Socialist Worker

Australia: Protest vote rocks Labour in elections

by James Supple
Issue No. 2216

The Labour party has crashed in a disastrous result in the Australian election. It is the only government since 1931 to face losing power after one term in office.

Three years ago Labour came to power on the back of a huge mood for change. Now we have a hung parliament.

It is unclear who will now form the new government.

The result wasn’t good for the Tories—they received only 1.8 percent of the 5.4 percent swing against Labour.

But it was a massive protest against Labour. New leader Julia Gillard had dragged the party even further to the right.

She watered down proposals for a mining super-profits tax and echoed the Tories’ racist campaign against refugees.

Many Labour members and supporters were disgusted. On the key issues where Labour capitulated, the Greens stood as a left-wing alternative. Their vote shows that larger numbers than ever want such an alternative.

They are the main winners of the election.

The Greens have their first member in the lower house and will have nine Senators and the balance of power in the Senate after June 2011.

But their success may bring problems, as the Greens’ leader has already promised to work with the Tories if they take power.

The hope must be that Labour will win the support of independent MPs to form a government. But the election result also contains an important lesson.

The unions played a major role in bringing Labour to power with their campaign against the Tories’ industrial relations laws.

But Labour left most of these laws in place.

Australia may have escaped recession, but the global financial crisis has left workers and their families worse off.

The future of climate action, refugee rights and union rights is going to rely on taking the fight to whoever forms the next government.

James Supple is a member of Soldiarity

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Tue 24 Aug 2010, 17:30 BST
Issue No. 2216
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