by Bill F.
What can the Australian people make of the recent farce played out over the re-election of Julia Gillard as leader of the parliamentary Labor Party?
On one level, many people were surprised that, contrary to the media hype and the inflated expectations of some nervous back-benchers, Kevin Rudd didn’t nominate.
Instead, he appeared to stake out a patch of moral high ground by ‘sticking to his word’ not to challenge a sitting Prime Minister – in contrast to Gillard’s coup against him, and in contrast to her ‘broken promise’ on the carbon tax. This almost certainly guarantees he will continue to be a thorn in her side for a while yet.
On another level, we need to remember that, like the election of the Pope, the numbers game in the Labor Party is conducted by factional power-brokers behind closed doors. Caucus is only a rubber stamp that endorses decisions made elsewhere.
Our guess is that a deal was done. Gillard gets a crack at the federal election, Swan gets to deliver his budget, and Rudd takes over if it doesn’t work out. Face is saved, and an appearance created that the Labor Party stands (somewhat) united behind its leader going into the election!
Out of touch
Regardless of from whatever level we look at it, the whole parliamentary theatre is totally divorced from the lives of Australian working people.
Policy differences between the Coalition and the Labor Party are minimal. Both support the system of monopoly capitalism and pander to big business. Both espouse privatisation and the IMF ‘free trade’ agenda that has decimated Australian manufacturing jobs.
Both are subservient to the interests of US imperialism and its domination of Australian foreign policy. Both collude with the expansion of US military forces in the Asia-Pacific region, and would willingly drag Australia into new American wars. They compete to sell themselves as loyal lap-dogs.
Workers left behind
While they shadow-box and point-score in parliament, public schools and hospitals are starved for funds, social services are pruned back, pensions fail to keep pace with the rising costs of living, and job security and working conditions deteriorate for millions of Australian workers.
There’s no money for these things, they say, we have to balance the budget.
Yet the big banks and the mining magnates are rolling in massive wealth, and big business executives get huge salaries and million dollar bonuses just for turning up.
The big promises of taxing mining profits and rolling back climate warming through a carbon tax have turned out to be fizzers. The Gonski report on school funding gathers dust.
It’s no wonder that many workers have turned away from the Labor Party. In reality it is the Labor Party leadership which has turned its back on the workers, dropping its pretence of representing working people and taking up the ruling class terminology of ‘aspirational families” etc.
It’s no wonder these days that many people are cynical about parliament altogether and only show enthusiasm for voting ‘bastards’ out with no great enthusiasm for the replacement lot. Only a handful of Greens and independents occasionally take a stand in the interests of the working people, but whatever facts they present are drowned out by the monopoly media bias that reduces all politics to Liberal vs. Labor.
Australia needs a new politics of fundamental change to improve the lives of the people. This is not possible as long as the nation’s key industries and resources are owned or controlled by foreign monopolies and investors, as long as profits are sucked away overseas, as long as interest on foreign loans goes the same way.
Nationalisation of key industries, such as gas, water, electricity, telecommunications, banking and mineral resources would put them to work for the benefit of the Australian people, not for profiteers on the other side of the world.
Instead of a ‘talking shop’ parliament divorced from the people, a genuinely independent Australian republic would have a system of government based on participatory democracy, where the people are not only extensively consulted, but actually have a role in implementing and enforcing the agreed policies.
Our task and challenge is to mobilise the working people around this vision of a better future, because we’ll never get it through the revolving doors of parliament.