The Red Review: Through the Looking Glass — Comparing Canadian and Australian Politics with Isabelle Moreton

All the people who work on The Red Review live and work on stolen Indigenous lands across Turtle Island. There can be no reconciliation without restitution, which includes Land Back, RCMP off Indigenous land, and seizing the assets of the major resource corporations and returning them to the commons.

In this episode of The Red Review, brought to you by Socialist Action, Emily and Daniel talk with Isabelle Moreton of Brisbane, Australia. Isabelle provides analysis and commentary on various political struggles, including disability justice, queer and trans liberation. With the Labor Party winning the majority of seats in the recent election, who better to speak to about what this actually means for the exploited and oppressed masses in Australia and for the international labour and socialist movement. Expect a more banter-y conversation with striking similarities drawn between the Canadian and Australian political context.

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Emily Steers  
Hello everyone! Welcome to another interview episode of The Red Review, a Socialist Action podcast. We are so excited this month to be introducing Isabelle Moreton from Brisbane, Australia, who is here to talk to us about the recent Australian general election and what this means for socialism in Australia and the labour movement globally. We are super, super excited to have her here. She is a phenomenal commentator on many, many different areas of Australian politics. We’ve been friends for a few years, and I’m thrilled to have her on. For new listeners, my name is Emily Steers. I use she/her pronouns, and I am coming to you from the unceded territory of the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, and Attawandaron Peoples known as Guelph, Ontario.

Daniel Tarade  
And hello comrades, I’ll be joining in as well. Very excited to just take a backseat and learn more about Australian politics, which I’m entirely ignorant about. I have as little idea as you, and if you know anything, I know less than you listening, so we’re going to learn at the same time. I use he/him pronouns. I’m coming to you from Tkaronto, which is stolen Indigenous land traditionally inhabited by the Haudenosaunee, Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Huron-Wendat, and the Mississaugas of the Credit. All the people who are members of Socialist Action, all people that work on this podcast, every single guest we’ve had is living and working on stolen Indigenous land. So we advocate for land back. We demand that there be no reconciliation without restitution, and that includes seizing the assets of the major resource developers and returning it to the commons.

Isabelle Moreton  
My name is Isabelle Moreton. I use she/her pronouns. Very glad to be here today. I’m joining you from the unceded land of the Turrbal and Jagera peoples, so-called Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Sovereignty has never been ceded, so I’m joining this podcast from stolen land. As Emily mentioned, I honestly, I post. I’m an analyst and commentator, I guess for lack of a better word.

Welcome so much Isabelle. Australia, eh? I mean, first guest from outside of the North American continent. So we’ve really gone international, Emily.

Emily Steers  
We’re really legit now.

Isabelle Moreton  
I’m from the sunny, subtropical side of the empire.

Daniel Tarade  
Exactly! We get to see, you know, we have the stereotype of the polar bear and the tundra and the all this cold weather, and I have the exact opposite picture in my head of Australia, with more spiders, with kangaroos, with the outback. And I really liked the movie Kangaroo Jack when I was growing up. It was the second movie I ever saw in theaters. So that was really as much as I ever learned about Australia. 

Isabelle Moreton  
You’re doing better than me. I’ve never actually seen kangaroo Jack. I have seen Crocodile Dundee.

Daniel Tarade  
I think you probably have to watch Crocodile Dundee there, eh?

Isabelle Moreton  
Oh, yeah, it’s required watching. We should put it in the national curriculum.

Emily Steers  
And I have actually genuinely learned so much about Australia and Australian politics from being friends with Isabelle for the last few years. This conversation actually came about as a result of some discussions we had in Socialist Action. I shared Hey, Labor has been elected in Australia. And there was a kind of resounding Hmm, I know very little about labor in Australia. We should find out more about that. And I was like, well, guess what, I know who to ask. So because unfortunately, we cannot be experts in the political systems of every country in the world, as much as we might like to, could you give us a really quick overview of Australian politics? So who are the major political parties? And what do they represent?

Isabelle Moreton  
Sure. So I’ll give you a sort of overview of the structure first. Australia is Westminster system parliamentary democracy. It’s kind of a lighter product of the same process that produced the Canadian Constitution, actually. They basically looked at that and said, Okay, but what if we made it more American? And so what we have, basically, at the moment, we have two traditional major parties, for lack of a better word. We have one emerging major party. We have a couple of very persistent third parties. So the two traditional major parties, the Australian Labor Party, which won the election in as much as it is currently forming government, and the coalition, which lost. Labor, I think I’ll probably cover first. Labor is the major Liberal Party. You mentioned you don’t know much about Labor in Australia. I’ve lived in this country for 27 years, and I don’t know much about Labor in Australia. I’m not sure the information exists. I can tell you what it was 50 years ago. It was a party of universal health care, broad pharmaCare, free university education. 40 years ago was the party of anti-discrimination, Indigenous reconciliation, Australian Republic. Since then, it’s sort of been the party of Jeez,  let’s never do that again. 

Emily Steers  
Oh, great!

Isabelle Moreton  
Hey, it’s like that unfortunately, Labor’s the party of the union movement – sort of. But I mean, like the Australian union movement has been liberal since Federation, which was in 1901. There’s actually a piece by Vladimir Lenin about this, where he notes, with his trademark sarcasm, the state of the union movement and it basically hasn’t changed. 

Daniel Tarade  
Wow! 

Isabelle Moreton  
Basically, you can read Lenin’s take and it’s still accurate. You just don’t need to update it. It was a good take. 

Better include that in the show notes. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. In 1993, there was a Labor Government, and it came to an agreement with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which was more or less well, we’ll promise to rebuild the social wage and not screw the workers too much if you promise not to strike. And of course, the social wage has been demolished, and yet the ACTU has very, very obligingly continued not to strike, which is nice of them.

Daniel Tarade  
So there’s like a big focus amongst the Labor leadership on concessions bargaining, essentially trying to reach some sort of compromise with the bosses?

Isabelle Moreton  
Yes, yes, precisely. It’s a ‘don’t rock the boat’ type. We avoid rocking the boat in order to get concessions, but the concessions get smaller every year, and the boat rocking, less depressing, gets larger – using ‘we’ there, but I’ve never actually been a member of the Labor Party. So that’s appropriate of me.

Emily Steers  
The situation, as you’ve described, it sounds similar to the NDP. It sounds like a more centrist NDP with a more centrist concessionary union movement.

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, I think that’s probably accurate. Something that struck me is that the NDP has the ideological basis, really, of the Labor Party or ideological basis that’s closer to the Labour Party, but it seems to be playing a role in the Canadian political system that’s similar to the Greens. This is based some my knowledge of your system, which is not great. 

Emily Steers  
Well, actually, no, that’s actually extremely apt because the NDP and the Liberals, who are currently in power, have formed a ‘it’s definitely not a coalition’ coalition. 

Daniel Tarade  
Definitely not a coalition. We don’t get enough for it to be a coalition. We’re getting nothing in this deal. 

Emily Steers  
Yeah, it’s embarrassing, but for some reason, Canadian politics is completely allergic to the concept of coalitions, which I really don’t understand, but that’s a whole other topic that we will not get into right now.

Daniel Tarade  
Yeah. But Isabelle, the other party is called the coalition party, but it’s one party?

Isabelle Moreton  
More or less, yeah. Well, the coalition is technically a coalition. It’s 4 or 5 parties for administrative purposes, I think. It’s basically two parties, but they’ve been in coalition for the majority of their existence. So you have the Liberals, who do conservatism in cities, and the Nationals, who do conservatism in the country. The Nationals have always been ultra-conservative. The Liberals have been visibly radicalizing for the whole time I’ve been alive. Like in the early 80s, they supported immigration and multiculturalism and public broadcasting. And by the 2000s, the mainstream view in the party was sort of well, you know, that’s cultural Marxism. You know, they had a prime minister in the 80s, Malcolm Fraser, and by the 2000s, party members are saying, why don’t we send him to the Greens where he belongs. That’s the feeling. They’re not yet willing to be as openly fash as US Republicans, but they’re kind of heading in that direction as a group. And of course, the emerging major party is the Australian Greens, who are progressive left liberals, social democrats broadly speaking. They came out of the environmentalist/green politics movement. You’re talking about confidence-and-supply, I believe, and the Greens actually sort of fell into the pilot seat at the 2010 election when Labor ended up needing confidence-and-supply from the Greens to form a minority government. And of course, Labor has never forgiven the Greens for that. The greens are traditionally thought of as middle class, which is not completely inaccurate, but definitely over the past decade, they’ve picked up a lot of cache, I think is the word for being the only party willing to really advocate for materially significant policy action on things like social justice, economic justice, and the institutions which allow those things to sort of happen under capitalism are strong public health insurance, strong benefits and pension systems, and so on. Labor’s basically been missing in action on that front, and to all appearances, it will continue to be, so there’s a gap there for the Greens.

