The Wentworth by-election (in Malcolm Turnbull’s old seat) was set to take place shortly after this was written. Even if the Liberals hold the seat, polls suggest the swing could be over 10 per cent—high enough to worry every Coalition MP. Defeat would push the Coalition into minority government.
Since becoming Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has focused on trying to fix the Liberals’ most glaring electoral problems—such as shovelling another $4 billion to Catholic and private schools.
Now, in an effort to blame migrants for the government’s failure over infrastructure and congestion in major cities, they plan to force thousands of new migrants to live in regional areas for up to five years. This is a draconian policy that will make life harder for permanent migrants, and only increase racism and scapegoating.
Yet, even as the government lashes out, the setbacks for the government just keep coming.
The leaked report on “religious freedom” has recommended laws enshrining the right of religious schools to sack teachers and expel students for being LGBTI. Morrison has opposed discrimination against students, but not against teachers. It will come as a shock to most people that some states already have such laws. But in the face of the overwhelming support for marriage equality, Morrison’s defence of discrimination will face a backlash.
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on climate change (IPCC) report also exposed that the Coalition has no hope of even meeting its Paris summit targets—let alone the targets that the IPCC recommends.
The banking Royal Commission’s interim report was another blow to Morrison.
The Coalition desperately fought to prevent it taking place, with Morrison denouncing the idea as a “populist whinge”. The scale of the banks’ crimes and misconduct has exposed the Coalition as doing the bidding of the big banks.
Commissioner Kenneth Hayne said they had been motivated simply by “greed” and, “the pursuit of short-term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty”.
Since the Royal Commission began in March the evidence of their dishonest and outright criminal conduct has been astounding.
They have charged fees to dead people, charged fees for no service, lost people’s life savings, ripped off customers and preyed on the disabled.
At the heart of this has been a complete failure by government and the regulator to be bothered to crack down on the banks’ shameless profiteering.
Waiting for Labor
Despite the best efforts of the media to talk up Scott Morrison’s performance as Prime Minister, he remains far behind where even Malcolm Turnbull was in the polls. Labor maintains a crushing lead of 54 to 46 per cent, according to Newspoll.
Labor leader Bill Shorten released a new policy manifesto in early October, promising to boost spending on services, and announcing new funding to increase access to pre-school for three-year-olds. On schools it has released plans to spend an extra $14 billion over ten years. On industrial relations, Labor says it will end employers’ ability to terminate enterprise agreements and restrict the use of labour hire.
But over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, Shorten chose to side with corporate interests, and agree to a deal that will allow investors to sue the government if it passes new laws that damage their profits.
There has been an outcry across the union movement at Labor’s decision, which will allow the TPP to pass in parliament.
Shorten’s move shows that we can’t rely on Labor to deliver the changes needed.
Sally McManus has stepped up the union movement’s calls to Change the Rules, declaring that the “enterprise-only bargaining system is failing” and had delivered, “insecure work and low wage growth.”
The ACTU is calling for an end to the ban on pattern bargaining and industry-wide bargaining. Labor is yet to commit to this, or to allowing unions the right to strike.
Mobilising for the Change the Rules rallies around the country on 23 October will be crucial to keep up the momentum to drive the Liberals from power—and to start putting pressure to Labor to back the changes workers need.
The mental health crisis on Nauru has also dramatically worsened, with dozens of people brought off the island for urgent medical care. The Nauruan government has now kicked doctors off the island and tried to prevent urgent medical transfers, all with the connivance of Peter Dutton and the Liberals.
Shorten has agreed it “isn’t acceptable” for children who need medical care to “languish on Nauru”. But after five years of torture, all the refugees and asylum seekers on Manu and Nauru have health problems of some sort. Labor needs to commit to getting everyone off immediately—and bringing them to Australia.
We can’t just wait for Labor and the election; we need to step up the struggle—by going all out for the union rallies on 23 October, and the refugee protests on 27 October for kids off, and everyone off Nauru and Manus Island.