If you looked at the state of the world right now, you could be mistaken for thinking this is a make or break election. Faced with war, climate disaster, and rising inequality, things are bad for the international working class, and there is no sign that is going to turn around anytime soon. The Morrison government is a disaster, having led us through a transition to ‘living with Covid’ where over 5,400 have died this year, more frequently occurring climate disasters like the recent floods, and heightened tensions that have led closer than ever to the prospect of a war with China. But the Labor party is absolutely no alternative.
Take the issue of the cost of living. While the major parties have sung the praises of essential workers who have been worked raw throughout the pandemic, Labor refuses to support any pay increase at all for the majority of workers. Well, thanks doesn’t pay the rent. Worse, the ALP have dropped the policy of restoring penalty rates, and refuse to even conduct an enquiry about raising Newstart to above poverty levels.
If Labor cared about the plight of these extremely underpaid workers, they could legislate an increase to the minimum wage, or legislate the right to strike so that workers can fight for their demands. And state Labor governments have directly contributed to the problem; in 2020, the Palaszczuk Labor government froze teachers’ and nurses’ wages, while increasing those of the police, at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement.
On climate, the Labor party continues to uphold the god-given rights of coal mining billionaires to make money and pollute. Their headline climate policy is an “emissions reduction target of 43 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030”, a titillating policy I’m sure, to the hundreds of thousands who have protested for an immediate transition to renewables and to shut down the coal industry.
Despite their paltry, unambitious targets, the Labor party in practice project their loyalty to the coal barons, some of Australia’s most important capitalists. Albanese recently said he welcomed the opening of three megamines in the Galilee Basin, as well as others, as long as they stack up “environmentally and economically”. Well Labor, actually coal mines never stack up environmentally. As the latest IPCC report says, it’s “now or never” to prevent warming to 1.5 degrees C and stop irreversible climate damage.
And we know QLD Labor’s record on the environment too – they steamrolled ahead with approving the Adani coal mine, bankrupting traditional owner Adrian Burragubba who appealed the decision, and despite 80% of the Australian population saying they opposed the mine. Talk about democracy.
The Liberal party is almost cartoonishly evil, full of violent misogynists, culture warriors and fundamentalist foot soldiers of the Christian right. So, there remains a conception that Labor is the more progressive option for social issues.
This idea, however, needs to be opposed. At every chance it gets, Labor lines up with reactionaries rather than the oppressed. The recent transphobic comments of Liberal candidate Katherine Deves, which referred to transitioning children as “sterilised and mutilated” and to trans women as “serial killers”, have provoked rightful outrage. This person needs to be publicly condemned, and it would be the easiest thing in the world to call out her bigotry – yet Albanese has refused to condemn the comments, and has proclaimed in interviews that he’s “not woke”.
The Labor party also voted for the innocuously titled Religious Freedoms Bill, which seeks to legalise bigotry towards gay and trans students and teachers. And make no mistake, Labor has supported this bill since it was first cooked up in response to the victory of the marriage equality campaign, as they’ve sought to appease religious bigots in the hopes of winning their votes at the next election. Rather than defenders of the oppressed, Labor are the enemy for those who want genuine liberation for the LGBTI community.
Labor are just as committed to continuing the ongoing torture of refugees in Australia’s offshore gulags. Albanese recently bragged that his party supports the exact same immigration policies as the Liberals – those of mandatory detention for years on end, splitting up families, deportations and turning refugee boats back to danger. Labor promises only to continue this system of brualtity, which has left dozens dead from suicide.
And finally, the ALP will provide a steady hand to Australian imperialism. Labor has attacked the LNP from the right, saying they’ve been soft on China and unable to secure Australia’s interests in the Pacific Region (ie. assert itself enough so that it can force independent countries to bend to its will). Labor supports the AUKUS pact for Australia to acquire nuclear powered submarines, a massively aggressive move that will make this continent more of a target, and only complains that we’ll have to wait too long for the subs to be built! Labor is clearly desperate to prove that it too can assure Australia’s position as hegemon in the Pacific, which will only mean even more militarism, more defence spending and more preparations for a bloody imperialist war.
So it’s clear we cannot rely on Labor to change things for the better. This party has long lost any illusion of being progressive or fighting for the working class. Besides, the types of problems we face go beyond the realm of parliament – a world on fire, inequality and oppression.
We need mass struggles to force action on the climate, to free the refugees, and to stop the massive ramping up of military spending that is taking place. A win on any of these issues, would deliver a massive blow to the capitalist class and their lackeys in parliament.
The pandemic, and all the associated disruptions to the economy and supply chains, have threatened profitability for Australian capitalism. The war in Ukraine has exacerbated these. While the bosses have scrambled to scrimp and save, it’s been workers who’ve paid the price, and paid with their health.
If Labor wins government, nothing will fundamentally change. Albanese has stressed this fact in his promise that Labor aims for a “renewal, not revolution” of the system. If they win the election, it will be Labor’s turn at the helm of Australian capitalism, and up to them to savage the living standards of workers, attack the oppressed and aggressively assert their military dominance abroad. In short, it will be a class war from both sides.
Left-wing people that don’t want to see things get worse will have a fight on our hands. We can’t wait for the major parties to grow a conscience, and if they’ve presided over this unequal, exploitative system up until now they’re not likely to.
The sooner we recognise that they’re a part of the problem, the better placed we can be to build our side and fight against them – to organise strikes, call protests and build activist organisations that can challenge the rich and powerful. That means fighting, no matter who is in power.