Federal Election 2019: Meet the Australian Workers Party

Summary

Website: http://www.australianworkersparty.org/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AusWorkersParty/
Slogans:
Real people. Real choices. Real Voices.
Themes: Universal job guarantee, rights for workers, equality, fair wages. The party for disillusioned Labor voters.
Electorate:
NSW, VIC
Preferences: To be updated when the how to vote cards are declared.

Policies & Commentary

The Australian Workers’ Party are exactly what you would expect from a party with that name, only with worse web design.  (Graphic design is evidently too bourgeois?)

Our goal is to stand up for working people.
People that are currently working; those who seek work; those who cannot work:
Those who have given their best years working; and their families.
The AWP will represent the best interests of the Australian worker.
​We will strive for social & economic justice, with no excuses.
Join us today and be the change you want to see in politics!

Our commitment is to view, judge any proposed law or policy with one simply rule:
“How will it benefit the working people of this nation?”

(Standard punctuation was the first up against the wall when the revolution came.)

OK, that’s not really fair of me.  It looks like this party was founded by people who are largely from a blue collar / tradie background, whereas my job currently involves editing other people’s writing and writing sarcastic comments in the margins.  I can’t change a washer or reattach my bicycle chain to save myself.  So I probably shouldn’t take cheap shots at people who have different skill sets from mine.  Especially when I sympathise with their politics.

(Though, actually, the writing on their policy pages is fine – it’s just the front page where the punctuation came to a sticky end.  What happened?)

(Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve just invited the demons of terrible typos and unfortunate double entendres into this post, because that’s what happens when you mock people’s grammar on the internet.)

Unfortunately, I have had a frustrating few days, I’ve been in pain all week, and I’m deeply cranky right now, and so the AWP is likely to get an unfair level of sarcasm.  I should probably be writing about one of the horrible right wing parties right now, only my head would probably explode.

So let’s be clear from the start, as the granddaughter of a staunch Italian Communist Party voter, I am wholly in favour of these sentiments, however you punctuate them.

I also quite like their definition of working people, which is expanded to include… well, everybody, really.  Current workers, former workers, people who would like to work but can’t for whatever reason.  It is, now I think of it, the party not of individual workers, but of the working class as a whole.  I think we should emphasise this now, because I suspect it will become important later.

In the page footer, we have the following statement:

WORKING POOR – NO MORE! We seek real political change for all workers and their families through equality, progressive reform and social & economic justice.

Why they put this at the bottom of the page is beyond me – I mean, it’s in large red capital letters, so they clearly weren’t trying to hide it (and indeed, why would you?  It’s an admirable sentiment – we work to live, and if work can’t make us a living, then that’s a huge problem), but, as I said.  Web design is not their strength.  (Or perhaps it is a Soviet-Union-style distrust of aesthetics? Yes, I am going to be making communist jokes ALL OVER this commentary.  Sorry, but those are the rules.)

Of course, it does mean that this appears on every page, like some sort of slogan or refrain.

On their ‘About’ page, the AWP informs us that:

“We believe it is possible to create decent local jobs, to make housing more affordable and to give every person the chance to live a happy and fulfilled life”.

These are all excellent ideas, and I am fast becoming much less cranky.  The AWP tells me that they are tired of excuses and political elites, and that they are guided by “common sense and a desire for social justice”. They want a fair go for all Australians, which includes decent wages, a better future for children, and people’s rights to be respected.  They embrace their status as a microparty, and intend to fight for our rights.

If you are fed up too, then here’s what the AWP wants to do;     To hear your concerns, to speak up and fight for the everyday things that truly matter to Australian workers and their families.

  • To begin a push for change in the political process and how our Parliament functions: no more “Dorothy Dixer” questions or  childish behaviour from MPs, no more gravy train-snouts-in-the-trough for careerist politicians.
  • To pursue jobs, industry supports and demand real (permanent, not casual) job creation here at home.
  • To address people’s concerns over services that are being taken away or the lack of proper funding to education and other vital community services.
  • To fight for workers’ rights, fair workplace laws, workers’ safety and to be a strong advocate for Trade Unionism.
  • To protect our unique natural environment and address the effects of climate change.

