John Passant

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Do not criticise the rich and powerful

Me quoted in Fairfax papers on tax haven use
Me quoted by Georgia Wilkins in The Age (and other Fairfax publications) today. John Passant, from the school of political science and international relations, at the Australian National University, said the trend noted by Computershare was further evidence multinationals did not take global regulators seriously. ”US companies are doing this on the hard-nosed basis that any [regulatory] changes that will be made won’t have an impact on their ability to avoid tax,” he said. ”They think it is going to take a long time for the G20 to take action, or that they are just all talk.” (1)

Sprouting sh*t for almost nothing
You can prove my 2 ex-comrades wrong by donating to my blog En Passant at BSB: 062914 Account: 1067 5257, the Commonwealth Bank in Tuggeranong, ACT. More... (12)

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

Real debate?



It’s the Department of Immigration and ‘Border Protection’ which is offensive

According to SBS News, the Department of Immigration and ‘Border Protection’ – note the lie in its title and at its heart – has told Vanessa Powell, a refugee activist, to ‘remove an offensive remark’ on one of her facebook posts or they ‘will consider their options further.’

Vanessa didn’t make the remark but has removed the post.  Here we have a Department implementing the Government’s rotten refugee policies which are about criminalising, dehumanising, demonising and denigrating asylum seekers. They are carrying out a deeply offensive policy.

Not only that but to try to shut down critics of government policy is also deeply offensive to free speech and justice. It looks like the current free speech debate is really about free speech for rich white men.

It is also not surprising that the Department devotes its energies to hunting down Facebook critics rather than those who murdered Reza Berati on its watch and that of its Minister.

Here is what I wrote in the the most recent ‘Saturday’s socialist speak out‘ about the Department.

The human rights abuses of asylum seeker children on Nauru continue. All the Department of Immigration could say when questioned by the head of the Australian Human Rights Commission was that they were just implementing government policy (even if it did breach international human rights laws, principles and standards.)

This Nuremburg type defence of just following orders has particular resonance since Australia’s detention centres, both here and in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, are concentration camps.

‘Just following orders’ sums up the bigwigs in the Department of Immigration and ‘Border Protection’ in charge of implementing the government’s racist and reactionary asylum seeker policy perfectly. Here is my challenge to them. Threaten me with punitive action.

I look forward to disgruntled departmental employees posting on the first Free Speech Sunday on this blog next weekend about their bosses and the government’s inhumane treatment of asylum seekers. But be warned. The last person to do this lost her job there.

Free speech Sunday is coming

To give public servants and others denied their rights as citizens to speak their mind, this Sunday and every Sunday I will be opening up the blog to all those who want to criticise the Liberal government and Labor ‘opposition’.

Free speech Sunday is coming.  The first on is this coming Sunday, 13 April, on this blog site. Stock up your criticisms of Tony’s Tories or Bill’s Bunters and let fly on Free Speech Sunday.

To protect yourself, you can comment anonymously but that won’t necessarily save you because the government is organising, Stasi like, to have informers dob you in they suspect it is you.

I won’t be co-operating with the Government or its agencies in providing details but they may, although it is unlikely, get orders to release your information.  Their spooks might also get into the network to find out your ISP address etc. So be careful. 

Free speech Sunday is coming.  Let freedom ring.

For public servants, criticising the Abbott government will soon be verboten – except here


Tony’s Tories are going to change the rules for public servants to make it even clearer that they can’t criticise the Abbott government, even anonymously. Under new Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet rules, if public servants do criticise the government they could be sacked.

This of course is the same government using the lie of ‘free speech’ to give free rein to racists and other bigots to say what they like.

Don’t rely on Freedom Commissar Tim Wilson. He supports the suppression of free speech when you sell your labour power to the state.

Join your union to fight for your right to be a citizen outside the workplace.

If you are a public servant feel free to join in the criticism of the Abbott and any other government on this blog. Let freedom reign across the land.

