Statement of the Workers League
The Queensland Elections, due to be held on November 25, 2017, offer almost nothing to the majority of working people. The economic crisis of the capitalist profit system grinds on, while corporations and the governments that serve them continue to make working people pay. Unemployment, poverty, housing distress, and a skyrocketing cost of living are just some of the obstacles many people face on a daily basis.
The Labor Party (ALP) government of Annastacia Palaszczuk has governed with a slim majority, overcoming the widely despised Liberal National Party (LNP) government of Campbell Newman, who shredded public services, jobs and civil liberties, in 2015. While the ALP has enacted some very minor legislative reforms, the notorious Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment bill, known as the VLAD laws, are still largely in place. These laws give the government effective power to ban any organisation, at any time. The economy is dragging itself along, more or less in recession. And the ALP has openly displayed its arrogance and disdain for people and the environment, not to say the Great Barrier Reef and the possible future of humanity, by strongly backing the Adani coal mine in Central Queensland. This mine will pump out as much carbon as the entire country of New Zealand for the next 60 years – with unlimited ground water, a mining royalties holiday and much more. Palaszczuk’s opportunistic announcement that an ALP government would veto the $1 billion dollar loan from the federal government was a last minute ploy to give the impression that the Adani abomination will not go ahead. In reality, both an ALP and LNP government would barely stand in the way.
Unions have circulated material which points out that the LNP government is proposing $11.6 billion worth of funding cuts – but they are not actually using the word “cuts”. Professor John Quiggin has calculated that this would equate to the elimination of 22 500 jobs from the public service. LNP leader Tim Nicholls claims that he has “learnt his lesson” from the disastrous axing of 14 000 jobs from the public service in 2012, when he was Treasurer. Like all establishment politician promises, such words are hot air. There may also be job cuts with an ALP government, as their budget costings also flagged a hacking into the public service, albeit not as many as would be likely with the LNP in governmental power.
The Greens are hoping that this election will be the first one in Queensland history to elect a Green Member of Parliament, or perhaps several. It is true that the Greens may be the beneficiary of a Labor Party which is giving inexcusable backing to the apocalyptic Adani Carmichael coal mine. The Greens are offering, at least on paper, some benefits that would benefit working people. Such things include the placing of retail, generation and distribution of electricity into public hands, $1 public transport fares, longer leases and a cap on rents for those renting housing, and the retention of public land for schools, public parks and public housing.
The Consumer Rights and No Tolls party are also offering some easing of the cost of living. Although running a handful of candidates, we agree with the abolition of all tolls on roads, and the keeping of power, water and roads publically owned and controlled. The abolition of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and free University education are also worth supporting.
The Socialist Alliance is running a candidate (Kamala Emanuel) in the central Brisbane seat of McConnell. For working people, its policies on paper are largely supportable. The three main demands, if achieved, would be a step forward. The halting of the Adani coal mine, the removal of the medical procedure of abortion from the criminal code, and a vast expansion of public housing are positions that progressive minded people can agree on. The policies of taking back public assets already sold, no to privatisation and sell-offs, and job creation through public works programs would be a much needed counter to relentless cuts and outsourcing.
On the right, there is the potential danger of One Nation. Although One Nation did not achieve a substantial vote in the last Western Australian elections, Queensland is unfortunately the home of One Nation, and of Pauline Hanson. Like all far-right and potentially fascist parties, One Nation combines vicious racism with populist and even left-wing sounding positions. Politically aware workers are not fooled though – One Nation, while at the moment led by backward elements, could open the door to even more right-wing attacks on Unions and working people. One Nation also regularly votes with the Liberal Party in the federal parliament, making a mockery of its claim to be for the battlers.
While One Nation appears to tack left by supporting a “people’s bank”, opposing the raising of the retirement age to 70, and opposition to the privatisation of water, gas and electricity, the undercurrent of ultra-nationalist racist bile is clear. For example, One Nation oppose the wearing of the burqa by women of the Islamic faith in public places, government buildings and schools, opposes the teaching and “infiltration” of Islam, and the building of any more Mosques with the bizarre claim that Australia is a “Christian country”. The stock standard blaming of immigration for “overloading” water, sewerage, housing and roads is laughable, but all too real.
