The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that it’s now or never, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says that we are “firmly on track toward an unlivable world”. The prospect of war between nuclear-armed states has returned with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. COVID-19 is still claiming more than 150,000 lives per week globally.
Working-class living standards are going backwards while the wealth of Australia’s 47 billionaires doubled over the last two years to $255 billion. Collectively, those 47 people own more than the poorest 7.7 million people, according to Oxfam. In this, one of the richest countries in the world, more than 100,000 people are homeless, the public hospital systems are in almost permanent crisis, and the unemployed have to skip meals to pay their bills.
Fortunately, the federal election will provide an opportunity for people to choose a totally different future—to elect a government that will address the key challenges of our time.
Just kidding. It’s the Coalition versus the ALP.
There’s no point wasting too many keystrokes on the Liberals and Nationals. Pick an issue and their number one focus is on helping big business make money out of it. They see people in poverty and think only of new ways to make them work harder to stay in it.
What about Labor? Over the last two years, while the world faced the greatest set of crises in generations, opposition leader Anthony Albanese’s main contribution to politics was to shed a few kilos and get a new set of specs so that he can look more prime ministerial.
Emerging from his months-long day spa, the opposition leader addressed an Australian Financial Review business summit last month, in which he pledged to be like former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard. Then, like a pathetic, spineless jester, he put on a virtue signalling performance for the Murdoch press, declaring in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph that he’s “not woke”.
That is, he spoke to the two constituencies that he believes must be kept onside if Labor is to be guaranteed victory: the capitalists and the culture warrior political right.
Underlining Albanese’s posturing, shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers, addressing the National Press Club last week, said: “We want to be a pro-business, pro-employer Labor Party”.
Attempting some sophisticated political evaluation of the ALP at this point would only insult the intelligence of Red Flag readers. The party leaders are snivelling sucks for power whose primary concern is their own elevation to office. They seem to bare teeth only when fighting each other over the division of parliamentary seats and cabinet positions.
A decade ago, Albanese fronted a press conference during the Labor leadership fight that reinstalled Kevin Rudd as prime minister. “I like fighting Tories. That’s what I do”, he said, holding back tears. That’s how hard they fight each other—it’s so traumatic that even their factional warriors can be brought to public breakdowns.
But they don’t fight for the rest of us with such tenacity. In fact, for the ALP’s leaders, everyone else appears expendable. Refugees, LGBTI people, unions, low-paid workers, single mothers on welfare, Aboriginal people, even the future of the planet—all in recent years have taken a back seat, or have been thrown under the bus, to satisfy the politicians’ aspirations to serve Australian capitalism.
In The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels wrote that the capitalist class is unfit to rule because it pushes workers into a state of permanent poverty. “It is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him”.
One can’t help but think of the unemployed sections of the working class in Australia today. But here’s the rub: even the Business Council of Australia says the dole is too low and should be raised close to the level of the aged pension. The BCA comprises the chief executives of the largest companies in the country. It is, quite simply, the premier association of the Australian bourgeoisie—the capitalists’ club, the brotherhood of bosses.
Yet the BCA is to the left of the self-described party of labour, which is opposed to lifting the unemployed out of poverty. Let that sink in for a moment.
The federal election this year should be the most consequential in generations. The world is in crisis, and drastic action is required to secure a livable planet and an equitable society. Yet we’re offered two visions of the future that differ little from each other or from past policies that have caused many of the current problems.
No wonder people are turned off by politics and politicians.
By agreeing to pass the safeguard mechanism reforms, Labor’s signature climate policy, the Greens have helped greenwash the continued expansion of fossil fuels.
Last week’s conclusion of the Royal Commission into the Robodebt scheme has once again brought national attention to the program that, from 2015 to 2019, saw nearly half a million welfare recipients hounded over unlawful fake debts concocted using faulty calculations.
The global economy has been in turmoil since the start of the pandemic—collapse, rebound, inflationary spiral. Now, “It’s the ‘Godot’ recession”, Ray Farris, chief economist at Credit Suisse, told the Wall Street Journal in early March. Everyone waits but it doesn’t seem to come. Every few months, economic forecasts flip from contraction to slowdown to cautious optimism about sustained growth.
The Australian Greens achieved unprecedented success at the last federal election, gaining their highest ever number of parliamentary seats after putting forward a left-wing platform calling for including dental and mental health in Medicare, the wiping of student debt, 1 million affordable homes, free child care and income-support increases.
There is a dangerous escalation of transphobia happening right now. The political right in the United States and the United Kingdom are rolling back civil rights for trans people specifically and LGBT people more broadly. This is being driven by an amalgamation of mainstream conservative parties, the far right, Christian fundamentalists and right-wing shock jocks and tabloids.
Hundreds of students protested across the country on Friday 17 March to demand an end to fossil fuels and taxes on the rich and big corporations to fund a shift to renewables and decarbonisation of the economy. The protests, organised by the National Union of Students, criticised the Labor government for approving major new coal and gas projects when the world needs to rapidly reduce emissions.