Scott Morrison is on the ropes. Opinion polls are running hard against the federal Liberals. The results in the NSW February by-elections also indicate that the anti-Liberal sentiment runs deep.
Morrison’s effort with the ukulele on A Current Affair may well be remembered as his swansong. It should be.
His last minute move to ram the Religious Discrimination Bill through Parliament blew up in his face. Morrison’s bill would have given religious schools the power to expel trans kids and sack LGBTI+ teachers, as well as grant religious bigots a licence to abuse people. But even his own MPs wouldn’t back him. Five Liberals crossed the floor to vote against him.
Just days before, Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame tossed Morrison’s pathetic apology for sexual harassment in Parliament House back in his face. They tore metaphorical strips off Morrison at the National Press Club. “I’m not interested in words any more. I want to see action,” Higgins said.
Just the week before, text messages from Liberals emerged labelling Morrison as “horrible person” and a “complete psycho”.
While Omicron cases are now slowing, there is still a severe crisis in hospitals and aged care homes. The aged care outbreaks have been particularly deadly due to the federal government’s failure to roll out vaccine boosters. Almost a third of those who’ve died in the Omicron wave have been aged care residents—over 680 people.
Labor’s small target
Morrison is stumbling from one disaster to the next. But instead of going on the offensive and burying him, Labor leader Anthony Albanese is simply hoping disgust with the government will carry Labor over the line in May to election victory.
Labor is trying to present a small target, minimising its differences with the Coalition. Instead of opposing the Religious Discrimination Bill outright, it supported a series of amendments. One of them, protecting trans kids, succeeded.
But it then voted for the final bill containing other discriminatory measures out of fear that it might lose conservative religious votes. Yet an opinion poll showed 77 per cent oppose the right to make bigoted comments that remained in the bill Labor voted for.
Labor has also reversed its opposition to Morrison’s Kurri Kurri gas power plant, greenwashing its capitulation by claiming it would make it run on green hydrogen.
And after government ministers went on the offensive about Labor being soft on foreign criminals, Labor backed down on a bill that gives the government even more powers to cancel visas. Labor helped defeat the racist bill last October, but caved this time.
On aged care, Morrison has offered two paltry payments of $400 to staff on the pandemic frontline. While Albanese attacked Morrison over staffing levels and declared the government should be supporting a wage increase, he wouldn’t back the union claim for a 25 per cent increase.
If Labor took a real stand to back aged care workers, it would be a blow against Morrison.
The Liberals are going all out to launch new scare campaigns over national security. ASIO claims it intervened to disrupt the efforts of a wealthy “puppeteer” who had “direct and deep connections with a foreign government and its intelligence agencies” from influencing election candidates. Peter Dutton added to the farce by claiming that the Chinese government is supporting Albanese. The scare-mongering goes hand in hand with their war-mongering over China and the Ukraine.
It is a measure of their desperate efforts to cling to power, as they slide further behind in the polls.
Instead of TV advertising and another electoral campaign in marginal seats, the ACTU should be calling strikes and demonstrations against falling real wages. Inflation is now 3.5 per cent and many essentials like petrol up even further. After two years of sacrifices unions should be stepping up action around safety and pay.
The NSW nurses are leading the way. Tens of thousands of nurses struck for up to 24 hours to demand more staff, nurse to patient ratios, a decent pay rise and a COVID bonus. The chaos and pressure on hospitals during Omicron means everyone identifies with the fight of frontline workers. The tens of billions Morrison is spending on nuclear submarines could be used to boost public hospitals and ensure they are prepared to cope with any future COVID variant.
Now is the time to step up the fight. Everyone needs to get behind the school students’ Climate Strikes in Sydney and Perth on 25 March. There will be protests for refugee rights on 20 March in Sydney, and 10 April elsewhere.
Every strike and protest between now and the election can help drive Morrison from office. Going quiet for Labor won’t build the fight that’s needed. It is struggle from below that can win change.
We need more socialists in every workplace and movement. Join us to help finish Morrison off and to fight for a world where human needs—health, living standards and climate action—come before profits.