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Issue #1739      July 13, 2016


No mandate

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull set out to rid the Senate of cross-benchers and gain absolute control of both Houses of Parliament. He now faces the prospect of a record number of cross-benchers in the Senate – possibly as many as 20 or more. Almost 65 percent of the electorate gave their primary vote to a non-Coalition party in the Senate ballot. The vote was a big “NO” to the Coalition’s pro-big business policies.

There is absolutely no way that the Coalition can claim to have a “mandate” for its policies, including the two union-busting bills that were used to trigger the double dissolution of Parliament. That will not stop them claiming a “mandate” if they get a clear majority of 76 seats in the House of Representatives.

There is no room for complacency. As counting of votes continues, the possibility of a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament passing these two bills cannot be ruled out. A number of far right candidates, including from One Nation, have been elected.

The two bills, the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the Registered Organisation bills, were hardly mentioned during the eight-week election campaign. That does not mean the Coalition has abandoned them or its broader anti-union agenda. Quite the contrary.

Turnbull’s days as leader are numbered. He must deliver the Coalition’s anti-worker agenda, and deliver quickly if he is to hold onto the top job. He leads a Liberal Party which is bitterly divided, full of hatred and anger and leaking like a sieve. Retribution is in the wind amongst the far right Abbott supporters. His task has not been made easier by the larger number of cross-benchers in the Senate and the expected slim majority in the Lower House.

Right-wing columnist in the Financial Review, Jennifer Hewett, drew the conclusion that “the combination of this Coalition government – and their own advocacy skills – failed to persuade enough people that what’s good for business is also good for ordinary Australians, including 10 million employees.” (“Business adds up real cost of election”, FR, 06-07-2016) The result “also reflects a widespread resentment that politics-as-usual, business-as-usual are no longer delivering for ordinary people,” Hewett said.

On both counts she is correct. Neo-liberal policies are not delivering for ordinary people. The wealth gap is widening, jobs are being casualised, hospital queues mounting, housing unaffordable, social security payments under attack and workers being made redundant and wages and working conditions eroded. The economic interests of workers and businesses are diametrically opposed. Every increase in wages results in a corresponding decrease in profits. Likewise, every cut in wages or other labour costs results in a corresponding increase in profits. This is the nature of capitalism, of class society, which Hewett falsely claims can be dispensed with using “advocacy skills”, promoting myths about common interests.

The promised corporate tax cuts would not create jobs. They would increase profits to be pocketed by bosses and shareholders. They would be funded by cuts to social security payments and to education and health. The loss of this income to the economy would have a negative impact on economic growth and jobs.

The electorate was not fooled by the monotonous chanting of “growth and jobs” and “the plan” without policy content. Industrial relations policy lacked credibility. It spoke in generalities about being “the party of fairness and honesty in the workplace”! There were no details of the Coalition’s union-busting, anti-worker agenda - written by big business for big business - or the draconian measures in the ABCC legislation. There are already claims coming from government ranks that they have a mandate.

Big business has a huge war chest and is ready to take on the union movement, confident it has a government that will back their every move. The union movement faces the fight of its life, a fight for survival against a ruthless government aimed at achieving results for the ruling class it serves.

Next article – Workers’ actions at twin city rallies

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