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This is democracy on December 2, 2005
December 2, 2005. An Australian is hanged. The career of a would-be Prime Minister who made his name breaking union power in the Courts is in ruins. The IR legislation passes the Senate as a fierce and thunderous storm whips through Canberra. Drivers in a long line of white cars outside the Parliament's Senate Entrance waiting to take the Senators away turn on their lights as rumours fly that the airport is closed. A tree uprooted by the storm falls in a nearby suburb, killing a man.
December 2, 2005. John Faulkner spoke last for Labor, of a "grotesque" parliamentary process on "despicable" and "unAustralian" legislation that would transform traditional Australian values. "I unashamedly associate myself with the Trade Union Movement", he railed, and with trade union officials, "these decent Australians who worked to improve the lives of working men and women and their families".
"I thank them for what they've done."
As a glum ACTU President Sharon Burrows and her glum helpers watched from the public gallery, he thanked them and their forebears for the 8 hour day. He thanked them for the minimum wage they achieved in 1907, for equal pay for women for equal work in 1967, for sick leave, for maternity leave, for workplace safety, for paid holidays, for worker's superannuation. Labor was formed in 1891 to further that cause, he said, and would be around a lot longer to keep fighting for it. He also railed against the "grotesque" corruption of Parliamentary process which would within minutes see the "house brick" legislation, 687 pages of it, rushed through so quickly that no-one really knew what they were voting for. Half an hour before debate on each clause began the Government dumped 337 amendments on Senators, and hours later 133 pages of "explanatory memoranda" to advise what the amendments were supposed to mean.
Burrows and her people stood and clapped their hands.
Ron Boswell, for the Nationals, also felt the historic nature of the moment. "I understand the hurt on the other side because I experienced it when it came to the granting of Native Title," he said. Christmas early 90s for Mabo, Christmas 1997 for Wik, it was. I'd also watched those historic moments from the Senate Press Gallery.
Boswell did not gloat, far from it. He'd felt then what Labor peple felt now, he said, pain for the people he represented. "I have some sympathy for them because I experienced it... I represent a different view and a different voting section. I represent country interests." Amid loud heckling, he said, "Mr President, let them go. They're very upset at the moment."
But - "This is democracy." The people decided last year "to give the Coalition a free rein... if we are wrong you should be rejoicing (because) you will be back."
"What comes around goes around."
Boswell spoke more in sorrow than in triumph. He said Labor had brought tariffs down under Whitlam and Hawke and he'd opposed it. "I was wrong, you were right." Now that the barriers were down "we have to be competitive with other manufacturing countries. That's the way the system works at the moment. You set this up, and we have to be able to cope."
Boswell said he hoped Labor had the courage to fight back like he had fought back after Wik. He knows full well that country workers will suffer too. Some of his people.
Geroge Brandis, a personal friend of Faulkner's, spoke for the Liberals. His friend had delivered "a remarkable and historic speech" which "took on a validictory tone".
Working people no longer identified with the ALP, just read Latham John Button or Barry Jones to find out why. "All of them say the same thing. It is not our side of politics out of touch with Australian working people and Australian families."
To Brandis, today was"striking a mortal blow to collectivisation". It was the end game of a movement away from collectivism and working for collective concerns which had begun in the 1950s.
"You know how much respect I have for you (but) you are on the wrong side of history," he said.
When the vote was taken just after 6pm a man behind Burrows stood to open and fly the Eureka Flag for a moment, until two Parliamentary attendants gently escorted him outside.