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Liberal-National and Labor parties – not the same but both have an appalling record

Lee Rhiannon 30 Nov 2017

The responsibility for the growing inequality and most of the serious environmental problems Australia faces can be attributed to the major political parties – the Liberal, National and Labor parties.

These three parties over the past century, in league with the corporate world and big media, have played a key role in the degradation of our natural environments on a massive scale. From relentless logging, industrial pollution, ever-increasing carbon emissions and traffic madness, the list of environmental catastrophes and crises that they have facilitated is very long.

On reducing economic inequality the big parties have also performed poorly but it has to be said that the right-wing Coalition parties have been significantly worse than Labor. The widening gap between rich and poor, the rise in homelessness, and cuts to international aid are a national disgrace. There has been a great reluctance to overhaul national taxation policy to address these issues, and to make matters worse, the Coalition parties in particular are responsible for an erosion of workers' rights.

The Greens do have great policies to tackle these issues based on the four Greens founding principles of an ecologically sustainable economy, social and economic justice, grassroots democracy; and peace and non-violence

If voters are to be convinced in large numbers to reject the big parties and support urgent action, it is important to communicate the role Liberal, National and Labor have played over many decades in creating this mess of environmental destruction and economic injustice.

In this article I give a brief analysis of the ethos of these parties. Even a quick examination of some of the flawed beliefs, attitudes and culture that they embody, demonstrates that while the big parties alternated between government and opposition, it was inevitable that the wealthy would prosper at the expense of our part of the planet and large sections of Australian society.


Liberal-National parties: born to ruin

The world view of these two parties is almost identical so they will be discussed together.

These parties have a born to rule mentality. The Liberals and Nationals are the parties of greed and privilege. Their leadership comes largely from the wealthy business class. They govern for the benefit of big business which is one of their main constituencies. To gain office they must also placate middle Australia via financial inducements and by creating a shallow image of being a caring party.

Both parties are obsessed with the ideology of free market economies and small government, which has led to market or corporate domination of public policy. The privatisation of key services and assets is sacred to the Coalition.

They are averse to regulating corporate Australia in the public interest. They support unbridled capitalism and rapacious corporate profiteering at the expense of environments and the public.

The Liberal and National parties have a symbiotic relationship with big business. Large companies make political donations and Coalition governments deliver policy that creates economic windfalls for their donors.  

Of course, the mainstream commercial media, including the Murdoch empire, is part of the deal and part of the Coalition's constituency. The government delivers for the right-wing media and in return there is only soft media coverage of the Coalition. You will never see an article like this in The Australian newspaper or this subject matter on a commercial TV station. They are so close that it is hard to tell whether the Liberal party is an extension of large commercial media interests or whether big media is just a mouthpiece for the Liberal party.

If you think of an industry that has damaged our environment or fleeced those who are already struggling, then it is likely that the Coalition has had a big hand in fostering that outcome.  Clearing of native forests, the fossil fuel industries, motorways, over-development, banking, gambling, tobacco, medical insurance, pharmaceuticals, junk food, privatisation of key assets and essential services, are all examples and the list goes on.

At the same time the Coalition has consistently worked with business to allow exploitation of workers.  Wages of ordinary Australians are kept low and tactics such as denigrating workers and unions are often used. Casual workers on penalty rates are the latest victims.

One of the best examples of the Coalition's failures is its head in the sand approach to the climate change crisis. In essence its policy is to do as little as possible while the fossil fuel industry makes huge profits and carries on increasing atmospheric pollution.

Tax cuts for big and medium size companies, tax breaks for property investors and more hardship and humiliation for the unemployed are all part of the Liberal-National party package.

On rare occasions the Coalition has made an effort to appear to be supportive of working class people. Howard's battlers may have been fooled by this, but to anyone with reasonable powers of observation, it is just a veneer.

Its treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is shameful. Racism is part of the Coalition's tool kit when it comes to justifying discriminatory practices such as the BasicsCard.

Similarly its cruel imprisonment and demonisation of refugees in the name of border security is beyond belief.

A wealthy country like ours under the Coalition has also made huge cuts to our already small overseas aid contribution. No wonder so many Australians regard the Liberal and National parties as greedy and selfish.

On other social issues such as equality for women and the LGBTIQ communities, and drug law reform, the Coalition really is an embarrassment stuck in conservative, stifling 1950s Australia.

Its law and order mantra and legislation curbing human rights makes a mockery of the individual freedom the Liberal party professes to stand for.

On foreign policy the Coalition is obsequious to its kindred spirit, the government of the USA. The Coalition has taken Australian into several unnecessary wars, and placed Australia at risk to please a powerful military ally. We have supported murderous regimes around the globe because the Coalition is so reluctant to go against USA foreign policy interests.

The Coalition's track record on environmental vandalism and inflicting unnecessary economic hardship is shameful and it often forces the Coalition to engage in deceit to avoid or minimise criticism. Their MPs have become masters of deflecting or failing to answer difficult questions.