Their ‘Our People’ page is a roll call of former ALP members and current Trade Union members, mostly from blue collar industries. These are people who have been watching the ALP’s slide to the right, and attempts to disassociate itself from its Union roots, and are not happy about this.  In fact, my feeling is that the AWP is to Labor what parties like One Nation and the Shooters and Fishers are to the Liberals and the Nationals – it’s a party that sees itself as a custodian of Labor’s traditional values – values that Labor has stepped away from.  Whether it will be a threat to Labor on that scale remains to be seen.

The AWP have a raft of policy positions in 36 different areas, all of which are worked out in quite a bit of detail.  This is good for them, but not for me, as their humble reviewer.

Let’s start with their raft of policies on employment, unemployment, and the War on the Poor.

You will be shocked – shocked! – to hear that the AWP is pro-union.

We believe that every Australian has the right to join the Trade Union of their choice and participate in the collective activities of their Union without fear of reprisal. We believe in freedom of association. We also acknowledge the incredible contribution to the Australian community made by the Trade Union movement. Australia is a better, stronger and fairer nation because of our Trade Unions. The Australian Trade Union movement has been at the forefront of social change and improvement for generations. We all have better lives because of Unions.

Having said that, they want better governance, an end to cronyism, and more democratic unions, including audits of unions by the Fair Work Commission.  Basically, the AWP wants everyone to join the union because the union is worth joining.

The AWP is also big on protecting your rights at work, including portable entitlements, the right to strike, and a national code of practice to protect the consistency of wages and conditions of apprentices and trainees. They want a socially inclusive minimum wage, a restoration of penalty rates, better unfair dismissal laws, criminal Industrial Manslaughter laws, and a requirement for casual employees to be made permanent after three months.

Every worker should be able to afford housing, food, clothing, run a car, utilities and have enough left over to have a movie night or day at the footy with their family occasionally.

They want to create a Universal Job Guarantee to replace Newstart, and wow, I think this is actual real life communism, or am I just confused because of growing up in the 1980s?  Anyway, the idea is that instead of Work for the Dole, local Governments would create ‘community beneficial programs paid at the minimum wage’.

  • Imagination is the only limit on what type of jobs are created. Anything from Life Guards to Graffiti removal and everything in between. It could even be as simple as helping elderly Australians cross the road.

This fills me with unhealthy delight.  But let’s head over to their whole page on the Universal Job Guarantee for more.

A Job Guarantee could also recognise what has been traditionally unpaid care work such as child rearing and care for elderly or disabled relatives with a socially inclusive minimum wage. This has the potential to revolutionise economic outcomes for women who have long been disadvantaged by their over representation in unpaid care work. The Job Guarantee, being locally administered, also provides scope for economically disadvantaged communities such as indigenous people or ethnic minorities to experience full economic participation at the same time as retaining a level of self determination and empowerment. The exact nature of the work will vary from place to place and from time to time. Again, the question is up to you: look around you and talk to local council authorities. What could you get done in your community if the federal government guaranteed funding to hire anyone unemployed by the private sector?

This sounds quite Utopian, to be honest.  I honestly have no idea how it would work in the real world.  I mean, on one level, it looks suspiciously like they are replacing the Parenting or Carer’s allowance with the minimum wage, which I would certainly support.  And I could see my local council loving this to bits, because People’s Republic of Moreland.  But… would it work?

I note that they want to make sure that disabled or elderly people have access to this scheme if they want to – the goal is to find them something meaningful that they can do and want to do and compensate them appropriately – but if nothing fits, you’d still get a pension. As for those who are healthy but unwilling to work:

Being completely unwilling to take part in such a programme when the definition of “job” can be modified to fit in with the skills, experience and preferences of the participants should be treated more as a mental illness than delinquency and treated with counselling rather than punitive measures.

