The Guardian October 1, 2003


Are the ALP leaders determined to lose the next election?

Recent statements by several leaders of the Labor Party give the 
impression that they are determined to lose the next election despite the 
lying of the Howard Government and its concerted attacks on education, 
health care and every other aspect of social security and welfare.

The ALP still refuses to make a commitment to abolish the private health 
insurance subsidy by which billions of taxpayers' money is being ploughed 
into the pockets of the private insurance companies and used to prop up 
private hospitals. The rebate could and should be redirected to the public 
health system.

Then only last week Simon Crean ruled out an increase in the Medicare levy 
 another means by which funding could be found so that bulk-billing and 
the whole basis of Medicare as a universal health care system could be 

The ALP has quietly dropped its opposition to the GST which signals that it 
has no intention of removing the iniquitous GST but would continue its 
operation. No single piece of legislation has so severely discriminated 
against the working people of Australia, imposed such a massive increase in 
the tax burden on low and middle income earners and resulted in 
substantially increased prices.

Mark Latham has added to the perception that there is practically no 
difference between the economic and social policies of the ALP and the 
Liberal/National Party Coalition by parading an economic policy based on 
"the rigour of private sector competition and the demands of corporate 
social responsibility". Latham's policy prescription is called "A Strong 
Economy for a Fair Society".

To talk about "private sector competition" and "corporate social 
responsibility" is plain nonsense. "Competition policy" was introduced at 
least a decade ago by Paul Keating but what has actually been achieved by 
this policy apart from deregulation and privatisation?

The Commonwealth Bank was privatised. It has since sacked many thousands of 
workers, imposed a multitude of ever-rising fees, closed branches and 
massively reduced services to customers. These are the "achievements" of 
this policy.

In what way has the privatisation of Australian airports, water supplies, 
rail transport, etc. increased competition? And how did the sackings and 
higher fees benefit customers? Where is the "corporate social 
responsibility" of Ansett towards its workers who are still waiting for 
their entitlements after almost two years. Many other workers have also 
been stripped of their long service leave, superannuation, holiday and sick 
leave entitlements by employers who have conveniently become insolvent?

Mark Latham is totally committed to private enterprise and merely mouths 
off about a "Fair Society" aiming to deceive the Australian people into 
believing such catch-cries have some meaning when, in practice, they mean 

Latham declares that a market economy, (meaning a capitalist economy), is 
here to stay. He and almost all other Labor Party parliamentarians have 
given up all pretence of putting forward a socialist or even progressive 
alternative as the founders of the Labor Party once did.

To top it all the Labor Party cannot find the means to offload Simon Crean 
as its leader when all the evidence shows that he is the most unpopular 
Labor Party leader ever. The reality is that the Labor Party is bereft of a 
leadership that is capable of really standing up for the working people of 
Australia. Even the Labor Party Left has become almost indistinguishable 
from the right-wing factions and fails to enunciate or stand up 
consistently and forthrightly for people friendly policies.

A left and progressive alternative must be found and built if there is to 
be any worthwhile solutions to the many economic and social problems that 
are piling up. This alternative is not a pipe-dream. The people of South 
Africa, Venezuela and Brazil have already put their feet firmly on the path 
of serious change in the interests of the working people and the poor in 
society and the working farmers who are also facing very serious economic 
and environmental problems that cannot be overcome by mere band-aids.

This is the path for the Australian people to take, and the sooner the 
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