Australian political perspectives resolution

Adopted by the 10th National Conference of Socialist Alliance, June 7-9, 2014


1. Australia has escaped recession for more than two decades, despite the impact of the Asian and global financial crises on the world's economies. While Australia experienced strong economic growth in the years following the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), economic growth has now slowed to 2.8%, and is mainly driven by commodity exports, consumer spending and housing investment. With mining projects shifting from the capital investment stage into production for export, falling commodity prices, as well as increased global competition for commodity exports will likely impact on Australia's export income (and economic stability) in the years to come. 2. Behind the buoyant consumer spending and housing statistics lies the stark reality that Australian households are now more indebted than ever. According to Barclays, levels of indebtedness have worsened since the GFC, in contrast to the US and UK.1 This means that Australian households are very vulnerable to any future rises in unemployment, interest rates or reductions to wages. 3. Unemployment in Australia is now at levels seen during the 2008 GFC, and the number of employed workers wanting to work more hours remains at its highest level in the past decade2. The youth unemployment rate is more than double that of adults and the number of young people experiencing long-term unemployment has more than trebled since the GFC.3 4. The minimum wage is now just 43.3% of average full time wages — the lowest proportion on record. Twenty years ago Australia's minimum wage was the highest in the OECD at nearly 60% of average full time wages and ten years on it was hovering around 50%.4 This is both an indication of a fall in real wages and an increase in incomes of those at the top. 5. Household with low-paid adult employees are facing financial stress and deprivation, with a doubling or tripling of low paid households seeking assistance from welfare or community organisations.5 6. Australia is a wealthy country, but the levels of social and economic inequality are worsening, thanks to the policies of successive governments who rule on behalf of a rich minority. Attacks on single parents, cuts to social spending, the lack of affordable, public housing and the growth in insecure employment are the results.6 7. Irreversible global warming is now unavoidable, and both major parties in Australia fail seriously on tackling climate change. The “5 per cent by 2020” carbon emissions reduction target shared by the Labor Party and the Coalition in Australia remains derisory, and has been described as consistent with a global pathway leading to temperature rises of 3.5—4°C.7 8. The same observers note that the Abbott government’s proposed Direct Action program lacks the resources to meet the 5% from 2000 reduction goal and instead could lead to emissions of about 12% above 2000 levels by 2020.”8 These calculations leave out the greenhouse impacts of Australia’s coal exports—the world’s second-largest—on the basis that the emissions will be released overseas. Australia’s recoverable reserves of black coal alone contain more carbon than is ever likely to be extracted from the Canadian tar sands.9

