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Issue #1607      August 21, 2013

Editorial

Vote as if the future depended on it

Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Liberal leader Tony Abbott are taking every opportunity to be seen with and amongst “the people”, in the streets, with children, at community meetings or in the workplace trying their hand. Every “photo opp” is carefully orchestrated, every line is scripted, with little room for spontaneity, let alone real debate about issues of concern to people. The Greens are largely shut out of the picture, with more attention to the attacks on them by Abbott and Rudd than on airing their pro-people, pro-environment policies.

“We will build a stronger economy”, Abbott parrots at every opportunity. “We will scrap the carbon tax, the mining tax, the NBN. We will stop the boats. We will run this country, we will say who comes into this country.” On and on he repeats the same lines, regardless of the questions asked. The other Liberal Party candidates trot out the same rehearsed lines and daren’t swerve from the prescribed text.

It is hard to imagine an election campaign so lacking in policy detail. There is little or no substance in the campaigns being run by Liberal and Labor. Nor by the mass media which is happy to focus on personal trivia and run the election battle along similar line to a presidential race between two personalities. The few reporters who ask more serious and penetrating questions are unable to extract serious responses. Abbott and Rudd continue to duck giving direct answers. While the electioneering lacks substance, both parties have serious agendas that should be aired so the electorate know what lies ahead after September 7.

The Liberals have announced an audit following the elections – the same approach as used by former PM John Howard. The audit is the excuse for not announcing details of cuts in services and to social welfare, sacking thousands of public servants, wage cuts and privatisations to come. The line will be that the cupboard is barer than Labor had ever acknowledged. Likewise with the GST, “no plans” yet, but a tax review following the elections will demonstrate the need to either expand its coverage to areas presently exempt or increase the rate or possibly do both. Individual workplace contracts will be back, but using the same language and flexibility clauses of the Fair Work Act. The Libs have already announced that they will strengthen the police powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. What they haven’t indicated is whether it will be extended to cover other industries.

As for Labor, Rudd is persisting with outdoing the Coalition in its cruel and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers. Neither leader pays any attention to their obligations under international law. Rudd’s latest vote catcher is for the Northern Territory to become a special economic zone with lower company tax rates. No details on “the simplified investment rules and streamlined regulation” he promises. Will that involve deregulation of the labour market, lower wages, deunionisation? Labor will also be doing some cutting of its own if elected, but just how deep is being kept under wraps like the Liberal cuts.

The one voice of sanity in the election campaign, the Greens, is receiving token coverage. Much more is being said to counter the Greens, to marginalise them, and so protect the two-party system. None-the-less the Greens are running a highly principled and planned campaign around burning issues of importance to people and the planet and making good use of social media and supporters on the ground. The Coalition is preferencing the Greens last, it would prefer Labor won than risk a Green candidate being elected. Abbott is particularly concerned that Greens MP Adam Bandt might be re-elected to the Lower House. He is trying to goad Labor into distancing itself from the Greens and has thrown out a challenge to Rudd to also put the Greens last.

The Communist Party of Australia is advocating support for the Greens in the Senate to prevent the Coalition from gaining an absolute majority in that House. In the Lower House it is urging support for left and progressive candidates, including Greens and independents.

Next article – Government urged to adopt tobacco tax increase

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