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John Passant

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February 2011



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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)



Make the bosses pay for their climate change

So there will be a carbon tax. Labor and the Greens announced an agreement for a price on carbon – undetermined as yet – with unspecified compensation for the poor and big business. In other words workers will pay the increased costs because profit of course is sacrosanct.

This is a neoliberal solution. It condemns the Greens as faux friends of workers and as free marketeers whose commitment is to capitalism.

Capitalism is the cause of global warming. It is the drive for profit which has seen the global dependence on carbon arise. It is the use of fossil fuels which releases masses of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The system depends for its existence – for the extraction of surplus from workers – on fossil fuels, on this release of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

The dominant ideology of capitalism has been neoliberalism except for a brief Keynesian interregnum after the second world war. This idea that the market solves all human problems arose from the ashes as a response to the re-assertion of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall from around the early 70s.

Neoliberalism as an ideology is an attempt to justify actions which counterbalance that tendency of profit rates to fall. This involves lengthening the working day, increasing productivity (including screwing more out of workers with less), and destroying value both physically and metaphorically.

The global financial crisis was a crisis of profitability in which capitalist States did not allow Schumpeterian creative destruction to take hold and devalourise swathes of capital across the globe.

The next economic crisis will be deeper and the next recovery shallower.

Capitalism is built on carbon – coal, gas and oil. It’s not that this product is a drug and a carbon tax is a slow weaning off process. It is that carbon is the food of the system. Without it it will starve.

The Labor-Green carbon tax is built on the idea that increased prices will alter behaviour. But the compensation package will give billions to big business.

In any event because there are no price controls in place on capital, but there are on labour to prevent wage ‘break outs’, energy prices will increase markedly. Some estimates are that electricity prices will double in the next few years.

One of the main contributors to this is the need for investment in new capital in the industry, something that neither States nor private companies have been prepared to do.

Because the very poor and big business will receive compensation – the poor not enough and big business way too much – it is the working class who will bear the cost of the carbon tax.

This package in fact is not about altering the dependence of business on carbon. It is about cutting labour’s real living standards to force us to reduce consuming petrol and electricity from coal.

Yet the main contributor to greenhouse gases is industry. It is the way production is organised that is the problem, not our consumption.

The ability of capital to pollute our world arises from the lack of democracy in the system. Ordinary workers are denied a say in planning and production precisely because we would put human need above profit.

The Green-Labor carbon tax is an expression of the anti-democratic nature of the system. It also reinforces the exploitative relationship between capital and labour and further normalises it. ‘There is no alternative’ cry the Greens, echoing Margaret Thatcher.

Actually there is an alternative. It is a society in which workers democratically decide what is produced to satisfy human need, not to make a profit.

Such a society has no need of polluting industries. It can move easily to renewable energy, something this present society cannot do. Or if it can, it can only do so by imposing the massive costs of the shift on those who produce the wealth, workers.

What the Greens-Labor neoliberal carbon tax gives us is an entrenchment of the polluting industries and cementing their absolute centrality to the system and the profit that bosses extract from workers.

In the short term, the way to address this attack on workers’ living standards would be to launch an all out wages campaign for large real wage increases well above the cost of the carbon tax and its inflationary boost.

But the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the paid poodles of profit, the policemen and women of capital, will do nothing, accepting further attacks on workers.

It is up to ordinary workers to win back their unions and launch that campaign for massive real wage increases. Such a campaign could also demand price controls over the polluting industries.

But in the long run, it’s time for a new, democratic and human centred rather than profit focused society to address the crisis of global warming which is a crisis of capitalism.



Comment from Tony
Time February 24, 2011 at 11:09 pm

“The global financial crisis was a crisis of profitability in which capitalist States”

John, a good article. Was it really a crisis in profitability and how do you frame this? If you mean it was caused by the engine of the ‘real’ economy, I’m not so sure, as both the housing supply and housing ‘investment’ components (the later non-productive) were speculative and not industry rates of profit falling under ordinary conditions. Granted this may have occurred concurrently in other sectors, but I haven’t seen the data of the lead up to the crisis. This was in effect, a kleptocracy through a deception of ordinary Americans with debt.

From my readings on the USA, a housing bubble occurred, its existence was denied by financiers and the Fed, actively exploited and dumped the debt on those caught up in the whirl of speculation. The collapse of the bubble became a money savings sink (into nothing as debt was unrecoverable under US bankruptcy provisions on housing, which I believe are quite different to Australia). However, this didn’t destroy physical industrial capital. It was a liquidity crisis due to speculation, as the Great Depression in the USA was.

