Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Who is Chris Corrigan?

I started a post on Chris Corrigan while watching The Howard Years. Now I don't even remember who he is. I guess he's someone that's involved with John Howard.   Yeah.  We can probably assume that.

Anyway, I'll go look him up....

Lord Wiki doesn't have much to say about him, but at least he says something.

Corrigan was the managing director of the Patrick Organization until it was taken over in 2006. Okay, Patrick Organization. That kind of rings a bell. Was that the whole mess on the docks, when they were getting rid of the workers?

Yes. I just read down further and my memory is serving me correctly.

The whole thing happened in 1998. Corrigan tried to dismiss/fire the unionized workers and replace them with newly trained workers from Dubai.

There was a miniseries about it. Bastard Boys.

My beloved Lord Wiki has links to various things, so I'm going to follow those now.

First, we have the Patrick Corporation. Lord Wiki says it's a logistics conglomerate. I have no idea what that means. Whatever it is, this company was absorbed by Toll Holdings. According to Lord Wiki, Toll Holdings is a transport company.

I'm going to look at the Patrick Corporation's website. I figure that will give me a clue about what it's all about.

They say: Patrick is Australia's leading provider of port-related services to importers, exporters and shipping lines.

Well, I think I sort of understand now. I do know what imports and exports are.

The website is a bit boring to me so I'm going to move on to other things.

Corrigan spent some time in Bowral New South Wales. Lord Wiki says he went to school there.

Looking at Google Maps now.....

Bowral is south of Sydney and west of Wollongong. Lord Wiki says it has a strong coffee culture. He also names some other famous people who lived there, including Jimmy Barnes, Peter Garret, and Sir. Don Bradman. I think someone recommended this town to us. Maybe? I remember someone mentioning a town we should go to, and they mentioned Bradman.


Corrigan attended Australian National University in Canberra. I wrote about this before. It's where Kevin Rudd met his lovely wife.

He also went to Harvard in the United States.

I'm now going to read Lord Wiki's information about the waterfront dispute.

The dispute was between The Patrick Corporation and the Maritime union of Australia.

Most of this stuff goes way over my head. It sounds bad though. What I'm getting (and what I got from watching The Howard Years) is it's about greed and disrespect for workers. I think it's about obtaining cheaper labor and not wanting to treat your workers well. If your workers demand too much, than find new workers who won't demand that much.

Maybe I can find an account that is more easy to read.

Here's a long article about the whole thing. It talks about how they used dogs. Those who watched The Howard Years probably saw this. I think using dogs is both insulting to dogs and to the workers.

The author of the article is the coauthor of a book on the subject. Chris Corrigan didn't like the book. Why am I not surprised?

The Maritime Union of Australia has information about the event on their website.

Here they talk about justice:
To the relief of workers all over Australia, 10 judges also agree that in a situation where there is evidence employers deliberately set out to sack or damage their workers because they are unionists ( an action which is prohibited under the Workplace Relations Act), the Federal Court has the power to impose orders to reinstate employees, even if it means discontinuing contracts with new, non union labour.

The miniseries based on the event aired on ABC in 2007. Coorigan and John Howard were not fans. But the show did win awards from the Australian Film Institute.

Michael Duffy from the Sydney Morning Herald shared Coorigan's and Howard's opinion.

He says: A voice missing from Bastard Boys is that of the many Australians affected for decades by the laziness and corruption on the wharves. We hear a lot in the series about the glorious traditions and history of the union. We hear nothing of its notorious record in undermining the war effort during World War II, all the looting, the go-slows and the strikes.

I can't say I agree with Duffy's political viewpoint. But I do think he has interesting things to say about bias in film. He talks about how film dives into the personal lives of the union side--showing them interact with their family. The show makes those characters well-rounded. In comparison, they show very little of Coorigan's personal life. They make him more of a cardboard villain.

I think whenever you watch a documentary, you have to do so with an open-mind and realize that filmmakers can be very manipulative. I totally agree with the politics of Michael Moore. But I do think some of his filmmaking is dishonest--at least manipulative. In the beginning of Fahrenheit 9/11, they show Republicans dealing with the tragedy by fixing their make-up and hair (if I remember correctly) It made them look very shallow. But who knows. Maybe democrats would do the same thing.

There's also the issue of the goat book in the kindergarten class. I'm not a fan of all. But I'm not sure that continuing to read the goat book to the kids was a horrible choice. It's a picture book. They don't take that long to read. I have a feeling if it was a democratic president, he would have been praised by Michael Moore. What a thoughtful president. He took the seven minutes to finish the book so he wouldn't upset the children.

All media is biased. There's no getting around it. But I think we need to be aware of the bias. I think it's pathetic when I hear Republicans complain that the only news channel that isn't biased is Fox News. No! Wrong. It IS biased. It's just biased towards the right. On the same token, I get annoyed when my fellow leftie people talk about how biased Fox News is and yet they don't realize that the shows they watch our biased as well.