Daniel Tarade  
Emily, let me know if this also strikes you as a perfect one-to-one comparison with the British Columbian local provincial politics. Because over there, the Conservative Party doesn’t exist anymore. It basically got subsumed into the Liberal Party. The NDP over there is the only provincial government that’s run by the NDP, and they’re behaving like liberals. 

Emily Steers  
Yeah. 

Daniel Tarade  
They’re exactly in that boat. And the Green Party, as a result, is completely outflanking them to the left as that social democrat base.

Emily Steers  
There are so many similarities. Isabelle and I were actually remarking yesterday that it was like it feels like when looking at Canadian and Australian politics, we’re just kind of looking at like parallel universe versions of each other. 

Daniel Tarade  
Yeah, just slightly distorted. We’re kind of in the uncanny valley. And you describing this as like, that seems so absurd. But it’s actually not very different than what we have here. It’s just the conversation is still completely centered around acknowledging the status quo as legitimate, you know, capitalism exists. So we’re only going to throw out different ideas within that context. And even the Green Party is kind of only exploring some of the outer limits of what is essentially a dying system.

Emily Steers  
And the Green Party federally actually, they had some very cool eco-socialist candidates who were running in the last leadership race, but the centrists in the party really pushed back hard against it, which was really unfortunate because then in the last federal election, the Greens got, oh, their lowest support in ages. 

Daniel Tarade  
They collapsed. But the trajectory, I think they still had a swell, it seems, at the same time the Greens in Australia did. Just internally, their politics were fractured enough. I’m curious then with the Green Party and their leadership. You’re saying there’s a lot of young people being drawn into this because it’s the only potential alternative vehicle for some sort of policy discourse. Is there a struggle in Australia for the leadership and the direction of the Green Party?

I don’t know if I’d say there’s a struggle. There’s a brushfire war, especially in the more popular states in New South Wales and Victoria, there’s definitely more centrist – centrist-ish – tendency in the greens, whereas in Queensland, I think it tends to be slightly more radical. We’re in a position where the eco-social democrats are leading the party and the more centrist liberals, as you have like people who might be liberals but are more willing to work with the socialists than they are with the centrists. I would be surprised if there’s like a liberal coup of the greens anytime soon. 

Yeah.

Isabelle Moreton  
It’s social democratic, I think, in the main.

Emily Steers  
That’s so interesting. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, it’s a fun one. We did have some problems with transphobes specifically over the last six months, sort of speaking out and making themselves visible, but the party federally has been very good at dealing with that. We’re not at the point where it’s like, sorry, we have to compromise people’s humans rights to break through 10% vote.

Daniel Tarade  
Okay, that’s good, that’s good. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Well, it is I think. Also in terms of political realignment, we’re also looking at a wave of independents this election. This is new, actually. So I’m actually going to take a moment to explain the situation here. Australia has a Senate and a House of Representatives, US style. We use an electoral system we call preferential voting. I think in the Senate, it would be called internationally a single transferable vote and in the house, it’d be instant runoff voting. I think the US Americans call it ranked-choice voting. 

Emily Steers  
Yeah, that’s how it’s known here. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Oh, good, good. I wasn’t quite sure what terminology you used. The big advantage in both cases is you can indicate which parties you strongly support, which ones you’ll kind of tolerate, which ones you dislike, and which ones you hate. And the candidate who wins is the one that the greatest number of people will at least tolerate. And so this has worked out quite well, in that you can vote for the nice well-meaning social democrats without potentially electing the Nazis. This effect has already been really strong in terms of encouraging party diversity in the Senate particularly. I think, in the last decade, there was one point where we had a total of nine parties in the Senate. 

Daniel Tarade  
Wow.

Emily Steers  
Which is just wild. Like here in Canada, we’re fighting really hard against first-past-the-post, which was a major election issue in 2015, and the Liberals campaigned really hard on it. And then just immediate heel turn, because they were like, actually first-pass-the-post got us a majority. So – 

Isabelle Moreton  
We’re fine with it. 

Emily Steers  
Nevermind. First-past-the-post is fine, when it’s us who get to be in charge, which was just so embarrassing. So there’s a really big push on the municipal levels to start exploring ranked choice and possible alternatives to first-past-the-post because that makes a lot of sense. The provincial government has actually been fighting really hard against it, I think probably because they know hmm, if we start doing this municipally people will be like, Well, why can’t we do this provincially, why can’t we do this federally, this makes a lot of sense. So even though in the last conservative leadership election, they did ranked ballots. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Oh, wild. 

Emily Steers  
I think the conversation is starting to push a little bit more towards that end of things, which is exciting for us. Because as you say, it does mean that you can actually vote for the candidates you want, and not well, a lot of people follow the ABC strategy, which is anything but conservative, which is you vote for whoever is most likely to win against the Conservative candidate, which fails spectacularly on a number of fronts.

Isabelle Moreton  
Yes, unfortunately. Here’s a fun thing. We’ve had the system for a century. And Labor doesn’t like that we have this system. And the Coalition doesn’t like that we have this system. So they like to pretend that we don’t have this system. And so when people like, oh, we have to give our first preference to Labor to get Coalition out, and it’s like, actually, no, you don’t. A lot more people know this now than it did 10 years ago. But we definitely have a lot of people who would find it very convenient to live in the reality where we use first-past-the-post in Australia. And so they tried to make that be the case, they try to create that simulacrum, particularly in this case. Sorry, my segues are fun. 

Emily Steers  
We love segues. 

Isabelle Moreton  
I love segues. Too bad they went out of production. We have a new faction – Teals. So this group of – Teal as in the color, sorry, I should clarify. They’re a group of loosely linked independents, pro-small business, economic centrists, which is usually bad news, but they’re presenting themselves as very climate conscious in particular, and socially progressive. They ran mostly against the moderate edge of the Liberal Party and obliterated them, no real surprises there. And they called Teals because they’re so climate conscious. They are quite ambitious on climate and the traditional color of the Liberal Party is blue. And guess what you get if you mix blue with green? 

Daniel Tarade  
Ah! 

Isabelle Moreton  
So that’s very cute. They’ve really coming out of nowhere. I don’t like them because they’re centrists. But I do like him because on a lot of issues they’re more use than either of the major parties. It’s hard to hate them because they have a higher level, I guess, of human decency, which neither of the parties have demonstrated. So it’ll be interesting to see how they evolve.

Daniel Tarade  
Isabelle? 

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah.

Daniel Tarade  
These parties, where did they stand then on issues like the vaccine mandates? Which of these parties came out against that?

Isabelle Moreton  
Oh, god, it’s difficult to say whether there’s been a – I guess the coalition is sort of grudgingly in favor of it, Labor is grudgingly in favor of it. The Teals didn’t really form until after vaccine mandates were no longer a hot issue. The Greens been pro-vaccine this whole time. I think there’s been shying away from talking about mandate in general, in part because we had a very strong conspiracy type movement, which was unprecedented in its scale and organization, sort of coming out of nowhere at the start of the pandemic, and everyone’s like, Oh God, what do we do? We don’t want to pass those guys off. So it’s all been couched in very indirect terms.

Emily Steers  
Well also, you had I think, the longest continuous lockdown in the world, didn’t you? 

Isabelle Moreton  
Technically second longest I think. Melbourne might have had the longest continuous lockdown. I think Buenos Aires was slightly more lockdown overall, but Melbourne had like over 100 days continuous, if I remember correctl. 

Daniel Tarade  
Wow. 

Isabelle Moreton  
That was fun for them. By which I mean, not fun and in a lot of ways, racist in its enforcement. But that’s been a huge criticism of how we conduct our lockdowns. Every state government thst has overseen lockdowns has done so in a racially discriminatory way. Like I believe in lockdowns as a public health measure, but this was basically finding apartment blocks full of people of color and going okay, let’s just keep you guys in there for a fortnight. You know, even the very liberal Labor government, like Victorian Labor is probably the most liberal/left friendly end of the Labor Party. They’re the ones who really did the most high profile example of that. They just locked down three apartment blocks in North Melbourne full of mostly non-English first language speakers. And they’ve been copping a lot of justified shit for that.

