Can anyone help me out? I’m looking for the fat bloke in braces who was meant to be running the country after Labor got elected.

Well they are pretty scary looking

Surely you’ve seen him, the Union Boss who was meant to be terrorising the nation’s taffeta dress shops. Maybe he is hiding in an ante-room off the PM’s office.

There’s nothing like a healthy dose of reality to blunt most political scare campaigns, but even by the Punch’s Scary Creatures Benchmark (PSCB*), the Liberals effort at the least election was up the with the best of them.

First a little modern history: the Union Bosses campaign was constructed through polling conducted by Lib spin-meister’s Crosby-Textor to give the business community something to run in support of WorkChoices.

Supporting WorkChoices was a little bit like endorsing childhood cancer, so instead the plan was to attack the ‘Union bosses’ who represented the people who would benefit from the laws being repealed.  The employers unveiled a series of comical TV and newspaper ads, featuring surly fat men walking into dress shops and sneering.

The employer campaign was closely aligned with the Liberal Party’s political strategy (penned by the same masterminds), which had determined that monstering unions was the only way that could bring their shaky base back into the fold.

The Coalition front-bench invoked the mantra of ‘Union Bosses’, Labor figures like Julia Gillard were targeted for their union background and a vaguely Cold War-style frenzy was whipped up about a Left-ist takeover of Australia.

The mainstream media was doing their part too – with a series of front-page stories placed by government sources designed to ‘prove’ the assertion of a pending workers revolution.

First there was Dean Mighell caught on tape swearing and talking up a pay rise, then there was Joe McDonald videoed throwing his weight around on an unsafe building sites; then there was the then Unions NSW secretary John Robertson secretly recorded having a spray at a public meeting,

At this point the ALP weighed in and gave the scare campaign further credence – Kevin Rudd demanding the resignation of Mighell from the Party, the expulsion of MacDonald and a verbal bitch-slap of Robbo. It sent the Libs the message ‘I’m scared’ – and gave them reason to keep saying boo!

The only people who didn’t buy the scare campaign were the general public. Monitoring to their reaction to the attack during the campaign, we found most voters just didn’t believe unions carried that sort of weight anymore. That said, the Liberal heartland did return in the last weeks of the campaign; but in terms of saving the government, it went the way of most scare campaigns.

Now to the Punch’s Scary Creatures Benchmark (PSCB)* :

Union Bosses met the following criteria:
- it was promoted by multiple sources;
- the media gave it credence
- and the target gave it credibility.
On the downside: the public didn’t buy it
All things considered I’d give it a Rating of 6.5

So how does it rate against other great Scare Campaigns?

PSCB = 10 - Reds under the Beds: (Liberals 1954) – Menzies masterful manipulation of anti-Communism fear, saw the expoulsion of the Petrovs and links between the Soviet Embassy and Labor staffers, rendering Doc Evatt political road-kill. Created a political schism that tiook another 18 years to heal.

PSCB = 3 - Put Your Money Under the Beds: (Liberals 18983) – Malcolm Fraser tried to hold on to power by involving the Whitlam era and warning that national savings would be put at risk under Labor. Hawke’s response – you can’t put your money under the bed because there are too many Commies there.

PSCB = 2.5 - The Answer is Liberal (Liberals 1990) – the only scare campaign that a political party has run against itself. Gave rise to the legendary response; ‘Then it must have been a bloody silly question’

PSCB = Zero - A Vote for John Howard is a Vote for Peter Costello – (Labor 2001 and 2004) – never credible, was never going to happen.

PSCB= 9.5 - We decide Who Comes into This Country (Liberals 2001) – perfect storm of economic insecurity, refugees and September 11

PSCB = 8.0 - GST 1:  Labor 1993 – Liberals will introduce a GST – worked – even though it had been a Keating policy.

PSCB = 3.5 - GST 2: Labor 1998 – Liberals will introduce a GST – didn’t work – even though they did. Proof that a scare can work only once,.
PSCB = 8.5 - L-Plate Latham: (Liberals 2004) – The Government implied Labor was led by a mad man who could not be trusted with running the country. Enough said, really.

