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John Passant

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Me quoted in Fairfax papers on tax haven use
Me quoted by Georgia Wilkins in The Age (and other Fairfax publications) today. John Passant, from the school of political science and international relations, at the Australian National University, said the trend noted by Computershare was further evidence multinationals did not take global regulators seriously. ”US companies are doing this on the hard-nosed basis that any [regulatory] changes that will be made won’t have an impact on their ability to avoid tax,” he said. ”They think it is going to take a long time for the G20 to take action, or that they are just all talk.” (1)

Sprouting sh*t for almost nothing
You can prove my 2 ex-comrades wrong by donating to my blog En Passant at BSB: 062914 Account: 1067 5257, the Commonwealth Bank in Tuggeranong, ACT. More... (12)

My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)



En Passant – staying alive through your support

I do not receive any income from this blog.

In an age when people in the UK and elsewhere are looking to the left for answers, and where that yearning for a better world is I believe an expression of the need to sell our labour power to survive and so exists in Australia among many people too, it is vital to keep alive a voice of resistance.

If you want to help keep the blog going, please consider donating to En Passant at BSB: 062914 Account: 1067 5257.

My thanks so far (29 September) to Elizabeth, Roger, Alfred and Peter for their generous contributions.


Our bombs are love

Our bombs are love

Our bombs are the bombs of your freedom
Raining down our reign
On all, the children, women, men,
We can
Enjoy our freedom in your grave
With your missing body parts
This is our art

Their bombs are the enemy of freedom
Raining hate upon your land
Sowing cemeteries so you understand
The difference in the dead and maimed

Our bombs are love
Theirs are not
Remember that as you hold
Your children to your heart
Dead in our noble cause
Dead in our noble wars

And remind yourself
We are the liberators
Embrace us too
Our killing is for you

This is a cause for joy
Grieve not your girl, or boy
Nor anger your response
Except against the enemy
For soon, very soon
We will set you free

(c) John Passant 3 October 2015

In the land of never

In the land of never

It is the wakefulness that walks its want
In the middle of our night
It is the darkness that haunts the space
Between despair, and delight
Where stands the man
Whose hand is caught, alight
And the woman who wakes alone
Screaming our words of fright
And gathers the older one
For whom the sun is gone
Knowing the dawn is come
To challenge all our songs
The words might echo long
Upon the past that is
The tune however bides it time
And questions all that is
For nothing exists beyond
The limits of the living
Where children hug their shadows
In the land of the unforgiving
And run free among amok
To places that do not stop
And clock the time that will not rhyme
With sidelines of the cheering
Return to beds alive with minds
And the sleep that is the thinking
Arising anew unrenewed
Into the world of blinking
Eyeing the past into the future
Bound, found, unground
Floating again, away again
That, my friend, is our end
All morphed away and here to stay
In her arms awake to all
And sleeping there forever
This is the aim, this is the call
In the land of never.

(c) John Passant 3 October 2015.

In defence of the CFMEU

This is a letter I have just sent to the Canberra Times in response to two items they ran. John Nikolic is the in-house legal counsel for the Master Builders Association of the ACT.


John Nikolic’s self serving article linking the CFMEU to increased workplace accidents is wrong. (‘The safety myth that is propagated by the CFMEU’ The Canberra Times Comment, Thursday October 1, page 5). Nikolic relies on a Master Builders Association survey of its own members and ‘anecdotal evidence’. These are hardly independent or unbiased.

Independent analysis in other countries shows that unionised worksites have fewer deaths and serious injuries than non-union sites. In Australia workplace deaths on building sites increased after the introduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. The reason is pretty simple. The ABCC hamstrung the CFMEU in its ability to campaign for and police in any effective way safety on site.

Nikolic claims there is no silver bullet on safety. I disagree. Put the building unions in complete control of safety on building sites. Removing safety from the grasp of the greedy and rapacious building companies, companies whose only interest is profit, and giving it to the building unions, the one group that have workers’ safety as their major concern, would be a step forward in reducing deaths and serious accident on site.

