Scott Morrison’s blame for the latest COVID lockdown in Melbourne is clear. His casual attitude to vaccination and building fit-for-purpose quarantine centres mean Australia is still vulnerable to future outbreaks.
The Coalition have quietly dropped any targets for vaccination and are doing little to encourage anyone to get their shot. Health Minister Greg Hunt signalled that there was no rush to get vaccinated, telling us that, “later on in the year, there will be enough mRNA vaccines for every Australian”.
The government took four months to begin vaccinating aged care residents, despite saying initially it would be done in six weeks. It still doesn’t even know how many aged care staff have been vaccinated.
These potentially deadly delays have a motive. Morrison wants to keep people in fear of the virus for as long as possible, hoping it will boost his chances at the election.
The Liberals are also dialling up their rhetoric against China. Morrison is doing all he can to push the US and other nations to heighten tensions, jetting off to the G7 meeting to push the case.
This fuels the chance of war. It has also seen the Liberals pour $270 billion into military spending to acquire long-range missiles, new submarines, and fighter jets—money that could be going towards the health system or tackling COVID.
On the eve of the G7 meeting, Morrison declared that “escalating great power strategic competition” was “the defining issue” on which “our prosperity and our way of life depends”. He all but boasted there was a new Cold War with China, warning of “competing models for economies and societies” and saying the start of the last Cold War between the US and Russia was a model for today.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton also chimed in, declaring there should be more US troops rotating through Darwin and a US naval presence near Perth. He also repeated his claim that the prospect of war was now “less remote” and that Australia “must be prepared”.
US President Joe Biden also wants to step up the confrontation. His national security adviser told the media that other G7 leaders had backed his calls to “counter and compete” with China.
Speaking after the summit, Morrison celebrated what he said was, “very strong support for the stand that Australia has taken”.
The G7 final communique pledged to challenge China’s “non-market policies and practices” and also criticised its actions in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.
Labor complains that this belligerent talk is just Coalition posturing over national security. But Morrison’s push is about cementing Australia’s own power to dominate the region, by drawing the US into greater involvement in the Asia-Pacific. This is an aim that Labor shares.
But it will mean further wars alongside the US, and more Australian war crimes like those in Afghanistan.
And it brings the prospect of a disastrous war between superpowers armed with nuclear weapons.
Fuelling climate chaos
Morrison escaped serious scrutiny at the G7 over his pathetic climate policies. There were few new commitments resulting from the meeting from anyone.
But Morrison is still badly at odds with the joint statement from the US, UK, Europe and Japan on the need for “an overwhelmingly decarbonised power system in the 2030s” and “accelerating efforts” on climate action.
Instead Morrison is expanding fossil fuels through subsidising new gas-fired power plants and pushing to open massive new gas fields. He is spending $600 million on a gas plant at Kurri Kurri but nothing on supporting renewable energy.
His Deputy Prime Minister’s response to the G7 was to insist that coal would be in use for “many more years to come”.
The student Climate Strike on 21 May, the first since 2019, was a big success with 50,000 taking part across the country. The protests had clear demands to “fund our future not gas”, opposing Morrison’s gas expansion. Union speakers called for funding for jobs in renewable energy.
Another Climate Strike will be held in the lead up to November’s international climate talks. We need to make sure it is far larger than in May.
Morrison’s budget has locked in pay cuts after inflation for workers this year and next, due to pathetically low wage rises. Workers at General Mills in Sydney are showing how to fight, declaring an indefinite strike for a 3 per cent increase.
NSW nurses, teachers and paramedics are all starting to take action over pay. The state Liberal government has set a pay rise cap of 1.5 per cent, after last year’s 0.3 per cent increase. The minimum wage has just been increased by 2.5 per cent.
In an important show of defiance, nurses are continuing stopwork actions despite an order from the Industrial Relations Commission. Paramedics also defied an order to halt industrial action.
Bigger public sector pay rises will help lift wages everywhere. Stepping up the strike action is the way to beat Morrison’s agenda of more casualisation and low pay.
A fightback for climate action, jobs and wages can turn the tide against Morrison and help send the Liberals packing.