John Passant

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Lex Wotton

Do not criticise the rich and powerful

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

Real debate?



Saturday’s socialist speak out

The world of the lobbyist is a veritable forest of corruption and yet these weeds prosper and grow in the fertiliser of party politics.

It’s the obverse of a bear farting in the woods. Everyone heard former New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell let one rip at the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing and within a day he had resigned. Yet all the other ruling class bears are destroying our olfactory and other senses and no one gives a shit.

Well, not quite no one. Up to one hundred thousand marched in March against the Abbott government. Tens of thousands rallied for refugees on Palm Sunday.

Looking at the Western Australian Senate by-election and recent polls it may be that the stampede away from Labor to the Greens (and for conservatives to fruitcake fractious groups like the Palmer United Party) has begun. It may not last but does present a real challenge for an ailing Labor Party.

The response from various Labor politicians has been to talk about reform and rank and file empowerment.  It will be a fake empowerment because the rank and file (or what remains of them) are by and large well to the left of the apparatchiks in charge of the party.

I have a novel suggestion for the ALP. Abandon neoliberalism.

Fight for workers and the poor through supporting direct action rather than the trickle down of ‘free” markets. Encourage unions to strike to defend their members.

Of course that won’t happen and the decline of Labor will continue until it becomes well and truly just another party of capital and neoliberalism.

My suggestion to socialists in the Labor cadavre is to leave now and join or join with those small left wing organisations fighting for a better world for working people. Don’t not stay in the ALP, a party committed to making the rich even richer at our expense.

Joe Hockey will hand down the Budget on Tuesday 13 May. All the talk about a Budget crisis is manufactured bullshit to make this Government’s vicious austerity program acceptable. The target of austerity will be the poor and working class although to give the impression of sharing the pain the ruling class will cut back a bit on the Grange.  

Why not tax the rich instead of increasing pension availability to 70 by 2029? Gina Rinehart can afford it.

The Abbott government has announced Badgery’s Creek will be the second airport for Sydney. While the spin doctors are painting that as visionary planning and infrastructure spending, real vision would mandate a high speed rail network down the eastern seaboard.  Not only would be environmentally friendly and save the people of Western Sydney from aircraft fuel and noise pollution, it would also create many more jobs and be more efficient at moving people up and down the east coast than a second Sydney airport.

Russian imperialism continues to defy US imperialism in the Ukraine.  The inability of Obama to impose his will on a second level imperialist power will be a lesson the Chinese and others take to heart.

US drones murdered two Australians. No government condemnation. No fury. Just silence in the face of this American barbarity.

Goodbye Gabriel García Márquez.

To have your say or see what others are saying hit the comments button under the heading. Like all posts on this blog comments close after 7 days.


The ruling class haven’t lost their bottle

Barry O’Farrell, an apparatchik of capital in  New South Wales, has resigned over receiving a ‘gift’ of a 1959 Grange Hermitage, a $3000 bottle of wine. In common it seems with much of the Liberal Party O’Farrell pleaded lack of memory. He had no recollection of receiving the ‘gift’. His loving thank you note to the Australian Water Holdings’ donor gives the lie to not receiving it.

Perhaps Barry put the red under the bed?

His resignation is not some great victory for the left or the working class.

O’Farrell is not the lone granger. There will be a queue of apparatchiks lining up to take his place as Premier of New South Wales to attack workers and the poor. They will still be cutting workers’ compensation payouts, trying to evict the public housing tenants from Millers Point, attacking TAFE, closing down firestations and slashing funding for public hospitals, schools and transport.

The real corruption is the exploitation of workers, the extraction of surplus value from workers. As profit rates fall because of the way capitalism is organised whoever is running the capitalist state will attack workers and social services to restore those rates.

The ruling class haven’t lost their bottle. Either should we. Instead of whining, strike to stop their class war on workers, retired workers and the poor.



Lex Wotton to break his silence at Marxism 2014

Lex Wotton

Lex Wotton, the heroic Palm Islander who was jailed after leading protests against racist police violence, is set to break a long silence says Red Flag.

He has confirmed his intention to speak at the Marxism 2014 conference in Melbourne next weekend, 17-20 April.

