[Marxism] Thoughts on politics in Oz

Gary MacLennan gary.maclennan1 at gmail.com
Thu May 22 17:26:32 MDT 2014

I am in broad agreement with the *en passant* commentary on Australian
politics. I hope he is correct when he suggests that we may be on the verge
of resistance to the Austerity measures outlined in the recent budget.  If
asked to wager, though, I would say that resistance will take the form of
electoral support for Labor.  Certainly, the Labor leader, Bill Shorten,
had a triumph with his speech in reply to the budget.

His was mainly a moral critique saying in effect that the budget was
breaking the Australian consensus that binds workers and bosses together as
Aussie mates. Despite the justifiable rage on the Left, that remains a
powerful myth for Australian working class people.  With all my heart I
wish it was not so, but it is. In any case, Shorten tapped into the
consensus myth and shot up in the polls.

There is one aspect of all this opposition to the Austerity program, which
does have me puzzled.

I have been reading Richard Seymour on the neo-liberal project of creating
the new entrepreneurial subject and positioning as deviant all those who do
not fit into the "make yourself employable" agenda.  It would appear that
this agenda was at play in the government's rhetoric about the "end of the
age of entitlement" and the beginning of the "age of opportunity". The line
is that if you are poor or unemployed, you have not seized the
opportunities that are everywhere.

I am puzzled, specifically, about the source of resistance to the
neo-liberal project in Australia. This is a most nonmilitant people.  Trust
me. Yet they will not be led like lambs to the slaughter, unlike their
counterparts in the the UK. Here in Oz, the figures show that
overwhelmingly, people are worried about the cost of living and very few
are worried about the debt and the budget deficit.  This is despite the
government's staged audit of the economy and the Murdoch press going all
out to spook the public about the debt.

So the government is in a quandary.  They have badly bungled their
austerity program.  To win government they had to lie and say there would
be no cuts. There is no consensus that we face an overwhelming emergency,
which would justify the savagery, they have imposed. This in turn has
produced a political legitimization crisis. So deep is this crisis that the
Labor Party opposition in the Senate and the minor parties may be compelled
to block the budget and deepen the political crisis accordingly.

The normal way of doing things in the Senate is for the Labor Party and the
other parties to take turns at supporting the unpopular measures and so
manage the odium from supporting anti-people policies.  Certainly, that was
how they operated when John Howard was in power.  Now though, such is the
level of hatred of the government and its program, that to support any of
the budget measures may be electoral suicide.

My reading, of the situation is that the people in Australia are enraged by
the austerity program.  The political parties on all sides are frightened
of this mood. They may be forced to drive the government to an early
election.  If they do not and they allow the budget through the Senate,
then they will pay a heavy price.

In the meantime, within the next twelve months, there will be elections in
Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.   That
should tell us a good deal about the strength of the anti-austerity mood.



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