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    • TY says:

      05:07am | 13/10/09

      Well maybe it was just a scare campaign at the Federal level but in NSW the union bosses (Robertson and Riordan)  have clearly taken over and are running the government - and look at the fine mess they’ve made. They make that O’Farrell led Coalition (in reality controlled by shadowy figures like David Clarke) look an attractive prospect.

    • WHR says:

      05:39am | 13/10/09

      The invasion of scary union overlords does not look like the picture you posted, it comes in a different form, a form which is much more insidious and difficult to spot (except in hindsight).

      It was the unions who kept inflation high between the early 80s recession and the early 90s recession, keeping interest rates sky high for all of that time. It was the unions who resulted in the 100,000 “dead men”, 100,000 jobs metal trade and manufacturing jobs lost overseas after ridiculous wage negotiations in a recession resulted in a economy wide wages breakout. Because of the actions of the unions, these jobs and more went overseas and never returned.

      It is the unions who provoked intense rounds of lay-offs in the early 80s and early 90s recessions, in a less liberalised labour market than now. Unemployment shot up and did not return to an acceptable level until the start of the early 90s recession in which the cycle repeated.

      Nothing against the Labor Party, but funnily enough at the Federal level they needed a leader absent from the rough and tumble of unionism to win. Kevin Rudd has no moral ties to the unions, apart from his colleges. I truly hope Rudd has the power to reform the Labor Party and by osmosis perhaps, the labour union organisation in Australia. A rationalisation of their role when 20% of people are unionised is likely (and has been happening).

    • Geoff says:

      05:41am | 13/10/09

      They’re still concentrating on destroying NSW… once they’re done here, they’ll probably move on to a bigger and juicier target.

    • westie says:

      06:39am | 13/10/09

      Yes, the union bosses running things badly and screwing all of us are not hard to find.

      They’re called the NSW government.

    • Front Row says:

      07:01am | 13/10/09

      Peter Lewis wrote this? Same Peter Lewis that does the unions PR?
      Now I’m scared.
      Got your MEAA ticket, Pete?

    • Pete from Sydney says:

      07:17am | 13/10/09

      good you Geoff….a true believer son…not the years of dodgy corrupt labour (and liberal) governments have done the damage, it’s actually the trade union movement that’s destroyed NSW…well there you go.

    • Eric says:

      07:27am | 13/10/09

      I’m sure the union bosses would be pretty bad, but they’ve got a problem.

      The workers are voting with their feet, and leaving unions in droves. The generals don’t have enough soldiers left to cause too much trouble.

    • Jim says:

      07:31am | 13/10/09

      Everybody should know by now that union overlords look like everybody else as they walk through airport terminals - they’re claen shaven, wear suits, fly business class, speak reasonably good English…

    • La la land says:

      07:38am | 13/10/09

      Peter, it is one thing for people to think you to be a dill and another to go into print and leave no doubt.
      Have a look at the statistics in Victoria. The building industry is having massive issues at numerous sites. No ticket, no start is enforced by the Brumby Govt in every contract it signs or where it overrules for planning. Unions have caved in at every wage negotiation involving nurses, police, paramedics yet on every site involving private enterprise and state government contracts the unions rule and the price is simply escalated to absorb every request from CFMEU & ETU (that is why there is little noise, there is no push back on cost as the taxpayer eventually pays through increased charges). Take for example the Desal site minimum wage $120k plus $30k bonuses for a 36hr week, Westgate Bridge where threats and violence were everywhere, following workers home, sideswiping cars on the freeway and on it goes. The cost blow outs have been huge on every Vic Govt project underpinned by time delays.

    • berets says:

      07:39am | 13/10/09

      No corruption in the unions,small fat labourers own hotel opposite bikie compound,nah, no corruption,dont be silly

    • Michael says:

      07:48am | 13/10/09

      PSCB: The ACTU launches a scare campaign for single working mothers who want to spend a day with their children only to be told by the “employer overlord” that they have to come into work or be fired.  I hope they have enough cash reserves to launch the next campaign protecting their increasing irrelevance.

    • Stephen says:

      07:57am | 13/10/09

      This article is simply to innoculate public debate on the issue.  Peter raises the union intimidation controversy now before the union power really gets out of hand, so that when it does, the circus show that is media debate has moved on and it is not newsworthy.