Class struggle desperately needed
The fact that the potentially fascist One Nation is poised not only to win a substantial number of seats, but form government in concert with the LNP speaks volumes about the lack of class struggle in Queensland, and Australia generally. The mere existence of the far-right, buffoonish as they might be in the persona of Pauline Hanson, should sound urgent alarms amongst the left and the workers’ movement. There is a desperate need for a genuine class struggle workers’ movement not only to head off the right wing One Nation, but simply to defend themselves. Yet the leadership of the Union movement is arguably as conservative as it ever has been – barely active, or driving workers and Unions back into the ALP and/or the parliamentary system itself. The problems of vanishing penalty rates, high unemployment, casualization of work – where it exists – are at crisis levels. This flows on to issues such as the blatant rip-off of electricity and water prices. Yet still there is no attempt by the Queensland Council of Unions, or Union leaderships generally, to even begin to organise any kind of workers’ fightback.
These Queensland elections are a part of the show of parliament – one of the most effective ruses the ruling class uses to portray the illusion of democracy. The capitalist system only goes through the system of parliamentary charades due to the fact that it is easier for them to rule if the masses are convinced that they have some form of representation – or at least that they don’t yet know of an alternative. Parliaments, however, are set up to exclude the working class from the exercise of decision making, or political, power. A revolutionary workers’ party may decide to run in the elections run by the capitalist class, but it would do so with the aim of leading the workers beyond a parliament which does not represent them, to a workers’ government, underpinned by a workers’ state.
This internationalist workers party needs to be forged. In its absence, there is little choice on offer. In any case, there are no real solutions to be found for working people from the sham political system imposed upon them, nor from the elections they provide. Much more can be won for working people by positioning the conservative leaderships of the Unions, and building class struggle movements – culminating in a genuine workers’ party. However, there is a danger of even bigger setbacks if the outcome in these elections is an LNP, or an LNP/One Nation coalition government. Indeed, the left should be ready to organise a serious fightback should this outcome occur.
A critical vote
We therefore advise workers to cast a critical vote for non-LNP/One Nation candidates. We advise a critical vote for the Socialist Alliance where they are standing, followed by other nominally progressive candidates such as the Consumer Rights and No Tolls Party, followed by the Greens, then the ALP, then the LNP with One Nation last. We do so with no overall political endorsement of these parties, but simply as a damage limitation exercise for working people.
This critical stance is important, for on many crucial issues, all of these parties stand on the opposite class side of the barricade. For example, on vital international issues, the Greens, the ALP, the LNP and even the Socialist Alliance stand together. In effect, all of these parties stood for the US imperialist wars on Libya and Syria, whatever their attempted justifications. All of them, to a lesser or greater degree, join with the US deep state in its barely believable verbal and military provocations against Russia – which threatens the termination of Europe, if not the world. Russia’s effective prevention of US led regime change in Syria constitutes a large factor in their irrational Russophobia. All of them are deeply hostile to the overturn of capitalist rule in China, Vietnam and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or “North Korea”). Given that there still remains the imminent danger of a US instigated nuclear war against the DPRK, this is no small oversight. All of them either support or fail to oppose the US led provocations in the South China Sea, for fear of being seen to defend Red China. Foreign policy may officially be within the purview of federal politics, but there is no difference in the personnel of these parties at local, state or federal level.
We also acknowledge working people who feel there is no option at all that is an answer, and thus vote informally, or do not bother to turn up at the polling booths altogether. We understand this sentiment, and in part agree that it is not always apathy, but a reasonably considered option amongst options which offer little or nothing. The fact that the informal vote has been increasing in recent years indicates that more and more people are turned off by the whole parliamentary show.
Ultimately, no substantial problems that working people experience can be solved by voting in elections which are set up to ensure their exclusion. The real source of the unemployment, the poverty, the lack of affordable housing, the lack of public transport, the endless cuts to public services and the ongoing climate collapse is the capitalist system of private production for private profit. This private production nevertheless uses social labour, to accumulate all of the untold wealth in this drastically unequal society. What is required is the overthrow of the rule of capital, and the initiation of a socialist order. A prerequisite to begin this task is a workers’ party which fights for a workers’ government. The Workers League seeks to take the first steps on this path, and invites all those who agree to join us.
PO Box 66 NUNDAH QLD 4012