Policies for a class war? Editorial Issue no 83
The double dissolution election is contrived if not confected. The legislative business that was so important to need a special sitting of Parliament lasted one day. When the Senate rejected the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) Bill, the government did not even put its Registered Organisations Bill to the vote.
The ABCC Bill is shocking. As Tom McDonald, former ACTU Vice-President says in SEARCH News, it violates the UN Declaration of Human Rights that workers have trade union rights and protection. The objective of the ABCC is to destroy the power of the trade union movement in the building and construction industry. The ABCC Code removes negotiating rights including setting maximum hours, apprentice quotas and stable and safe shift rosters. Building workers face up to six months in jail if they seek to exercise their right to silence.
Mr Turnbull has relied on these industrial laws to justify the double dissolution. One interpretation is that they are just a 'means' to get to a more amenable Senate. Another is that Mr Turnbull is ensuring support for his leadership among the conservatives in the Liberal Party. A third is that the Turnbull government is ideologically committed to an anti-union agenda.
Whether one or all of these pertain, Tim Dunlop seems correct in the observation that the election 'stinks to high heaven of class warfare'. And, 'From a double dissolution trigger over unions to the call for a banking royal commission, this election will be all about class warfare and fairness'.
The Liberals are exposed as warriors for their class interests; increasingly, they are pressing the interests of finance capitalists. The Liberals response to the ALP plan to wind back negative gearing is instructive; according to the Liberals the proposal is reprehensible because it will reduce house prices!
If house prices fall, wage earners should be better-off - at least in getting access to housing and paying-off a mortgage. Employers ought to welcome this because it will reduce wage pressures. However, speculators, banks and the finance sector might be worse-off - or they might have to move their money into productive uses.
A clear progressive agenda for the election would include;
• Increase public revenue by stopping tax rorts
• Interventionist industry policy
• Real action on climate change
• Transition from a fossil-fuel based economy including reducing reliance on coal exports.
• Positive action for decent secure jobs
• Strong enforcement of industrial standards so there are no more 7-11s or exploitation of workers on temporary visas.
• School funding based on need; reverse the privatisation and marketisation of VET and re-regulate universities.
• Serious negotiations for a constitutional settlement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
• A humane refugee policy
Creativity and strong advocacy is needed from the ALP (and, for that matter The Greens). This is not a time for timidity and 'small target' politics.