ONE speaker who may have raised eyebrows at this week’s union rally in Canberra was maverick Queensland MP, Bob Katter.
To reiterate, the Maritime Union and the ACTU used the lawns of Parliament House, Canberra, to launch a campaign entitled ‘save Australian Shipping’.
As a rural conservative and a minister in the government of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen (albeit he left the National Party many years ago), Mr Katter might have been expected to avoid unions like plague. But Mr Katter, whose gigantic electorate of Kennedy extends from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Carpentaria, said this was not so.
“Why (Katter’s Australian Party) support (the MUA and CFMEU) is because they are the only people in Australia who are fighting to keep jobs in Australia,” the big-hatted MP told Lloyd’s List Australia.
“The mainstream parties, and sadly that includes the Labor Party… have been the architects, as much as anyone, of the free market policies.
“If you go to the free market then you either go to slave labour wages or you transfer jobs overseas – there is no in-between.”
The MUA was, he said, “one of the best fighters against the jobs going overseas of anyone in the country”, criticising other unions for having stood “idly-by” while jobs disappeared.
He said local constituents would not have an issue with his union friendships.
“Not really, it’s pretty natural,” Mr Katter said.
“There wouldn’t be a farming family in North Queensland that wouldn’t have a son or a daughter working in the mines and having a trade union membership.”