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

Sick kids and paying upfront




ANZAC Day – less bread means more circuses

Every year I re-post this, suitably updated for current issues. War porn week will soon be over.



Ruling classes around the world have their national myths. These attempt to tie working people to the capitalist class through the false idea of nationhood, itself a recent historical development.

The Australian version of this national myth is ANZAC Day. It is supposedly the day Australia became a nation. It celebrates the day on which began the defeat of Australia’s and other countries’ invading troops at Gallipoli in Turkey in 1915.

It is important to understand the historical context around the establishment of this day. The first ANZAC Day was held in 1916. The war to end all wars was bogged down in bloody slaughter. In Australia support for the imperialist adventure was split.

Many workers remembered the bitter class battles of the 1890s and the depression that drove large numbers into poverty.

Workers had ignored Federation, despite the cheer squads of Australian capitalism attempting to use that event to glue workers to the system and the exploitation that arises from it. For many workers class was the most important determinant of loyalty.

The war further exacerbated class divisions.

Many rejected outright participation in the battle between two competing imperialisms. Others, influenced by the Labor Party, supported it but opposed conscription.

The class still had a memory of internationalism, and the impending outbreak of revolutions across Europe (including the German revolution, which ended Germany’s war) would only further reinforce this sense of class solidarity across borders and against the common enemy – capital.

Industrial Workers of the World ‘recruitment’ pamphlet for the World War I

Here in Australia the divisions were highlighted by the rapid growth of the Industrial Workers of the World, a revolutionary group committed to a democratic society without bosses. Indeed the “Wobblies” were such a threat that the police and security forces framed leading members for arson, and the state made being a member illegal, closed down their press and finally outlawed the organisation itself.

Conscription was the issue that saw class divisions come out most starkly in Australia. Working people and their parties opposed conscription, and defeated both referendums on the issue. The ALP split, with the forces around Billy Hughes going over to join the Conservatives and form a Government.



In 1917 there was a general strike in New South Wales. Overseas the Tsar’s regime in Russia collapsed after a five-day strike begun by women workers on International Working Women’s Day.

The first ANZAC Day in 1916 was an attempt to divert anger away from the capitalist class to those who were “disloyal”. It was also an important part of the pro-conscription propaganda.

An immediate concern the ruling class had was that disaffected soldiers – and there were many, having witnessed the reality of war – would link up with the radical sections of society. ANZAC Day deliberately offered them an alternative, an alternative that celebrated their role and remembered those who died rather than questioning why war occurred and why workers died for profits.

In fact, class polarisation (which reached its apogee in 1917 in Russia with the working class taking power on 7 November) continued in Australia and elsewhere for a number of years after 1916 and 1917. This saw ANZAC Day almost disappear in the early 1920s.

It revived after that as the revolutionary tide ebbed (exemplified by the rise of Stalin in Russia and Stalinism elsewhere). The forerunner of the RSL rebuilt itself by setting up clubs and pubs and helping returned servicemen and women (especially during the Depression).

World War II saw the idea of Australia, as a nation, “arrive” (and also boosted the popularity of ANZAC Day).

The sense of class and internationalism lost its way under Stalinism. In Australia the Communist Party wrapped itself in the flag of patriotism to fight the fascists. In fact World War II was among other things a repeat of World War I – the clash of two blocs of imperialism.

The Australian ruling class has always had an imperialist “protector”. This used to be Britain and is now the US. As part of the ruling class’s desire to be the major imperialist power in the region, they have attached themselves and us to a powerful ally which will enable them to carry out that role and to ‘protect’ the Australian ruling class from invaders who don’t.

To do that the ruling class here must pay its dues, its insurance policy. That is why Australia have a long history of following ‘our’ ally into imperialist adventures around the world.

From Sudan in 1885 to Afghanistan in 2002 and Iraq in 2003 we have participated in a large number of foreign wars to help keep the UK and the US on side with our own expansionist project.

