Carlo's Corner: The extremist threat to progressive politics

Who the hell keeps asking Paul Howes for his opinion?

The obvious question posed by Labor's recent attacks on the Greens for being dangerous extremists is: who the hell keeps asking Paul Howes for his opinion?

The answer, of course, is the Murdoch media. News Ltd's Sunday Telegraph — so renowned for its supportive stance towards the union movement — gives the Australian Workers Union national secretary a weekly column to write pieces such as Howes' July 8 op-ed urging the Labor Party to destroy the Greens as “extremists who threaten our democracy”.

Which, by coincidence, is the same position Murdoch's Australian put in an editorial straight after the 2010 federal election.

Not that Howes provided any evidence for his assertion that the Greens, who he accused of “splitting the forces of progressive politics”, “pose as much of a threat to working people as Tony Abbott”. He simply said the Greens wanted to abolish Rugby League and hated drinking.

His rant only just stopped short of arguing: “The Greens also want to force all real Aussie men to dance about in pink tutus doing ballet while drinking herbal tea and eating organic falafels, and anyone caught not hugging at least 17 trees a week will be sent to a re-education camp and forced to perform yoga for 14 hours every day.”

Translated, his dog-whistling attack piece could be summarised as: “Those Greens aren't just hippies, they are gay hippies.” Which is, of course, a model example of how to defend progressive politics.

And it is not just Howes. Even the supposedly left-wing Labor Senator and former manufacturing union head Doug Cameron got in on the act, fuming at the “purist” Greens for refusing to back Labor's plans to violate international law and send asylum seekers to Malaysia to be stripped of all rights and face canings.

The Greens' much-maligned “intransigence” is over their refusal to join Labor and the Liberals in pushing inhumane policies, in violation of international law, that punish and abuse desperate people seeking safety.

The term “extremist” clearly has different meanings for different people. Because I must admit, when I read a front page of the Daily Telegraph — part of the same Murdoch-owned stable so keen to give Howes space to slam the Greens — actually hailing the genocidal Sri Lankan regime for physically stopping the victims of its ethnic cleansing from fleeing to safety, insisting it shows the Australian government “how it is done”, that strikes me as kinda extreme.

And when the Labor government joins in and congratulates Sri Lanka for trapping the victims of its systematic human rights abuses, I wonder how much more extreme it could possibly get.

And then, as an answer, the Labor government deports Tamil asylum seeker Dayan Anthony — sending him back into the hands of the regime that tortured him.

And immediately on arrival, Anthony disappears. He eventually resurfaces after, as the July 27 Australian reported, “16 hours straight of interrogation” by Sri Lankan authorities, at a regime-organised press conference at which he “recants” his torture allegations in a manner as convincing as a victim of Stalin's Show Trials publicly confessing they were, in fact, a counter-revolutionary fascist agent after all.

And I just cannot help but think that seems a pretty extreme thing to do to another human being.

The fury of the Labor Party towards the Greens is nothing but rage at the sheer gall of a parliamentary party actually holding an actual identifiable principle. The Labor Party has now degenerated so far that its definition of “extremist” is anyone holding a policy position they do not throw overboard at the first bleatings from the Murdoch press.


Labor today are a far cry from what they were when I joined in in 1979. Then they supported Land Rights, Free tertiary education, Right to withdraw labour, nuclear free pacific, protecting native forests,rights of refugees as per convention, the Republic, a nuclear free South Pacific, Public ownership of infrastructure, Whilst they were never revolutionary, or radical, they were progressive party. Today they support US led wars, US bases, Uranium mining, fees - for Tafe as well as Uni, nuclear ships in our harbours, they sell off our infrastructure, indefinite detention of refugees including minors, oppose equal marriage, and oppose the rights of workers in the construction industry to strike. They are the new conservatives.