As parliament resumed, Malcolm Turnbull faced headaches at every turn. His near election defeat has crippled his political authority.
Turnbull’s priority is forcing through more budget cuts. But he is under siege from his own right-wing. Despite Turnbull publicly saying there were “much more pressing priorities”, Cory Bernardi ignored him, and pressed on with his crusade to amend s18c of the Racial Discrimination Act and give racists the right to insult and abuse.
Tellingly, Bernardi gained the support of every Coalition backbench Senator, bar one.
Turnbull also lost a string of votes in the lower house when three government MPs left early. Labor almost got the Royal Commission into the banks passed by the House of Representatives.
Coalition MPs are still demanding concessions to the government’s superannuation changes.
Tony Abbott has joined the revolt against taxing the multi-million dollar super accounts of the top few per cent. According to one MP, Abbott went “looking for a fight” in a meeting with senior Ministers over the new cap on superannuation balances.
The government’s super changes were the one thing the Coalition could point to as a token effort to close some of the tax loopholes for the super rich. But the government is now watering them down to appease its own backbench. There is no talk of backing away from the cuts aimed at workers or the unemployed.
Billions in cuts
The Liberals want Labor to pass a new package of $6 billion in cuts containing measures they accepted during the election campaign.
The government has gone on a hysterical campaign demanding Labor “honour their commitment” to slash spending. Almost all the cuts are aimed at those at the bottom of society.
The biggest single item is cutting $230 a year from welfare recipients by scrapping the weekly energy supplement.
ACOSS head Cassandra Goldie has slammed the cut, saying, “people already living in poverty should not be further impoverished”. Shamefully as Solidarity goes to press, Labor is still considering voting to support the Liberals’ cut to benefits.
Next largest is a $1 billion cut to renewable energy funding.
The Liberals haven’t changed. Treasurer Scott Morrison reinvented Joe Hockey’s rant about “lifters and leaners”, saying the new divide was “the taxed and the taxed-nots”. And he wasn’t talking about Apple, or any of the other tax dodging multinational companies.
Instead his target is pensioners and the unemployed.
Morrison complained bitterly about the opposition that killed off Tony Abbott’s savage 2014 cuts, labelling it “budget sabotage”.
But that is what we need again. The Turnbull government is weak. As their troubles mount, we need to step up the fight to kill off their agenda of cuts and attacks on unions.
Turnbull will struggle to get anything through the Senate. Already his plan for a plebiscite on equal marriage is in serious trouble, with Nick Xenophon and The Greens both saying they will vote it down. Unless Labor supports it, the idea is finished.
The Liberals are desperately hoping for a win on the anti-union ABCC legislation.
They have been heartened by Pauline Hanson’s outburst against “union thuggery”, and her support for small business and corporate tax cuts.
Sadly the unions are restricting their campaign to backroom lobbying of Hanson and other crossbenchers. There has been no attempt to build pressure on the Senate or the construction bosses with an industrial campaign.
Abbott’s budget cuts were stopped by mobilising protests and demonstrations—that’s what will be needed to oppose the ABCC.
Students at Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) are showing how to fight, occupying administration offices in an effort to stop savage cuts to jobs, facilities and courses.
As we go to press SCA has been occupied for almost three weeks. Celebrity artists, the surrounding community, unions and students from across the university have rallied to support them.
Public sector workers in the CPSU need to take the same fighting spirit into their pay dispute with the government, which has now dragged on for three years. They were on strike across the country on 9 September.
Refugee supporters have also taken to the streets in large numbers, in nationwide protests at the end of August. Years of consistent refugee campaigning is bearing fruit as the pressure grows on the government to finally end offshore detention.
If we step up the militancy and link the fights together, the government can be beaten.