In 2008 Wotton was sentenced to seven years’ prison, reduced to six for time already served, for his role in a 2004 protest. The protest occurred after Mulrunji Doomadgee was killed in the Palm Island police station. During the protest, the police station and courthouse were burned to the ground.

Wotton was released on parole in July 2010, but onerous conditions barred him from speaking to the media about his case.

Standing against murder

On 19 November 2004, Mulrunji Doomadgee suffered injuries consistent with those of a car crash victim – four broken ribs, a ruptured liver and a ruptured spleen – in the Palm Island watchhouse.

It was the 147th death of an Aboriginal person in custody since 1990.

The local community was told on 26 November that Mulrunji had “probably tripped on a step”. His grieving friends, relatives and neighbours could see that a cover up was in motion.

A furious crowd of several hundred people marched to the cop shop and courthouse. They threw rocks at the buildings, and yelled out to the police cowering inside: “Racists!” “Captain Cook c*nts!”

Inside, the cops counted their bullets and discussed shooting their way out. Later, they laughed and joked among themselves. They played for time and left in a group. No one was injured.

After the police had left, protesters set fire to the station, the courthouse and the sergeant’s house, as payback for Mr Doomadgee’s killing.

In response, the Queensland government sent the anti-terrorist squad, attack dogs, plainclothes detectives and extra police officers to arrest the alleged perpetrators. The main target was Lex Wotton. He was arrested and tasered in a dawn raid by more than 50 cops.

Wotton, a community leader, plumber and father of four, has previously described how the police worked to build up the non-existent case against him, leaning on his co-accused and on people who weren’t even at the rally to make statements accusing him of arson and all kinds of other crimes.

He told a meeting before his trial: “I’m the scapegoat… There was outrage from the community [over Mulrunji’s death]”. The community’s protest at yet another young man dead at the hands of the police was maligned. Wotton was found guilty of rioting with destruction.

Cops off the hook

Christopher Hurley, the cop who killed Mulrunji, was the first police officer in 20 years to face trial for the death of an Aboriginal person in custody. Deputy state coroner Christine Clements found that Hurley had fatally assaulted Doomadgee. But a white judge and all-white jury in Townsville eventually acquitted him of manslaughter and assault. He received $100,000 in compensation and in 2008 successfully appealed to have the results of the Coronial Inquiry overturned.

Thirty-four police officers who were on Palm Island at the time of the protests received awards or commendations for “bravery”. They include Darryn Robinson, a detective and a mate of Hurley’s. Robinson was the person Hurley called when he realised Doomadgee was dead. He flew to Palm Island and ran the initial “investigation” into his mate. Robinson has admitted that he lied under oath at the inquest.

For years, Lex was prevented from speaking out. And the media have been reluctant to tell his story – and the story of Mulrunji. Now Lex is going to break the silence. Don’t miss it.

Lex will be speaking as part of a panel at Marxism 2014 opening night, 6:30 pm on Thursday 17 April. He will then speak at 4pm Saturday 19 April after a screening of The Tall Man – a documentary about the murder of Mulrunji Doomadgee.

Why not tax the rich?

OK,  so a 1% wealth tax on the top ten percent would yield by my back of the envelope calculations $30 billion, an inheritance tax on estates worth more than $2 m a couple of hundred million if not more, taxing trusts as companies (Joe Hockey suggested it a few years ago but has been silent ever since) billions, taxing the top one percent of income earners (those earning over $250000 a year) at 100% with a 75% rate for incomes between $150000 to $250000 would also yield billions.

Imagine how much a real super profits tax would bring in, especially if it were to apply not just to mining companies but to the banks too. We are talking tens of billions here.

Halving dividend imputation would produce billions too. That’s before we talk about increasing the company tax rate and getting rid of tax expenditures for business worth tens of billions.

Getting rid of the superannuation concessions for the top ten percent of income earners would save up to $10 billion, especially if coupled with abolishing or restricting negative gearing to stop switching from one rort to the next.

This could be just for starters.

Why aren’t these taxes on the rich on the agenda, instead of attacking pensioners, sacking tens of thousands of public servants, cutting public transport, health and education spending and slashing funding to the mildly critical ABC and the world ranking CSIRO? I’ll tell you why.

Because the priorities of this government, like all the governments before it, is profit, not people. The Abbott government, like Labor before it, is involved in an attempt to shift massive amounts of wealth to the rich from labour and the poor.

