Priorities for the Left

Andrew Giles is Shadow Assistant Minister for Schools and Pat Conroy is Shadow Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy and Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure

Our challenge isn't just to change the government, but to change the country.

Australia is on the wrong path - we are headed towards a society in which there is an unbridgeable gulf between haves and have-nots. Inequality is close to, if not at, record highs. Wages are stagnating while corporate profits are booming.

Families are being drowned by the pressure of insecure workplaces with the rise of casualization and mass underemployment.

But we can change course. This is what's at stake at the next election: a choice between a future in which all of us can have a stake, or one characterised by extreme inequality- of income, wealth, opportunity and power. 

It is the Turnbull Government that is pursuing class war, not those opposing their neo-liberal approach.

The National Left must ensure that Labor clearly articulates a path towards a good society. The platform for a Shorten Labor government must secure this objective.

If not more and more people will embrace the populist and hollow approaches of One Nation and Nick Xenophon.


Labor’s economic approach

Fundamentally, we cannot be half-hearted in our opposition to neoliberal austerity. The answer to Turnbull and Morrison's blind pursuit of trickle-down economics isn't a humanised version of this, but an economic policy framework that is true to our analysis of why the Australian economy hasn't been working for Australians.

We need to build on the bold policy successes of Labor's proposed changes to Capital Gains Tax and negative gearing, and tax treatment of trusts so that tax justice is both done and seen to have been done. Australians are entitled to a tax system in which each contributes according to their capacity, so that we can all benefit according to our need.

In any fiscal environment a $65 billion cut in corporate taxation is not the correct policy. Many of our corporate titans have enjoyed record profits, yet they are cutting staff and refusing to grant decent wage rises. This money can be better spent on education, infrastructure and healthcare. There is no case for the reduction in the corporate tax rate. This issue is not about timing, instead it is about a rejection of trickle-down economics. Governing is about choices and Labor should choose to invest in vitally needed infrastructure, both physical and social such as education. We will be perceived, and rightly so, as just a pale imitation of the Liberals if we support the tax cuts for large corporations but just say let’s wait a few years. 

Attacking inequality, whether it be in income, wealth or physical access to jobs and the broader society must be the raison d’etre of a Labor Government. Labor must examine alternate methods of raising revenue that attack speculation and inequality, such as, but not limited to, the Buffett Tax and Tobin Tax.

We need to articulate a vision for how Australia will compete in the next century.

Inspired by the Australian union movement's change the rules campaign, we cannot be defeatist when it comes to the world of work - nor for the prospects of any Australian worker. We have to close the gaps between wages and profits, and in power at work

Our wider economic priorities must focus on maintaining a strong social wage as well as a living wage, education and training, and rejecting punitive welfare approaches. We must also examine the adequacy of the income support system.


Human Rights and International Affairs

Now is the time to revisit our approach to rights, especially as a foundation of a new Australian social compact. Questions of income support, access to lifelong learning, rights to privacy and data are all matters we should address in this regard, founded in our commitment to equality.

We can build on the strong response of Australians to the marriage equality campaign to look more broader at barriers to equality, for LGBTI Australians, for women, for older Australians, for asylum seekers and of course our First Australians. 

Labor has to respond to the Turnbull government's consistent attacks on young people, constraining their futures and our collective wellbeing. We recognise that young Australians have been alienated from formal politics, as well as economic opportunity, and will address both of these, directly.

Of course, we have to continue to advocate for more humane policy settings - and a kinder politics - when it comes to those seeking asylum, building on our existing platform framework. 

Australia must pursue an independent foreign policy grounded in our national interest and playing a leadership role in our region and beyond. Australia needs to join with the international community in recognising the state of Palestine.


Labor Reform

As we approach National Conference, our focus must turn to questions of organisation as well as policy.

We must respond to calls to reform and open up Labor's structures, and to the wider cynicism towards and alienation from formal politics. We have to be much more a party of debate, where ideas are shared and tested so that they can be embedded. We should make the case for a vision of membership that reflects the interests and the capacities of our supporters and activists. This is not a distraction, it's core business for a party that seeks the support of a majority of Australians in an age of inequality and resurgent populism.

In particular, if it’s good enough to elect the Parliamentary Leader, why cannot the rank and file have a say in who their senator is? In states where delegates from State and Federal Electorate Councils get a preselection vote, this should be transferred to rank and file members. The union component should be preserved, maintaining an equal partnership and our connection to working people through their unions.

And we must commit to work cohesively, as the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party (FPLP) Left, with our comrades in affiliates and branches, to secure the changes which will found a more equal Australia.


This FPLP Left Convenors' report was provided to the National Left organising meeting in Sydney on 24 February


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.