Malcolm Turnbull, “Workers party policy: open slather on the right,” Nation Review, December 5-11, 1975, p. 193.
The extreme right in Australia has traditionally been both conservative and authoritarian. Groups like the League of Rights, the DLP and the National Civic Council have all, in theory at least, been almost as opposed to modern corporate capitalism as they have been to communism. The Santamarian society is one of small farms and small businesses.
These groups are also very concerned with social discipline. They see the family as the basic unit of society and consequently reject notions of womens liberation that challenge the wife and mother role of women. They also, for the same reason, oppose premarital sex, pornography, drugs or indeed anything that threatens their bourgeois conception of the society of patriarchal families.
The latest addition to the parties of the right, the Workers party, is very different. Its policy is based on the “principle” that “No man or group of men has the right to initiate the use of force, fraud or coercion against another man or group of men.” This apparently laudable sentiment is clarified by the objective of the party: “To offer an intelligent and practical alternative to socialism as practised and preached by the Labor and as practised by the Liberal and Country parties.”
The Workers party considers that the chief problem facing Australia is government — any government. According to its platform: “Power hungry people use government to exercise control over others; greedy people use it to gain personal advantage over others; lazy people use it to sponge on others; and pressure groups use it to enforce their will on others.”
Having advocated the eventual abolition of almost all government, the WP intends to replace it with private enterprise. The post office, the railways, the ABC will all be sold up to private enterprise. All crown land will be sold to individuals.
There will be no government control over the economy or trade. Taxation will be abolished and replaced by fee for service payments. Education will be non compulsory and, like the ABC, the state schools and universities will be flogged off to the highest bidder.
All government welfare services will eventually be abolished. The platform assures us that “in a free society where the right to dispose of one’s income as one chooses is not violated people will not only be in a better position to engage in and support voluntary welfare schemes, but will also be more willing to do so. It is naive to think that a few men in government care more or can do more for an deprived group than can be done by any concerned group outside government.”
The often repeated sentiment at WP meetings, “All men are equal, but different” is meaningless. Unless all people have equality of health care, equality of access to the law, equality of education and so on, they haven’t got a hope of being equal. What the WP is in fact doing is canonising greed.
The Workers Party does support trade unions’ freedom of negotiation but they oppose compulsory unionism, which is the only way unions can enforce solidarity. Where unionism is not compulsory the employer can always, by virtue of his superior resources, convince enough workers to keep working to break the strike.
The WP is also very different from the rest of the Australian right inasmuch as it carries its economic libertarianism over into the social sphere. The WP is just as opposed to restrictions on homosexuals, pot smokers, hotel opening hours, pornography and so on as it is to taxation.
The WP is also run by businessmen. With all due respect to the party hacks elsewhere, it is an advantage to have businessmen and professional managers running your party. It is an advantage to have your TV and other ads produced by John Singleton.
If the WP attracts a significant share of the vote then the anti-government, pro-business instincts of the conservatives in the Liberal party will be confirmed. Malcolm Fraser may even be sufficiently emboldened to cut the public service. Liberals have always promised this but have never delivered. If they think there is substantial support for this in the electorate, they may implement some of their rhetoric.
WP success could have more productive effects on the ALP. Many Labor members have been doubting the wisdom of constructing an enormous middleclass public service, particularly when it appears to be at the expense of bluecollar jobs. They argue that Labor should increase the encouragement it is giving to local groups to solve their own local problems. The setting-up of locally run childminding centres is an example of this sort of work. Worker and resident control, as opposed to paternal bureaucratic direction, could be the result of WP success.
Its impact on this election result is more doubtful. Since the party’s only election to date was a by-election in a state seat in Western Australia, there is little to go on for this poll. The WP is allocating its preferences to the DLP and then the Liberal-Country parties. If their supporters, as I believe, are almost entirely ex Liberal voters then they will have almost no effect, except to slightly lessen the Liberals first preference vote. However if their claim that one third of their members are ex Labor voters are correct, then they take some votes away from Labor and redistribute them to the conservatives.
In any event, the Workers party is a force to be reckoned with in Australian politics.
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