Before the “super Saturday” byelections on July 28, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was saying the outcome would be a “test of leadership”.
Then he lost all five contests and changed his tune.
Nevertheless, the Coalition — ignoring the will of the voters — is planning to push ahead with corporate tax cuts that will shift billions of public dollars into the coffers of big corporations. One analysis revealed that Rio Tinto alone would benefit by $7 billion over ten years.
The government is telling all sorts of tall tales to try to claim that workers will benefit — either from higher wages or more jobs — if their bosses get tax cuts. However the simple truth is that the government's plan is just the latest rendition of taking public money and handing it over to corporations.
Funding cuts for public services will inevitably follow if the policy goes through.
Turnbull — enthusiastically assisted by not only the Murdoch media, but by Fairfax and others — is trying to spin the yarn that Labor leader Bill Shorten is waging a “class war” on behalf of workers.
The reality is that Turnbull is the one waging “class war” against the workers — and these corporate tax cuts are only the latest attack.
While Labor might be a bit more moderate than the Coalition, they are ultimately on the same pro-corporate team as Turnbull.
It is worth remembering that it was Labor under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard that legislated for the Fair Work Commission, the body imposing cuts to penalty rates today.
Coalition MP Christopher Pyne was speaking the truth when he told the ABC’s Insiders on July 29 that “even the Labor Party ... from Paul Keating to Bill Shorten [has supported cuts to] company taxes”. Labor has already abandoned promises to roll back some of the tax cuts Turnbull has legislated.
Notwithstanding Labor's pro-corporate agenda, people are better off for Labor's strong result in the July 28 byelections. Current indications are that Turnbull's corporate tax cuts will fail in the senate and those election results make that outcome more likely.
They also make the election of a Labor government more likely at the next federal election. The ACTU's Change the Rules campaign, while hardly upsetting the apple cart, will also raise the popular expectations on an incoming Labor government.
That is why the establishment media worked overtime in the lead up to these byelections to make it appear that Labor was on the verge of losing seats and Shorten's “class war” policies were to blame.
One element of this campaign was the attempt to stir up leadership tensions in the Labor camp.
Another was the exaggerated profile given to One Nation, especially in Queensland. The establishment want to channel popular discontent with the major parties to the right. They know these groups are not a threat to the big corporate interests.
We cannot rely on any section of the establishment — Labor, the media or the courts — to stop the rampaging corporate agenda.
We need to support progressive alternatives in elections, such as socialists and Greens, and work on ways to build our own grassroot power in the trade unions and campaigns such as Stop Adani, refugee rights and Lock The Gate.
Only in this way can we lay the foundations for the real change in government that we need: from the corporations to the people.
[Alex Bainbridge is a national co-convenor of the Socialist Alliance.]