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John Passant

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March 2015



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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)



International Women’s Day has a revolutionary history

Every year I re-publish this article on IWD. I have updated it again but may have missed some detail. Feel free to make suggestions for improvement. John


After the Socialist Party of the US organised a demonstration for women workers in 1909, German communist Clara Zetkin put the proposal to hold a day of international solidarity among and with working women to an International Conference of Socialist Women in 1910.

The day itself was seen as championing the on-going struggle for better working, social and political conditions for women, in particular the vote. It was originally called International Working Women’s Day.

The day was chosen to honour mass strikes of US textile workers in 1908 and 1909 for bread and roses, for union recognition, for the vote, for better pay and for dignity.

As a consequence in March 1911 one million workers (men and women) in various European countries rallied to really begin the international day.

On 23 February 1917 (8 March in the modern calendar) women garment workers in St Petersburg struck for bread and peace and in doing so sparked the revolution that bought down the Czar four days later and saw the working class take power 8 months later.

Yet despite a radical history in Australia, one that went through various phases in the 30s and after the Second World War, including being rebuilt by women’s liberationists in 1975 as a day of action, today in Australia IWD is a celebration of the rise of women to the top of bourgeois society as well as recognition that women still have a long way to go to be liberated.  Nowhere is this better captured in the news that the governing conservative coalition in Australia held their IWD celebrations in a men’s only members club.

Female protesters dressed as men rally outside men-only club Tattersall’s, where the LNP was holding its International Women’s Day lunch. Photo: Katrina Blowers/Seven News


Indeed much thinking now seems to conflate these two distinct ideas of progress that the day has become one where liberation is seen as becoming a boss or manager.  The glass ceiling argument for example will get a run, little recognising that working class men don’t run factories or departments either.

IWD in its current form as a bourgeois celebration doesn’t differentiate between Julie Bishop and the underpaid women who clean her room and the toilets in Parliament House, women who are about to lose up to $100 a week under new Abbott government pay arrangements. It doesn’t explain why Julia Gillard as Labor Prime Minister in 2013 (on the very day she made her famous anti-misogyny speech) consigned up to 80000 single parents (90% of them women) to even deeper poverty with a cut of up to $100 a week to their payments.

IWD doesn’t differentiate between Gina Rinehart and the poor wages she wants to pay her workforce, male and female. It doesn’t differentiate between Gail Kelly, until recently the head of Westpac,  and the women who slaved for her, not to mention the low pay of her female and male workforce  or her sacking staff, female and male.

The idea that working class women have more in common with their boss because she is woman than with working class men is criminal and absurd. Gina Rinehart’s call today for a big dose of Thatcherism in Australia highlights that the essential contradiction in society today is not gender but class. Gender itself is a class construct.

The bourgeoisie and those women who have positions of power in bourgeois society celebrate the day precisely to paper over the class differences and to give the impression that becoming a boss is what liberation is about.

We are not ‘all in this together’.

Ruling class women have a material interest in the present exploitative system continuing and in keeping the wages of many women workers low. Working class women have a material interest in better pay and eventually in overthrowing the system.

Let’s look at some of the key indicators of women’s advancement in society.

Both Labor and the Liberals lock up in Australia’s  concentration camps here or on Nauru or Manus Island women and girls fleeing rape, torture and murder.

Aboriginal women die earlier than their non-indigenous counterparts.

Abortion is still a crime in most states.

The paid maternity leave scheme the Liberals were offering is skewed in favour of ruling class and upper middle class women and, being based on pay when the woman goes on maternity leave, reinforces the inequality of class society. Abbott has only recently backed down on the scheme.

The former Labor government’s pathetic scheme would have delivered a massive wage cut to women on the average wage for example when they took time off to look after their baby.

Australia has possibly the longest working hours of any country. We work on average about 5 or 6 unpaid hours a week for the boss, totalling around $110 billion in wages foregone a year.

The long working week destroys the capacity of women and men to spend more time with their families. It often forces the low income earner in the family, mostly the woman, to take part time work when she really wants to work full time.

Nearly 9 percent of workers, according to Roy Morgan Research, want to work longer hours.  It is women who dominate the part time work statistics.

Child care is very expensive and that rules out access to it for many working class women who might want to work or work longer hours.

This pressure to work part time,  or unpaid and longer hours, reinforces gender roles and stereotypes.

Despite years of talk, including the 3 years with a woman as Prime Minister, the gender pay gap increased under Julia Gillard to over 17 percent and growing. It has climbed to over 18% under the Abbott government.

The Abbott government has cut funding to many many services for women (among others). It is a double blow for the women who receive their assistance and to those who work there. About 80 percent of the workers in the community services sector are women.

In 1969 the Arbitration Commission refused to grant equal pay to women workers. Zelda D’Aprano chained herself to the doors of the Commission.

Surely enough is enough. After 6 years women workers are not much closer to equal pay for equal work.

What better way to reclaim International Women’s Day from the bosses than to strike for equal pay until it becomes a reality now, not in some never never far distant future?

Women workers and women bosses have nothing in common. Fight the bosses, male and female, for equal pay now, for a proper maternity leave scheme that benefits working women the most, for equal pay, for abortion on demand, for free child care, for jobs for all.


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