Abbott government attacks

9. The election of the Abbott government in September 2013 signalled an intensification of attacks on workers' rights, refugees, the public sector, jobs and what remains of the social wage. The Abbott government moved swiftly to dismantle the Climate Commission and is seeking a vote on abolishing the Climate Change Authority, consistent with its efforts to bolster Australian mining profits at the expense of the environment. 10. As the global economic situation further deteriorates, privatisation, outsourcing of public services, job cuts and wage cuts are precisely what the ruling class is intent on imposing. The wages' share of the national wealth has already decreased to levels not seen for the last 50 years, but this is clearly not enough of a shift for the Australian ruling class.10 11. Soon after its election, the Abbott government established a secret commission of audit, led by the head of the Business Council of Australia, Tony Shepherd, to prepare the groundwork for a horror budget handed down in May, which will attack pensioners, the poor, those on welfare, school leavers, university students, Aboriginal communities, the sick and the elderly. This budget is a significant attack on what remains of the welfare state — by shrinking the public service (resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs), further undermining universal healthcare through the introduction of a co-payment for visits to the local doctor and pathology tests, access to welfare for young people, and raising the retirement age. It also abolishes a number of environmental agencies and initiatives, as well as the Renewable Energy Target. 12. The government's spin to attempt to sell their budget relies on a lie — that we all have to share the pain to pay for an unsustainable national debt. But Australian government debt as a proportion of GDP is one of the lowest of the OECD countries and would be even lower if hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts and concessions had not been given to the rich since the 1990s. Research has revealed that the budget measures will hit the poorest and particularly women worst of all11, and if the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is broadened and increased, this regressive tax will impact those households with the least disposable income. 13. In addition to the cuts, privatisations and sell-offs of state government assets will be encouraged and rewarded by the Federal government. Further deregulation of fees for University courses will be implemented and a work for the dole scheme introduced. 14. Under the budget proposals to cut refugee programs and services, refugees will be denied the right to have their cases independently reviewed; access to family reunions; access to government funded advice and assistance with applications. The government has also cut 4000 onshore refugee visas for the financial year, and is closing onshore detention centres, as the government expands its offshore detention camps. 15. Worker's rights and entitlements, including penalty rates are in the government's sights. A full-bench decision by Fair Work Australia on May 14 means that hospitality workers will have their penalty rates cut by 25% now. Following a review of the Fair Work Act amendments due out in June, and the Productivity Commission inquiry, due to report to the government in April 2015, further attacks on workers and penalty rates are a certainty. 16. The Australian Industry Group (AIG) has made its position public on how workers should pay with their conditions and livelihoods to fund Australian economic development, as the resources boom slows. In its “10 point plan” the AIG calls for the prohibition of industry-wide pattern agreements for workers, the winding back of the GEERS/FEG scheme which guarantees workers their redundancy entitlements, the right of employers to terminate enterprise agreements after they expire (leaving workers on award conditions), the right of employers to propose changes to an enterprise agreement while it is in force, the right of companies to restructure and outsource and avoid paying employee's entitlements or saving jobs, and reducing the number of permitted bargaining claims and general protections for workers. 17. The election of the Abbott government, and the attacks on jobs, public health, education and welfare already being carried out by Liberal National Coalition and Labor state governments, urgently requires the organisation of a serious resistance to this new wave of neoliberal austerity. Unions will need to form a key component of these mass campaigns if we are to defeat these attacks. 18. If Australia, as the world's highest per capita carbon emitter, is to cut emissions to the extent required for a safe climate and to transition to 100% renewable energy production, it will take concerted mass action by farmers, environmentalists, workers and their unions. 19. The militant wing of the labour movement was more or less demobilised with the election of the Kevin Rudd/Julia Gillard ALP governments, following the Your Rights At Work campaign, which ousted the John Howard government. According to the RBA12, the number of industrial disputes is at an all-time low, as are days lost to industrial disputes. 20. Where unions mount campaigns for workers' rights, they are faced with crippling fines and anti-democratic laws restricting the right to organise and protest. In the context of a weakened union movement, the Australian business class hopes to wind back decades of industrial rights and to lower wages to protect the profits of big business. 21. Abbott's anti-union Royal Commission is a witch-hunt with widespread and potentially disastrous implications for the union movement, well beyond the unions it has targeted. Corruption and undemocratic practices within unions undermine their effectiveness in protecting their members' interests, and allow the capitalist state the pretext to interfere in their affairs and to disarm them. The Abbott government's real agenda is to both destroy the ALP's electoral prospects in the short term and to seriously weaken and/or crush militant and effective unions, and to take control of union funds, particularly fighting funds raised for legitimate industrial and political struggles. The Royal Commission won't reveal the scale of corruption by industry bosses, and the depth of the political and financial links between corporate interests and the bourgeois parties. 