The real agenda of the MBA becomes clear in light of the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions to drop blackmail charges against CFMEU organiser John Lomax. (‘Lomax blackmail charge dropped’ The Canberra Times, Friday October 2, page 1.) Those political charges arose as a consequence of the thoroughly discredited Royal Commission witch hunt in trade unions.

The CFMEU is a major target of that witch hunt precisely because it is one of the few unions left in Australia today that actually stands up for and fights for its members. The MBA’s safety smear campaign and the clearly anti-union and political nature of the charges against Lomax show that the building industry bosses and their state apparatchiks will stop at nothing in their quest to put profit before people.

Banning entry into Australia is not the way to fight domestic violence or anti-abortion bigotry

Peter Dutton, the Minister for Immigration and Border Control, has issued a Notice of Intention to Consider Refusal to rapper Chris Brown. In 2009 Brown was convicted of assaulting his then partner, the singer Rihanna. He also threatened to kill her. The notice gives Brown 28 days to make the case as to why he should be given a visa to enter the country. The notice was issued the day before tickets for his concerts were to go on sale.

Dutton has also revoked the visa of US anti-abortion campaigner Troy Newman. Newman was due to come to Australia on Wednesday to sprout his bigotry at Right to Life meetings around the country. According to James Glenday on the ABC website:

‘Mr Newman is the co-author of the book Their Blood Cries Out, which was published in 2000. In the book he questions why doctors who perform abortions are not executed and asks why women or men who request the procedure are not charged with murder.’

[Update: Newman flew to Australia despite the visa revocation and was arrested at Melbourne airport. The High Court is hearing an injunction to prevent his deportation and allow him entry into Australia. This ban by the government and now the arrest and possible deportation will make Newman a martyr in many people’s eyes, and not just among religious conservatives.]

While Mr Dutton is giving the impression of being busy, he is doing nothing about the two asylum seeker women under Australia’s control raped on Nauru. One is now pregnant. So Dutton in his inaction on this specific issue is actually supporting a system of violence against women and anti-abortion bigotry. This inaction is because the brutalisation of asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island and Nauru is government (and Opposition) policy. It is systemic.

This should give the lie to the idea that by banning Brown and Newman the Turnbull government and Shorten Opposition are serious about addressing violence against women and are against bigotry. As the experience of asylum seekers in Australia’s concentration camps shows, this government and Opposition drive violence and bigotry.

Was there an alternative to banning Brown and Newman from entering Australia? Yes.

Brown has said he has learned his lesson and wants to help young men not use violence against women. This is how Bhakthi Puvanenthiran in the Sydney Morning Herald put it:

Brown said on Wednesday he believed his tour would be a “wake-up call” and he wanted to teach young people about the danger of domestic violence.

“I would be more than grateful to come to Australia to raise awareness about domestic violence. I’m not the pink elephant in the room anymore,” he tweeted.

“My life mistakes should be a wake up call for everyone. Showing the world that mistakes don’t define you. Trying to prevent spousal abuse.

“The youth don’t listen to parents nor do they listen to PSAs. The power that we have as entertainers can change lives,” he said.​’

Of course this could well be self-serving. However a strong grass roots anti-domestic violence campaign at his concerts and using him in mass meetings could have reinforced the anti-domestic violence message. The fact this option wasn’t considered but instead we see much of the left and the anti-domestic violence groups praising Dutton for issuing his notice of intention to consider refusal is an indictment of the movement against domestic violence and the left. The State banning Chris Brown doesn’t empower women. It empowers the State, the very symbol, concentrated expression and supervisor of women’s oppression.

In Brown’s case there is another element to this. As GetUp! has discovered after the event, the message that banning Chris Brown sends is that is it black men who commit violence against women. This fits neatly into the racist sub-context of the use some make of Australia’s domestic violence figures, namely that Aboriginal women suffer domestic violence at 34 times the rate of non-indigenous women. While this is true, it fails to understand let alone address the 227 years of genocide, dispossession, abuse and impoverishment Aboriginal people have suffered and continue to suffer.

It also fails to ask why remote communities do not have adequate basic services and no DV services. Indeed the Western Australian government is attempting to close down 120 remote communities to enable mining companies freer access to their land. And it fails to ask if there is over-policing in aboriginal communities?

