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John Passant

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May 2019



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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)



Could Jeremy Corbyn lead the Australian Labor Party?

I know. The idea of Corbyn leading the Australian Labor Party is ridiculous. For a start, he is a British MP.  Second, he has his hands full leading the British Labour Party, on the way to possibly becoming Prime Minister in the near future.

But of course, you know the reason why I have framed the question the way I have. After the election disaster on Saturday, Labor’s leader Bill Shorten resigned the leadership. Where is Labor’s Jeremy Corbyn?

Five leading Labor politicians are circling for their chance to lead the party. None of them are Corbyn’s bootlaces.  Instead of a new beginning, whoever leads Labor it will be more of the same conservatism, with a slight whiff perhaps of vaguely left-wing policy. Having said that, the election result has probably killed any notion in the eyes of the leadership contenders of a policy program that makes Labor a target in any way.

Chris Bowen is a New South Wales Labor Right member and the Opposition’s Treasury spokesperson. He is considering whether to run for the leadership.  As Immigration Minister in the Rudd and Gillard governments he ran Australia’s concentration camps on Manus Island and Nauru.

As Treasury spokesperson Bowen drove Labor’s tax the rich, not so rich and some poor people campaign, all to paint Labor as better economic managers than the Coalition. His neoliberal standard for judging this was and is Budget deficits or rather Budget surpluses.

His tax proposals would have bought in billions, not only from the well-off but from others less well off. His minor tax proposals allowed the Coalition to mount a scare campaign about a retiree tax that, apart from being utter bullshit, won votes for the Coalition.

Bowen famously told voters that if they didn’t like Labor’s tax proposals then vote for someone else. They did.

Bowen is not a Corbyn. Unlike Bowen, Corbyn’s program is of nationalisations and taxing the rich to provide support to the rest of society.  And unlike Bowen, Corbyn has never run offshore concentration camps like Manus Island and Nauru.

Bowen’s proposal to abolish franking credit refunds would have hit some less-well off people as well as the rich. I have an alternative suggestion. Tax the rich (and only the rich) till their pips squeak.

Tanya Plibersek is also considering her options. She was Shorten’s Deputy and so she should share some of the leadership blame for the electoral disaster.  She won’t. 

Plibersek is from the NSW Left. Unlike UK Labour, the left in the ALP is virtually indistinguishable from the right. At best they want to be nicer capitalist bastards.  Plibersek is no Corbyn. She, unlike Corbyn, is an insider and hack. She is part of the problem.

Anthony Albanese, who has announced he will run for the leadership is also from NSW Labor’s left.  He has been a key leadership figure for some years, at the centre of Labor’s neoliberal policies and actions for two decades.

In the battle between him and Shorten for the leadership in 2013, Albanese won the membership vote. Shorten won the Parliamentary Party members’ vote by a greater margin to claim the leadership.  The irony is that in terms of electability the Party members were probably a better guide than the Parliamentary members, as 2016 and now 2019 show. The Right’s irrational fear of the soft left drove them to Shorten and electoral defeat, twice.

The other right wingers who might stand are Tony Burke from NSW and Jim Chalmers from Queensland. Both are insiders, not left wing or even outsiders standing on principle, which Corbyn was. They are as far removed from Jeremy Corbyn as Theresa May.

The party that gave us Bill Shorten is about to repeat the mistake and give us someone from the same inbred political gene pool.

As well as the Parliamentary members and Party members 50/50 divide on votes, there are also State and faction considerations. The Deputy likely will come from a different State or Territory and a different faction to the Leader. This makes Jim Chalmers a good running partner for Albanese, or Plibersek, and my guess is they are all trying to work out some deal that has a left/right/NSW/other state outcome and present that as a grand compromise to the Party.  We shall see.

The right will want to keep the leadership. Bowen’s tax policies and the use the Liberals were able to make of them perhaps rule him out. Burke is from NSW so any deputy would have to be from the left and outside NSW. No candidate stands out.

If Chalmers or Burke are not the Right’s leadership anointed (assuming Bowen has too much electoral baggage) then it will be Albanese as leader and perhaps Chalmers as deputy, or Plibersek and perhaps Chalmers. Shorten is backing Plibersek and she is talking with Chalmers about being her Deputy.

I cannot contain my enthusiasm. Another Labor hack to lead Labor nowhere.

No, there is no Corbyn inside the ALP. Might he or she come from outside the Parliamentary Party? As Martin Hirst said:

‘The charming and exciting thing about Corbyn is that despite decades inside the British Labour Party he has not abandoned his Parliamentary socialist principles. Few in the Australian Labor Party hold to or even seem to believe in these ideals any more.

‘Given the seemingly terminal lack of effective left opposition and movement for change inside the ALP, can a Corbyn figure come from somewhere else?’

I had thought long term it might be ACTU Secretary Sally McManus.  I wrote in 2017, based on her fighting words that we had to break bad (industrial) laws:

‘It is early days and they are only words — so far. McManus heads a conservative trade union bureaucracy whose driving philosophy since adopting the Accord with the Hawke Labor government in 1983, and its various mutations over the years, has been class collaboration rather than class struggle.’

Two years later and it appears the old boys club that is the ACTU has won. The Change the Rules campaign McManus spearheaded was basically a meek elect Labor campaign. It failed even at that basic level, and now the bankrupt union bureaucrats have little idea what to do, other than spout platitudes and continue the great mistakes of the past.

I have a suggestion to working class union members. Strike for better wages and in defence of jobs.  Do so, against the wishes of the union bureaucrats.  We need to break the bad industrial laws in place and those coming under the re-elected Morrison government.

Then maybe the struggle will throw up a mild Keynesian like Corbyn, someone who looks very radical because of the rightward shift of Labor’s politics over the last 36 years.

20 May 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the success of rolling general strikes that left wing trade unions organised to free Clarrie O’Shea from jail and effectively destroy the industrial relations penal powers. There is a lesson there for workers, and trade union leaders.

There are many Corbyns out there. Let’s build a working-class movement of strikes and other resistance for them to come forward. And for us to have a chance of reversing 36 years of neoliberal policies and win real gains for workers.


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