Editorial: Weak and divided—United action can beat Turnbull

Malcolm Turnbull’s headaches are growing larger and larger as he falls further behind in the opinion polls. If an election was held today, Labor would win decisively. Even Treasurer Scott Morrison has admitted the public is just not listening to Turnbull any more.

Things went from bad to worse following Turnbull’s speech in London as he tried to claim the legacy of Liberal Party founder Robert Menzies, for himself. It has blown up in his face, as the Liberal Party tears itself apart over whether or not they are conservative. They are!

But as Turnbull falls further in the polls, the divisions in the Liberal party get deeper. There are arguments over climate change, renewable energy, and equal marriage.

And Tony Abbott fuels the divisions in the background, sniping over immigration, submarines and school funding.

Turnbull has made a fool of himself by refusing to say Abbott’s name in media interviews.

Meanwhile, Labor’s Bill Shorten is tacking to the left, promising to reverse Turnbull’s tax cuts for millionaires and high-income earners, and overturn the cuts to penalty rates.

Desperate to gain some political advantage, the Liberals have resorted to fomenting more racism and Islamophobia with their amendments to the Citizenship Act. Its university-standard English language test and extended four-year wait time are discriminatory and divisive. The “Australian values” questions are Islamophobic and racist.

In a very welcome move, Labor has broken its usual unity ticket with the Liberals over national security. After umming and ahhing over the citizenship bill, Labor now says it will oppose it. A defeat for the bill will be a serious setback for the Liberals.

But Labor is a long way from embracing the kind of radical platform that boosted Jeremy Corbyn and Labour in the recent British election. Such a platform of bringing back free education, renationalising the power industry, stopping work for the dole, and increasing benefits and pensions, is something that the union movement will need to fight for.

The Liberals are weak and divided. Now is the time to build a united fightback against Turnbull.

The Greens could be a central element of that fight. They are closer to Corbyn’s radical platform than Labor. That is one reason why the position taken by the majority of the Australian Greens parliamentarians to negotiate with Turnbull over his (private) school funding plan, Gonski 2.0, was such a mistake.

If leader Richard Di Natale had got his way, The Greens would have given Turnbull a win and shot themselves in the foot at the same time.

Thankfully, Senator Lee Rhiannon and the NSW Greens opposed voting for Gonski 2.0—which would have boosted funding to private schools at the expense of public schools.

The Greens avoided a Democrats-style GST moment, this time. Socialists have an interest in supporting Lee Rhiannon and the NSW Greens against The Greens “party room”. The fight against Turnbull will be stronger if The Greens are unequivocally a part of it.

Build a fightback

The ACTU has begun to campaign to “change the rules” over strike action, tax and the minimum wage, pointing out that laws like the Fair Work Act and the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) are stacked in favour of corporations and the rich.

Stopwork rallies played a key role in the union Rights at Work campaign that was crucial to defeating John Howard’s Liberal government. But so far, despite ACTU’s Secretary Sally McManus backing union action to break bad laws, the ACTU campaign is focussed on the next election with videos for social media and appeals to contact MPs.

We need nationwide stopwork action to mobilise the whole union movement for the fight against Turnbull’s war on workers.

Construction unions have now held two nationwide stopwork rallies in their fight against the Construction Code and the ABCC. The CFMEU is discussing further stopwork action against the Code in August, and has called for a combined unions’ delegates meeting on 28 July in Sydney to discuss an all-union response.

The stopwork rallies have helped give workers confidence to say no to the bosses’ efforts to impose new “Code compliant” enterprise agreements that would strip away workers’ conditions and union rights.

Workers at De Martin & Gasparini, a Boral subsidiary in Sydney, have voted down a new agreement, and are now defying its threats to sack them all.

That’s the kind of resistance that the whole union movement needs to mobilise to take on Turnbull, and to kill off the NSW Liberal government’s plan to privatise buses in Sydney’s inner west.

It is strikes and grassroots movements that can build the struggle for real change, against Turnbull and against the system that runs for big business and the rich.


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