By Jim Hayes
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for Labor winning the federal election next year. The alternative of an ongoing Coalition government would be a disaster in many ways. More so, when it is hell bent on transforming the Australian political landscape into an ugly expression of entrenched inequality, exploitation and repression, which is far worse than anything experienced before.
In the course of backing Labor as the next government, sober heads don’t have to buy into the hype that Labor would bring in any fundamental change in direction. It won’t. The leadership has never claimed that it will. Deep down, they accept the general premise of the Coalition. This is that the fundamental force for the creation of wealth and building society is the big investor.
The departure point is that Labor stands, for a more equal distribution of wealth and a kinder, more benevolent form of government. This is important, and if we are to go by the polls, most of Australia is agreeing.
Pulling back from the plunge into extreme neoliberalism and new depths of inhumanity would be a welcome change. At least, it would provide some breathing space for the millions of Australians, whose living standards and rights are heading south.
Besides, there is at present none else with the potential to form an alternative government next year. So Labor it must be.
The Greens are important. In many ways they are the conscience of society, and the greater the support for them the better. The Greens exert a healthy pressure on Labor. They are an important expression of the growing disillusionment with the traditional two-party system, because it is not delivering what a large part of Australia wants. Other than this, there are a number of micro parties and individuals. They are also part of dissatisfied Australia.
If we want to ensure Australia progresses towards a better future, it is necessary to do much more to break down tribalism and build unity around a common purpose. Broadly speaking, this is an economic policy that puts people first and building greater democracy as the alternative means of governing society.
To be honest, it must be admitted that Labor tends to be contradictory in a range of policy areas. It causes some internal schism. This might be evidenced in the coming federal party conference on 16-18 December. A stoush is shaping up over refugee policy, free trade, the level of Newstart, and the Adani coal mine.
This cannot just be put down to factional rivalries. Ultimately and most importantly, this is a division between the leadership and the ranks. It all boils down to the leadership wanting minimal change and others wanting more.
This can make Bill Shorten and his team look like a bunch of fence sitters. While this may not be enough to prevent an election victory, it may well have its main impact after the election. If Labor fails to deliver on expectations, disillusionment will set in quickly, and pave the way for the return of the Coalition.
We’ve been here before. The difference this time, is the prospect of a Coalition, remoulded into something even worse than what it is at present, led by radicals like Abbott and Dutton, and backed by Rupert Murdoch. Australia will slide further into reaction, and ordinary Australian will pay a heavy price for it.
To stop this, we must work together as an active movement bringing about change, engaging the population in active participation, and aiming at an entirely different vision of the future.