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Issue #1911      April 20, 2020


An Opposition To What?

Earlier this month, the Greens attempted to pass some amendments to the Coronavirus Economic Response Package. The amendments included personal protection equipment to First Nations, an increase in the disability support pension, the eviction ban to be enshrined into law, among others. The amendments also looked to the future, proposing a permanent increase to Jobseeker, Youth allowance, AUSTUDY, and ABSTUDY payments. The amendments were aimed at society’s most vulnerable but were ultimately knocked back when the ALP sided with the government to oppose them.

This is head-scratching. Why would the Australian Labor Party, a party that boasts ties to the union movement, not work to deliver to our country’s most needy? Doubly head-scratching is that Anthony Albanese stated that the economy should work “for the people – not the other way around.” If that’s the case, then how does this amendment not get the ALP’s support?

An answer may be found in Albanese’s own words: “The scale of this expenditure that we’ll consider today is without equal in our nation’s history. We are headed for a $1 trillion debt [...]. [...] It is a bill that will saddle a generation. With this comes a compelling need for scrutiny and forensic oversight [...].”

Albanese isn’t wrong in his assessment but does this warrant blocking the amendments by the Greens? Is the cost of a national debt higher than the cost of poverty of our nation’s working class? While this may be a bill “that will saddle a generation,” the cost of not supporting our most maligned is likely to seep intergenerationally, as those who are hurt now may never be able to get a “fair go.”

Ultimately, it seems that the ALP’s approach is based on the fear that it may eventually be stuck with the debt when election season rolls around. If this is indeed the case, it seems that the ALP is more concerned with how the mainstream media will portray them than by the people they would help by supporting these amendments. There’s no reason to think otherwise.

However, following in the wake of the government’s measures has not provided the ALP with any groundswell. Newspoll shows the LNP leading in every category, particularly when it comes to preferred PM (Morrison 53, Albanese 29).

By being in lockstep with the Coalition’s measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ALP have not separated themselves, attaching themselves to policy that is arriving only when absolutely necessary, usually a moment too late.

This leads us to ask: “How does the ALP provide an alternative?” It was the ALP, the party of the trade unions, that introduced the Accord; it was the ALP that introduced mandatory detention; it was the ALP under Rudd, after the apology speech, that removal of indigenous children rose, not decreased. These may be digressions, but they highlight the severe and bourgeois nature of the ALP.

This crisis provides the ALP with the perfect opportunity to contrast itself against the Coalition. However, instead of being aggressive, demanding more for the working-class, the ALP is exhibiting the traits of Khvostism (“tailism”). They are reactive, merely responding to the spontaneous nature of the crisis rather than leading it by being active.

The working class needs and deserves more. The CPA campaigns for the interests and demands of the working class, that no one is left behind, and that injustice is exposed. It is time to break the two-party system and elect a progressive, democratic government of a new type.


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