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Issue #1462      7 July 2010


Break the two-party system

Federal election campaigns are increasingly becoming personalised competitions between brand names. Following her appointment as Prime Minister, Julia Gillard wasted no time in asserting the Gillard brand. All references to her party’s name took second place as Gillard set about addressing the key issues that the opinion polls said were dragging Labor down. Foremost amongst these was the Resource Super Profits Tax (RSPT) and the ad blitz campaign being waged by mining companies.

Last week saw Gillard capitulate to the three largest and most powerful mining corporations in Australia. The Big Three mining monopolies effectively killed the idea of a serious tax on super profits. The question should be asked: Why did an elected government believe it needed the blessing of the largest mining monopolies before introducing a new tax? As The Guardian recently asked (June 23, 2010): “Who is running Australia?”. Needless to say, Coalition leader Tony Abbott did not ask this question, but indicated he would oppose any additional tax.

The Abbott brand is light on policy detail, the media redirecting attention to his new look – swim suits and cycling gear now replaced by a suit.

Gillard is working quickly to distance her brand from that of the deposed former Labor leader, Kevin Rudd. First on the population question, damping down plans for a large increase and allaying fears generated by right-wing racists.

On refugees she has called for a “debate”, a signal of yet another slide to the right. Gillard is extending the quarantining of a large proportion of welfare benefits to the rest of Australia – a policy that could be expected to find favour with Abbott. (See page 3.) There are important differences on industrial relations, but neither brand is committed to defending workers’ and trade union rights.

On climate change, Liberal and Labor fall far short of what is required by science although there are differences in their approaches. Both support the war in Afghanistan and the US-Australia military alliance. They are committed to neo-liberal (economic rationalist) economic policies, to budget surpluses, wiping out government debt, cutting corporate taxes, privatisation and deregulation.

The poll-driven, media-orchestrated competition between brand names covers up the reality that neither has the interests of working on the agenda. They are capitalist brands, taking turns to run capitalism in the interests of big business. Despite the apparently democratic political system in Australia, neither major party challenges the control over society by big business. The existing two-party system in which they alternately share government obscures and protects the dictatorship of capital over economic and political life. It must be broken.

While it is important to keep the Coalition out of office, it is not enough to accept the re-election of Labor as the only possible alternative. Another brand is needed – a People’s Brand. The situation requires the development of an alternative political force that puts the interests of people and the planet before those of private profit.

The forthcoming federal elections provide an opportunity to stand and support candidates that are prepared to build an alliance of progressive, anti-monopoly, democratic forces in Parliament. The Communist Alliance will be offering voters a genuine alternative that challenges the power of the monopolies and serves the interests of working people, small business and farmers, as well as the environment.

The Greens have many good, progressive policies on much more than just the environment. It is hoped that other progressive organisations such as trade unions and community groups also stand candidates so that the process of building the people’s movement, and a government of a new type, can be advanced in the next elections.

The new government would need to begin a process of democratisation, making Parliament serve and be answerable to the people’s and planet’s interests, not those of big capital.

Next article – Welfare quarantining – coming to a suburb near you

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