For months now Solidarity has been reporting on the growing contradictions between the hopes that people had for a progressive Rudd government and the reality of the new government’s performance.
Rather than simply avoiding making changes, or making them slowly, the last month has shown that Rudd is embracing much of the neo-liberal agenda of the Howard years.
Unveiling his new education policy (see page 5) Rudd attacked basic Labor commitments to funding models for education that are based on ensuring schools receive equitable funding. Instead he embraced Howard’s rhetoric about “choice” and “responsibility”—code for under-funding.
But perhaps the most telling aspect of Rudd’s education policy was the chance he took to beat the (rightly resistant) education unions. “It’s time to arrive in the twenty-first century,” he said. “Let’s get past the name calling, let’s get past all this pointless debate about blaming someone here or blaming someone there, and let’s get on with the business.”
His attack on the education unions was not an aberration. Despite growing pressure from the CFMEU, Rudd and his government are sticking by their commitment to maintain the Australian Building Construction Commission until 2010. In addition to this, the Rudd government is allowing big business to find loopholes to maintain AWA wages and conditions (see page 32).
This is not the change that we worked for last year. As we have seen in NSW with the ousting of Treasurer Michael Costa and Premier Moris Iemma, it is possible for the left in its broadest sense (including the unions, the rank and file of the Labor party, the Greens and social movements) to exert real pressure on Labor governments.
The massive swing against Labor in the Western Australian state election (see page 9) highlights what happens if this organisation is absent. Without a left-wing counter force, the Liberals have benefited from growing dissatisfaction with Labor’s policies.
This September the government will also receive the review of the Northern Territory intervention (see page 16). The rallies calling for the intervention to be scrapped, along with the resistance to Rudd’s union bashing, provide us with opportunities to focus the growing suspicion of Rudd’s real agenda. Within the space of one week, NSW and WA have both highlighted the importance of building this organised response.