Tuesday June 27, 2017
06
May

Qld Labour Day


Written by David Marler
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Labour Day - Tree Of Knowledge

The Queensland Government under Premier Campbell Newman has moved the traditional Labour Day public holiday from May to October in line with other states and territories.

 

Why is the day so important to Queensland workers, unions and the ALP?

 

QldLabourDayHughendenSmTHE BARCALDINE, QUEENSLAND 1891. Central Queensland is on the brink of civil war. It is the time of the 'Shearers Strike'; the age old dispute between union and non-union labour flourishes.

It results in a wool export shut down. At this time in Australia's history, wool is the mainstay of the economy. The shearers with their wharfy union comrades at Rockhampton, are refusing to ship non-union cut wool out of the port.

The landowners have formed the Pastoralists’ Federal Council to counter the impact of the unions. The strike lasts from February until May of that year before the unionists begin to run out of food and supplies in their strike camps.

What seems like a monumental failure gives rise to a new movement. In Barcaldine, under a corymbia aparrerinja ghost gum shearers have met to plan their strategy. As the strike action crumbles, they elect a leader. His name is Tommy Ryan. He is the first Australian Labor Party (ALP) candidate in history.

However, there is no heroic rise to power by Tommy Ryan. That is left to another Ryan, Thomas Joseph who will become Premier of Queensland, 24 years later.

The final days of the strike action culminate in the worldwide march on May Day, for the 8 hour working day.  This day is called "Labour Day" and a public holiday is later granted. In Queensland and the Northern Territory, it remains as the first Monday in May and is generally celebrated with city marches throughout the state and territory.

The rest of Australia ultimately chooses different months to mark the occasion.


It is here, that the ALP has quite literally been founded above the roots of this tree which is dubbed; The Tree of Knowledge. In 1991 it suffers from dieback but survives until 2006 when it is suspiciously poisoned with glyphosate, an ingredient of the herbicide, Round Up.

The remains are removed and preserved. Clones are successfully grown and Prime Minister Julia Gillard plants one of these in Canberra at the National Arboretum in 2011.

 

121 years after the Barcaldine march, the new Liberal National Party's (LNP) thirty year old Attorney-General, Jarrod Bleijie has stood to present to the Queensland Parliament the The Holidays and Other Legislation Amendment Bill.

This is the second and final reading of October 30, 2012 and one of the objectives will be to move the May Labour Day holiday to October, in line with NSW, ACT and South Australia.

 

Bleijie informs the house that this will, "have a more even split of public holidays throughout the year."

He dismisses the parliamentary committee recommendation that the change be applied from 2014 onward to allow more time for planned long weekend events to be re-arranged.

The changes will be enforced from 2013. The long line of Queensland May Labour Day tradition is severed. In modern day Barcaldine, the regular 'Tree of Knowledge' Festival will have to go ahead without the long weekend holiday.

The Leader of the Opposition, Annastacia Palaszczuk rises to oppose the bill which will spark a heated exchange across the floor. Ghosts of battles long past seemingly haunt the chamber.

"This bill is another example of the LNP government’s obsession with attacking working Queenslanders," Palaszczuk begins. "It is a sad indictment that the LNP government would come into this House and attack a public holiday that has been commemorated in May by Queenslanders since 1891, and declared a public holiday by the Queensland parliament in 1901. It has been celebrated in May in Queensland since that time."

She continues with a challenge to Premier Campbell Newman.

Tree Of Knowledge Plaque"What are some of the issues that Labour Day represents? What are the advancements that the Premier has such disdain for? I will list just a few. Some are: the eight-hour day; the right to negotiate as a group rather than be left out on one’s own; basic and fundamental workplace health and safety; the 2192 Holidays and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 30 Oct 2012 minimum wage—the living wage as it became known; and the basic notion that men and women deserve a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. I think it is telling that the LNP has such little respect for the public holiday that represents these important milestones in Queensland’s history and its core elements which have become the fabric of our society."

She continues to make her point with Government interjections growing louder until Bleijie calls out.

"Joe Blow wouldn’t even know what May Day is. They just like the public holiday."

Turning to Madam Deputy Speaker, Palaszczuk says, "I was completely silent during the Attorney-General’s speech."

Bleijie pipes up with, "I wish you weren’t."

Order is called in the house as Palaszczuk continues citing union submissions for the day to remain in May. Government members interject further saying that union membership is falling.

Defiantly, Palaszczuk declares, "Let me make it very clear to this House: the union movement, the Labor Party, the members of the opposition here will be marching in May. We will continue to march in May. We will not march in October. We will honour Queensland’s history and we will march in May. We will be there in May. In force we will be there."

The House erupts with Bleijie stating, "Well it’s a Sunday. They won’t be getting paid, so that’s fine. They can march in October."

"Let’s just call what the Attorney-General just said—‘It’s okay to march on a Sunday; that’s fine because they won’t be paid’? Palaszczuk responds.

"Absolutely. They can march every day of the week."

"You’re a disgrace."

"As long as they have leave from their employer."

"You’re an absolute disgrace."

"I’m giving them October to march and they will get paid in October to march and they will march in October," states Bleijie.

"You are arrogant and you are a disgrace," replies Palaszczuk.

She continues speaking over constant interjections, citing government reports and petitions to keep the day in May.

"In conclusion, and as I said in my speech, the labour movement and people in Queensland will continue to March in May. We will not be marching in October. We will only be marching in May and we should leave the holiday here in May. When a Labor government returns to this place, Labour Day will be restored to its rightful place. I urge the House to oppose the bill."

