Editorial: Weak and divided—the Liberals can be beaten

The election has delivered a savage blow to Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition government.

Turnbull’s attempt to convince voters he could offer jobs and stability failed. The Coalition’s efforts to fear monger about boats and border security couldn’t save them. The last ditch attempt by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to link refugees to terrorism went nowhere—Dutton barely kept his seat.

Now, the Coalition is tearing itself apart. The infighting started on election night, and some are already baying for Turnbull’s blood. Right wing Liberal Senator Eric Abetz is hinting at moves to overturn the Liberals’ superannuation changes—the centrepiece of Turnbull and Morrison’s budget.

Right-wing Liberal Cory Bernardi is setting up his own Australian Conservative movement. Right-wing commentator Andrew Bolt denounced Turnbull as “a disaster” who has “led the party to humiliation”.

Turnbull has crossbench support to form a minority government. But he will struggle to get legislation through the parliament and certainly the Senate. Any government Turnbull forms will be unstable, and it is unlikely to go full term. Turnbull says he will put the anti-union ABCC legislation to the parliament again, but he is unlikely to have the numbers to get it passed.

Turnbull is reeling and in retreat. He has already flagged postponing the corporate tax cuts and backtracking on the Medicare cuts to try and bolster the Liberals’ popularity. But Turnbull’s agenda is very clear.

This is our cue to go on the offensive—and finish Turnbull off.

Disaffection and the right

Despite the swing against the Coalition, the disaffection did not all flow to Labor or The Greens. Mirroring the turmoil in politics we’ve seen in the Brexit vote in the UK or the rise of Donald Trump in the US, this election showed that disaffection with mainstream politics can also be pulled to the right.

There will be a more right-wing Senate crossbench, with Liberal-lite Nick Xenophon and his team, shock jock Derryn Hinch, and a collection of racists including Jacquie Lambie, and worryingly a revived Pauline Hanson.

Turnbull’s anti-refugee racism, the dog-whistling over terrorism and the shootings in Orlando, all boosted by the Murdoch press, have encouraged Islamophobia and legitimised the rise of Pauline Hanson.

To effectively fight Hanson, we will have to fight Turnbull’s cuts and the racism behind the Liberals’ policies.

Bill Shorten claims that “Labor is back”. Certainly, opposing the corporate tax cuts, and raising class issues such as the attacks on Medicare helped expose the Coalition’s explicit rule for the rich.

But Labor also made concessions, singing from the same neo-liberal song sheet as the Liberals, competing to get the budget back into surplus, and accepting a number of cuts they had opposed since the Abbott’s 2014 horror budget (see p7). There was also no difference between Labor and the Liberals when it came to turning back refugee boats and maintaining offshore detention.

Labor got its second worst primary vote since 1949. The ACTU’s marginal seats campaign mobilised 16,000 union volunteers to help get the swing out against Turnbull. Now the focus has be on the industrial action that has the real power to stand up to the bosses’ attacks, defend penalty rates, stop the trade-offs and finish Turnbull off.

The union deals like those with Coles, Woolworths and now Dominos that have resulted in wage cuts and the trading off of workers’ conditions have to stop. We need an uncompromising fight to defend jobs and conditions.

We need a “Your Rights At Work—Worth Fighting For” campaign to build solidarity with every struggle and get the unions back on the picket lines and the streets.

Although The Greens did improve their vote slightly, their focus on electioneering has produced a disappointing result (see p6).

Any Turnbull minority government will be a weaker government. But we can’t just rely on Liberal legislation or the next round of cuts being blocked in the Senate.

The next few weeks are crucial for setting the political agenda and building the struggles we need.

Refugee rights, equal marriage, saving Medicare, protecting penalty rates and action on climate change will not be determined by what happens in parliament. The fight against racism and austerity will be determined by what happens in the streets and the workplaces.

Public servants are still fighting against the Liberal government’s job and wage cuts. The industrial campaign needs to be stepped up.

Refugee and equal marriage rallies are already planned for August. We need demonstrations to defend Medicare and action on the campuses to stop fee increases or cuts to university spending. We need a serious approach to fighting Islamophobia and standing with the Muslim community.

And we need to build socialist organisation to strengthen the fight in every campaign and to fight for a socialist system that produces to meet human need, and not for profit.


Solidarity meetings

Latest articles

Read more

Negotiations have failed—NSW nurses must call a strike now and prepare...

The Minns government has shown no sign of backing down from their paltry pay offer of 10.5 per cent over three years for all nurses and midwives.

Defend Boris Kagarlitsky and the Russian anti-war movement

The Boris Kagarlitsky International Solidarity Campaign calls on the left around the world to demand an end to the unlawful imprisonment of Russians who oppose the war on Ukraine.

Defend the CFMEU—no government administration, end the union bashing

Construction bosses and both state and federal Labor governments have seized on the opportunity to launch an attack on one of the strongest unions in the country.