The 2016 Fair Australia Prize

The National Union of Workers is honoured to once again support the Fair Australia Prize. This year’s theme, ‘Our Common Future’, poses a challenge for progressive politics: to break out of a fragmented scene of competing single-issue claims and develop an expansive vision of a common future. We want to create a new Left politics that can build a broad electoral consensus.

If a new Left politics can learn anything from these topsy-turvy times, it is that if all you offer people is the status quo – an ‘all will be well’ or it’s ‘good for you’ – then it will be rejected.

After more than forty years of neoliberalism and its particular variant of capitalism, we are witnessing its slow collapse. We are faced with an existential climate crisis, hollowed-out democracies, escalating social tensions and economic inequality for millions of people. The status quo cannot hold.

We can reclaim democratic action for a common good. We can build a common future free of an ideology that gives preferential tax treatment to the rich, that protects private monopolies, that undermines public goods and transfers them into the private hands of a privileged few, that attacks worker rights and the dignity and justice that unions provide.

There is a demand for change. But how do we build the route to a society that works for all and protects a sustainable environment?

A reinvigorated union movement, in a broad coalition with progressive artists, organisations and social movements, can fight back against oligarchy, the 1% and rent seekers to secure a common future.

The union movement is a crucial component in such a project: it is the union movement that still has size, resources, experienced people and workers that united can change the allocation of power within society.

There are signs of hope that the Left can build a broad coalition. The Leap Manifesto in Canada is an attempt to build a movement to oust the moribund neoliberal system. Both Podemos and Syriza in Spain and Greece continue to struggle against austerity in Europe. What is needed to help such movements to really change politics is a strong worker movement.

People need to be empowered to reclaim their democratic agency. We believe in a reenergised commons of political action through a vibrant democracy that fills people with hope rather than despair. We want to build a common project for a just transition to a sustainable environment with secure energy, housing, jobs, education and institutions that are focused on the common good and the fair distribution of our common wealth.

The high quality of entries to this year’s prize demonstrate that people are ready to confront the status quo and reclaim democracy; to build a society where every citizen counts. The NUW is ready to participate in such a struggle.




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Tim Kennedy

Tim Kennedy likes to ride his bike on the weekend. He is the national secretary of the National Union of Workers. Over Tim’s twenty years at the union, he has worked as an organiser, industrial officer, assistant national secretary, Victorian branch secretary and national president. His time at the union has seen increased worker-led activism and the creation of the NUW’s Community Membership, which is beginning to build links between NUW industrial activists and community activists for equality, decent and secure jobs, and a Fair Australia.

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