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Rational argument and coercion have no place in Australian society

By Richard Stanton - posted Monday, 11 June 2012

When the Prime Minister talks about the rights of workers to have jobs and the importance of unions to advocate on behalf of workers she is dredging up an invented tradition that has its roots in persuasion and illusion.

A persuasive argument is one that gets us to change our attitude or behaviour towards something or someone.

In reality Australian workers are less likely today to be union members than they were at the height of union popularity last century.


There are a lot of reasons for the lack of interest in being a union member some of which are directly attributable to the fact that unions have not held to their tradition, to their original invented reality. The object of invented tradition is invariance.

Unions have varied the original formula that gave them popularity and consequently they have changed the reality of what they offered.

The original promises they made, the original persuasive argument for better wages and conditions, have been lost because union leaders now offer alternatives attached to their own personal political illusions.

It is no coincidence that in recent weeks the Australian Labor Party has resorted to tactics that include wheeling former union-heavyweights Bill Kelty and Bob Hawke back into the sociopolitical arena.

Their job is to try to persuade workers that unions have their best interests at heart — a tough gig when the reality is that organisations such as the Health Services Union are being held to account in court for contemptuous acts against their worker members.

Any argument that says change is inevitable has lost sight of the significance of the original invention.


Every change recasts the original invention, altering its traditional illusion.

It is no accident that corporate advertising of such things as Marlboro cigarettes for years never changed the scenes, the actors, or the horses in its television and billboard commercials.

To be persuasive the face of the product or service must not vary.

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About the Author

Richard Stanton is a political communication writer and media critic. His most recent book is Do What They Like: The Media In The Australian Election Campaign 2010.

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All articles by Richard Stanton

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