In my view as a Green, the Liberal and National parties are the enemy of the environment and those who are not wealthy. The Liberal and National parties are an Australian disgrace.


Labor party: are they just Laberals?

The Labor party formed in the 1890s with some high ideals. Together with unions it has significantly contributed to raising the standard of living for many Australian workers and their families.

Labor has done some good things when in office. The Whitlam government 1972-75 was probably the most progressive Labor government. Its achievements included ending conscription, establishing Medibank universal health care, recognition of Aboriginal land rights, supporting sanctions against apartheid South Africa, and reforming family law. The Hawke government played a role in saving the Franklin River from being dammed.

There have been other welcome achievements. However,  Labor's conservatism and many poor policy decisions have created fertile ground for the expansion of the Australian Democrats, the formation and initial success of the Nuclear Disarmament Party, and then the rise of The Greens.

Yes Labor has a better record on the environment and social justice issues than the Liberal and National parties, but Labor has also lost its way. Labor MPs and officials have let it down, and the following criticisms are aimed at them rather than ordinary members, many of whom are very critical of their MPs.

While it still has a very strong association with the union movement, Labor has become way too close to big business. It still accepts massive donations from corporations. Accepting donations from mining giants, property developers and the alcohol industry for example inevitably compromises a political party when it comes to acting in the best interests of the public.

Labor cannot escape its role in the creation of and failure to address industrial pollutants that continue to harm the public and our environments.

Labor too has engaged in privatisation of industry. The sell-off of the government owned Commonwealth Bank and Qantas are just two examples.

For a long time Labor has been more concerned about obtaining and holding power and has been prepared to adopt more conservative positions to achieve that.

On so many policy issues Labor walks both sides of the road. On the same issue it has different messages for different constituencies. There is often a message for centrist and conservative voters, which is usually Labor's real policy, and there is also an often shallow or misleading message for left leaning voters to try and prevent further bleeding of support to the Greens.

Labor's consistent message on political funding reform is improved party disclosure of political donations. This gives the impression they are doing something significant. In the meantime they keep accepting donations that create a real conflict of interest. The reform that is needed is to apply strict caps on donations and in the case of certain industries such as gambling, property development, mining and others, imposing a ban on political donations. Labor at the federal level has repeatedly failed to grasp the opportunity to make meaningful change. It is happy with big donations being the status quo.

A message that Labor likes to convey is that it is serious about addressing climate change. However, its current support for Adani's gigantic Carmichael coal mine in Queensland reveals the truth. I do acknowledge that Labor has made more progress than the Coalition, but there is also a large degree of window dressing. Kevin Rudd's Emission Trading Scheme for example was a hollow plan. It relied on the fantasy of carbon capture and storage, and the purchase of overseas carbon credits, without actually reducing Australia's carbon emissions.

On refugees Labor sends mixed messages. Its left MPs talk about compassion, but we all know of Labor's unwillingness to process refugees in the community and its heartless support for incarceration of refugees offshore that has wrecked so many lives.

Labor's support for workers' rights and unions is supposed to be part of its DNA but even in this policy area Labor has adopted some weak positions. Its half-hearted winding back of the Coalition's draconian Australian Building and Construction Commission, and failure to remove John Howard’s heavy restrictions on the right to strike have disappointed many unionists. Labor's links to big business takes a toll.

Uranium mining has been a controversial issue for Labor. Its weak policies over the years which support uranium mining still fail to deal with the issues of nuclear waste storage and the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.

Subservience to the USA on foreign policy matters has generally characterised Labor's approach, though they have not been quite as obsequious as the Coalition. The Hawke Labor government backed the invasion of Iraq in the first Gulf War, but to its credit, when in opposition, Labor opposed Australia's military involvement in the second Gulf war.

Labor has become a party that regularly engages in media misinformation. Sadly it seems to now be an ingrained culture. It extends to spreading misinformation about the Greens. It is difficult for Labor to outflank the Greens on left policy, so it resorts to a dishonest, but sometimes effective tactic of suggesting the Greens support the Coalition.

To stem the flow of its supporters to the Greens, in the 2016 election campaign, Labor MPs particularly in inner city seats where the Greens poll well, ran with the fake news story that there was a Greens-Liberal preference deal. They ran with it in the media for weeks and when the Greens announced that we would preference Labor ahead of the Coalition in every marginal seat across the nation, Labor was silent. The media failed to take Labor to task for its false scare campaign.

The irony is that Labor has made some very unprincipled preference decisions over the years. Family First's Steve Fielding winning a Senate seat on Labor preferences at the expense of the Greens is a well-known example.

Of course, you can only walk both sides of the road and engage in misinformation for so long. Eventually you get caught out.

It’s up to voters to reject the major parties. The Greens will be doing our best to give the public accurate information to cast informed votes.

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