by Rick Kuhn
December 7, 2007
RICK KUHN is a member of Socialist Alternative in Australia and winner of the 2007 Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Prize for his book Henryk Grossman and the Recovery of Marxism, available from Haymarket Books. Here, he explains the background to Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s resounding defeat in last month’s election.
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NOT ONLY did conservative Australian Prime Minister John Howard lose the election on November 24 in a landslide, he lost his own seat in parliament as well. The Australian Labor Party now controls all nine governments at the state, territory and federal levels. Industrial relations was the key issue in the election. The Australian union movement has been successfully mobilizing against the government over the 2005 “WorkChoices” law that dramatically undermined workers’ rights to organize and forced them into individual contracts. WorkChoices bans “pattern bargaining” (industry-wide campaigns) and deciding on strikes at mass meetings. It restricts union officials’ access to members at work and removes protections from unfair dismissal.
Also important was years of campaigning against the anti-Aboriginal and xenophobic racism of the Coalition–the alliance of the conservative Liberal and National Parties, which led the government under Howard–that turned what had been their most effective political tool into a liability.