Iemma and Costa have made clear their determination to push ahead with privatisation despite their crushing defeat at the ALP state conference. But there is no reason why they should get away with this.
Labor party members have played a leading role in the campaign so far, succeeding in mobilising the party membership against privatisation and securing the vote at the ALP conference.
But internal party mechanisms alone will not be enough to stop Iemma. His actions in the parliamentary caucus have shown that he is quite prepared to ignore the conference decision and override party democracy.
The groundswell of opposition within the party needs to be linked up with and backed by sustained action in our unions and our communities to pressure those ministers that support privatisation and to encourage those that oppose it to make a public stand.
There needs to be a united campaign that brings together Labor members, Greens members, Your Rights at Work groups, environmental campaigners as well as individual members of the community.
There is a huge opportunity here for the Greens if they can unite in grassroots campaigning with Labor party members and others. Such a huge crisis for the Labor government provides the perfect opportunity to win over sections of Labor’s working class support base. But this will require a shift within the Greens from the dominant focus within the party on presenting itself as a purely electoral alternative.
We should continue to pressure those MPs that vote with Iemma with public meetings in their electorates and pickets of their offices.
If Iemma pushes the vote in parliament we will need another major rally to back up those Labor MPs willing to stand up to him.
Building a strong community campaign now can also lay the basis for more decisive industrial action, which will really hurt the government and business.
We need discussions within unions about steps we can take to build the campaign and support any action taken by the Electrical Trades Union and other power industry unionists who will bear the brunt of any privatisation proposal. These unions have already taken strike action to stop preparations within the industry for a sell off-we need to create public support for them stepping up this action.
Mass delegates meetings provide the means of starting these discussions and mobilising union members around the issue. They would send a strong message to Iemma that the labour movement as a whole is serious about fighting privatisation.
Defeating privatisation can be the beginning of a campaign to reverse the Labor government’s commitment to the economic rationalist agenda and to demand serious action on climate change. We need to stop the state government’s attempt to cap the wages of teaches, firefighters and other public servants, and demand a serious injection of money into our hospitals, schools and other public services. Once public control of the power industry is secured we can also begin to press government to replace dirty coal fired power stations with renewable energy technology. United we can stop Iemma and Costa.
By James Supple