The Howard Government
g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Sun Jun 30 20:56:38 MDT 1996
I have just discovered how to load a post from a disc and so here you have
the first fruits of my technological conquests. It is an editorial I did
for the local Anarchist paper, Neighbourhood News. This is certainly no El
Diario and the article is an ill favoured thing but mine own and it does at
least attempt to give an analysis of the Howard Govt and its record todate.
Since writng it the Conservatives have made preparations for an election
which will be an attack on Aborigines.
Words fail me to describe how low and irresponsible this is. Australian
Aborigines amount to betweeen 1-2% of the population. Their demographic
profile is a horrifying record of deprivation yet there are some who are
prepared to blame them for Australia's woes. Howard and his conservative
colleagues are anxious to get their anti-working class, and privatisation
legislantion through but they are blocked in the Senate. However a racial
election could possibly give them the opportunity to get their agenda
through. Will keep the list posted.
HOWARD TARGETS THE PEOPLE
The Howard Govt's first 100 days were hailed as a great success by the
mainstream media. Some noted however that the next 100 days would be
crucial. It is then that Howard will move to put his Industrial Relations
Reforms in place.
However the servility of the media cannot disguise the fact that there has
been widespread opposition to Howard's proposed budget cuts, his attacks on
the Public Sector and his Tertiary Education proposals.
Currently public attention is focussed on the gun issue. This has become an
extremely explosive and divisive matter. There have been huge rallies
opposing the new gun laws and we have just seen Howard emerging as the first
ever Australian Prime Minister to wear body armour when addressing an
In these days of the super control of media images, the sight of Howard and
Fisher been booed and heckled has totally and unexpectedly changed the
political landscape. Suddenly the spin doctors are not in charge and it has
become clear that Howard is now losing support to the Right. While
opposition to the gun laws has emerged mainly as a threat to his coalition
partners the Nationals. However this opposition also means that Howard
cannot now get a double dissolution as a means to discipline the hostile
Senate. In short he may not be able to get his agenda through. Similarly in
Queensland Borbidge cannot now call a snap poll to take advantage of the
window of opportunity of Labor unpopularity following the Federal election.
Why did Howard take on the gun issue? Why did one of the most conservative
of Australian politicians confront and alienate his own constituency.
Conventional wisdom is that he was deeply upset by the Port Arthur massacre
and moved to bans guns in the interests of the nation. This was Howard's
Road to Damascus conversion.
Certainly Howard has gained a lot of support from left-liberals though his
actions. One opinion poll put him up on 60%. This has now slumped of
course but he still retains a lot of support with many, who traditionally
oppose conservative governments, because of his "courage".
There is another explanation for Howard's actions. According to this Howard
desperately needed an issue which would place him as a national leader , a
statesman, a man "above the classes". From this position he could then
launch his attacks on the working class and drag Australia further down the
path of economic rationalism. The Port Arthur massacre presented him with
an opportunity and he seized it. The 'opportunity' has however now turned
out to be a nightmare.
Before branding this view as overly cynical one should recall that
circumstances of how Howard became Prime Minister. He won government by
promising not to do anything. His was a non-hegemonic victory. He did not
try to win the battle of ideas as Hewson did in 1993. Fundamentally Howard
pledged a return to the age of certainty; those mythically happy days before
Keating deregulated the Australian economy.
Here Keating and Kelty's attacks on Howard as representing
a return to the Australia of the 50 s actually boosted his support. Howard
of course is a personal conservative on a wide range of issues, but
crucially he will continue and take even further Labor's radical economic
program. Howard's voting base may be a middle Australia which is racked
with nostalgia for the past and the working class which Labor had betrayed
with its enterprise bargaining program. But he will govern in to the
interests of big capital for all his rhetoric about small business and the
That means he will attempt to break the unions, and the waterfront unions in
particular. Here his vision is of a deunionised workforce, the essential
building block of a low wage economy. Allied with this are the attacks on
the Public Sector which are aimed especially at reducing the social wage and
increasing the pool of unemployed. This will of course drive down wages
So what should be done in the conjuncture? To begin with the Left should be
eternally grateful that Howard's advisers have got him trapped him in the
swamp of gun control. There should be no attempt to come to his rescue.
Whatever we think of the actual issue it is more important that Howard does
not emerge from this with the enhanced status that he craves. We will all
pay a terrible price if Howard gets his way.
Our task is not to stop Howard from haemorrhaging to the Right. We should
be concerned to make him bleed to the Left as well. To do that we need to
build the kind of national campaign that has not been seen in Australia
since the 60 s. The key to it all is unity. Every struggle is the struggle
of all of us. We must build the links between the various groups that the
government is attacking.
The examples of Germany and France show us what can be done. There the
social wage was attacked just as it is about to be in Australia. But the
united action of all groups forced the government to retreat. We must do
the same. When Howard moves on the waterfront we must all be there to
protect the rights of the workers. When the students demand a proper
educational system, again we must all support them. Similarly if the Public
Sector unions can force Howard to back down over the cuts then we will all
It is true that Howard appears to be blocked in the Senate and appears to
have lost the opportunity for a double dissolution. But we cannot leave it
to the Democrats to lead the opposition for us. At best the Democrats are
quasi-leftist Liberals. They will only stand up to the Right if there is
concerted pressure from outside parliament.
Labor too cannot be trusted. In many cases they have prepared the way for
Howard. At present they both want and fear a struggle breaking out against
Howard's program. Such a struggle will enable them to go to the elites and
say that only Labor can produce a quiescent workforce. But equally a
determined battle against Howard's agenda will make it difficult for Labor
to do what Big Business wishes.
So what we must create is a mass movement which unites all those whom Howard
is attacking; a movement which is independent of all political parties; a
movement which does not represent the "national interests", but which
instead truly defends the people of Australia.
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