Albanese backs military spending surge but won’t act on cost of living

Anthony Albanese is still stalling on cost of living relief, even after announcing a further budget windfall. The budget surplus has swelled to $19 billion, well ahead of the $4.2 billion tipped in May.

Labor claims that more spending could increase inflation. But that’s an excuse. It has also boasted that energy bill relief in its budget actually decreased inflation.

Further efforts to reduce power bills would be a start. Power prices went up another 20 to 30 per cent in July, forcing many to think twice about turning on the heating in winter.

Another increase to JobSeeker payments and support for low income workers is urgent.

Foodbank’s Brianna Casey says the charity is hearing reports of school children stealing food from other students’ lunchboxes to find something to eat.

But instead of helping workers who are struggling with power bills and mortgage costs, Labor would rather appease business through conservative economic management.

It made a show of replacing Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe, after he delivered 12 interest rate increases in 14 months. But this will do nothing to stop further rate rises. His replacement, Michelle Bullock, already sits on the board that has been raising rates.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus blustered against Bullock’s support for deliberately driving up unemployment. But where was the signal for a union offensive on pay?

Labor’s militarism

Albanese travelled to July’s NATO summit for the second year in a row to promote militarism and the arms race with China.

He urged on NATO’s move into Asia to join the US confrontation with China, alongside NATO “Indo-Pacific partners” Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. The meeting’s final communique declared Chinese policies were a “challenge our interests, security and values” and posed a “systemic challenge… to Euro-Atlantic security”.

Although plans for an office in Japan were postponed, NATO struck a series of deals deepening co-operation with the four Indo-Pacific nations.

Albanese announced another 30 Bushmasters for Ukraine, and is dispatching a surveillance aircraft to Germany to help secure the pipeline of Western arms to the war. And he announced a $1 billion deal with Germany to export armoured cars.

This year German troops will also join the Talisman Sabre war games in Queensland for the first time.

Paul Keating was right to say NATO is run by a “supreme fool” and that the West’s encirclement of China is incredibly dangerous.

We need an anti-war movement that fights Albanese’s militarism. The appalling $368 billion nuclear submarines are only making war with China more likely, and diverting billions of dollars that could be spent on cost of living relief or climate action.

Voice to Parliament

Labor’s support for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament is another big distraction from the action needed to deliver real self-determination and end Indigenous oppression.

Support for the Voice has dropped steadily in the polls as Peter Dutton steps up his racist campaign.

But it is not just Dutton to blame for the loss of support. The Yes campaign is struggling to show how a Voice to Parliament would make any difference. The fact that it will be a toothless advisory body means many Indigenous people are unenthusiastic, some are openly opposed.

Under attack from the right, Voice campaigners have denied the body would have any influence over key Indigenous rights issues such as the demand for reparations, military bases on Indigenous lands and even ending national celebrations on 26 January.

The Albanese government is still ignoring Indigenous voices, from the calls to stop expanding youth detention, his broken election promise to end compulsory income management, or the opposition to coal and gas mining on Indigenous land.

This will continue if the Voice is established. Real change is going to require a movement on the streets.

Larrakia traditional owners have delayed land clearing at a Defence Housing development at Lee Point in Darwin after blockading the site. More of this kind of action is needed to defend Indigenous land and win justice. The Black Lives Still Matter rally in Sydney on 19 August is another important step.

Unions NSW is backing action in the Pilliga against the Santos gas project on 12 August and another major rally against Santos is planned in Sydney on 14 September.

A union campaign for higher pay in the face of the cost of living crisis is also needed.

Workers at the API pharmaceutical warehouse in Dandenong in Melbourne have been on strike for over three weeks demanding a 7 per cent pay rise.

But after threatening strikes against the NSW Labor government, the Health Services Union called them off following the offer of a $3500 across the board wage increase, instead of 4 per cent. The would see low paid workers get more, at the cost of others accepting less. A concerted campaign of strikes could win far more.

Albanese and Labor are committed to policies that benefit the rich and do nothing to solve the problems facing working class people. Building resistance from below against Labor’s militarism, new coal and gas projects, anti-refugee policies as well as strikes for higher wages is what’s needed.


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