You can post anonymously on my blog and I am not going to reveal who you are. (I see not only your names – fake or real depends on you – but email address and URL if you provide it. And you ISP identity number.)

There will still be risks.  This reactionary government has urged others to dob in public servants who do post criticism anonymously if they suspect who it is. That is what made East Germany such a successful police State for a number of years – informers.

If you do post on my blog make sure the fake name is not one that can be traced back to you.

And of course the spooks and others will if so minded presumably be able to check the ISP details to trace back to you.

It is time to stand up for freedom of expression, real free speech. Public servants work for the government as a wage slave, not as a slave. The government doesn’t own you out of hours.

Post your criticisms of the government here on this blog on any relevant article.

You will get plenty of opportunities. I write about this rotten-to-the-core Abbott Liberal government or their mirror image, the do-nothing neoliberal Labor Opposition, almost every day.

To give public servants the opportunity on their own time to criticise the government, every week I will open my blog up as Free Speech Sunday for everyone, but especially public servants,  to criticise the Australian government.  If we get a good response this will continue until public servants win the right to free speech.

Like all posts on this blog, comments – see the link under the heading – close after 7 days.

Saturday’s socialist speak out

We definitely have top calibre people running the country. Here’s Senator Arthur Sinodinos, until a week or so ago our Assistant Treasurer, in his appearance before the New South Wales Independent Commission against Corruption.

“You deny knowing the company of which you were deputy chairman was donating to the party of which you were the treasurer?” Sinodinos: yes.

I mean, why would anyone expect the deputy chairman of Australian Water Holdings to know AWH was giving $72,000 to the NSW branch of the Liberal Party? And you certainly couldn’t expect the Treasurer of said Liberal Party (the very same person) to know. Especially when they are paid $200,000 for 100 hours work as deputy chair of AWH and of course I assume do the NSW Liberal Treasurer job for love. Nice work if you can get it.

The IPCC released a report raising the possibility of the extinction of the human race. Not to worry. It is all crap, isn’t it? Well, as Moss Cass, Australia’s Environment minister, put it in 1974:

We rich nations, for that is what we are, have an obligation not only to the poor nations, but to all the grandchildren of the world, rich and poor. We have not inherited this earth from our parents to do with it what we will. We have borrowed it from our children and we must be careful to use it in their interests as well as our own.

This has been sharpened up over time to become a famous and pithy statement: ‘We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.’

Climate change means we are leaving them a very different world to the one we have. But capitalism cannot and will not change its ways unless there is a radicalised mass movement to force it to stop destroying the future for the past. Even better such a movement might then come to understand that capitalism is the problem and socialism the cure. That is one of the reasons why the mainstream environmental movement doesn’t radicalise, doesn’t challenge the status quo.

Andrew Bolt has again been attacking Socialist Alternative’s Marxism 2014 but gets the facts wrong about who is organising it. Par for the course. He also hasn’t published my response calling him a dolt and pointing out his factual error.

The cover-up over the death of Reza Berati, the Iranian asylum seeker murdered on Manus Island, continues.

The human rights abuses of asylum seeker children on Nauru continue. All the Department of Immigration could say when questioned by the head of the Australian Human Rights Commission was that they were just implementing government policy (even if it did breach international human rights laws, principles and standards.)

This Nuremburg type defence of just following orders has particular resonance since Australia’s detention centres, both here and in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, are concentration camps.

Since Thursday a number of demonstrators have gathered at the Villawood concentration camp to try to prevent those asylum seekers detained without trial from being sent to outback Western Australia, far away from lawyers and doctors. It just so happens that some of those being forcibly re-gulaged have launched legal action against the government over their detention. These forcible removals will make prosecution of their cases much more difficult.

Increasing the regressive GST and/or broadening its base to include fresh food, health and education are again getting a run. They are the main solutions the ruling class favour on the revenue side to addressing the fake government debt crisis. Make the poor pay more by taxing essentials like fresh food.

