struggles of the working class for liveable wages, the right to organise, civil liberties and many important social reforms.

The editorial then goes on to claim that the electricity sale is necessary to maintain and upgrade infrastructure such as railways, buses, ports, schools and hospitals.

There has been considerable experience already of privatisation in NSW, and everyone who uses public infrastructure in NSW knows that those privatisations haven’t been accompanied by any real improvements. In fact, the past couple of decades of neoliberal anti-social engineering have led to a dramatic rundown in social infrastructure.

The hospitals are permanently in crisis, there’s a massive skills shortage because of neglect of the education system, the commuter rail system in Sydney can’t cope with the increase in numbers using it because of the higher price of petrol, and the list could go on.

The fact is, if the government was allowed to go ahead with the electricity privatisation the system would be sold for a pittance, and even then with guarantees that the private buyers would be bailed out by the state in the event of any failures.

The electricity privatisation is just one more attempt to present a great big gift from the people of NSW to some of the most greedy, socially irresponsible and wasteful scoundrels that have ever walked the face of the earth, and the Herald is doing what it has always done in siding with those scoundrels.

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