Saturday, November 24, 2007

Aussie Election Shock

Great news: not only have Howard's Liberals lost the election, but the now former PM has even lost his seat according to exit polls and the latest count. That is only the second time it has happened in Australia's entire period of independence - the last time it happened was in 1929 when the Nationalist Stanley Bruce lost to Labour, and the Nationalists were wiped out as a party. In addition, the Liberal minister responsible for invading the Northern Territories, Mal Brough, has lost his seat. The long-awaited electoral backlash against the 'war on terror' and neoliberalism has finally happened, big time. Labour looks to have taken 53% of the vote.

Unfortunately, the new Prime Minister is one of these cretinous Third Way politicians who supports neoliberal policies and defended "Israel's right to defend itself" during its attack on Lebanon in 2006. Though opposed to the war on Iraq, he favours keeping Australian troops in Iraq for non-combat purposes, supports the war on Afghanistan and is an advocate of the alliance with the US. He wants to keep much of the present government's regressive industrial relations legislation, and business sees him as an ally against union militancy. He favours 'quarantining' welfare payments for aboriginals and extending it to drug addicts.

As to the issues behind the vote, the attack on union rights was the biggest stimulus for the Labour vote according to this research: though Rudd only pledged to roll back some of the provisions, he was presumably seen by many as a realistic block to an all-out aggressive employers' offensive. These polls from Newspoll suggest that the single biggest issue for all voters is healthcare, which Labour had a key advantage on. Labour also took most supporters on industrial relations and welfare. The Green Party, which took the most principled stances on workers' rights, the 'war on terror', indigenous rights and the environemnt appears to have had an increase in its share of the vote, but may have had some of its thunder on the environment stolen a little by Rudd's noisy support for the piddling measures in Kyoto and other initiatives. The environmental degeneration is already causing such huge problems for Australia, such as drought, that even some in the business community are calling for sustained action so long as it doesn't seriously interfere with profitability. Another problem for the Greens is that their vote is distributed broadly and isn't concentrated - despite this, they are polling strongly and likely to pick up three new Senate seats according to most reports. Some of the unions backed the Greens in the Senate for their brilliant stance on union rights, but seem to have limited this to obtaining a 'balance of power' position for them in the upper house, reluctant as they are to decisively break with the Labour Party.

At any rate, despite the huge problems with Rudd - and he will become an enemy of the Australian labour movement very quickly, I suspect - this is a very pleasurable thrashing for the reactionary Liberals and a stupendous and long overdue repudiation of their legacy.