And then of course there is the election. Afghans go to the polls today in a farce of democracy to elect which warlord will become CEO of Warlords Inc. The Taliban will be in power soon enough and the 13 years of western defeat, of death and destruction will have been for nothing, other than as an insight, for those willing look, into US imperialism and its ultimate futility and barbarity.

In Western Australia the Senate election re-run sees Joe Bullock as the number one Labor Party candidate. Bullock is a heavy in the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) and as a reactionary old fat man has as much in common with his often young, mainly female members as Gina Rinehart does with poetry.

Bullock has not always voted Labor. For example in 1975 he didn’t vote Labor and support Whitlam against the forces of reaction and their undermining of democracy. Is Joe Bullock the 2014 version of Albert Fields?

Bullock has said he would in parliament vote against any Labor moves to allow gay marriage or broaden abortion rights. He thinks Tony Abbott could make a good PM.

Bullock has attacked Senator Louise Pratt, his Labor Party running mate for the WA senate, and the person he and all the other forces of reaction in the ALP in Western Australia effectively demoted to number 2 spot so he could take number 1. This is how ABC News put it:

Speaking at a function arranged by the Dawson Society in November, Mr Bullock described Ms Pratt as a “poster child” for causes such as gay marriage and accused her of canvassing votes against him.

In the same speech he also described the ALP as untrustworthy and full of “mad” members and admitted he had voted against Labor.

He said he was needed in Parliament otherwise it would follow “every weird lefty trend that you can imagine”.

Evidently he is also a strong fighter for his members’ rights and conditions. Yeah, pull the other one. We are talking about the SDA here, the bosses’ union, a union whose members are among the most vulnerable, exploited, underpaid and overworked in the whole of the Australian workforce and have been for years. The SDA does almost nothing for them.

The Labor Party is taking George Brandis’s ‘right to be bigoted’ seriously. Their number one Senate candidate in Western Australia is a reactionary anti-working class bigot. That says it all about Labor really.

If I lived in Western Australia, I’d be voting Socialist Alliance

I don’t live in Western Australia.

The Senate by-election there has only one party putting anything close to my politics on the electoral agenda. That is Socialist Alliance with their 2 candidates Alec Bainbridge and Chris Jenkins.  Other organisations like Socialist Alternative have politics even closer to mine but they aren’t running.

Running under a banner of putting the banks and mines into the hands of the community (plus much more) the policies of Socialist Alliance are the policies of socialists trying to relate to a wider audience, an audience that by and large still has hopes for progressive change, progressive change that cannot be paid for out of the dwindling profit rates globally or is difficult to do so if there is no mass working class agitation and strikes for it.  Some workers (although much less than in the past) still have illusions in Labor delivering that progressive change.

Labor is neoliberal. With market ‘solutions’ like the price on carbon the Greens are also economically neoliberal.

Voting Socialist Alliance won’t change the world. Even electing Alec to the Senate – it won’t happen – wouldn’t change the world either.

Given the massive decline in working class struggle the vote for socialists is likely to be very low.  While I think as a tactical question standing in elections, at the moment, is not the way forward, others believe it can be part of the wider propaganda effort to bring to the attention of the working class ideas outside the dominant neoliberal mainstream.

What voting Socialist Alliance in decent numbers will do is send a message that there are some people who reject neoliberalism and who understand that we can and must fight for a better world, a world where ordinary people run things, where refugees are welcome, where wars no longer exist, where steps to address climate change start immediately, where there is a treatry recognising Aboriginal sovereingty, where we can and do tax the rich, where there is enough money for public education, public health and public transport, in short where people come before profits.

To all those who struck or demonstrated for public education this week in WA, for all those there who marched in March, for all those who want to be active and make the world better, even change the world, one small step would be to vote for Socialist Alliance on Saturday in Western Australia as part of building a fighting opposition to neoliberalism and more generally to capitalism.





Boom time for the rich rats in Western Australia

The poet of profit

Nothing better illustrates the nature of Western Australia’s mining boom than the respective fortunes of mine owners and First Nations people writes Lian Jenvey in Red Flag.

