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John Passant

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September 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)



Can Labor survive Malcolm Turnbull?

A day can be a long time in politics. The election of Malcolm Turnbull as leader of the Liberal Party on Monday night and his installation on Tuesday as Prime Minister has turned bourgeois politics in Australia on its head.

Before that, Labor had been in cruise mode, relying on Tony Abbott’s failed leadership to deliver it victory in 2016. Bill Shorten was the perfect leader for the somnambulist ALP in the time of Abbott. Turnbull’s ascendency challenges that.

For a start Turnbull is popular, unlike Shorten. Turnbull is smart, unlike Shorten. Turnbull is articulate, unlike Shorten. Turnbull can turn on the charm, unlike Shorten. But there is something deeper at play here.

Since 1983 the debate in bourgeois politics in Australia has been about how best to deliver neoliberal polices, in essence policies to address the global decline in profit rates in the developed world, a decline now catching up with China and Australia.

The Hawke and Keating version of neoliberalism co-opted the trade union bureaucracy into accepting class collaboration as the way forward for both bosses and workers.[Maybe co-opted is too strong a word. they jumped at the opportunity to avoid al that nasty class struggle stuff and re-assert themselves as the retailers of labour power to the bosses backed by a supportive state, rather than have ordinary rank and file workers upsetting their role.]

The beneficiaries of this accord, over time, were the bosses, at the expense of workers and their unions. It was the fact that these Labor governments had the support of the trade union bureaucracy that saw Hawke and Keating deliver neoliberal outcomes for the bosses that Thatcher in Britain could not. Hawke and Keating set in train one of the biggest transfers of wealth from labour to capital Australia has seen. That legacy continued long after their reigns ended. They so weakened the trade union movement, with the agreement of its leadership, tat the Accor and what flowed from it effectively cemented an ongoing shift of wealth from labour to capital from 1985 till now.

Some dissatisfied workers voted for Howard in 1996. He was able to stay in power for 11 years on the back of a boom in the Australian economy, built on the back of massive Chinese demand for our natural resources. However even during that boom, as living standards increased, the benefits of the boom went disproportionately to capital. Thus income inequality continued to increase.

It was only when Howard showed his nasty neoliberal side with Workchoices that those workers who had deserted Labor voted for Kevin Rudd. The smiling neoliberals were back in charge.

Australian politics for the last 3 decades has been a good cop bad cop routine, although of course both the Liberals and Labor have wanted to disguise their bad neoliberal side and pretend there is a good neoliberal side. Hawke and Keating did that. Howard did it most of the time or disguised aspects of the wealth shift with trinkets (such as income tax cuts to offset the introduction of the GST, cuts that bracket creep destroyed over time.)

Abbott couldn’t do it. His 2014 Budget, a Budget that viciously attacked workers and the poor, along with his no cuts lies, opened many people’s eyes to the reality of his government and saw them reluctantly turn back to Labor. For almost the last two years, since the election of the Abbott government, the government has been behind Labor in the polls.

Labor offered a small target approach, occasionally disagreeing with Abbott, but in the main going along with his policies. both sides have talked in platitudes about jobs, and living standards. Neither side has a vision for a just and equitable Australia.

Since about 2011, the Australian economy has begun to slow down as a consequence of the fall in the price of resources and the decline in growth rates of the Chinese economy. This means that the needs of capital for more ‘reforms’ to shift the burden of the slow down on to workers has increased.

The mooted attacks on penalty rates, talk of increasing the GST, the decline in real wages, the $110 billion in unpaid overtime, the demands for industrial relations reforms and even more productivity increases, the attempts to undermine wages through Free Trade Agreements and taking the dole off people for six months or even 4 weeks, all indicate a ramping up of the pressure on governments to deliver reforms to satisfy business and help restore falling profit rates.

Abbott could not do that. The passive and active resistance to his program paralysed his government and many of its major ‘reforms’. Labor in Opposition could pretend to be on the side of the angels by opposing some of the more egregious attacks on workers and the poor.

However it too in government will be faced with the need to introduce reforms that attack workers and the poor to improve the profit rates of Australian capital. Like Abbott, Shorten and his party under his leadership do not appear to be the people capable of doing that.

The bourgeoisie have turned to Malcolm Turnbull t rescue them. The Financial Review, the bosses’ newspaper, reported that business was ecstatic at his elevation. They hope that he too can disguise the real agenda with a lot of ‘sensible explaining’ of the need for reform. in the short term some workers may buy his silver tongued snake oil.

Labor now will be looking for their own credible snake-oil salesman. There is no Hawke or Keating in their ranks today, although Albanese might be able to do it with his seeming homespun appeal and vague ‘left’ credentials. He has the support of the rank and file, although unlike Jeremy Corbyn in the UK he is unlikely to energise people to join Labor because his vision is not one of opposition to austerity but its implementation.

Of course an alternative approach would be to do a Corbyn and oppose austerity, war and all the rotten social and economic policies of neoliberalism. This is beyond the Australian Labor Party. It has degenerated too far and has no such figure in its parliamentary ranks who could do that, let alone a mechanism for such a person to do it (unless Shorten resigns. Who knows, the Canning by-election, with Reachtel showing a swing back to the Turnbull Liberals of 5% in the 24 hours since his ascendency, compared to the Abbott led Liberals, might in fact be Shorten’s swan song, if he had any sense.)

The neoliberal snake oil salesman that is Turnbull is performing the role Labor wanted to play. He has stolen their ground and unless they come up with a real alternative, a radical alternative a la Corbyn that challenges austerity, then in the short to medium term, until the reality of Turnbull’s snake oil salesmanship is revealed in practice, they will continue to rot in opposition.



Comment from Ross
Time September 17, 2015 at 6:26 pm

Jeremy Corbyn has the financial elites in a panic. He wants a Glass Steagall Act and return to Govt owned banks to temper their greed and power.

I fear Jeremy may end up like JFK. He is truly a courageous man.

Comment from RJW
Time September 19, 2015 at 4:45 pm

The ‘Lucky Country’s’ luck will, finally, run out when the real estate bubble bursts and after the disappearance of most of the country’s manufacturing base. The voters as they usually do, will blame the party in government, When members of the Coalition-voting middle class discover that their McMansions are worth half their mortgages, and that they’re unemployed, they will rapidly embrace the welfare state and vote Labor.

Comment from Ross
Time September 19, 2015 at 7:57 pm

RJW you are right. Our properties are way over valued as a proportion of earning capacity. The affordable mortgage is 6 times a single person’s salary. This in Sydney is currently 14 times a salary of $70,000 pa and many earn far less.

Our banking system have inflated a bubble from which they cannot extricate themselves. This is why Janette Yellen of the US Federal Reserve cannot raise interest rates.

Comment from David Coleman
Time September 20, 2015 at 8:29 pm

Turnbull is a huge threat to labor because he is a centrist. Abbott was from the far right of the liberal party which is dominated by religious conservatives and he had alienated all of the centre swinging voters sometimes called the wet liberals or the ‘small l’ liberals. All of the these centrists will be recaptured by Turnbull. It remains to be seen if he can bridge the divide between the centre right and the far right which Abbott was not capable of doing.

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