The first week of Australia’s election campaign was characterized by personality bashing and politics from the ruling Liberal-National coalition and the opposition Labor Party. The media has been preoccupied with ridiculous “fact-checking” exercises and obsessive coverage of “blunders” by politicians. The official campaign is more mundane and devoid of serious discussion than ever before.
However, behind the endless diversions, intended to confuse and exhaust the population, hides a parallel campaign. The target audience is not ordinary people, but the ruling class.
When addressing the public, Coalition Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Anthony Albanese falsely claim that Australia is on the verge of an “economic recovery” that will benefit all. In the pages of the financial press, however, they recognize that global capitalism has entered its deepest crisis for eighty years, and that the period ahead will be one of social, economic and geopolitical turbulence.
Under these conditions, the new government, whichever party wins the election, will be the most right wing in Australian history. Like its international counterparts, its policies will be dictated by the profit-making imperatives of finance capital, in Australia and abroad, amid the global crisis.
This is evidenced by what Albanese and Morrison said when addressing the financial elite and the military intelligence establishment, the real constituency of their parties.
Both present themselves as the most reliable instrument to impose a strengthened offensive against the social rights of the working class, to impose policies that benefit corporations and the ultra-rich, and to deepen Australia’s frontline role. in American preparations for war with Russia, and especially China.
In addition, both insist that the “economy” must remain “open” as millions of workers and young people, including school children, are at risk of infection, disease and death from COVID in the foreseeable future to ensure there is no disruption to business. for-profit activities.
During the first seven days of the campaign:
* Labor dropped its promise of an ‘independent review’ of the JobSeeker unemployment benefit increase and insisted it had no plans to increase the sub payment -poverty. At the same time, Albanese and other party leaders said under no circumstances would a Labor government reverse the coalition’s ‘third stage’ tax cuts, benefiting the country’s wealthiest individuals .
* Albanese says a government he leads will ‘turn back’ refugee boats on the high seas, an illegal abrogation of the right to seek asylum and a policy that will lead to deaths. Albanese said Labor would maintain “offshore detention centres” in the Pacific, where refugees are held indefinitely for years.
* In an interview with Murdoch The telegraph of the day, Albanese said that “China is a threat to our security… Whoever it is in government, there will be a difficult relationship with China in the future and that is because China has changed.” It was a clear promise that the Labor Party would keep pace with the US government’s war campaign against Beijing, aimed at securing US imperialist hegemony.
* In the same Telegraph interview, Albanese said a Labor government would not prevent the construction of more coal mines, in a statement of loyalty to the mining barons that outlines Labour’s posture on the issue of climate change as hot air.
The various right-wing policy statements are a deepening of a protracted rhetoric by Albanese since being installed as Labor leader following the party’s debacle in the 2019 federal election. Albanese pledged that the Labor would forgo any rhetorical condemnation of social inequality and insisted it was a party of ‘wealth creation’ and ‘productivity’, code words for corporate profit.
This unmixed pro-business line is not primarily the result of individual Albanese leanings. It only formalizes Labor’s decades-long role as a party of banks and corporations that has no connection to the working class.
To the extent that the Coalition raised substantive issues in the early stages of the campaign, it was to tout its “economic credentials”. A coalition government, senior ministers said, would focus on “fiscal repair” and a transition to “economic recovery”.
The essence of this program is to drastically cut social spending to pay the nearly $1 trillion in national debt, much of which has been accrued through massive corporate donations during the pandemic. The agenda was set in the pre-election budget, which included cuts to health care, education and other areas of vital social spending, as well as a major increase in the military budget.
Morrison also said a re-elected coalition government would amount to “industrial relations reform”. This fits with a key demand from the corporate elite, for an end to even nominal restrictions on pro-business restructuring, casualization of the workforce and ever-deepening wage cuts.
Most of the coalition’s industrial relations measures failed to pass the last legislature. It was not the result of substantial opposition from Labor or the corporate unions. Instead, various independent parliamentarians feared that passing the largely unpopular measures would jeopardize their political fortunes.
The same issue looms large in the current elections. The virtually identical policies of Labor and the Coalition are deeply unpopular, as well as those parties themselves.
The chasm between workers and the official campaign was marked in its first week. Morrison embarked on a whirlwind tour of the country. The reporters accompanying him, however, said the prime minister did not meet a single real voter, but rather met small business owners and carefully selected Liberal supporters. Morrison’s caretakers are terrified that any encounter between him and ordinary people will result in angry denunciations.
Albanese also “campaigned” among Labor supporters, small business owners and Labor members of unions. His only massive appearance, at the Byron Bay Bluesfest music event this weekend, ended in a fiasco with Albanese’s remarks drowned out by boos.
Polls over the weekend showed that none of the major parties are on track to form a majority government. The only category of voters that saw a marked increase in the poll, conducted by Resolve, were those who are “undecided”, with the cohort rising from 21% of the electorate a fortnight ago to 27%. A poll by Roy Morgan last week showed almost a third of voters planned to support a ‘minor’ or independent party.
The disillusionment is particularly strong in the large working-class neighborhoods of the state capitals. Alongside decades of attacks on jobs, wages and social conditions, imposed above all by Labor and the unions, it is the product of a rapidly developing social crisis.
While the latest unemployment figure stands at 4%, the rate in south-west Sydney is above 9%, compared to a low of 1% in wealthier areas. The actual figures are much higher than the understated official figures, which count people as employed even if they work an hour a week on an occasional basis. The cost of living is soaring. Even the official inflation rate, which minimizes the crisis, is higher than wage growth.
After the first week of the campaign, the mainstream media abounds with commentary expressing the terror of the financial elite at the prospect of a hung parliament or a minority government. The fear is that such a government will not be able to carry out the business-friendly restructuring and cuts in social conditions that are demanded.
In this context, the Greens are centering their campaign on calls for power-sharing with a minority Labor government. Contrary to Green claims, such a government would do nothing to solve the environmental crisis, while ruling in the interests of the wealthy and deepening Australia’s alignment with the US-led war campaign.
The first week of campaigning has highlighted the fact that the official parliamentary parties have nothing to offer workers and young people.
The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) is fielding candidates to offer a real alternative. The SEP election statement, released last week, outlines key campaign issues that are being suppressed by the major parties. Above all, it offers a socialist action program of combat for growing sections of the working class who are coming into struggle against COVID “let it rip” policies, social inequality, austerity and war. Join the MS campaign today!
Authorized by Cheryl Crisp for the Socialist Equality Party, Suite 906, 185 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, NSW, 2000.