Time's up, Howard!

March 30, 2007

After the NSW elections it looks very much like your time's up, John Howard.

Yes, of course, you've looked like a goner before, but each time, cunning lying rodent that you are, you managed to survive.

In 1998, you handed out a massive bribe to help swinging voters swallow the GST. In 2001, you wedged Kim Beazley over the Tampa. In 2004, you terrified home-buyers with the spectre of interest-rate hikes under Labor. But this time you're in deep trouble.

That's not because that bland technocrat Kevin Rudd is a political genius compared to Beazley, Mark Latham and Simon Crean. No, it's because you launched Work Choices as a killer blow against our rights at work and unions. Now everyone hates you for it, including many workers who voted Liberal in 2001.

Maybe the polls are right and "only" a third of the 60% who oppose your rotten laws think they have suffered under them. But the others know that if Work Choices is still in force when the next recession hits they'll be defenceless — the whole point of the legislation.

What's more, working people haven't just sat at home fuming about Work Choices when the Australian Council of Trade Unions' ads come on the TV. We've protested in our millions.

Our anger has been so strong that — pushed by the more militant unions, rank-and-file networks and forces like the Socialist Alliance — the ACTU and various state labour councils have had to overcome their own caution and mobilise people on the streets.

Every time we came out, the ALP went up in the polls, and it's the underlying reason why Labor is still riding high. It's also why a tired, bungling and semi-corrupt government like Morris Iemma's in NSW could sell its smelly fish — the Coalition's fish stank even more.

It's why every ALP election victory since 2005 has been bigger than predicted, irrespective of all other issues.

No doubt you think that, once again, you'll find the right combination of bribes and scare tactics to wedge and defeat Labor.

That's possible only if Labor helps you — if it caves in to corporate pressure and dilutes the commitment to rip up Work Choices and ban Australian Workplace Agreements.

The more it retreats here, the closer Labor's real position on industrial relations will be to yours and the less reason undecided voters will have to vote for it.

Which is precisely why you and your spin doctors have been so busy saying that Work Choices wasn't an issue in the NSW elections.

Of course, we shouldn't underestimate Labor's capacity to mess up a winning position. No doubt some "brilliant" back-roomers are even now trying to persuade Rudd to soft pedal on industrial relations.

The best response to this nonsense is what the Socialist Alliance and militant unionists have been pushing ever since the Work Choices nightmare loomed on the horizon: ongoing national mobilisations and protests, and support for all workers who come under attack.

That's what has put Labor ahead in the polls. It is what will keep it there and what will bring about your richly deserved demise.

Time's up, Howard.

Dick Nichols

[Dick Nichols is the national coordinator of the Socialist Alliance.]

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