They have a bunch of FAQs, one of which is ‘Is this communism?’, to which they answer, no, Catherine, if you want to give this a political label it would fall under the banner of Social Democracy.  (OK, they don’t actually mention me by name, but I’m pretty sure they were talking to me at the time.)  I stand corrected, but not wholly convinced.

They also answer – at length – a question about why create jobs when we could just give people money, and also why this instead of a Universal Basic Income.  I’ll quote some of what they say below:

Providing income without employment also does nothing to offset the effects of the “last fired, first hired” preferences that the private sector has for skilled employees. It does nothing to eliminate discrimination, or to preserve “human capital” and keep a “labour ready” workforce of effective and efficient employees. Work is a healthy undertaking. Work is what we do for other people, and hobbies are what we do for ourselves. If a government provides only a cash payment then it abdicates responsibility for helping people maintain or enhance their skills, ready for when private sector employment becomes available. A government that provides only a cash payment also abdicates it’s responsibility for ensuring everyone is able to fully participate not only in the economy, but also in their community…

All a Job Guarantee does is compensate people adequately for their contribution to their community, at times when they are unable to find private sector employment. This achieves exactly what the UBI aims to achieve, but in an economically realistic fashion.

This still sounds rather Utopian to me, but it’s an experiment that I’d like to see given more consideration.

In the meantime, the AWP has some other thoughts about the unemployed. They are absolutely against the Cashless Welfare Card, which, among other things, ‘prevents frugal living by not allowing the purchase of used or locally grown goods for cash’.  They want to increase the level of NewStart, recommission Commonwealth Employment Services and get rid of for-profit employment services and punitive measures for those on income support payments.  They want to end the ‘War on the Poor’ – they believe in a compassionate society.

We must do all we can to eradicate poverty, to end suffering and to lift up our brothers and sisters who find themselves on hard times.

As a community we must reject those who would chastise and marginalise people for being poor. To have a compassionate society is a worthwhile goal and for the AWP, one which we will advocate strongly for.

​We are not bleeding hearts; we are just people who realise helping others in need is the decent thing to do.

I like this party so much.

The AWP has some concerns about the NDIS, as really, don’t we all?  Mostly, they want it to have more funding, and to be properly organised, with better interfaces with aged care and mental health.  They don’t mention chronic illness, and I wish they would, because that’s handled really poorly by the NDIS, but they do want to make it easier for people who run into difficulties to get redress, and they want to crack down on dodgy service providers.  They want NDIS-trained planners to be the first port of call when accessing the scheme, rather than having people go through individual agencies.

Basically, these sound like reasonable starting points for reform, but this policy isn’t one of their really big, detailed ones.

The aged pension plan is much more detailed and starts out by quoting Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and they make a point of noting that ‘Being older and relying on assistance does not equate to working /not working as many older people continue to contribute to society when they can.’

(I could go into a broader contemplation of what constitutes contributing to society, and what level of contribution ‘justifies’ our existence, because there is an implicit judgment there, but this post is going to be thesis-length, so I think I’d better just leave that as a point to ponder.)

Anyway, they want to means-test the pension, though the house you live in, deposits for aged care accommodation, superannuation, funeral bonds and disability trusts don’t get counted.  The pension should be linked to the Full Time Average Weekly Ordinary Time Earnings, less tax, and would be 50% of this for a single person or 1.326 times this for a couple. (I wonder how they devised that second figure?)

They also want better supports for in home care, better quality aged care facilities, and the establishment of a national oral history program, which is pretty cool.

On health, the AWP supports medicare and wants it to be expanded to include dental.  The government just needs to do this already, every second party is demanding it, it’s clearly a popular and needed choice.  Says she who never goes to the dentists.  They want to legalise medical cannabis and have more funding for mental health services, allied health, and – woohoo! – medical research!

The AWP also supports small businesses, possibly because large corporations are the True Enemy of the People (I may be being a little frivolous here, but that’s about the flavour of it).  They are particularly concerned about infrastructure costs, which we will get to shortly, and about small regional and agricultural businesses which are in competition with large monopolies.

