Labor’s small-target strategy risks gains for the right

Photo: Sue Bolton for Wills/Facebook

Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Wills Sue Bolton said kicking the Scott Morrison government out is critical, but that going soft on Labor would not, in the end, help the workers’ movement.

She told Green Left that Labor’s narrow election campaign strategy means that it is “not challenging the government’s right-wing proposals, which helps the conservatives”.

Bolton, an experienced Moreland councillor, said the rising cost of food, by more than 5% over the past 12 months, is putting extreme stress on many people: “It’s made worse because the government has artificially kept wages down.”

Those on Centrelink benefits have not had a proper rise in income in more than 25 years. “It means that there is virtually no place they can afford to live," she said. "The Coalition does not intend to raise benefits to the level of the poverty line ... and Labor has just said it won’t even review the JobSeeker rate.

“This means Labor is not challenging the lie that those needing help are at fault for not finding a job.”

Similarly, she said, Labor is not challenging the Coalition on its cruel treatment of refugees, and on the need to spend more on weapons and on other national security issues. “Labor has stepped away from talking about ordinary aid for poor Pacific Islands nations and repeating the argument for military aid.”

This helps misinform people and promotes fear “because it’s not challenging the right-wing notions behind these lines”.

While Labor has a better position on the need for climate action, Bolton said its plan to shift from fossil fuels to renewables “is far from sufficient”.

“The ‘net zero by 2050’ policy is really about kicking the can down the road,” she said. "It means that neither major party is prepared to act on climate change — a problem for ordinary workers.”

The anti-China scare campaign, used to justify a big rise in the defence budget, is having some success. But, she said, war is “disastrous” for working class people. “We can see this in Ukraine now. It’s a disaster for Russia’s working class, too, as well the six or seven countries that have been pushed into famine as a direct result of this war, including Yemen. Unfortunately, Labor is going along with a lot of this.”

Wars also create refugees and “both major parties have ruled out settling anyone who arrived here after 2013, regardless of their refugee status”. “Many people haven’t seen their families in eight, nine or 10 years.

“They’re here, but in limbo, waiting for Canada, the United States or New Zealand to resettle them. It’s a disgrace: Canberra is basically trafficking refugees around the world because Australia refuses to resettle them.”

Labor’s promise to abolish temporary protection visas would help tens of thousands of refugees, but Bolton said “Labor must also promise permanent protection and resettlement for every single refugee, regardless of whether they arrived here by boat or not, regardless of the year they arrived”.

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