Daniel Tarade  
Yeah, that’s messed up. 

Emily Steers  
Absolutely shameful. 

Daniel Tarade  
You know, the same kind of rhetoric was used here. That kind of focus on personal gatherings and oftentimes it carried that racial tinge. But the lockdown, I guess, protocol never went far enough that they were locking down places of residence. 

Emily Steers  
No. 

Daniel Tarade  
The worst it got really was forcing people to still go into work. And the people often forced to do that were racialized, immigrant, refugee communities in these very precarious jobs. And they’re told you still gotta work at the meatpacking plant, you still need to work in long-term care, multiple places, you know, busing between them. So those are the communities that suffered the most but it seems in a almost different way.

Emily Steers  
Yeah. Our lockdowns were never quite that targeted. There were broad areas, broad zones divvied up provincially and different zones would go into different stages of lockdown, but never to the extent of neighborhood blocks. It was always at least the size of a city.

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, no, usually like city level lockdowns, but they did do snap pinpoint lockdowns, which were deeply unpopular. We kind of also – this might honestly be me stepping out of my lane as a Brisbanite living in the largest unified City Council in Australia. Part of it was, in Sydney and Melbourne particularly, the areas defined as cities are actually more like districts. So it’s quite possible a lot of these pinpoint lockdowns were citywide, and they were just in like one of the 39 cities that makes up Sydney or whatever. You know, because Australia is just this country consisting of like six mega cities. 

Emily Steers  
Relatable. 

Isabelle Moreton  
But yes, it’s a relatable experience. So at least we can put a dome over the city when the climate collapses. Sorry, that got bleak. 

Emily Steers  
Oh, no, we go there. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Oh, good. Good. I’m glad there’s a bit of existential terror on this podcast. 

Emily Steers  
Oh, plenty. 

Isabelle Moreton  
It’s the leftist’s cross to bear.

Emily Steers  
Truely is. So we kind of touched a lot on this when we were discussing the political parties. But let’s expand a bit on this. Like, what are the major political issues in Australia now? And what were the issues that were really driving this election?

Isabelle Moreton  
Number one, revenge. We are in an interesting place. I think what drove the coalition out of office this election was a combination of low-level and high-level issues and not a lot of middle. The low-level issues are really like long-term economic and world historical forces, contradictions of capitalism type stuff, which have been intensifying over the last decade for basically all of which the Coalition has been in office federally.

Emily Steers  
Can you elaborate, just give us some examples of what those are?

Isabelle Moreton  
Basically, everyone wants to do austerity now. There’s also more. Protest has been criminalized on the state level by both Labor and Liberal governments. There’s a very, like hardcore bipartisan consensus on a lot of issues forming. Refugee policy, like our famously fascist refugee policy, is bipartisan consensus despite widespread opposition. Unfortunately, it’s not majority opposition. I wish it was, but it’s not. And so you have those kind of bipartisan consensi forming. 

Emily Steers  
The long-term issues? 

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah. And the fact that our economy has been hollowed out. So really, we’re dependent on what everyone else wants now. And I think once China stops buying coal from us, we’re stuffed. That’s gonna be a tough time for us. 

Emily Steers  
Same with us and oil. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Great. Well, that’s just great. At least we’re in the same sinking boat. 

Emily Steers  
Hooray. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, it’s lovely. Of course, on top of that tinderbox, the economic anxiety of knowing that you’re about to become obsolete. You’ve got the high-level issues, which are things like the Coalition’s internal culture and the personal conduct of ministers. Like you’ve two cabinet level ministers from the outgoing government that are the subject of allegations of sexual violence, intimate partner abuse, and so on. 

Emily Steers  
Oh my god. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah. Yeah. 

Emily Steers  
That’s awful. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, it’s, I think rightfully, dominated our national discourse for the last year or so because it is shocking and outrageous stuff.

Emily Steers  
I think I’ve heard from you over the years that Australia does not have a great culture around domestic violence in general.

Isabelle Moreton  
No, not particularly. And there’s been work to remedy that. But let’s just saying the sins of the society reproduced by the people who were supposed to be leading us. And that’s really forced a lot of Australians to look in the mirror, partly that they’d rather not. The effect has been rage. Constant fury for the last year. Because, you know, they’re presiding over this constant stripping away of our existence. And then they go and commit these violations and these outrages. They think that’s fine, apparently. So that got them kicked out of office. 

Emily Steers  
Thank God. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, I’m a cynic. But I will admit, I was happy not to have those people in charge anymore. The economic factors sort of provided the tinder and the cultural and interpersonal issues provided the spark. There wasn’t a lot of debate about, you know, in the next parliament, we will increase expenditure in X portfolio to Y percent of GDP or whatever. And this was sort of magnified by the fact that Labor’s election strategy was to be a target so small, you could fit it on the head of a pin. I think insofar as there were election issues, which really could be meaningfully captured on a policy level, they were in roughly descending order of importance; climate, public health and disability services, immigration policy, anti-corruption. There was also a degree of culture warfare, but in a very odd way. I think I might come to that later. So in terms of climate action, it’s starting to become real for us. Like there was the usual partisan quibbling about now you know, we’ll have X percent cut inemissions by such and such year, net-zero by 2035, by 2050. But also, I think there is a degree of existential terror that we didn’t have one election cycle ago. Like we’ve been having unusual weather for most of my life, but especially since 2019, we’ve had a lot of really intense, clearly not normal weather events. Everything is either on fire or underwater, and it’s becoming clear that drastic action is needed.

Daniel Tarade  
Isabelle, do you think it’s possible just to move the fire onto the water? Is that something that they’ve tried to use to your advantage in Australia?

Isabelle Moreton  
Look, we’re workshopping that. We’re looking at what we can do about that, but so far we’ve tried moving the water on to the fire, but it’s not working very well. We’re doing as much as we can. It’s killing a lot of fish.

Daniel Tarade  
Have they tried fighting the fire with fire?

Isabelle Moreton  
I think so. I think there’s some controversy about which party support fighting the fire was fire and which don’t.

Emily Steers  
Wasn’t that a big conspiracy with the bush fires like two years ago. Like the greens were starting the fires to like stir up panic over climate change?

Isabelle Moreton  
There was partly that, yeah. And there’s there’s been this ongoing thing. We do control burns to minimize fuel. 

Emily Steers  
As do we. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah. And there’s been this view that the Greens are anti-controlled burn absolutists, which is not the case. And of course, Deputy Prime Minister at the time, who was a National Barnaby Joyce; basically, he took the view partly that you know, the Greens oppose back-burning, so this is their fault. And then he just went full out, Maybe the Greens started it. 

Daniel Tarade  
Oh, wow. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, yeah. It’s kind of that shit stirring.

Emily Steers  
Jeez. Oh, yes. The Greens who have one seat in government?

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah. 

Daniel Tarade  
One seat is all you need to start a wildfire for political gain.

Isabelle Moreton  
Yes, yes. Well, you can just pay one of your electorate officers to go out and have an unsafe campfire.

Emily Steers  
But yeah, sorry, you were saying in Brisbane? 

Isabelle Moreton  
Yes. Where I am right now, Brisbane in Queensland, nearby regions of New South Wales, which is just over the border. We copped a weather system – a rain bomb, which caused some vicious flooding. 

A rain bomb?

Well, it really fits the event, I thought. Where I am, we’re relatively okay at this point. But Lismore in New South Wales, which is about 200 kilometers south of us – which is a hop, skip, and a jump in Australian terms- they were basically devastated, and they still haven’t had meaningful help. Like this is a town that has half wiped off the map by the flood, the ADF showed up – I’m sorry, Australian Defence Force – showed up for one day, mostly to take photos and nicked off.

Emily Steers  
Again with the disturbing parallel universe feeling.

Daniel Tarade  
Yeah!

Emily Steers  
Because that’s basically exactly what happened in British Columbia this year. Abbotsford was the biggest town affected, but there were lots of smaller towns up the Fraser Valley. Our’s was called an atmospheric river. I think it was like two consecutive major floods that just wiped out – literally wiped some small towns off the map – and just destroyed roads, destroyed farms, killed lots of livestock, isolated a lot of people because the roads were washed out. Like the Trans Canada Highway, which is the road that connects us coast-to-coast – which we’re big it’s a big deal – 

Daniel Tarade  
Yeah. 

