The Australian federal election was held last Saturday, and the outcome has yet to be decided. There was a major swing against the Labor government, and their vote total fell to only 38%. The more right wing Liberal National Party coalition won 44% of the vote. Yet as the final mail-in ballots are being tabulated, it appears that both parties will end up with 70 or 72 seats, and neither will be able to form a majority government.
The big winner in the election was the Australian Green Party, which saw their vote total rise from 7.8% in 2007 to 13.9%. The party won a seat in the House of Representatives, taking Melbourne from Labor. Furthermore, in the Australian Senate, where seats are distributed according to a form of proportional representation, the Greens won a seat in all states for the first time and hold the balance of power. The vote total for the Greens was the highest recorded by any third party in an Australian federal election.
The Australian Greens remain committed to the original Four Principles of the original Green movement, which includes social justice and peace and non violence. So in clear contrast to the Green Party of Canada, the Australian Greens are to the left of the Australian Labor Party.
The Australian Greens have concluded that there is no need for another middle of the road middle class political party. Instead, they have focused their organizing on the young, those disgruntled by the Labor Partyís shift to the right, and those living in the large urban centres. Thus their vote totals are higher in the inner city areas: Melbourne (36%), Australian Capital Territory (20%), Sidney (24%), Brisbane (21%) and Perth (16%).
In the election campaign the Greens stressed opposition to the war in Afghanistan, greater justice for the refugee boat people, and action on climate change. Most notable is their call for a return to progressive taxation: increased corporate taxes, higher income taxes on the rich, the re-introduction of an estates tax, and the elimination of consumption taxes like the goods and services tax. They put forth a policy package which promotes a more equal society.
The Australian election was prompted by the coup within the caucus of the Australian Labor Party. The Right bloc, backed by leaders of organized labour, succeeded in removing Kevin Rudd as party leader and prime minister and replacing him with the even more pro-business Julia Gillard. This was done in a profoundly undemocratic manner, which alienated the party leadership from its members.
Kevin Rudd had stirred up a political hornetís nest by proposing to raise resource royalties on the mining and oil and gas industries. This could have been a popular move which would have boosted Laborís electoral support. However, The Labor Party, with its commitment since 1983 to neoliberal policies, planned to use the new revenues to provide additional subsidies to business interests. None of the major programs announced would have benefited the average citizen. This opened the door to a successful major PR campaign by big business interests, particularly in the mining areas, to overthrow the Rudd government.
John W. Warnock is a Regina political economist and political activist.