The Guardian • Issue #2068


Class interest and Voices

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2068

One really bad argument against a Yes vote for the Voice to Parliament is that that a small group of Australians – Indigenous people – might have ‘too much’ access to government. Too much of a voice!  This is nonsensical for several reasons. Parliament, which will decide the final form of the Voice, isn’t about to make itself powerless. More importantly, having a voice in matters that affect Indigenous people would only be a good thing and make the country more democratic, not less.

If anyone who argues that way really doesn’t want a minority to have ‘too much power,’ we’ve got news for them; it’s happening now. The Australian business community has so much of a voice, it might be more accurate to call it a foghorn. To understand how that works, we have to look at one of the great unmentionables of polite Australian politics, class.

It needs to be said; Australia has classes. You are in one of them. Those classes have interests.

Just as Peter Dutton’s cynical claim that he doesn’t want to divide the country up on racial lines means he’s fine with the racial divisions we have now, Labor’s claims to be class-blind, or to ‘govern for everyone,’ are really a way of saying that they are happy with how the class system is working, and they are going to keep governing for the most powerful part of the capitalist class.

When Labor claims to be governing for everyone, what they mean is that they’re going to keep turning their backs on the class that set them up and which still supports them, the working class. They agree to make a few improvements in the interests of that working class in order to keep the system going to the advantage of the ruling class. If Labor do that, the deal is that the ‘big end of town’ in the form of their big donors and most of the media will let them govern the country.

In 2019 Bill Shorten had the temerity to criticise the Liberal-National Coalition for governing for the ‘big end of town’ and paid a price losing an election he was widely expected to win. Labor hasn’t forgotten that, and has waved through tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit those with the highest incomes, while abandoning promises for fairness when it comes to rorts that benefit millionaires.

Albanese has told big business that he wants to have a ‘structured dialogue‘ to talk about economic ‘reforms.’ Our ruling class is only interested in one kind of reform – the kind that gives them more power over workers while letting them pay less tax. Hence their calls for lower company tax, widening the regressive GST, and their constant drumbeat of calls for lower wages and ‘flexibility’ for working conditions.

Business also sometimes bemoans the lack of ‘productivity,’ which for them means lower wages and worse conditions for workers. When they get their way on these things, innovation goes down, because why do things more efficiently if you’re already underpaying workers?

Whatever happens to Albanese’s idea of a ‘structured dialogue,’ the big end of town will continue to have a powerful voice with either of our two major parties. Big donations, and massive advertising spends speak loud and clear in Australia now.

The working class is a majority of the population, and has nowhere near the voice that big business has in the bourgeois democracy we have – for now.

Under socialism, the majority of the population run the country. Join your union. Join the CPA. It’s long past time we spoke up.

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