Delivering the 2006 Hawke lecture in Adelaide today, ACTU Secretary Greg Combet has called for Labor and the union movement to develop a new “democratic consensus” on the issues of economic growth, security, education and climate change.

Mr Combet said Australia needs “a consensus which united rather than divides us” in the face of “division and deliberate deceit and distraction from the real issues” by the Howard Government.

Mr Combet said the Coalition Government was prepared to “unleash every evil spectre”, including racism, xenophobia and contempt — all for its own political gain.

He said long-term economic, environmental, social justice and security issues were not being effectively addressed.

“Political opportunism, divisiveness and disregard for civil rights and democratic principle is evident at unprecedented levels.

Democratic values have been weakened as the Coalition put human rights and social justice behind other priorities.”

Mr Combet outlined a vision for Australia’s future that addresses industrial relations, economic growth and productivity, education, climate change and political reform.

Mr Combet said Opposition Leader Kim Beazley deserved credit for the leadership he had shown on external security.

He said constitutional change was necessary to eliminate short-term political decision-making and Labor should move to introduce four-year terms and create an Australian head of state.

Mr Combet also labelled the Coalition’s response to climate change as “inadequate” and that its plans to develop nuclear energy were designed to “wedge” Labor while only the States and the Federal Opposition was pursuing a national market-based carbon-trading mechanism.

He also outlined substantial problems in education, including the flight from public schools and the demand for thousands of extra TAFE places.