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Not remembering to hoist a petard

Rules and regulations: International Workers' Day of Mourning April 28th


From time to time I have been told I was pretty handy with the old verbal judo when representing union members against an employer at the bargaining table or a politician in a lobbying exercise.


However, my time is littered with dozens of occasions when 10 or 15 minutes after the encounter with the boss and his team I think of what I should have said instead of what I did say, or what I didn't when I could have.


It happened again last night during my flight from Launceston to Sydney.


The bloke next to me introduced himself for what turned into a whole flight "discussion"; big, burly and weather-beaten in casual working clothes (and somewhat rancid breath), and his "wife" falling asleep next to him.


After a couple of introductory questions, he asked me what I used to do and I said, "union official - manufacturing industry". Pretty quickly I farewell my intent for some quiet in-flight reading.


I learned he is a middle-aged, very experienced, "self-made", wealthy medium-sized businessman - a heavy machinery contractor in agriculture and mining.


He doesn't "believe in climate change", but he was heading for central NSW to buy 3 fire-fighting aeroplanes because there is a trend to more bushfires", and "they're getting bigger". "I think there is probably some money to be made."


His big problem is "too many rules and regulations because of you lot". Stifles innovation, raises costs etc etc etc.


So, I asked him for a good example of "too much etc" and of course, it was a health and safety requirement. He finished his explanation: "Probably not a good example." I agreed, and repeated, "Well, give me a good one." And he did. Another health and safety regulation that finished with, "Probably not a good example." We then repeated the exercise. With several detours to other pet businessMAN whinges, all of that took up the whole trip.


On the detours, I did learn new stuff about the heavy and medium-sized engineering equipment industry and I did learn that he was a fervent believer in "Australian-made". However like his "non-belief" in climate change, that was loaded with some contradictions. He also showed me how he used his mobile phone to control, from his lounge room, watering patterns on his mixed vegetable farm fields.


Nevertheless, at the end of the flight, having not found a good example of a bad rule/regulation, I got out of my seat, offered my hand and introduced myself by name. His limp hand came with a curt, silent nod. I was left wondering just what was going on in his feverish head as he got off the plane. Certainly not nothing.


Fifteen minutes later I thought I should have asked him if I could take a look under the seats for his lost petard.


I also thought of the local couple whose son was killed because of employer negligence at 17 years old just a couple of days into his first job. The employer was slapped across the wrist and runs his business in the region while the ever-grieving parents yearn for what the lack of "rules and regulations" have denied their son and themselves.


And, I WILL REMEMBER TO JOIN WITH THEM (I KNOW THEY WILL BE THERE) ON APRIL 28TH AT THE LOCAL EVENT TO REMEMBER AND PAY OUR RESPECTS TO ALL WORKERS KILLED OR INJURED ON THE JOB.

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