For these agricultural businesses, they want fair prices for eggs, milk, etc; easier access to drought assistance and to legal advice against foreclosures.  They want ‘fair trade, not free trade’, and ‘a review of all FTAs to ensure a fair deal for primary producers & their employees’ – they don’t want overseas farm produce undercutting locally-grown fruit and veg.  (In general, they are moderately protectionist, and want Australia to own its own land and resources.) They want to encourage organic farming, and also get CSIRO into research and development in agriculture and water management.  They are against live exports of animals, and also whaling – which I think makes their only two animal-centric policies.  They also want schools to incorporate small farms and teach students to grow food and look after domestic animals.

Moving on to energy and the environment, the AWP wants to re-nationalise the Australian power grid.  They are angry that privatisation has ‘taken a basic right, a basic essential service, and priced it as a luxury many people frequently cannot afford’.  They also feel that corporate greed is getting in the way of a shift to renewable technologies.  I’m in favour of all of this, but I suspect they are a bit optimistic in their intention to buy back assets at the prices they were sold for:

There is no call for profit margin in these transactions, as these foreign companies have made more than enough profit off the backs of hard working Australians for far too long.
We would further seek, as a penalty, and further deterrent for other corporations operating our national infrastructure and essential services, to reduce the buy-back price incrementally, based on the company’s failures to meet their obligations and service requirements during the term of their lease/ownership.

I mean, yes, in principle you have a point, but how do you make that happen?

They want government investment in and support for new, green technologies – in fact, they want more government support for research, science, technology, and development in general, through grant-based opportunities.  The phrase ‘grant-based opportunities’ makes me want to weep right now, but it’s still good policy.

The AWP supports removal of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and is strongly in favour of clean energy.  They are anti-nuclear.  I don’t understand their policy very well beyond this, to be honest, but it is quite detailed, so presumably someone who does understand this stuff would be able to tell pretty quickly whether it was feasible.  Here’s what they have to say about hyrdo, for example:

We support the use of the Snowy, Kiewa and Tasmanian hydro electricity systems as network batteries. (Pumped Hydro) During times of abundant power from other sources (wind, photo voltaic, solar) generation, water in the hydro systems is pumped back up-hill into the dams. At times of peak power demand, the dam water is released back through the turbines to generate the needed power. This is making use of a resource, water, many times over.

They also want to decentralise power networks, remove electricity distribution poles and wires, and store power locally in a micro-network.

Unfortunately, the link to their water management policy is broken, however their policy on regional development mentions the need for changes to water licenses:

Commercial enterprises, including the very large farming interests like Cubbie Station, can no longer be given rights to contain and divert massive amounts of water from our river systems, denying our environment, wildlife, and towns and populations downstream of this essential life giving commodity – a fundamental right.

Farming practices and crop choices need to be seriously reconsidered – the continuation of growing crops unsuitable for our environment is a major contributor to the issues surrounding water supply, chemical contamination and environmental impact. Mining and resource ventures must be prevented from negatively impacting our water supplies. And infrastructure to begin moving water from areas prone to significant flooding events to areas who traditionally suffer from long term drought, needs to be developed. 

I reckon I know when that bit of policy got written.

Also on regional Australia, they want significant investment into transport infrastructure, both road and rail (alas, their rail policy link is also broken), and they want to provide tax incentives to businesses that relocate to rural areas and employ locals, which is a pretty good idea, and one I haven’t seen elsewhere, at least so far.  Similarly, they want to give University free rebates to professionals who locate themselves in regional and rural areas for a minimum of 3 or 5 years.

They don’t much like 457 visas, which they view as facilitating exploitation of overseas workers while driving down salaries for Australians.

We as people who have actually worked for a living find it ridiculous that anyone in Parliament can claim surprise over illegal workers or those on expired visas, or employers paying what is now being referred to as slave wages. Anybody who has ever picked fruit or worked day labouring jobs will tell you they have had offers of lower cash wages.