22. Socialist Alliance affirms that to help strengthen unions as fighting bodies, our members will work within their unions to develop more democratic structures to ensure the broader participation of union members needed to confront the state and federal government attacks on workers' rights. Building democratic and accountable unions will often require participation in building new leaderships, and being part of the struggle against internal corruption, including political corruption. Such struggle must be framed around the following points:
  • Defence of unions as workers' organisations;
  • Fierce opposition to external intervention, being state, judicial or any other kind;
  • Defence of members' right to know the truth and take action accordingly to eradicate corruption, remove corrupt officials and put unions to the service of their members by implementing transparent processes;
  • The right of the union membership to debate out and make a conscious, democratic choice about the question of affiliation to, or disaffiliation from, the ALP. Resistance.
23. More than 100,000 people mobilised across the country for “March in March” 2014, in more than 34 towns and cities, in the largest anti-government protests for nearly a decade – prior to the budget being released. In the post-budget period, they have been followed by more protests, including a range of "March in May" and anti Budget protests on May 18, which drew tens of thousands of people onto the streets in most capital cities and some regional centres to protest against the government and for the budget to be blocked. Students are mobilising in the biggest protests seen in a decade or more against the cuts to education. Some labour councils have now called rallies or delegates’ meetings for June or July. These indicate that a powerful movement can be built against the neoliberal project as it is expressed in the federal budget and the Abbott government generally. On that basis, and to aid the movement’s development, parliamentarians can resolve to block the budget (oppose all money bills, including Supply), as Andrew Wilkie has done. This will provoke a major crisis and probably force a new election allowing working people to throw out the Abbott government. We support the inclusion of the concrete demand of ‘block the budget’ in the anti budget campaign. 24. Filling a vacuum left by the bankruptcy of the ALP, the unwillingness of the Greens to mobilise opposition and a weakened union movement, these protests are organised by a range of new activists, and by forces other than the traditional social and labour movement organisations. Committees vary in their openness and functioning, and rallies are built by and large through social media. More marches are planned for July and August around the country, and the Socialist Alliance will continue to support these initiatives and continue, where possible, to seek to democratise and broaden this movement. 25. March in March followed the huge outpouring of grief and anger at the murder of Reza Berati one month earlier at the Manus Island detention centre, which resulted in thousands of people attending vigils across the country. GetUp! Climate Change rallies in November 2013 mobilised around 60,000 people, less than three months after Abbott's election. Well-attended rallies to save the Barrier Reef from dredging and against shark culling have been held around the country this year, attracting thousands. Anti coal seam and unconventional gas protest groups have continued to form and protesters have been mobilising and blockading exploration sites in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, with the largest of these, in Bentley NSW, attracting up to 3000 people in a continuous blockade which started in February 2014, and ended in victory May, when Metgasco's exploration license was suspended. More recently, the Victorian state government has announced the suspension of all CSG exploration licenses across the state, as a result of ongoing community protests and blockades and the impact that this movement is having on the LNP government's reelection prospects. These mobilisations and not insignificant victories give renewed confidence that building mass movements against the policies and impacts of neoliberalism and austerity is possible. 26. The Abbott government's determination to assist the unconventional gas industry against trenchant opposition has led to some cracks among its rural and regional base. The Lock the Gate Alliance and the various community-based campaigns are uniting city and rural communities in a powerful challenge to conservative state and federal governments. They have succeeded in constraining the advance of the industry in a number of instances. In Queensland and NSW, rural communities are breaking with their traditional political masters. In unprecedented numbers, farmers are taking direct action and even joining barricades to stop gas companies from drilling on their land. Militantly defending agricultural land, water catchment areas and water tables is increasingly a popular campaign. 27. The Socialist Alliance reaffirms its orientation to helping build broad-based mass movement against unconventional gas across Australia. These movements are the main sustained mass resistance to corporate interests in Australia today. 28. In seeking to unite with those taking action and with others on the left who are committed to building movements for change, Socialist Alliance recognises that a strong pole of leadership is needed in the fight against austerity and environmental vandalism being unleashed. We also recognise that such leadership is needed to win more people to the struggle to replace the destructive system of capitalism.

