Magazine of the Socialist Party, Australian section of the CWI

Tasmania: Lack of real alternative sees Libs returned

The March 3 state election in Tasmania saw the Liberal Party returned to office for another four-year term. The results achieved by the Liberals, Labor and the Greens have been dubbed ‘historic’, but this was far from an earth shattering election as far as working people are concerned.

The results for the Liberals were historic in the sense that it was the first time since 1986 that they were elected to serve a second consecutive term. The Greens result was historic as it was one of their lowest votes since they first appeared as the Green Independents in 1989.

And while Labor’s vote was higher than the last election four years ago, that was one of the lowest votes they have ever received in Tasmania.

The Liberals are claiming that the win means there will be a return to stability. However, rather than indicating thoroughgoing support for their right-wing program, the result is more an indication that working class and young people in Tasmania are completely distrustful of Labor and the Greens.

From 2010 to 2014 the Greens propped a Labor led minority government. During these years they combined to cut funding to social services, closed schools and axed public sector jobs.

They did this while providing tax breaks to big business and allowing corporations to plunder the states resources. While ordinary people were struggling to make ends meet, they rolled out the red carpet for the rich.

The conduct of the Labor/Green coalition was fresh in the minds of voters, and many were reluctant to go back to these days. Labor was able to improve on their result from the last election, but it was not enough. Without any enthusiasm, people decided to stick with the devil they knew.

During the campaign Labor’s main policy was removing pokie machines (electronic gambling machines) from pubs and bars. Pokies uses predatory tactics to suck billions of dollars from working class people, often from those who are least able to afford it.

Measures to stop this exploitation are to be supported, but simply removing pokie machines alone would likely lead to job losses. The Liberals jumped on this and ran a scare campaign about the impacts Labor’s policy would have on the tourism and hospitality sectors, important industries in this small state.

Moves to clamp down on the gambling industry need to be coupled with a plan to create sustainable jobs in other sectors. Only a socialist plan of production could genuinely deal with these issues.

On the basis of continued support for capitalism Labor was unable to take up the issue of job losses, an issue that is of great concern to workers across Tasmania – and indeed across the country.

For their part, the Greens are launching an investigation into why they polled so poorly. At the same time, they are debating their poor results at the South Australian election and their failure to capture the federal seat of Batman in Melbourne.

The main problem facing the Greens is that their rightward trajectory, and lack of focus on working class issues, cuts them off from huge swathes of voters who are frustrated with the major parties. When in positions of power they act just the same as other capitalist parties.

The Jacqui Lambie Network also failed to tap into the growing mood of discontent. While Lambie likes to style herself as ‘anti-establishment’, she is really just another right-wing populist that supports the system.

Her candidates were a mixed bag and her policies did not resonate with most voters whose main concerns are jobs, wages and a lack of social services.

None of the parties in this election dealt with these class issues. The Liberals, Labor and the Greens have all overseen policies that have led to job losses, wage stagnation and cuts to public spending. They all put the needs of big business ahead of those of ordinary people.

What people in Tasmania need is a political alternative to the parties that push the corporate agenda. We need a party that fights for the wealth we create to be used to improve our living standards rather than increasing the profits of the rich.

By Meredith Jacka