When the bosses say jump, Tony Abbott asks “How high?” His address to the New South Wales Business Chamber on 19 August gave a taste of things to come under a Coalition government: “You’ve asked for lower taxes and we’ll give you lower taxes. We’ll abolish the carbon tax, we’ll abolish the mining tax, and we’ll cut the company tax rate. You’ve asked for less red tape and that’s exactly what we’ll deliver.”
If only there were a party whose leader would turn up to a mass meeting of workers and say, “You’ve asked us to tax the rich and we’ll tax the rich. The banks have been slugging you all for years, so now we’re going to slug them back. The minerals in the ground are yours, so the profits from them are going to you. We’ll increase the company tax rate to pay for schools and hospitals.”
It is wishful thinking that the ALP might turn around and do this. Under Labor the mining magnates have prospered as in no other time (see p.13). Under Labor the banks have posted the largest profits in Australian history. Under Labor higher education is receiving the biggest cuts in more than a decade. Under Labor single mothers have had their entitlements cut. The list goes on...
The result of Labor’s fawning over big business while in office isn’t just the disappointment of its working class and progressive supporters. The ALP has pushed the political atmosphere to the right, making it easier for conservative and downright reactionary ideas to get a hearing. It has paved the way for an even more right wing anti-working class Liberal government.
If the ALP had stood for more than pleasing the rich, it could have galvanised its supporters and helped foment a fight back against the state Liberal governments that have been implementing austerity. Unfortunately, there are no real forces in the party that have any intention of trying to change course.
It seems increasingly likely that Abbott will be the next prime minister. We know he will make cuts to services, attack the unemployed and the most effective unions, and sack thousands. How far and how fast he will go is unclear.
Labor’s adherence to neoliberalism and its own program of cuts leaves it with little credibility to call Abbott out on this front. The prime minister talks about a “new way” – but there’s not much new here: emulating the Liberals in bashing refugees, promising tax havens in the north of Australia, attempting to reduce union influence in politics and always putting the interests of the bosses first.
In this context, Red Flag is calling for a vote for the Greens above Labor. Not because the Greens have a wonderful record – they have had their snouts in the parliamentary trough for the last three years and done little to build resistance to the government they have in effect been part of.
That’s why we are calling for a first preference vote for Socialist Alliance in seats they are standing for. But voting Green above Labor sends a message that a significant number reject Labor’s disgraceful shift to the right on refugees and other issues.
While a higher Green vote might give Labor some pause for thought, it won’t turn things around. For that, we need to build a real left that can challenge the agenda of the rich.