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John Passant

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February 2014



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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)



A government of liars

The Right Honourable Tony Abbott

All bourgeois politicians lie. Their role is to appeal to all classes and sections of society while implementing policies that continue and they hope improve capitalism, i.e. make the bosses more profitable. This means they have to have a certain dexterity of tongue and ability to conceal reality or to express the complexity of change in the language of the familiar and comforting.

However it is not often that a member of the Government, a backbencher, calls her own Party’s leader and Prime Minister a liar.  That is what Sharman Stone, the Liberal member for Murray, did today.

The federal seat of Murray encompasses Shepparton where the SPC Ardmona fruit canning operation is. A few days ago the Abbott government rejected a bid by the company for $25 million to fund modernisation of the plant.

Abbott and his Treasurer Joe Hockey demonised the workers at the plant for their ‘generous’ wages and conditions and said management should have been tougher in enterprise bargaining negotiations. It is a signal to businesses across Australia to harden up.

However the facts about wages and conditions at SPC tell a very different story.

Here is a handy Working Life guide to the truth about employment conditions at SPC Ardmona:

Lie #1. SPC Ardmona employees get “over generous” allowances







The truth: last year the total of all allowances paid to SPC Ardmona workers was $116,467. This is less than 0.1% of the business’s costs of goods for the year.

Lie #2. There is an “over generous” wet allowance of 58 cents per hour for cleaners


The truth: the sum total of claims for this allowance in 2013 was $0.00. That is ZERO. ZILCH. NADA.

Lie #3. SPC Ardmona workers get nine weeks annual leave a year


The truth: SPC Ardmona workers get four weeks annual leave. Just like pretty much everyone else.



Lie #4. Unclaimed sick leave is cashed out each year

This hasn’t happened since 2012.






Lie #5. SPC Ardmona pays outrageously high, industry-crushing shift penalty rates



The truth: workers earn shift loadings at the industry standard and that are similar to many other Australian collective agreements. That’s 20% for an afternoon shift and 30% at night. Entirely reasonable.


Lie #6. SPC is paying excessive overtime rates




The truth: production workers do almost ZERO overtime.


Lie #7. Redundancy provisions are absolutely crazy-town “over generous”


The truth: redundancy provisions were capped at 52 weeks in 2012.




It is all enough to make you want to do an “over generous” amount of this:

Don’t head thump, occupy

In my view a better response, rather than hitting their heads against a brick wall, would be for SPC workers to occupy the plant and begin producing canned fruit for free for poor people.

Let’s accept for the moment despite all the evidence to the contrary that this is a government of truth and that the $16 million given to Cadbury is very different to the requested but denied $25 million to SPC. What then is the difference between the $10 million for the upgrade of Belmore oval, Manly Rugby League team’s home ground and in Abbott’s electorate, and SPC?

Why would the Abbott government brazenly lie about SPC workers? First, they think they can get away with it. The level of political and media scrutiny of this government is very low, aided by the commitment of this cabal to hiding as much as it can from the rest of Australia.

On top of that the Australian working class has been quiet for 30 years and its quiescence has killed any open working class questioning and communal industrial responses.

Second, bourgeois politicians lie to further the interests of capital and that is what is happening here. The real message from the SPC decision is that the Liberal Government wants capital to launch attacks on jobs, wages and conditions now to restore declining profit rates and to set the scene for an escalation of rhetoric and attacks when unemployment worsens, as it will in the coming months.

Third, Abbott and co think their lies will resonate among their supporters and those who voted for them.  They misunderstand the Australian working class.

Many workers did vote for the Liberals, not because they liked them but because they hated Labor’s neoliberalism. Abbott’s victory in September was a reaction against Labor, not an embrace of the Liberals.

However the Liberals have continued and will accelerate tough market love. Already the honeymoon new governments traditionally win from voters has disappeared and for the first time in modern history, according to the polls,  a newly elected government would lose office if an election were held now.

The warnings by Employment Minister Eric Abetz of a wages explosion when wage rises have fallen to their lowest in a decade and are roughly equal to inflation is another even more outrageous example of the Abbott government’s big lie strategy. that strategy also includes lies about climate change to protect entrenched big capital and its current cheaper way of producing goods and services. It also includes the lies about refugees to try and cement workers to the neoliberal agenda by demonising the ‘other’.

In fact when Abbott and his Ministers lie about workers’ wages and conditions and their lies are so easily exposed, many workers will, rather than accept them, judge them from their own precarious positions and reject the government’s lies.  Working class sympathy for example for SPC workers after Stone pointed out Abbott and Hockey were lying is likely to be very high levels.

SPC workers earn around $50,000 a year, about $25000 below the average wage.  They are not overpaid. They are eking out a living in a difficult work environment.

Opportunistically the Victorian Labor Party Opposition has promised to give SPC $30 million if it wins power in Victoria at the election due in November.

The problem in the long run, as the car industry shows, is that despite government assistance, the market will destroy so-called unprofitable industries and both the Liberals and the Labor Party are the apparatchiks of capital and the market.  The market is the problem, not the solution.

