Anthony Albanese and Labor are riding high, with Peter Dutton and the Liberals staying far to the right and still branded by their failures in office.
If NSW Liberal Premier Dominic Perrottet loses the state election on 25 March, there will be Labor governments in every state except Tasmania.
Yet Labor is still refusing to deliver any kind of serious change.
The cost of living keeps rising, with inflation up again to 7.8 per cent. The Reserve Bank has hiked interest rates for the ninth month in a row, warning there are still further increases ahead.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers says Labor’s price caps on coal and gas are working to bring down power bills, but has confirmed they will still rise another 23 per cent this year.
The government is refusing to do any more, claiming more spending would fuel inflation.
But tougher price caps on power as well as other soaring costs like rents could hit profits without pushing up prices. And workers deserve pay rises matching inflation when it’s mainly corporate profits fuelling the problem.
Instead, Labor is committed to modest, middle of the road policies that pose no challenge to capitalism or the rich.
Albanese wants a Voice to parliament that is a powerless advisory body without committing to deliver any serious boost to funding for Indigenous communities, land rights or action on deaths in custody.
Instead of actually listening to the voices of Indigenous people in Alice Springs or the opposition to mining development in the Pilliga, Albanese’s focus is on winning over Liberal Party support for his referendum.
He says he wants it to be a “moment where we come together as a nation”. But bringing together Peter Dutton, big business and the mining bosses is not going to deliver real change. And Dutton does not even seem interested in it.
The Liberals have also moved to oppose Labor’s climate Safeguards legislation, even though big business wants them to back it. The Liberals are determined to oppose doing anything on climate change.
This will only ensure their problems winning back heartland seats lost to the teal independents, keeping them out of government for the foreseeable future.
But instead of seizing the opportunity to lock in meaningful action on climate change, Labor is sticking with the small target policies it took to the election, designed to minimise the differences between Labor and the Coalition.
Stop the Safeguards farce
Its Safeguards mechanism is a policy the Liberals invented. Labor’s version is a gift to big polluting companies, allowing them to buy unlimited offsets instead of actually reducing emissions. It will enable a mass expansion of coal and gas mining.
Labor has made it clear it won’t move one inch beyond this, with Chris Bowen saying it would implement what it took to the election and “nothing more”. Instead it is demanding The Greens back down over their demands to halt new coal and gas developments and wave it through, accusing them of setting out to “sabotage” climate action in league with the Liberals.
Labor hopes to neuter The Greens, after they gave in last year to back its hopeless 43 per cent climate target and have given uncritical support to the Voice to parliament.
If Labor won’t move, The Greens should block the legislation. But their concern to be parliamentary players able to strike deals means that’s unlikely.
The limits of what can be achieved in parliament are dramatically on show. Despite holding the balance of power in the Senate, The Greens have been unable to force major concessions from Labor.
Instead Labor has used the conservative weight of the media and big business to demand The Greens retreat. Even liberal commentators in The Guardian have taken Labor’s side.
We need a much bigger movement on the streets to turn this around and win any real change.
The School Strike for Climate rallies on 3 March, the first since the election, are an important first step. There will be actions in five cities, including Sydney, Canberra and Perth.
Labor has announced that it will finally deliver on its election promise by allowing refugees on Temporary Protection Visas to apply for permanent visas by the end of March.
But again it refused to go any further, offering nothing to the 10,000 rejected under the Liberals’ unfair processing system or those brought here from Manus and Nauru. The Palm Sunday rallies will demand that Labor back permanent visas for all and end their support for offshore detention.
Teachers’ and nurses’ unions in NSW have wound down their strikes into a door-knocking campaign for Labor at the state election.
We need a union strike campaign for wages that keep pace with the cost of living. Workers in Britain are showing the way, with the largest national strikes in 30 years.
It is struggle on the streets and in the workplaces that holds the hope for change—not relying on parliament to do it for us.