Editorial: Fight back the Liberals’ class war for the rich

According to sections of the media, the coming federal election is shaping up as a class war contest. But it is the Liberals who are the class warriors—for corporations and the rich.

The Liberals’ plans would make the income tax system less progressive, putting everyone between $41,000 and $200,000 on the same rate of tax. Inequality is on the rise with corporate profits up while workers’ wages stagnate. Yet the Coalition wants to hand back another $80 billion to business through its corporate tax cuts.

At the same time they are backing the cuts to penalty rates for 700,000 low-paid workers in fast food, retail and hospitality, which were cut again on 1 July.

The media barons are hysterical that Bill Shorten has promised to reverse Malcolm Turnbull’s income tax cuts for the rich and opposes corporate tax cuts for big business.

Labor has also promised modest tax increases on shares, investment properties and high-income earners, and to increase funding for schools, hospitals, TAFEs and universities.

When Shorten announced that Labor would take back tax cuts for companies with a turnover between $10 million and $50 million, business and the media went ballistic at the idea. Yet only 2.2 per cent of Australian companies would have been affected. These aren’t small businesses. On average they employ 75 staff.

Despite the hysteria, a poll in The Australian showed that 52 per cent of voters backed Shorten’s position.

It was a bad sign that in the face of pressure from the media and big business, Shorten backed down and is now committed to keep the corporate tax cuts that are already in force. Labor will have to stand up to the pressure from business to water down its policies.

Shamefully, Labor Left leader Anthony Albanese used his “Whitlam oration” speech to showcase his moderate credentials and suck up to big business and, some speculate, to boost his chances as the alternative Labor leader.

The speech has helped feed the attacks on Labor from the right, by grandstanding about how Labor shouldn’t “sow discord” and needed to work with business.

Labor is still leading in the polls and would win comfortably in a general election. But it may face a difficult task in the Longman by-election, to be held on 28 July, the same day as by-elections in four other seats.

It was preferences from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation that gave Labor the seat at the last election. But Labor is right to stand up to One Nation, saying a vote for them is effectively a vote for the Coalition. One Nation has backed Turnbull’s tax cuts for the rich and attacks on unions.

Now, true to her Liberal roots, Hanson is telling voters to “put Labor last”. It says everything about One Nation’s racism that it is preferencing a Nazi ahead of Labor.

Campaigning for change

The ACTU has mobilised an army of organisers and activists for the by-elections, but we are still waiting for national stopwork Change the Rules rallies.

The unions’ campaign needs to be stepped up to make sure Turnbull is booted out, and to start to flex the industrial muscle that will be needed to pressure Labor and beat the bosses.

When workers on Aurizon coal trains in Queensland began strike action to fight wage cuts and cuts to conditions, the Queensland Liberal National Opposition leader Deb Frecklington called on the state government to terminate the strike.

Downer engineering workers in Newcastle staged a three-day strike in June against a low pay offer of just 2.25 per cent, despite the boost in the company’s profits.

Protests have swept the US against Donald Trump’s separation of refugee children from their parents at the border.

His new “zero tolerance” approach, which imposes mandatory detention on refugees who arrive at the border, has put renewed attention on the refugee deterrence policies Australia has practised for years.

Trump was forced to back down on his family separations. Even a racist bigot like Donald Trump can be beaten if there is sufficient protest and mobilised outrage.

There will be rallies in Sydney and Melbourne on 21 July to mark five years since refugees were dumped on Manus and Nauru.

In NSW, construction unions have called another stopwork rally for 6 September. This needs to be backed across the union movement and across the states.

We need to build momentum to push Turnbull out.

That means building more rallies, demonstrations and strikes. It means building stronger union organisation on the job. It means building stronger networks to link together the struggles for union rights, and against racism and sexism.

And for that we need stronger socialist organisation. Join us to help build those struggles and fight to change the system.


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