Emily Steers  
was completely out of operation for several days. Vancouver and the area was completely cut off from the rest of the country. There were no roads. 

Daniel Tarade  
Completely inaccessible by road. 

Emily Steers  
And that was after they had had a summer of record heat, which actually killed hundreds of people, record wildfires. It’s the major very highly visible climate disasters are starting in BC, but they are starting to make their way east. But it’s most visible in British Columbia right now.

Isabelle Moreton  
That feels familiar. 

Emily Steers  
Doesn’t it just? 

Isabelle Moreton  
I wish I could say, you know, well, at least we’re not going through this alone, but that’s dread inducing.

Emily Steers  
I wish we were going through it alone, honestly. That would be kind of reassuring.

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, it’d be nice if if it was just one of us, and you know, it’d be like well, maybe the rest of the world can help this.

Daniel Tarade  
If I need to be sacrificed so Australia can flourish, so be it, but it doesn’t even seem like you’re getting anything out of it.

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, no, I’m saying that. We have this thing where we trade off firefighting equipment was California. Like they have their wildfire season at the exact opposite time of the year from our bushfire season. So we send sort of equipment back and forth, and turns out, their wildfire season and our bushfire season now overlap –

Emily Steers  
Oh, gosh 

Isabelle Moreton  
– with predictable consequences. On that, actually, there’s a feeling that the state might not be able to help. Leading up to the start of the pandemic, particularly, we had a horrific bushfire season. The worst I can remember. A lot of people died, 447, I believe, which is really a lot even for an Australian bushfire season. And we had half the firefighters in the country down in New South Wales and Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, struggling to keep it under control. And they were clearly running themselves ragged, you know. So the state doesn’t seem to want to help at the moment. But even if it did want to, it might not be able to. Everybody either is or knows someone or multiple people who’ve been flooded in or burned out. So it’s getting very, you know, very close to home. Sort of, will it be me next?

Emily Steers  
And shockingly, it hasn’t yet in Canadian politics become like the issue. But I think it’s really only a matter of time, and it’s starting to become more prevalent, even if Alberta would like to pretend it isn’t. Or at least, certainly the Albertan government would like to pretend it isn’t looking in the mirror very much when it comes to all of these climate crises. And you were saying about health care.

Isabelle Moreton  
Oh, true. So we had a semi-universal health care system since the 70s, which is now known as Medicare, as is tradition across the Anglophone world, which was implemented by a Labor government, the Whitlam Labor government, which got fired by the Governor General shortly afterwards – technically, not because of that. And the Coalition and Labor’s right faction have been colluding to take that apart ever since, in as much as the Coalition has hollowed it out and Labor is not trying to stop them. And matters are getting desperate in that regard, I think.

Emily Steers  
Driven by the pandemic as well?

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, sort of. The pandemic has given the Coalition a lot of room to pretend to be making effective health care policy under the cover of sound and fury, while mostly actually just hollowing things out and going backwards. We have permanent universal telehealth now, for example, but you can’t use it for anything since the beginning of ’22. We don’t know that Labor’s necessarily going to do anything to fix that. We would like to think they would, but we have no evidence to believe that they will. That’s probably something I might come to in more detail later. So there’s that. There’s immigration policy,

Emily Steers  
Which you are somewhat unfortunately legendary about.

Isabelle Moreton  
Yes. When Donald Trump says, Wow, you guys are really inspiring, I think that should probably be a red flag. Yeah, Trump basically said, Well, I can really learn a lot from Scott Morrison, who was our immigration minister for a while and he is the Outgoing Prime Minister. Incredibly fascist. And the Fortress Australia is bipartisan consensus. And unfortunately, they’ve managed to convince a fair chunk of the population that it should be the way things are, which I am not proud of. I feel – oh, look, I’ll get in my feelings about that later. But there’s been a very prominent case recently, where a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee family who settled in Biloela in Central Queensland. They got chucked back in immigration detention and treated like absolute shit. So that case has produced a lot of photo ops for Labor to say they’ll do something, and the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs that they would have had overseeing that, she got a lot of airtime, but she was one of the most right-wing politicians in Labor. Also a former Ohio Democratic Party member, no surprise there.

Daniel Tarade  
Oh, wow. An explant?

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, yeah. A lot of fun. It turns out, the empire actually isn’t run by the CIA. it’s run by the Ohio Democrats. So I’m glad the Ohio Democrats have been able to achieve something. 

Emily Steers  
Oh, my goodness. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah. But she was one of the least, I think, nice politicians in that party. Very mask off. So she lost the election, and now they’re looking for another Home Affairs minister – I guess. We’ve got an interim Home Affairs Minister, Jim Chalmers. He’s the treasurer. I guess he’s gonna make a ministerial determination about that today, actually, the date of this podcast being recorded, and we’ll see how that goes. 

Emily Steers  
We will include a link in the show notes.

Isabelle Moreton  
Awesome. And I think probably the one last major event on this was something happened that I haven’t seen before, which was the coalition were trying to get an antitrans-gender hate campaign going for a few months before the election. Obviously, I couldn’t help but notice that, being a six-foot baritone named Isabelle. At the election, they ran a candidate for the House of Representatives who was this blond, blue-eyed professional TERF with links to some really unpleasant fascist groups, and that went over like a lead balloon, which I really, I really did not expect. Like that really dragged them down nationally. Like I think just that one candidate might have produced like a several percentage point dip in their vote. 

Daniel Tarade  
Wow!

Isabelle Moreton  
That was delightful but also really surprised me because there’s been this multi-partisan, media-wide campaign to normalize transphobia for a few years now. I’m probably the biggest transphobia nerd I know. And we’re still trying to figure out why it went over so badly because it wasn’t outpouring of support for trans people. But there’s also almost like a sense of insulted national pride, like, Yeah, I’m all up for a good culture war, but I demand an original culture war – you know, from the electorate in general. So it was like reactive nationalism, because it felt too much like an important British and American issue. So that’ll take some time to process, but they gambled on that and it backfired spectacularly. And they’re still trying to figure out what the hell happened. 

Emily Steers  
Well, and yeah, interestingly, like when it comes to LGBTQ stuff in Canada, particularly trans rights, like pronouns in bio and in your email signature has become very du jour in most Canadian spaces. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Oh, very nice. 

Emily Steers  
And there are very few politicians who really talk about trans stuff. Obviously, trans people in Canada still face horrendous economic and social inequalities, disproportionate rates of violence, you know, the standard that you unfortunately expect, but there’s very little political transphobia. It’s very not the thing. Everyone in politics, at least, unless you’re really conservative, doesn’t say much about trans issues and trans rights. Like freedom of gender expression and freedom from discrimination from gender expression is enshrined in Canadian law. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Oh, good, good. 

Emily Steers  
So it feels similar, like politicians who try and start transphobic BS here tend to get roundly booed pretty quickly.

Isabelle Moreton  
Well, that’s good to hear.

Emily Steers  
We’ve got our fair share of TERFs, don’t get me wrong, but we don’t make a lot of political waves.

Isabelle Moreton  
Oh, good, good. I’m glad to hear that.

Daniel Tarade  
Someone recently called England or the UK, the like homeland for the TERFs. And so by that metric, we’re not the UK. We don’t have our own JK Rowling. 

Emily Steers  
Although Margaret Atwood is trying. 

Daniel Tarade  
That’s true. Just like in general, we’re running a convincing third.

Isabelle Moreton  
Yes, impressive.

Emily Steers  
I don’t want to say any of this to downplay trans rights struggles in Canada. But no, I’m lifting this from some stuff written by some trans woman in Montreal that I really respect who are just kind of like, what to know about being trans in Canada.

Isabelle Moreton  
No, that’s good. Glad to hear that. Canadian trans politics actually has interested me. I believe it was your bill C16 in 2016. That was the one that my Jordan Peterson famous.

Emily Steers  
Oh, right. Yes. That’s the law that enshrined, You cannot discriminate based on gender identity. And Jordan Peterson was like, I’m not gonna call my students they/them, that’s bullshit. 

Isabelle Moreton  
That’s compelled speech. 

Emily Steers  
Yeah, that’s compelled speech and blah, blah, blah. And I refuse, and he catapulted him to international fame, which, sorry about that. 

Isabelle Moreton  
That’s all good. I forgive you this time. 

Emily Steers  
Yeah. But as I say, Jordan Peterson is probably the most reactionary transphobe I can think of that takes up a lot of airtime in Canadian politics. And even then –

Daniel Tarade  
He’s mostly slunk away, now. 

