‘We need to fight back’ – that’s the conclusion that most working class people draw from the Liberal’s industrial legislation changes. We need to fight back against these attacks on our living and working conditions. The Liberals continue to give huge tax cuts to the rich, cut back welfare benefits, and drive down wages and conditions.
Rather than build a campaign to defeat these attacks The Labor Party response is to say ‘grin and bear it’ and vote for us at the next election. This approach is ok if you’re a highly paid MP sitting in Canberra but doesn’t benefit casual employees or those having their hourly rate cut now.
The ‘wait patiently approach’ advocated by the Labor Party only works as a tactic if you believe the Labor Party would reverse not just the current legislation but all the other attacks that the Liberals have made. However, the Labor Party is now fundamentally a party of big business which embraces the same neo-liberal policies that are being implemented by the Liberals. In fact the Labor Party started the process of destroying collective bargaining with its Accord policy in the 1980s.
Australia needs a new workers party would clearly speak out against attacks. Its role would be one of unifying campaigns against anti-worker laws and other cuts to the living standards of working class Australians and at the same time offer a political alternative to the neo-liberal policies endorsed by the Liberal/Coalition government and the Labor Party.
The Labor Party is never going to be a party that can do this – they have embraced the same policies and part of their reluctance to attack the bosses and business community’s greed is that they want to ‘work with them’ in the future. They don’t want to risk offending the likes of Murdoch and his cronies because they want their support.
The Australian described a ‘gulf between the Labor Party and the labour movement’ however, the weakness of the Labor Party is mirrored by the current trade union leadership who are hand in glove with the Labor Party. Greg Combet the Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is a Beazley supporter within the faction fights.
The lack of support from the ACTU will not stop workers being forced into fighting the cuts to their conditions. A new workers party would fight on all aspects of social change: better public housing, education, free and accessible medical care for all. The struggle would be more generalized than just the unions and trade union members. However, unions would play a key part in any such party representing the more developed and politically conscious.
Left union leaders who can not find any support within the Labor Party should start looking for better ways of spending member?s money than supporting the Labor Party. This is the same Labor Party that at a state level has been actively attacking workers pay and conditions. At the moment, there is no mass party for the working people of Australia.
Workers have no one to represent their interests and there is a need for a new workers party putting forward a socialist program that includes campaigning for a living minimum wage, full union rights, free medical care and free public education. The formation of a new workers party although taking place over a period of time would draw a new layer of workers into struggle. The establishment of a new party would help raise the confidence of those delegates and officials who now feel that they are banging their heads against the current labor leadership’s ineptitude.
By Samantha Ashby