Write on: letters to the editor
Liberals copy Labor
The Kennett government's neolithic industrial relations legislation and savage cuts to the public services sector have brought new right Thatcherism to Victoria. Schools are in chaos, and transport and public sector workers are now worried sick about whether they will have jobs next year.
The impressive show of people power on November 10 sent shock waves through the Kennett government and federal opposition, and was reflected in some of the mainstream press with calls to Kennett to tidy up his act: "Do what you've set out to do, but don't be so unsubtle about it."
What the pro-business press is now advising the Victorian Liberals is to act more like Labor in government did. After all, as Labor's now disgraced former treasurer Tony Sheehan recently admitted in an interview with the Financial Review, if Kirner had followed his advice, Labor could have hacked off $100 million from the railways — "without pain" (Sheehan's words) — and between $50 million and $84 million from education. Sheehan is from Labor's socialist left faction.
Sheehan was dumped by Kirner last week for his ratting. But rather than dig up the facts on where Victoria's debt came from, we were treated to bizarre scenes of lowflying helicopters and journalists and camermen running along the beach next to a jogging Sheehan, who, hardly surprisingly, had very few comments to make.
While we protest against the Liberal's attempts to reintroduce slavery, the reality is that Labor does not offer us an alternative. The Liberals were able to move so quickly because Labor opened the way for them. An industrial campaign to defend jobs and services is essential. But it is not enough. Only with a political fight which starts to build a third force to represent the unrepresented will the campaign succeed.
Labor's track record should put an end to those with nostalgic illusions that Labor can somehow be reformed. Labor and union careerists who want to subsume the current campaign to Labor's electoral needs are simply an obstacle. We should gain inspiration from the five-party New Zealand Alliance: a new politics is not so difficult to build, it just takes political will.
Mandate for change?
The Employees Relations Bill and the Vital Industries Bill rushed through the Victorian "democratic parliament" by the Kennett government go further than any other attacks on workers in this nation's history. The laws which abolish awards, force workers to negotiate contracts, abolish penalty rates, abolish overtime payments, make industrial action illegal and given bosses the right to fire workers without notice are only paralleled by Hitler's attacks on German workers in the 1930s.
Kennett claims he was a mandate for change. However, most of the policies he has instituted were not revealed during the campaign. This is typical of his dictatorial approach to government since the election over a month ago. His mandate does not exist. At the same time as slashing workers wages the government voted to award pay increases to many of its members. Slash workers pay and raise your own. So much for communal sacrifice for Victoria's betterment. How hypocritical.
Tuesday's general strike should be repeated and sustained until the government reverses its assault on workers. The working class is sick of paying for the capitalists mistakes. It's about time the workers started fighting back against these attacks.