Amidst the industrial carnage wrought by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce last week was a brief glimpse of what survival for the Gillard Government might look like.
It would start with a corporate leader arrogantly putting his commercial interests ahead of the national interest, to the cheers of his fellow CEOs.
It would move into a debate about whether loyal Australian workers had a right to expect any sort of say in the way their workplace was run; or whether they should be forced to cop whatever the latest management team cooked up.
It would give voice to the federal front bench, for once united on a matter of principle they truly believed in, providing a platform to speak up for the values of their movement.
And it would end with the Federal Opposition, stripped of any pretence of policy, in a tangle over the WorkChoices bogey, simply barracking for the big end of town because that is what they are conditioned to do.
Every decent industrial dispute needs a villain, but it seems Qantas CEO Alan Joyce’s efforts to cast unions as corporate wreckers are backfiring badly.
With 30,000 workers, 11 unions, an iconic red and white kangaroo and the perennial headline-grabbers of aircraft safety, Aussie jobs and stranded holidaymakers, occasional high-profile industrial disputes are a fact of life at Qantas.
The airline has traditionally responded to union campaigning with a straight bat – make any claim and the airline would shut the issue down, convinced that responding would only inflame the situation.
But managing his first showdown, Joyce has opted for beat-up over hose-down. He’s grabbed the microphone off the unions, cranked up the amp and is ripping through his song-list at high volume – “A new spirit of Australia”, is followed by “Qantas pilots are greedy” with an encore of “I’m a really nice person and they’re trying to kill me”.
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