The Guardian October 10, 2001


Election prospects

Given the rather rapid economic and political swings taking place in 
Australia it is premature to forecast the outcome of the coming elections 
if we merely estimate whether the ALP or the Liberal-National Party 
coalition will form the next government. We do know that at the present 
time, it will be one or other of these parties.

What can also be guaranteed is that a large number of voters will once 
again look for alternative candidates and parties, rather than vote for the 
two parties that have formed governments in Australia for the last 100 

The Liberal Party appears to have gained a temporary advantage by its 
"hard" stand on refugees and the hype that has been whipped up over the 
terrorist attack on New York and Washington. However, the real econommic 
and social issues will not go away and will inevitably reassert themselves.

On these key questions the Liberal Party can only offer more of the same 
while the Labor Party offers some tinkering at the edges.

For example, on the GST the ALP only offers a "roll-back" (without any 
details as yet), rather than a "roll out". There is talk from Labor Leader 
Kim Beazley that funding will be taken from private schools and handed to 
the public school system. But, given the long historical commitment of the 
Labor Party to the private school system, that is a promise that remains to 
be tested.

The contest has been reduced to whether or not Kim Beazley and John Howard 
will see out a full term after the election and whether or not Peter 
Costello has the experience to be a Prime Minister  compared to Beazley. 
This is mere "sound and fury signifying nothing".

Australia needs a significant change of direction  away from economic 
rationalist disasters, away from a policy of walling off Australia when it 
comes to welcoming refugees and asylum seekers, away from the shameful 
toadying to the US, away from massive military expenditures and war 
preparations, away from the destruction of the environment.

There are any number of progressive policies that many people support but 
there is not much clarity or even discussion on how to back them up and 
what sort of a government is needed to implement them.

This reflects the fact that many people still limit their vision to 
consideration of the two major political organisations, even though, at the 
same time, many severely criticise them for their policies and their sorry 
record, the broken promises, the corruption in high places, the opportunism 
and unprincipled practices.

The really significant change that is slowly taking place in Australian 
politics is the increasing number of voters who are now consciously looking 
for an alternative.

The Greens, Democrats, One Nation and, independents, are the main 
recipients of the pervading discontent. It is by no means a focused 
discontent and that is the next step  to both increase the number who are 
looking for an alternative and to provide a left and progressive 
alternative rather than the right-wing option that is presented by One 

There will not be any significant change in economic and social direction 
until a government is established that will implement policies in the 
interests of the people.

We cannot expect the Liberals to do that, tied as they are to the needs of 
the big corporations.

Neither will the Labor Party do the job. The Labor Party is also basically 
committed to the maintenance and preservation of the capitalist system 
while right-wing social democratic leaders see their responsibility as 
marrying the interests of the working people to the interests of capital.

Despite Labor Party policies that call for public ownership, the Party in 
practice has gone in the opposite direction, to privatisation.

There is a need for trade unions, whose members are all workers, to join 
the search for and creation of a left and progressive alternative rather 
than limiting their options to passive and often reluctant support of the 
Labor Party.

That course is a door that has yet to open, but when it does, the political 
prospects for Australia will be much brighter.
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