Some in the press have referred to Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard as the ‘Dream Team’. The Federal Opposition has gone through a series of change of leaderships, Beazley to Crean, Crean to Latham, and now to Rudd as Labor desperately searches for a fresh face to hide the truth: their policies are fundamentally no different to the Coalition.
But who is the leader of this ‘Dream Team’ – a man who recently told the Melbourne Age that he was “not a socialist” – as if anyone was fooled!
Whilst Director General of the Office of Cabinet in Queensland after Labor won power in 1989, he quickly became known through out Queensland as Doctor Death because he had slashed so many public service jobs so quickly- apparently Rudd regards this as a “term of supreme affection”.
As for Julia Gillard, already she has started the process of the ALP reneging on its promise to rip up the Coalitions IR legislation, stating that she would consider allowing high – income earners greater flexibility to trade off award conditions in exchange for higher pay in individual contracts. – A far cry from getting rid of individual contracts altogether. Gillard also has recently refused to outline what the ALP alternative would be to Work Choices, including whether there would be an increase in the five minimal conditions offered by the Coalition government.
One MP promoted by Rudd, despite being of the Left faction, have been even more pro-market. Initial promises made by the new leadership eg Commonwealth involvement in transport infrastructure eg road projects in Sydney, Brisbane and Townsville, lowering of the cost of HECS for students and the introduction of a dental scheme, were quickly undermined by Melbourne MP Lindsay Tanner.
Finance spokesperson Tanner (a prominent member of the ALP Socialist Left faction) has indicated that these promises were statements of intent and not election commitments. He also indicated that although infrastructure was a priority for Labor it would investigate all funding options including public-private partnerships, which given recent problems with such partnerships such as the Cross City Tunnel in Sydney could be a problem.
Tanner also said that because the budget was now in structural deficit, government spending had to be kept in check to avoid putting pressure on interest rates. (A structural deficit is a deficit that remains across a business cycle because general tax levels are too low for the general level of government spending.)
He indicated company tax, which now provides 26 % of federal revenue (whereas 7 or 8 years ago it was only 14%) meant the budget was very vulnerable to a downturn and that Labor was absolutely committed to keeping its promises achievable and affordable. Therefore, the socialist left Tanner would rather cut spending to the working class – most affected by an economic downturn then to go to a budget deficit or increase taxes from business.
Rudd and Gillard are fundamentally no different to Howard and company. Right now polls are looking good for the ALP. However, John Howard is a wily bourgeois politician and it is a long time to the next election. Even with industrial relations as a burning issue for the government, the ALP could still grasp defeat from the jaws of victory.
The Australian working class needs a new workers party. A party of community and unions and left activists that will provide a lead and fight for the interests of the working class as opposed to the interests of the bosses.
Editorial comment in the February 2007 edition of The Socialist