Bob Carnegie comments after Labor's surprise win in the 31 January 2015 Queensland state election.
On Saturday 31 January the state of Queensland (Australia) underwent another seismic political change. A first-term conservative government which held a record majority 66 seat majority in an 89 seat parliament was defeated by a not very confident Labor Party whose central program was opposing the sale of state-owned assets such as electrical distribution and supply and state-owned ports.
It was truly a momentous defeat for the conservative parties, and has had a direct impact on the damaged authority of the conservative leadership at federal level.
Front and centre in the defeat of the conservatives in Queensland was the brilliant "Our Assets, Not for Sale" campaign waged by the Electrical Trades Union (ETU). The ETU is a union of some 16,000 members; since 2002 it has revitalised itself and has grown some 250% in those 13 years.
What set the "Not for Sale" campaign apart from most union and or political campaigns waged over, say, the last 30 years was that it was a campaign that genuinely engaged the rank and file, their families and communities. Right across the huge land area of Queensland (seven times the area of Great Britain), you would see "Assets Not for Sale" signs in the most remote of spots.
The various state-owned corporations that generate and distribute electricity employ ETU members. These jobs are decently paid and stable, and workers tended to make careers of them. The conservatives' plan to privatise those state-owned assets would have cut a swathe through those workers, severely disrupting their lives, their families, and the communities they live in.
The ETU's campaign kept plugging away day in and day out, week in and week out. It developed a powerful presence and became the single most visible anti-privatisation campaign in the state.
The ETU's state secretary, Peter Simpson, was extremely visible and was out front and centre fighting for not just his union's membership but in general for working people and their families at each and every possible opportunity. No rally was too big or too small for Fellow Worker Simpson or any other leader of the ETU to speak at.
The effectiveness of the ETU's campaign meant that, for all intents and purposes, the Queensland election became a referendum on whether state-owned assets should be sold to retire debt or kept in the hands of the state. The people of Queensland chose the latter - thanks in mainly to a five-year campaign by the ETU.
Bob Carnegie on polling day with ETU activists Gary Rogers and Wendel Maloney
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After polling on 31 January, it seems probable that Labor has regained office in Queensland. It's a startling turnaround from the 2012 state election, in which Labor suffered what we described as "the worst electoral crash for Labor in Australian history...one of the worst electoral setbacks for an established social democratic party ever, anywhere in the world". Then, Labor was reduced to seven seats in Queensland's 89-seat parliament, and Campbell Newman's right-wing LNP won office in a landslide.
This time Labor leader Annastacia Palaczuk said: "Can I thank the union movement? Because it it is the union movement that stands up each and every day and fights for better conditions for workers across this state."
Palaszczuk campaigned on a "no asset sale agenda" and said a Labor government would not offload the $37 billion worth of assets the LNP wanted to privatise.