Turnbull is facing disaster at every turn. The parliamentary dual citizenship debacle has left the government looking incompetent and paralysed. The cloud hanging over the heads of its MPs and Senators—most importantly Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce—won’t lift until October 12 at the earliest, when the High Court hears the issue.
And with the government’s majority in the lower house so slim, it cannot afford to lose a single MP.
The campaign on the marriage equality postal vote will be another embarrassment for Turnbull. He has imposed the ridiculous postal vote in a pathetic effort to hold his own party together. In doing so he has given the bigots a chance to go on the offensive. Turnbull is so cowed by the hard right of his party that, although he supports marriage equality, he says he won’t be campaigning for it.
If Labor and The Greens had refused to accept the postal vote, and called demonstrations demanding an immediate vote in parliament, it might have been stopped. The LGBTI community rejected the original plebiscite plan as completely unnecessary, and a capitulation to the homophobes in the right of the Liberal Party. The same thing is true of the postal vote.
The postal vote has already seen the bigots air homophobic TV ads. But the “yes” campaign is well under way, and has had a surge of support. We need to use this support to build a huge “yes” vote for equal marriage and an even bigger movement against homophobia.
The Liberals looked like they had lost the plot as they launched an attack accusing Labor leader Bill Shorten of “socialist revisionism” and even being a “red”.
It was a measure of their desperation at the polls and the way Labor’s focus on inequality has struck a chord.
They are also continuing to reach for racism whenever they can. Last year the #LetThemStay campaign stopped them sending 267 refugees back to Manus and Nauru. Peter Dutton’s decision to cut off income support and throw around 60 of them out of accommodation at three weeks’ notice is simply petty cruelty.
But there is increasing opposition to this. Even Bill Shorten, who generally says nothing on refugees, called Dutton’s latest move a “new low”. Their laws making it harder for migrants to gain citizenship have also been stopped in the Senate.
Labor has taken a turn to the left, promising to increase tax on people earning over $180,000, on family trusts used by the rich to avoid tax and on housing investments. And they are also committed to reversing the cuts to penalty rates.
But no one believes Shorten is a socialist radical. He could not even maintain his call to add a new inscription on statues of James Cook, recognising the cost of colonisation for Aboriginal people, for 24 hours. Labor still believes there need to be cuts to balance the budget. It took a swathe of cuts to the last election and agreed to a $6.3 billion cuts package with Turnbull late last year.
The Liberals are doing their best to increase inequality, continuing their war on workers and unions. They are pushing new legislation to increase fines for secondary boycotts and solidarity strikes to $10 million, further restricting the right to strike.
University bosses nationwide have been emboldened by the Fair Work decision to allow Murdoch University to terminate its enterprise bargaining agreement. It is using the threat of a hefty pay cut and losing conditions through being pushed back onto the basic Award to try to force its staff to accept a lousy deal.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham has egged the university bosses on, urging them to seize the opportunity to tighten their “cost structures” through slashing pay. The government still hopes to pass its $2.8 billion in cuts to university funding through the Senate too.
Almost immediately, Sydney University decided to test the waters on holding a non-union ballot on its new pay deal, only to lose its snap poll with a 61 per cent “no” vote. James Cook University has already gone down this route.
There needs to be a national response from university union the NTEU to halt these attacks. Sydney University is leading the way, striking on Open Day and again on 13 September. Western Sydney University and UTS are also preparing for industrial action.
But the CFMEU has stepped back from confronting the government’s Building Code, through starting to negotiate compliant agreements. This is a missed opportunity. Continuing to refuse to renegotiate on existing agreements could have created a crisis for Turnbull, through locking out major builders from lucrative government contracts. A campaign backed with stopwork demonstrations could have forced Turnbull to blink.
In NSW the construction unions, the MUA and others are set to hold a united stopwork rally, now to be held on 16 November. This can bring together opposition to all the aspects of Turnbull’s war on workers, including penalty rates and the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
We need to mobilise to force Turnbull out.