The attack on the people of Australia that the Abbott Government, at the behest of corporate Australia, just intensified by means of its first budget has galvanised community and labour movement activists the length and breadth of our land of beauty rich and rare.
We all find ourselves asking; what is to be done to advance Australia fair?
Clearly the first objective is to prevent the pernicious measures of the budget from seeing the light of day. The obvious place to do this is in the Senate where a coalition of Labor, Greens and Palmer’s United Australia can combine forces to block provisions of the budget that are to be legislated in bills other than the appropriation bills.
The Australian Labor Party for sound historical reasons will not seek to block supply that is vote against the appropriation bills.
In addition to the action in parliament it is of the first importance to mobilise a social movement to block the budget. This is necessary because the parliamentary coalition opposing the budget is fragile, after all these three parties otherwise are in electoral opposition and, moreover, they do not share a one-to-one correspondence in their responses to the budget.
For instance there are subtle differences over the deficit levy and there are more overt differences on education.
A well mobilised and continual campaign from an aroused citizenry needs to be in place in order to provide sufficient pressure on the parties in the Senate so that they maintain unity of purpose, rather than engage in political grandstanding, and oppose all, not just some, of the budget’s nasties.
Furthermore budget shockers could well be contained in the appropriation bills that shall pass, which means extra parliamentary action would be needed to block them. Resistance and direct action cannot be excluded toward this end.
Thus far the rallies that have been organised have been wonderful and inspiring. Wonderful because they have brought Australians from all walks of life together in the one space under the banner of social justice, and inspiring because common action fills us with hope about the future and makes us more optimistic about the goodness that lurks in our hearts.
The rallies, that said, are nowhere near enough. The trade union movement must be mobilised from head to toe in support of these rallies. The support of the working class is always of the first importance in any movement that concerns itself with social questions in a capitalist society. Thus far the organised labour movement has demonstrated a low profile; at the rally in Melbourne on May 18 I could discern only a few individual NTEU and NUW flags.
By joining the protest movement against the budget the trade union movement would be able to provide sufficient organisation and gravity to make a lasting effect upon Labor, the Greens and Palmer’s PUP. The same also would apply to the ruling class which doubtless calculates that a weakened labour movement gives it the ability to continue with the neoliberal assault on the public.
Large scale mobilisation acts as a deterrent against ruling class action; for example the demonstrations against the Iraq war did not stop it, but they did prevent Iraq from becoming a free fire zone and it likely prevented more wars. Indeed it is probably one reason why “the war on terror” has gone underground.
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