Policing the ‘Bastard Boys’: Reality and Significance of the Police-Union ‘Accord’ during the National Waterfront Dispute
ABC Channel 2’s compelling and controversial dramatisation of the bitter and protracted 1998 national waterfront dispute, ‘Bastard Boys’, contained fleeting glimpses of friendly police accommodation of the sacked wharfies. One scene, depicting operational police dancing the macarena with the picketing wharfies, trivialised both the significance of the police peacekeeping strategy and the intricacies of the tense police-union relationship. This paper argues that police around Australia generally adopted a negotiated, conciliatory, non-confrontational approach with the Maritime Union of Australia picketers and supporters. This strategy was based on protocols and procedures that had been developing between the police and the union movement for a decade. Police, however, maintained the capacity to use force at any stage of the conflict. The paper contends that the police strategy rejected pressure and criticism from a New Right agenda that clamoured for violent police intervention.