Iraq and Afghanistan were about showing to the US the Australian ruling class’s commitment to the alliance and to allow its own role in the region – East Timor, the Solomon islands, PNG for example – to continue.

The disguised defeat that is Afghanistan sees all the troops except a few advisers on the way out of the country. For what? What did the 39 dead Australians die for?

Gallipoli itself is an example of Australia’s ongoing imperialist view of the world. We were part of a force that invaded a country that we had no quarrel with and which did not threaten us.

ANZAC Day also performs another function.

War is an integral part of capitalism and imperialism. Most people’s initial reaction is to recoil from war and all the horror it brings. ANZAC Day downplays that horror and makes war acceptable.

It is propaganda to allow the ruling class to call on the next generation of workers to join the war effort if needed.

And it may divert people’s attention away from immediate economic concerns – I may be losing my house or job but at least we diggers are good fighters and I am so proud my son or daughter was in Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or East Timor. Or the Solomon Islands.

As Tony Abbott prepares to spend $12 billion on useless fighter jets and up to $30 billion on submarines while at the same time he attacks Medicare, Universities, jobs, wages, unions, pensions, disability pensions, legal aid, Aboriginal communities, scientific research, and spending on social services, remember this. We are not all in this together. ANZAC Day is cover for these attacks on the poor and workers. It celebrates an imperialist war to divert attention away from the one sided class war the rich have waged against us for the last 32 years and to prepare us for future wars and justify our ruling class’s imperialist expansion in the region.

The less bread we get the more circuses they put on.

As Tandberg so eloquently put it:



From Anzacs to opponents of war



Solidarity magazine writes:

‘ Mythology about the Anzacs and the First World War is still used to justify militarism today. But for a number of the Australian soldiers that fought, the experience turned them into socialists and opponents of war.’

To read more click here.

My 20 April interview with Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp

This is the link to my 32 minute interview on Monday 20 April with Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp.

‘2014 May Budget was a cruel budget attempted to be imposed on the Australian people against a backdrop of misinformation…..2015 Budget proceeds whereby “taxing the rich is off the table”.’

Plus much much more about the Government’s back downs, its backdoor approach to introducing austerity, the massive opposition to it and austerity, and of course the traditional finish urging people to fight back.

Lest we forget – Aboriginal resistance to genocide

I wrote this a few years ago and have updated it slightly to include the forced closure of 150 Aboriginal communities in Western Australia and the mounting resistance to this latest round of genocide.



ANZAC Day is about forgetting. Who remembers that Gallipoli was a defeat? That a number of returning soldiers, scarred by the reality of war and what they had experienced, became socialists and communists to fight for a society where war no longer existed?

Who remembers that revolutions in Russia and then Germany ended the First World War?

Who remembers the mass working class opposition to conscription which defeated referendums in 1916 and 1917. Why aren’t they remembered? Perhaps because they don’t fit into the ruling class agenda of unity of nation rather than divisions into class?

The defeated conscription referendums or the New South Wales 1917 general strike are more a symbol of our ‘nationhood’ than soldiers on a god forsaken bit of shore invading Turkey.

The Gallipoli nation building myth arose as a consequence of the class divisions in Australia and the outbreak of class struggle globally and in Australia as a response to the war that the victorious working class revolution in Russia in 1917 epitomised and represented in concentrated form.

The creation of myth and the forgetting go hand in hand. They are part of the ruling class strategy of creating an image of Australia and Australians that bears little relation to the truth.

History tells a very different story about our ruling class and its brutality. That brutality began with Invasion Day, 26 January 1788. The genocide against Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders began then.

Terra nullius was a fiction to justify the invasion and brutal dispossession of peoples who had lived here for 65000 years. This was genocide. Mabo and Wik and Native Title legislation are not about reversing that. They too are about forgetting the remembering.

