Here comes another coalition

Australia’s prime minister, Julia Gillard, fails to win an outright majority.

Not all the votes have been counted, but the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, has been forced to concede that neither her party, Labor, nor the opposition conservative coalition is likely to win the 76 seats necessary for an outright majority.

ABC Australia is forecasting 72 seats for Labor and 73 for the conservatives.

The opposition leader, Tony Abbott, described the result as a "savage swing" against the government. It is a big blow for Gillard, who has been prime minister for only two months after ousting Kevin Rudd. Her honeymoon period as a new leader did not last long. Gillard must now woo a handful of independent candidates to try to form a government. If successful, it will be Australia's first coalition government in 70 years.

Useful analysis can be found at the Sydney Morning Herald, which suggests that Labor will win the race to form a government. But the bookies have named the conservative coalition as the favourite.

The Sportingbet Australia chief executive, Michael Sullivan, said it was "hard to see how a Labor government relying on support from a Green and essentially conservative independents would ever reach a consensus and be able to function effectively".

So, Australia possibly faces a coalition consisting of wildly different ideological elements. Rings a bell . . .

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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Brexit would jeopardise the rights of working women

Europe isn’t perfect, but without it millions of women and millions of trade unionists would be at risk of Tory deregulation. 

One of the most important arguments in favour of staying in the EU is the protections that membership affords working people.

Whether it’s equal rights for part-time workers, the agency workers directive or limits on the length of the working week, we all owe the European Union and its Social Charter – campaigned for by a generation of trade unionists from across the continent – a great deal.

Outside of Europe British workers would find themselves worse off both in terms of their pay packets and the rights that they rely on. Add to that the reality that outside the EU risks being a place with lower public spending thanks to a troubled economy and rising privatisation of our public services, you can understand why the vast majority of British trade unions are recommending that their members vote to remain.

And for working women, the choice is starker still, because women have that much more to lose when rights and protections are stripped from the workplace.

Just think what EU law guarantees for all working people through the social charter, and how losing these rights (and putting the Brexit bunch in charge) would impact on things we’ve all come to rely on like maternity pay and guaranteed holiday pay.

Think about how much harder the struggle for equal pay will be if it’s not underpinned by EU law.

Think about how a Boris Johnson led Tory government – outside of Europe, on the fringes of global influence and under increasing pressure from UKIP to withdraw even further from the modern world – would attack your working conditions.

The Tory right – fresh from dragging our country out of Europe and away from regulations that help keep us safe at work aren’t going to stop there. Their next port of call will be other sources of what they deem “red tape” – like equal rights legislation that helps ensure women have all the same opportunities afforded to their male colleagues.

That’s something that matters to me as a trade unionist and as a woman.

It’s something that matters to me as Assistant General Secretary of a union with more than a million female members – UNISON, the biggest membership organisation for women in the country.

It matters to me as President of the TUC – when most trade unionists are women and when we have the first female TUC General Secretary in Frances O’Grady.

But most of all it matters to me because of the stories of all of the women I’ve met and am proud to represent who benefit every single day from Europe-wide protection of their rights.

What we face is the risk of losing those rights to a cynical and desperate campaign based around false promises and rhetoric from the Brexiteers. What we need in this campaign is some straightforward honesty. So here’s my position in a single sentence: Europe isn’t perfect, but without it millions of women and millions of trade unionists would be at risk.

I won’t stand for that. Neither should you. And neither should they either.

Liz Snape is Assistant General Secretary of UNISON and President of the TUC