Abbott is running the most right wing Liberal campaign seen for a long time. His racist fear campaign about refugees and his promise to turn the boats back has recommitted the Liberals to the very worst aspects of Howard’s policy.
Similarly, his comments that we are facing an “armada” of asylum boats that need to be stopped by force have many scared of a return to the darkest days of Howard. His opportunism on climate change encourages the climate deniers.
Bob Brown warns that Abbott wants to cut 12,000 public service jobs. Nobody in his or her right mind would want to see an Abbott government in office.
Thankfully the opinion polls so far point to a Labor win with an increased vote for The Greens.
But the tragedy is that Gillard has taken Labor to the right as she has tried to shore up the falling poll numbers under Kevin Rudd.
The problem with Rudd is that he was too right-wing already. Rudd talked about social democracy and rhetorically condemned “extreme capitalism” and “excessive greed”, but remained wedded to the market (see How do Rudd go wrong so fast).
Like Rudd before her, Gillard’s has allowed Abbott to set the terms of the debate—over refugees, the economy and government spending, and climate change. Any initial hope that Julia Gillard would deliver change is long gone.
It didn’t have to be like this.
Labor could have buried Abbott by standing up to his racist fear-mongering, doing something substantial on climate change and doing something for working families instead of endlessly talking about it.
The failure of the left to demand it off them and the tendency to go quiet for Labor got us nowhere.
Rudd got elected on the back of the union movement’s campaign against WorkChoices, but promptly turned his back on the union movement.
The trade union leaders turned “Your rights at work—worth fighting for” into “Your rights at work—worth fighting and voting for.” Now it is clear why there has to be a fight.
Even at the ACTU Congress, the union leadership was pushing for a Labor government to commit to a new round of industrial relations reform. The ABCC (Gillard’s “tough cop on the beat”) continued to harass construction workers and drag workers before the courts.
The back down from national strike action by the teaching unions allowed the Labor government to get away with the agenda of NAPLAN testing and teacher bashing.
South Australian CFMEU member Ark Tribe is back before the courts, facing jail, as Solidarity goes to press.
A determined industrial campaign could have put an end to the ABCC. Construction workers in Western Australia have openly defied industrial laws and the bosses have been unwilling to use the courts against them.
A determined industrial campaign will still be needed under a new Gillard government.
Union action when ABC Learning closed could have saved hundreds of childcare centres and pushed for a nationalised free, child care service. Instead, the market prevailed and hundreds of jobs and childcare places were lost.
Similarly the climate campaign has been badly let down by the mainstream NGOs and its own lack of organisation.
There are hundreds of thousands of people who want to see action on climate change. But unless that sentiment is mobilised, then any move on climate change will be confined to what the top of society and the carbon polluters will allow.
When Rudd abandoned his CPRS, The Greens called for negotiations. Where was the call to demonstrate for meaningful action on climate change? Without taking on the system, there will be no action on climate change.
Gillard promised at the National Press Club to restore the budget to surplus and warned of “unpopular cuts” if she is re-elected. She wants more markets in health and education.
The back down on the mining tax tells its own story of who will pull the strings of the next Labor government. If ever there was an example that real change doesn’t come through parliament, this Labor government is it.
We must keep Tony Abbott out of office. Voting Greens 1 and Labor 2 will send Labor a signal that its policies are unpopular and that it doesn’t have to capitulate to the right.
A bigger Greens vote will can help give people confidence that an alternative is possible.
But the real fight is not about the numbers in parliament or the balance of power for The Greens (see Greens balance of power not enough to bring change).
The lessons are clear—we can’t leave it to Labor or even Greens senators to deliver real change on union rights, renewable energy, refugees—we will need protests, strikes and demonstrations to fight for them.