Of course if SPC had been a big bank it would have been bailed out immediately.

In the short term Governments could tax the rich and prop up these industries. It could nationalise them. But such actions don’t defeat the law of capitalist value; they operate within it.

Can SPC workers defend their jobs? Yes. Occupy the factory. That’ll force the liars to be more open about their real intentions.

It also offers the best way to win.  For example occupying the plant till Coca-Cola Amatil actually funds the investments needed to upgrade the factory has a good chance of winning.

Their low pay is likely to win them lots of support among workers in resisting the attacks of government and their bosses.

That ways offers in the long term the only true challenge to the law of value and the rule of the market or at least to force governments to provide funds to operate in a market where they are not competitive. Tax the rich to pay for that.



Pingback from A government of liars | OzHouse
Time February 4, 2014 at 9:12 pm

[…] Feb 04 2014 by admin […]

Comment from Lorikeet
Time February 5, 2014 at 8:49 am

Sharman Stone and Barnaby Joyce should leave the Coalition, along with like-minded politicians from their parties, and join with Nick Xenophon, John Madigan and Bob Katter. These 3 politicians have been trying very hard to look after Australian farmers and manufacturers in the face of huge opposition.

The Coalition and Labor/Greens need to move away from Free Trade Agreements which leave Aussies without jobs and farmers and manufacturers without a market.

Then there would be no need to bail out car manufacturers and food processing plants as they would prosper without assistance.

When Senator Madigan tried to organise a co-operative to take over a food processing factory abandoned by a major overseas company, thugs came in the night and destroyed the equipment.

Rise up, Australia, rise up! For goodness sake, get off your butts and do something!

Comment from Hasbeen
Time February 5, 2014 at 10:38 am

There should never be a single cent ever go to support any company paying over award wages, or offering above award conditions.

If making sweetheart deals with unions/workers is good business, the companies will be doing well, be profitable, & the best of British to all of them, I’m all for it

If sweetheart deals are bad business, there is no reason for taxpayers to prop up greedy workers in badly managed businesses.

We saw the abattoirs close all over Oz as bad management gave in to overpaying workers on the quota system.

There are ore bodies all over Oz, no longer mined, as the management gave in to worker demands in the good times, only to go broke when prices came back a bit.

A once thriving coastal shipping industry was killed by excessive wages & conditions demanded by our seamen’s union, cheered on by the workforce.

The car industry is dead, although still flapping for a little while. The food processing is likewise dying like an old time case of gangrene. They keep chopping off the dead bits, knowing it will die completely some time soon.

We had to close our wharfs for months to get any sense into labor costs, & conditions, & who would want to become a builder, with the construction industry so full of rip-offs.

There is very little left where the unions have not shat in their nests, & killed the goose. The only eggs left are way past their use by date.

Look at the UK & it’s unions in the 70s, & you see our future all laid out. Forget CO2, & Muslim immigration, it is the unions that are determined to kill the west, & they are bloody good at it.

Comment from Chris Warren
Time February 5, 2014 at 11:22 am

SPC Ardmona is owned by Coca-Cola Amatil.

Australian earnings before interest and tax were:

2008 – $713 million
2009 – $787 million
2010 – $845 million
2011 – $869 million
2012 – $895 million

The return on invested capital is over 17%.

Net profit increased 5%.

There is enough resources within the Coca-Cola Amatil corporate structure to support SPC-Ardmona.

Comment from John
Time February 5, 2014 at 11:31 am

I think you miss the point of the decision and its ramifications. This is about attacking the wages and conditions of workers who earn around $50,000 a year, $25000 less than the average wage. To side with the Abbott government on this is to side with those who attack low paid workers. And as I make clear the way to defend jobs is to occupy the plant and force Coca-Cola to invest in the plant.

Comment from John
Time February 5, 2014 at 11:33 am

As I make clear the way to defend jobs is to occupy the plant and force Coca-Cola to invest in the plant. You have accepted, hasbeen, the lies of the government about over paid workers. They aren’t, as the article makes clear.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time February 5, 2014 at 7:14 pm

The government also has an ongoing agenda to remove penalty rates across the board.

Comment from Chris Warren
Time February 7, 2014 at 9:01 am


There is a certain logic in suggesting that, if companies pay award rates or over they should not need government support. This logic is bastardised economic rationalism.

For example, bus companies delivering transport services to entire communities can only match demand equitably if they receive government funding – even if they pay over-award rates.

The real problem is that if capital earns a high return through windfall profits (mining) or through monopoly power (banks) this will impact on the financing costs and expected returns for capital right through the economy. This means that other more competitive businesses will be stressed.

Taxing super-profits of banks and miners, allows the government to support other enterprise, so that wages in all sectors remain either undisturbed or lift in response to high wages in mining and banking.

Of course if award rates were set fairly, then no worker or union would need any more. But as Adam Smith noted, workers are at a disadvantage in this wage setting process.

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