Editorial: Budget, penalty rates, ABCC—united action can stop Turnbull

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Turnbull’s budget is a desperate attempt to boost his shattered popularity. But it has done nothing to improve his support.

Post-budget polls show that Labor would win an election in a landslide with 53 per cent to the Liberals’ 47 per cent.

Turnbull wants to pretend his budget is “fair”, backing away from some of the hated cuts in Abbott’s horror budget in 2014. But this is still a budget for the rich.

Turnbull and Morrison have made a big song and dance about the tax on the big banks, but it is less than 5 per cent of their profits of over $30 billion. And the government has admitted they won’t stop the banks passing the tax on.

Turnbull is dropping the “deficit levy” on high-income earners that raises $1 billion a year. The Liberals’ plan to cut company tax will be a hand-out to big business and reduce government income by $65.4 billion over the next ten years.

On the other hand, the budget targets workers, students and the unemployed for more punishment. The Liberals want to increase the Medicare levy on workers earning as little as $21,655. Turnbull also plans to drug test 5000 new Centrelink clients.

The budget also increases university student fees and cuts tertiary education funding by $2.8 billion. This will threaten hundreds of jobs as university managements push the cuts through. Students will face more course cuts and attacks on the quality of education.

Labor and The Greens have already called Turnbull’s bluff, saying they won’t pass any increase to the Medicare levy for low-income workers in the Senate. And they won’t vote for cuts to universities.

Student demos have already mobilised against the cuts. There is the possibility of linking up with university staff action, as many campuses are just beginning new enterprise bargaining with “no forced redundancies” being a major demand.

But we can’t rely on the Senate to block the budget cuts. It was protest and industrial action that defeated Abbott’s cuts in 2014. That is what will be needed to beat back Turnbull.

United action

The Turnbull government has already declared war on workers through supporting the cut to penalty rates. They are also out to strip conditions and push the union off construction sites using the ABCC and the new Building Code.

There needs to be a union-wide response to the budget, penalty rates and the ABCC. If the bosses are able to get away with cutting penalty rates in retail, hospitality, pharmacy and fast food they will come after other workers too.

The anti-union laws targeting construction workers affect all unions. In May the Fair Work Commission told the MUA to drop work bans at Patrick’s at Port Botany in Sydney or face $500,000 in fines a day. They were fighting the company’s effort to establish a new non-union yard on lower wages and conditions.

Fairfax workers took illegal industrial action, with a seven-day strike against a massive 125 job cuts—a quarter of staff positions.

The campaign that fought John Howard’s WorkChoices began with mass combined union delegates’ meetings and weekday rallies.

Unions NSW have already called a combined delegates’ meeting to discuss Turnbull’s attacks, on 28 July. We need delegates’ meetings in every state. Everyone who wants to see a fight should move a motion in their workplace or local union branch, supporting, or calling for, the delegates’ meetings.

The delegates’ meetings can make the call for a mass stopwork day of action against Turnbull’s war on workers.

The CFMEU has also called another national stop work rally for Tuesday 20 June. This should be another focus for fighting Turnbull’s war on workers.

Don’t let Turnbull divide us

Meanwhile Turnbull is trailing behind Donald Trump and pandering to Pauline Hanson, with his call to “put Australians and Australian jobs first” when he scrapped 457 visas.

Turnbull is trying to scapegoat migrant workers for unemployment and low wages.

Tragically, rather than standing up to this racism, Labor is trying to outdo it. Their shocking “Australians first” ad with Bill Shorten wrapping himself in the Australian flag alongside a cast of white workers caused a backlash. But the real problem is not just the white Australian crowd that supposedly represents Australian workers, but the racist message that migrants are stealing jobs.

Unions and the Labor Party need to drop their dangerous “Aussie jobs” campaign. We need a fight for jobs that targets the government and the bosses, not immigrants and overseas workers. That’s why Solidarity has launched a sign-on statement opposing racism and supporting temporary workers—see page 10.

Turnbull is weak and his government is unpopular—a united fightback can push back Turnbull’s attacks. Any concession to racism can only hold back that fight.

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