With recent controversy over IR, the working class seems to have turned their backs on Howard whose popularity has plummeted. When the working class think of themselves as working class people fighting against big business they will align themselves against Liberal, which is the political party of the ruling class.
John Howard's biggest challenge then is shifting perceptions of the working class, making them think on events not as a conflict between economics classes but a conflict between locals and foreigners. If John Howard makes a big deal about Muslims, boat people, and Aborigines, the working class of Australia will perceive the ruling class of Australia not as an opposing economic group but as a united team of Australians. The working class will embrace the ruling class.
It seems, however, that Sydney Morning Herald Editor Ross Gittens has caught onto Howard's games. In a piece titled Back-Scratching at a National Level, Gittens says the following:
There's a saying among journalists that news is anything someone doesn't want you to know. So let me tell you all about John Howard's immigration program. It's a key part of the Government's economic policy, but one it rarely talks about.The reality is that Howard is playing a tricky game. While he has to pretend dislike foreigners for the sake of the working class he has to also boost immigration for the ruling class who care about money and therefore want more workers.
Why? Because Howard wants his Battlers to think he shares their dislike and distrust of foreigners, especially boat people. And it wouldn't help his image for people to know he's running the biggest immigration program we've ever had.
The fact is, however, that immigration is playing a big part in keeping the economy growing strongly, preventing shortages of skilled labour from causing a wages blowout, keeping inflation under control, limiting the rise in interest rates and keeping house prices rising rather than falling.
When Howard was elected in 1996 he cut the planned immigrant intake to 68,000, but by last financial year he'd more than doubled it. His planned intake for next financial year is almost 153,000 - plus 13,000 under the humanitarian program. To that you can add about 24,000 New Zealanders - who don't need visas and will be arriving to join the 470,000 of their fellow countrypersons who are here.
Last calendar year was the eighth straight year of net immigration (that is, net of permanent departures) in excess of 100,000.
Actually, thanks to a burst of high migration in the late 1980s, net immigration has exceeded 100,000 a year in 12 of the past 20 years, having exceeded 100,000 only 12 times in the previous two centuries. Another way to put it is that the program is running at a lot more than a million immigrants a decade.
Further Reading: Marxist Theory of Racism and Racial Inequality