The recent Queensland state election has received widespread attention. Most commentators have noted that the drubbing the Liberal National Party received was remarkable. Others have suggested that the election marks a new era of gender and racial equality.
By Meredith Jacka, Socialist Party
New Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is the first woman in Australia to lead a state opposition party to victory. With Jackie Trad taking the role of Deputy Premier, this is the first time that both senior positions have been occupied by women.
The election also resulted in Leeanne Enoch becoming the first Aboriginal woman elected to the Queensland parliament. She is joined by Billy Gordon as Labor’s first indigenous parliamentarians in that state.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote in Queensland. The wait was much longer for Indigenous women, as indigenous people only won the right to vote in 1962. These gains were only made possible due to the heroic struggles of working class activists, both women and Aboriginal, all those years ago.
The election of women and indigenous people to parliament is only possible because of these past struggles. While it is an important milestone, it is not an end in itself. Acting in a government implementing austerity, even women and Indigenous parliamentarians will find themselves inevitably voting for polices that advantage the wealthy, while disadvantaging the rest of us.
Ultimately it is not the identity of the politician, but rather their political affiliation that determines what polices they will end up supporting. Both Labor and Liberal are guilty of perpetuating the gender pay gap, undermining social services and continuing the historic dispossession of Aboriginal people.
As we have seen so many times before, the policies implemented by the Queensland Labor Government will not be primarily informed by its gender or racial make-up. At both a state and federal level the Labor Party, along with the Liberals, has consistently implemented anti-women, anti-aboriginal and anti-worker policies. The reasons for this stem from the fact that Labor is a party that represents the interests of big business, not ordinary people.
Often it has been Labor women at the helm when these discriminatory policies have been carried through. It was Julia Gillard that oversaw the Northern Territory Intervention which led to the destruction of many remote aboriginal communities for the benefit of big mining companies.
Likewise, it was Jenny Macklin who helped push thousands of single parents of the pension and onto the lower unemployment benefit leaving many as much as $100 a week worse off.
In Queensland former Labor leader Anna Bligh oversaw the privatisation of $15 billion worth of public assets. The higher prices and poorer services which resulted from this have left millions of working people worse off, especially women and indigenous people who are at greater risk of being pushed into poverty.
The outcome of the recent election shows that Queenslanders are searching for alternatives to big business policies like cuts and privatisations. While we need more women and indigenous representatives, we need that representation to be unashamedly in the interests of ordinary people, rather than big business. We need to build solidarity amongst all working class people to create a new political force that can act as a real alternative to the major parties.
See also: LNP routed at Queensland election