Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has warned that Labor MPs do not have the necessary life experience to understand small business issues, and that the Opposition is run by former trade union officials and political apparatchiks1.
This reminded me of a conversation I had with journalist and commentator, the late Paul Lyneham2 when, during some political stuffup during the Howard years. He told me that the Labor party trained its politicians relatively well, often through the trade union movement, whereas, members of the Liberal Party tended to go into politics when their other career reached some sort of perceived “hiatus”. However, things have now changed.
The word apparatchik is originally a Russian word referring to members of the Communist Party apparatus, but in English, as Turnbull has used it, it refers in a derogatory way to any official in a large political organisation. You have to laugh when Turnbull whines about Labor political apparatchiks (i.e. political staffers). This is because the liberal party is replete with apparatchiks. These include: Simon Birmingham, Slade Brockman (replacing Chris Back), Scott Buchholz, David Bushby, Matthew Canavan, Darren Chester, George Christensen, Steve Ciobo, Jonathon Duniam, Trevor Evans, Jason Falinski, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. Mitch Fifield, Paul Fletcher, Nicolle Flint, Josh Frydenberg, Alex Hawke, Greg Hunt, Michael Keenan, Andrew Laming, Julian Leeser, James McGrath, Scott Morrison, Ben Morton, Fiona Nash, Kelly O’Dwyer, James Paterson, Marise Payne, Christopher Pyne, Linda Reynolds, Scott Ryan, Arthur Sinodinos, Dean Smith, Tony Smith, Dan Tehan, Alan Tudge, Lucy Wicks and Trent Zimmerman, who were all political staffers of politicians either in state parliaments or in federal parliament, or have been members of the political apparatus in their various states or at the federal level. That is the Liberal pot calling the Labor kettle black.
Perhaps Malcolm Turnbull is simply getting desperate. Personally speaking, I’d prefer to have someone who used to be in a trade union looking after the nation’s interests than lawyers or investment bankers. Despite years of efforts by the conservative side of politics to damage the union movement (sometimes aided by the depredations of union officials themselves), it still struggles on, mostly looking after the wellbeing of its members. The conservative side of politics had to have a multi-million dollar Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, from which only one conviction was obtained3, but they are refusing point blank to have a Royal Commission into the banking industry, despite regular scandals, the latest of which involved money laundering on a massive scale, with 54,000 incidents identified, which the Commonwealth Bank did not report when it realised what had occurred. Some of these transactions were used to finance terrorist organisations4. Just imagine if any union organisation had somehow laundered money, and it was found that some of it had inadvertently gone to terrorists. Conservatives would be foaming at the mouth with their confected outrage. Conservatives know who their mates are, and will forgive them almost anything.