Housing crisis demands socialist solutions

29. The crisis in housing affordability and a housing market bubble are being driven by speculation and leverage.13 Public housing stocks are in a state of neglect and decline and public housing tenants are facing eviction as inner-city public housing, located on prime real estate is being sold off, or replaced with a mix of public and private dwellings. Where public housing stocks are being converted into social and community housing, tenants are expected to pay higher rental rates and to apply for rental assistance with no guarantees they will receive it. To ensure that everyone has a right to decent housing there needs to be a radical expansion of public housing, which can displace the private, market-driven, commodity-based housing system, transitioning it to one based on social need. This is the only way to solve the crisis of homelessness and housing affordability.

Fight attacks on education and welfare

30. The level of indebtedness for students continues to worsen, following decades of neoliberal attacks that have wound back free education. The decimation of the TAFE sector through creeping privatisation and defunding has created a crisis in vocational education and training. The Abbott government has continued the agenda of the former Rudd/Gillard ALP government in clawing back $4 billion from the higher education sector (through cuts to funding, grants, scholarships, increased HECS and abolishing HECS discounts), and is now intent on the outsourcing and privatisation of student debt (HECS and HELP). 31. Socialist Alliance condemns the attacks on welfare that target young people under 30. The changes to Newstart for those under 30 (which deny payments for the first six months and then again after another six months unless they undertake training or study) will increase poverty levels and homelessness amongst young people. It will also undermine conditions and wages as young people out of desperation will be forced to take any work for any amount. 32. Socialist Alliance prioritises working with and organising students and young people. We are committed to building the movement against education cuts and educating students on campus about the neoliberal agenda of the major parties and the need to organise. We also understand the need to build student solidarity with staff resisting job cuts (which will only undermine education and research) and other anti-worker attacks by university administrations.

Globalisation, economic insecurity and racism

33. Following neoliberal deregulation, Australian capitalists (like their counterparts in other advanced capitalist countries) have been seeking to exploit lower labour costs by moving more labour-intensive industries to China, India and a few other low-wage countries. This has resulted in big job losses in the manufacturing industry, a process which accelerated with the higher Australian exchange rate that came with the mining boom. Socialist Alliance's response to the off-shoring of manufacturing industries has been to call for the nationalisation (or renationalisation) of key industries, not industry bail-outs, and to put the mines, banks and energy sectors into public hands. Such a shift is necessary in order to save jobs, protect the environment and to retool for renewable energy production and the construction of public infrastructure. An example is the car industry. The car companies are planning to shut down the whole car industry in Australia. We will campaign for nationalisation of the car industry (under worker and community control) to save jobs and begin converting it to the production of public transport vehicles. We will take this campaign into the union movement, particularly those unions with members in the car industry. 34. Globalisation and the economic crisis in Europe have made conditions ripe for the super-exploitation of migrant workers in Australia, and Australian business sees this as an opportunity to place downward pressure on wages and conditions. Companies in many sectors have also sought to exploit lower cost labour through increasing use of temporary migrant labour using the 457 visas introduced by the Howard government. Some sections of the labour movement leadership have promoted “Aussie jobs” over those of migrant and guest workers. Socialist Alliance opposes these appeals to racist xenophobia and defends 457 workers against racism. We also campaign for these workers to be granted full residency and citizenship rights (if they choose) and the same employment conditions as non-migrant workers. 35. The economic fear and insecurity being felt by working people has been exploited by the former ALP and current Abbott federal government, in order to conduct a bipartisan, illegal war on refugees and asylum-seekers. Ignoring Australia's obligations under international law, the Abbott government's “stop the boats” policy (an escalation of Labor's mandatory detention, offshore processing and resettlement policies) has resulted in the legalised torture and permanent incarceration of asylum-seekers in island prisons and the abuse of the rights of asylum seekers held in onshore detention centres, deportations to danger and the continued policy of mandatory detention and ASIO veto. Now, the Abbott government is seeking to outsource its responsibilities by making a deal with Cambodia to take asylum-seekers. 36. Socialist Alliance will continue to seek to build the broadest mass movement that demands an end to mandatory detention, abolishes offshore processing, increases Australia's refugee intake and restores health, housing, education, employment and language support for refugees and asylum-seekers, and ends the veto powers of ASIO. 37. The gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other people in Australia remains more than a decade on average, despite an official commitment by federal and state governments in 2008 to close this gap by 2031. The education and literacy gap is not closing either and the gap in unemployment rates and the rate of imprisonment is increasing.14 Despite the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody – which identified over-representation in prison as the main cause – the number of deaths in custody has risen by 50% since the nineties. 38. Labor's Stronger Futures legislation, which extended the racist Northern Territory Intervention, introduced by the Howard government, has paved the way for renewed attacks on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities by the Abbott government, creating a new stolen generation, leading to worsening conditions in communities, displacement of Aboriginal people, and has facilitated a blatant land grab. 39. The appointment of Tim Wilson, former policy director of the right-wing think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, as Australia's new Human Rights Commissioner continues the reactionary attacks on “political correctness” and the “culture wars” begun in the Howard era. Socialist Alliance opposes the attacks on the national school Australian history curriculum and attempts to abolish section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. 40. Socialist Alliance stands with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in resisting these attacks.

