Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Federal election: Is the lesser-evil really the best option?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Regardless of who wins the Federal election on September 14 one thing is a certainty – the winner will be big business. Perhaps the most pressing issue facing ordinary people in this election campaign is the fact that no mass party exists that genuinely represents their interests. Liberal and Labor are both out and out parties of the rich and powerful.

Both of the major parties rake in millions of dollars each year from the coffers of big business. These companies are usually paid back many times over with both Labor and Liberal supporting policies that increase their profits at our expense.

Editorial comment from the March 2013 edition of ‘The Socialist’

Far from a proper democratic process what actually happens in Australia every 3 years is that we get to choose which of the two big parties gets to decide how to consolidate society’s wealth in fewer and fewer hands. We desperately need to break from this routine.

At the moment the polls show that people are leaning towards allowing Tony Abbott to preside over the misery in the next term. As we have commented before, it’s not the case that there are huge amounts of enthusiasm for Abbott. Rather it is the case that people are so disappointed with Gillard that they want to punish Labor.

That said a significant section of society sees the spectre of an Abbott government as terrifying. They say “Yes Labor is evil but they are a lesser evil compared to the Liberals”. We sympathise with this mood but point out that history shows this to be a false dichotomy.

Labor has a track record that is just as bad as the Liberals. For example it was Labor that first introduced a user pays system for university education and mandatory detention for refugees. They also were the ones who started the process of selling off public assets in the 1980s.

The Hawke-Keating Labor government in the 80s also set up the Prices and Income Accord – a deal which ended up facilitating a huge shift in wealth away from workers and into the pockets of big business. Given this was done with the agreement of the bulk of the unions, it is something that the Liberals would have found much more difficult to pull off.

Both parties support the profit driven capitalist system and each sees themselves as representatives of the ruling class. While the Liberals are the traditional party of big business, Labor are seen as the second eleven. The difference between the two is more about style than substance. Far from being a lesser evil Labor would be better described as a wolf in sheep’s clothes.

Some people will look to the Greens as some type of alternative. Again we have huge amounts of sympathy with those who want to make a break from the two major parties but point out that the Greens track record is less than admirable.

Fundamentally the Greens have the same economic and political agenda as the major parties and only see their job as choosing a side. Recently at a federal level they have chosen Labor but in Tasmania in the past they have just as happily worked in coalition with the Liberals.

Rather than choosing to side with one or another big business party, a genuine third force in Australian politics would strive to push the two parties together in order to open up space for real progressive policies.

The solution for working people is not to just keep using one big business party to punish the other. We need to break this routine and build a new party that represents the majority of ordinary people. Such a party needs to be built in conjunction with the development of a movement of people that can challenge the rule of corporate profit.

Rather than producing everything for profit we need to cater for people’s needs. We need a party that represents these interests in the parliament but more importantly in the workplaces, in the schools and in the communities. We need a party that is not divorced from ordinary people but intimately connected to all of our struggles.

As a contribution towards pushing in this direction and breaking from the domination of the two big parties we encourage community activists and Left groups to stand against the major parties and to use the campaign to champion the issues that are important to ordinary people.

We urge activists fighting budget cuts, refugee advocates and same-sex marriage and environmental campaigners to stand in the election in order to put those issues high up on the political agenda.

We also call on trade unions to break their political and financial connection with Labor and stand their own candidates highlighting the issues of jobs, casualisation, and the raft of anti-worker laws that are currently on the books.

Every break away from the major parties and towards the independent movement and representation of the working class is a step in the right direction. The aim would be for the different campaigns, individuals, and organisations to begin working together more collaboratively.

By supporting each other and building up trust between the different disparate groupings the basis could be built for a more formal coalition or alliance. This in turn could form the embryo of a new party that could really challenge the dominance of the Liberals and Labor and the weaknesses of the Greens.

This type of a process would be much more than the realignment of the existing Left and socialist groups. It would necessarily involve much wider layers of people and would be connected to real developments in the class struggle.

The building of a new party that genuinely represents the interests of ordinary people and would actually be easier and far more productive than continuing to hold out hope that Labor might be a little bit better.

Not only could a new party left-wing party win significant electoral support but the act of drawing together all of the progressive struggles in Australia would lead to much stronger campaigns. At the end of the day this is the most important thing as real victories are won by fighting for social change on the streets, in our workplaces and in our local communities, not in the chambers of parliament.


The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare many of the problems with capitalism. The Socialist strives to explain the systemic causes of this crisis, and reports about the issues that are important to working people. We also help to organise struggles against the powers that be.

We don’t receive a cent from big business or governments. Our work is fully funded by our supporters. Even if half the people who read our website every month donated a few dollars each we would raise thousands to help our work!

We need organisations of struggle now more than ever, so if you support what we do please consider making a donation.

One-off or regular donations can be made securely HERE.