The Abbott government is in crisis. Key parts of its brutal rule for the rich Budget are, seven months later, still stalled in the Senate. (Labor disgracefully, but not surprisingly, did wave through $20 billion worth of cuts but that’s not enough for the one percent. They want de-regulated University fees, doctor co-payments and other atrocities against the poor ). The infighting is escalating. Even their most loyal backers the hacks and apparatchiks in the media, the likes of Albrechtsen and Bolt, have turned on them.
The first term Liberal government in Victoria was voted out last weekend. This weekend the South Australian Labor government, in power for 12 years, won a swing to it of 8% in the Fisher by-election, and may even win the usually solid Liberal or Liberal independent seat for the first time since 1985. If Labor does win Fisher, it would give the Labor Party majority instead of minority government in the State.
Federally the Abbott government has been unpopular almost since the day it was elected in September last. The latest Galaxy poll, out today in the Murdoch rags, gives Labor a two party preferred margin of ten percent, 55% to 45%.
I predicted a week or so ago that as the government went into deeper crisis it would try to salvage its position by increasing its attacks on the usual suspects – the holy trinity of refugees, Aborigines and unions.
This week the Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, held asylum seeker children to ransom and forced the Senate to pass new immigration laws that effectively abandon international law on refugees and give this most cruel of Christians the power to destroy even more asylum seeker and refugee lives.
The more rabid supporters of the coalition have been mixing anti-refugee xenophobia with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim attacks. The government itself has dabbled in anti-Muslim attacks through its national security laws and may heighten the fear of the other through that channel of hate.
On top of that Nigel Scullion, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs , has announced the government will adopt Twiggy Forrest’s recommendations for a remote area work for the dole scheme. This will basically force unemployed Aboriginal people to work 25 hours a week for the dole of $258 a week, or in other words a bit over $10 an hour. The minimum wage in Australia is $640.90 per week, calculated on the basis of a week of 38 ordinary hours, or $16.87 per hour.
By the way Twiggy Forrest is one of Australia’s wealthiest billionaires. He got rich off Aboriginal land and will get richer off cheap Aboriginal labour. His company, Fortescue Metals Group, hasn’t paid income tax in Australia for the last 18 years.
[Update: I have received the following note from Byron Vale, Manager Media Relations, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd, ‘A short note to alert you to some recent factual errors in your blog En Passant relating to Fortescue’s income tax payments. Every year Fortescue publishes its tax obligations in its Annual Report, which is available online and in print. In these you will see that Fortescue has paid more than $2 billion in company tax since its establishment in 2003, and our next payment will occur in January.’ Laura Tingle from the Australian Financial Review was the source for my information about 18 years of not paying income tax. She said in 2011 in the Australian Financial Review: Forrest has never signed a corporate income tax cheque for any of the listed companies he has run in the past 16 years. And FMG has another $700 million in tax losses still to bring to account before he will have to do so.’ It appears the difference may be that his companies overall (not just FMG) pay no income tax, although the comments by Tingle don’t seem to suggest that.]
I confidently predict the next target for some outrageous attack will be unions, even more so than the outrages to date of kangaroo courts, unsubstantiated allegations of criminal activity, deaths at work because unions are hamstrung, fines for workers taking industrial action, cutting workers’ wages further etc etc.
The problem the Abbott government has is that it won government not in its own right but because it wasn’t Labor. People threw the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Labor government out because of its neoliberal agenda (for example cutting real wages, cutting social welfare spending, extending the pension age, worsening the gender pay gap, condemning 80,000 single mums to deeper poverty, cutting University funding, and inadequate spending on public transport, public hospitals and public education) and its incompetence.
The Coalition came to power delivering more of the same cuts as Labor, only worse. It too is incompetent. No amount of xenophobia about refugees, racism against Aborigines or lies about unions is going to save it at the next election.
Many voters retain a yearning for a social democratic Australia, an Australia of increasing living standards, better public health, public education and public transport, for jobs for all, an Australia which seriously addresses climate change and cares for those in need. That yearning for a better world, born of the exploitative capital/labour relationship and the wages system, is clashing with the needs of capital around the globe for good profit rates. The falling rate of profit in Europe and North America and the spread of the contagion to Asia and the Pacific will see the Australian economy worsen over the next few years.
The Abbott government’s response will be to ramp up its attacks on asylum seekers, refugees and unions as well as cutting social welfare and other spending, However this is a government of the walking dead. One push from unions and unionists could bury this zombie government right now.
Such union action would not only throw Abbott and co out now, and defend workers, it would force Labor to the left.
This type of action is unlikely to happen given the ACTU is a shiver looking for a spine. What it does mean is that we unionists, anti-racists and humanitarians will need to unite and fight this desperate sick government.