Women – equality denied

41. The wage gap between women and men is now larger than it was 20 years ago and has risen from about 15% in 2004 to 17.5% last year. One of the first announcements by the Abbott government was to deny federal funding for equal pay for community service workers (a majority of whom are women), the result of a successful campaign led by the Australian Services Union (ASU) in 2012. 42. Women still carry the bulk of unpaid care of children and older relatives. Unpaid care in Australia was estimated in 2009—10 to be worth 50.6% of GDP and six-times the size of the paid care sector. Women performed 66% of unpaid care work, even though the proportion of women in the paid workforce had risen to 65% from 48% in 1992. 43. Women still experience sexual objectification, definition in sexual and reproductive terms, the destructive effects of a pervasive rape culture (promoting, condoning or excusing rape and blaming the victims when it occurs) and high rates of partner violence. The response of governments and local authorities has been to increase the use of surveillance and to propose tougher sentencing, rather than to support community organisation, properly fund women's rape and domestic violence crisis services, and implement education and early intervention programs. 44. The attacks on single parents launched by the former Gillard government — and being continued under Abbott – have resulted in a loss of real income and the impoverishment of single-parent families, which are overwhelmingly headed by women. 45. A new reactionary push for “foetal rights” is the anti-choice and religious right's latest attempt to wind back the tenuous rights women have to abortion and reproductive rights across Australia. So far, this offensive has been met with resistance by women and their allies, and Socialist Alliance will continue to promote the need for democratic campaigns to defend women's rights, and to seek alliances with all those who support a woman's right to choose. 46. An estimated one in five people in Australia has a disability. Of these, 45 per cent live in or near poverty. Overall, people with disability have sub-standard outcomes on most indicators of economic insecurity, community participation and wellbeing. 47. The Socialist Alliance supports a national disability system with increased and ongoing growth funding to, to meet real need, in order to facilitate the full participation and inclusion of people with disability and their informal supports in society. This system must be accompanied by a commitment to legislative and structural changes to ensure that housing, public and commercial buildings, transport, education, employment, recreation and culture are made fully accessible. 48. Those who support people with disability in an unpaid capacity number some 2.7 million. In 2012, the estimated annual replacement value of care provided was over $40.9 billion. Women make up 71 percent of primary carers – the vast majority of whom are unable to access the paid workforce and as a result, also live in poverty.

Marriage Equality Denied

49. 2014 marks the ten-year anniversary of the Howard government's legislation restricting marriage to a man and a woman. This legislation provoked the campaign for marriage equality - the biggest social movement in Australian LGBTI history. It has also been one of the most powerful movements in the country in recent years, winning important concessions such as civil unions legislation in several states, and federal anti-discrimination legislation. Passport recognition for transgender and intersex people has also been won by parallel campaigns by the Sex and Gender Diverse community. Given these victories, the strength of this movement is likely to have implications for the Australian struggle as a whole. 50. The Abbott government has already proven itself ruthlessly homophobic by launching a successful legal challenge to same sex marriage legislation in the ACT. The election of the Abbott government has caused a degree of demoralisation in the movement, reflected in smaller than usual rally sizes of late. However the movement still has plenty of steam in it, and in the people who come to the March Australia rallies with hand-painted marriage equality placards.  