So an anti-domestic violence strategy might have considered linking up with the campaigns to defend those communities and asking Aboriginal people how to address the violence in their communities. That would include not just specific well funded basic and DV services but addressing the wider questions of genocide, dispossession and so on through a treaty, recognition of prior sovereignty and paying the rent.

So too with the impending arrival of the militant anti-abortion campaigner Troy Newman. The anti-abortion movement is the other side of the anti-woman coin represented by domestic violence in action. A militant grass roots campaign at every one of his talks could have been a rallying call not just for the pro-abortion movement but could draw in the opposition to domestic violence and involve the beginning of linking up with Aboriginal groups in the ongoing fight against their oppression.

Here was a great opportunity to build a united mass movement against the oppression of women and indigenous Australians. Instead the focus was on getting the state to take top down action that does absolutely nothing to address domestic violence, anti-abortion bigotry, racism or women’s oppression. This is the very state which drives and reinforces that racism and oppression. There is nothing to cheer about in banning Brown and Newman.

My Razor Sharp interview on 29 September with Sharon Firebrace

This is the link to my 37 minute interview with Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 29 September. We covered the Abbott-Turnbull government, the smiling neoliberal that is Turnbull, how the government does not have a spending problem, except for the $24 billion on fighter jets and other wasted money on the rich and capital,  and much much more.

To hear the whole interview, click here.

Is another crash on the way?

The recent swings in world financial markets and the growing international effects of an economic slowdown in China have raised fears in the U.S. that the economic recovery could be on its last legs–even before working people felt like they had escaped the last crisis. And what will come next? In the first instalment of a three-part series, Lee Sustar in Socialist Worker US answers questions about the underlying causes of the instability in the markets–and explains how the troubles in the world economy today are tied to the same problems that led to the Great Recession of 2007-09. [Note, this was written just before the big stock market drop on Monday and Tuesday.]

Are we headed for another crash?


THE STOCK markets in China and much of the rest of the world seemed to calm down in September after the chaos of August. Does this mean the financial instability was a passing thing, and the prospects for the economy are looking up again?

NOT IF you go by the decision of the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee to keep its basic interest rate at just 0.25 percent.

The Fed bowed to pressure from those who argued that a rate hike would further destabilize the world economy. According to the chief economist at the World Bank, a rise in U.S. interest rates would risk panic and turmoil.”

Nevertheless, some members of the Federal Reserve Board’s Open Market Committee argued for a rate increase, contending that the U.S. economic recovery is strong enough to trigger inflation–and that if the economy does go into slump, it will be impossible to stimulate growth without an interest rate cut.

In the end, the Fed put off an increase in interest rates for at least a few months. That means more than six years will have gone by with the lowest interests rates in history. If there’s any one indicator that something is deeply wrong with the U.S. economy, that’s it.

The economic statistics show that the U.S. economy has been doing better this year–the increase in gross domestic product is estimated at 3.9 percent for April through June. But there are all kinds of indications–the stock market chaos being one–that the recovery, weak as it has been until recently, has already reached its peak. We are now entering a new phase of this economic period, which needs to be analyzed and understood.

WHY HAVEN’T low interest rates been able to spur faster economic growth? That’s how it’s supposed to work, right?

TO BETTER understand the financial instability and weaknesses of the world economy today, it’s useful to look back at the last crisis and the weak economic recovery since then.

The wild ups and downs in the markets over the last month revived memories of the crash of 2008, when the entire global financial system was on the brink of collapse. Since Wall Street and Washington have been trying to make us forget all that, it’s worth recalling just how severe that crisis got.

It started with a recession that is usually dated to December 2007, but the big downswing came months later with the stock market crash of October 2008, after the housing bubble burst and the Wall Street investment bank Lehman Brothers went under. As the economy contracted, wage growth fell, unemployment rose and mortgage debt went bad. As a result, the complicated financial investments tied to mortgages–such as credit default swaps, valued at $62 trillion, about five times the size of the U.S. economy–also plunged in value.