This little scam is primarily designed to save the employer wage costs, dodge superannuation payments, ignore insurance and abuse then discard the workers. We propose the reinstatement of the Immigration & Workplace Inspectorate. Officers would randomly attended businesses to detect these issues. Successive Governments have cut back these types positions until they have all but cease to exist. We would advocate for these positions to be returned to our Government agencies in every city, and every regional centre across Australia.

Sounds fair to me.

The AWP wants more government funding for apprenticeships, TAFE, and public schools, and early education, and less for private schools (who ought to share their assets with public schools – a somewhat revolutionary proposal).  This is unsurprising.  They support teachers, who they feel should be better paid, and they are against a performance-based wage structure.  There are good reasons to be against such a structure (it can disadvantage teachers working in schools where the students are disadvantage, and it also often works as a cover for discrimination), but the AWP doesn’t mention them, and I wish they would – the policy as it stands plays far too easily into popular stereotypes of union-supported incompetents demanding unreasonable wages.  Which, ironically, undermines their argument for more respect for the teaching profession…

The AWP believes in inclusiveness and supporting children.

AWP is committed to ensure no child is subject to any detriment or discrimination due to their ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, cultural heritage, gender, geographical location or financial status. We do not support any barriers in the provision of education.
We would support all measures to guarantee that every child is given every opportunity to excel to achieve to success. AWP would support any proposal which increased funding to specialist educators to facilitate the maximum access to our education system for children and adults with special needs. 

University should be free to Australian students, though some paid places could be allowed for overseas students or even domestic students – but with no help from the government.  OK, then.

The AWP believes in equality, including gender equality and wage parity:

We believe in equality. Equality in opportunity, in rights, in the workplace, in ownership, in justice and in an individual’s right to live a happy life. We do not support any measure that inhibits equality or divides our community. Equality connects people rather than divides them. A society where we are all equal and enjoy equality in all aspects of our lives is happier, more productive and more likely to face the challengers of the future.

Can’t argue with that.

On public safety, the AWP doesn’t feel that the police should be ‘a de facto security force to be used against striking workers, any voices in opposition of government policy, the poor or to be deployed at the behest of the owners of capital‘, but they very strongly support community policing, with an emphasis on prevention, education and community interaction.

We support efficient, well resourced and prevention-focused police services that work with the community and not against them.

I’m having a Wellington Paranormal moment here, but honestly, this does sound like a good model for all involved – if we can create trust between our police and the communities they serve, then everyone is safer (including, obviously, the police).  And this seems to be the goal.

The AWP supports our current gun laws, and wants freedom from extremism of all kinds.

Although we support the right of expression and the freedom of speech, we have zero tolerance for those people who identify as Nazis or as part of any sub-cultural grouping of extreme fascism. We feel that such groups should be identified and outlawed as terror groups as are such other groups that identify with ISIS or any other known terrorist organisations. Our community should not be subjected to hate-filled fanatics whose main aim is to cause violence and civil unrest.

They also want the media to be better regulated, rather than allowing people to stir up community division.

On domestic violence, the AWP takes an equally firm line.  Domestic violence is domestic terrorism, and we need to be educating children about respect for women and about healthy relationships and the signs of potentially harmful relationships.  They support domestic violence leave and emergency funding and low-interest loans for victims of domestic violence seeking urgent accommodation, and they also support making anger management, substance abuse and other psychological support programs available through Medicare.

Needless to say, I like all of these policies.

The AWP also stands in solidarity with Indigenous Austrlians.  (They don’t phrase it like that, but I think they are missing an opportunity by failing to do so, because that would be *so* their style).  Basically, they don’t believe in telling ATSI Australians what is best for them, and they do believe in listening:

Our party, which sits within the non-Indigenous community, does not have the lived experiences of Indigenous peoples. We cannot possibly pretend to know what it is like to be Indigenous in Australia in 2019 nor would we impose what we thought was best for those communities. However, we would be open to be guided by them and to then advocate on their behalf, with a spirit of honesty and respect.

