Socialist Worker

Australia’s PM toppled as Tory government gets desperate

by James Supple in Australia
Issue No. 2619

New prime minister Scott Morrison (left) meets the chief of the defence force

New prime minister Scott Morrison (left) meets the chief of the defence force

Australia has another new prime minister, after an internal coup in the governing Liberal (Tory) party on Friday.

Outgoing leader Malcolm Turnbull blamed his demise on a “determined insurgency” by the right wing of his party. The Tories have been plagued by infighting since winning the last election by one seat.

The party’s right has campaigned for cuts to immigration and demanded support for new coal-fired power stations, in an effort to prevent action on climate change.

The push to install Peter Dutton, the hard right’s candidate, as prime minister failed by just five votes.

But the new prime minister, Scott Morrison, is little different. Although big business and the conservative establishment may see him as a safer option, he remains tainted by his time running the government’s war on refugees.

As immigration minister from 2013 he established Australia’s military operation to turn back refugee boats, and presided over the first deaths of asylum seekers in the offshore prison camp on Manus Island.

He opposes same-sex marriage and wants to allow increased discrimination against LGBT+ people in the name of “religious freedom”.

Morrison also supported the government’s move to drop the climate change targets it took to the Paris climate summit, and even brought a lump a coal into parliament to taunt supporters of action on climate change.

As treasurer (chancellor), he has been in charge of the government’s plans to cut tax on big business and the big banks.

Less than 24 hours after becoming Prime Minister, he made a phone call to Donald Trump and invited him to visit Australia.

The Tories are tearing themselves apart in the face of a looming wipeout at the next general election, due within months.

Their open backing for big business and the rich has destroyed the government’s electoral support.

As a result, they have turned more and more to racism in an effort to hold onto their electoral base. In the lead up to a key by-election last month the Tories boasted about cutting immigration levels, stirred up a scare campaign about so-called “African gangs”, and continued to promote their efforts to “secure the borders” against refugees.

But their racism and scapegoating failed to work. The government lost the by-election badly.

While the Labor Party won convincingly, the Tories also lost votes to the far right One Nation Party. This means they are likely to resort even more to racism in an effort to win back votes from the far right.

The new prime minister is unlikely to boost the Tories’ election chances. Workers are facing record low wages growth, yet the Tories have targeted tax cuts at high income earners and campaigned to cut corporations tax.

But the Labor Party’s support for the offshore detention of refugees has allowed their racism to go unchallenged.

Refugee supporters have already called snap protests against the new prime minister. The union movement is also organising an electoral campaign, with some unions calling stopwork protests focussed on opposing Tory anti-union laws.

Stepping up this kind of action can get rid of the Tory government, and their racist, anti-worker agenda. And it will keep the pressure on Labor to deliver a real alternative to the last five years of Tory rule.

James Supple is a revolutionary socialist in Solidarity in Australia

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