Gillard ‘nobody’s puppet’, says AWU

New Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard is not a person who can be controlled by anyone, including the unions, the Australian Workers Union says.

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The Australian Council of Trade Unions pledged its support for the nation’s first female PM, saying a return to a Coalition government and Work Choices is not an option.

“We will stay focussed on preventing the Coalition from reintroducing Work Choices and attacking the rights of Australian workers,” ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said, after Kevin Rudd stood aside for Ms Gillard when his party turned against him.

Lawrence added that the ACTU supported Labor’s economic, tax and social reform agenda, including its proposed tax on mining super profits.

He paid tribute to Mr Rudd’s legacy, including his leadership through the global financial crisis and his apology to the stolen generations, saying he had much to be proud of.

No policy changes

AWU national secretary Paul Howes said his union had no plans to change its policy platform now Ms Gillard is the Labor leader, as political commentators cited his group as the driving force behind the Labor leadership spill.

“The main thing I will be asking Julia Gillard to do is to do her job and that’s it,” he told reporters at the AWU Victorian branch annual meeting on Thursday.

“I can tell you, unions don’t control the government and they won’t control the government into the future,” he said.

“Anyone who knows Julia Gillard, and I think over the next couple of weeks the Australian people will get to know Julia Gillard well, is that no one can control or run Julia Gillard.

“She is a very strong person, she has a fierce intellect, she is deeply impressive and she will lead the government in the way that she sees fit.”

Mr Howes said Kevin Rudd was a good prime minister, but union and other polling indicated he could not lead Labor to victory at the next election.

“Reading it, it was pretty clear we couldn’t win and that’s a pretty scary prospect for my union,” he said.

“That was what convinced our union to change our position.”

More consultation urged

Mr Howes said the problems with Mr Rudd’s leadership had nothing to do with the super profits mining tax.

But Victorian AWU branch secretary Cesar Melhem said the way Mr Rudd sold the tax had contributed to his demise, in addition to his backflip on an emissions trading scheme.

But he said another reason Mr Rudd was on the nose was due to his lack of consultation and the perception he was arrogant.

“He didn’t consult with people, I think that’s a killer,” Mr Melhem told AAP.

“It sort of came across as the one-man show.

“It’s sort of like you come across as arrogant, who knows it all, which is really unfortunate because … I think it’s an unfair description.”

Mining tax debate continues

Mr Melhem said Mr Rudd was wrong to have taken it upon himself to choose the ministry in 2007 without deliberation from the ALP caucus.

“I think that was a mistake,” he said.

“Long live Julia!” Mr Melhem declared, after some 400 AWU and health and safety delegates watched live on television the new prime minister deliver her address to colleagues and the media in Canberra.

Mr Howes said he was pleased Ms Gillard had promised to pull the government’s mining super profits tax advertisements and he hoped the minerals council would axe its advertising campaign.

“I think it was very important that the mining industry listened to what Julia Gillard said today,” he said.

“We need to have some negotiation.”

Rudd’s friends ‘ratted’

The Transport Workers Union said Mr Rudd’s “so-called colleagues and friends” had ratted on him.

“But that’s politics,” Queensland branch secretary Hughie Williams said.

He said Ms Gillard would have some “dry gullies to cross” but added: “She’s quite a clever person and I think with a little bit of help she’ll probably make a very good prime minister.”

The Australian Nursing Federation said Ms Gillard’s priorities must be health reform and industrial relations.

The powerful right-wing lobby group Australian Christian Lobby said she must confirm Labor’s concern for the poor and the disadvantaged, and the social values that Mr Rudd held firm.

Greens demand climate action

Green groups called on Gillard to put an emissions trading scheme back on Labor’s immediate political agenda.

“We believe the Labor party’s backflip on the emissions trading scheme and its associated decline in the polls is a key reason we now have a new leader,” WWF Australia’s chief executive Greg Bourne said.

“No combination of energy efficiency, clean energy, soil carbon or any other policy will be enough without an ETS.”

Greenpeace said Ms Gillard should immediately introduce an interim carbon levy until an ETS could be implemented.

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