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Tenth Anniversary of the Patrick Stevedores Dispute
April 6, 2008 4:56 PM   Subscribe

Australian dock workers will stop work for a minute today to remember the Patrick stevedores dispute, an industrial dispute that involved the stevedoring corporation Patricks, the Howard government and the Maritime Union of Australia. A landmark event in Australian political and legal history, the dispute saw dock workers stand "in the first line against the Howard government and the Patrick corporation that was seeking to remove their legal rights, their right to go to work [and] the right to collective bargaining." In its wake, the event generated debate about the role of unions in Australia, an alleged conspiracy between Patricks and the former Howard Government and even spawned a controversial TV mini-series, Bastard Boys. For more history and analysis of the dispute, you can read about it from the view of the MUA or this account but for the definitive analysis see here.
posted by Effigy2000 (12 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ah, Bastard Boys - getting to watch Rhys Muldoon as Julian Burnside was the highlight of my viewing year. Having met the wonderful Mr Burnside, can I say he is nothing like Rhys.
(Note: sorry if you have never watched the Australian Play School, as references to Rhys will probably mean nothing to you.)

Unfortunately, I don't think the Patrick Stevedores Dispute shook up the Australian population as much as it should have. And the fact that Peter Reith still has a career, and is not sitting in jail, shows it.
posted by Megami at 5:06 PM on April 6, 2008


The keys to revealing what went on are the ACIL and Webster reports. Those would be excellent material for Wikileaks. :)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:32 PM on April 6, 2008


Heh, I was thinking that exact thing, aeschenkarnos.
posted by Jimbob at 5:58 PM on April 6, 2008


And the fact that Peter Reith still has a career, and is not sitting in jail, shows it.

Rudd's comments on the republic over the weekend reminded me as to what an absolute turd sandwich Reith actually was/is. His role as Howard's chief spoiler during the republic referendum was shameful.

Reith's son did Australia a great service, and for that we should be grateful.
posted by mattoxic at 6:16 PM on April 6, 2008


Australian dock workers will stop work for a minute today

fucked that up for you.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:06 PM on April 6, 2008


It's easy to be sympathetic to the MUA's cause 10 years on due to the government and Patrick's bungled handling of the situation. Not to mention, the battle was staged as government/corporation vs the downtrodden worker, so it's unsurprising that the unions captured a lot of the public support.

The context behind the government/Patrick's actions does need to be considered though. There had been previous attempts to improve the efficiency at the major ports in Australia under different governments, with little result. The users of Patrick Stevedores (shipping companies, importers/exporters) were generally frustrated at the poor speed and high cost they had to operate with, as it was having a big impact on their businesses. Patrick Stevedores itself was operating at a yearly loss to the tune of $8 million a year. The fact that the National Farmers Federation attempted to create their own stevedoring operation is evidence enough that there were big issues with the service being provided at the wharfs and that some sort of dramatic reform was needed. One that would have an impact, unlike previous attempts.

Patrick's solution to restructure and make insolvent the company the MUA workers were employed under was insidious at best, and the government clearly had strong involvement (as their attempts to redefine industrial relations in Australia in later years have shown). The MUA were no saints either though, they just did a far superior job in manipulating public opinion.
posted by keej at 8:34 PM on April 6, 2008


Speaking as a union member, I gotta say that the MUA were/are a corrupt bunch of thugs that make us all poorer. Which is not to defend the Howard Government's actions in any way.

or what keej said.
posted by wilful at 10:19 PM on April 6, 2008


Out of curiosity, what union represents ecologists, wilful?
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:46 PM on April 6, 2008


Me and mine - the CPSU. Others - the academics union (whose name escapes me at this point in time).
posted by wilful at 11:04 PM on April 6, 2008


A US financial services firm has honoured John Howard with a $US50,000 ($A54,300) award, citing Australia's economic strength during his time as prime minister.

In presenting Mr Howard its Common Wealth Award for Government, the PNC Financial Services Group also praised his workplace reforms, which have since been undone by the Rudd government.

[...]

In 29 years, 165 recipients in seven fields have included former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger

posted by UbuRoivas at 11:17 PM on April 6, 2008


That's really just quite bizarre. it might be the done thing in the US. For me it smacks of open corruption. Do these people understand the concept of democracy? But maybe I'm misunderstanding it.
posted by wilful at 11:31 PM on April 6, 2008


Others - the academics union (whose name escapes me at this point in time).

The NTEU.

The MUA's tribulations in attempting to obtain the Webster and ACIL reports are just another reminder of how lousy the state of FOI is in Australia.
posted by zamboni at 10:13 AM on April 7, 2008


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