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John Passant

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November 2010



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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)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Is Labor’s decline terminal?

Ted Baillieu as Premier of Victoria? God, the ALP must have been dreadful in Government to turn this toff into a winner. 

Actually, the bosses’ newspapers – the Age, the Herald Sun, the Australian and the Financial Review – all supported the re-election of the Brumby Labor Government.

It now looks as if the ALP have lost Government and that the conservative Coalition will rule in its own right. 

So why did Labor lose? Neoliberalism. The ALP is one of the two parties of neoliberalism, the idea that the market delivers the best outcomes for society. 

Working class voters in outer suburban seats have deserted Labor and crossed over to the Liberals. The fact that the Conservatives too will not be able to address the rapidly increasing cost of living, the need for quality public education, hospitals and transport is neither here nor there at the moment.

Working class voters thought the Liberals – the open party of the bosses – would do better in delivering public services. That is the real indictment of Labor’s 11 years in Government in Victoria.

Certainly any illusions in the conservatives as progressive reformers will disappear shortly after they form Government. In the absence of  a strong revolutionary, let alone social democratic, left, this may see a return to the ALP as the snake oil salesmen of change.

Working class voters in Victoria did not turn to the Greens. The Greens had nothing to say to them on living standards. In fact workers rightly fear the environmental neoliberals in the Greens who see the market, and increased electricity and other prices for example, as the way to save humanity from global warming.

The comparison with the Federal election might have some lessons for the Greens. They were more openly left wing in the Federal election than in the Victorian one. They gained a big swing in the federal election and got a very very small swing in Victoria. The appeal to ‘the Centre’ failed. 

Labor federally is in power only with the support of independents and the Greens. In Western Australia the Liberals hold power. In New South Wales voters are waiting with baseball bats to clobber the Labor Government at the elections in March next year. 

In Queensland the level of support for Labor is the lowest ever recorded. In the ACT and Tasmania the ALP rules with the support of the Greens.

Is Labor’s decline terminal?

No. The conditions of selling labour power create a powerful yearning for a better world here and now – i.e. in the context of the currently existing capitalist world. The steady day to day battle for survival makes the main class battle economic – for jobs, for decent pay and for better services.

Battle is perhaps too strong a word at the moment in Australia. The peculiar position of Australia as the mining quarry of the east has seen Australian capitalism able to provide jobs and, for many workers, decent pay, despite an historic shift in the share of national income going to capital from labour.  

This Australian peculiarism has been built in part on a retreat from the State provision of services. Under Labor both Federally and at state and territory level this has involved a lessening of taxes on business and the rich and a consequent reduction in spending on front line services like public education, hospitals and transport.  

The defining characteristic of the ALP in power has been one of attenuated neoliberalism, one where attacks on services are couched in terms of reforms or benefits. The reality for working people is very different – less services and more anger with Labor, the convenient whipping boy of capital.

As Marx wrote the ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class and no social movement exists today to challenge that dominance either industrially or politically. In times of social peace the choice for change to workers narrows of necessity to the parliamentary arena, and that choice can resolve itself as one between Liberals and Labor where the Greens, the seeming left wing alternative, offers no radical break from neoliberalism for workers.

There seemed to be a momentum building for the Greens across Australia in recent elections, including the August federal election. This looked to me as if workers were substituting illusions in the Greens for the failed illusions they had in Labor.

Victoria stopped that momentum dead. The vote there for the Greens hardly changed at all from the 2006 vote.

This could mean that the idea of the Greens as the home for ‘genuine Labor’ has not gained traction, both because workers saw through it and some Greens denied it. Certainly the Greens are inconsistent social democrats in practice with no or little links to the working class and the trade union movement.

It may be that the switch of some Labor voters to the Liberals indicates both the continuation of reformist illusions and their misplaced positioning.

But it also tell us much about the weakness of the left as a force in and across society. This is an historical reality and no amount of wishful thinking or grand schemes is going to change that.