Bob Carr American Mole

It is good to see that in the week of Sue Townsend’s death Bob Carr carries on the tradition with the release of his book ‘The Not So-Secret Diary of an American Mole aged 66 3/4.’

Free Speech Sunday

I have just come back from a fantastic rally for refugees in Canberra with up to 3000 people there according to the ABC.

Recently the Federal Court upheld the Department of Immigration decision to sack a woman working for them for criticising, anonymously, on social media the racist refugee policy of the Labor, and now the Liberal, governments.

Evidently for public servants your own time is not your own time. The government owns you outside work hours too and can control your dissent.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is tightening up its code of conduct to include forbidding staff from using social media to criticise any government policy, even anonymously and on their own time. It is also, in the grand tradition of the STASI, calling on other staff to dob in fellow employees they suspect of criticising the Government.

So if you are a public servant or anyone else who believes in the right to bag out Abbott and co, Free Speech Sunday is the blog spot for you. Hit the comments link under the heading to have your say.

Post anonymously if you want to. I can remove the email and URL links. I won’t dob you in, although presumably the spies and those apparatchiks who troll the social media for Departments like Immigration and PM&C will be all over it like a rash if you do post. So be careful. I can’t guarantee they won’t trace you.

Saturday’s socialist speak out

Let me get this right. The revenue forgone on tax concessions for superannuation at $45 bn will soon be more than the cost of the pension (over $40 bn). Of that $45 bn in tax concessions $10 to $15 bn will go to the top 10% of income earners. Yet Australia’s greatest Treasurer, Joe Hockey, wants to rein in expenditure on the pension by for example extending the access age to 70 (after Labor increased it to 67 over time by 2023), reducing the yearly adjustment to CPI rather than Average Weekly Male Full-Time Earnings increase (although the two are now roughly equivalent) and tightening up the asset test to perhaps include the family home. Priorities.

According to the OECD Australia has one of the lowest relative pensions of any member countries (Turkey and Mexico are lower) and 35% of Australian pensioners live in poverty. Priorities.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show the top ten percent own 45% of the net household wealth in Australia. Using this as a basis for extrapolating, (and this extrapolation might be defensible, it might not) a wealth tax of 1 percent annually on the top ten percent would yield $30 billion in revenue. This assumes the distribution of Australia’s wealth of $ 6 trillion, which includes company holdings, reflects the household wealth division. In fact it is likely to be higher for the top ten percent. Up the tax to 2 percent on the top ten percent and we are talking about $60 billion annually. Priorities.

It also looks as if the Abbott government will introduce not only a $6 co-payment on going to the doctor but also one on going to the emergency room of the local hospital. Priorities.

Sacking public servants and attacking the poor and working class will be the essence of this Government’s budget in May. Priorities.

The government is also going to spend ‘trillions and trillions’ on defence playthings. Priorities.

It has spent millions on finding the missing Malaysian Airways plane as part of expanding its imperialist influence in the region but won’t spend anything on finding those who murdered Reza Berati in the government’s care on Manus Island. Priorities.

Tony Abbott has signed fair trade deals with Japan and South Korea which don’t benefit most Australian farmers much but do further undermine the previous and perhaps lingering manufacturing consensus of the Australian ruling class. He is negotiating one with China which should be settled in the next few months.

The crisis in Labor continues, with more and more senior apparatchiks coming out in favour of limited membership democracy precisely because they know it doesn’t threaten their privileged positions and more importantly will allow the ALP leadership to continue on its path of neoliberal self and societal destruction. Priorities.

Bob Carr has released his diary of an American Mole aged well into his sixties. Apart from being a first class prat Carr’s remarks about the strength and power of the Israeli lobby in Australia sent the Zionists into apoplexy. I think the total support of the Australian ruling class for Israel has to be understood in the context of their close relationship with American imperialism and the absolutely vital role Israel plays for the US in the Middle East.

The enquiry into the Left (very broadly defined as including the Labor Party and unions) began on Wednesday.

In great news, freedom fighter Lex Wootton will break his silence over Easter at Marxism 2014 in Melbourne.

On Palm Sunday there will be rallies for refugees across Australia. Now that is a real priority.

