Australia: Liberals v Labour – no choice for working people in federal election

Socialist Party to contest Melbourne seat

The 2007 Australian federal (general) election is expected to take place in November or early December. The opposition Australian Labor Party, led by Kevin Rudd, will be the main challenger to the right wing Coalition government, in power since the 1996, and led by Prime Minister John Howard’s Liberals and their coalition partner, the National Party.

The article below looks at the ‘choices’ facing voters.

Liberals v Labour – no choice for working people in federal election

Kylie McGregor, Socialist Party candidate

Australian workers are desperate to get rid of the right wing John Howard government at forthcoming federal (general) election. However, they face a terrible dilemma in that the Australian Labor Party (ALP) opposition offers no meaningful alternative and it fully supports the main neo-liberal policies of the Coalition government.

Workers want to believe in the ALP. They ask in hope: ‘Kevin Rudd has to be better, doesn’t he?’ Yet, almost everyday, we get new announcements from the ALP that knocks their unrequited love for six: the anti-democratic, construction industry police force (ABCC) to stay for years; permission for bosses to ‘vary’ awards, where they can get away with it; Australian troops to stay in Iraq, with only a minor reshuffling of the cards. And there are many other examples.

Kevin Rudd, the ALP leader, has policies that are in tune with his ideology and personal lifestyle. For example, his wife is a successful capitalist, making millions in the labour hire sector – a version of paid slavery in the 21st century.

The ALP’s policies are not merely because of sell-outs by its leaders. The party has, especially since the 1980s, been an open party of big business. Its pitch to big business is that the ALP can sell cuts ‘better’ to workers, due to its historic connection to the trade union movement.

This was best seen in the wage-cutting ‘Accord’, from 1983-96, introduced by the Hawke-Keating Labor government. The last ALP government was also not afraid to take the sword to the unions. It organised the end of the militant Builders Labourers Federation, in 1986 – something the Howard government was not able to pull off in its 1998 dispute with the Maritime Union.

Many pro-capitalist commentators criticise Howard for ‘populism’ and not pushing the neo-liberal agenda hard enough – they seek and expect Rudd to step this up. Leading ALP figures, like Lindsay Tanner (of the ‘Socialist Left’ faction!), have long argued for Labor to push neo-liberal attacks harder than the Coalition government. This explains the big support for the ALP from sections of the capitalist media.

ALP government will continue neo-liberal policies

Notwithstanding the pro-big business character of the ALP, the defeat for Howard, later this year, will boost the confidence of workers and young people. A victory for Howard will have the opposite effect, at least in the short term.

Workers will put pressure on an incoming Rudd ALP government to claw back what they lost under Howard. The unwillingness of Rudd to do so – in fact, he will continue and, in some areas, step up counter-reforms – will lead to big conflicts between his government and the working class.

No matter who wins the election, the Socialist Party will push harder for the creation of a new mass leftwing workers’ party in Australia. We need the voice of public health, education and transport, and the voice of workers’ rights and opposition to the war, to be on the agenda. If progressive unions, active community groups, and the hundreds of thousands of leftwing voters were to unite behind such a party the level of struggle and political debate and understanding in Australia would be rapidly stepped up.

Our warning to workers if the ALP win the election is: get ready to fight!

Socialist Party to contest Melbourne seat

The Socialist Party is standing Kylie McGregor for the federal seat of Melbourne in the upcoming election. This seat takes in the municipalities of both the right-wing run City of Melbourne, as well as the City of Yarra, which has the first ever Socialist Party councillor, Stephen Jolly.

Kylie is the president of Unite, the new militant union, established last year, to organise fast food and retail workers in Victoria.

As a co-founder and organiser of the Unite union, Kylie has been active in struggles to stop the exploitation of young workers. She campaigned to abolish low paying ‘youth wages’, and to increase the minimum wage, for all workers.

Kylie has worked for several years to defend low paid workers and campaigns against casualisation.

She told The Socialist: “Overwhelmingly, it is young people, and women, in particular, who are hit hardest by Howard’s new work laws and by reduced wages and conditions. We need a voice”.

If elected, Kylie will live on the average working wage, and donate the rest of a federal MPs salary to Socialist Party campaigns and campaigns by workers and local communities. If elected to the federal parliament, Kylie will work to provide a real opposition to the right wing parties.

The seat Kylie will contest is currently held by the Australian Labor Party’s (ALP) Lindsay Tanner. An ex-trade union leader, and member of the ALP’s ‘Socialist Left’ faction, Tanner is one of the most openly neo-liberal supporters on Labor’s front bench. He has made many speeches calling for further capitalist globalisation.

The Greens will put up a strong challenge in the Melbourne seat, but, as the Socialist Party has previously pointed out, the Greens offer no real alternative for the working class.

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October 2007