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

Real debate?

System change, not climate change



Put a socialist into the Senate?

I am looking forward to the Labor Party pre-selecting a real left-winger for the top Senate spot to replace Senator Kate Lundy. Such a person would, among other things, fight publicly for refugees (rather than strangle Labor for Refugees from their office), rage against the racist Northern Territory intervention and the rotten basics card flowing from that,  vote for the left-wing candidate in any leadership stoush, argue vociferously for equal pay for equal work (rather than be a Minister in a government which saw the gender  gap widen), oppose the Orwellian named ‘efficiency’ dividend and cuts to public services like public health, public education and public transport, tax the rich,  and urge workers to strike to defend jobs, conditions, wages and safety, even when such strikes are ‘illegal’ under the bosses’  law.

Not only would they urge workers to strike but they would lead workers in such struggles, making their office a centre for union and other activism.

Maybe they could argue for the nationalisation of the mining industry and big banks?

On international policy I look forward to them condemning the close relationship the Australian ruling class has with US imperialism, closing down Pine Gap and the Darwin base, our participation in imperialist wars, express support for the right of Palestinians to resist the genocide Israel unleashes against them and  highlight the plight of West Papua under Indonesian colonialism.

Instead of being a mouthpiece for Labor Party conservatism and neoliberalism, I also expect the Senator to propose recognition of prior sovereignty, a treaty and paying the rent to the original inhabitants Australian capitalism drove off their land in an ongoing act of genocide.

Pigs might fly. The best we can hope for is a pretend leftie like Lundy. The worst we can expect is another hack not only defending the ALP’s indefensible and reactionary policies but doing so enthusiastically.

Maybe it is time for a socialist to not just be building or supporting these campaigns but to stand for the Senate in the ACT against the sell-out that is Labor.


The real looting

This is where real looting takes place--on Wall Street  #ows


Ferguson: justice denied yet again in America

A grand jury wouldn’t indict Mike Brown’s killer, but the angry protests in Ferguson and beyond show the struggle will go on. Nicole Colson and Alan Maass report in Socialist Worker US.

Mike Brown (Elcardo Anthony)

DARREN WILSON has gotten away with murder – and the American injustice system sent the message once again that Black lives don’t matter.

It was long after dark on November 24 when St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch marched to the microphone and announced that a grand jury had refused to indict the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer on any charge at all for killing 18-year-old Mike Brown on August 9.

This was the result that millions of people expected, but it was shocking anyway: A white cop who shot more than a dozen bullets at an unarmed African American teenager, killing him, was not only off the hook, but was being portrayed as a victim.

After days of rising tensions as the long-awaited grand jury decision didn’t come, people in Ferguson and around the country erupted in bitter protest. Even while Barack Obama followed McCulloch onto the airwaves to make his own statement urging peace, police fired their first volleys of tear gas and smoke grenades in Ferguson.

The media bemoaned the “violence” in Ferguson when a police car was wrecked and local businesses set on fire–without the slightest recognition of the violence that African Americans living in a city like Ferguson endure on a daily basis, directly at the hands of racist police and indirectly as a result of endemic poverty and unemployment.

Tory Russell, the co-founder of Hands Up United, responded firmly when asked in a CNN interview if he was “urging calm” after the decision. Russell replied, “I am urging calm. I’m urging calm for the police officers to not pepper spray me, tear gas me, mace me and shoot rubber bullets…People need to urge the police to be calm. Stop hurting kids, stop traumatizing our communities.”

The media vultures had their cameras trained on Ferguson, but there were angry demonstrations around the country after the grand jury decision was announced. In Chicago, hundreds of protesters took over Lake Shore Drive. In Oakland, Calif., in the largest protest in the Bay Area, the hastily organized solidarity demonstration drew more than 1,000 people who marched through downtown and later blockaded Interstate 580, one of the major routes through the city. Nearly a thousand turned out to Times Square.

There will be more protests today and in the days to come. We need to make sure everyone who was outraged by Mike Brown’s murder and inspired by the rebellion in Ferguson against racism and police violence raises their voices and sends a message: We won’t forget Mike Brown–and our struggle for justice will continue.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

WHEN McCULLOCH spoke late Monday, he didn’t act like a prosecutor, but a defense attorney…for Darren Wilson.

