Australia’s “Inauthentic Opposition”

06/06/2019

For a number of decades now, the Democrats in the US have been referred to, along with the Republicans, as ‘neoliberal’, ever plodding along to the ‘right’ to slowly normalise the inequalities that plague Americans each day, and which was one factor that led to Trump’s successful election. The term “inauthentic opposition” has been used to describe this slow but obedient drift, which most certainly leaves many people disillusioned about how their system works, when the flawed two-party system functions as one corporate body. Here in Australia, the Labor Party is definitely earning themselves this abysmal title.

It has not even been two weeks and already the Coalition has proven themselves to be an incredible danger to our democracy, freedoms, and future. The alarming raids on a journalist’s house and on the ABC by the Australian Federal Police this week were triggered by investigations into stories on security laws and criminal actions taken by our military in Afghanistan respectively.

This, along with the silence surrounding Witness K and Assange, is eerie seeing as this week is the 30th anniversary of events that took place in Tiananmen Square. The suppression of information has made it taboo in China, and the rest of the world looks back in shock, thinking it could never happen in the West. Maybe not – as authoritarian as bastards like Peter Dutton are, I cannot see the military being used against the public at all. But they are using the AFP to intimidate journalists – and let’s be clear, that is what it is about, just like the Union raids – against reporting on stories those in power would rather keep hidden. If that doesn’t scare you, then I hope you’re enjoying that boot.

The security laws that did get passed in December last year are also increasingly reminiscent of the US’ NSA and CIA powers, essentially allowing the government to spy on people, with the latest revelations including public wi-fi users. I am under no illusions that my, or anyone’s, data is truly secure. If the government doesn’t have access to it directly, then corporate interests most certainly do, and governments have proven they do not respect even those troublingly shallow boundaries. This should be vehemently opposed by anyone who believes in the basic right to privacy, and that Edward Snowden’s name and revelations have been seemingly drowned out of people’s memories is disturbing.

On the environment, the Coalition has repeatedly tried to tell us that emissions are going down in various ways, including by saying that while our emissions are going up (what?), our gas exports are lowering emissions elsewhere. Nice try. The Adani mine was also fully approved by the Federal government before the election, as well as a uranium mine in WA that was opposed by basically everyone. Our government is still very much at the mercy of the fossil fuel industry, which it props up with insane subsidies to make it, shakily and on paper only, economically viable. When people ask how we would pay for renewables, the best answer would probably be “by taking away fossil fuel subsidies”.

But where is Labor in all of this? What alternative does our shining two-party system have for us? On many things, like the rights of workers, healthcare, education, etc., a lot. Unlike the US we don’t (yet) have a system that destroys peoples’ lives in the search for unbridled profits. They are important, for sure, and the difference between a Coalition and a Labor government cannot be denied or understated. But, on the above issues, where is the opposition?

The security laws passed last December were done so with bipartisan support – literally in the final hour it was blasted through Parliament. The Coalition held the pretext of terror over the Christmas break over Labor’s head, so if Labor dared fight against the bill then they would have been hit with a damning scare campaign. Must be fun to have stepped down on their convictions only to lose the election anyway.

Labor’s position on Witness K is vague – how unusual – and gives no indication as to what they would do if they held government. Whitlam, in the 70’s, was well opposed to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor (one of the reasons, if you believe the theory the US pressured for his dismissal, he was torn away from power to bring in a more amiable Liberal government), and no doubt he would be fuming about how the Witness K case is being handled, and our spying on Timor-Leste. Today, the Labor Party’s position is to let the investigation run its course, which does nothing but concede to the hidden tactics of the Coalition.

Regarding the environment, sure one could argue that Labor is better than the Coalition, but they’re no Greens. Even so, they went into the election without an official position on Adani and managed to lose big time in Queensland, which swung in opposition to even their mild policies. Maybe if a heavier campaign was run debunking the lies about the Adani mine and proving the environmental and economic benefits of being a world leader in renewables and battery storage technologies, maybe then they could have convinced some more people? But no, I’ve seen Labor voters blame the Greens for not helping to support Labor on environmental issues – maybe do better next time.

Now, after their stunning election loss, Albanese has stepped up as leader and, rather than hold firm on Labor’s election policies, he seems more inclined to drift towards the Coalition’s abysmal record. Queensland Labor is stepping dangerously close to approving the Adani mine – which the Indian company has been caught, again, illegally doing work on already – and should they actually approve it then Queensland truly is screwed.

The environment, security, foreign policy – Labor is faltering and conceding on these points. How long until this painful shift, whether cornered into it or hesitantly willing to follow, extends to other areas too? How long until Labor becomes Australia’s ‘inauthentic opposition? The next few years will tell us, and I can only hope they do not allow themselves to become a ‘lite’ version on the Coalition, just as the Democrats are a prettier looking version of the Republicans in the US.

 

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Previous piece: The Precedent Is Set, Again

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