The steady routine work of building the revolutionary left continues, with the possibility that in the future there will be explosions in society that we can help build and tap into, to lay the basis for a real left wing organisation in Australia leading the more militant sections of the working class in defence of their interests and for a new, just and democratic society.

While we know the time for illusions is past, we cannot hurry history. Workers have to learn the lessons themselves through their own experience and struggle.

The yo-yo between Labor and the Liberals, and understanding the pro-market nature of the Greens, are and will be part of that learning process.

As the Victorian election shows we on the left have to continue our work explaining why none of the capitalist parties can deliver on their promises and that struggle is the way forward.



Comment from Tristan Ewins
Time November 29, 2010 at 11:58 am

In one editorial ‘The Age’ refused to support any party, and there was one article which suggested a vote for Ballieu may even be positive in encouraging ‘small ‘l’ liberals’ in the Liberal Party; Apart from that there was lots of articles attacking Labor – some of which Labor deserved – but with nowhere near enough scrutiny of the Liberals – It seemed deliberate… Similar case with the ‘Herald Sun’: editorialising in favour of Labor – but more than countered by a swathe of anti-Labor articles and opinion pieces… The bottom line – Unfortunately there was not enough difference between Labor and the Libs; And in fact workers abandoned the ALP in droves over cost-of-living issues; I had written before that the ALP needed to trump the Libs on utility subsidies – paying for this by dropping the Ballieu ‘law and order’ agenda – hundreds of millions for new prisons, abandoning suspended sentencing etc… Ultimately, though, it was the Libs’ ‘tough on law and order’ policies that provided the real point of difference – And make you wonder how some portray the Ballieu Libs as ‘small ‘l”. Hopefully there will be some rigorous introspection within Labor over the next few years: over privatisation, cost of living increases, and the way these feed into each other… Of course the vested interests will resist it…

Comment from billie
Time November 29, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Agree that The Age, especially David Austin, was very critical of Labor.

Comments were made on election night by Virginia Trioli about the 61% voter turnout and the fact that 20% of voters voted early or postal. Could the high % of early votes be due to the numbers of people who work on Saturday in retail and service areas

Comment from billie
Time November 29, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Labor recognised that it had a problem ringing electors in the final week to explain what local issues a Labor government would address when reelected. When I said “So what” I received a followup call asking what issues floated my boat.

Public transport is perceived as an unmitigated disaster with overcrowded trains and trams unable to take passengers due to insufficient rolling stock and poor rail maintenance. I am told that there is no car parking at outer suburban railway stations for commuters who lob up after 7:15 am and of course buses are infrequent in outer suburban areas.

The expensive and non-functional MYKI system is an unreliable technology – its a fare by distance ticketing imposed on a zone by time network that keeps track of commuters in the system. Big Brother!

Smart Meters were rolled out to the outer suburban areas up until April and every household with a smart meter pays 50% more for electricity than people with the old meters. ie 25 cents per kilowatt hour instead of 14 cents per kilowatt hour. Yes I know the off peak rate is 10 cents but thats no use to people stuck at home from Mon to Fri. Now the Liberals won’t change that either.

Comment from John
Time November 29, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Thanks Billie – a good point about the transport disaster and where the seats fell. Baillieu to fix that? oh dear…

I understand the Liberals also got traction with their ‘high cost of living Labor is to blame’ strategy. Again, Baillieu as fixer? Don’t think so.

Comment from John
Time November 29, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Maybe it was the Sunday Age that supported Labor?

Comment from Arjay
Time November 29, 2010 at 10:40 pm

You should all realise that this left/ right paradigm is just a game played by the elites to distract you from the issues that really matter.Behind closed doors many of our pollies buddy up for a drink and make deals for their own personal advantage.
We are the suckers who fall the lies time and time again.Our system is totally corrupt and dysfunctional.Just look at the schools debacle.People are shocked beacuse they see it at a grass roots personal level.This is the norm for Govt.They waste $ billions and we just accept it as the norm.

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