McCulloch began by complaining about supposedly “inaccurate” speculation on social media, the “trying circumstances” under which law enforcement had to conduct its investigation, and the “unfounded, but growing concern” that the investigation wouldn’t be full or fair. Then he attacked the credibility of numerous eyewitnesses to Mike Brown’s killing, going out of his way to smear any account that differed from Wilson’s, while highlighting those that corroborated Wilson’s.

All to promote the absurd claim that Wilson was under assault by Mike Brown and feared for his life.

According to the story as Wilson and his lawyer McCulloch tell it, the unarmed Brown was pulled over for walking in the middle of the street–and within 15 seconds or so started punching a cop. After being shot at twice, Brown struggled free and ran away from Wilson, but then inexplicably turned around and “charged” at the officer, forcing him to fire a volley of bullets that stopped him. Brown, now hit half a dozen times, “charged” at Wilson again, leaving the cop no choice but to shoot him dead.

Generally, McCulloch’s office presents a grand jury with a specific recommendation for an indictment and an explanation for why the evidence supports the charge. Not this time, though. McCulloch didn’t recommend a charge–and he essentially dumped every shred of physical evidence and testimony onto the grand jury to make their decision. It was a clear sign that the prosecuting attorney was washing his hands of any responsibility in holding Darren Wilson to account.

At his sanctimonious press conference, McCulloch declared that no indictment should be leveled because of “public outcry or political expediency.” Tell that to the Central Park Five–the youth of color railroaded to prison for a sensational crime amid a lynch mob atmosphere in New York City in the late 1980s.

On the other hand, there are the cases where it’s expedient for the prosecutor to cover up for law enforcement–something McCulloch has some experience with, as the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank reported in September:

During [McCulloch’s 23-year] tenure, there have been at least a dozen fatal shootings by police in his jurisdiction (the roughly 90 municipalities in the county other than St. Louis itself), and probably many more than that, but McCulloch’s office has not prosecuted a single police shooting in all those years. At least four times he presented evidence to a grand jury but–wouldn’t you know it?–didn’t get an indictment.

When you consider the fact that, according to government statistics, U.S. attorneys were successful in winning grand jury indictments in 99.999934 percent of prosecutions in 2010, McCulloch’s trouble getting them against cops looks like more than bad luck.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

IT REMAINS to be seen what kind of tone the political establishment will adopt now that the grand jury decision has been announced in the Brown case.

On the one hand, sneering racists like former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani will be happy to engage in more victim-blaming. On an appearance on Meet the Press alongside Black commenter Michael Eric Dyson, Giuliani attacked Dyson for not talking enough about Black-on-Black crime. “White police officers wouldn’t be there if you weren’t killing each other,” Giuliani declared.

Among liberals, pleas for nonviolence and patience were the watchwords–including Barack Obama, who appeared at a press conference following McCulloch’s vile grandstanding to repeat his call for calm.

Obama did raise a few facts that the mainstream media ought to acknowledge every once in a while. After celebrating the progress in racial relations in the U.S. over a period of decades, Obama admitted that “what is also true is that there are still problems, and that people of color are not just making this up…and that the law too often feels as though it’s being applied in a discriminatory fashion.”

But the media’s main takeaway from Obama’s speech was no doubt what the president intended. “There’s never an excuse for violence,” Obama declared, echoing the mantra of the press that while peaceful protest should be respected, no one should “throw bottles” or “damage property.”

On the ground in Ferguson, however, there was no sign that police or politicians understood that “there’s never an excuse for violence.”

A full week before the grand jury decision was announced, Missouri’s Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in the city, mobilizing the National Guard in the hopes of choking off another explosion of anger like what happened immediately after Mike Brown’s killing–which, of course, only guaranteed such an explosion.

It was no surprise when McCulloch’s press conference was followed by clashes with police and clouds of tear gas in the streets of Ferguson once again.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE ESSENTIAL point missing from all the media babble last night and for many long weeks before is simple: People who suffer under the heel of police brutality and racism have a right to be angry.

