The Guardian March 20, 2002


Reaction at work

The slanderous attack by Howard Government front bencher and 
Parliamentary Secretary Bill Heffernan on High Court Judge Michael Kirby 
has to be seen in the light of the Government's broader agenda.

Heffernan's hate-filled tirade is in fact a deliberately orchestrated 
assault on the independence of the judiciary and, in particular, on a 
progressive judge. The fact that it is a deliberate move is indicated by 
the failure of Howard and Attorney General, Daryl Williams to support 

The Government will use the event as a pretext to give themselves more 
control over the legal system.

If Justice Kirby could be removed, a conservative judge could replace him 
and, thereby, give the extreme conservative forces more control over the 
High Court.

It is no coincidence that this move comes as legislation, in the guise of 
anti-terrorism measures, is before Parliament. The legislation represents 
an attack of unprecedented depth and breadth on our basic civil and 
democratic rights.

Far-reaching and draconian powers are being handed to the military and the 
spy agencies ASIO, ASIS and the Defence Signals Directorate, as well as to 
the Federal Police.

Since its election in 1996 the Government, in league with some of the most 
reactionary sections of big business, has been conducting a war of 
attrition on democratic rights.

No institution, service, organisation or collective that contributes in any 
way to progressive and democratic ideals and practices has escaped being 
put to the sword.

Cuts have been made to welfare payments across the board using a variety of 

The unemployed are hit with major penalties for the slightest infringement 
of a raft of rules, some of them so extreme in their demands that they are 
logistically and financially impossible to meet for many jobless people. 
All this with the work-for-the-dole cheap labour scheme hanging over their 

Family payments, home carers, disability pensioners  every aspect of 
welfare has gone under the knife. Parts of the welfare system have been 
contracted out to Christian charities. The Church-based groups themselves 
have been exposed as rorting the system, claiming job placement fees for 
non-existent jobs in order to boost their profits.

The Royal Commission into the Building Industry is just the latest attack 
on the trade union movement. In its own way it is as ferocious an attack as 
the notorious attempt to destroy the Maritime Union in 1998. The anti-union 
Workplace Relations Act has been reinforced with increased penalties that 
strengthen the boss's whip hand by giving employers more leeway to impose 
individual work contracts and eliminate collective bargaining.

The restructure of the tax system, with the inequitable GST, has placed a 
heavier tax burden on working people and eased even further the 
featherweight corporate tax load.

The Government has gutted native title legislation and slashed funding for 
Indigenous health, education and housing.

The Government's inhumane immigration policy  mandatory detention and the 
setting up of prison camps in various Pacific island states  has been 
condemned internationally and is opposed by a growing number of 

Rape crisis centres, legal aid, childcare, education, the ABC, the Human 
Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Medicare, the Commonwealth Public 
Service can all be included in this long list of targets being attacked.

The Howard Government is reactionary, dangerous and holds extremely 
conservative social views. It is an extremely class-conscious government, 
serving the interests and dictates of big business.

The existing two-party system in which government is alternately shared 
between the Liberal-National Coalition and the Labor Party protects and 
perpetuates the rule of the major corporations over Australia's economic 
and political life.

It is necessary to build a left-oriented, politically progressive force 
strong enough to challenge and break the two-party stranglehold and 
establish a new type of government which will implement "people friendly" 
economic, political, social and foreign policies.

This alternative will arise out of the demands and mass actions 
of the working people.

The creation of a left/progressive political alternative is an essential 

Such a new type of popular government would have a mandate to substantially 
curb the power of the corporations. It would be democratic and multi-party 
and would take steps against corporate monopoly domination to introduce a 
program of policies in the interests of working people.
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