Now that the results of the federal election are being finalised, showing that the Coalition only narrowly won re-election and enjoyed no big swing towards it, there is no basis for the left and progressive activists to sit around lamenting Labor’s failure to win the election and every incentive to get back onto the streets to resist the government’s reactionary agenda.
We’ve got at least three more years of Coalition government ahead of us now. Three more years in which carbon emissions will continue to grow, as they have for the past four years, three more years of torturing refugees, three more years of screwing workers and welfare beneficiaries. But that is no cause for despair. We can’t wait three years; we have to fight now.
There is every indication that the new Morrison government will continue where it left off before the election.
Even before parliament has resumed, we’ve seen the same nasty, reactionary and racist approach. We’ve seen the government send a boatload of Sri Lankan refugees approaching Christmas Island straight back to the country they were escaping. We’ve seen their callousness towards refugees on Manus Island and Nauru attempting suicide as their only escape from their hellish conditions. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said that scrapping the medevac legislation that allows very sick refugees access to medical facilities in Australia will be one of the government’s first priorities. We’ve seen the appointment to ministerial positions of a slew of bigots, climate change deniers, cheats and swindlers of public funds.
The government is getting ready to hand over billions of dollars in tax cuts to the well-off if it gets its way in parliament in July. These cuts, which will start to take effect in two years, will mean that professionals, managers and executives on $200,000 a year will soon pay the same marginal tax rate as a worker on $45,000. If Morrison and Frydenberg are serious about returning the budget to surplus next year and to maintain it in surplus after that, the only way they can do it is by stripping funds from public services, social security, health and education. If the economy dips in the meantime, squeezing revenues even harder, the cuts will be harsher still.
We can also expect to see more encouragement of the fossil fuel industries and more neglect of the environmental crisis. More money will be channelled to private schools, private hospitals and the private health insurance industry. There will be more attacks on the trade unions, particularly now that the anti-union Australian Building and Construction Commission is set to survive for at least another three years. More nauseating hypocrisy about family values and religious freedom. More brutality towards refugees and Muslims and more scapegoating of immigrants. More money thrown at the military to help Australia throw its weight around the Asia-Pacific arm in arm with Donald Trump.
Now that One Nation has confirmed its use for the Coalition, with its preferences securing substantial two-party preferred swings in regional areas, expect more racism and nods to white supremacy. Figures such as Peter Dutton and new multicultural affairs minister Jason Woods will need little encouragement.
The Morrison government has this in store for us. How much it can get away with will depend on the resistance they face.
Unfortunately, with Labor looking set to jag to the right, it’s likely that Morrison will get an easy ride in parliament. It was never the case, even if Shorten had won the election, that we could have taken it easy under a Labor government – we only have to look at the record of the Rudd and Gillard governments to see that. But now that the leadership is talking about abandoning even the weak social democratic program that Shorten put up during the election campaign, it’s even clearer that we can’t look to Labor to save us.
If we are to defend our rights, we have to take up the fight ourselves. We have already seen lively rallies around the country, demanding government action around the climate emergency, with several thousand turning out in Melbourne on four days’ notice, and hundreds more in each of Sydney, Brisbane, Wollongong and Adelaide. Dozens showed up at the Extinction Rebellion planning day in Melbourne in late May.
Refugee supporters have taken to the streets in Sydney and Melbourne, and more actions are planned, including nationwide rallies on 20 July. Two months later, on 20 September, we will be playing our part in the global week of climate action, and university students are already getting planning under way.
And if the unions divert even a fraction of the resources they threw into Change the Rules into on the ground organising and campaigning, they can make a big difference.
Morrison may appear cocky and prepared to stare down opposition, but sustained and large-scale resistance could wipe the smile off his face. His party has solved none of its internal divisions between the right and the so-called moderates. Cabinet members were at each other’s throats six months ago and they will be again. The government got back in not because the Coalition secured the support of workers, students and the poor. Morrison will know the loss of just two seats would result in the Coalition again being at the mercy of the minor parties in both houses, not just the Senate.
The ALP may have lost the election, but there are plenty more battles to come. We need to start the fightback now.