      Use (and mis-use) of any new power always slowly expands until it reaches the limit of the law and public opinion to contrain it.  Doesn’t matter if it is cops or unions or public servants.

    • Jonathan Appleyard says:

      08:02am | 13/10/09

      The unions are running the show in NSW. They (and Joe Tripodi) gave us Nathan Rees.

    • Pete from Sydney says:

      08:04am | 13/10/09

      Nice work La la Land…a bunch of union bashing stats you’ve pulled out of thin air, where did you source that from, the Liberal party web site? The same source as the children overboard affair?  It’s a typical response to insult, then throw up a grab bag of nonsensical half-truths based on the theory that no will challenge…

      If I were you mate, I’d think twice about about calling people dills, have a look in the mirror son.

    • ABC says:

      08:22am | 13/10/09

      How many members of the current Federal government were either union heads or union organisers?  We don’t need beer gutted morons waving the Southern Cross as a representation of union influence, its right there in the nearly 75% of the current crop of Federal Labor parliamentarians.  Years of working their way up through the union movement with the view of scoring a cushy seat based on nothing more than a reward for years of ‘service’ to the Party through the unions says all we need to know about the rampant influence of the unions in Federal politics.

    • jimmy says:

      08:27am | 13/10/09

      Peter, nice try at softening up just as Gillard’s IR laws get phased in over the next few years. Even Hawke and Keating told you to F—K off.. it’s gotta hurt after 25years I’m sure.
      Seriously though, what’ll come next, the claim that it is actually unions keeping house prices up because they contribute to the supply shortage?

    • Zeta says:

      08:46am | 13/10/09

      Normally, I’d take Lewis to task on his obvious anti-Liberal bias, given that EMC is to Labor as Crosby-Textor is to the Lib/Nats. But Nedahl Stelio’s article on the future of fashion is actually more relevant to my interests this morning. Good say sir.

    • Peter Lewis says:

      08:49am | 13/10/09

      Still waiting for someone to give me an example of how the union bosses are running the show ... come on guys, you can do better than this.

    • Pete from Sydney says:

      08:49am | 13/10/09

      ABC, and the Liberal party’s made up of ex-lawyers and party sycophants, who’ve also been rewarded with parliamentary gigs after years of medicore service.
      You blokes can’t get over the fact that Labour won the last election, and are going to sh*t the next one in can you?

    • Kurisu Sonsaku says:

      09:08am | 13/10/09

      @ Pete from Sydney, Poor attempt at rebuttal. To find La La Lands assertions try going to the ABCC website and google through the Melbourne papers the west gate project was all over the media down south, i’ll add to it with two CFMEU organisers arrested at a Dandenong building site last week.

    • Fat Unionist says:

      09:20am | 13/10/09

      Come on!They’re pussy cats! And it got rid of Little Johnny didn’t it?

    • Yon Toad says:

      09:34am | 13/10/09

      These 2 old fat fellas are about as scary as my old granny. it’s the fact that one of em is foolish enough to wear a tshirt glorifying a murderous communist bastard that is cause for concern. Is the other porker his carer?

    • Ben says:

      09:50am | 13/10/09

      Peter the thing I like about you is that I suspect you enjoy provoking this sort of reaction. On the other hand the saying ‘don’t come the raw prawn with us’ could have been invented for your piece today.
      1. As someone has already pointed out, having a dip at Crosby Textor is a bit rich when you are a Director at EMC.
      2. One the of the unionists in the photo published with your piece is Kevin Reynolds State Secretary of the CFMEU WA Branch. The tag ‘union thug’ could have been invented for him. He is on the record singing the praises of Norm Gallagher and Brian Burke for saving the the remnants of the refugees from the BLF in Victoria when it was deregistered!  He may not be running the country but he’d like to. He is the one who compared a demarcation dispute with the AWU to rape.
      3. The Fair Work Act ushers back into vogue the demarcation dispute itself - where a union like the CFEMU which doesn’t have majority representation in a workplace can barge in by saying that workers on that site might do things that the CFMEU might cover.
      4. The CFMEU held up work on fences being built try and prevent suicides on the Westgate Bridge in Melbourne and on the Royal Children’s Hospital site - because they are nice guys who we shouldn’t worried about????
      5. If some union leaders, particularly in the building industry are not out to exert undue influence then why has the Rudd Government retained the Australian Building and Construction Commission? Why is the Deputy PM on the record as saying she will come down like a tonne of bricks on rogue unionists? Why if there is nothing to worry about?
      6. Even if the legislation phasing out the ABCC is passed, then the ABCC inspectorate gets run out the Fair Work Ombudsman and is in effect still retained in some form. If unions are nothing to worry about why has a Labor Government got a Fair Work Ombudsman at all Peter? Why didn’t they get rid of it when they abolished the Workplace Authority? If unions are so wonderful why did Labor keep an independent workplace regulator? Why not let the unions do it?
      7. In the lead up to the 2007 there was polling that showed the public was concerned about union power - they didn’t like the abolition of the No Disadvantage Test, they didn’t like duress to sign AWAs but they didn’t want Kevin Reynolds stampeding through their workplace which is exactly why the Rudd Government has kept parts of the Howard Govt’s industrial relations infrastructure.
      8. Why do make of the way the Deputy PM was treated at the recent ACTU Congress - was that not an attempt to monster the Government?

