ga('send', 'pageview');
John Passant

Site menu:

March 2016



RSS Oz House



Subscribe to us

Get new blog posts delivered to your inbox.


Site search


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)



Malcolm Turnbull: making schools unsafe

On Friday, ‘Liberal’ Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Education Minister Simon Birmingham gutted the Safe Schools program. The program aims to build a culture of acceptance of difference among kids and prevent some of them being bullied because of their sexuality. Among other things they will defund it from 2017, all $8 million.

The reactionaries and homophobes in the government like Cory Bernardi and George Christensen are ecstatic. They have had a big win. Only the night before the gutting, these bigots were complaining that the independent report into the program did not go far enough. Turnbull and Birmingham have accommodated their bigotry by going far beyond the recommendations for minor changes to the program that the independent report made and effectively killing it.

The decision is state sponsored homophobia. It is the action of a government intent on bullying LGBTQI people. How is it that the first Prime Minister ever to attend Mardi Gras could a week or so later destroy a worthwhile program for gays and lesbians, a program that deserves and demands expansion and more funding, not the miserable $8 million it received to date and nothing from 2017?

The most obvious answer is that Turnbull is a Liberal, and that overrides any sense of liberalism he might have. His rise to and consolidation of power means he has to appease the bigots in his party and in the coalition party, the Nationals, those who support the systemic bullying of gays and lesbians. Turnbull has given them this victory to appease them in the run up to the 2016 election, one as early as 2 July.

However there is more to it than that. Capitalism is a system of exploitation and oppression. For much of its history it has oppressed gays and lesbians as part of a process of both social control and reinforcement of the ideology and practice of the family. The family is the unit that provides the next generation of workers for capital, basically cost free to capital. Most of that cost is borne by working class women and as a consequence by the class itself.

The rise of the women’s liberation movement after the second world war challenged the stereotyped notions of women and their role in capitalist society. The intensification of protests against war, and for civil rights, reinforced and were reinforced by the women’s liberation movement. The radical challenge to ‘traditional’ female roles in a time of social ferment in the 1960s saw the movement for gays and lesbians rise up, demanding their liberation.

Capitalism adapted to the various challenges to its oppression of people on the basis of their gender, race or sexuality. While the gains won were and are real, the reality is that, because capitalism remains, racism, sexism and homophobia remain. For example Aboriginal people die a decade earlier than non-Aboriginal Australians. The pay gap between men and women is about 18%. Gays and lesbians cannot marry.

The decision to gut the Safe Schools program is another example of that systemic oppression. It is the fight by yesterday’s men and women to retain the worst elements of the past. It is in this sense real reaction. The destruction of this small safe space for young people will lead to more deaths and serious mental and physical problems.

How then can we fight the destruction of Safe Schools and homophobia more generally?

The magnificent campaign for equal love has shifted the terrain so that a big majority of Australians now support marriage equality. That support however is in the main passive. This reflects the wider disengagement of most people from politics and from activity, especially industrial action, to defend their own interests.

Thus gains like Safe Schools are vulnerable to being wound back. Similarly with progressive reforms like marriage equality. The rearguardists like Bernardi and Christensen  are fighting strongly to destroy any semblance of accepting gays and lesbians. So the proposal for marriage equality will be run through the filter of reaction, in this case a plebiscite. The abuse and disgust the right are promoting about gays and lesbians in their reactionary campaign against Safe Schools will be nothing compared to the hate they spew and the deaths and injuries that result if the plebiscite happens.

Because the support among most people for normalising the state and societal response to gays and lesbians in all respects is at best passive, even the Labor Party’s commitment to equal love is ambiguous. In 2004 the ALP supported John Howard’s amendment to the Marriage Act to define it as a union between a man and a woman. The campaign pressure to force them to change has worked, sort of.  The Party’s position now is that it will bind their members in 2019 (!!!) to vote for same sex marriage.