Emily Steers  
Mostly slunk away. And also, he doesn’t get that much Canadian airtime. Canadian news media does not pay attention to Jordan Peterson.

Isabelle Moreton  
I’ve been getting the vibe that he’s much more important to us than he is to you. 

Emily Steers  
Yeah, he’s very much America’s darling. And we’re just kind of like, you can have him.

Isabelle Moreton  
You can have the Kermit the Frog transphobe. This is fine. The reason I bring it up is just after he did that – well, several years after he did that, because everything takes longer here – we had one of our fascist parties, Katter’s Australian Party, who are fascists in cowboy hats – they picked that up and they introduced in the Queensland Parliament, the anti-discrimination right to use gender specific language Bill 2018, which was basically the same bullshit pronouns are compelled speech argument but in Australian English. So that didn’t work. But they did give it a shot. After that, they were like, We don’t like this academic crap, let’s just go Cultural Marxism and call them groomers. So they went to more fairly standard fascist tactics. The Coalition tried Okay, Groomer a couple of years ago, but it didn’t have legs in the political context of like, 2017. And the guy who did that got booted out of office at this election, so bye George, we won’t miss you.

Emily Steers  
Yeah. So speaking of George and general, what’s been happening with the LNP, what have the effect of the Conservative government been over the last decade? Because Lord knows, after we came out of 10 years of Conservative majority rule, we were in rough shape.

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, no, I’ve heard. Valet, Stephen Harper. Don’t come back. God, where to start. It’s a novel on its own. I will start with the one good thing I did, uncharacteristicly and for tactical reasons, which was they let marriage equality pass at the end of 2017. So my understanding is that that was actually, funnily enough, that was a tactical decision by the fascist faction of the Coalition, the national right of the Liberal Party, who basically thought, Look, this is going to be an albatross around our neck, and we have other more interesting forms of fascism that we want to do. Let’s just pass this on our terms. Let’s have a plebiscite kick up the maximum possible debate, shit on the queer community as much as possible. We’ll pass it and we’ll move on. And they did that. That was a fun time for them. But apart from that, God, look, there’s been a massive escalation in the brutality of immigration enforcement. Like it’s been bipartisan consensus, but like we’re way past build the wall, we already have the wall. We’re an island nation. So we’ve gone from build the wall, which is not getting the blood pumping for the conservatives anymore, to sort of shoot people coming over the wall and hang their remains on a gibbet as a warning. That family I mentioned, the Tamil family in Biloela, that got media attention partly because there was, I think, a three year old kid there at the time. She was one of the kids of the family, and her teeth are rotting out of her head in immigration detention. And like those kids were pretty well focused on and well treated as Australian immigration detainees go. It’s a crime against humanity. And both of our major parties are complicit. Even the Greens policy could be better, but the greens are not saying, Let’s explicitly violate every article of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which is kind of what both the major parties are agreed on at the moment. It’s been a shit show. I don’t think I’ve seen a government really lean into crimes against humanity with as much glee as the Coalition have over the past decade. Labor’s announced that they support Coalition immigration policy so really some simmering fury, I think, on the left about that.

Daniel Tarade  
Yeah. 

Emily Steers  
No kidding.

Daniel Tarade  
Can I ask? Actually, just with Labor, the situation in the UK is a bit more televised and covered in the Canadian left here and like how Jeremy Corbyn was forced out. Labor Party, you described it earlier but was there any moment in the recent history where there was a Corbyn-esque figure that was forced aside? Or has it just been essentially decades now that the Labor Party has been completely alien to that idea of trying to organize and run a political campaign?

Isabelle Moreton  
Probably more of the latter. It’s been decades. 

Daniel Tarade  
Okay. 

Isabelle Moreton  
We have not had a Labor leader who wasn’t viciously neoliberal in my life. It’s an interesting story. So our new prime minister, our incoming Prime Minister is Anthony Albanese – Albo, as he likes to be called – has been running the opposition for one term. Before that, we had Bill Shorten for two terms. Bill Shorten was Labor right, Albanese was Labor left, but Shorten ran in 2019 on one of the most progressive platforms that I really have seen from the Labor Party in decades. Like I haven’t had the chance to review it at length, but there was a lot of trans rights and human rights stuff. That’s the majority of my familiarity with that platform, but my understanding is in a lot of other domains, it was also quite progressive, and he lost that election, and it was an unloseable election. Albanese, who is traditionally the labour left’s darling, the prince that was promised – I used to believe in Albo – Albanese came in and he said, Well, we’ve got to drop all of that. We don’t want to be seen as a grievance based organization. Albo just very clearly does not like woke causes in general. So we had this weird situation where it was like Keir Starmer running on Corbyn’s platform replaced by Corbyn running on Keir Starmer’s platform. 

Emily Steers  
Oh, weird!

Isabelle Moreton  
Very, very odd mirror universe type stuff.

Emily Steers  
Speaking of labour and unions, you’ve got a note here about union busting.

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, every couple of years, the Coalition just floats another bill to bust unions, which is weird, because I think really where it like an Alexander the Great situation on that front – there’s no unions left to bust. There is an emerging radical union movement, but the entire main union movement under the ACTU is so domesticated. Like there’s still elements there that clearly want to do something like there’s a national tertiary education union, which is ACTU affiliated, which is currently facing a leftist internal campaign, but you’re not going to see a general strike in this country anytime soon. Ever since the Wages and Income Accord of 1983, the movement’s been non-functional.

Daniel Tarade  
Do you know what the unionization rate is in Australia?

Isabelle Moreton  
I do have that number for the unionization rate. Let’s deliver bad news in a good way here. So in 2000, the percentage of employees who are unionized is 24.9%. according to this cute little graph I have in front of me. Oh, wait until you hear what it was in the most recent data. The most recent data that I have is from 2018. And the unionization rate was a grand total of 13.7%. 

Daniel Tarade  
What!? 

Emily Steers  
Oh, my God. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, that’s where we are. The mainstream liberal union movement in Australia is stuck in a ditch. It’s terminally stuck in a ditch, like we got to form a whole new union movement just to get anything done, which I think is something we’re working on. But that’s down the line.

Emily Steers  
Let us continue with social security and fossil fuels.

Isabelle Moreton  
Sure. Another part I think of this government’s program has been really quite visibly-cruel social security reform, which is again, bipartisan consensus. Pretty much all benefit rates are frozen at like 50% of the poverty line at the moment. Mandatory workfare has been reintroduced for most job seekers – Work for the Dole as we call it. Like this is probably the most expansive that Work for the Dole has been. There was Robodebt, which was an automated data-matching debt recovery program that the government illegally ran to clawback social security payments. So that killed a couple of thousand people. I say that in a jocular tone because if I don’t, legitimately I might cry. That left a scar, I think. Apart from the social security reform, there’s also – they’re committing to new fossil fuel projects. God knows why. There’s not really an economic rationale.

Emily Steers  
I remember seeing a video of Scott Morrison holding up a piece of coal in Parliament and holding it out towards the Labour and Greens and going like, This is coal. It’s not dangerous. It’s not going to hurt you. uWu.

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah. It’s like, yeah, that worked out. Great. Thanks, Scomo. Thanks, big fella. 

Emily Steers  
Just so condescending and so stupid. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, I cannot speak. If I speak, Twitter will suspend me. I guess apart from that, there was also the complete obliteration of the university sector. Coalition hates universities, of course. They really got that chance in 2020. We have a program, job keeper, which is sort of like the US paycheck protection program. It was a wage subsidy.

Emily Steers  
It was called CERB.

Isabelle Moreton  
CERB. Ah yes, CERB, I heard of that.

Emily Steers  
CERB. Canadian Emergency Response Benefit.

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, so job keeper had no clawbacks from giant companies, but they put a carve out in the legislation so that tertiary education in particular wouldn’t be able to claim it. So the education workforce is, if you’ll pardon my German, fucked for the next generation. Like literally a generation of rebuilding to redo there. And I guess we’ll see how that goes. Sort of hand in hand with that, there was campaigning against public broadcasting and publicly accountable broadcasting, ideologically and in terms of funding. We’ve got two government broadcasters, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the special Broadcasting Service. The ABC used to have a high level of public trust, probably unjustified at the time even, but it’s definitely been moving more into like, state propaganda areas lately. SBS traditionally is the marginalized peoples channel, the woke channel, complimentary, but lately it’s more the “should marginalized peoples have rights” channel. Like they ran that TERF in Sydney and SBS was the one like, Should we listen to what she has to say when the answer is obviously no. SBS is Australia’s The Guardian. We used to have free-to-air community television, which was great for marginalized creators, but then the Federal Communications Department kicked them off the air in about 2015, and they mostly didn’t survive being shoved onto YouTube. And then the Communications Minister went on to be Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Yeah, karma is working great down here in the southern hemisphere. And I guess probably in the last term, I think there was also an escalation in religious freedom rhetoric. It didn’t come to anything this government, but if we survive long enough for them to get re-elected to government, it might come to something.