Henry Reynolds estimates that, between 1788 and 1920, 20,000 Aboriginal people fell defending their land in an ongoing war against the invaders. The Indigenous population dropped from, on conservative estimates, 300,000 at the time of the invasion to 70,000 130 years later.

Many of these people died because of disease, itself a consequence of the invasion, but they also died as a result of the consequences that flow from genocide and dispossession – murder, poverty, alienation, loss of social structure, alcoholism, racism, lack of food, stolen generations to name a few.

Genocide against Aboriginal people is one theme that runs through the history of the last 227 years. The failure to recognise that genocide is another ongoing theme.

ANZAC Day, the supposed symbol and celebration of  the ‘nation’ that is Australia, denies this most obvious truth – Australian society was founded on the genocide of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and that genocide continues today.

Aborigines were not passive victims of the white invasion. In and around Sydney, for example, Pemulwuy was a famous freedom fighter defending his land and life. From 1790 to 1802 he waged a sporadic, and then more concerted, guerrilla war against the white invaders.

There are many Indigenous freedom fighters white settler society ignores; fighters who in a less racist society would be honoured for their stance and the courage of their resistance.

Where are our monuments to these fallen heroes?

It was Marx who wrote that the tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the mind of the living. This is true in two senses for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

First the consequences of the invasion continue today. The war against Aborigines, what I describe as genocide, has fundamentally alienated many Aboriginal people from their land, their identity, their culture and themselves. For example there is a shocking 17-year gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

The second aspect of being trapped by the past is that the policies of dispossession and genocide are being implemented even today.

The Howard Government invaded the Northern Territory in 2007 to further the destruction of our Indigenous people’s links to their land and culture. 1788 is being repeated today.

The religious ceremony of forgetting that is ANZAC Day is worshipping at the altar of that genocide.

Disgracefully the Rudd and Gillard Labor Governments continued Howard’s racist Northern Territory intervention, an invasion clearly aimed at further dispossession of aboriginal people and their complete subjugation to the dictates of their white masters around grog, what they can buy, how much they can spend and whose land it really is. Abbott continues the invasion.

The Stolen Generations represented an attempt to wipe out Aborigines through forced assimilation.

The intervention and other policies are about removing Aboriginal people from their land, often for the benefit of mining companies.

In Sydney three years ago cops shot two young Aboriginal men for joyriding and then dragged one of those wounded, with a bullet in his neck, from the car and beat him. The ongoing and systematic police brutality against Aboriginal people is not some aberration – it is part of a racist system continuing its genocide against the original inhabitants.

Dispossession, the Stolen generations, deaths in custody, poverty, early morbidity, these are all consequences of a war against the original inhabitants, a war that has never ended.

Like the warriors of old, Aborigines today need to and do fight for justice. We must join them. Relying on Labor will not work. The Abbott government will further Labor’s racist agenda, if we let them.

Now is the time for Aboriginal people and their millions of supporters to mobilise and force the Government to recompense the stolen generations, withdraw the troops and other agencies of force from the Northern Territory and elsewhere, introduce land rights that recognise sovereignty and prior ownership and set up a system of compensation for the loss of sovereignty. Stop the war on indigenous Australians. Negotiate now.

Protests against the forced closure of 150 Aboriginal communities in Western Australia have already been big, the most notable being the one in Melbourne where 5000 people shut down the city centre.

Aboriginal groups across Australia have called further demonstrations against this aspect of genocide for 1 May. Details of the protests can be found here. Join in the fight for justice and freedom. Join these demonstrations. That is where our strength lies, tens of thousands of us on the streets united against racism.

Let’s unite and fight to stop the brutal war against Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders now.  Let’s start by stopping the genocidal closure of 150 Aboriginal communities in Western Australia. Let’s resist.

Ernest Mandel on Marx and rent

In writing about Marx, Ernest Mandel says this about Marx’s thinking on rent.

