Union fight the key to stopping Liberals in NSW

Popular disgust at Labor was set to deliver another state election to the Liberals as Solidarity went to press. Labor was facing electoral annihilation on the eve of the state election in NSW. They have only themselves to blame. Labor’s embrace of neo-liberal policies accounts for their lack of support. The run down state of public transport and hospitals, as well as Labor’s efforts to boost the profits of property developers, stand as testament to their pro-business policies.
Labor’ support for privatisation (in particular the debacle over the power sell-off) is a particularly revealing example of their commitment to neo-liberalism.
Privatisation everywhere has produced increases in prices for consumers as well as job losses and attacks on workers rights, as corporations try to run services for a profit. This is why privatisation has such strong opposition from workers, Labor’s traditional support base.
The zeal with which top ministers in the Labor Party have pursued privatisation has led to the recent sale of state power assets for less than $1 billion after costs, when the government was originally predicting $10-15 billion three years ago.
On top of this, the sale involved the state supplying cheap, subsidised coal as an incentive for private buyers, angering people who want action on climate change as well as those opposed to privatisation in general. 

Liberal agenda
The Liberals have been the beneficiary as voters express their anger at Labor.
But The Liberal Party is unashamedly committed to the growth of private profit over the interests of workers. They are likely to pursue policies such as privatisation even harder than the Labor Party has. Liberal leader Barry O’Farrell has been weak over criticism of the sale of power assets because he supports privatisation in general.
He is on record saying he, “wants to open the delivery of billions of dollars of services to the private sector, starting with Sydney Ferries”.
The most serious threat to the Labor government’s privatisation spree has come from the union movement. Unions stopped the attempt to privatise Sydney Ferries and Cessnock prison and campaigned against the power sell-off. Sadly union leaders wound down the struggle and struck a rotten compromise with the Labor government to allow the privatisation of power assets to proceed.
The Liberal and Labor Parties may pursue very similar policies while in government, but there is a difference in the social support base of each party. The Labor Party has links to the union movement that the Liberals do not. This raises the possibility of a fight by workers to change Labor Party policy.
A full-scale union fight against Labor’s neo-liberal policies could have pulled the Labor Party to the left and helped reverse the situation they currently find themselves in. It is a fight by the unions that is going to be needed to stop O’Farrell and the Liberals from wreaking havoc over the next four years.
A strong swing to The Greens in the election is important to show a significant number of people while being angry at the Labor Party, also oppose the Liberals from the left. The Greens represent the most progressive of the mainstream parties. They represent a left-of-Labor alternative and have a number of excellent policies, such as their opposition to privatisation.
Because of this, it is important that those interested in progressive politics vote 1 The Greens and 2 Labor. This will help give the Greens a strong showing while not helping the Liberal Party.
Disappointingly The Greens are not calling for people to preference Labor. It is clear that they have done this to avoid any association with the toxic brand that is NSW Labor. However, it does increase the risk of the Liberals getting more seats, while doing nothing to win over disillusioned Labor voters who will worry that voting Greens will help the Liberals.
While voting is important even if it is simply to express opposition to right-wing parties, such as the Liberals, of greater importance is ongoing campaign work outside of parliament. Not matter who gets voted in (and it’s almost certainly going to be the Liberal Party) it is going to take a fight by workers and those in the various campaign groups (such as groups campaigning for action on climate change) to win any progressive policies.

Ben Dharmendra


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  1. You’re right Ben. The simple solution is to put the Greens first and Liberal/National last. I think Labor needs to earn a second preference though – it will only change its tack if it knows it has to represent the people who elect it. I don’t like using personal pronouns for Labor these days. I would have called them “they” or “comrades” in the good old days.


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