But don’t expect any free kicks from Rudd!
At the up coming federal election workers face one of two prospects: Another term of the Liberal/National coalition or a change of government with a Labor victory. After 11 years of Howard’s attacks, most workers are keenly anticipating a Liberal defeat at the polling booth.
Recent polls consistently show the ALP well ahead of the coalition. Howard’s attempts to create a new ‘Tampa’ incident through his intervention in the Northern Territory Indigenous communities, have failed to boost the coalition’s popularity.
One of the main reasons for this has been the Work Choices legislation. The attacks through Work Choices have been a bitter pill for workers. Combined with increases in mortgage repayments through interest rate rises, this spells trouble for the government. Mortgage repayments are now averaging around 38.5% of household income and home loan defaults and foreclosures are rapidly increasing.
The current economic boom has not meant workers earning better wages and conditions but has been based on cuts to wages and conditions, long hours and massive amounts of debt. The current economic situation has left workers feeling more and more insecure and with an economic downturn likely in the next period, this will only be exacerbated.
So what will an ALP victory mean for workers?
As the Labor Party increases its lead in the polls, it feels less need to talk up pro-worker policies. What was once a position of tearing up Work Choices has now become a policy of ‘Work Choices Lite’. Expect more retreats to come. These retreats have not been isolated incidents; we have also seen back flips on Medicare, Uranium mining and Voluntary Student Unionism to name a few.
The fact is that whether we have a Liberal or Labor government, workers will continue to face attacks on their wages as well as more cuts and privatisations. Should Howard retain power, workers will face a new level of attacks from a cocky and arrogant government. Should Labor be handed the reigns of power workers will be more confidant to take back what was lost under 11 years of Howard, particularly because of the promises of their union leaders. The reality is however that such confidence will be met with fierce opposition from a big business backed Labor party government.
The Socialist Party has long argued for the trade unions to break with the ALP and join together with progressive community groups and activists to form a new mass workers party with a clear left wing, anti neo-liberal program. In lieu of such a party, the Socialist Party calls on workers to vote for socialist candidates where possible, then the Greens. Put the Liberals and reactionary parties like Family first last.
By Antony Alder