Comment and Analysis

The federal election is now over and the final outcome is still being worked out, but the winners and losers are becoming clearer by the day.

The two biggest losers were the major parties. While the Coalition retained enough seats to still be able to govern, it lost its sizable majority in the lower house and is facing an even more hostile Senate.

The Labor Party recovered several seats overall, but it still managed to record its second lowest number of votes in a Federal election since World War II.

The 2016 federal election has confirmed the continuing decline of Australia's two-party system. The relative stability that characterised the decades after World War II was shaped by a phase of unprecedented economic growth, record low unemployment and mass home ownership. But that is long gone, in fact it was an aberration. Our system of single member electorates helped paper over the current period of rising economic insecurity, but inevitably politics is catching up.


The Mt Thorley-Warkworth "final void" is too expensive to fill in.

Early this month mining giant Rio Tinto sold its mothballed Blair Athol coalmine to a tiny ASX-listed company called TerraCom for $1. Rio Tinto had been trying to sell the mine since it closed in 2012.

Working women have lost their finest advocate. Lynn Beaton was one of the first of her generation to take up the fight for women's rights within the Australian trade union movement. Throughout her life Lynn was an active campaigner for the rights of women at work, as well as a researcher, strategist and historian of the labour movement.

Lynn was born in Victoria, but in 1960 the family moved to London. Lynn spent her teenage years in swinging London, returning to Melbourne in 1966.

While the votes are still being counted and the deals brokered, the resurrection of Pauline Hanson's racist party has sparked concern and outrage.

Pauline Hanson's One Nation party has won at least one, possibly three Senate seats: Hanson claims it could be as many as six. It polled the fourth highest nationally of all parties contesting the Senate, after Liberal, Labor and the Greens,.

The election platform One Nation presented was blatantly racist and anti-Muslim, and poses a threat to civil rights.

Pauline Hanson is back in the Senate after 18 years, riding the wave of anti-Muslim hatred spawned by various confected Wars on Terror™.

But liberal commentators are warning we should take her more seriously this time. She and her 10% are “not just racists” they say. And they're right.

Since the election, Hanson has made it clear that she has two major priorities this time around: protecting Christian fish'n'chips from Middle Eastern halal fast food, and tender-hearted men from the feminist Family Court.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared that, if re-elected, his government still plans to present the bill reinstating the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) to a joint sitting of parliament, even as Resources and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg admitted on the ABC's Q&A program that the bill's prospects are effectively "dead".

Turnbull said on July 5 that the reason he had called a double dissolution of parliament was that it was the "only way" to revive the building industry watchdog and crack down on the militant unions.

The hole in the ozone layer was first discovered in 1985 by scientists from the British Antarctic Survey, who described how ozone levels above the Antarctic were steadily dropping compared to the previous decade. This was quickly recognised as a severe environmental problem — and the culprit was identified as the unchecked use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

In the same way that women had to organise and struggle to win the vote, equal pay and access to higher education, women have also had to fight for their reproductive rights, including access to contraception and access to safe medical and surgical abortion.

The impact of pregnancy and childbirth on a woman is so great that no matter what other political, social or economic rights women have, if they do not have control over whether or when to have children, it is meaningless to speak about women controlling their own lives.

The Chilcot Inquiry into Britain's role in the Iraq War has prompted calls for a similar inquiry into the Coalition government, then led by John Howard, taking Australia into war in 2003.

Andrew Wilkie, the only intelligence official from the US, Britain or Australia to dispute the official explanation for the Iraq War, said on July 7 there should be an investigation into the Howard government's decision to go to war.

Armed with the findings of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, South Australian Labor Premier Jay Weatherill is pressing ahead with plans to import as much as a third of the world's high-level nuclear reactor waste and store it in the state's outback.

There are compelling reasons to reject it. The project, it now emerges, could go ahead only over resistance from Indigenous traditional landowners, some of whom took part in the Lizard Bites Back convergence in early July.

Election after election of racist and Islamophobic rhetoric from both major parties, combined with a growing swarm of far-right outfits, is resulting in violent hate crimes.

A car firebombed at the Thornlie mosque in Perth on June 28 and racist graffiti on the wall of an Islamic college are the latest in a string of attacks. Hundreds of people were praying inside the mosque and it was only a matter of luck that no one was injured or killed.


Tacloban, Leyte, Philippines, after Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Photo: Tony Iltis.

