Category Archives: Neoliberalism

Another world is possible, but only if we seize this moment

We are on the precipice of a moment of transformation. The orthodoxy of the last forty years feels as if it is exhausted and on the verge of collapse. What fills the vacuum is yet to be seen.

There is hope. The predictions of a calamity for British Labour did not come to pass. The public is tired of being told their future will be worse than their parents’ generation and they cannot enjoy what past generations took for granted: security, stability, an improvement in their material circumstances.

The British election had a global impact for social democratic movements. Here in Australia, many even asked who our home grown answer to Jeremy Corbyn is. That, however, is the wrong question and lesson. This isn’t about personalities or individuals – for progressives it never is. Rather the lesson of the British election for those on the Left should be to challenge what ideas we think are possible and to put forward a transformative vision for a better future.

The times call for a bold platform for a better future for the many and we must not hedge on it. We need to be unapologetic and hopeful. People are not happy with the status quo and established party systems are being overturned across the world.

The conservative side of politics has no answer to the crisis of housing affordability and the growing precariat, other than mindless appeals to xenophobia and the politics of division. They are in denial about the realities of climate change and comfortable with entrenched inequality.

Within Australia, inequality is growing. It is growing within our capital cities, with those living in rich and poor suburbs experiencing substantially different health and educational outcomes. It is growing as well as between urban and regional communities. It is a challenge that social democratic parties at all levels of government must face head on.

This moment is a time to articulate that another world is possible. Imagining a better future requires a dash of utopianism to consider bold ideas, as well as meticulous attention to the nitty gritty of policy and legislation. The Left in Australia is capable of both – but we must be smart, united and determined.

The alternative is to cede the future to a xenophobic nativism where the majority are pitted against each other, with an increasingly wealthy and disconnected elite making decisions about who is deserving and how to distribute the scraps they are prepared to share. The PASOKification that has torn apart sister parties in Western Europe is the future if Labor does not put the interests of working people front and centre.

It means a vision for better future for the generations to come, rather than the fear of a future in which our lives are worse than those of our forebears.

It means tax settings that fund the public services we need to build a good society that can stop the growth of inequality and ultimately make our society more equal.

None of this will happen naturally or automatically. It will require our ideas and our hard work. We have a better future to create and do not have a second to lose.

Originally appeared in the 2017 NSW Labor Conference edition of Challenge

Control of the Upper House is the most important battle of the NSW election

While the media has focused on how many seats Labor may pick up off the Coalition on March 28 and the impact of Luke Foley as Labor leader, the Legislative Council election is shaping up to be the most important battle of the upcoming NSW election. Whoever controls the Upper House will determine whether electricity privatisation (and the Coalition’s second term agenda) occurs.

Current distribution of seats

The current distribution of seats in the Legislative Council (42) is 14 ALP, 12 Liberals, 7 Nationals, 5 Greens, 2 Shooters and Fishers and 2 Christian Democratic Party (CDP).

In 2011, the Coalition won 11 of 21 spots while Labor won 5 and the Greens won 3 with one each for the CDP and Shooters and Fishers.

The Liberals have been able to form a majority (22) in the Upper House by dealing with the CDP and the Shooters and Fishers Party.

The fight over electricity privatisation

Along with Labor and the Greens, the Shooters and Fishers have pledged to oppose the privatisation of electricity. There may be scepticism as they have a tendency to be bought off but they have stated that they will not deal on privatisation. The CDP has, however, indicated it will support the privatisation of electricity. This isn’t a surprise given the far right former Liberals that are in the CDP and the preference deal they had with the Liberals had at the 2011 election.

To gain a majority to sell off the poles and wires, the Coalition needs to win 9 seats with the support of the CDP (assuming Nile is re-elected). 11 seats would give them a majority in their own right. To win 9 of 21 suggests a primary vote of 41% (potentially less because of Optional Preferential Voting). A recent Galaxy poll has suggested that the Coalition is on a primary vote of 43% meaning they are hovering around a majority for privatisation.

The danger of a Coalition victory in the Upper House

The big danger is if the Coalition gains control of the Upper House (with the CDP) they will try to implement a radical free-market agenda that goes beyond electricity privatisation and includes the privatisation of water, trains and extend contestability and outsourcing across public health care, education and social services.

For anyone who believes in essential services should be kept in public hands, stopping the NSW Coalition from being able to implement its agenda must be a priority. Success will mean others will attempt to emulate Baird’s neoliberal agenda. The importance is underscored by Paul Kelly who states that:

Defeat for Baird would constitute the most lethal blow for market-based economic reform for years…

The added danger is a good Coalition result in the Legislative Council will make it harder to unwind any changes or pursue progressive reforms if Labor wins in 2019. Unlike federally, there is no mechanism to clear the NSW Upper House and the term served by each MLC is eight years. It makes it all the more important to stop the Coalition (and their allies the CDP) from being able to get a majority.

UPDATE 10/03/15: Antony Green has suggested that because of Optional Preferential Voting, the Coalition may only need around 39% to gain 9 seats.