The Guardian November 28, 2001


Change but no change

Both the Liberal and the Labor Parties have elected their parliamentary 
leaders and deputies. The Government's Cabinet and the ALP's Shadow Cabinet 
have been appointed. There is talk of generational changes and policy 

On the part of the Government no policy changes are in the pipeline  only 
an intensification of attacks on civil rights and the living standards and 
conditions of the working people. Tony Abbott promises more savage anti-
trade union legislation. Privatisation, the destruction of the ABC, cuts to 
public education and run down of the public health system will continue.

The appointment of Dr David Kemp as the Government's Environment Minister 
to replace the suave Robert Hill foreshadows both national and 
international environment policies completely in line with the demands of 
the big corporations.

The Government will continue its slavish support as the US's "war against 
terrorism" is spread to envelop other countries. The racist policy of 
bashing asylum seekers will continue.

But what of the Labor Party that promises to overhaul all policies  
except the ALP's opposition to the further privatisation of Telstra? 
Already there is a promise to change the Labor Party's relationship with 
the trade union movement. 

Mark Latham, a right-winger who considers himself to be a policy-making 
intellectual, has declared that the Labor Party must adjust its policies to 
take in the so-called "aspirational" working class who, according to Latham 
are concerned these days with property ownership and shareholdings.

His statements clearly indicate that he wants the ALP to move away from the 
working people and their pressing concerns about jobs, job security, wages, 
the GST, health, education, housing and being able to pay the bills. 

Will the Labor Party break from the economic rationalist policies that have 
determined its economic policies from the time of the Hawke and Keating 
Governments? Will it break from the general policy of privatisation or does 
this only apply to Telstra? Will it break with "competition policy"?

Not a word has so far been said against the racist policies that underpin 
the Howard Government's attitude to asylum seekers. The only comment by 
Simon Crean is that the "Pacific solution" is not working.

And what of the war against Afghanistan and the wider conflict now in the 
course of preparation? This is a question that will determine Australia's 
place in the world for a long while to come. The Howard Government's 
policies have already branded Australia as a selfish country and as a 
lackey of the United States.

Unless the Labor Party is prepared to change its position on these 
fundamental policies the widespread view that the Labor Party is virtually 
the same as the Liberals will remain.

For a long time the Labor Party factions which are supposed to represent 
the right, centre and left are little better than a mockery. Deals are done 
carving up the positions just as they have been in the election of Simon 
Crean as leader and Jenny Macklin as deputy-leader.

The idea of party unity and party solidarity are fine principles but they 
have, in fact, been used to cement the right-wing in power. This silences 
the voices of those who might have more progressive policies. How is the 
public to know that there are alternatives to the disastrous right-wing 
policies if they do not have any means of expression  as a result of the 
unity imposed by all the rigors of the right-wing machine?

We are perhaps going to be presented with the slogan of "New Labor", taking 
a cue from Tony Blair. But Blair's "New Labor" is little more than a 
dressing up of conservative policies in a Labor label. Blair is just as 
much a proponent of economic rationalism as Maggie Thatcher, just as anti-
working class, just as imperialist and war-minded as any Conservative Party 

With perhaps a few new colours here and there the two major parties will 
give us more of the same with only slight differences. There is no solution 
for the Australian people in the policies of either of the main parties.
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