If elected this year the Labor Party will within 100 days introduce a Bill for same sex marriage. There is no absolute guarantee such a Bill would pass through the Parliament. On present indications it will be a close run thing. Despite the fact 70% of people support marriage equality, until recently the majority of parliamentarians did not. Not so long ago while 2 in 3 Australians supported equal love, 2 in 3 politicians opposed it.

On most issues the Australian people are to the left of our politicians. Again the fact that we elect politicians who do not reflect our economic or social interests indicates our divorce more generally from the political process and is a reflection of the lack of generalised class struggle in Australia.

The anger against the gutting of Safe Schools is palpable, and justified. The destruction of the programme if not addressed will increase deaths and serious physical and mental injuries among young people.

Undirected anger, like occupying Cory Bernardi’s office and forcing his staff and wife to retreat into another room, is one expression of that anger. These stunts however do not challenge Bernardi or his views. They may well reinforce support for them.  They won’t save Safe Schools. I doubt they will draw more people into the campaign. Certainly people like ALP member Anthony Nocera writing in the Adelaide University Union blog think Socialist Alternative’s actions undermine defence of the absolutely necessary Safe Schools program. SRC President Tom Gilchrist has responded, defending the action.

Sometimes spontaneous anger and protest by an individual or small group can succeed, for example when it sparks the masses or significant sections of society to action. There is no indication this expression of anger is doing or will do that. It certainly won’t reverse government policy. It won’t save one life or prevent one bashing or other bullying. It may encourage the homophobes rather than hinder them. It may also divide the movement in defence of the Safe Schools program or distract our attention away from building a mass campaign to defend it.

Red Flag has a defence of Socialist Alternative’s actions here and they make the point they didn’t trash Bernardi’s office. We need to be careful not to accept the media’s agenda here. On the other hand we need to be careful to avoid misleading the working class, avoid politics driven by moral outrage and avoid substitutionism, a minority acting on behalf of, i.e. substituting itself for, the movement. Socialist Alternative deny that Bernardi’s office was trashed.

One alternative might have been for a picket of Bernardi’s Office and to call on unions not to supply his office during the 24 picket (or however long a small group of twenty or so students could sustain such action.) Of course such activity would need to be discussed and debated out in the student and wider equal love movement. The protest options, including mass civil disobedience, are many and varied. The goal must be not only to express anger and highlight the issues but to draw in more people to the democratic campaign.

Another might have been to do what some of the Christian groups supporting refugees do and occupy a politician’s office and then leave without trashing the place or threatening the staff.

One other issue is that the state will respond I assume by prosecuting those involved.  That means there will need to be a defence campaign for the protesters and this will eat into time and other resources.

On Monday at 6 pm there will be a protest at the State Library in Melbourne to defend Safe Schools. Already the Victorian government has said it will fund and continue the program as it is.  Mike Baird in New South Wales paints himself as a liberal Liberal (although he has just increased penalties for protesting to make for example anti-fracking and other protesters liable to seven years in jail.) Let’s build a campaign with a mass protest in Sydney to get Baird to make the same commitment to Safe Schools as the Labor government in Victoria has done. All the other State and Territory governments should feel the same pressure.

The Safe Schools program needs not just defending. It needs extending. Instead of wasting $234 million on a chaplaincy program that is run by the churches, some of whom reinforce bigotry and homophobia, we could spend some of that in a safe schools campaign that actually protects kids and makes them feel welcome.

Ultimately we need to create a world in which homophobia is dead. Since racism,  sexism and homophobia are inextricably linked to capitalism, that means overthrowing the system that nurtures these oppressions.  To get to that position we need to be fighting against the Tony Turnbull government and all its rotten, reactionary and neoliberal policies. It means working with activists in all the various campaigns, whether it be for safe schools, or equal love, of for a treaty, or in the refugee movement, in the battles against racism and sexism, and in our unions, to build fighting campaigns.

In the end we need a political expression of all those campaigns, an anti-capitalist and socialist party, to help win human liberation and end exploitation and oppression. In the here and now we need, and we need to build, a fighting section of the working class and students to come together to resist en masse all the inhuman depredations capitalism unleashes on us.


Write a comment