Ray Hopper, the MP for Condamine and chair of the committee that recommended changes makes a "people will soon get used to it" speech.

The ALP MP for South Brisbane, Jackie Trad rises to oppose the bill.

"The Newman government’s decision to move Labour Day to October is an ideological attack—pure and simple. It is an attack on Queensland workers and it is one of many attacks that have been focused on Queensland workers since this LNP government came to power."

She launches a fiery attack on the Newman Government's record of industrial relations and anti-strike legislation, before she is interrupted by Bleijie.

"Ninety-five per cent of teachers signed up to it. Ninety-five per cent of teachers voted yes, no strike."

Trad responds, "I will take that interjection from the Attorney-General because finally the government actually conceded to some of the demands of the Queensland Teachers Union. If the government had not entered into negotiations with the Queensland Teachers Union they would not—"

Bleijie yells, "No strike under the Labor Party! No strike for us!"

Once A Bolshevik"Yes, I know, and that is the point. The point is that the organisation of trade unions has come to the table and provided—"

Order is called as Government members interject again.

Trad resumes and makes reference to the benefits trade unions have brought to the modern worker.

Bleijie calls out, "You can’t talk about superannuation. You don’t believe in independent retirees. Everyone should be on the dole!"

Madam Deputy Speaker demands, "Order! Attorney-General! I call the member for South Brisbane."

Trad will not let his one go.

"It behoves the Attorney-General to actually embrace a level of maturity that should accompany his position as the chief law officer of this state instead of pretending that he is still at the school council in his home—"

"I am just setting the facts straight."

Palaszczuk comments to Bleijie, "You know what they say about you down the courts."

"I know what they say about you down the courts and the seven of you opposite."

Madam Deputy Speaker attempts to regain control, "Attorney-General—"

Bleijie makes a reference to the previous ALP government AG, "Bring back Cameron Dick!"

Trad answers, "Why, when there are so many in this House?" askes Trad.

"Seven?" Bleijie responds, smugly, making reference to the 7 ALP members.

"Dicks."

"I ask you to withdraw that," instructs Madam Deputy Speaker.

Trad complies, "I withdraw that."

Trad is allowed to finish her statement.

Another rookie government MP, Verity Barton stands to support the bill and gives a "a petty argument" speech to the historical significance of May Labour Day.

Qld Labour Day: 'May day stays in bloody May'As she speaks, the barbs between Trad and Bleijie continue but are not recorded in Hansard.

However, Fairfax journalist, Daniel Hurst is there to capture and tweet the exchange.

Bleijie, "Once socialist always a socialist; once a Bolshevik, always a Bolshevik."

Trad avoids the obvious retort and responds with, "Once a prat always a prat."

A long procession of LNP members stand to support the bill. The final ALP member to stand is Jo-Anne Miller who fires a final shot at Bleijie

"So much for the farce that this government pretends to be open and accountable! What a joke! There was no consultation at all. Of course, we have this ‘P-plate’ Attorney-General, who claims that union membership is not growing. Mr ‘P-plate’ Attorney-General, you are wrong, wrong, wrong yet again. Yet again you show your complete and utter ignorance of workers in Queensland."

Bleijie doesn't react and Miller is allowed to finish her speech.

Bleijie stands to finalise the bill.

"The bill will, from 2013, result in a permanent move of the Labour Day public holiday, which is currently celebrated in May, to the first Monday in October."

Miller interjects, "Only until we get back in."

"And let it be a long, long time before you get back in, member for Bundamba. Then the workers will have forgotten her great contribution to this debate today," replies Bleijie condemning to history, any significance of May Labour Day.

Perhaps Bleijie is right. Perhaps Joe Blow doesn't give a damn any more or even noticed that they went to work on May 6th, 2013 when they would normally have had a long weekend.

Perhaps the schemes workers campaigned for such as the 8 hour day, superannuation and workplace saftey aren't missed unless until they are removed or altered.

Perhaps no one will notice if a few public schools are closed and sold off; it wont matter if a school oval or two are sold to developers or that Queensland children are pushed into larger class sizes.

However, the cracks are present. On the eve of Labour May Day, Bleijie was caught fudging figures from the 2011 review of the Holiday Act 1983. He actually used a 2% survey support to justify the move to October.

Even now, Bleijie and Newman are planning the next phase of their public holiday changes. Capping the number of holidays at 11 to avoid the 'next working day off' scenario where a holiday such as Boxing day 2015 falls on a Saturday.

This, they say, will save business $300 million each time the event occurs and hospitality workers are paid normal rates.

True to her word, Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk marched with Queenslanders on Sunday March 5th, 2013. Federal Queensland MPs, Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swann joined the procession.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard flew in to address a large crowd at march end.

Qld Labour Day with Kevin RuddKevin Rudd told Channel 9's Shane Doherty, "People have been saying that we're doomed for a 120 years. We're still here, mate."

Prime Minister Gillard told supporters, "I am offended by what you're are having to put up with in this state."

Queensland may not be on the brink of civil war but is it offended enough to take action?

Source: 'Queensland Parliament Hansard - 30 October 2012'
Source: 'Barcaldine's Tree of Knowledge Festival expected to be a hit'

Source: 'Queensland Government proposes removing added public holidays when Christmas, Boxing or New Year's days fall on weekend'
Source: 'Labour Day is here to stay'
Source: 'Small numbers add up to change in date for Labour Day'
Source: 'Qld govt to scrap class-size limits'

 

 

 

 

 

 

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