By Melanie Sjoberg
MELBOURNE —"The ALP is finished as a progressive force in politics. Those who still believe in the possibility of the Labor Party moving to radical reformism are fooling themselves", Joe Camilleri told a Rainbow Alliance-initiated public meeting held at the South Melbourne Town Hall on October 23.
Camilleri said that we are witnessing both the global conquest and the global crisis of capitalism. "The conquest of capitalism creates the desire to resist, and the crisis provides us with the opportunity to react", he told the audience of 400-500 people.
Government "policies are reduced to the dictates of the market", he added. As an alternative perspective, he posed the need to campaign for measures to assert public control over economic and social affairs.
He said that a period of alliance politics was opening up in which there are opportunities for different progressive forces to come together. There was a need to develop a major alternative economic, political and social policy direction while recognising that various groups may still have some differences. This must be accompanied by involvement in mass mobilisations.
Camilleri stated that he thought that electoral input had a role to play although recognising that by itself electoral activity was not an answer.
Other speakers included Belinda Probert, who pointed to unemployment as the most important issue, and Kate Gilmore from the National Committee on Violence Against Women, who described this fundamental problem as a window through which we could view the disarray of social relations. "A new politics must dismantle and undermine the old institutions", she said.
Len Cooper, state secretary of the Australian Telecommunications Employees Association, spoke for political renewal around a comprehensive social program that included expanding the public sector and extending fundamental democratic rights. This type of change would not come from the top, he said.
The meeting overwhelmingly endorsed a series of proposals rejecting the market-driven policies of federal and state governments and calling for all of the major political, economic and social institutions to be brought under democratic control.
A key demand included a multi-billion-dollar public sector jobs creation program as part of an urgent and fundamental commitment to full employment in an environmentally sustainable economy, adequate public funding to ensure an expanded, safe and convenient public transport system and high quality health care, education and other community services. The meeting also supported changes to the law to enshrine workers' rights to join trade unions and take industrial action.