Labor losers

Dec 10, 2023
Governor General Swearing in Albanese Government 2022

The emptiness of modern Labor is now on full display: maligning refugees, promoting fossil fuels, tinkering around the edge of social crisis, pandering to the wealthy, condoning mass murder, adopting policies of Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison.

Labor’s reaction to the High Court’s decision to outlaw outlaw outlaw indefinite detention of immigrant offenders was to panic. This played perfectly into the hands of the Dutton-Murdoch axis of evil, who framed the issue on their own terms, portraying Labor as allowing the release of paedophiles, rapists and murderers into ‘the community’.

Tuesday’s Daily Telegraph front-page headline spells it out: ‘ASYLUM CREEPERS’. It’s quite a brilliant headline, maligning (legal, innocent, non-terrorist) asylum seekers, not just stateless immigrant offenders, and cultivating fear and loathing among the punters.

One might think Labor had learnt from twenty-seven years of trying to be Liberal-lite that it rarely works. John Howard, Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison all had the instinctive ability to go as low as required in a race to the bottom, and the spineless Malcolm Turnbull allowed himself to be dragged down there. Peter Dutton will always be better at being Peter Dutton than Labor will.

Only John Howard’s over-reach in 2007, after winning four times on the trot, and Scott Morrison’s monumental incompetence and mendacity in 2022 allowed Labor back into power. Howard lost to the instinctively conservative Kevin Rudd. Anthony Albanese in 2022 immediately dropped any pretence to progressive views he might once have voiced.

Labor has approved a string of fossil fuel extraction projects while claiming it intends to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It justifies this by saying the coal and gas will be exported so they don’t count, by using the drug-dealers excuse that if we don’t sell the stuff somebody else will, and by claiming the market will determine when fossil fuels will be phased out, ignoring the massive subsidies fossil fuels get here and around the world.

Meanwhile greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and the farcical COP-28 conference in Dubai, swarming with fossil-fuel lobbyists and executives, makes clear that virtually no government in the world is seriously striving for the rapid reduction needed to retrieve the possibility of a liveable climate, despite all the earnest declarations of intent. Governments, including ours, are either corrupted by, captured by or afraid of the giant global fossil fuel corporations, and in the end it doesn’t matter which abuse of democracy applies.

Australia is in a major social crisis with rapid inflation of prices of necessities, absurdly high housing prices and rents, insecure employment (by design), reduced living standards and growing homelessness – though we are still a wealthy country. A proper Labor government might have sprung into action, removing tax incentives for investors that inflate housing prices, capping rents, even restraining bank loans (in Menzies’ day it was called a credit squeeze) among other possibilities. It could help the battlers by raising the minimum wage and lifting unemployment and other payments up to the poverty level, That would also stimulate the anaemic economy. Instead it insists on the highly iniquitous stage three tax cuts it foolishly endorsed from Opposition.

After Labor lost narrowly in 2019 the back-room Labor geniuses concluded that Bill Shorten had been too adventurous and recommended retreating back to being Liberal-lite.

They might have concluded instead that Shorten’s policies were an incoherent grab-bag. Shorten was against fossil fuels in Melbourne, for fossil fuels in Queensland, and proposing a billion-dollar pipeline subsidy for fracked gas in the Northern Territory. Many people concluded he could not be trusted.

If Labor had any vision at all it might have brought some order to its policies and a clear message to the electorate. For nearly three decades Labor’s only consistently discernible goal has been to get back into power.

Before that, under Hawke and Keating, its goal was to implement the neoliberal agenda of its erstwhile opponents. Those years fatally undermined the unions, inflated a business debt bubble that burst in what still ranks as the worst recession since the Great Depression, and set us on the path of gross inequality and an anaemic, hollowed-out economy.

Labor has been captured by the US security-military-industrial complex, which promotes paranoia about China, the military destruction of Russia and US military-imperial dominance of the world. Labor simply took over Scott Morrison’s bizarre AUKUS alliance. AUKUS promotes nuclear-powered submarines whose clear purpose is to attack mainland China, and they would be very little use in actually defending Australia’s maritime approaches because only one or two of them would be at sea at any given time.

Labor also took over Malcolm Turnbull’s energy storage policy and Tony Abbott’s emission reduction policy, warmed over. It could have revived the Greens-Gillard carbon price mechanism, which actually worked to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Turnbull’s Snowy 2.0 energy storage scheme is a monumental, polluting waste. It should be terminated and the money used for a dozen or twenty regional, medium-scale off-river pumped hydro installations, located close to the grid and to cities. That would remove any need for gas-fired power plants and we could have a completely clean electricity grid within a decade or less.

Labor’s complete obeisance to the US prevents it from condemning the carnage of both sides in the Israel-Gaza conflict. Hamas committed terrorist atrocities, but Israel’s response is grossly disproportionate, and its stated aim of wiping out Hamas is impossible and counter-productive, just as the US ‘war on terrorism’ was impossible and counter-productive. Violence begets violence.

Meanwhile many thousands of innocents are dying and millions are being terrorised and deeply traumatised. More generations of conflict will ensue unless the parties are seriously restrained by the international community so a political settlement might eventually be worked out.

Federal Labor long since lost its way. Hawke and Keating misdirected it. When it eventually lost power in 1996 it failed to find a new purpose, or to retrieve an updated version of its original purpose of acting in the interests of the majority who are not wealthy or powerful, but who depend on wages, salaries and small businesses.

Labor brings no moral authority. Anthony Albanese has no gravitas. Devoid of any vision, Labor merely tries to dance in the small space tolerated by the Murdoch press. It refuses to deal seriously with the big issues – the extremely threatening state of the climate, gross inequality and social crisis, and an unstable and rogue United States intent on a futile attempt at military domination of the world.

If it makes itself not quite as bad as the other lot, it will lose, either to more independents who want real democracy and real progressive change, or to the abominable Peter Dutton and his heirs and successors.

The latter would terminate the democratic, fair-go nation we once aspired to be. Is that the legacy Labor aspires to?

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