Daniel Tarade  
Did you have anything like a freedom convoy in Australia?

Isabelle Moreton  
We did. 

Emily Steers  
Apologies for that export. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, no, thanks. Thanks.

Daniel Tarade  
We’re pioneers.

Isabelle Moreton  
Oh, yeah.

Emily Steers  
In the worst way.

Isabelle Moreton  
Well, pioneers are always bad. I’ve never heard the word pioneer said about someone good, except there’s that one brand of electronics, which I think is okay. But I think they also call them the freedom convoy here or possibly the Melbourne freedom rally or just freedom rally in general. We’ve talked to calling them ‘cockers,’ which has worked fine. I don’t know if we have an equivalent of the Emergencies Act, but ultimately, that didn’t end up getting invoked before they dispersed. I think they’re mostly just doing it because you were doing it. Peer pressure. Learned it from watching you. 

Emily Steers  
Sorry. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, it’s also the material conditions, but I think I will blame Canada for this.

Emily Steers  
Yeah, legitimate grievances being preyed upon by right-wing provocateurs into something that just blows the mind of ridiculousness. It’s a universal experience.

Isabelle Moreton  
Oh, yes. 

Daniel Tarade  
Keeps on giving. 

Isabelle Moreton  
As with Canada, I think they went looking for the people who organized the freedom convoy, and boy, oh, boy, the avatars are from thispersondoesnot exist.com You can’t track down any people associated with the identities and hmm, maybe we should investigate this. We won’t, but we should. So that’s been a whole fun time.

Emily Steers  
Generally, Coalition – bad. Coalition has been very bad for lots and lots of people, basically everyone, and Australia, recognizing that, has elected a new Labor government. So what does this mean?

Isabelle Moreton  
What is meaning? Look, I think we’d all like to know that. Labor has made a few commitments on aged care, childcare, electric vehicles. They’ve committed to establish what we call an ICAC, an Independent Commission Against Corruption, which is like a standing commission of inquiry into corruption on the federal level because that’s state based at the moment. It’s difficult to say what the significance of these commitments is or how likely they are to actually materialize. Like, I’m really skeptical that ICAC can do anything under capitalism, but I guess we’ll see. I want to be proven wrong. I’m actually quoting the ABC here. They’re basically in lockstep with the Coalition on defense, emissions reduction, health, immigration policy. I mean, even with health, the policy is less, you know, make health care more available and more increase the supply of doctors the same way Coalition’s solution to the housing crisis is increase the supply of houses. It doesn’t quite work that way. And there are no commitments on social policy. There’s a sense that they, particularly Albo – Anthony Albanese Prime Minister – is opposed to progressive social policy. We could drag them left. I guess we saw how that worked with Joe Biden, but I guess we could try and drag them left. They’ve also said they wanted to introduce a religious discrimination bill, which in Australian political parlance, is code for they want to permit some forms of anti-queer and anti-trans employment discrimination. They’ve also been talking about their first budget in like austerity deficit hawk-type terms, talking about conflict fatigue and reaching across the aisle. Over the past year or so, I think most worryingly, Labor and the Coalition have also been banding together to pass legislation to restrict the right to protest at the state level, even like the very, very liberal Andrews government -liberal in the international sense. Like queer-friendly Andrews government of Victoria is moving in that direction. 

Emily Steers  
Jeez, to what extent?

Isabelle Moreton  
It’s worse in New South Wales, where Labor is not in government, where it’s a much more wide-ranging criminalization of protests. In Victoria, I understand the Andrews’ Labor Government is mostly working to ban stuff that interferes with logging and industrial operations, which is still not great. 

Daniel Tarade  
Have there been those types of protest actions in Australia? In BC, again, there have been massive campaigns of resistance to old-growth logging.

Isabelle Moreton  
This is actual I don’t know, on my part. This is an information void for me. I don’t know that we’ve had huge amounts of resistance to logging. We have had direct-action climate protests, which are mostly people walking up to ports and like chaining themselves over essential rail links so that they can’t be moved. And that’s heartening to see. That’s usually a few people at a time. But interestingly, since the start of Covid, we’ve had a resurgence in leftist mass protest- Covid-conscious, obviously. And I think that’s scaring the state. You know, because the last time we saw a rally like that was the Iraq War rallies. And now we’re saying stuff like this every year because the people are angry, and they want to talk about it. So the state’s going, Let’s have no more of that, thank you very much.

Daniel Tarade  
And they’re getting away with it mostly?

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, at this point. Well, that’s the problem with liberal democracy under capitalism, isn’t it? If you’ve got the numbers-

Daniel Tarade  
Yeah. 

Isabelle Moreton  
-you know, the major parties agree on most of the important stuff. So if they want to criminalize protest, it gets criminalized, and not a whole lot we can do about it yet. But I think the character of this term of Federal Labor government is going to be basically a beleaguered sort of Joe Biden-esque political stasis. Look technically policing is a state responsibility, but realistically, I think in as much as they can, the federal government’s contributions are going to be more cops, more cops, more police funding, more cops, possibly more Tesla drivers, and probably more cops, and possibly more cops driving Tesla’s and that’s about it.

Emily Steers  
Looking at everything you’ve said so far about kind of the political situation, what is the current state of and what is the direction forward for different political groups? So you’ve talked about low-income folks and the effects of job seeker and job keeper, disabled folks, which I know you do a lot of work around, the LGBTQ plus community, Indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees, etc, and how is this going to affect climate-conscious policy, especially now that there are more Greens in the house and the Senate?

Isabelle Moreton  
Good question. I’ll give as good an understanding as I can. Some of these are my lines, some of them are not. A lot of it is more about the impact of the whole program than the climate aspect. I’ll probably go shortest to longest roughly. I think for migrants and refugees, it’s going to be status quo. Labor and the Coalition together have overwhelming numbers, and those numbers are in favor of a fascist border policy. And there’s a weight of well-managed public opinion there. I would be surprised if change is achieved this term, at least through Parliament. As far as disabled people go, which is an issue which is close to my heart, possibly literally, the last federal Labor government had a project, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which provided funding for supports for disabled people. The timing on that was bad, at least from a client point of view, in that they activated it in July 2013 and then they lost the election in September. So the Coalition has been administering that for pretty much its entire existence, has been implementing steadily more stringent means testing and clawbacks. They were talking last year about independent assessments, which is basically every six months convince a doctor who doesn’t know you and was hired specifically to dislike you that you both deserve ongoing funding and deserved the funding you already got. They didn’t manage to get that through, but we hope that Labor will be less enthusiastic about disassembling the NDIS. I think it’s realistic to hope that Labor won’t make it worse, but they could disappoint yet. 

Emily Steers  
Never Say Never.

Isabelle Moreton  
This is my soft peddling the cynicism. Like this is a real black pilled-country, Australia at the moment. As far as queer and trans people go again, as a six-foot baritone named Isabelle, I think the best that we’re getting out of this is having a party in charge that isn’t actively committed to stochastic terrorism.

Emily Steers  
Excellent turn of phrase there.

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, well, thank you. I try. I also try not to die. I guess in terms of queer and trans rights, Albo supported marriage equality, but he seems more interested in trading on thatthan building on it. He whipped out a few TERF dog whistles during the campaign. He did manage to drop “adult human female” at one point. I think technically he said “adult female,” but the intent was pretty clear. But he does seem about as apathetic about being a transphobe as he is about being a trans ally. They were talking about passing that religious discrimination bill and allowing some forms of anti-trans employment discrimination, but the Shadow Minister in charge of that, Kristina Keneally, got punked rightfully at the election because she disrespected the electorate. And look, I think Labor MPs generally are yet to be convinced that discriminating more against trans people is going to help their careers. I’m presuming to speak for the entire, you know, rainbow community here. But I think we mostly feel that the best that we can expect is to be left alone. As far as low-income people go, also a group of which I’m part – my favorite income bracket – I think Labor intends to let us starve. I don’t think that’s going to be as easy as I think it’s going to be. Labor seems apathetic at best about rebuilding the public healthcare system and increasing benefit rates. But I’m not as confident as they are that they’re going to be able to avoid it. Cost of Living pressure is rapidly increasing. I think if Labor does nothing, there are going to be electoral consequences – at minimum.

