Australia faces a serious and deep social crisis and the recent electoral success of the far-right One Nation Party in Queensland should serve as a warning for all of us. Politics has become more desperate and more dangerous and there is an urgent need for all progressive-minded people to stand up and make a difference to our common future.
FOR A REAL OPPOSITION TO COALITION AND LABOR
Most people are disgusted with the current political system. Election results are "bought" by big business through media control and large donations to the Labor and Coalition parties. No-one is shocked any longer to hear that politicians or leading business people are so obviously corrupt that even their expensive lawyers cannot keep them out of jail! The federal election approaches amidst unprecedented public disenchantment with the political system and for good reason.
Since 1983 the rich have got tremendously richer yet their taxes have been cut! Labor politicians boasted that they shifted $400 billion from wages to profits when they were in federal government and the Howard Coalition government has since shifted billions more to big business. Soon even more will be shifted if a goods and services tax (GST) is introduced.
Official unemployment is stuck at over 8% but actual unemployment is closer to 16-19%. The average unemployment rate has been climbing since the early 1970s. Since then all governments, Coalition or Labor, and big businesses have been on a path of job destruction. In just its first two years in office, the Howard government destroyed 40,000 federal public service jobs and big business, in particular the big banks, destroyed thousands more. State governments continue to axe more public sector jobs.
In many regional towns and cities unemployment combines with "rural restructuring" (which has driven thousands of small farmers off the land) and withdrawal of public and private sector services (e.g. government services and banks) with devastating consequences. But the crisis does not stop there -- it's not far below the surface in the major cities as well.
Those of us fortunate to have jobs have to work harder and longer for less pay, have less security and are being forced to accept poorer working conditions. This is a direct result of the policies pursued by the major parties. The ALP brought in enterprise bargaining and legalised individual employment contracts and the Coalition extended this attack on workers' rights with the Workplace Relations Act. While John Howard promises to deliver security, his government's conspiracy with Patricks Stevedores and the National Farmers Federation against the maritime workers demonstrated that his government is intent on destroying what's left of the security of working people.
The privatisation rip-off continues as the most profitable public enterprises are being sold off at bargain prices and thousands of jobs are destroyed. The Commonwealth Bank and Qantas were privatised by Labor and the Liberals have begun selling off Telstra. Through the Hilmer "national competition policy" all state governments are driven to privatise their electricity, gas and water utilities and to slash health, education and other social services. This alone has destroyed more than two hundred thousand jobs.
The Coalition has allowed uranium mining at Jabiluka in the wold heritage-listed Kakadu and Labor won't promise to close the mine down if elected to government. What's left of Australia's old-growth native forests are being sacrificed to corporate greed. Uranium was sold to France even as the French government carried out nuclear tests in the Pacific and dirty deals for profit are done with the Indonesian dictatorship while refugees from East Timor are refused asylum.
Anything that gets in the way of the Coalition-Labor "profits-first" agenda full employment, public health, public transport, democratic foreign policy or tackling the greenhouse effect is dismissed as "unrealistic".But this is a wealthy country that can afford to provide decent health, education, housing, public transport and welfare. We can have full employment and look after the young, the aged and the sick.
The Democratic Socialists seek to build a society that puts the interests of the majority of people first. But this requires a struggle to end the domination of the big corporations and the billionaires in our society and build a real democracy based on people's power.
The "two-party system" is really a one-party system with both teams equally committed to slashing welfare, selling off public assets and giving the likes of Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer the freest possible hand to get even richer. The main disagreement between Labor and the Coalition is simply over how and at what pace to boost corporate profits at the expense of the majority of people. So, at every election we are faced with the pathetic "choice" between two brands of pro-big business government.
TIME FOR A REAL OPPOSITION
Many people are sick of this but unfortunately, the biggest electoral expression of this in the coming federal elections looks like being Pauline Hanson's racist One Nation Party. With its deliberate scapegoating of Aboriginal and Asian Australians and its populist nationalist rhetoric, One Nation poses as the alternative to the Coalition-Labor economic rationalist rampage.
But One Nation offers no real alternative -- just more of the same -- but with the addition of more explicit racism, anti-gay and lesbian bigotry, pro-war propaganda and isolationist and reactionary foreign policy.
