The mainstream media may not have noticed but there has been an increase in union bashing on social media over the past 5 days. It suggests the dark forces of neo-liberalism are mobilising in anticipation of next week’s senate vote on the ABCC legislation.
The Prime Minister has been vocal this week too, claiming that unions threaten the nation’s economic future. If he is going to suggest that the unions are about to destroy our country, he should tell us exactly how he thinks this will happen.
But instead, what we are more likely to get is a well-rehearsed choreography of anti-union stories beginning almost immediately; all designed to soften up the voters for what is to come.
The union bashing is also designed to camouflage the inconsistency of the government’s flip-flopping on several issues they have tried to champion, such as personal income tax cuts, an increase in the GST, state income taxes, fast trains, the plebiscite on marriage equality, company tax cuts and more recently their desire to cease funding public schools.
The word ‘waffle’ is fast becoming synonymous with our Prime Minister. It’s a far cry from the expectations of last September. Malcolm is a captive of the hard right who have him dangling like a puppet on a string. But right now, there are other more serious considerations on the horizon for him; ones that no one saw coming.
On the local front, we have a resurgent Labor leader emerging with policies that are resonating in the public consciousness. Calling for a Royal Commission into the banking industry will win over uncommitted voters to Labor as will a promise to lower the voting age to 16.
The bankers have warned they will campaign against an RC, which will put them centre stage and remind people further of how much they are disliked. They should rethink that strategy.
Malcolm Turnbull’s own connection with the banking industry will not help and nor will the financial industry’s generous contributions to Liberal party election funds.
On the world stage there is a clear trend showing large numbers have had enough of neo-liberal politics and its economic model. After multiple promises of better economic management going back as far as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher who raised expectations of a better life ahead, the fact is, it hasn’t happened. If anything, the very people who believed it are worse off today.
In the UK the popular election of Jeremy Corbyn as the new Labour leader has put greater pressure on the Tories. In Canada, Justin Trudeau won office promising deficit budgets, a commitment he has already delivered.
In the US the strong following for Bernie Sanders, a committed socialist and Donald Trump, who has no idea how to run a country, is also a rejection of mainstream neo-liberal economic policies.
In Greece, Syriza has won twice despite its equivocations with the European Commission. In Spain, the left wing Podemus has become the third largest political party in just two years. None of these new players could be called neo-liberal.
While it appears that nobody is buying Malcolm’s union bashing, the Liberal party publicity machine will begin rolling out its anti-union armoury next week.
All it is likely to do is highlight the government’s excessive reaction to the meagre findings of the Trade Union Royal Commission. But it may well be trumped by the release of the Panama Papers. We haven’t heard the full story of the Australian connection yet, but we will.
As we learn more about the tax avoidance antics of Australian companies’ and the length some very wealthy individuals will go to pay less tax, the Liberals may well wish they had thought of sticking it to the banks instead of Labor.
And just exactly what does Turnbull mean when he says we all must learn to live within our means? How can such a wealthy Prime Minister tell pensioners, low income families, the sick, the disabled, people on welfare and the unemployed to live within their means when it is obvious his means don’t require any adjustment?
This time next week we should know if a Double dissolution is on or off the table. Either way, Malcolm may well have played himself into a position where he’s damned if it is, and damned if it isn’t.