The labour movement’s about as healthy as its tree
It was a pretty cruel act: killing the Tree of Knowledge at Barcaldine. Take away your own personal political views and the history of the tree itself, but the wanton vandalism of applying poison to a living thing to make a point, is mindless and cruel. Poisoning anything – tree, dog, rat, possum – is cruel and heartless.
Maybe someone wanted to have a secret the rest of the world didn’t have.
Maybe it was someone who’d been groomed and trained to look at Labor election posters as flags of war – things to pull down, throw eggs at, gesticulate at or draw fangs and horns on. Maybe the person who killed the tree was a natural enemy of Labor - the child of a small business owner or a farmer.
But a part of me believes the Tree of Knowledge at Barcaldine was killed by one of their own: someone who knew long before he or she applied the poison that the spirit of the tree had died already. Despite it being a senseless killing (as opposed to those trees which die for the cause of someone’s city or water view) maybe killing the Tree of Knowledge was an act of love gone sour.
Remember what the tree symbolised. Not the birth of the ALP, which was really just a copy of the British Labour Party formed by a group of Fabians. The Tree of Knowledge represented a conscious effort to maintain the egalitarian and peerless or untiered society that was Australia when those people sat under the tree.
They chose that tree because they didn’t have a drawing room or meeting hall to sit in. They were people who wanted to represent the little people, and they were little people themselves. People without money or titles or the connections both bring.
Well, so they say. There’s not much proof of it and it seems that it’s just myth and legend.
And so today is Labor Day in Queensland. The Tree is dead and long live the memorial in Barcaldine, which cost more than four school halls and a tuckshop combined.
Our Premier is overseas, boycotting/avoiding Labor Day, ‘though many of her staff keep saying ‘mayday’, it’s got nothing to do with the public holiday.
I’m not sure taking a first class seat in a plane is in the spirit of the Tree of Knowledge and the monument built to replace it…
Meanwhile back at the hospital, health workers are only two pay cheques away from losing their homes, and that was two weeks ago.
We’ll watch the parade of the Union Movement go down whatever street they’ve got permission to walk down, proudly carrying the signs of their comrades.
The Clerks with their calculators shining in the morning sun, pens clinking in the time honoured tradition; the CFMEU orange shirts blazing in the light; the Teachers Union brandishing signs condemning the latest tests we have to make our kids take to know they’re dumb compared with Finland or Germany.
And the Missos – I never know what to say about the Miscellaneous Workers’ Union except ‘and the missos’.
Afterwards, like war heroes, they’ll stand in pubs around the city, talking about the state of the worker and the sale of public assets.
This is their day. Their one day. On Tuesday, they’ll go straight back to falling in behind Premier Bligh and the rest of the Queensland caucus.
And the person who killed the tree in Barcaldine will smirk.
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