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Issue #1587      March 27, 2013

Editorial

Labor’s descent into chaos

The schemers plotting the demise of Julia Gillard in the lead-up to last week’s Labor leadership spill could not have done her more damage if they had tried. Though a new (or recycled) leadership did not step forward and nominate for the position of Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister, the surviving PM was not reinforced in the top job. She was left looking like a “lame duck” incumbent, heading a “shambolic” government whose days are being counted down. The cabinet reshuffle has worsened the impression of desperation.

The real intentions of the Rudd forces in the farce can only be guessed at but the former PM’s reference to a “commitment” to the Australian public not to run can safely be discounted. It is far more likely that ambitious players in the parliamentary Labor Party would prefer to watch Gillard go down with the ship and for them to appear later as the “saviours” of the Labor brand after the likely defeat at the September 14 federal election.

The thinking is cynical and disloyal but it is realistic. The Rudd/Gillard government’s record has alienated the ALP’s traditional base in the working class. The list of disappointments is long. Despite the hopes built up prior to Rudd’s election in 2007, Labor has:

  • worsened the plight of refugees to the country
  • maintained a rebadged anti-union construction industry task force
  • left mining industry profits untouched by any super-profits tax
  • introduced a pointless “carbon tax” that protects the worst polluters
  • advanced the privatising agenda in health, education, aged care and disability support in spite of funding “reform” propaganda
  • attacked welfare recipients, including single parents forced onto the dole
  • overseen the expansion of the uranium industry
  • maintained the Northern Territory “intervention” and the ongoing dispossession of Aboriginal people
  • left the question of flows along the Murray/Darling unresolved
  • watched as Australian manufacturing shrivels
  • sat on its hands as employers exploit guest workers under the 457 visa scheme
  • kept us at war alongside the US and NATO, wasted fortunes on military equipment and signed up for more US bases

Voters aren’t listening to the excuses any more. They realise that the insulation working people have had from the more extreme forms of austerity suffered elsewhere has been due to the resilience of the economy of the People’s Republic of China. People have concluded that the main pillars of the agenda under Howard have been kept under Rudd and Gillard.

With the Australian political scene continuing to be dominated by the two big parties of capital, voters unfortunately will probably vote the Coalition into office because they don’t see any realistic, coherent alternative. The ruling class, the people who direct overall policy for their servants in parliaments to implement, are presented with another, classic “win/win” situation.

Not everybody is resigned to such a bleak future. Small but growing numbers of political activists are considering alternatives. Some trade unionists are talking about running candidates and building an extended Your Rights at Work-style organisation. Others are thinking more short-term with an “anti-Abbott” alliance. The ideas are raw and progress with these efforts will probably be too slow to have a major impact at the 2013 federal election.

The Communist Party of Australia supports the concept of an alliance of left and progressive forces leading to the formation of a government of a new type – one that will mobilise the community and begin to challenge the dominance of the monopolies. A strong Communist party is key to the success of such a process. Efforts for unity in the interests of the working class and other exploited should be wholeheartedly supported. Ultimately, the sort of consciously anti-monopoly alliance envisaged by the CPA program will bring about real, lasting change and progress towards socialism. These are the ideas that need to be injected into plans for new alliances.

Next article – Obituary – Pauline Mitchell

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