After a record high vote for the Greens in the August 21 federal election, it did not take long for the corporate media to get its claws out. In particular, Rupert Murdoch-owned News Ltd’s flagship newspaper The Australian has been called out for its string of critical stories and headlines targeting the Greens. In a September 9 editorial, the paper responded to Greens Senator Bob Brown's criticism that the paper was openly attacking the Greens-Labor deal, saying the Greens “are bad for the nation; and ... should be destroyed at the ballot box”.
Australia now has a minority Labor Party government, backed by the Greens and independents. It is the best government available in the circumstances. It is certainly to the left of any government that would have resulted if either Labor or the conservative Coalition had won a majority at the elections.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) welcomed the announcement of Senator Chris Evans to a portfolio responsible for skills, taking in higher education and TAFE. It also welcomed the reappointment of Senator Kim Carr to the portfolio of innovation, industry and science, but reiterated concerns that a narrow focus on skills risks undervaluing the sector.
US-NATO command and their puppets in Kabul are pushing ahead with lower house elections in Afghanistan on September 18. This is despite civilian casualties rising by 31% this year, a surge of occupying troop numbers and new evidence of widespread corruption emerging. A scandal surrounding the country’s largest commercial bank, Kabul Bank, has implicated one of Afghan President Hamid Kazai’s brothers. Mahmoud Karzai, when head of Kabul Bank, is said to have made millions from risky investments in the collapsing Dubai property market.
At a September 7 Green Left Weekly forum, Andrew Bartlett and Ewan Saunders spoke about the possibilities that have opened for the progressive movements since the election. Bartlett was Greens candidate for the seat of Brisbane in the recent federal elections. E Saunders contested the same seat for Socialist Alliance. Bartlett gained 21% of the primary vote, a swing of 10%. He gave an assessment of the voting results.
On September 8, race and discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes used a forum at the University of NSW Indigenous Law Centre on racism in sport to condemn the racist dog-whistling in the recent federal election. “You only have to look at the race to the bottom that you saw in the recent election on asylum seekers. Don't tell me there's not a racist part in that issue.
The Socialist Alliance national council meeting on September 5, involving 72 members from around the country, grappled with the new and intriguing political situation opened up by the August 21 federal election result. At the time, it was unknown who would form a minority government. But it was already clear that the result presented a challenge and opportunity for the progressive social movements to mobilise to demand a just, equitable and sustainable response to the big problems facing society.
Independent Andrew Wilkie won the Tasmanian seat of Denison at the recent federal elections. Previously, the seat had been held by Duncan Kerr for 23 years and was considered a safe Labor seat. Wilkie came to prominence in 2003 when he resigned from his job at the Office of National Assessments in public protest against the then Liberal/National Coalition government's decision to invade Iraq. The invasion was based on the claim Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, a claim that later proved false.
The 2010 federal election campaign was notable as being one of the most tedious in the history of modern elections — at least the campaigns the two major parties dished up were. The field of youth affairs was among the direst, with both the Coalition and ALP using young people as a political football to appeal to older and more conservative sections of the population. Coalition leader Tony Abbott reconfirmed his status as an out-of-touch, patronising, old white man, encouraging young people to conform to conservative values.
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) slammed the policies of the Northern Territory intervention in a report released on August 27. The report said that despite Australia seeing itself as a country without racism, laws such as the NT intervention showed that racism had become “embedded” in Australian life. The committee said the NT intervention “continued to discriminate on the basis of race as well as the use of so called special measures by [Australia]”.
Undoubtedly the best thing about the election result was that people — everywhere — were talking about politics. Some of the discussion was about the hung parliament where neither major party won majority support. Because the result wasn’t clear, it gave everybody an opening to form and express an opinion about what should happen next. Other parts of the discussion surrounded the sudden emergence of political issues that had been completely ignored in the “boring” election campaign. The war in Afghanistan is the best example.
In 2007, federal election candidates made much of the seven vultures that were feeding on the carcass of the Howard government as it flailed around shifting further and further to the right. Those seven vultures were: • the denial of climate change; • touting of the war in Iraq; • Work Choices; • policy failure on education spending; • poor vision of infrastructure; • destruction of research and development; and • persecution of refugees with the Pacific Solution.
On September 1, Luke Foley, the newest Labor member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, rose to make his inaugural speech to the chamber. Foley began: “It is with pride and humility that I enter this place, Australia’s oldest Parliament, as a representative of Australia’s oldest, and greatest, political party — the Australian Labor Party.” Oh dear. What a day for Foley to praise the ALP in NSW.
The Socialist Alliance national office has produced its analysis of the August 21 federal election. It traces the precise mix by electorate of the increased Green, Coalition, independent and informal vote, produced as voters deserted Labor. The differences among the seat-by-seat contests in an Australian federal election have never been so great. The general disillusionment with the two major parties expressed itself in quite different ways in different electorates and areas.
Adam Bandt, the MP elect for the seat of Melbourne (long considered a “safe Labor seat”), and the Greens' first House of Representatives member to be elected in a general election has been very busy since August 21. He says he left the triumphant Greens' election night party at 11pm thinking that he would have to do some media the next day so should get a good night's sleep. He woke up the next morning and after a couple of hours having coffee and reading the paper, the situation sunk in.
The federal election result was a breakthrough for all who dream of being liberated from the Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee politics that has been foisted on Australia for many years. By denying the major parties a majority mandate, and by swinging strongly to the Greens, the possibility for a very political future has been opened up. Of course, there are many challenges ahead.