And don’t forget, for all those public servants and others concerned about the erosion of the right to criticise the government, Free Speech Sunday will be here tomorrow. It’s a day to criticise the government, for free, on my blog.

To have your say or see what others are saying, hit the comments link under the heading. Like all posts on this blog comments close after seven days.

Feudal honours? The rich far prefer capitalism

It’s almost enough to turn staunch monarchist John Howard into a republican writes Diane Fieldes in Red Flag. Even he considers Abbott’s reintroduction of knights and dames to be “somewhat anachronistic”.

In this new age of the bunyip aristocracy, Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer are no doubt already planning the creation of further honours suitable to their talents: the Order of Inheriting Wealth Stolen from Indigenous People, or the highly desirable Lord Warden of the Titanic.

You can see the attraction of feudal titles. Knights, barons and dukes had their own courts in which they made all the decisions. That would no doubt appeal to Arthur Sinodinos, not to mention a fair few on the Labor side.

A bit of “off with their heads!” would probably be to Bronwyn Bishop’s liking; much better than just having to content herself with banning infectious laughter from parliament.

But really, they’ve already got most of this. If the ruling class yearn for a bit of hanging, drawing and quartering, they’ve got Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and secret torture chambers across the globe. On a less overtly violent scale, what is every inquiry into trade unionism but a modern-day Star Chamber?

And they have whole armies of lawyers, personal assistants and other obsequious fart-catchers that they can require to address them (at least in private) in any way they see fit.

Seeing Abbott mocked from all sides is good for a laugh, but the ruling class isn’t really desperate to bring back feudalism. Compared to those impoverished feudal lords and kings, today’s rich are a million miles ahead.

Like all class divided societies, feudalism was exploitative, vicious and unequal. But as Marx famously put it, “the walls of the feudal lord’s stomach set the limits to his exploitation of the peasant”. There are only so many castles and roast suckling pigs that even the greediest noble could get through in one lifetime.

So long as the feudal nobility could force the peasants to hand over enough of their production to keep the riotously good life going, and to pay for those bodies of armed men, the state, without which no minority ruling class can continue to rule, there was an end to it.

Unlike feudalism, under capitalism there is no limit to exploitation and accumulation for the bosses. It’s not personal wealth that drives the capitalists (though none of them are averse to it), but the competitive nature of the system, the threat of being overtaken by rival capitalists.

In another of his expressive phrases, Marx wrote of the capitalists’ drive to expand production as “Moses and the prophets … Accumulation for the sake of accumulation, production for the sake of production.”

The massive expansion of the forces of production under capitalism makes possible the creation of enough wealth for everyone on the planet to have their needs met.

The fact that it is in the hands of the capitalist class means that most people’s needs are systematically not met. To that there is no end until a revolution by the exploited who create the wealth.

As the globe warms we get hot air from politicians

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on climate change writes Michael Kandelaars in Red Flag.

Written by more than 240 experts from 70 countries and citing more than 12,000 scientific references, it is the most comprehensive analysis of the state of our knowledge about climate change – and the starkest confirmation yet about the extent of global warming.

Despite the scientific consensus and dire warnings of the need for immediate action, politicians continue to fiddle while the planet burns.

“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change”, said Rajendra Pachauri, chairperson of the IPCC. As global temperatures increase due to continued greenhouse gas emissions, extreme weather events are becoming commonplace.

A hotter planet will result in island nations being submerged by rising sea levels; decreased global food production; larger floods; increased numbers of environmental refugees; increased rates of extinction of animals and marine life; and the worst is yet to come.AR5 specifically describes Australia as headed for enormous changes over the next 80 years. Across the country we will experience hotter and more frequent heat waves, more bushfires and an increase in heat-related deaths and hospitalisations.

If you thought last summer was bad, the report warns that by 2100 parts of Western Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia and Queensland could experience up to 192 days per year above 40 degrees.

Longer and harsher droughts are expected, with rainfall to decline by up to 40 percent in south-east Australia. The rest of the country will experience an increase in extreme rainfall and flooding.

It gets worse. The report cites a projected increase in diseases carried by water and food: up to 335,000 new cases of bacterial gastroenteritis each year by 2050 and outbreaks of malaria and dengue fever in a hotter Australia.

