Editorial: Abbott’s cuts and lies still coming, time to hit back

Abbott’s response to the standoff that left at least 8000 Rohingya asylum seekers stranded on the high seas, without adequate food or medical supplies, was obscene.

Despite the obvious risk of drownings as a result of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand all turning the boats back, he declared his full backing for their actions.

This obvious contempt for the lives of asylum seekers puts the lie to Abbott’s claim that turnbacks are about saving lives at sea.

Abbott and Hockey claim that their budget shows a new-found fairness is just another lie. Everyone knows it is only a desperate ploy to save their jobs.

The backflips required mean their attempts to sell it have next to no credibility. A year ago Hockey was warning of a “debt and deficits disaster” and telling us the “age of entitlement is over”.

Now, despite large chunks of the last budget failing to pass the Senate, he makes out that the problem is dealt with, saying “We’re coming through”.

And just a year ago Abbott was promoting his now ditched parental leave scheme, saying it was “an idea whose time has come”. Now he and his ministers are attacking mothers who have access to employer-funded parental leave on top of the minimum wage government scheme for “double dipping” and rorting.

The budget was such a transparent effort to throw out the approach of last year that some people are now speculating about an early election. But Abbott is still behind in the polls. There is nothing to indicate the budget has been well received, despite attempts by the media talk it up.

It may not be electoral poison like last year, but it still won’t make people better off. A Seven News ReachTel poll conducted a few days after the budget found just 16.4 per cent thought they would be financially better off, and 53.3 per cent said they would be about the same. Both that poll and Newpoll have Labor still ahead 53 to 47 per cent in two party terms.

But to make sure Abbott stays down, we need to get back on the streets in large numbers, and build more powerful campaigns against his agenda. The failure of union leaders, Labor or The Greens to build ongoing campaigns means that the wave of protests against the government’s first budget has been allowed to peter out.

This year’s budget does not have the same frontal attacks on Medicare, pensioners or universities. But there are plenty of cuts still in the budget from last year that are just starting to be felt.

Abbott’s deal with WA to cease federal funding for remote Aboriginal communities will result in community closures. But they are still to happen. This means there is time for the demonstrations to continue.

Smaller cuts can continue to generate protest and opposition. For instance protesters in Tasmania confronted Joe Hockey following the budget, angry over the closure of a Launceston rehabilitation unit, the John L Grove centre.

Continuing to campaign in support of refugees, and against Abbott’s scaremonger on national security, is also vital to undermining his support.

One important event in fighting Islamophobia will be the counter-rallies against the second round of anti-Muslim “Reclaim Australia” rallies.

We need to confront the racism of “Reclaim Australia” but it is the anti-Muslim racism stirred by Abbott that is encouraging the far right. To effectively fight that, we need to broaden the base of opposition to Abbott’s Islamophobia, to involve trade unions, Muslim and migrant community groups in organising events beyond the counter-rallies


Unless unions and the wider left attempt to build a stronger fightback, there is a risk that Abbott will be let off the hook. Everyone needs to get behind the federal public sector strikes in May and June.

Bill Shorten’s budget reply speech showed everything that is wrong with the approach of simply voting out Abbott at the next election.

If Labor does win we will be left with a government just as right-wing and pro-business as the Gillard and Rudd Labor governments before it. Shorten offers nothing to make people enthusiastic about voting Labor because he is committed to the same conservative approach to economic management as the Liberals.

Refugee rights activists will be converging to rally outside the Labor national conference in Melbourne at the end of July, to build the pressure to change Labor policy over refugees. As thousands of Rohingya asylum seekers drift in boats in desperate conditions off Malaysia and Indonesia, Labor has done nothing to challenge Abbott’s turnback policy. The wider campaigning against Abbott’s cuts also needs to outline an alternative of taxing the rich to reverse the cuts to schools and hospitals, and create jobs. We need to get Abbott out—and fight for a real alternative that puts people before profits.


Solidarity meetings

Latest articles

Read more

Opposition to the Abbott agenda brought down PM

Abbott was never a popular figure. But it was the sweeping cuts in his first budget that sealed his fate.

Turnbull—a new salesman but the same agenda

Just two years into his term as Prime Minister, Tony Abbott has been toppled by his own party. This is cause for celebration for...

Editorial: Abbott on the ropes again after same-sex marriage debacle

In the aftermath of the Bronwyn Bishop travel rorts affair, Abbott has slumped in the polls. Labor is leading 54-46 according to Newspoll.