Emily Steers  
You mentioned a while ago, I know you were doing some writing for the unemployment union.

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, no, that’s part of the radical union movement, which is one of the bright spots in terms of organizing that I might come to later, just to not retread too much. There is an intersection with low-income people, which is as it turns out, Indigenous people. So one thing I’m just going to clarify here, the term that most of my Indigenous friends use is Blak, that’s b-l-a-k, no ‘c,’ because they’re not African diaspora, but they are meaningfully black in terms of Australian society, so that’s the term that they use. So I’m white, so any summary delivered by me is going to be a summary delivered by a white person, but I’m going to do my best. Ask a Blak person. Take everything I say with a grain of salt, which is uncharacteristic for white people who have never used salt. I’m still Indian enough to know that. I’m third generation, I’m from an Indian background, so I can make this call. It’s fine. I’m giving myself a pass. Look, I’m gonna do my best to summarize the situation. It seems pretty definite that Federal Labor has a credibility deficit among Blak people due to its support for/lack of opposition to racist policy into the 21st century – in some cases, on an ongoing basis. There’s a program that the Coalition introduced called the cashless debit card, which was a coercive intervention in the Social Security system that basically targeted a number of Blak communities and targeted welfare recipients in those communities. Basically mandated that 80% of their welfare benefits could only be spent at approved merchants – read, chums of the government – using a highly visually-identifiable Visa Card run by Indue, a private operator who I understand are also chums of the government. So Labor’s made a promise to quote unquote, abolish that. Air quotes are because the promise is extremely carefully worded and has attracted a lot of skepticism. I guess we’ll see how that goes. And there’s also what’s called the Uluru Statement From the Heart, which was published by the First Nations National Constitutional Convention in May 2017. So that’s calling for a constitutionally-enshrined First Nations’ voice to Parliament, a process of agreement making between First Nations and the colony and a Makarrata commission. Makarrata is a Yolgnu language word. I believe the equivalent in Canadian technical parlance is Truth and Reconciliation. So that has the endorsement of the Labor Party and the Greens. Labor and some prominent First Nations voices and the Greens First Nations network are at odds over how the Uluru statement should be implemented. My understanding is that also reflects a divide at the community level. I’m not really qualified to speak further to that. But that’s the shape of things as I understand it.

Emily Steers  
We were discussing a little bit a while ago about how we’re again moving in very similar directions with relationships between settlers and Indigenous peoples and how that is kind of being reconciled and the tensions that are kind of really, really coming to the fore in interesting ways that are obviously very specific to our histories and unique contexts. But also, again, we’re parallel universes of each other over here. There’s a lot of deep similarities.

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, and I think as with Canada, Australia has a history which has been wading through blood for its entire existence. There is a lot there that will never be able to be made up for that. I think there is a broad wish that some amount of recompense will be made in this term. I guess we’ll see whether that happens. I hope it happens. My personal feeling is I would prefer that the land was back, and I will go into the streets for that. And I think that’s a pretty broad feeling. Sorry, so just to loop back, you asked how this would affect climate policy. 

Emily Steers  
Yes. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Labor’s policy is – it’s better than the coalition’s on paper, but it’s not good. And we don’t know if they’re going to even you know, all other fairly crap promises they’ve made. They’re gonna have to negotiate with the Green to get anything through the Senate, which is a situation that Labor hates to be in, but you know, stuff ’em. They’re gonna have to work with the Teal independents to some degree. I think they’re going to be dragged closer to meaningful climate action than they otherwise might have been. I wish I could give something more solid than that. But you know, fingers crossed.

Emily Steers  
Keep us posted.

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, well, I hope I can come back here in you know, a year and say, well, actually, the entire country runs on solar power now. It won’t happen, but I’d like to be able to say something like that. 

Emily Steers  
Oh, my gosh, manifesting. Manifest. 

Isabelle Moreton  
That’s the plan.

Emily Steers  
Manifesting or activism? 

Isabelle Moreton  
Both.

Emily Steers  
Both and.

Isabelle Moreton  
Diversity of tactics. 

Alright, so speaking of the Greens, again – and you’ve kind of spoken in favor of the Greens insofar as we are pro any one political party. So what do you see as being the impact of the green wave and climate conscious driving this interest in smaller parties and independent candidates. In this situation, they have a chance to be a lot more influential. What do you see as that influence being?

Good question. So the Greens and the Teals obviously made good out of this election. They have some pretty significant differences. Teals are economic centrist strains of social democrats. They do have some common goals that I think potentially they can work together enough to achieve some ground on. The first one is climate action. Labor and the Coalition have sort of been colluding to establish a titanium-framed Overton Window about what level of climate action can be expected from an Australian federal government. The Greens have ambitious goals, which are realistic and fit for purpose. The Teals have less ambitious goals but still considerably more ambitious than either of the major parties, which is hilarious considering they’re technically to Labor’s right. Like our two party system is getting outflanked to the left by conservative moderates. 

Daniel Tarade  
Yeah, wow. 

Emily Steers  
Jeez.

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, that’s where we are.

I mean, to an extent in British Columbia, again, you know, the Liberals, they’re kind of tried to outflank the NDP, but they’re just so entrenched there.

I can’t imagine something like that happening here. I would like to see Labor trying to outflank the Greens to the left. That would make me happy. They won’t do it, but it would make me happy. I think the second big thing that they can probably make some ground on is social progressivism. Every Coalition government in my lifetime has been misogynistic, homophobic, fashionably transphobic, little bit Christian Dominionist. Labor, meanwhile, has a habit of standing around wringing its hands going, Oh, we don’t know whether there’s enough public support, and there’s like 70% public support, and it has been for 10 years. And they’re also perfectly happy to support things to have like 30% public support, but you know, like the Santos limited or Adani Group mining companies want them.

Emily Steers  
Ah, you also have fun mining groups, don’t you?

Isabelle Moreton  
Oh, yes! Oh look, they’re buckets of fun.

Daniel Tarade  
We got you beat.

Emily Steers  
We do have you beat. We definitely have you beat on shitty mining groups.

Daniel Tarade  
We’re the capital in the world – the whole world. We mine more than anybody. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Wow.

Emily Steers  
I think it’s like 80% of major mining companies are HQed or they trade in Toronto.

Daniel Tarade  
Yeah. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Oh, great. 

Daniel Tarade  
We’re the home base. We’re just a hornets nest of mining companies. Kick anywhere and they’ll scatter.

Emily Steers  
But once again, seriously, I don’t think we can go a single podcast without shouting out Canadian Mining Watch.

Daniel Tarade  
It’s all they do. Well, it’s what we do as a state is mine. And what Canadian Mining Watch does is watch while they do it, and then tell everybody, so they are great.

Isabelle Moreton  
That’s a good function. I like that.

Emily Steers  
They are amazing. We love them. More links in the description. And Isabelle, I think you would enjoy their work. You should check it out.

Isabelle Moreton  
I will very much check it out. That’s a big passion of mine. I was involved with the Greens when they were trying to stop Adani Group, and we’ve stopped them for a moment. So you know, that’s better than not stopping at all. Let’s just capitalize on that success.

Emily Steers  
Continuing on with more cool Green and Teal things.

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, more socially progressive than either major party. I think I mentioned the Coalition ran a TERF in Sydney, and that went poorly. They ran her against Zali Steggall, who’s sort of one of the forerunners of the Teals. Now the division that was being contested was Warringah, which is the division of famously Catholic conservative former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. And so Zali, despite being a moderate pro-business centrist representing Warringah, went on our equivalent of Fox News, Sky News Australia, and did better trans allyship than the Labour Party did all campaign. The Greens have been pretty solid on trans rights. They have had a few TERFs pop up here and there. Like they’ve got a very good policy on trans rights. They do have TERFs nonetheless. I spent a couple of weeks there helping take the Victorian Greens apart with a fillet knife over that. But they have largely dealt with them. I’m waiting for them to put out their remaining fires, but as a party, they’ve been very good. They’re reliable. I’m waiting to be stabbed in the back, but they’re reliable. I feel the progressivism of the Greens entails a sort of doing a bit to establish a socially-conscious approach to climate apocalypse. Like we’re all in this together. You know, we’re going to die if this keeps up, and we can’t be wasting our time punching down. 

