[Documents menu] Documents menu

Date: Thu, 7 Mar 1996 06:59:44 -0600
From: L-Soft list server at MIZZOU1 (1.8b) <LISTSERV@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>

--> Database ACTIV-L, 8630 hits.

> print 08568
>>> Item number 8568, dated 96/03/05 01:53:09 -- ALL
Date: Tue, 5 Mar 1996 01:53:09 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
From: Rich Winkel <rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu>
Organization: PACH
Subject: Oz: Policies Brought Labor's Election Defeat

/** headlines: 121.0 **/
** Topic: Policies brought Labor's electn defe **
** Written 10:53 AM Mar 4, 1996 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
From: IGC News Desk <newsdesk@igc.apc.org>
Subject: Policies brought Labor's electn defe

/* Written 2:09 AM Mar 4, 1996 by peg:guardian in igc:p.news */
/* ---------- Policies brought Labor's electn def ---------- */
From: the guardian <guardian@peg.apc.org>
Subject: Policies brought Labor's electn defe

Policies brought Labor's election defeat

Editorial in The Guardian, 6 March 1996

Three main factors combined to bring about the defeat of the Labor Party Government last weekend. Firstly, the right-wing policies of the Hawke and Keating leaderships. Secondly, the success of the Liberal-National Party Coalition leadership in giving the appearance of moving to the middle-ground by presenting a softer image. Thirdly, the conservative Coalition's large majority of seats in the Lower House is, in part, due to an electoral system which produces an entirely unrepresentative result.

It will not be long before the real position of the conservative Coalition, its anti-worker agenda, is revealed. Coalition leader John Howard has already signalled that trade union rights and awards will be early targets, the maritime workers in particular.

The big stick will be wielded with the aim of deunionising the workforce and forcing workers onto individual contracts. The emphasis will be on business profits at the expense of workers' wages and conditions.

The promised Audit Commission will find the cupboard bare. Welfare will be slashed. Medicare will be undermined as private health insurance is pushed. Privatisation will continue together with further deregulation of the economy.

The main responsibility for Labor's defeat rests with the right- wing leadership of Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, Kim Beazley, Gareth Evans, Michael Lee, and ACTU leader Bill Kelty and others. Their policies have brought upon the Labor Party and the wider labour movement its heaviest defeat in modern times.

The Labor Party's first preference vote at 38.7 per cent is the lowest since the Federal elections of 1934 when the ALP vote was split by Lang Labor(1) during the Depression. In 1983 when Hawke was elected Prime Minister the ALP vote peaked at 49.5 per cent.


The policies being implemented disillusioned many traditional Labor voters. This is borne out by the big swings against Labor in working class electorates such as the western suburbs of Sydney and in NSW South Coast industrial areas.

While some working class people turned to the Australian Democrats, many gave their votes to the Coalition, suggesting they saw little difference between voting for the ALP or the Liberals. It also shows the tenacity of the two-party system and the absence of an alternative which is sufficiently strong to attract working class votes.

Failed policies

The right-wing policies which brought disillusionment included the deregulation of the economy, the privatisation of Australian icons such as the Commonwealth Bank and Qantas, the steady decline in the real living standards of many working class families, high unemployment, the whittling away of public education, the crisis in the public hospital system and the re- introduction of tertiary education fees.

Out of touch

Keating's claim that people have never had it so good is just not true for many people. It showed a Prime Minister out of touch. While repeatedly claiming that the government has created hundreds of thousands of new jobs, Paul Keating failed to acknowledge the existence of almost 800,000 registered unemployed and the under-employment of many more in part-time and casual work.

Workers have been forced to pay for their own wage increases by trading-off working conditions and by increased hours of work. It was the Labor Government and trade union right-wing which abandoned wage demands based on cost-of-living increases.

It was Labor Party legislation which opened the door to the spread of individual work contracts which have devastated the trade unions in a number of CRA work-sites.

The Labor Party leadership will not face up to the effects of their policies, preferring to excuse their massive defeat by suggesting that the people merely wanted a change of government after 13 years of Labor. If Labor had really created the best of all possible worlds for people, then they would not have abandoned the government.


Added to the disillusionment with right-wing policies, was the in-built arrogance of the Labor leadership. Remember the description of the Senate as unrepresentative swill?

Instead of attempting to win the Australian Democrats and Greens as allies, the Labor Party leadership repeatedly spurned and denigrated these parties and, in the case of Kim Beazley, specifically rejected an electoral arrangement which could have secured him Democrat preferences.

The NSW Labor Party right-wing, whose origins go back to the days of the Industrial Groups of the 1950s-'60s period, won control of the Labor Party nationally and imposed the policies which have proven so disastrous. They are anti-working class and pro-big business.