They should be furious when a white police officer guns down an unarmed Black teenager and isn’t even being arrested, much less indicted and put on trial. They should be incensed at a prosecutor who pleads the case for the defense when it comes to indicting killer cops. They should be outraged at the state’s ruthless suppression of peaceful dissent and the demonization of protesters for nothing more than exercising their rights.

And because they did erupt in protest after Mike Brown was shot down in the streets, no one is likely to forget the name of Ferguson for many years to come. The police murder of an unarmed teenager–and especially the mass uprising in protest against it–has changed the way millions of people think about racism and the police. And it has further radicalized a new generation determined to do something about it.

That was clear from the solidarity demonstrations around the U.S. when the grand jury decision was announced.

There were protests around the Bay Area, but the largest was in Oakland–the home of Oscar Grant, murdered on a BART train platform on New Year’s Day in 2009. Swelled by contingents of students from the nearby University of California at Berkeley, where a struggle is taking place over tuition hikes, more than 1,000 people marched through the city’s downtown, chanting “Ferguson, we have your back.”

In Chicago, hundreds of people gathered, despite the frigid temperatures, taking over Lake Shore Drive for a time while chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot.” In New York City, hundreds of people had already come out to Union Square hours before the grand jury decision was announced.

The demonstrations were angriest in Ferguson itself, of course. When some protesters apparently smashed the windows of a police cruiser and later set it on fire, a phalanx of riot police surrounded, racking what appeared to be shotguns before pointing them at the demonstrators.

In a statement, Mike Brown’s parents said, “We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions…While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.”

A glimpse of that positive change has already been seen–in the days and weeks since Mike Brown was killed, among those who came to Ferguson and St. Louis to take action against racism and police brutality. They were participants in a fight that won’t be forgotten.

As Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, wrote on social media before the decision:

As we await the grand jury’s decision, I want to take this opportunity to say thank you–a deep, heart-wrenching thank you–to all the organizers and activists who took to the streets following Michael Brown’s killing and who refused to stop marching, raising their voices, and crying out for justice. It is because of them–their courage, boldness, vision and stamina–that the world is paying attention to what is happening in a suburb called Ferguson.

The world is not watching because an unarmed Black man was killed by the police. That’s not news. What made this police killing different was that the people in Ferguson–particularly the young people–rose up and said We Will Not Take It Any More. Our Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. And their cry has been heard around the world.

No matter what the grand jury does, let us remember that true justice will come only when our criminal injustice system is radically transformed: when we no longer have militarized police forces, wars on our communities, a school-to-prison pipeline, and police departments that shoot first and ask questions later. True justice will be rendered not when a single “guilty” verdict is rendered in one man’s case, but when the system as a whole has been found guilty and we, as a nation, have committed ourselves to repairing, as best we can, the immeasurable harm that has been done.

My 24 November interview with Sharon Firebace on Razor Sharp

This is the link to my 30 minute interview with Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on 24 November about the Victrorian elections, Abbott’s rotten policies, Grocon, safety and the CFMEU, creeping repression, fascism, the malaise in Australian politics and much more.

Are the 400 job cuts at the ABC inevitable?

Mark Scott, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s managing director,  has announced job cuts of 400 staff, almost ten percent of staff. He has also announced cuts in particular to regional and rural services, local current affairs, some international bureau reorganisation women’s sport broadcasts and some TV programmes exploring politics.

I understand the job losses will be through sackings and non-renewal of contracts.

The leadership of the two main unions, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance and the Community and Public Sector Union, have so far shown all the fighting spirit of wet lettuce leaves.

Job cuts last year at Fairfax were met with immediate walk offs, action which ameliorated some of the worst aspects of the cuts. Neither union has mentioned let alone called for strikes against the cuts. Neither have rank and file members in the ABC, as far as I know.

Strikes would of course be illegal under bourgeois law. It is time to break the law to defend the 400 jobs and save those remaining from even more overwork. It is time for the union movement to smash the restrictions on strikes. left wing unions where are you? You organised rolling strikes in 1969 to free Clarrie O’Shea from jail. Why not the same thing now, around an issue that will mobilise many in support?

