“Ask and you will receive” was great advice, if you ask the right people in the right way.
It is not just pay, but general working conditions and respect for what they do that teachers, nurses, doctors and rail workers want. They are entitled to fair treatment in the minds of most voters.
It is hard to know why their unions encourage them to take public protest and strike action when it should be obvious to most students of human psychology that confrontation is not the best way to obtain results. Would teachers, nurses, doctors and rail workers seek to influence their parents, children, teenagers, partners, students, patients or commuters by public confrontation? I think not. Protests and strikes humiliate the very people who could solve the problem, the Members of Parliament.
It is possible that the unions feel that creating a public spectacle in order to ensure their members receive a fair go from government, is the best way to increase membership and in that they may be correct. But it is not the best way for their members to improve their working conditions. Protests and strikes simply illustrate weakness to government bureaucrats. Instead of adversely affecting and inconveniencing the politicians who control government, these tactics actually adversely affect and inconvenience the very service consumers who could help the protesters achieve what they want. Parents are angry because their children’s teachers are not working. Hospital patients are angry because nurses are not there looking after them. Commuters are angry because the trains are in short supply and people are packed into those that are available like sardines. People who live in the regional areas of Australia are angry because they don’t have the general practitioner doctors and nurses that they need.
There are two factors considered by politicians when making decisions. The first factor is the logical arguments that support or oppose the claims being made by teachers, nurses, rail workers or country doctors. The second and by far the most persuasive factor, is any impact on the votes that send them to Parliament to represent the consumers of these services and the service providers themselves. That impact not only determines the careers of all politicians but determines whether they will enjoy the power and status of government or the relatively powerless position of opposition.
The power of the teachers, nurses, rail workers and rural doctors rests not with logical arguments about their services, half as much as it rests with the ability of their members to vote and influence votes against the government that offends them.
Time and time again ever since 1986 FairGO has helped people to influence government via their elected representatives. The secret to success is polite, persistent, political persuasion in the relative privacy of Parliament. It does of course rely on the strategic presentation of information supporting the logic of the claims made, but also strategic indication that if the government will not do what is fair and reasonable, those who seek improvement to their working conditions will have only one option left. That option is to go, just before the next election, into as many marginal electorates as possible and in a strategic way that is not obvious, influence the people in that electorate to vote against the government. Though it is not usually necessary to do that, it is important to be willing to do so and let MPs know that they are.
That action in a democratic society is the most simple, strategic and successful way to influence their elected representatives to have government treat them fairly. It in no way publicly confronts or makes to look stupid and unreasonable, the very members of Parliament who can solve the problem. If necessary, the teachers can easily influence parents in marginal seats to vote against the government. The nurses can easily influence patients and relatives in marginal seats who may suffer and perhaps die, to vote against the government that may cause that happen. The rural doctors, a small group in the voting population, can easily influence the people who live in marginal rural Australian electorates to vote against the government that will deny them medical care and encourage their friends and relations in the city to do the same in city marginal electorates.
But asking nicely and persuasively in the privacy of Parliament will probably make it unnecessary to even think about that. Politicians are really helpful if ALL of them are approached. It is absurd in a democracy where decisions mostly are made by the majority opinion of all Members of Parliament, to only talk to the minister. That is what FairGO discovered in 1986 with its inexpensive Votergrams.
It is important to know that the votes of most Australians do not make a significant difference to the result in their own electorates or the national result. It is only in the marginal electorates that they can have a significant influence. It is not in anyway a difficult exercise to influence marginal electorate outcomes and nor does it involve going into those electorates and publicly protesting or criticising the government. Once again it relies on polite, persistent, political persuasion, only this time instead of being in the relative privacy of Parliament it is done in the relative privacy of the ballot box.
FairGO has worked hard for over three decades to give Australians the very best options for influencing government through its Votergrams and voters network which are unequalled in other parts of the world. Sooner or later teachers, nurses, rail workers and doctors might realise that they can easily achieve their reasonable requests for fair treatment if they use the facilities of democracy instead of relying on protests that would be more applicable for confronting ruling monarchs such as the people of France, England and Russia did a century or more ago. Times have changed and strategies need to change with them. Democracy provides a golden opportunity for the people to shape what the government does, but for them to achieve that they need to adopt democracy style strategies such as pioneered by FairGO. I have, over the years approached the Teachers Federation, Nurses and midwives Association, AMA and Rural Doctors Association trying to convince them that a modern approach through FairGO would be much more successful for their members, but they are not receptive and so their members suffer and the public suffers.
As the protest song goes, “When will they ever learn……..”