Australia's imperialist intervention

51. The global economic and environmental crises continue the drive for imperialist economic, political and military intervention across the globe, for control over the world's key resources and markets. The Australian government is complicit in these interventions, pursues its own regional imperialist interests in the Asia-Pacific. It has strengthened its alliance with the US — providing renewed US military access to Australian territory for spy bases, hosting military units and holding joint military exercises. 52. The Abbott government's announcement to allocate $2.4 billion to purchase fighter jets (a decision supported by the ALP), while refusing to allocate funds to pensions and healthcare, shows the Abbott government's anti-social and pro-US war alliance priorities. 53. In pursuit of markets for Australian goods, and under the guise of trade and development aid, Australian capitalism is bullying Pacific Island nations to enter into free trade agreements which would pit Australia's economy against small, vulnerable countries in unequal competition that will see a “free flow” of wealth to Australia and undermine the trade protections in place in these nations.

Socialist Alliance and elections

54. The Socialist Alliance welcomes the re-election of Sam Wainwright to the Fremantle Council with an increased majority vote, reflecting the community recognition of Sam's work on Council and in various struggles. Socialist Alliance will continue to support the work of Sam Wainwright in his role. The election of Socialist Alliance candidate Sue Bolton in the 2012 Moreland City Council elections in Victoria has opened up a new front of political work for the Socialist Alliance in supporting and encouraging community activism and resistance in Melbourne's northern suburbs. Through Sue Bolton's work and our engagement, we have won authority in the community and in the growing campaign against the Napthine LNP state government's proposed construction of the East-West Link. 55. There is widespread disaffection with the major parties. This has led to both a growth in electoral support for populist parties, such as the mining billionaire (Clive) Palmer's Palmer United Party and various small, (sometimes) right-wing “micro” parties in recent elections, as well as to a shift in support to the Greens, for example, in the recent WA Senate re-election. 56. Socialist Alliance sees participation in elections as an important part of our political work, and a means to get a hearing for our ideas amongst the broader working class – a harder task outside of election time. While objective conditions, along with the small size and relative isolation of the left, mean that socialist candidates do not receive large votes at present , nevertheless there are benefits for socialists in pursuing the electoral tactic even today (as our modest advances at local council level show). 57. Elections provide an opportunity to propose solutions to the problems of society that cannot be fixed without a radical redistribution of wealth and democratisation of the economy. Our 2013 federal electoral platform – calling for the nationalisation of the mines, banks and energy sector under community and workers' control – is an example of this. It is not enough for socialists to pose the question of revolution in the abstract; electoral work forces us to find ways to explain our ideas in a way a broader audience can understand. 58. Decisions to run in elections should be based on branch resources, but there is a strong argument to run where we have the resources to do so. Some leftists argue that it's futile to contest elections while the left is so small and the level of class struggle is low. But not to run means abandoning the electoral terrain to the populist parties, to the right wing and to the ALP. We have also built Socialist Alliance through electoral campaigns, with many people finding out about us for the first time. 59. Socialist Alliance continues to prioritise building the social movements, and providing political leadership by championing the need for democracy and arguing for strategies that mobilise the largest numbers of people. We see our electoral work as an extension of this.