The labour theory of value defines value as the socially necessary quantity of labour determined by the average productivity of labour of each given sector of production. But these values are not mathematically fixed data. They are simply the expression of a process going on in real life, under capitalist commodity production. So this average is only ascertained in the course of a certain time-span. There is a lot of logical argument and empirical evidence to advance the hypothesis that the normal time-span for essentially modifying the value of commodities is the business cycle, from one crises of over-production (recession) to the next one.

Before technological progress and (or) better (more ‘rational’) labour organisation etc. determines a more than marginal change (in general: decline) in the value of a commodity, and the crisis eliminates less efficient firms, there will be a coexistence of firms with various ‘individual values’ of a given commodity in a given branch of output, even assuming a single market price. So, in his step-for-step approach towards explaining the immediate phenomena (facts of economic life) like prices and profits, by their essence, Marx introduces at this point of his analysis a new mediating concept, that of market value. The market value of a commodity is the ‘individual value’ of the firm, or a group of firms, in a given branch of production, around which the market price will fluctuate. That ‘market value’ is not necessarily the mathematical (weighted) average of labour expenditure of all firms of that branch. It can be below, equal or above that average, for a certain period (generally less than the duration of the business cycle, at least under ‘free competition’), according to whether social demand is saturated, just covered or to an important extent not covered by current output plus existing stocks. In these three cases respectively, the more (most) efficient firms, the firms of average efficiency, or even firms with labour productivity below average, will determine the market value of that given commodity.

This implies that the more efficient firms enjoy surplus profits (profits over and above the average profit) in case 2 and 3 and that a certain number of firms work at less than average profit in all three cases, but especially in case 1.

The mobility of capital, i.e. normal capitalist competition, generally eliminates such situations after a certain lapse of time. But when that mobility of capital is impeded for long periods by either unavoidable scarcity (natural conditions that are not renewable or non-substitutable, like land and mineral deposits) or through the operation of institutional obstacles (private property of land and mineral resources forbidding access to available capital, except in exchange for payments over and above average profit), these surplus profits can be frozen and maintained for decades. They thus become rents, of which ground rent and mineral rent are the most obvious examples in Marx’s time, extensively analysed in Capital Vol.III.

Marx’s theory of rent is the most difficult part of his economic theory, the one which has witnessed fewer comments and developments, by followers and critics alike, than other major parts of his ‘system’. But it is not obscure. And in contrast to Ricardo’s or Rodbertus’s theories of rent, it represents a straight-forward application of the labour theory of value. It does not imply any emergence of ‘supplementary’ value (surplus value, profits) in the market, in the process of circulation of commodities, which is anathema to Marx and to all consistent upholders of the labour theory of value. Nor does it in any way suggest that land or mineral deposits ‘create’ value. It simply means that in agriculture and mining less productive labour (as in the general case analysed above) determines the market value of food or minerals, and that therefore more efficient farms and mines enjoy surplus profits which Marx calls differential (land and mining) rent. It also means that as long as productivity of labour in agriculture is generally below the average of the economy as a whole (or more correctly: that the organic composition of capital, the expenditure in machinery and raw materials as against wages, is inferior in agriculture to that in industry and transportation), the sum total of surplus-value produced in agriculture will accrue to landowners + capitalist farmers taken together, and will not enter the general process of (re)distribution of profit throughout the economy as a whole.

This creates the basis for a supplementary form of rent, over and above differential rent, rent which Marx calls absolute land rent. This is, incidentally, the basis for a long-term separation of capitalist landowners from entrepreneurs in farming or animal husbandry, distinct from feudal or semi-feudal landowners or great landowners under conditions of predominantly petty commodity production, or in the Asiatic mode of production, with free peasants.