      The reality is that people were and are concerned about union power which is why the Rudd Government has behaved as it has since the 2007 poll. The Libs scare campaign was ham-fisted and we all know it was definitely ‘Its time’ for Howard as far as everyone was concerned. Gillard is doing a great job of keeping the unions under control but don’t pretend there is or was nothing to worry about.

    • Daisy Duke says:

      10:15am | 13/10/09

      Zeta - you can pick up some harem pants at any Supre outlet.
      But, please, don’t go in and ask for “male’ pants. They are unisex. I’d hate for you to be feel embarrassed at such a small fashion faux pas.
      Good luck to you.
      May your summer be cool and breezy.

    • Sparrow says:

      10:25am | 13/10/09

      Ah…Joe McDonald…My father hung that low life over an open lift well when he made all sorts of threats on a building site… the true coward he was he wet his pants and started balling his eyes out then ran off yelling all sorts of threats…....Peter, my father had to carry a sawn off shotgun and .38 pistol it his work truck because of union thugs and the cowards got the message…....No unions….Happy worksite…...

    • Zeta says:

      10:56am | 13/10/09

      @ Daisy Duke - I think you’re in the wrong thread, but thank’s regardless. Now if I can find a pair of those ‘No ticket, No start’ braces I’m laughing.

      But srsly, the problem with the anti-Union campaign is that it targeted the Joe McDonald’s of the world. They’re like a force of nature, and they appeal to the larrikin spirit of even the most blue blooded tory.

      The real union overlords wear snappy buisness suits and don’t look out of place in a board room. They’re the Luke Foleys, the John Robertsons, and they’re appearing in our Parliaments too. Their influence is insidious because they eventually become the Labor Party. Like the way HIV eventually becomes AIDS. Lewis’ baiting of the commentary reflects the smug pride the Labour Movement has in their manipulation of Labor politics.

      Even without the smoking gun (or the tapes from the smokey rooms), there is still the unanswered question of money. The Unions donate huge sums to the Labor Party. They campaign in support of them. When that support is withdrawn, so too does the Labor Party’s chances of winning an election diminish. That’s ultimate power. They decide wether or not Labor wins.

    • AJ says:

      11:16am | 13/10/09

      For all the criticisms of the CFMEU, ETU, AWU et al, and they’re probably valid ones, there’s one inescapable fact that makes it hard to argue against union presence.

      Less people die at work on union worksites.

      Unless there’s a meaningful way for workers to keep their employers to task on adequate (not minimum) safety standards, those standards slip, and people die.

      But it’s probably valid to say that the union movement could do without the thugs.

    • DJG says:

      11:19am | 13/10/09

      Sparrow, is your father out of Jail yet?

    • ABC says:

      12:08pm | 13/10/09


      First up. I’m a woman.  Secondly, I have worked at a high level in Ministerial offices as a public servant for both labour and liberal ministers.  I have an extensive level of experience in dealing with the internal party machinations of both sides of politics.  Contrary to your opinon, the overwhelming predominance and role of the union movement in both pre-selections and in the backgrounds of those appointed to ministerial staff positions dramatically overshadows that of the Liberals.  You will find that a majority of Liberal MP’s have had a working life removed from the Liberal party.  The odd Liberal staffer who ends up an MP is nothing compared to the percentage of unionists and labour staffers who go on to Parliament.

