On November 24 John Howard's Liberal Government was voted out of office in Australia.

The key to the defeat of John Howard was the union campaign against Work Choices.When hundreds of thousands responded to the call for mass strikes and protest in the streets, it was the beginning of the end for Howard.

WorkChoices was Howard's attempt to wipe out many of the reforms Australian workers have win in the past in order to shore up the profits of an ageing capitalism. For all the talk of prosperity and a booming economy, the fact is there are one million working poor in Australia, and growing job insecurity - while the cost of basic necessities such as housing, food, education and health make a mockery of Howard's claim that families have "never had it so good".

While our media glibly talk about 40,000 New Zealanders having headed to the so-called 'greener pastures' of Australia in the past year, a little research by the corporate media would of revealed that Australian streets are not paved with gold.

The campaign for union rights and to defend workers' living standards was the key to putting Howard on the run and to ending Liberal rule - but will things will be any better under Kevin Rudd's Labor?

It didn't get off to a promising start when Rudd opened his election night victory by singing the praises of Howard:

"I want to acknowledge for the entire Australian nation and publicly recognise Mr Howard's extensive contribution to public service in Australia."

Indeed at no stage has Rudd spoken out against the neo-liberal agenda. In fact in numerous interviews and speeches he has always stressed his economic conservatism.

Revealingly our Minister of Finance, Michael Cullen, has commented that the New Zealand Labour Government is similar in economic philosphy and direction to that of the new Australian government. Once again, our conservative media failed to pick Cullen up on this remark.

Australian voters have voted out Howard's neo-liberal agenda only to have it replaced by Kevin Rudd's neo-liberal agenda. Despite the camapaign against WorkChoices Rudd has already said that a lot of the WorkChoice reforms will stay in place.

It was predictable from Rudd, but sickening to see a Labor mass audience give some of their loudest applause at Labor's campaign launch to Rudd's declaration that "Reckless spending must stop!" This came out of the mouth of a politician who as a state government bureaucrat in Queensland, wiped out the jobs of many public servants and attacked the working conditons of the public servants who managed to keep their jobs.

In his victory speech, Rudd declared "Australia's long term challenges demand a new consensus. I'm determined to forge that consensus... I want to put aside the old battles of the past, the old battles between business and unions".

The last time Labor committed their government to "consensus" was under Hawke in 1983 - a consensus that delivered a massive transfer of wealth from workers to big business. Labor's determination to forge that consensus led to the deregistration of the BLF, the most militant union in the country, the destruction of the pilots' union and attacks on nurses in Victoria because they dared to defy the restrictions on pay rises required for this "consensus".

Thirteen years of this "consensus" was nothing of the sort, it was the imposition of the bosses' agenda at any cost to workers' rights and living standards. That is what it promises this time round.

As we have seen here in New Zealand, Labour governments might get voted into offce by ordinary workers but they can never be trusted to actually serve the interests of workers.


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