While a new minority government has been formed in Australia the political situation has far from stabilised. The August 21 Federal Election delivered a hung parliament with neither the Labor Party nor the Liberal/National Coalition winning the 76 seats required to form a government.
After several weeks of negotiations, Labor with 72 seats won the support of rural Independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott as well as Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie. The Greens’ Adam Bandt also gave his support to Labor in the House of Representatives while in the Senate the Greens will hold the balance of power from mid-2011.
The Greens signed a formal agreement with Labor whereby they pledged to vote for the government’s budgets and oppose any no confidence motions. This helped Labor to form the first minority government in 70 years with Julia Gillard continuing as PM. Tony Abbott will continue to lead the Opposition Coalition.
From the point of view of the ruling class, the outcome is far from ideal. They wanted a majority government that was able to “return the budget to surplus by 2013” without having to haggle with the Greens and Independents. “Bringing the budget back to surplus” was in fact the mantra of the election campaign.
Similarly, the negotiations with the Greens and Independents were dominated by the issues of “economic responsibility” and the forming of a “stable government”. While ordinary people want stability in the form of decent jobs, homes and services, what the politicians mean by “economic responsibility” is something very different.
“Stability” under capitalism means creating a more favourable environment for businesses to make profits. Reducing state debt is the number one priority, therefore governments at all levels are looking to make cuts in order to reduce costs.
The most recent example is in South Australia (SA) where the state government has plans to sack almost 4000 public sector workers. On top of this they want to cut entitlements such as holiday leave loading and long service leave for existing staff.
Measures that were included in a proposal to the SA government, but have been put on hold for now, include closing schools, hospitals and fire stations. These are the types of cuts we can expect in other states and federally in the name of “economic responsibility”.
It is hardly responsible to make workers pay for an economic downturn that they did not create. It was the big business profiteers and speculators that sparked the crisis yet they will be well looked after by this new government. Company tax rates will be lowered and corporate hand outs will continue while ordinary people will be asked to make more sacrifices.
The 2010 election results highlighted a level of anger and dissatisfaction towards the major parties. While this anger still lies mostly under the surface, it is a reflection of the fact that many people are concerned about the future. It is still likely that the world economy will be plunged into a double dip recession. Any serious downturn would cause havoc for this fragile government. Given the overriding economic conditions, and the unstable nature of the government, it may not last the full term.
This is no relief to ordinary people, however, as regardless of which big business party is in power their actions will be very similar. Both Labor and the Coalition support the system that puts profits before all else and neither the Greens, nor any of the Independents, offer any genuine alternative.
The task ahead for workers and young people is to prepare for the looming attacks. We will need to struggle against all the major parties if we are to defend our living conditions in the coming years.