One Nation's nostalgic appeal to protecting Australian big businesses from foreign competition and corporate take-overs misses the point that today's social problems arise from Coalition and Labor governments that have been wreaking social destruction in the interest of all big business -- foreign, multinational and local.
The far right has made electoral advances in several industrialised countries (including France, Italy, Germany, and Austria) but in all case they have done little more than shift the major parties further to the right on social issues like race and immigration. Their main role has been to channel some of the public anger against economic rationalism against certain racial minorities, following the example of Hitler in his scapegoating of the Jews..
A real opposition to Coalition and Labor economic rationalism urgently needs to be built to reverse the reactionary direction the big business parties have taken our society and start putting people before corporate profits. Only the Democratic Socialists have a platform that challenges the very right of big business to own most of the economy and run it in their narrow interests.
Democratic Socialist candidates will direct their preferences to the Greens, the Indigenous People's Party, the Australian Women's Party and progressive independents before the big business parties. Where Democratic Socialists are not standing, we call for a vote for these candidates.
GREEN AND PROGRESSIVE INDEPENDENTS
However the Greens don't have a clear alternative on the key economic issues. By avoiding taking a clear stand against big business' right to own and control the economy the Greens have no hope of stopping the destruction of our environment.
The Greens and progressive independents have some good policies on paper but they all think that getting seats in parliament will solve the problem. Their quest for the mythical "balance of power" in the Senate is futile. But there is no real power in choosing between voting with Labor or Liberal politicians in farcical parliamentary debates when the major parties are committed to the same profits-first agenda!
POLITICS TO EMPOWER PEOPLE
Most of the Green politicians don't understand that what we need is a completely different kind of politics based on real control by the majority of people, not just more representatives in parliament. They promote the view that the people's movements should rely on a tiny group of parliamentary candidates to act for them: "Let us do it for you", they say to the social movements.
But a real opposition will not be built only in those halls of privilege and empty rhetoric called parliament. It will be built through powerful union and community movements. The great majority in this society workers (with or without jobs), pensioners, small farmers and students can only defend their interests through grass-roots action and organisation: strikes for decent wages and working conditions, rallies against cutbacks in social services or for free education, marches to save the environment and to end the nuclear threat.
The aim of Democratic Socialists in parliament will be not merely to represent but to help build and empower the people's movements. When elected we will be activists first and parliamentarians second. Movement building been our main work since the late 1960s and if elected to parliament we will use these positions to build independent and democratic popular movements. Democratic Socialists elected to parliament will give all of their parliamentary salaries above $450 a week to the Democratic Socialists Fighting Fund.
LABOR BEFORE THE COALITION
Democratic Socialists recognise that the Liberal-National Coalition is worse than Labor and that although this is a lousy choise it is preferable to return a Labor government. We will direct our preferences to Labor ahead of the Democrats, Coalition parties and other right-wing parties. We will also put One Nation candidates last.
AND ONE NATION LAST
But this is not enough. To take on the rich and the powerful, we have to build a real opposition to the Labor-Liberal profits-first program. Your support for a Democratic Socialist candidate will help do this.
For a real opposition
Vote Democratic Socialists!
Policy statements on
Agriculture and the Countryside Democratic Rights and Civil Liberties Economy Education Environment Health Housing Indigenous peoples' rights Full Employment Immigration and Migrant Rights Industrial Relations and Union Rights International Relations Lesbian and Gay Rights Social Welfare Women's RightsYoung People's RightsAuthorised by D. Tumney 23 Abercrombie St, Chippendale, NSW, 2008.
For further information on the Democratic Socialist viewpoint or to join the Democratic Socialists contact your nearest Resistance Centre:
Adelaide 08-8231 6982 Brisbane 07-3254 0565 Canberra 02-6247 2424 Darwin 08-89814 714 Hobart 03-6234 6397 Lismore 02-6688 4127 Melbourne 03-9329 1320 Newcastle 02-4926 5328 Western Sydney 02-96358449 Perth 08-9227 7367 Sydney 02-9690 1977 Rockhampton 07-49211153 Wollongong 02-4226 2010