One year after the infamous ALP leadership coup, Julia Gillard is more unpopular than her predecessor Kevin Rudd was in the dying days of his leadership. Currently Rudd’s ratings as preferred Labor leader are double that of Gillard’s.
Last month’s Nielsen poll shows Labor’s primary vote has fallen to a record low of 27 per cent, the lowest level in 39 years. This comes after two devastating electoral defeats in State elections in New South Wales and Victoria, and a federal election in which Labor only just scraped through after failing to win a majority of seats.
It is not just amongst voters that the ALP is losing support. A recent internal ALP review concluded that the party has become but a shell of it’s former self. A quarter of the party’s membership has left since 2007, leading to 100 ALP branches collapsing. In Victoria, a further quarter has failed to renew their membership since last year’s state election defeat.
Former NSW Labor minister Rod Cavalier told the press “Most of the [remaining branches] are phantoms, paper frauds that could not pass the breath-on-the mirror test. The consequence was obvious on polling day: the land mass of NSW lacked Labor people to staff booths. It was not possible to paper the cracks with the salaried political class, not even with an injection from interstate.”
The abandonment of working people from the Labor Party reflects the pro-big business policies that the organisation has adopted over recent decades. On almost every issue the ALP is out of step with ordinary people’s views.
62% of people want all troops out of Afghanistan, yet in June Gillard announced Labor’s commitment to remain on-board with the US occupation.
Around 82% of Australians are concerned that pollution is making climate change worse, yet 75% think the ALP’s carbon tax policy will have little or no effect in reducing carbon emissions.
Two-thirds of Australians support same-sex marriage rights, yet the ALP continues to refuse to legalise it.
On the issue that brought the ALP to power in 2007 – industrial relations – Labor has seen to the further eroding of workers’ rights, pay and conditions. Labor’s Fair Work Act, shamefully applauded by many unions, has had the effect of containing industrial action, suppressing wage demands and delivering substantial concessions to employers. These are attacks the former Howard Government was ultimately unable to implement.
Australian Council of Trade Unions President Jeff Lawrence recently pointed out that since the introduction of the Fair Work Act “profits grew more than twice as fast as the total wages bill in the market sector.” This represents a further redistribution of wealth from the hands of working people into the pockets of business.
Gillard’s kowtowing to the multi-billion dollar mining sector has cost the public an estimated $60 billion in tax revenue. This is at a time when $22 billion in cuts to services and welfare have been made in this year’s federal budget!
After experiencing a period in which the ALP boasted almost wall to wall governments across a state and federal level, working people have been forced to recognise the ALP for what it has really become: another party representing the interests of big business at the expense of ordinary people.
The problem is that there exists no genuine mass workers’ party for people to join that could become a vehicle of working class political expression in opposition to the ALP. The pressing task at hand is to begin to build a new workers’ party, drawing into its ranks disillusioned Labor voters, progressive community groups, radical young people, militant trade unions and the existing Left.
Punishing one big business party by voting for the other is no solution to the problems we face. Working people need a party that fights for their interests in the parliament, in the workplaces and in our local communities. This will become clearer in the years to come especially as economic and political instability increases in Australia and across the globe.
By SP reporters