    • Sparrow says:

      12:13pm | 13/10/09

      No DJG….He has never been in Jail and has never been harrased by Union thugs in his 45 years of working in the construction game…..But he saw others on the receiving end of union kindness…..A worker kicked down a stairwell with a broken leg….Another with an arm broken for what…...for not wanting to join the union..

      DJG….My father will retire in peace as a well respected man…...You have a splendid day.

    • stephen says:

      12:30pm | 13/10/09

      These two look like they’ve been eating all their profits, and I expect there saving for their own medical expenses. (What about fat unionists, or is it only skinny girls who cop it today.)

    • H says:

      12:56pm | 13/10/09

      I reckon you ought to take marks off for the Union bosses campaign, although it may have resounded with the Coalitions core vote - it alienated the swing vote needed to win an election. It would have lost many swing votes by legitimising the your rights at work campaign so 6.5 is a high mark for a campaign that probably lost as many votes as it won.

      Fact is not many Aussies are scared about Union reps coming into their office and demanding that the boss lets you take the annual leave you have earned while negotiating a pay rise for you….it just doesn’t upset the majority.

    • DJG says:

      01:18pm | 13/10/09

      Sparrow, your father was never harrased in 45 years in the building game, yet hangs a Union Official over a liftwell. I am getting confused, who are the thugs here? Is your story true? I have heard, of Builders threatening Union Officials with firearms. Was your father one of those fellows.? He is very lucky not to have gone to jail if he engaged in the kind of behaivour you wrote about in your first post. Still they say it is a robust industry.

    • Chris Grealy says:

      02:25pm | 13/10/09

      It’s been evident for a long while now that the only campaign the Libs can run is a scare campaign. Sadly for them, all the old saws are past their use-by date. They’ll have to come up with a whole new raft of lies for the next election. That’s not the hard part - the hard part is getting the conservative parties to agree on the public lines.

    • bella starkey says:

      03:53pm | 13/10/09

      Sparrow your dad must be like the strongest dad in the world to hold that fatty-fat-fattso up by his feets.

    • Anzac says:

      04:11pm | 13/10/09

      Unlike the majority of people commenting here I am actually a member of the CFMEU here in WA. I can tell all those ill informed tools, probably sitting at their desk, slagging off at unions that there is a reason why Kevin Reynolds and Joe mcDonald are constantly re-elected to their positions and that is because they look after their members. Those of us who work in an industry where there has been at least 5 deaths in the last 18 months appreciate the union and their tactics. It probably doesnt concern those whose only danger at work is the occasional paper cut or spilt coffee!  I also want to call out that gutless commentator ‘Sparrow” I suspect you are just a gutless liar but if not I would like to see your old man try that tactic on any site here in perth now He would cop a deserved flogging, must be an absolute coward if he needed to carry a gun to work. Good to see he made it to a healthy retirement though, unlike too many of my collegues who left their families for work one morning, never to return home.

    • Anzac says:

      04:13pm | 13/10/09

      Hey Ben (10;50am) ever been on a building site mate? Or do you sit comfortably behind a desk slagging off the true workers?

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      04:18pm | 13/10/09

      Labor has its Unions and Liberals have their Employers groups. Seems pretty fair and even to me. BTW if the union overlords can run this country, good on them, because the Labor Party and Liberal Party sure as hell can’t.

    • Bruce says:

      04:37pm | 13/10/09

      It will not be long before they raise their heads, unions are like spiders, just waiting to pounce. The moment the country returns to profitability, the ambit claims will come flying through. Where’s my iced vo vo???

    • Sparrow says:

      04:51pm | 13/10/09

      Call me what you want “Anzac”.....I think that the diggers would be rolling in their grave at the pathetic use of their hard won name by the likes of you .....the fact is Joe and his bludging crowd were cowardly thugs in their day who turned to water when confronted by hard men….Yes it is cowardly to protect yourself with a gun from up to 5 thugs who make threats to break your legs for not wanting to be part of the union… i said they turned to water pretty quick..

      Bella starkey, Joe was not that fat when he started out as a Union rep when my father confronted him but you can see what living off the the back of the worker has done for him over the years.