The Greens, ALP and left unity

60. The Socialist Alliance recognises that the largest part of the electoral space to the left of Labor is still being filled by the Greens. 61. The deepening crisis of legitimacy of the ALP continues despite attempts by its weakened left wing to democratise the party. In response to Abbott's Royal Commission into the unions there have been calls to break ties with the union movement to avoid the inevitable fallout and protect the party's electoral prospects in the short term. However it is the ALP's domination of the trade union movement that continues to be a major block to building a fight against neoliberalism and austerity, and this must be broken. 62. The recent success of WA Greens Scott Ludlum's Senate re-election campaign showed that the Greens can successfully mobilise their members and supporters to win an electoral victory. Yet, the Greens do not devote the same sort of resources to social or union movement campaigns. In the campaign against unconventional gas, for instance, while the Greens are increasingly winning credibility among rural communities, they often back the more bureaucratic methods of environmental NGOs. 63. Since the ALP abandoned any morality on the question of refugees and asylum-seekers, the Greens have filled the void to become the parliamentary voice of the refugee campaign. However Greens' policy supporting mandatory detention for up to 30 days continues to be correctly criticised by the radical section of the refugee rights movement. 64. The Greens are limited by their electoralist orientation and have lost significant support in their heartland of Tasmania, where they partnered with the ALP in the Tasmanian state government to cut health and education spending. 65. The Greens ongoing support for emissions trading reveals the limitations of their pro-market politics on such central questions as climate change, and they continue to face the choice between challenging or accommodating to capitalist rule. 66. The Socialist Alliance continues to seek the greatest possible political collaboration with the Greens, and in particular with those on the left of the Greens who are seeking to influence the direction of the Greens. But we have a responsibility to present a socialist perspective at elections and to present clear alternative policies and critiques when the Greens accommodate to or adopt neoliberal policies, or are in government presiding over neoliberal attacks and privatisations. 67. The Socialist Alliance also looks to collaborate with all ALP members who resist the neoliberal policies of Labor in government, its racist and inhumane treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and refugees, its attacks on democratic rights and its support for imperialist wars. 68. Socialist Alliance will continue to seek broad unity of the left, and at the same time to build and strengthen our party. Left unity which seeks to build the movements for social change is crucial to building the largest progressive alternative possible and to convincing the mass of working people to break with the ALP.


1. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) puts the household debt to income ratio (measuring household liabilities, i.e. housing and other personal debt, as a proportion of annual household gross disposable income) at 149% in December 2013, just below its 153% peak in 2006. In 1976, this ratio was approximately 25%. 2. According to the RBA, unemployment in Australia is now at levels seen during the 2008 GFC (at the time of writing it is at 6%, with Tasmania hovering around 8%), and the ratio of employment to the working-age population has declined to its lowest level since 2005 (down to 64%). Measures of underemployment, which include employed workers wanting to work more hours, remain around their highest levels in the past decade. The participation rate of 15 to 24 year olds and males aged 25 to 54 years declined between 2010—2013. 3. See the April 2014 report by the Brotherhood of St Lawrence, On the Treadmill: Young and Longterm Unemployed in Australia. 4. According to research by the ACTU. 5. ACTU statistics also show that households with low paid adult employees have experienced a rise in financial stress and deprivation over the 6 years between 2003/4 and 2009/10. Over that period, the proportion that sought assistance from a welfare or community organisation nearly doubled, from 2.3% to 4.2%. Among households with only low-paid adult employees, the rise was even larger, from 2.4% to 6.5%. 6. According to the OECD, relative poverty in Australia — despite our being cushioned from the worst of the GFC — sits at 14.4%. This is higher than the OECD average of 11.3%. Child poverty in Australia has increased from 2007—2010, according to the report. The OECD report noted that 10% of Australians reported in 2011/12 that they could not afford to buy enough food, an increase over previous years. (Up from 8.8% in 2006/7). 7. Climate Tracker news 8. Climate Tracker brief. 9. See here. 10. to less than 60% (63% in 1960, 75% in 1975). 11. A report released in May by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) said low-income households headed by women will bear the heaviest burden under the changes proposed in the budget. NATSEM modelled the impact of the $7.5 billion in budget cuts on family benefits — even without the $7 GP co-payment — and concluded that a sole parent of two school-aged children would lose 14.8% of their disposable income by 2017. This type of family will be the hardest hit of all family types. For a detailed outline of the budget impacts on women, read "Why block the budget is a feminist demand", by Karen Fletcher, published in Green Left Weekly, May 24, 2014. 12. According to the ABS, during the year ended December 2013, there were 131,000 working days lost, compared with 273,200 in the year ended December 2012. Source. 13. According to the RBA, nationwide, housing price inflation has been above the average of the past decade, up by 10% in the last year. The minimum wage has less than doubled in the past 20 years compared to a 250 per cent increase in housing prices. Rental vacancies have declined by half in 10 years from 4% to 2% (2003—2013). 14. Aboriginal people represent only 3% of the total population, yet make up more than 28% of Australia’s prison population. In 1992, the ratio was one in seven so if Aboriginal detention continues at the same rate, Australia is heading towards one in two of the prison population comprised by Aboriginal prisoners – by 2020.