That blasted huge holes in the balance sheets of Wall Street banks and other financial institutions worldwide. The global economy as a whole contracted by 2.9 percent in 2009, with world trade shrinking by 12 percent. Nothing remotely like that had been seen since the end of the Second World War.

The U.S. economy itself was on the brink of a meltdown that could have sent unemployment far beyond the 10 percent level it would reach in the depths of the recession. Banks refused to lend to one another, and industrial production fell at an annualized rate of 18 percent in the last four months of 2008.

Remember how then-President George W. Bush elegantly put it: “[T]his sucker could go down.”

The financial free fall ended when Timothy Geithner, then president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank and later Barack Obama’s first Treasury Secretary, successfully argued to Bush that the U.S. had to guarantee all financial transactions, following the example of Britain. The Bush administration and a Democratic-controlled Congress rushed through the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to fund the bank bailouts.

Several of biggest banks in the U.S. were effectively insolvent. They were unofficially nationalized by the U.S. government, which forced several big banks to merge.

The U.S. also took over the insurance giant AIG with a $182 bailout, while taking direct control over the quasi-governmental Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage giants with another $187.5 billion “investment.” Washington also stepped in with a bailout of GM and Chrysler.

It’s worth recalling that even those uncompromising defenders of free-market capitalism, the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board, had previously advocated the government takeover of Fannie Mae as an “honest form of socialism.”

But the Obama administration’s version of “socialism” was one that only a boss could love. The AIG bigwigs who had helped to create the financial catastrophe got their bonuses on the way out the door, and the banks to which AIG owed money–like Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs–got repaid in full. Meanwhile, autoworkers at all of the U.S. car companies took massive concessions as a condition of the government bailout.

The Obama administration also moved to halt the downward economic spiral with a $787 billion stimulus bill passed in the first month of Obama’s presidency.

But the really big stimulus came through the Federal Reserve, which slashed interest rates to practically nothing. Since 2009, banks have been able to borrow money from the Fed at 0.25 percent interest, then turn around and loan money back to the government by purchasing Treasury bills that paid around 2.5 percent. This was a backdoor bailout that restored a restructured banking sector to profitability.

The Fed itself also bought up U.S. Treasury bonds, along with all kinds of junk mortgage-backed securities that no private investor would touch with a 10-foot pole. In the jargon of central bankers, this was known as quantitative easing, or QE. It’s the modern equivalent of simply printing money and flooding the economy with cash.

The result, as the St. Louis Fed noted, was a dizzying $3 trillion expansion in the Fed’s balance sheet. That amounts to a vast economic boost, even though it usually isn’t discussed in the mainstream media. But the movers and shakers of financial markets pay close attention.

That’s why there’s so much angst over whether or not the Fed will raise interest rates now. Inflation hawks have predicted that so much money injected into the system will inevitably lead to rising prices, and that has to be stopped. But U.S. banks are addicted to cheap money from the Fed. And beyond them, many big-money investors are worried that higher interest rates will choke off weak U.S. economic growth–at a moment when the biggest threat in the world today is deflation.

PROBABLY THE biggest factor behind the deflation threat is China, which is why bad news about the Chinese economy drove so much of the stock market panic over the past month. But why is China at the center of this new crisis? It’s been the big success story of the last few years.

THE IMMEDIATE cause is a bubble on the Chinese stock market. But even if Chinese stock markets stabilize for some time to come, the underlying problems of the Chinese economy are likely to get worse. As a recent editorial explained, the roots of the current crisis lie in the way China responded to the financial crash of 2008 and the Great Recession.

As the U.S. Fed was pumping money into the system through quantitative easing in late 2008 and early 2009, China launched a $635 billion stimulus plan of its own–bigger, proportionate to the size of the Chinese economy, than that of the U.S.

Alongside this stimulus came a vast expansion of credit. China’s total private and public debt is now 282 percent of its gross domestic product–a lower percentage than the U.S., but unprecedented for a newly industrialized country. The unregulated $2 trillion Chinese shadow banking system is bigger than the entire Russian economy. One consequence was that the money supply in China expanded faster between 2007 and 2013 than the rest of the world combined.