It isn’t just the ABC. The Tax Office has got rid of about ten percent of its staff through VRs and non-renewal of contracts. It plans to get rid of another ten percent by 2017/18. The main beneficiaries of these cuts will be big business tax avoiders and rich tax evaders. Most of society seems unaware of or even unconcerned about this gutting of the ATO, a gutting Martin Lock, echoing some of what I have said before, exposes in Michael West’s recent article in The Canberra Times.

The CPSU was useless in defending tax office staff from the cuts. It won’t defend ABC staff (both those losing their jobs through non-renewal of contracts and those remaining who will have to do the extra work). The MEAA is  similarly weak.

Only staff organising independently of the leadership of the unions to strike until the government withdraws its cuts can win.


State capitalism and the fall of the Berlin Wall


Here is a snippet from a good article in Solidarity in Australia about the fall of the Berlin Wall. It describes the Stalinist regimes as state capitalist. I would urge those interested in understanding how ‘socialism’ could be overthrown by the very workers it supposedly ruled for to read this. I would especially urge members of Socialist Alternative in Australia to read it to help re-discover their hidden history and analysis.

The failure of the Soviet Union was used as evidence of the triumph of capitalist free market ideology; there being, as Margaret Thatcher would repeatedly insist, “no alternative”. But the regimes of the Soviet Union had nothing in common with the genuine socialism envisaged by Marx.

Socialism is meant to be about workers control of the means of production—that is raw materials, machines of labor, and land. This would allow production to be based on meeting society’s needs, and overcoming the exploitation of workers, the vast majority, in the interests of a powerful minority.

But in Russia and Eastern Europe actual workers themselves had no control, and there was no democracy whatsoever. A small elite of Communist Party members, the nomenclatura, ruled these societies with an iron fist, amassing immense privileges for themselves.

How do we explain “socialist” societies which were marked by authoritarian control over production and the exploitation of workers, scarcity amidst industrial growth, and the brutal assault on various political and individual freedoms? In the 1950s British Marxist Tony Cliff developed the theory that Russia was not socialist but state capitalist, a form of capitalism where the economy was completely state owned, controlled by a repressive bureaucratic apparatus.

Stalin’s counter-revolution in the late 1920s overthrew any last elements of the workers’ power in Russia that resulted from the 1917 revolution, and placed state control in the hands of a bureaucratic elite.

Here is the link to the whole article, Eastern Europe and the Berlin Wall: 1989’s people power revolutions

Australia’s media – more sit-com than satire

I wonder if The Australian will publish this letter I sent to them?

Thank heaven for The Australian. Without it I wouldn’t have known about Tony Abbott’s triumphs at the G20 and how Obama’s bizarre speech at the University of Queensland and outrageous position on climate change have isolated the President from other world leaders.

Those bastions of left-wing lies, the ABC and Fairfax, just won’t tell us the truth.

Grocon, the CFMEU and bourgeois ‘justice’


The following is a statement on 21 November 2014 from John Setka, Secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union in Victoria, from their Facebook site CFMEU Vic.

John Setka Statement re penalties for Grocon Wall Collapse

Today Grocon was fined just $250,000 after pleading guilty to its role in the deaths of three innocent people.

 When a wall on Grocon’s Swanston St development toppled on 28 March 2013, brother and sister Alexander and Bridget Jones as well as French researcher, Marie-Faith Fiawoo were crushed to death. The tragedy occurred opposite the CFMEU’s office and our officials and staff were among the first on the scene.

Our officials are all too aware of the dangers faced by construction workers every day but the deaths of Bridget, Alexander and Marie-Faith were particularly traumatic.

As one of the first on the scene CFMEU Assistant Secretary Shaun Reardon said: “The images of that day still haunt me and will remain with me forever. As a father, all I can think of is the impact that this tragedy has had on the families. This is something no parent should have to bear.”

Having spent time with Bridget and Alexander’s parents, I know they will never recover from their loss.

The tragic events are a shocking reminder of the need to fight every day to make the construction industry safe.