I better get back to Coorigan.

What else can I find out about him?

Oh. Here we go. An editorial written by the man himself. He pretty much talks about this bias in the films--again the idea of showing more family scenes when it comes to certain characters. He also defends what happened, saying: Above all the "drama" of the events of 1998, our fundamental aim of improving the productivity and reliability of the Australian waterfront has been a resounding success. I would rate it personally as one of my proudest achievements. What I cherish the most is the restoration of the employees' dignity because under the waterfront reforms employees are now treated as individuals and can be proud of their work achievements.

I don't know what to think. Really. My gut instinct is to take the side of the workers, but maybe I need to be more open-minded.

I don't know. Is this a story of mistreated workers who were unappreciated, exploited, and then expelled by greedy people....Or is it a story of lazy workers who were pushed into shape by heroes who wanted better things for Australia?

Stories like this boggle my mind.

I think I'm on the side of the union. I do think sometimes strikes can be annoying. And sometimes there's that feeling that the people striking are asking for too much. On the other hand, there is a definite history of powerful employers mistreating workers. Someone/something has to stand up for the rights of these workers.


  1. You picked a really tough one today, Dina!

    My instinct is the same as yours. I cheer for the oppressed. I feel horror at the actions of the oppressor. However, this situation was extremely complicated.

    There was massive corruption in the Maritime Union. Massive. Bribery, deliberate theft and strikes aimed at damaging corporations rather than improving workers rights etc etc.

    The documentary "Bastard Boys" was brilliantly done, but it didn't leave me feeling warm and fuzzy about either side. Chris Corrigon chose to bring dogs in when he kicked the unionised workers out in order to prevent any of them hiding and staying in their offices to sabotage. Extreme reaction... but it was to an extreme problem.

    Our docks were famous for being unreliable and, as we rely heavily on imports, it had an impact on everyone.

    As an example.. I had renovated two houses PRIOR to the breaking ofthe union-hold and had used Ikea kitchens. Both took OVER 10 MONTHS to make it through the docks (they were sitting there for all that time because of strikes etc). The one Ikea kitchen that I bought after the event came straight through the wharves.

    So, I'm pro-union... pro- workers' rights.... but I'm anti corruption. And this was about corruption.

    Having said that, I do not approve of the way that it was handled by the government.

    I told you it was a tricky one!

  2. Fe,

    Thanks for explaining further. I think it is a tough situation.

    There's a fine line between giving worker's the rights they deserve and letting them walk all over people.

    The research I did today (for tomorrow's post) dealt with a similar situation...worker's unions taking advantage. Strikes and all that.

    I think people have the right to go on strike. But what if it's taken too far? What if their demands are completely unreasonable?

  3. Hi Dina,
    i think the real villians in this whole saga is Peter Reith and John Howard, who i believe convinced Chris Corrigan to do there dirty work for them and then left him high and dry when push came to shove. John Howard was a natorious anti-unionist (just look at work choices) and he used his lacky (Peter Reith) to do the deed for him so it couldn't be traced back to him, just like with the childern overboard scandal, if i were Kevin Rudd i would be having an inquest into the whole affair and the childern overboard scandal. I believe that they needed to improve productivity on the wharfs but i think there were better ways to do it.

  4. Matt,

    You're probably right about Howard and Reith. I didn't really understand the whole thing about the children being thrown overboard. I guess I'll look that up now. Were they trying to make the refugees look bad--like these people don't care about their children?

  5. Thats right, they were saying that how could we let these people into our country when they are willing to throw their childern overboard, so they would have to be rescued by the Australian Navy and not taken back to Indonesia, but the government knew this was not the case before the election and neglected to tell/lied to, the Australian public that the boat was sinking because of the force that it was being pulled by the navy's
    boat, so they could win the election, and this was all just weeks after 9/11 so they also went with the line that they could be terrorist pretending to be asylum seekers/refugees to scare people to voting for them. The Tampa incident was also a couple of months before it as well, which led to the pacific solution where the refugees would be taken to small islands in the pacific and housed there/jailed to be processed for refugee status, sort of like our own Guantanamo

  6. Matt,

    The Howard government sounds about as evil as the Bush one. There's a lot of really scary and disturbing stuff surrounding 9/11 and the Iraq war.

    The world is a scary place.

  7. "Work a litle harder, bastard boys.." - an excellent line. But I don't believe it's in Helen Trinca's book on the subject. Check out the review here:

    A good read if you can find it!

  8. Retarius,

    So, you read the book....

    What did you think? The review didn't seem all that glowing....

  9. Well, the book's a bit dry, but I found it quite credible as a detailed account. The TV series is entertaining but shallow.

  10. Interesting about Chris Corrigan and the Bowral connection. (I live near there).

    Brian Corrigan, the "wife killer", just was released today -

    One of his parole condition is not to visit Bowral - I wonder if there is a family connection there?