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Issue #1698      August 19, 2015


Abbott at the abyss

The Coalition’s chances of being returned at the next federal election are fading. The polls have turned sour and established columnists are rounding on the Prime Minister. There have been too many scandals and failed “captain’s calls” for all but the most rusted on conservatives embedded in the corporate media. Abbott’s future as PM is in doubt again and, if the polls are correct, Labor would have romped into office had an election been held last weekend.

How did it come to this? Abbott appeared to be travelling well following the leadership challenge in February and his commitment to be more consultative. Labor was capitulating all along the line, notably on the issue of asylum seeker boat “turn-backs”. The prejudicially named Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption was yielding a steady trickle of outrageously one-sided accounts from the war on workers being waged in the workplace.

News from the last-mentioned side-show has capped off a bleak patch for the Coalition as they position themselves to continue to be the team carrying forward the agenda of the transnational corporations. The revelation that the person heading up the Royal Commission, the already controversial Justice Dyson Heydon, had agreed to speak to a fundraiser for the NSW Liberal Party has set back the “wipe out the unions” project for the time being.

Unions are considering boycotting the Royal Commission’s proceedings and one, at least, is considering seeking compensation for the huge costs of their forced cooperation. Heydon’s comments about opposition leader Bill Shorten’s credibility have lost all their usefulness to the government. It’s the Royal Commissioner whose credibility is at issue now. Calls for his resignation and for the Royal Commission to be shut down will be difficult to resist.

The Royal Commission bombshell followed on from the scandal surrounding former Parliamentary Speaker Bronwyn Bishop’s lavish use of expenses. Jokes and images ridiculing the extremely wasteful use of a helicopter to attend a Liberal Party fundraiser in Victoria forced the reluctant hand of the Coalition. The biased but very useful Howard-era veteran would have to stand aside before the government was essentially laughed out of office.

The latest display of dysfunction, the PM’s scuttling of a conscience vote on same sex marriage for Liberal members of parliament, may well have been the point of no return for Abbott and the Coalition’s chances of re-election. The decision to invite the overwhelmingly anti-equal marriage Nationals to the decisive party room meeting was designed to sink the chances of a conscience vote and the passage of an historic bill through the parliament. The proposition to hold a plebiscite or referendum at the end of the next parliament would place more obstacles in the path of the long-overdue change.

As the Guardian goes to press, Coalition backbencher Warren Entsch is due to present a bill to parliament to allow same-sex marriage. The efforts of the seemingly unlikely champion of equal marriage appear doomed. So are the wishes of a substantial majority of the Australian population. Make no mistake, this stance of Abbott and the arch-conservatives is not about “leadership”, it is about holding back the wishes of the people for change.

In recent times, the issue of same-sex marriage was a useful distraction for the Abbott government. While people were debating the need for legislation, other more sinister projects were unfolding without the attention they deserved. News of the Productivity Commission’s draft report on a new “Workplace Relations Framework” – a regime with even fewer rights for workers, sank almost without trace in a day or two. The mother of all multilateral “free” trade agreements, the Trans Pacific Partnership, is still not being discussed publicly despite its grave threat to the very sovereignty of the country.

Abbott’s misadventures may also be distractions from troubling plans and decisions being made, largely behind closed doors. Voices decrying many aspects of the corporate agenda and looming dictatorship are not cutting through. They don’t yet have a unified vision of the alternative to capitalism, which is destroying the lives of people and the planet they inhabit. The Communist Party of Australia is working to advance this alternative, i.e. socialism, and move us beyond the grim theatre we see playing out in our parliaments and the decay taking place in our communities.

Next article – Dust Diseases Board axing slammed

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