After 8 long years the wait is almost over.

That man who said “never, ever” when questioned about a proposed GST, whose raised eyebrows frowned upon “those evil illegals” throwing their children overboard and who would have us believe that invading Iraq was for the benefit of the Iraqi people, will be replaced as Prime Minister when Australians go to the polls later on this year.

As the quality of life continues to fall under Howard’s leadership, so has his popularity. During the Howard years, Australians have become polarized by a government hell-bent on dividing the community by blaming scapegoats such as refugees, indigenous people and ordinary workers for economic and general uncertainty.

Workers have been faced with less full time jobs being available despite the fact that economists agree that the Australian economy has missed much of the downturn that affected the US and Asian markets.

The Howard years have been infamous for relentless attacks on unions, while corporate responsibility has hit an all time low. The collapse of One Tel and Ansett due to the greed and incompetence of management not only left workers out of a job but also without a guarantee that their entitlements would be met.

The Royal Commission into the CFMEU has been a farce. The government all but admitted via the cabinet reshuffle of favourite son Tony Abbott, from industrial relations to health, that findings to be handed down later this year would be a fizzer. And who could forget the site of Corrigan’s secretly trained state thugs patrolling the docks.

Students have also been losers. Tafe and HECS fees have increased while financial support has been cut via draconian laws that determine a person is independent of their parents only once they reach 25 years of age.

Bulk billing has been eroded and funds to public hospitals cut in real terms, this process towards a privatised health service began under Labor but has been fast-tracked under Howard. New Zealanders haven’t escaped either. Changes made to social security law by the Howard government mean that Kiwis now must reside in Australia for at least 2 years before being eligible for any financial assistance between jobs. Many post tertiary kiwis leave behind New Zealand’s ravaged GST economy in search of higher wages via the Australian dollar to pay of exorbitant tertiary bills. This scenario is increasingly familiar to Australians with HECS debts; the only difference being that the desired destination is usually Europe or the US.

Despite its poor domestic and regional record, it’s international issues that may finally nail the Howard coffin closed. His decision to blindly follow the US and join the collation of the willing in Iraq split Australians at the commencement of Iraq being invaded, but it’s the lack of results in Iraq and the pending terrorist threat that has voters looking for change.

Sure Saddam Hussein was captured, but chaos continues to rule Iraqi streets and the “supposed” weapons of mass destruction haven’t been accounted for. Terror attacks continue to occur and if anything the perceived threat to Australian interests has increased.

Come November/December the man Howard will be a fading memory for most Australians, however the moniker of the “Howard Years” will continue to haunt for many years to come.

Let’s unite to kick out Howard - but no blank cheques should be given to Latham’s Labor who is also committed to the capitalist system and economic rationalism. All those who unite to kick out the Liberals - unions, community groups, students and millions of ordinary people - are the natural constituency for a new workers‘ party. Under a Latham government, support for such a new party will grow.

From www.socialistpartyaustralia.org, web site of the Socialist Party, cwi in Australia.

Socialist Party Australia, for struggle, solidarity and socialism

Committee for a workers' International publications

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