Support for the Gillard Labor Government hit an all-time low in July. A Newspoll published in The Australian newspaper showed support for Labor at a mere 27%. On a two-party preferred basis the Coalition was polling at 58% with Labor at 42%.
Clearly Gillard is having trouble selling the carbon tax to ordinary people. While many people want to see action on climate change, most see no need for the costs to be passed on to them. Tony Abbott has made a lot of mileage out of the fact that this tax will cost people more while doing next to nothing to reduce emissions.
The latest poll figures show that Gillard has used the little remaining political capital she had on this do-nothing measure. The Labor Government is now living a very fragile existence. Usually governments try to keep a bit of meat on their bones in order to be able to starve off any unwanted or unforseen problems.
Gillard’s eroded popularity now means that any number of issues could inflict a crisis on the government. There are numerous domestic issues that could flare up at any time. The carbon tax is far from settled while tensions around the asylum seeker issue are rising thanks to the policy of mandatory detention and the signing of the Malaysia deal.
Within Australia’s two-speed economy there are very high levels of casualisation, underemployment and personal debt. The possibility of the property bubble bursting continues to worry the capitalists.
Perhaps the biggest concerns for Gillard and her big business allies however are in the international arena. Emerging threats to the Chinese economy sit side by side with the European and US debt problems.
Any number of domestic or international issues could put untold pressure on this already weak government. If an election was held tomorrow it would probably result in the Liberal-National Coalition winning in a landslide.
The coming to power of a conservative government coupled with a worsening economic situation would be seen by the ruling class as a green light to move forward with deeper cuts and attacks on the working class. With all the underlying problems, the establishment would be immediately pushing for European style austerity measures in an attempt to shore up their own interests.
While it is possible for this weak government to limp along for a little while longer it is also possible that events could take a sharp turn sooner rather than later. While Australia has escaped the worst for now, a serious crisis is on the horizon.
The workers movement needs to be on top of these events in order to respond accordingly and protect our hard won living standards.