Emily Steers  
Which, you know, makes sense. 

Isabelle Moreton  
I think Australians are genuinely tired of culture wars, which is wild. I didn’t realize people could get tired of culture wars, but apparently Australians have managed to. 

Emily Steers  
Flooding and fires will do that to you. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah, there’s a bit you know, don’t we have better things to do, like not die, not be grilled and then drowned. Probably the big long term effect is we’re looking at a further fragmentation of the current two-party system. I mentioned you can indicate whether you strongly or weakly support a party in such a way they can still get your vote if you want it to. The metric for strong support is primary vote. When labour went from opposition to government in 1983, that was off 49% primary vote. The next time in 2007, it was 43% primary vote. We’re still finalizing counting in the current election, but if current trends hold, Labor will have gotten into government with 32.8% primary vote. That’s its lowest primary vote since the Great Depression, and they got kicked out of office for the Great Depression. Coalition’s at 36%, funnily enough, but they don’t have Labor’s broad base of grudging toleration. So now they’re on their lowest seat count since the founding of the Liberal party. So they’re both very much in the dead zone. I’m not sure that either of them are self-aware enough to realize. I don’t know that this is the doom of the two-party system. Like typically, we get a realignment, and we get two new parties with different names doing functionally the same thing. That said, I do think the green wave is a sign that things can’t continue as they are. What that means, I don’t know. But many things that we accepted as true are sort of melting into thin air.

Emily Steers  
Obviously, as a socialist organization, we are always looking to collaborate internationally and, you know, having a Trotskyist face, we are big believers in internationalism and international solidarity. So what is the state of socialist organizing in Australia? And like, where do we find the cool radicals?

Isabelle Moreton  
All the really cool ones too cool for me to know about. No, I’m kidding, I do know some cool radicals. I mentioned the main body of the trade union movement is super domesticated and controlled, and the people making the demands that are closest to what I think scientific socialists and anti-fascists are making in other countries are I guess what Leninist might call vulgar Social Democrats, the Greens. They basically got there from environmentalism, through sort of like Carl Sagan-type, “if you want to bake an apple pie, you must first invent the universe” type thing. You do see a few anarchists and Marxists doing entryism in the Greens. Not many but there there. 

Emily Steers  
Okay. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Look, I hate to feed the conspiracy theories, the Greens will listen to Marxists. I don’t think they’re Marxist per se, but they will take feedback. They’re not gonna go, “oh, this is socialist, we don’t like it.” We do also have actual anti-fascists in our White Rose society chapters, who are unmasking Nazis and contributing to the national discourse. 

Emily Steers  
Love it.

Isabelle Moreton  
The organizers who have been most effective in organizing large-scale mobilization are Indigenous activists, Blak activists, who really and rightfully been successful in getting people to turnout. So that’s groups like Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance. I think the closest thing we have to a continuing central infrastructure of radical activism is the radical union movement, which is sort of a combination of reorganizing existing sectors which have management-friendly unions under more worker-led leadership and also building collective strength in areas which were previously you know, thought not to be organizable. So we’re looking at stuff like the Australian Unemployed Workers’ union, Renters and Housing union. In terms of like reorganizing existing sectors, there’s the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union, which is reorganizing the area covered by the SDA – the Shoppies. The SDA are very much a right-wing bosses’ union, completely controlled. And so the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union is sort of sprung up to replace that. I wouldn’t say that the radical union movement is a potent force in its own right yet, but it’s developing in that direction. And it’s sort of connecting other radicals and seeing the formation of smaller task-oriented local groups. I think we’re gonna se the time in the next five to 10 years when the radical movement is organizing mass strikes on its own. We’re not there, but I think we’re heading there.

Emily Steers  
Amazing! It sounds like there is no formal infrastructure for leftists outside of the Greens. But there is a really, really awesome grassroots movement being formed. And yeah, again, different in a lot of interesting ways. But I think your comment about Indigenous organizers, those have been by far the biggest demonstrations and the ones with the broadest support. I think Black Lives Matter and solidarity with Wet’suwet’en and land back demonstrations and solidarity demonstrations after the discoveries at the former residential school sites last year, those have been some of the biggest demonstrations I’ve ever seen. So that is absolutely the direction that I think left organizing should be going. I think those are the leaders we should have. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah. 

Emily Steers  
And there’s a lot of really interesting mobilization happening in that way. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Very similar experience here. I’ve been to a few protests. We had a George Floyd solidarity protest, movement for black lives protest, focusing largely on police mistreatment of Indigenous people here and that was the biggest protest I’ve ever been to – 10s of 1000s of people. For comparison, the next year, there was the March for Justice, which was feminist, which got much more media coverage but was much more sparsely attended. And that was in response to the outrages by members of cabinet. And so I get the feeling that the Indigenous liberation movement, the land back movement, are the most viable, ongoing threat of mass mobilization in this country. Again, like you say, I think that’s leadership that we should be following here.

Emily Steers  
So the million dollar question, what are the prospects of socialism in Australia?

Isabelle Moreton  
Well, that’s not a million dollar question. We want to have a moneyless society.

Touché.

Deflection aside, the prospects are good. There’s a lot of untapped fury here. And there’s a lot of willingness to express that fury as leftist politics, and the state mechanisms to suppress that organizing, I think, so far, underprepared. We’ve caught them on the hop. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the results of this election. I’m seeing a lot more solidarity from Australians. Elections won’t save us but what people say about themselves in elections might save us. I’m heartened by the signs I’m seeing. Australian populations are mobilizing a lot more lately. They’re mobilizing against fascism, no matter who it comes from. I am heartened. I think we’re going to see a very effective mass movement in the next five to 10 years. I don’t know if they can escalate fast enough to stop us. I’m hoping they can’t. I don’t know if change will come through us pushing forward the government because I’m not sure that governments as a whole will hold us together long enough for that to happen. I do get the sense that we have each other, that a lot of us want to exit this through liberation, not annihilation. We want to get out of this together. And I think there’s a movement forming which will allow us the chance to do so.

Emily Steers  
Beautifully said. What a beautifully hopeful note for us to conclude on.

Daniel Tarade  
I have one last question. 

Emily Steers  
Oh, okay. Nevermind. 

Isabelle Moreton  
Yeah. 

Daniel Tarade  
You said that there’s more of an American influence there. How did they spell Labor Party in Australia? Is there a “u” in it?

Isabelle Moreton  
No, it’s l-a-b-o-r.

Daniel Tarade  
Wow, that is the most uncanny valley thing about this. There’s no ‘u.’

Isabelle Moreton  
No, there’s a good functional purpose, and I’ll explain to you what the good functional purpose is. 

Daniel Tarade  
Okay. 

Isabelle Moreton  
So having no ‘u’ in the name of the Labor Party makes it easy to distinguish the Labor Party from the labour movement to which it has no connection.

Daniel Tarade  
That’s ugh – Isabelle, you lived up to all my expectations. I learned so much. And it was just really great to soak in the information.

Isabelle Moreton  
Thank you so much for listening to me talk – ramble for two hours.

Emily Steers  
This has been an absolutely wonderful conversation. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day and giving us your spoons, as they say. For this, we appreciate it so much. And I think a lot of our listeners are really going to benefit from learning a little bit about all of the things we have in common and all of the prospects that we hold as Commonwealth countries that are pushing boundaries and exploring what lies beyond Westminster-style politics.

Daniel Tarade  
One day, our wealth will truly be held in common. 

Isabelle Moreton  
That would be lovely, wouldn’t it.

Emily Steers  
Any final thoughts?

Isabelle Moreton  
It’s my honor and my pleasure to be here. I do get the sense that you and I are working to be better than we were, to create a world that is better than the one that we came into. And I really hope we succeed. And I think, I think we just might.

Emily Steers  
Well, let’s hold on to that hope. Thank you so much for your time, Isabelle.

Daniel Tarade
Thanks again, everybody for listening to this episode of The Red Review. Thanks again so much to Isabelle Morton, joining us from the other side of the empire to talk about what the most recent Labor Party victory means. Emily and I were just blown away by the similarities between Australian and Canadian politics, but maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised. If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, please subscribe on whichever platform you use. If you really enjoy our coverage and the interviews we bring, consider supporting us on Koh Phi, where for $3 a month you can help make The Red Review the most consistent socialist podcast in Canada. Until next time, stay safe, stay active!