The validity of Marx’s theory of land and mining rents has been confirmed by historical evidence, especially in the 20th century. Not only has history substantiated Marx’s prediction that, in spite of the obstacle of land and mining rent, mechanisation would end up by penetrating food and raw materials production too, as it has for a long time dominated industry and transportation, thereby causing a growing decline of differential rent (this has occurred increasingly in agriculture in the last 25-50 years, first in North America, and then in Western Europe and even elsewhere). It has also demonstrated that once the structural scarcity of food disappears, the institutional obstacle (private property) loses most of its efficiency as a brake upon the mobility of capital. Therefore the participation of surplus-value produced in agriculture in the general process of profit equalisation throughout the economy cannot be prevented any more. Thereby absolute rent tends to wither away and, with it, the separation of land ownership from entrepreneurial farming and animal husbandry. It is true that farmers can then fall under the sway of the banks, but they do so as private owners of their land which becomes mortgaged, not as share-croppers or entrepreneurs renting land from separate owners.

On the other hand, the reappearance of structural scarcity in the realm of energy enabled the OPEC countries to multiply the price of oil by ten in the 1970s, i.e. to have it determined by the oilfields where production costs are the highest, thereby assuring the owners of the cheapest oil wells in Arabia, Iran, Libya, etc. huge differential minerals rents.

Marx’s theory of land and mineral rent can be easily extended into a general theory of rent, applicable to all fields of production where formidable difficulties of entry limit mobility of capital for extended periods of time. It thereby becomes the basis of a marxist theory of monopoly and monopoly surplus profits, i.e. in the form of cartel rents (Hilferding, 1910) or of technological rent (Mandel, 1972). Lenin’s and Bukharin’s theories of surplus profit are based upon analogous but not identical reasoning (Bukharin, 1914, 1926; Lenin, 1917).

But in all these cases of general application of the marxist theory of rent, the same caution should apply as Marx applied to his theory of land rent. By its very nature, capitalism, based upon private property, i.e. ‘many capitals’ – that is competition – cannot tolerate any ‘eternal’ monopoly, a ‘permanent’ surplus profit deducted from the sum total of profits which is divided among the capitalist class as a whole. Technological innovations, substitution of new products for old ones including the fields of raw materials and of food, will in the long run reduce or eliminate all monopoly situations, especially if the profit differential is large enough to justify huge research and investment outlays.


I wonder first if this analysis of Marx’s views is correct and second whether it is useful for example in understanding super profits in the mining industry in Australia and their collapse in the last year or so, presumably because with increased mechanisation mining companies have broken down the barriers that are the ‘eternal’ monopoly of for example land, state ownership of minerals and their non-renewable nature, and ensured surplus value in the mining industry ‘enters the general process of (re)distribution of profit throughout the economy as a whole thrown their profits into the surplus value production.’

Deaths in the Mediterranean – je suis migrant

Writing in the Irish Socialist Worker Memet Uludag argues that we must support refugees, oppose the imperialism that drowns them at sea and build a political alternative that embraces our humanity, not hatred. Among other things Memet explains the deaths this year in the Mediterranean are the result of rotten racist anti-immigrant policy changes by the EU. Memet says:

Despite the fact that the total number of migrants crossing the sea hasn’t increased from 2014, why are there now more deaths than ever?

Towards the end of 2014, Britain and other EU countries led the way in ending the EU search-rescue mission called ‘Mare Nostrum’. Defending this decision British Foreign Office minister, Baroness Anelay, called Mare Nostrum  a “pull factor” and said “such operations can encourage more people to attempt to make the dangerous sea crossing to enter Europe”, as if there were not enough “push factors” for people to risk their lives and try to cross the sea into Europe.

Mare Nostrum was replaced by ‘Triton’ – an operation led by EU border force Frontex.  Frontex and Triton are not rescue missions but typical military style border control operations.

The ending of Mare Nostrum has had disastrous results. Since then, the numbers of refugees dying at sea have increased dramatically and the EU is directly responsible for these deaths.

Laurens Jolles, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Italy has warned that “anti-immigrant rhetoric from politicians across Europe, including Britain, is blocking attempts to introduce large search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean that would save large numbers of migrant lives”.