The new flood of money expanded China’s already fast-growing industrial base, including new steel mills, chemical plants and heavy equipment manufacturing facilities. China used more cement between 2011 and 2013 than the U.S. did in the entire 20th century as the country continued to go through an astonishing rate of urbanization.

The Chinese authorities recognized that this economic program of boosting basic industry would create problems of overproduction and eventually lead to lower prices for manufactured goods because of a glut on the world market–too many products and too few companies with the money to buy them.

So the government also set out to raise the consumption of the Chinese middle class and even workers, who were able to win pay increases through protests and strikes, despite the lack of independent trade unions. Meanwhile, upscale Chinese consumers among an expanding professional and managerial middle class could use their own pay increases to buy property or invest in the stock market.

This led to what an analyst at Credit Suisse bank calls a “triple bubble” centered on real estate, credit and investment.

Essentially, the Chinese economy is stuck between two economic models. There is the old strategy of constantly expanding basic industry to fuel manufacturing exports, which can’t deliver the 14 percent annual growth rates of a decade ago because there simply isn’t enough demand around the globe–and a new economic model of consumer-driven growth that is still too small to “rebalance” the economy, as economists put it.

What’s more, the Chinese economy is increasingly difficult for authorities to control. When the Stalinist state-capitalist economy opened up to the West 30 years ago, the Chinese state had direct or indirect control of most big investment, and foreign capital was a tiny proportion. Today, China is intertwined with the world economy at every level. Plus, decisions that were once made by Communist Party officials in the state bureaucracy have devolved to regional local officials who can tap into credit from a shadow banking system outside the big state banks.

In response to this, President Xi Jinping launched a reform campaign to take control of local government finances and recentralize authority in the hands of the party apparatus and big state agencies and enterprises. This has taken the form of an aggressive anti-corruption campaign that has targeted key party functionaries and government officials to send a message about who’s boss–with a bit of neo-Maoist rhetoric thrown in for populist appeal.

But none of these moves will be able to address the contradictions of the Chinese economy. China has the tremendous benefit of holding $4 trillion in foreign currency reserves–$1.25 trillion of it in dollars. That’s enough to pay for nearly two years of imports.

But even as China tried to engineer a modest devaluation of its currency–far less of a decline against the dollar than other currencies have fallen–it was forced to sell $93 billion of its holdings in August alone in order to keep the value of the yuan from crashing, which would create even bigger problems.

According to one estimate, China burned through $300 billion in three months to try and keep its currency stable. What seemed like an almost limitless reserve of cash suddenly doesn’t look so big. And no one–not even the Chinese government–really knows just how a crisis in the shadow banking system might affect China and the world financial system.

WHY HAVE China’s troubles hit the rest of the world so hard?

CHINA’S EXPANSION since the 1990s has rewired the world economy in many critical respects. Newly industrializing countries–once seen as poor Third World nations unable to develop–have emerged as new centers of capital accumulation. This development was captured with the acronym BRIC–standing for Brazil, Russia, India and China, sometimes expanded to include South Africa.

In those countries, already substantial manufacturing sectors got a boost from Chinese demand for both raw materials and finished goods. There was a renewed raw materials export boom in Latin America, Africa and Asia, with Chinese companies boosting demand for commodities and making big investments in agriculture and mining.

This had far-reaching political impacts. In Latin America, the raw materials boom based on Chinese demand gave left-wing and center-left governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina the economic leverage to carry out reforms–the so-called “Pink Tide.”

Oil-producing countries, too, benefited from Chinese demand through higher prices for their exports. According to the French bank Société Générale, Chinese demand boosted world oil prices from $20 a barrel to $100 barrel over the 2000s.

By 2014, China was responsible for 12 percent of world GDP at market exchange rates, up from 2 percent in 1995. According to the International Monetary Fund, China led the way as the so-called emerging market economies accounted for three-quarters of world economic growth in 2014.

