Federal “opposition” leader Anthony Albanese had nearly 40 minutes in a July 27 interview with the Guardian’s Katherine Murphy to excuse Labor’s serial capitulation to the Coalition government since its defeat in the May 18 election. His argument was weak, inconsistent and based on a fool’s reading of political reality.
Albanese — who once claimed, “I like fighting Tories, it’s what I do” — argued Labor had to hold fire in parliament until closer to the next federal election (likely in 2022), so as to “kick with the wind in the last quarter”.
In the meantime, Labor MPs would “cleverly” deny the government any chance to attack them by voting for reactionary measures such as the Coalition’s regressive tax cuts, new security powers for home affairs minister Peter Dutton and a dodgy Drought Fund that Labor had previously labelled a “Nationals slush fund”.
In the ongoing debate on the urgent need to raise Newstart, Labor has stopped short of agreeing to the modest $75 a week rise demanded by welfare advocates. Instead, Labor is arguing for a parliamentary inquiry to determine how much it should be raised by.
And Labor's capitulation over Adani’s proposed coal mine began well before the election.
This has left the Greens and progressive independent MP Andrew Wilkie as the only consistent opposition in federal parliament.
Albanese promised that a Labor election post-mortem review and “democratic and transparent” party conferences would develop a set of policies to take to the next election.
While Albanese made a vague assurance that Labor would take a “progressive agenda” to the next election, everything he said about Labor’s election defeat was an excuse to tack to the right.
He maintained the line of needing to win over “1.2 million people” who were too conservative to vote for Labor’s platform as justification for the party’s retreat.
Even if those voters did indeed vote along conservative lines, a Labor policy of political capitulation to the conservative Coalition government will only help the Coalition win more people to its conservative agenda.
The Coalition’s tax cuts for the rich were a missed opportunity for Labor to win back support. A June 27 poll showed that 78% of Australians believe funding for education and health is more important than tax cuts for those earning more than $200,000.
By voting for the Coalition's tax cuts, Labor has instead fed the neoliberal lie that tax cuts for the rich will trickle down to the rest.
Even more ridiculously, Albanese argued that refusing to be a strong opposition in parliament would expose the Coalition as "pretty directionless and just going nasty”.
This is where Albanese’s excuses become totally delusional.
The Coalition government has an agenda — and it is a very reactionary one.
It has pushed through its tax cuts for the rich, handed over more money for a National Party slush fund, given Dutton even more draconian power, ruled out raising Newstart and is now gearing up for a major attack on the trade union movement.
The Coalition government, like the Donald Trump Republican government in the United States and the new Boris Johnson Conservative government in Britain, is pursuing a right-wing, anti-worker policy while stoking racism and bigotry.
All three are lurching dangerously towards new imperial military wars and are shamelessly arming reactionary and tyrannical regimes like Saudi Arabia.
How can anyone seriously argue that they have no agenda?
The climate emergency clock is ticking and this reactionary political trio are leading the fight against urgent climate action. Fortunately, a mass resistance to this madness is gaining momentum.
Millions realise that time is running out — and that Labor is part of the problem.
It is not only Labor's support for the Adani mine that puts the party on the side of the fossil fuel billionaires; it is also Labor's total complicity, together with the Coalition, in converting Australia into the largest LNG producer in the world.
In these conditions, no rational and progressive-minded person can have any confidence that an Albanese-led Labor has a real plan to "change power relationships, so we can do good economic, social and environmental policy”.
The only plan we can see is an all-too-familiar plan — one of pushing Labor further to the right and helping the rich and powerful vested interests whose unbridled greed is destroying the planet.
[Peter Boyle is a member of the Socialist Alliance National Executive.]