The Guardian July 4, 2001

There's an election in the air

Electoral bribery, a strong whiff of racist passions and attacks on 
trade unions are sure signs that an election is on the way. The racist 
attacks come in the form of the demonising of refugees and the outrageous 
attacks on a number of the Aboriginal leaders. The Construction, Forestry, 
Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) is the present target in the arsenal of 
anti-trade union campaigning.

Associated with these government campaigns is the expenditure of millions 
of dollars of taxpayers' money on a TV advertising campaign that the 
Government attempts to justify as "informing the Australian people of their 

In the last budget a number of pensioners (but only some pensioners) were 
given a one-off handout of $300. It was an attempt to cover-up the earlier 
decision of the Government to claw back two percent of the four percent 
increase in pensions which was part of the GST bribery.

Now the Government, as yet another election sweetener, is going to cancel 
over-payments made by CentreLink to some welfare beneficiaries. 
Overpayments up to an amount of $1,000 are going to be "forgiven". Only a 
few days ago the Government was intending to force all lucky recipients to 
repay the over-payments. However, the really important handout is going to 
the big companies who woke up on July 1, to a reduction in company taxes 
from 36 cents to only 30 cents in the dollar. It will net companies 
millions of extra dollars in the profit column of their accounts. This is a 
real reduction of almost 17 percent in the amount of taxes paid by 
corporations on their profits. Meanwhile workers, whose labour created 
those profits, are paying an extra 10 percent GST on goods and services.

There has been a sustained attack on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait 
Islander Committee (ATSIC) throughout the whole period of Howard's Prime 
Ministership. ATSIC was attacked over alleged misspending of funds and had 
its funding cut.

Now, a frontal attack is taking place against a number of Aboriginal 
leaders  Geoff Clark, the present Chairman of ATSIC, Magistrate Pat 
O'Shane, who is noted for her progressive attitudes on social issues, and 
her brother Terry O'Shane who was slandered in the Senate by Liberal 
Senator, Bill Heffernan.

Using his privileged position as a Senator and safe from any legal charge 
of slander he imputed a charge of rape against Terry O'Shane  a charge 
that has never been taken to the police or before any court.

Terry O'Shane strongly responded: "They have taken an unsubstantiated 
allegation and splashed it across every headline in Australia and in some 
ways tried to be judge and jury." He referred to the "broader attack" and 
the vilification of a number of indigenous leaders and said it was "part of 
a campaign to discredit indigenous issues leading up to the Federal 
election." Terry O'Shane is spot on.

The other arm of the racist campaign is the demonising and incarceration in 
concentration camp like conditions of refugees, most of whom are attempting 
to escape political terror in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries with 
oppressive regimes. Phillip Ruddock, the Immigration Minister, echoes the 
sentiments of Pauline Hanson who would like to throw all such refugees back 
into the sea.

Workplace Relations Minister, Tony Abbott, is playing his part by making 
untested allegations against the CFMEU. He wants to launch a royal 
commission into alleged corruption and "violent factions" on the part of 
the union. Some years ago the Greiner Liberal Premier of NSW launched a 
similar inquiry that revealed that it was the construction companies that 
were corrupt, not the union. Tony Abbott should take note of the inglorious 
end to Peter Reith's ambitions and the failure of his MUA bashing 

All these aspects of the campaign by the Coalition Parties is a sure sign 
that they feel that the electoral ground on which they stand is 
increasingly shaky. It is to be hoped that the Australian people will not 
be steam-rolled by these "bottom of the barrel" campaigns and will throw 
this most conservative of governments out when the election occurs later 
this year.
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