Now China’s slowdown has destabilized all this. The most spectacular collapse is in Brazil, where a combination of the Chinese slowdown, falling oil prices and a corruption scandal in the huge state-owned oil company has led to a budget deficit and a 25 percent plunge in the value of the country’s currency, the real. An economy that just a few years ago seemed set to emerge as a global powerhouse is now in its worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The drop in the value of the Brazilian real is likely to accelerate a pattern of what’s called “competitive devaluations.” That’s economist-speak for a currency war–the effort by countries to lower the value of their domestic currency in order to make exports and labor costs cheaper in comparison to rivals. It’s known as a “beggar thy neighbor” policy, and for good reason: in a slowing world economy, such measures allow the lower-cost producers to steal growth from their rivals.

That’s why China’s recent move to modestly lower the value of its currency relative to the dollar set off the stock market tumble and raised fears of a currency war. China’s devaluation effectively cuts the price of that country’s manufactured goods on the world market.

The currency war could well spur a trade war, too. The head of the American Alliance for Manufacturing recently blamed 5,000 U.S. steel industry layoffs on China’s dumping of steel at below-market prices, and called for protective measures.

Chinese officials freely acknowledge the problem of overcapacity, citing problems in 18 industries. A few months ago, the government announced measures that would eliminate 80 million tons of steel production annually. But excess steel capacity in China is estimated at 300 million tons per year. By comparison, total U.S. steel output in 2014 was 80 million tons.

Bloomberg News reported earlier this year that in China, the problem of overcapacity “extends far beyond steel, afflicting aluminum, cement, coal, solar panels, and ship-building. According to a recent survey of 3,545 enterprises by the State Council’s Development Research Center, 71 percent of respondents called overcapacity ‘relatively serious’ or ‘very serious.'”

The result has been a big downturn in profits for Chinese industry this year. That will tempt Chinese businesses to cut prices on the global market to try to grab more market share and stay afloat–and add to the escalating tensions over trade.

It’s a classic crisis of overproduction–one that Karl Marx would recognize from a vantage point of a century and a half ago. What’s new is that it is taking shape after a huge shift in the world economy led by China’s rise.

Next: What’s driving the world toward a new slump?

We are the one

We are the one

As a boy I rowed
The river of religion
Now I have forgiven
My torment

As a man I sail
Socialism’s seas
And its storms
Encalm me

Now the confluence
Flows backward
And the two begin anew

One, social justice,
Rusts us to nirvana
Leaving the other, alone

There is no home
For halfway houses of reform
That crawl past
Slow, not fast

To nowhere but behind
The cross of loss
Is not mine
But ours

We have the power
To change their world
We stay in bed
Blanket headed

Until, until
That is the question
When, upon reflection,
Our gods are gone
That is the answer

Not just the gods above
But those we love, here and now
The secular love of saviours
Such strange behaviours

Lead us to the abyss
A papal kiss
Will not save us

Nor the old ways
Grace us
I pray for your loss
Which is the winning

We are a broad church
Of one eyed men
And women too
But this you knew

Did you understand?
Is this your land?
Or just mining postponed till
The night falls?

Where are the calls
That resonate, for justice?
Too late and left behind
All in my mind

There are no confessions
Only lessons from the past
Let us raise our glass
To what will come

I am not the one
You are not the one
There are no gods
On heaven and on earth

To give birth
To the new
Needs us all

We are the one
This you will know
One day
One day

(c) John Passant 29 September 2015

The China Free Trade Agreement isn’t about Chinese workers ‘stealing Australian jobs’; it is about exploitation


In the latest edition of Solidarity James Supple rebuts the argument that under the China Free Trade Agreement Chinese workers will ‘steal’ Australian jobs.  He says in part:

‘The problem is not with migrant workers coming here but the potential for exploitation as a result of the new agreements. Instead of a xenophobic campaign, unions should be demanding a role in negotiating conditions for migrant workers under IFAs and for their right to join unions. We also need to demand an end to the visa conditions that make them reliant on their employer to stay in Australia and for the right to permanent migration.’

Click here to read the whole article, China deal: the issue is exploitation, not immigration.

Je suis Karen

Thanks to the ludicrous yet frightening Living Safe Together booklet most of Australia knows about Karen, the women who became a ‘radical activist’ (whatever that is) by being involved in the  ‘alternative music scene’ (whatever that is.)

