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Issue 574, 5 October 2007 - All unions should back the Greens

Greens must not fall for Labor's dirty tricks

THE CALLING of the federal election is imminent. The election itself will have contradictory effects. On one hand, the issue of class will be at the forefront of the campaign in a way we haven't seen for years. TV screens and newspapers will be dominated by ads from the government, big business and to a lesser extent Labor and the unions over WorkChoices, housing and interest rates. It is a reminder of how Australia is deeply divided between a mega-rich elite and a working majority.

On the other hand, the lack of policy difference between the two major parties only encourages an enormous feeling of cynicism towards the election. Labor is taking a huge risk by toeing Kevin Rudd's conservative political line.

Rudd has succeeded in alienating the core of his support by promising to ban the right to strike, the right of union entry to workplaces and to continue with the anti-union Building Industry Commission and AWA individual contracts.

Even conservative union leaders are sick of Rudd's anti-union moralising. Now Labor has overturned its opposition to the Liberals' Medicare safety net, despite the evidence that it is being used as a cash cow for the rich (see Page 2).

If Labor snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, it will be because it has offered nothing to its supporters. That's why all unions should support the Greens in every seat. Producing material that encourages people to vote either Green or Labor or to vote Labor in the lower house and Green in the upper house does not go far enough-its much better and clearer to say vote 1 Green, 2 Labor everywhere. That way we are saying 'vote out Howard, but send a message to Labor'. But the growing anger inside the unions also sends a strong message to the Greens.

Bob Brown's strategy is to hold out on any decision to preference Labor. Many Greens point to Labor's policy betrayals over IR, the Tasmanian pulp mill or that fact it is considering a preference deal with Family First. There is no doubt that these moves are a disgrace and a sign of Labor's political degeneration. But what most Greens do not get is that Labor is deliberately trying to wedge the Greens.

For example, an article about the Greens' performance at two recent Victorian state by-elections appeared on September 20 in New Matilda. The article, written by Labor supporters Hugo Kelly and Rebekkah Power, was nasty and sectarian, arguing that the Greens "needed to pick up" Liberal voters and that "they were not going to win this by-election by pitching themselves to disaffected Labor voters".

Naturally, Labor supporters don't want the Greens picking up their votes! Well aware of this point, Labor is publicly toying with Family First in the hope that it will cause indecision and, eventually, open-tickets. They will use this to keep playing dirty tricks, claiming that the Greens don't care about getting rid of Howard-or, as in Victoria, that they are in cahoots with the Liberals.

The Greens must not fall into this carefully laid trap. Many local Greens groups agree with the need to preference Labor. But that is not the message coming from the top.

The Greens have a choice to make-either it is the party of working people and the progressive left or it is a minor party that focuses on amending bad legislation in the Senate.

The latter route is a dead-end, epitomised by the spectacular decline of the Democrats in the last decade. But in order to take the first route, the Greens must change direction while it still can. This means preferencing Labor across the board, starting a dialogue with Labor voters in key local areas and returning to the activist roots of the party.

Put war at the campaign's centre

THE MAIN issues at this election are destined to be WorkChoices, housing, economic management and interest rates. Climate change will get some mention too. But neither major party is interested in discussing Iraq or the War on Terror-Howard because it is now an electoral liability and Rudd because it raises uncomfortable questions about the US alliance.

Unfortunately we don't have a national anti-war movement that is capable of forcing the war onto the agenda. But there are anti-war coalitions in each city that can inject anti-war politics into the election campaign at a local level.

Every appearance by a Liberal MP should be met with protest and, whenever possible, anti-war groups should link up with Rights at Work, Labor and Greens supporters.

Even the Greens don't have the war on their political radar. So we can push things along by engaging with Greens groups at a local level, encouraging concrete links between individual Greens and anti-war groups in order to strengthen both.