Flat White

Dr Di Natale’s odd prescription for employment

17 March 2017

7:06 AM

17 March 2017

7:06 AM

Richard Di Natale’s inner-city industrial relations thought bubble is precisely the sort of thing you’d expect from a federal Greens Party leader.

It’s precisely the sort of thing you’d expect from a leader of a political party whose only connection to the Australian working class is grounded in ideological paternalism. On one hand advocating hard-Green Left policies for working Australians that promise to utterly destroy their livelihoods while, on the other, proposing ridiculous untenable panaceas like a four-day working week that fundamentally misunderstand what the Australian working class is about.

A four-day working week is, of course, a nice idea. But given working Australians are facing an increasingly casualised economy with less and less secure and technical work, it stretches the limits of basic sanity to assert that in a time where Australian workers are looking for work, working less will fix your problems and make you happier.

It may be the case that the average Greens Party functionary living in the guts of our inner-urban metropolises are able to work from their renovated industrial apartments they share with their professional Q&A watching flatmates perhaps for three of four days a week, but in the real parts of the country this is simply a fiction; a weird and undesirable fiction at that.

Di Natale, to his credit, was at least attempting to reach across the emerging and enlarging industrial-cultural divide that now dominates Australia’s two economies, but like many who live in the information economy blissfully unadulterated by proletarian problems like automation, offshoring and neoliberalism, his prescriptions to fix the problem are simplistic, naïve and sanctimonious.

The recent West Australian election, in which WA Labor secured a victory of historic proportions, was a rejection of Green-Left ideology as much as it was a rejection of neoliberal Right-wing ideology. Australians want governments that look after their own employment opportunities first. They aren’t asking for government paternalism of the Di Natale variety but nor do they want their opportunities destroyed by Turnbull-style economic globalism.

He and his party have spent decades remonstrating the Australian working class for their genuine concerns. Worse still he and his party have been telling us for decades that our real problem is that we’re all bigots or –ists of some description and that our only salvation is self-flagellation. He would use the overweening arm of paternalistic Big Government to force unrealistic solutions on complex problems.

You can see it, too, in the misplaced tut-tutting directed at Coopers for thought crime while attributing no political capital to the real plight of Parmalat workers in their consequential fight with their employer for real working conditions.

As for the policy itself, it is highly unlikely that a four-day work week would result in equal or higher incomes. If you’re concerned about job security and paying bills that only ever seem to go up, Di Natale has nothing for you but empty platitudes about being ‘happier’. There is arrogance in these words just as there is when Liberal politicians tell us we should just be ‘richer’.

The Australian working class have a pride that the Greens Party refuse to see and a better work ethic than the Liberals pretend.

And so far as Richard Di Natale goes, if he wants to do his bit for Australian industrial relations, he could start by writing a cheque in back-pay for his au pair.

Mitchell Goff is a trade unionist and member of the Australian Labor Party

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