Millions of people fleeing storms that flood major cities within hours, or intense fires that burn towns to the ground — welcome to a climate change apocalypse. It is not a scene from science fiction film, but a fast approaching reality.

Recently Facebook reminded me of a “memory” of an article I posted three years ago. I had said that I was doing the happy dance because we were making progress and were finally being heard.

A growing number of local councils and universities are divesting from financial institutions that invest in fossil fuel extraction. This is a great credit to climate change campaigners around the country. It points the way forward towards the even greater shift in investment priorities that we will need to make if we are to stop catastrophic runaway global warming.

The Victorian Labor government has announced an “ambitious and achievable” Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET). This target will commit the state to generating 25% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020, and 40% by 2025.

Refugee rights activist Stephen Langford was at Waverley Court on June 29 facing charges for writing "Omid" on the electorate office of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Omid Masoumali was a young asylum seeker detained in Nauru who died after he set himself on fire.

After an initial hearing, the case was adjourned to July 27. Langford made this speech outside the court.

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"The Coalition government's plan is not only to privatise Medicare, but to destroy it as a universal, national healthcare system," Peter Boyle, the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Sydney, said on July 1. "The plan is based on a form of 'creeping privatisation,' together with undermining its coverage of the majority of community health services around the country."

Regardless of which major party, or coalition of parties, forms government after the July 2 election one thing we can be certain of is that the struggle for a people's movement will still be as necessary as ever.

The attacks on our class will not stop; of that we can be sure.

We have one common enemy. For decades and decades governments have been trying to annihilate unions and this has got to stop.

More than 20 prominent Australians have called for emergency-scale action on climate change in an open letter to the new parliament, published in The Age on June 23. Signatories include business leaders, scientists, a former Australian of the Year and a Nobel Laureate.

The open letter and associated website and petition are part of a growing campaign by a coalition of more than 20 grassroots climate action groups to pressure political leaders to step up and do what is needed to address the climate crisis.

The third annual March to Close all Slaughterhouses was held in Sydney on June 4. The march is part of an international event that began in Paris about 10 years ago.

This event is both a solemn reflection on the abuse and exploitation suffered by millions of animals every day and a celebration of the increasing number of people choosing a cruelty-free lifestyle around the world.

Former Triple J presenter and member of punk band Frenzal Rhomb Lindsay McDougall gave this speech at the march.

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I want to start by taking you inside the life of a living being in a slaughterhouse.

At the Perth Vigil for Orlando on June 15, our community stood in unity and mourned the lives lost. By candlelight we stood together in the Perth Cultural Centre and listened to heart-warming speeches from our queer siblings, as well as from the Socialist Alliance, the Greens and the Labor Party, before observing two minutes of silence to remember the 49 lives lost.

MaryBeth Gundrum is a candidate for the Senate in Queensland for the Renewable Energy Party. She spoke to Angela Walker in Cairns.

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We know you here as a Knitting Nanna active in the campaign against coal seam gas fracking. How did you become involved in the Renewable Energy Party (REP)?

[Below is the platform that Socialist Alliance is taking to the federal elections.]

We need a radically different future: one that provides for human development, meets community need, protects our environment and guarantees a safe climate; one where our economy operates to ensure social and ecological need; one where participatory democracy means people make the decisions in society; one that promotes cooperation, solidarity and justice for all — an ecosocialist future.

"The NSW state budget brought down by the Mike Baird government on June 21, which was trumpeted by Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian as 'the strongest in the country,' is a scam, based on stamp duty from overpriced housing sales and the sell-off of the state's electricity assets," Peter Boyle, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Sydney in the federal election, said on June 23.

In the week that brought to light television personality Eddie McGuire's “banter” about sports journalist Caroline Wilson, the voters of Leichhardt, covering an area stretching from Cairns to Cape York and the Torres Strait, have been treated to campaign signs depicting a witch.

Pork-barrel politics and scare tactics have dominated the final weeks of the “longest election campaign ever”. Voters in marginal seats have been warned to “vote carefully”, to not “waste your vote” or “risk a protest vote” which might result in — shock horror “the chaos of a hung parliament”.

We have had “tradies” in political ads trying to convince workers that the Liberal National Party (LNP) is their party, and Labor trying to convince the public that they have “rediscovered” labor values.

On July 2 Australian voters head to the polls — although by that date up to 40% of voters will have voted at early polling centres across the country.

