The colourful character, who has been previously aligned with Labor’s Socialist Left, its then supposedly more militant Pledge Left, then the Greens and more recently Bob Katter’s Australia Party and the Sporting Shooters, has now built a strong base of support within Liberal ranks who see him as a useful voice against the federal government’s proposed tax on carbon.
Mighell is in a pitched battle with the NSW Right over control of his union at a national level, the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union, where he has in recent times lost allies in Queensland, had allies win internal elections in NSW and is generally waving his stick about in a brutal power-play against the NSW Right kingpin Bernie Riordan.
He has recently accused Riordan of financial impropriety and – union insiders tell VEXNEWS – could face similar claims himself as the sparks fly in union elections that also include Mighell’s state branch of the ETU, which represents electricians.
Mighell’s ultimate quest, though he denies it to supporters, is to position himself as the national boss of the CEPU. The union currently has a rule that prevents him from serving as a state secretary of the ETU while being national secretary so he’s proposed a rule change that would enable him to hold both jobs.
In the meantime, he has put up Howard Worthing, described by opponents as being ‘worthless’ to run for the national role and is spending up a fortune to try to get his sock-puppet elected against the respected NSW Right-backed national secretary Peter Tighe.
Cunningly, and in a move closely watched by Liberals who think Mighell has considerable potential even as a possible Liberal parliamentary candidate in the future, Mighell is playing off Labor’s current burst of unpopularity in NSW and Queensland to attack unionists who defend their union’s affiliation with Labor.
In recent times, Liberal hardmen Eric Abetz and Sophie Mirabella have put out statements commending Dean Mighell’s stance on carbon.
Internal critics within the ETU in Queensland have been angered by Mighell’s association with country conservative Australia Party founder Bob Katter on the basis that he was part of the Bjelke-Petersen government that sacked thousands of electricity workers during the ugly SEQEB strike in the 1980s.
When we asked a senior Liberal whether they were ready to embrace the firebrand unionist, who was punted from the ALP at Kevin Rudd’s bizarre insistence because Mighell had used profane language when addressing his members, there was a long pause and a slightly hesitant “Sure, of course, he’s clearly a strong leader for his members and he’s probably just listening to them, many electricians vote for us, remember… we’re not likely to agree with Dean on everything though.”
Mighell’s move into the national scene threatens to make Labor’s annus horribilis even worse. He has already disaffiliated his state branch of the union from the ALP and is reportedly looking at directing his new allies in the NSW Postal division of the union to do the same.
His loud public attacks on the government’s carbon tax make it even more difficult for prominent unionists to support the Prime Minister’s unpopular plan.
Ironically, Mighell’s enormous donations to the extreme-left Greens party in the federal seat of Melbourne where he backed Dr Adam Bandt PhD (Marxism) with several hundred thousand dollars of members’ money was a huge factor in Bandt’s election.
While Mighell put the ALP affiliation of his branch to the membership (which was essentially presented as a chance to vote against politicians so most did), they did not get to vote on whether $300,000 or more of their money should go to a party that is publicly committed to policies that would throw many of his members in Victoria’s power-stations on the scrap-heap. It’s one of the many contradictions of Mighell that defy sensible explanation.
The recipient of Mighell’s largesse, Bandt – a Marxist legal scholar – has boasted that his election to the Reps meant Labor was left with no choice but to tax carbon.
Kevin Andrews, whose courageous fight against Malcolm Turnbull ultimately almost single-handedly changed the course of Australian politics, agreed with The Aged newspaper reporting:
Federal frontbench Liberal Kevin Andrews said Australia would not have a carbon tax if the Liberal Party had not directed its preferences to Mr Bandt ahead of Labor because of a mistaken belief that the Greens were not the real enemy.
We live in challenging and confusing times. Dean Mighell opposes the carbon tax his guy – Dr Bandt – demanded on pain of sacking the government. The Liberals oppose the carbon tax despite their preferences electing the guy whose pivotal vote in the Reps gave the Greens the negotiating leverage they needed to impose it.
Some Liberals believe the national elections for the CEPU could be the first time a Liberal-friendly nationally prominent union leader emerges. The NSW Labor Right face an acid-test, can they see off the pesky yet vocal maverick who appears to have been an active player in every party except the Nationals.
When we put this proposition to one of Mighell’s mates yesterday, he explained “He had to draw the line somewhere.”
Mighell’s union election – to be played out over the next month or so – promises to be a blood-thirsty slag-fest of the most vicious kind. Naturally, VEXNEWS will be there, the first with the worst.