Editorial: Liberal rats abandon sinking ship—step up the fight for change

Scott Morrison has started the year with another appeal to the hard right, provocatively insisting that Invasion Day, 26 January, is Australia’s national day. Declaring himself “a prime minister who is for standards” he announced that councils would be required to run citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day and impose a dress code, banning shorts and thongs.

“Respect citizenship, respect the day,” he said, and went on to trumpet the government’s waste of $6.7 million on a “re-enactment” for the 250 year anniversary of Captain Cook’s “discovery” of Australia, next year.

But Morrison was forced to move his media conference when he was confronted by placard-carrying protesters.

As the reality of near certain election defeat sinks in, the Liberal rats are already deserting the sinking ship. Cabinet Minister Kelly O’Dwyer won’t re-contest her safe seat of Higgins, amid fears the Liberals might be in danger of losing it. Marginal seat holders Craig Laundy and David Coleman are also reportedly contemplating quitting.

And the internal turmoil continued as disgust at the Liberals’ hopelessly low number of women MPs, just 25 per cent of the caucus, and the ongoing accusations of internal bullying and sexism, triggered another round of infighting in January.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne and MP Sussan Ley broke ranks to support the idea of quotas for female candidates, while other Liberal MPs also urged action.

True to form, Morrison promised nothing, saying it was a problem he’d “inherited” from his predecessors and he’d work on it in the future.

Morrison tripped off to Fiji and Vanuatu to counter China’s efforts to win influence in the Pacific, but was shamed on global warming when Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama put it clearly, “Here in Fiji, climate change is no laughing matter.” He called on Australia to shift its focus away from coal mining.

At home, extreme heat has dramatically re-focussed attention on climate change. This December was the hottest on record, and a series of towns in country NSW and northern Victoria recording their hottest ever temperatures in January.

The heat triggered a massive fish kill in the Darling River. Up to a million fish died after a blue-green algae bloom depleted oxygen levels in the river—little more than puddles because of corruption, corporate greed and mismanagement.

Morrison’s answer? A week later, the government was backing a new coal-fired power station on the site of the closed Hazelwood station in the La Trobe Valley!

The government faces a possible showdown when parliament resumes on 12 February. Since Kerryn Phelps’ win in the Wentworth by-election and Julia Banks’ move to the crossbench, the Coalition is in minority government and faces the prospect of being defeated on the floor of parliament.

Last December, Morrison shut down parliament early rather than lose the vote on a new process for medical evacuations from Manus and Nauru. The bill will return to parliament in February.

Drive the Liberals out

But it’s not enough just to watch the Liberals stumble to defeat.

Protests, strikes and stopwork rallies can galvanise the mood against the Liberals and begin to build movements that can fight for real change.

Labor’s national conference in December showed the limits of what Bill Shorten is prepared to deliver (see page 6). There were no further commitments to any kind of industry-wide bargaining or right to strike. And Labor continues to support offshore detention as well as asylum boat turnbacks.

Another national day of union stopwork rallies to Change the Rules on industrial relations would help to finish off Morrison and take the fight to the bosses.

Every strike between now and the election, at places like Port Kembla Coal Terminal over job security and at Hutchison ports, can be used to build a real fight to Change the Rules, maintain conditions and win real wage rises.

Workers at Wongawilli Colliery, near Wollongong, showed how to fight. After four days of their planned two-week strike action, the bosses caved in. The workers won a 12 per cent pay rise and forced the company to convert them from casual to permanent jobs.

In December, thousands of high school students walked out of class to call for action on climate change and denounce Morrison’s climate vandalism. Another climate strike, planned for Friday 15 March, will see both high school and university students walk out together.

The refugee rallies on Palm Sunday in April can bring together everyone who wants to end offshore detention on Manus and Nauru, and make it clear that the movement will keep fighting a Labor government that refuses to Bring Them Here.

Join us to help build these struggles and to build the fight for a socialist society that protects the environment and produces for human need, not for profit.


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