Union backs Gillard '110 per cent'
Union leader Paul Howes insists the AWU continues to back Julia Gillard ''110 per cent'', lauding the Prime Minister as ''street tough'' and ''determined''.
Mr Howes, whose union was influential in the dumping of Kevin Rudd in 2010, used his opening address to the Australian Workers Union national conference on the Gold Coast to acknowledge that the carbon tax issue was hard for the union.
In the wake of the latest Fairfax/Nielsen poll that saw Labor's primary vote fall to 30 per cent, Mr Howes pointed to the $1 billion jobs rescue package released by Ms Gillard on Sunday.
AWU chief Paul Howes says the union backs Julia Gillard 110 per cent despite latest poll numbers. Photo: Louie Douvis
''That's why I'm proud to be a supporter of Julia Gillard,'' he said.
Mr Howes told AWU delegates that the union supported Ms Gillard ''because we want someone leading this nation who's prepared to make the tough calls, the hard decisions and to cop the flak''.
He said Ms Gillard was ''prepared to stand up to the shock jocks and the billionaires and the media barons'' and would ''fight and scrape to do the right thing for this nation''.
''That's what our union has always done. We're not the most popular kids in school, but we're not the kids who get picked on either,'' Mr Howes said.
''Like the Prime Minister, we stand up for what we believe in, and we won't back down.
''I'm proud to lead a union that backs her 110 per cent.''
Ms Gillard will address the four-day conference on Monday night.
In a media conference, Mr Howes denied that dumping Mr Rudd had been a mistake and the union supported Ms Gillard because she stood for the same things the AWU stood for - including good, secure Australian jobs.
He also dimissed Labor's latest polling woes: ''I'm sick to death of talking about polls. I'm suffering from poll fatigue and I regret in the past that I've talked too much about polls.''
Mr Howes's half-hour address was not all rosy. The AWU national secretary spoke about the downturn in manufacturing and the loss of steel jobs, with ''severe hardship'' in places such as Wollongong, Western Port, Whyalla and Newcastle.
Mr Howes added that change was hard but must be dealt with constructively.
''Dealing with climate change is not an easy issue for our union,'' he said.
''But we didn't sell our members a pup. We didn't lie or pretend that carbon pricing was something we could stop.
''We didn't sell out our principles or sell out our members' job security, and we walked out at the end knowing that we struck the best possible deal for our members.''
Mr Howes said the creation of new laws and internal processes could be ''not very pretty''.
''Sure there have been problems, there have been divisions, and that's natural in our type of movement – because we're passionate, and we believe so firmly in what we're seeking to achieve,'' he said.
Earlier, national president Bill Ludwig said many industries were at a crossroads, the conservatives were on the march and unions were under attack.
Mr Ludwig, a powerful figure in the Labor Party, said he had been involved in great battles in the past 40 years and used his speech to condemn the Campbell Newman-led Liberal National Party government in Queensland.
He said Australian could not afford a conservative government in Canberra too.