The true story about the war on the Australian waterfront, when on the 7th April 1998, Chris Corrigan and the Liberal Government at the time, conspired and illegally dismissed the unionised...
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The true story about the war on the Australian waterfront, when on the 7th April 1998, Chris Corrigan and the Liberal Government at the time, conspired and illegally dismissed the unionised workforce. The series tells the story from both sides, and how the Maritime Union of Australia fought diligently to get the some 2000 sacked workers their jobs back.Written by
Reviewing "Curtin" a few weeks ago I suggested that it was the sort of drama-documentary the ABC should be doing more of, but after watching this very one-sided account of the1998 Patricks waterfront strike I'm not so sure. I say that even though my sympathies were with the strikers, who were all portrayed as wonderful, warm hearted working-class people who just wanted to be left to do their jobs. The other side was represented almost entirely by Geoff Morrel who played Chris Corrigan as a quirky business loner who has his back to the wall. There is a wonderful scene where he meets with the serried ranks of the bankers who are about to foreclose on him, and completely wrong-foots them by delivering torrents of abuse and then walking out of the meeting. But in the charisma stakes he is a long way behind the affable John Coombes (Colin Friels) and eager beaver Greg Combet (Daniel Fredrikson). Jack Thomson as old time unionist Toby Tully also puts in a sterling performance, though his attitudes rather make Chris Corrigan's point.
The real problem is that the scriptwriters have not tried to dramatise the role that various other figures such as Peter Reith, John Howard and the officials of the National Farmers Federation played in this battle. At the end of the four hours we are still none the wiser as to who conceived and paid for the plan to secretly train hundreds of scabs (all right, non-union labour) in Dubai in what was a truly immoral attempt to put 2500 people out of work. The Australian waterfront does not have a happy industrial history but there has been a great deal of change in the previous 20 years and the workforce was a great deal smaller and more efficient than it used to be.
The Maritime Union of Australia got its members reinstated, but at a price. Over a third of the workforce was made redundant (albeit voluntarily) with the Federal Government, suddenly in Santa Claus mode, paying for them. Corrigan continued on running Patricks until he was removed by a successful takeover bid in 2006. This film is "inner warm glow cinema" – it will give labour sympathizers a warm feeling inside, but it will not challenge their intellects or beliefs. If Channel 9 had produced this I would have said "Fair enough – sentimental tripe is their specialty". But the ABC? Not up to standard, folks.
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