The actions of NSW Labor Premier, Bob Carr, during the course of the election campaign could not have been better calculated to bring the Federal Labor Government undone.

Carr's spectacular repudiation of specific election promises to abandon tollways on a number of Sydney highways and then to raise one of the tolls on the very eve of the elections can only be described as idiotic or deliberate sabotage.

The same can be said for the entirely unnecessary changes in the role of the newly appointed NSW Governor. It provided the catalyst for large anti-Labor monarchist demonstrations during the election campaign. Bob Carr is an ideologue of the NSW Labor right.

Bill Kelty's outburst that the return of a Howard Government would be the signal for wage demands of up to 30 per cent was also a stupid statement that played into Howard's hands. If wage demands of 30 per cent are justified they are justified whether Howard or Keating is Prime Minister.

For 13 years Kelty made deals with the government which limited workers' wage claims.

Another very unfortunate feature of the dismal Labor Party showing is the silence of the Labor Party left which went along with the right-wing policies of Hawke and Keating because they were fearful of rocking the boat. Their mistaken silence has contributed to sinking the boat. The Labor Party's leadership knew some time ago that they were going to lose the election and had made plans to continue their domination of what is left of the Labor Party parliamentary caucus.

Kim Beazley has been anointed as the next Labor Party leader as Keating steps down. Beazley is another extreme right-winger with close associations with right-wing American and British political circles. Under his leadership the same disastrous policies will continue.


In this election the only alternatives were the Australian Democrats, Greens and some other smaller parties. Across Australia these parties won almost 14 per cent of the vote which represents about 1.6 million voters. Because the House of Representatives does not have a system of proportional representation the Lower House is very unrepresentative.


The Coalition which won a combined first preference vote of 46.8* per cent will hold 66 per cent of the seats. The Labor Party which won about 38.7 per cent of the first preference vote has 31 per cent of the seats.

The 14 per cent who voted for the Greens, Democrats and others will have no seats at all. These 1.6 million voters are completely unrepresented in the Lower House.

In the Senate, where proportional representation does apply, nine Democrat and Green Senators are expected to take their seats. They will hold the balance of power.

It is significant that in the Senate vote, the Coalition parties' vote was smaller than in the Lower House.

A campaign to win proportional representation for the House of Representatives should be undertaken by all who want to achieve a more democratic representation in the future.

Neither the Australian Democrats nor Greens are working class parties Nor do they have a socialist objective. Any demand to expect this of them is unrealistic. None-the-less, they have many progressive policies, have opposed privatisation and have stood against some of the economic rationalist policies of the two main parties.

The weakness of the situation is the weakness of the communists and their continued divisions. These should be overcome as quickly as possible.

The majority of workers also remain tightly under the influence of the Labor Party even when it pursues right-wing policies. The Labor Party right strenuously supports the two-party system and, with the assistance of the mass media, actively strives to prevent its supporters and voters from looking to the left. This leads them to vote for the Coalition parties when they become disillusioned with Labor.

Narrow-minded, right-wing ideas which condemn workers to remain tightly controlled under the umbrella of the two-party system have to be overcome.


The election has revealed deep-seated racism in the Australian electorate. The return of several openly racist candidates with increased majorities confirms this.

The enforcement of anti-racial discrimination legislation has been muted and the influence of the White Australia policy, which was for many years the declared position of Australia's main parties, has not yet been overcome.

This reality spells danger for Australia's multi-ethnic society, for the Aborigines and for Australia's long-term relations with Asia, as well as all democratic forces if it is not curbed.

Talk together

In the post-election period it is important that all left and progressive forces talk together and work out a common approach to meet the attacks which will come thick and fast from the Coalition Government.

If greater co-operation is achieved so that a united front is presented by all left and progressive organisations to fight the Coalition Government and agreement can be reached on common candidates and platforms in the next elections, a new page can be opened and the situation retrieved.

Every Labor government in the past, whether Federal or State, has invariably led to the return of the conservative parties. This cycle has to be broken and the way opened for the election of a left and progressive government, close to the people, which will have the strength to implement policies serving the people rather than those of the big business corporations.

* These percentages are approximate. When The Guardian went to press two seats were still in doubt.

(1) Lang Labor was a right-wing break away from the mainstream Labor Party in the years of the 1930s depression.

Percentage of first preference votes
House of Representatives.
 1993 Seats  1996   Seats 
Labor Party44.928038.746
Liberal Party 36.77 4938.776
National Party 7.17 16 8.518
Aust. Democrats 3.75 - 6.8 -
Independents &
     minor parites7.3926.55
     Undecided as at 4/3/96   2


Percentage of Combined Australian Democrat and Green first preference Senate votes.
Australian States
NSW     12.27
ACT 15.84
Vic 13.72
WA 15.24
SA 16.61
Tas 15.35
NT6.43 (Greens only)