Despite a number of minor parties and progressive independents running in lower house seats and the Senate, we know that come July 3 we will be looking at three more years of evil bastards or the lesser of two evils.

This election campaign. Eight weeks. Eight long, drawn out weeks of two gangs of rich white bastards in suits battling over who gets the honour of overseeing the next three years of irreversible ecological catastrophe, with extra Barnaby Joyce. It must violate articles in the Geneva Conventions banning torture.

Tanya Plibersek, the deputy leader of the Australian Labor Party and MP for Sydney, made a speech on June 15 where she tried to fend off the political pressure Labor is facing from the Greens and other smaller parties to the left.

Her basic argument was that Labor still remained loyal to its “light on the hill” and she urged younger people in particular to be more patient and allow her party to slowly make progressive change.

WestConnex is a $17 billion, 33 kilometre toll road proposed by the New South Wales government and backed by the federal government. Its tunnels, multi-layered interchanges and four to six lane highways will cut a swathe through the inner west of Sydney.

Pauline Lockie is a spokesperson for the WestConnex Action Group, one of the groups opposing the project. This is an edited version of a speech she gave at the Rally for Fair Fares in Sydney on June 21.

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About 80 people attended a fiery, standing-room only, public forum on unemployment, hosted by Anti-Poverty Network SA on June 18 in Adelaide's northern suburbs.

In a twist to the standard election fare, candidates were required to spend the first half of the event listening to the honest, insightful testimony and views of jobseekers, sole parents, aged and disability pensioners, and others with direct, lived experience of being out of work and being poor, before participating in a Q&A.

This election campaign has seen the Coalition blustering that its harsh policies are stopping the people smugglers and deaths at sea, Labor trying to ignore the issue, and the Daily Telegraph running front page headlines such as “The boats are back”.

But standing in defiance for more than 100 days is a group of refugees and asylum seekers protesting inside the Nauru detention centre.

Through low-resolution photos and shaky video footage, images of the protesters have reached the world, despite intimidation from guards and new fences built to keep cameras out.

The Labor Party announced a series of “savings” measures on June 10, including $1 billion worth of Abbott/Turnbull cuts that had previously been blocked in the Senate.

It has tried to make the attacks appear palatable by claiming they are directed at higher income families. However the truth is they reaffirm that a future Labor government's direction will be more about cutting government spending than raising revenue from the big end of town.

Further, they will have bigger impacts on ordinary workers than appears evident at first glance.

I moved to Perth in June last year from a small, rural town in central Pennsylvania. There I witnessed first-hand the impact of the “fracking” boom — the rapid exploitation of the unconventional gas resources in the Marcellus shale play.

It hit rural Pennsylvania particularly hard because it is economically depressed, struggling to make ends meet by farming and what's left of manufacturing that has not been outsourced to China, Mexico, and other exploitable labour pools.

There's a war going on — the class war. Funnily enough, the only time you hear politicians using that term is as an epithet, not as a descriptor for the daily life of the overwhelming majority of society.

An example: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accused Labor leader Bill Shorten of declaring war on business and waging a “class war” for making the modest suggestion that the rich should pay a fairer share of tax.

LGBTI communities everywhere are reeling from the loss of the 49 people gunned down in the Orlando nightclub Pulse. In addition, 53 were injured.

Some of them no doubt are deeply missed by their families. Even worse, as is true in many LGBTI communities, some of them would have lost their family ties years ago. The other patrons at the Pulse nightclub may have been the only family they had.

About 20 protesters demonstrated in front of the Melbourne Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) on June 6 over allegations of asylum seeker mistreatment. Police presence was described by observers as extremely heavy, ranging from two dozen to fifty officers.

Teaching is one of the lowest-paid professions and casual relief teachers (CRTs) are among the most marginalised and exploited workers in Victoria.

Our daily pay rate is $293. Think that sounds good? Well, there are about 200 teaching days a year. If we were to work every one of those days, we would still earn less than $60,000 a year — that is the maximum pay we can expect, after a minimum of four years at university.

But we are emergency teachers; we can expect to work, at most, about 100 days. That is less than $30,000 a year.

Earlier this month, Department of Employment figures about the government's remote Work for the Dole scheme proved what critics have known for some time: the policy is failing. In Arnhem Land, people are buying less food since tough Work for the Dole penalties were introduced.

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