“Only two trucks showed up and the truckies caved after one hour,” one disappointed anti-vaxxer reportedly told his Telegram followers.
“I cannot f***ing believe it... so disappointed... gutted.”
It was a sad scene, by all accounts. On Monday, August 30, two trucks and a handful of anti-vaxxers milled about on the highway. One Nation Senators Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts were among the disheartened would-be protesters. The Senator-to-punter ratio was off the charts, pointing to something fishy happening behind the scenes.
Sky news “reports” and social media hype prior to the stunt claimed that thousands of truckies would support the protest, bringing “every major highway into every state” grinding to a halt.t. But the promised convoy of anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine truckie protesters never materialised - instead, the truck drivers were engaged in a very real, very separate strike against their employment conditions.
The term “astroturf” comes to mind. It’s fake grassroots activism. Propped up by power and money that remains hidden to the casual observer. Except in this case the puppeteers had to show up to boost the numbers.
Ahead of and during the planned border protest, Hanson was a vocal backer of “truckies’ lockdown strike”. She has, however, said nothing of the pay and conditions at Toll. Instead, Hanson was attempting to co-opt real working-class power and activism as props for her fringe ideas. Thankfully, she failed.
Compare the sorry display on August 30 with the nation-wide strike actions that Transport Workers Union members are undertaking at Toll Logistics right now. Around 6000 drivers employed by Toll across Australia participated in the 6 September strike.
That is exactly 300000% more trucks off the road than in the One Nation-backed action.
The truck drivers at Toll were striking for better working conditions and security after months of negotiations and last-minute crisis talks failed. Toll’s proposed workplace agreement threatens existing jobs by creating a legacy workforce and an underclass of new workers on worse conditions. Toll’s plans include short-term contracts, incentives and rights for Toll to outsource swathes of work and no commitments to allocate work to employees before contracting out to lower-paid workers.
The Transport Workers Union says the Toll strike is symptomatic of wider discontent in the industry. With a rise of exploitative transport businesses like AmazonFlex and Uber, and cost-cutting from mega-wealthy retail giants like Amazon, Apple and Aldi, the attacks on transport jobs are sweeping across all the major transport operators. There are now 15,000 transport workers at various stages of strike applications, votes and action.
Truckies have been heroes of the pandemic - still fronting up to work and delivering essential goods across state borders while many of us were (and are) locked down. As a result they have faced a far greater COVID exposure risk than, for example, a Queensland cross-bench senator.
If anything, rather than being frustrated by vaccines, truckies have suffered much more stress from the lack of vaccines. TWU National Secretary, Michael Kaine, wrote to the Prime Minister in July demanding that frontline transport workers be included on vaccine priority lists to ensure their protection and the protection of the wider community.
The union are calling for the Prime Minister and National Cabinet to sign on to what they are calling the COVID-Safe National Transport Roadmap, which includes vaccination and rapid antigen testing hubs suitable for transport workers’ shift patterns, paid vaccination leave and uniformity across border arrangements. These are things truckies are concerned about.
Opportunistic fringe politicians are clearly looking to pick up some votes in the wake of confusion and uncertainty wrought by the Covid pandemic. Based on One Nation’s previous form, they will likely couch their appeals in the language and real gripes of the working class. Likewise, the United Australia Party will doubtless spend millions on robo-texts to try and mop up disaffected Labor, Liberal and National voters.
We await Senator Hanson’s support of Toll workers. The “truckies” she cares about so deeply are ramping up their strike actions and you can show your (real) #TruckieSolidarity by signing the TWU’s petition for better conditions in the industry.
Pauline Hanson says she supports "the truckies" but hasn't voiced her support of workers taking action at Toll. Is it possible she's not being entirely authentic?