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John Passant

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June 2009



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Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

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Costello quits: changing of the guard in the house of reaction

Peter Costello has quit. The union buster and Treasurer for 11 years in the Howard Conservative Government is to retire at the next election. 

He has been a good servant for his class.  His time in power accelerated the historic shift in the share of national income from labour to capital that Hawke and Keating began.

A compliant union leadership helped Costello. 

This shift was masked by a boom in the Australian economy, mainly thanks to selling resources to China and making workers work harder.

This meant the bosses could give us a few crumbs from the table of plenty we had created.

Screwing more out of us goes under the fancy name of productivity increases.  It is Labor that is now emphasising the need for productivity ‘improvements’.  This translates to doing more with less.

Costello was lucky.  The forces that produced the boom in Australia were not of his making.  Certainly he  helped surf the wave of speculation.  But he did little to manage for the future.

The forthcoming Great Recession in Australia, when it hits in full, will be in part thanks to this colonel of capital.

All that money and only a baby bonus to show for it. No nation building, no education ‘revolution’, no improved health system.

And now, not even an economy immune from the global recession. 

Australia has been deeply integrated into the world economy for more than a century.

It is dependent on foreign capital for its ongoing growth. It is a net capital importer. 

Costello oversaw a deepening of the internationalisation of the economy, including an expansion of the export of Australian capital to the rest of the world.

Labor continues this project – to increase foreign investment and expand Australian investment offshore.

Costello also oversaw an historic shift in taxation from capital to labor through the Goods and Services Tax.

He presided over declines in social spending, and in his first year as Treasurer in 1996 sacked 25,000 public servants.

These two approaches were symptomatic of his policies more generally – what’s good for capital is good for labour.  This is the ALP approach too.

Where they differ is in the detail.

Costello enthusiastically backed Work Choices.  These industrial relations laws were an attempt to further empower and embolden capital against labour and put downward pressure on wages.

Costello was the galley master cracking the whip over we wage slaves to force us to work harder.

In social terms Costello was  a smiling Howard – walking in a reconciliation march to show his human side (and recognising that a touch of meaningless show would never lose him votes and may win him some.)

This is the same Costello who backed our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, who defended children overboard, who was tough on refugees and all the other disgusting baggage that was the Howard Government.

The Howard era is dead.  We drove the arch reactionary from Parliament on the back of opposition to Work Choices.

We now have in Kevin Rudd a John Howard writ small, a man whose Work Choices lite is just as anti-worker as Howard’s laws.

The Aegean stable of reaction are being cleaned out. Howard, Downer, Ruddick and now Costello are the faded heroes of the ruling class.

That class knows it cannot return to the old ways of ruling.  And so its former mouth pieces must go, to be replaced by new puppets without the tarnish of the hated Howard years. 

Can Tony Abbott and Nick Minchin be far behind Costello?

There is a new generation of reactionaries coming forward – Turnbull, Hockey, Bishop, Joyce, and others.

Costello’s personal failure to win the Prime Ministership is neither here nor there – except for him.  For his class it was but a mere bagatelle in the continuation of their dictatorship.

For the moment the ruling class has turned to a Labor version of Howard – Kevin Rudd.

That facade may last another election. 

At the same time the ruling class is rebuilding its reserve army of reaction.

Malcolm Turnbull can now consolidate his position as leader of the Opposition and muddle through, hoping that unemployment skyrockets and people turn to him as messiah. 

It’s possible, although anther alternative is that as the economy worsens class polarisation and tensions  increase. 

Given 26 years of class collaboration by our union leaders, a fightback is not obvious. 

We can’t be prescriptive but the working class is confused and apart from building workers quiescent.

Fear is not a good recruiting officer for the class war.

So what is Costello’s legacy – the threat of unemployment, attacks on wages and conditions and an economy teetering towards oblivion.

Costello has done his job for his masters. 









That shift



Comment from Abi
Time June 20, 2009 at 12:03 am

You forgot to mention the following
– How Costello almost demolished the public health system
– Drastically cut TAFE/apprentice positions, therefore reduced numbers of electricians, builders etc, which of course had a major effect on the costs associated in building a new house or even simply getting a proper tradesman to do a simple job.
– Destroyed our public education system with their ridiculous policies on supposed distribution of taxpayer funds to the wealthy class and the reduction of funds towards our universities.

I can go on, but my daughter is waiting to get onto the computer.

Comment from Leonie
Time June 20, 2009 at 8:57 am


I agree. Labor supported most of the Liberal’s spending on baby bonuses and the like. And in fact Labor in power continues the madness. For example the ‘education revolution’ spends nothing on what really matters – teachers.

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