This booklet is designed to go to schools to help students and teachers understand the ‘dangers’ of ‘radicalisation’ (whatever that is) and dob in their friends and pupils. It is a reactionary’s wet dream, full of pompous platitudes and dangerous delusions, born of a world view that sees anyone who questions authority as the enemy. If you are not with us you are agin us. If you are not in ‘Team Australia’ you are a terrorist. This booklet is where Edmund Burke meets Tony Abbott, via the comics.

To be fair to the geniuses who developed this booklet, it was not just alternative music that led to Karen’s downfall. There was also student politics and ‘left-wing’ activism (whatever that is). All of this led inevitably and inexorably to direct action environmentalism, where Karen lived in a forest camp, disrupting logging activities. She was arrested numerous times and ‘lost contact with her family and previous set of friends.’ In other words she believed and practised, like Martin Luther King and many many others, direct non-violent action, in her case to stop capital destroying the environment and with it the very system that produces the drive for profits destroying the world.

Karen eventually left the group, ‘disillusioned with in-group fighting’ and miracle of miracles became a moderate. She ‘took a paid job with a mainstream environmentalist organisation.’ Ah yes, the mainstream environmental movement that has not won many significant victories since about 1986, but which now has all these Green MPs implementing or just itching to implement austerity and piss farting around about climate change.

Maybe the Greens could (they should in my view, but won’t) mobilise that big section of society worried about the threat to the environment, worried about our rotten treatment of refugees, worried about growing poverty and inequality, to sit in in the streets of the major cities and close them down until a government of either conservative persuasion is forced to take progressive action.

One underlying message of the booklet is pretty clear -play by the rules of the one percent. Reform the system, don’t challenge it. As the booklet says:

‘[Karen] also began to question the effectiveness of the protesting methods used by the group. It seemed they might make short-term gains but that there was no sustainable change unless it was translated into wider community support and government policies.’

This of course re-writes history. The suffragettes (whom the booklet incorrectly uses as a good example of nice peaceful reform) did not change the world by being polite. They conducted the sort of campaigns Karen did and were arrested and jailed for the political ‘crime’ of wanting women to have the vote. They won both because of their actions and because they built a mass militant movement. Like those in the Vietnam War who called for victory to the National Liberation Front, their actions shifted the debate to the left and made their demands both accessible to and understood by the public. Indeed their militant wing would, in line with the ‘logic’ of this this booklet, be an example of the ‘violent’ extremism the booklet rails against.

Except it isn’t violent, or extremist. The real extremists sit in Canberra and in the board rooms across the country. It is not Karen who invaded Iraq, or Afghanistan. It is not Karen who is bombing Syria. It is not Karen killing black men and women in custody. It is not Karen driving Aboriginal people off their land to open it up for big mining companies. It is not Karen killing women in relationships or doing little about it. It is not Karen increasing inequality and poverty in Australia. It is not Karen attacking Medicare. It is not Karen attacking penalty rates or wages. It is not Karen who is stopping equal love.  It is not Karen locking up and abusing thousands of innocent people on Manus Island and Nauru.

Karen’s conversion to the mainstream means she is no longer challenging the structures of power that impose this unjust society on us, a society of mass inequality, war, hunger, poverty and fast approaching environmental destruction.

As Howard Zinn so eloquently put it our problem is not civil disobedience; it is civil obedience.



There is another rotten message in the booklet too, namely that Muslims are a threat, captured by a similar message coming from the US. Muslim boys with clocks are dangerous. I will come back to this later.

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Some Basic Marxist Concepts to Help Understand Income Tax

Mark Konza, Deputy Commissioner of Taxation, told the Australian Financial Review Tax Reform Summit that ‘in 40 years of tax work he had not heard references to Marx…’ (Neil Chenoweth, ‘Equity sore point in foreign investment’ AFR Wednesday 23 September page 4.) Well Mark, you are in luck. My article, Some Basic Marxist Concepts to Help Understand Income Tax, has literally just been published online in the Journal Jurisprudence.

I hope you enjoy reading it.