Medevac bill shows why we need a socialist election campaign

Refugees needing medical treatment will be sent to Christmas Island instead of the mainland.

The Socialist Alliance has a vision for a better world — and we are running in the federal election to share that vision and help make it become a reality.

There is no reason we should have to put up with record low-wage growth, especially as hundreds of very profitable corporations pay no tax at all.

There is no reason we should have to put up with the criminal behaviour of the Big Four banks, only to have the government bail them out (again) when they get caught.

And there is no reason we have to put up with corporate gangsters systematically dismantling our climate despite everyone knowing for decades that fossil fuel emissions need to be dramatically cut.

Nobody can rationally justify this. All they can say is: “Well, there is no alternative”.

But the truth is that there is.

Australia is a wealthy country. There is enough wealth to guarantee jobs, housing, education, health and more for everybody.

There is also enough to invest in 100% renewable energy and raise the amount of unconditional foreign aid we give to the Global South.

Australia’s billionaires increased their combined wealth by $100 million a day last year.

It is both fair and achievable to tax that wealth for social and environmental programs.

The first part of our message is that there is an alternative. Things don’t have to be this way.

The second part is that we need bold and radical action to achieve this better world.

The Socialist Alliance was among those who cheered the passing of the medevac bill, which was meant to allow those refugees on Manus Island and Nauru requiring medical attention evacuated to mainland Australia.

But we knew the Coalition was always going to use this to relaunch its racist scaremongering campaign, talking up a supposed influx of refugees due to this bill.

The Coalition knows that even a modest push back will inspire the refugee rights movement to push harder.

Unsurprisingly, after voting to pass the medevac bill, Labor has once again fallen in behind the Coalition.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has defended the Coalition’s proposal to instead send these refugees to a reopened detention centre on Christmas Island, arguing: “The issue here is the safe treatment of people within the context of strong borders”.

Labor, Independent MP Kerryn Phelps (who moved the medevac bill) and most of the crossbenchers that voted for it — with the notable exception of the Greens — continue to support Operation Sovereign Borders, boat turnbacks and offshore detention.

Labor’s shameful position on this critical human rights issue is a product of its close ties to the same corporate gangsters the Coalition represents.

While we congratulate those MPs who worked to get the bill passed, we should not lose sight of how the medevac bill came about: it was the result of years of grassroots action and, importantly, action by refugees who put their futures at risk by speaking out about the inhumane conditions on Nauru and Manus Island.

The current detention regime was put in place in 2001 when the Coalition, headed by then-prime minister John Howard, controlled both houses of parliament. At the time there was strong support for this policy.

Today, a majority disagree with this bipartisan approach that denies refugees who arrive in Australia by boat the right to settle here.

No government can withstand the power of a mass movement, mobilised around clear demands, which is seeking to engage more sectors of the community in demanding a chance in policy.

If we are going to get bolder action from Labor, and even Greens MPs, the movement has to be ready to challenge the racist dog whistling around refugees and point to the real problem we face — the growing wealth gap, with its flow-on impacts, including housing stress and domestic violence.

The Socialist Alliance’s election campaign aims to build support for socialist solutions and help strengthen grassroots campaigns.

Nothing scares the corporate gangsters and their parties more than ordinary people banding together to stand up for democracy, justice and freedom.

This is what our election campaign aims to advance.