Labor’s declaration of war on The Greens is a desperate effort to find a scapegoat for their own failures. But it is Julia Gillard’s relentless move to the right that has turned Labor toxic.
In a crazed outpouring, NSW Labor Secretary Sam Dastyari branded The Greens “extremists not unlike One Nation” and “bordering on loony”. A parade of Labor MPs, including the Left’s leader Doug Cameron, followed suit.
Left Labor MP Melissa Parke stood up to this stupidity, labelling it “a confected non-issue”. “This sniping within the progressive side of politics is a gift to Tony Abbott”, she pointed out, “It is mutually assured destruction.”
This attack on The Greens says everything about how completely loopy Labor’s leaders have become.
Dastyari claimed that “extreme elements” of The Greens’ policies “are at odds with the values and needs of many Labor voters”. But Labor’s neo-liberalism and accommodation to big business make their policies far more out of step with the working people than The Greens. Even its own MPs have questioned what the party’s “values” are.
Rule for the rich
Labor has abandoned its working class voters in favour of helping big business boost their already fat profit margins.
For all Wayne Swan’s criticisms of the greed of the mining billionaires, this is what he had to say about Gina Rinehart’s buy up of Fairfax shares: “The fact is that this is a commercial organisation and Ms Rinehart has a right to buy shares and take over the company.”
Ministers Martin Ferguson and Simon Crean made it even clearer whose side Labor is on when they attacked the unions in the mining industry in July for, “getting improvements in wages and conditions which are unsustainable over time”. Gina Rinehart makes an average WA miners’ salary in 4.2 minutes—but Labor thinks the workers are taking too much!
Labor handed $60 billion back to the mining companies when it caved in on the mining tax, and has attacked The Greens for blocking its efforts to cut corporate tax further in the budget. Gillard crawled to business leaders at her June economic forum, insisting, “We see it as the priority for the next step in tax reform.”
What about prioritising funding the $3.8 billion to boost government schools recommended by the Gonski review? The Greens’ record vote in 2010 demonstrated that many still believe in putting money into services instead of the pockets of the rich.
The Greens’ opportunity
If Labor actually started looking after ordinary working class people it could finally start to land some blows on Tony Abbott. But because it agrees with the Liberals on so many issues, it is the Liberals that are setting the political agenda.
Labor’s attempt to outdo Abbott’s attacks on refugees by using the two recent asylum boat tragedies to try to revive offshore processing shows they would rather race Abbott to the gutter than institute a humanitarian refugee policy. Only The Greens have shown some principles in the face of the right-wing media frenzy.
In a clear lurch right, Labor is preferencing Family First ahead of The Greens in the by-election for the state seat of Melbourne, and NSW Labor’s Sam Dastyari has declared the NSW party should consider putting them last at the federal election.
That Labor would rather risk having more Liberals or Family First Senators rather than Greens says a lot.
Their stupidity may well have driven another nail into their coffin. But Labor’s attacks could be a huge opportunity for The Greens.
If The Greens seize this chance there is the possibility of building a far more serious left alternative to Labor. A change in policy to allow affiliation of trade unions could give The Greens a huge boost and provide an alternative that so many despairing Labor voters are looking for.
Likewise, unions already looking to support The Greens can open discussions with The Greens about how to build a party that can give workers the representation they no longer get from Labor.
Fight the Liberals
Labor’s attacks only bring us closer to an Abbott government—and the state Liberal Governments are showing what that will look like.
Campbell Newman, Barry O’Farrell and Ted Baillieu are slashing public sector jobs, doing favours for their big business mates and preparing to sell off whatever’s in sight.
O’Farrell and Newman have passed new industrial laws to give them power to bust strikes and impose huge fines for industrial action while they push a hard line in wage negotiations with teachers and public sector workers, and O’Farrell has gone after worker’s compensation.
A union fightback is desperately needed to halt their attacks. That can prepare us for the struggles we’re going to need to fight Abbott.