This has caused a massive redistribution of wealth from the workers to the financiers, due to Obama’s rush to approve quantitative easing without restrictions and inadequate protection for home buyers that never had a hope servicing or refinancing debt. All this was possible through loans by unscrupulous lenders.

I agree we face a repeat of the crisis in the near future, and the recovery will be very slow. However, next time I believe Australia will not escape the impact.

“It is up to ordinary workers to win back their unions and launch that campaign for massive real wage increases.”

I would like your thoughts on whether unions (as a unified negotiator) should be winning broad based gains for all in society, rather than just their sectional interest. I say this because, in effect taking from the bosses and distributing to all workers seems to be in the spirit of socialism, whereas for one sectional group to win gains and stratify society into bosses and various other strata introduces a multi tier class system that may see bosses escape challenge and seeing much of the gains for one section as an effective redistribution by denial of gains from another group. Does this also have the effect of dividing and conquering the workforce and undermine the ability for a mass movement of labour?

Comment from Ross
Time February 25, 2011 at 5:49 am

I notice John that Gillard said there would be no carbon tax before the election and there was no mention of an emitions trading scheme.Straight after the election she does 180 deg turn.She is a bare faced liar just like Howard was about the GST.

The emitions trading scheme will be just another derivative market to make more profits out of us.Most of these carbon taxes will end up there.This will mean that only the large corporations will be able to afford to run a business because they have the carbon credits.It will mean less competition and higher consumer prices for us. It has nothing to do with reducing carbon.China,India and many poor countries will be excluded from the carbon tax.

If people think they are enslaved now,just wait till this scam springs into action.We have been sold out time and time by both the major parties.The Coalition will do likewise since Turnbull backed by the big bankers is pushing for it.

If carbon is a problem,tax it as it comes out of the ground.No,they still want to sell their volumes of carbon and this will not change co2 emitions one iota.

Our Govts are nothing but servants to the large corporations and we are their slaves.

Comment from John
Time February 25, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Tony, the decline in profitability led to the financial speculation and the dominance of finance capital in the form of an intertwining of productive and finance capital, and the expansion of fictitious capital and the risk shifting and obscuring of risk. There’s a book by Alex Callinicos called Bonfire of Illusions which goes into this.

As to sectional unions, I think that all the studies show that stronger unions winning real wag increases actually benefit all workers – the rising tide argument.

Sorry to be so brief, but I am tired after working all week and expending a lot of nervous energy.

Comment from Tony
Time February 25, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Thanks John, I will seek out the book.

Comment from John
Time February 26, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Actually to be fair to Howard he said in 1995 there would never ever be a Goods and Services Tax. He changed his mind after he won in 1996 and went to the 1998 election campaigning for a GST. He won 48.9% of the vote on 2PP but a majority of seats. So he did actually win a parliamentary ‘mandate’ for his GST. Gillard specifically went to the 2010 election saying no government she led would introduce a carbon tax. She is a bigger lying rodent than Howard on this. The Financial Review has figures showing the cost of a tax of $25 per tonne will be almost $1000 per year.

Comment from Kat
Time February 27, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Hi John,

I was hoping you’d be able to help me understand this carbon tax.

Is it the same as an Emissions Trading Scheme or different? If so, how does the tax work?

Is it effectively a tax on business based on how much carbon they emit, which will just be passed on to workers in price increases/wage cuts?

Comment from John
Time February 27, 2011 at 8:19 pm

An Emissions Trading Scheme limits the amount of emissions through a cap and trade system (supposedly). The Government sets a limit on CO2 emissions for the economy and provides permits. Businesses which don’t use all their permits because they produce less emissions can sell their surplus permits to those who want to exceed their allocated amount.

The Europeans had such a system. Speculation destroyed it but made some speculators very rich.

A carbon tax is imposed on the amount of carbon in fuels – oil, coal and natural gas. Each has a certain set amount of carbon so the tax could be easily worked out based on the carbon content of each type of fuel.

This will increase the price of electricity, petrol (if it is covered) and heating and cooking etc – and all products which rely on these products in the production process (all off them as far as I can tell). Treasury figures estimate that the likely cost of a carbon tax of $25 per tonne of carbon would be almost $1000 per year for average families. $25 is close to what the Greens were arguing for last year – $23 a tonne.

Business will try to pass on the price increases. They may not always be able to do so, for example in trade exposed industries (which may receive compensation).

The current proposal of the Greens and Labor is to have a price on carbon – a tax – from 2012 to 2015 or even 2017, with an Emissions Trading Scheme to implemented then as the tax phases out assuming other countries have also introduced such a scheme to allow international trading of permits. If not then the tax will continue.

Each year the price of carbon will increase under the current agreement, I think, by the Consumer Price Index plus 4 percent. (Although that might be the old Greens proposal, not sure.)

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