    • ed says:

      05:03pm | 13/10/09

      If the Australian electorate had wanted little johnny jackboots to achieve his lifelong goal of destroying the union movement they would have returned him to power in 2007.  We want the freedom to choose. Unions may not have the membership numbers they did 40 years ago but they are still relevant, as other posts have pointed out, in the areas of safety and individual rights.
      There are many employers out there who take their reponsibilities serioously in regard to safety and conditions but the few who dont need to be exposed and made to comply.

    • Joe says:

      05:38pm | 13/10/09

      Just take a look in QLD today where they are paying Bernie Frazer $2700 a day of tax payers money to sort out the lovers tiff between Labor and the unions over Labor selling off half the state.

    • Anzac says:

      05:40pm | 13/10/09

      Hey sparrow, my real name is actually Anzac, probably due to the fact my mother is australian and my father is a kiwi, that and my families long tradition of military service. It is my real name and i wont write here under a fake name to make you feel better! Is your real name sparrow? Doubt it. My name is Anzac Martyn, a real name mate. I dont hide behind a gutless pseudonym, unlike your good self it would seem? 

    • Sparrow says:

      06:21pm | 13/10/09

      Ancac, you sound more like a Union official than a “fair dinkim salt of the earth worker” as you make yourself out to be….your above posts sound like the are out of the Union playbook old son, Do you write the adds ......As for your cheapshots at office workers….not being real workers…..sounds like your in an office yourself at the moment tapping away on your computer instead of swinging a hammer…..

      So your names Anzac….Good for you….I’m Sean Patrick O’Mara… over here on the east coast .....Nice to meet you….

      Anzacs….Now there are some HARD workers who really don’t know if they are going to make it through the day…...or go talk to some coppers .....all hard workers who don’t have anywhere the level of Union protection that you have and certainly don’t have a political party backing them to boot.

      I’m lucky Anzac that my time in the industry has been safe from Union intimidation and i have not had to see the bullshit my father had to go through….Like i said he matched intimidation with intimidation and he won out and a lot of workers on his sites were grateful for it…...If this rubs your Unionised,No ticket,No Start, Down with the Scabs” nose the wrong way then so be it…....By the way i am no disgruntled Liberal voter as one as my grandfathers was a warfie and the other was a painter and docker…..Its just that we as a family don’t go for that Union and Labor “looking after working familys crap”....

      P.s I can give you my Lic number and full military records of my family that dates back to Sudan if it makes me look like a “Strewth, Bloody bloods worth bottleing real Worker” if it makes you happy.

    • Chris says:

      07:46pm | 13/10/09

      I reckon Anzac is making a lot of sense. Not only is he putting his name to it, he is talking about what he has done, not some folksy hand me down story of what his brave father tells his little birdy he did with a gun at his side. The reality is that Kevin and Joe recently had thousands of people vote them back in to office in an election.And you little birdy? Ever stood for anything? Ever been successful. Or is Dad the doer in your family?

    • Voxpop says:

      06:22am | 14/10/09

      I’ve never worked in a unionised job but I am grateful to the Unions of the past that got better working conditions and pay structures first for their members but that filtered through for all.  I think quite a lot of people forget that the Unions were the ones that fought for the rights of workers to be treated fairly, penalty rates, conditions and safety at work etc.
      I can tell Anzac speaks from the heart and is credible but Sparrow I’m not sure about - it’s fair to say that you look up to your dad and have grown up hearing these stories but why was he so hell bent on keeping the Union out?  Was he paying his workers appropriately?  Was he providing a safe environment to work in?  Did he retain his workers?

    • DJG says:

      10:29am | 14/10/09

      Nice to see Sparrow being picked up for the absolute rubbish he contributed to this blog. I note he failed to refute my observation that if the tale about his daddy was true, his pop should have seen some jail time. It is simply bizzare that he calls Unionists thugs, whilst bragging about his gun toting, union bashing father.

    • Lech Jones says:

      11:57am | 14/10/09

      And who caused this Global Financial Crisis? Not the Unions but all the suits at the top of the foodchain. And who are still getting away with it - the suits at the top of the food chain.They did not lose thier jobs or their fat bonuses. It is so easy to blame the Unions, I don’t.Unions forever!


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