3 September 2020

Paddy Manning: “News that the Morrison government is planning to fast-track $158 billion in legislated tax cuts in the October budget should sound the alarm for the labour movement. Not only is the Coalition using the pandemic as cover to wage culture wars against its old enemies in universities, the media and the arts, but it is also using the recession to accelerate a neoliberal policy agenda that threatens to permanently undermine workers’ rights, reward the rich and beggar the nation’s finances. This would ensure radical austerity for years to come in what economist Richard Denniss describes as the ‘right-wing ratchet’. Labor premiers who have celebrated the new national cabinet, and the ACTU (which is participating in a rushed round of talks with employers), should carefully consider whether the prime minister’s all-in-it-together schtick has been entirely genuine or whether, in fact, they have been comprehensively outplayed. So far, the national cabinet has functioned as an unaccountable body that has bolstered Scott Morrison and sidelined the federal Opposition. The new labour-market flexibility reforms, introduced along with the JobKeeper legislation at a time of crisis, may prove to be a Trojan Horse for an assault on workers’ rights. Memo to Daniel Andrews and Sally McManus: are you legitimising what looks likely to be an attack on the people you represent?”