No one won the so-called Leaders’ Debate on July 27 — not even the “worms”. It was no debate at all, and showed that people and the environment will lose with either the ALP or the Coalition in government. Coalition leader Tony Abbott hasn’t convincingly shed his climate change denialism and his promise that Work Choices is “dead, buried and cremated” is even less credible. Prime Minister Julia Gillard presided over Work Choices-lite and shares with Abbott an irresponsible determination to avoid serious action on climate change.
Soubhi Iskander is a Socialist Alliance Senate candidate for NSW in the 2010 federal elections. He was born in Sudan and has been a socialist for more than half a century. Despite being jailed and tortured, he remains a committed and active socialist and now is the editor of Green Left Weekly’s Arabic supplement, The Flame. Iskander is furious but not surprised at the scapegoating of refugees and recent immigrants in the current federal election campaign.
Green Left Weekly spoke to Peter Boyle, the national convener of the Socialist Alliance, about the political climate of the 2010 federal elections. * * * Many progressive people are feeling depressed about the federal election. How do you see it? Labor and the Liberal-National Coalition are in a “race to the bottom”, as Socialist Alliance lead Queensland Senate candidate and Murri community leader Sam Watson aptly put it.
This election campaign is crazy. It’s crazy that so much fear is being whipped up about the few thousand of the world's 43 million refugees and displaced people who manage to get on a leaky boat to Australia. But neither mainstream party is willing to stop sending troops to the decade-long military occupation of Afghanistan. This war is largely responsible for 2.8 million Afghan refugees worldwide — the same war is opposed by most in Afghanistan and most citizens of the countries whose armies occupy it.
Just days after the ALP replaced Kevin Rudd with Julia Gillard as PM, Rio Tinto boss Tom Albanese delivered a blunt warning to governments around the world, especially Third World governments, not to be tempted to go for what he called “resource nationalism”. “As you know, the original May proposal for a super tax caused a furious national debate in Australia”, Albanese told a gathering of mining executives and big investors at Lord's in London.
Last week was another ugly political week in Australia. There was much to be disgusted about, but one line disgusted me particularly. It was from an apologist for the Julia Gillard Labor government who dared to offer this whispered excuse for the PM's shameless embrace of racist scapegoating of desperate asylum seekers: “Julia Gillard is pretending to be conservative so that [Coalition leader Tony] Abbott can't use this issue to win the elections. Once Labor wins, they will implement a different policy. “It's clever politics.”
Twitter, for the few who may not know, is a social networking internet service that enables its users to send and read other users' messages (tweets) of up to 140 characters. Increasingly, politicians are using Twitter as part of their (managed) media work. Shortly after becoming prime minister, Julia Gillard joined the Twitterverse. “1.54PM Jul 4: I’ve decided it’s time to take the Twitter plunge! Hopefully I’ll master it. JG.” By her second Tweet, she (or perhaps a specially assigned member of her staff) was behaving like a seasoned Tweeting politician.
Last updated July 7: What a difference a month and a change of leadership makes. In late May this year Julia Gillard said that Liberal-National opposition leader Tony Abbott's call for a return to the "Pacific solution" on refugees was just a "slogan not a solution" but now she's PM (with the blessing of mining giants BHP, Rio Tinto and Xstrata), it has once again become a "solution".
A wave of rallies and marches commemorating World Refugee Week swept across the country in the past week. On June 20, people rallied in Melbourne, coming from across the city and regional areas. Given the rain, organisers were happy with the turnout of 2000 people. It was the biggest protest in support of refugees for several years. Tamil refugee Arun Mylvaganam described his experiences escaping Sri Lanka and traveling to Australia, where he spent three months in detention. He was only 13 at the time and had no family members with him.
A hastily convened caucus of Australian Labor Party federal MPs replaced former prime minister Kevin Rudd with his deputy, Julia Gillard, on June 24. This made her Australia's first woman PM. Treasurer Wayne Swan replaced Gillard as deputy PM. The dramatic takeover unfolded publicly the previous night when the chiefs of Labor's right-wing factions withdrew their support for Rudd.