Memet finishes off by saying:

We must oppose all imperialist military interventions and the involvement in or assistance to these operations by our governments. Each military plane taking off from Shannon airport means the death of more civilians and more migrants having to cross the Mediterranean

We need to build a mass radical political force to create a different world – a world with not one migrant child, not one migrant man or woman left behind.

Migrants are our brother and sisters

Je suis migrant!

To read the whole article click here.

There is nothing to celebrate in the ANZAC tradition of serving empire and profits

The Gallipoli campaign was not about democracy, but defending the profits and colonies of the British empire, one of the most brutal the world has seen, writes James Supple in Solidarity magazine

He says, among other things:

The 100 year anniversary commemorations of Gallipoli will gloriify it as sacrifice for a noble cause. Tony Abbott has called it part of a war that “shaped our nation”. In 2012 then Prime Minister Julia Gillard declared on Anzac Day that, “all of us inhabit the freedom the Anzacs won for us”. But Gallipoli and the First World War was no fight for freedom or democracy.

The landing at Gallipoli was an invasion of a Middle Eastern country, modern Turkey, in the service of what was, at the time, the world’s largest and most powerful empire. Australian troops at Gallipoli were among almost half a million British, Indian, New Zealand and French colonial troops who landed there.

To read the whole article click here.

Dear Mr Pyne, I too have a $4 million funding request

Isn’t it great to see that climate change contrarian, Bjorn Lomborg, has been given $4 million to set up a consensus centre at the University of Western Australia? As REneweconomy has noted:

Lomborg has become well known for his views that downplay the urgency to act on climate science, stop funding for renewables, and increase fossil fuel sales in the third world.

These views fit nicely with those of the government and support and reinforce its inaction and lack of urgency in addressing climate change.

But why stop there? Surely this government could also be funding a creation science think tank, an anti-vaccination research centre, a gay conversion institute and a 9/11 conspiracy colloquium? The possibilities are endless. Who knows, maybe we could convince Cory Bernardi to leave politics and head up a government funded ten year study into the links between gay marriage and bestiality?

In the interests of fairness, Mr Pyne, can I ask for $4 million to set up a Journal of Critical Tax Perspectives? Now I know this will be mainly chronicling the work of academics, and use rational argument, so it might not quite suit your purposes. But to assuage your fears that we might introduce the concepts of academic excellence into the journal, we would of course invite firebrands like Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a French left wing politician, to explain his tax proposals, including taxing those earning more than 300,000 euro at 100 percent.

I could even let loose my inner grumpy to rail against the dominance of capital and the rich and to squeeze them till their pips squeak.

Like you Mr Pyne, I am all in favour of differing views. When can I expect my $4 million to be paid?

There is another reason to be excited by this $4 million going to Lomborg and the University of Western Australia. Obviously the crisis in Universities is over. If you have enough money for Lomborg than we won’t need to cut $2.3 billion from University funding or fee de-regulation. I bet there are lots of very deserving little and not so little projects you could fund Mr Pyne that in total would just about undo your proposed cuts. So if you have money for Lomborg why not for the rest of the University sector?

And what about more money for real scientists Mr Pyne and Mr Abbott? Maybe they should bend their research to suit your political needs? Would they then get enough funding to survive adequately?

Apparently Abbott the grog monster can do one thing well

Here is a  20 second video of Tony Abbott, a grog monster (his words) and Australia’s Prime Minister,  doing one thing well – being a  grog monster.

Says it all about Australia today. The glass is fully empty.

Tax avoidance and tax ‘reform’ : tax the rich instead

My article on tax avoidance and tax reform in the hot off the presses Solidarity Magazine​.

I conclude:

The revelations about how little tax big business pays undermine any proposals for new or increased taxes on workers and the poor, or cuts to government spending. Every time Abbott or Hockey talk about the need to reform our tax system or cut social spending on workers and the poor, we now have a simple rejoinder—stop the cuts and tax the rich.

To read the whole article click here.