Oceania

New Zealand perspectives 2014 should be read in conjunction with previous years' perspective documents as they are a continuation from them.  In addition these perspectives should be read in conjunction with the latest World Perspectives analysis and associated material from the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) and Socialist Appeal NZ.

This year sees the centenary of one of the major strikes in New Zealand. It lives on in the memory of the Labour movement along with the years 1890 (Maritime), 1906 (tram workers), 1908 (Blackball miners) and 1912 (Waihi miners).  Already planned are commemorative walks to the most important sites of the dispute in Wellington along with a re-enactment of clashes between workers and “Masseys Cossacks”. Socialist Appeal highlights the important events and the lessons of 1913 that was described as the year that revolution came to New Zealand!

The recent crushing defeat of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) in the Federal Election and the election of a viciously right-wing Liberal-National Coalition government has opened up a period of soul-searching in the Australian labor movement.

In last week’s elections the Australian Labor Party (ALP) suffered a historic defeat, with its lowest primary vote since 1903, at just 33.8 percent. In 2007 the ALP won 43.4%, but since then there have been six years of Labor governments, first under Rudd and then Gillard, in which the working class saw the party they had voted for implement policies demanded by big business while real wages stagnated.

As the world economic crisis continues its squeeze and the bosses continue their offensive, the next period is set to see sharpened class struggle in New Zealand. In this document the comrades of Socialist Appeal, the New Zealand section of the IMT, explain the main contradictions in New Zeland society today.

I begin this article on the Christchurch earthquakes and the rebuild by discussing a very different disaster that took place five years earlier in New Orleans. In 2005 New Orleans was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina and an official count of over 1,800 people (1,500 of them in New Orleans) died primarily as the result of the failure of the levees that were supposed to protect the city from severe flooding. Many more died in the aftermath of the disaster because of appalling  neglect on part of the authorities and lack of health care and assistance.

The Australian Labor Party, according to current opinion polling, is facing a crushing defeat at the ballot box come the next Federal election. With a primary vote of only 27%, Labor’s looming annihilation could be on par with or worse than the recent historic defeats suffered in NSW [New South Wales] and Queensland.

The dramatic events that have been witnessed on the world stage; whether it be the marvellous beginnings of the Arab revolution, the upswing in the class struggle in Europe due to the euro crisis or the re-awakening of the class struggle in the United States have been seen by most New Zealanders, until recently, as being very distant affairs.

In a major victory for the Maritime Union of New Zealand, the Employment Court ruled on March 21st, 2012, that Port of Auckland were no longer permitted to continue with redundancy proceedings against union workers and they were no longer permitted to advertise for contract workers or hire contract workers from Drake Personnel Limited or Allied Workforce Limited. The Employment Court ruled that the workers who lost their jobs had to be reinstated and their wages backdated to the time strike action began.

The Port of Auckland announced on March 7th, 2012, that it was making the 300 striking workers at the Port of Auckland redundant and contracting out their jobs to scabs (contract workers).

The Maritime Union Of New Zealand  (MUNZ) is involved in a bitter dispute with Ports of Auckland (POAL) management. At the centre of the dispute is an attempt by the POAL management to bust the union and casualise the workforce, as part of a drive towards privatisation. If the POAL management succeed in busting the union it will have serious implications for all workers in New Zealand. 

For the Labour Party the 2011 general election defeat was the worst since 1928. The main factor for this was the historic low turnout as many workers stayed at home and were not enthused enough by the right-wing leadership of the Labour Party to go out and vote. The turn out was down from (what was considered then a low turnout) 79.46% at the 2008 general election to 73.83%. This was the lowest turnout since 1878!

General Elections can be an indicator of many things within a country. As Marxists, it is necessary to view the result of any election within the overall balance of forces between the classes. So after the tremendous defeat of the Labour Party and victory of the conservative National Party in New Zealand, what is the situation of the working classes there and where does the Labour Party go from here?

Facing an increasingly angry public backlash, the latest version of the industrial court used to decide labour disputes between the unions and bosses, the so-called “Fair Work Australia” court, stepped in and ordered the cessation of Qantas’ lockout of its workers and for the company to immediately resume flying.

The grounding of the 236m MV Rena on the Astrolabe Reef in the Bay of Plenty exposes the lack of maritime regulation and unpreparedness of the government to respond to such a disaster.  This is New Zealand's worst environmental disaster with oil washing up on once pristine beaches destroying both wildlife  and important ecosystems.