Today’s sentence also brings into stark contrast the approaches our governments take to industrial disputes and criminal liability for workplace fatalities.

Our industrial dispute with Grocon has always been about safety.

When we fight to protect the safety of building workers and the public, Liberal politicians call for our deregistration.

Yet when Grocon pleads guilty to its role in the deaths of three young people, the same politicians are silent. Tony Abbott embraces Daniel Grollo as a member of his Government’s Business Advisory Council.

Three young lives were lost because of the failures of Grocon to properly ensure workplace safety and the company was fined $250,000. In contrast, the CFMEU was fined $1.25 million over a dispute with Grocon about serious safety breaches.

Grocon’s guilty plea would bring more comfort to the families of the deceased if it wasn’t cheapened by comments made by Mr Grollo’s wife, who suggested this week the wall collapse was due to sabotage.

Our staff and officials will never forget that day.

Our thoughts are very much with the families of Alexander and Bridget and Marie-Faith, and all those whose lives have been scarred forever.

John Setka
CFMEU Secretary

Strike to defend the ABC and SBS

In my view, the ABC is not ‘our’ ABC, nor is it ‘our beloved’ ABC. It certainly isn’t an ‘impartial’ ABC. It is up to its armpits in defending capitalism. Sometimes it questions aspects of capitalism, but more often it seems to be pushing a conservative agenda.

It was the ABC whose reporting gave John Howard the ammunition for the Northern Territory intervention, a racist action of the highest order aimed at further de-humanising indigenous people and driving them off their land.

I think Chomsky captures the spirit of this very well in this comment which has become a Facebook meme.


The ABC represents and presents that narrow spectrum in Australia, a spectrum best described as the battle between two versions of neoliberalism.  Nowhere is this more obvious than in Tony Jones’ dismissive reaction to the student protesters on Q&A and eventually cutting them off. We need more protesters and less Tony Jones on ‘our’ ABC.

On the evening before the election last year Abbott said there would be no cuts to the ABC or SBS (and none to health and education and no changes to pensions or the GST). Of course Abbott lied to us. And now his idiot front bench think the best way to get around this is to argue that these aren’t cuts, they are efficiency dividends. Do they really think we are that stupid? They are compounding the lie with another one and that will only make many Australians even angrier.

The real question is how can we defend the ABC and SBS, and in doing that break out of the neoliberal spectrum of of acceptable opinion. Waiting another 2 years to vote out these barbarians  allows them 22 more months to recreate Australia in their small minded, racist, sexist, profit before everything, let the market rule and the devil take the hindmost image.

There is deep community anger about this attack on the ABC  and SBS, and rightly so. The ABC provides services to many Australians that the for-profits would never consider. It is the backbone of many regional and rural communities, an important lifeline for them. SBS provides a level of international and non-anglo community reporting that helps enrich our nation and supports the communities of difference.

How then can we defend the ABC and SBS? How can we defend the jobs, the work-life balance of the remaining workers and the ability to deliver some quality programs from time to time instead of the shit dished up on the commercial channels?

There is only one way. The two main unions, the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance and the Community and Public Sector Union have to call their members out on strike until the government backs down. The unions would have mass support if they did this. The ACTU and individual unions have  to pledge that if any action is taken against these ‘illegal’ strikes under bourgeois law then members in other unions will walk off the job.  This is the only way to stop Abbott and Turnbull, and in doing that we open up the possibility of a more democratic and popular ABC and SBS reflecting the views of a population which is far to the left of the major political parties on most issues.

In defending the ABC and SBS we have the chance to reclaim them.


World Toilet Day

I know we can be tempted to lampoon World Toilet Day (Wednesday 19 November).

I have been.

However it raises a serious issue we socialists should be concerned about, the fact that 40% of the people of the world do not have access to clean and healthy sanitation.

It is an indictment of capitalism today that the amount our rulers spend on war and armaments could eradicate poverty, poor sanitation and homelessness across the globe.

Here is a link to the UN World Toilet Day site with some good information on the lack of sanitation. Eradicating lack of adequate sanitation is one of the millennium development goals. It is the gaol most unfulfilled.