They do have some ideas about policy here – a treaty, an end to the NT Intervention, an enquiry into price gouging in Aboriginal communities, funding for Aboriginal education, forth implementation of the Deaths in Custody Royal Commission and Closing the Gap measures, and so forth – but they clearly feel that it is up to the Indigenous community to decide the priorities.

I like this a lot, too.

This is so very long, I am sorry.  I’ll be brief on the rest.  On housing, the AWP opposes negative gearing.  I’m sure you can guess why.  On tax, they propose a more progressive taxation system, with no tax at all for those earning $75,000 or less.  They also want to remove the GST.  I honestly think their taxes are a bit low overall for all the things they want to fund, and I say that as someone who would be paying much less tax under their model.

The AWP is worried about Family Law, particularly as it pertains to child safety.  I’m not sure how effective all their ideas will be, but more funding for the system couldn’t hurt.

The AWP thinks we need to take politics out of the national conversation on Immigration, and support an independent body whose job would be to set immigration at a sustainable level.

Our proposal would see the gathering of experts in environmental sustainability, economic forecasting, social science along with representatives from the broader community. It would be a meeting of experts in their fields along with community representation. No elected politician would have a place in this body. 

The task of the commission would be to determine, based solely upon evidence, the capacity of Australia to set levels of immigration sustainability. The commission would also have carriage of the yearly numbers of refugee intakes and would consider external circumstances and events as well as environmental and economic sustainability.

This actually sounds really sane and sensible.   Also, the AWP says very firmly that people have a right to seek asylum, that offshore detention is not OK, especially for children, and we should process people in a timely fashion and let them settle here if they pass the appropriate checks. Good for them.

The AWP supports a republic, more bicycle infrastructure, and your privacy.  They also care a lot about shipping, and I’m just going to give you the link to this policy, because it’s long and I’m not qualified to assess it and this blog post is already 5,000 words long.

And that is quite enough about the AWP.  At this stage, I have to say, I think they have my vote.  They may be Utopian, but it’s a Utopia I’d like to give a try. It will be interesting to see how they do.

Eurovision Theme Song as determined by me, very objectively

I have been so hoping to find a party worthy of the Buranovskiye Babushki, and here we are.  I mean, what is the AWP if not the Party for Everybody?

The fact that it’s a bunch of sweet elderly Russian ladies wearing red dresses is just a bonus, really.  The AWP is not the  Red under the Bed, mostly because they are not in any way trying to hide their redness.  And nor should they.  Let’s dance!

2 thoughts on “Federal Election 2019: Meet the Australian Workers Party

  1. Regarding that banner at the bottom – while there are roughly as many schools of web design thought as there are beasts of prey, two of the most common metaphors for that bottom area are “the foundation” and “the bottom of the page”.

    The foundation idea is that this is the base of it all, which is why you’ll often find a lot of navigation links there. It’s probably the most popular metaphor (most business sites use it, for example).

    The bottom of the page is a metaphor borrowed from books, the idea that this is the last thing you’ll read and therefore the thing you’re most likely to retain. Also a popular metaphor, but more often used in government sites, where some sort of legal message is located there.

    This isn’t too bad a usage, although most political parties tend to use the foundation style. It has some design issues, i.e. 4 different non-background colours, five different text sizes, three different fonts, off centre and taller than it needs to be – but it’s basically okay. Which is what I would say about the site as a whole – it’s one of those “good design, could so easily have been better” things, the kind that are more frustrating than a terrible design because they’re so close to being really good.

    Also, dudes, for such a huge and sprawling site, the navigation is terrible. There should be a search function. And knock it off with opening a new tab for every single mouseclick.

    • Fair enough. I didn’t know that about the bottom of the page idea. I mean, I’m really no good on web design, but if I were, I’d volunteer to help fix it – I like their policies quite a bit, and would be happy to support them.

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