Increased heat stress and disease will disproportionately affect remote Indigenous communities. Rising sea levels threaten to displace many Torres Strait Islanders and the inhabitants of many islands in the South Pacific such as Kiribati and Tuvalu.AR5 paints a frightful picture of the future of our planet, yet the response of governments and the rich makes you think they’re living on Mars. Abbott dismissed the report, stating, “Australia is a land of droughts and flooding rains. Always has been, always will be.” He claimed that he will “take strong and effective action to deal with climate change … You’ve got to have smart policies, not dumb policies.”

Yes, smart policies. Like expanding coal seam gas fracking in Queensland – a technique which has resulted in such severe contamination of water resources in one part of the United States that residents can set their tap water on fire. Great way to save on your heating bill!

Or how about that ingenious policy of NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell to shut down 30 fire stations and sack 300 firefighters after recent bushfires?

With more people needing to visit hospital suffering from heat stroke, what better time to start cutting back on health care and charging people $6 per GP visit? Best of all, Abbott will stop the Great Barrier Reef being destroyed by warmer temperatures by getting the coal companies in there to destroy it first. Clever!

Back to reality. The steps needed even to mitigate the effects of climate change aren’t being taken, let alone any serious action to prevent climate change. The future laid out in AR5 is where we’re headed, but it’s not inevitable and it’s not too late.

What is needed is not a simple policy change, but an urgent radical change in the way our world works. For all the rhetoric about the efficiency of capitalism, this system of profit above all else is the biggest barrier to saving the planet.

The technology already exists for a world based on 100 percent renewable energy. Research by the Melbourne Energy Institute has shown that a 200km by 200km square of solar panels – .05 percent of total land space – would produce enough energy to power the whole of Australia. Include the use of wind and hydroelectric power, and the potential is enormous.

These are the sorts of “smart policies” that should be implemented, yet it is the mining companies and coal plant owners who have everything to lose from it. Let’s start by taxing Gina Rinehart’s $20 billion and BHP’s recently announced $8 billion profit, and fund renewables that way. If the system is geared towards upholding the profits of these corporations to the detriment of the planet, then the system needs to go.

Abbott government will privatise the air

The Abbott government has decided to privatise the air.

‘This will create the conditions for a much more efficient economy,’ Mr Abbott said. ‘Too much short shallow breathing has upset the natural rhythms of the economy and with air in the hands of private enterprise a thousands flowers will blossom, or not,’ he added.

Mr Abbott said that the privatisation would also contribute to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions as people slowed and deepened (but not too much) their breathing.

‘This is a win win for Australia,’ Mr Abbott said. ‘It is about environmental benefits, more jobs, less waste.’

‘What could be more natural than us paying Gina Rinehart or Rupert Murdoch for the privilege to breathe free market air?’ the Prime Minister asked.

‘Only socialists and off with the fairies Greenies support free air,’ Mr Abbott said, and added  ‘just as there is no such thing as a free lunch, so there is no such thing as free air.’

‘We all have to breath together on this,’ the Treasurer, Joe Hockey said. ‘For too long the ideology of entitlement has blinded us to the reality that free air is a burden on the economy and holding us back. ‘

Not only that but the tens of billions raised would help reduce the budget deficit, an issue Mr Hockey described as ‘the most pressing and potentially dangerous one facing the government and the nation.’

The Reformed Labor Party (No Unions Allowed) is divided over the issue but it is understood, from very reliable sources, that the great majority of Joe Bullocks in caucus support the Abbott government’s move, with one senior Opposition figure describing support for a free market in air as a ‘no brainer.’

‘The support of the Reformed Labor Party (No Unions Allowed) for this move, one we first floated in 1986 as Option D under Hawke and Keating but which the evil unions defeated, is a great move to doubling our membership from 20 to 15,’  another RLP (NUA) insider said.

‘Well, we are the ones who are delivering on this great initiative,’ Treasurer Joe Hockey said.  ‘All the RLP (NUA) ever did was talk about it and go to water when the unions huffed and puffed,’ he added.

‘I make this solemn pledge to you,’ Mr Hockey said. ‘Air will always be cheaper under a Liberal government. ‘

Independent analysis shows the hot air centre in Canberra would contribute the most to the coffers of the air entrepreneurs.