In the same week that Gina Rinehart secured a multi-billion dollar loan to begin operations at Roy Hill, the world’s biggest iron ore mine, Swan Valley Nyungar community housing was bulldozed to rubble.

The mid-March demolition cleared the way for a new reserve. According to the Western Australian government, the human occupants of the area had to be banished so that “nature” could flourish. No such environmental concerns were on display with regard to Rinehart’s mine.

In spite of the posters in Perth bus shelters proclaiming mining companies’ deep respect, virtually no Indigenous people are employed in the industry.

It is not just Indigenous communities that suffer so the likes of Gina Rinehart can dig more profit from the earth.

A recent study from Curtin University, Sharing the boom: the distribution of income and wealth in WA, documents some inconvenient facts.

Across WA, wealth inequality has grown faster than in any other part of the country writes Lian Jenvey in Red Flag. Low income households are falling behind faster and also getting poorer in absolute terms.

Perhaps the clearest statistic about the reality of WA’s boom is that the wealthiest 40 percent of the population hold 82 percent of the wealth.

Mining bosses like Rinehart have spent much of the boom bemoaning the “entitlement mentality” of the working class. But workers are clearly not the big winners here.

That is more clearly the case for those living in mining areas. In Pilbara boom towns like Karratha, coffee costs $7 a cup and a Big Mac almost $10.

Accommodation costs are so high – $1800 per week for a three-bedroom house – that many workers rent the front yards of established houses. They pay $300 a week for the right to pitch a tent. For those unable to afford that, there is a tent city burgeoning on the outskirts of the town.

There is a boom here all right – but the big benefits are going to a pretty small coterie of the already filthy rich.

Japan and the anti-whaling struggle

The decision of the International Court of Justice to stop Japan’s whaling in Antarctic waters is a victory for all those who have campaigned against this slaughter.

Their ongoing, committed and sustained struggle shows that persistence is an important part of many campaigns. I have expressed my differences with the anti-whalers in the past. Most of what I wrote back then was absolute rubbish. (Some might say nothing has changed.)

The isolated nature of the protests – limited to a few brave souls in the middle of the ocean – makes it dififcult for people onshore to mobilise in defence of whales in any meaningful way.

Second, relying on the ICJ is the usual approach of thsoe who have illusions in the rule of law. It seems it has worked in this case when the poltical nature of legal interpretation has resulted in a victory. It will not always be the case.

Today let’s celebrate the hard work of those who have won this victory against the slaughter of whales. The task for them will be to make sure the legal win is translated into a win for the whales on the ground, or rather in the water.

The task for the left will be to patiently explain that saving whales is one small part of saving the planet and that only a democratic working class revolution can do that. It is a big task. The activism of those campaigning against whaling, and the massive but passsive support they had, are a start. We must highlight and help others understand all the links between various ugly examples to understand the real enemy of humanity and the planet – capitalism.

From whaling to warming to war the message is the same. Capitalism has to go.

Like all posts on this blog comments – see the link under the heading – close after seven days.

My interview on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 25 March

My 30 minute interview with Sharon Firebrace on Tuesday 25 March, including the ‘right’ to be bigoted; section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act; the real enemy is the boss, neoliberalism, creeping authoritarianism …

On the eve of climate change destruction?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has just released its latest Impacts volume of the Fifth Assessment Report .

It doesn’t make for joyous reading for those of us who think beyond the next annual profit report. Anthony McMichael, Colin Butler and Helen Berry, three Australian academics, contributed to the health impacts report. They couldn’t be clearer. Here is what they say in part in an article called ‘Climate change and health: IPCC reports emerging risks, emerging consensus‘ in Monday’s The Conversation.

Missing from the discussion is the threat climate change poses to Earth’s life-support system – from declines in regional food yields, freshwater shortage, damage to settlements from extreme weather events and loss of habitable, especially coastal, land. The list goes on: changes in infectious disease patterns and the mental health consequences of trauma, loss, displacement and resource conflict.

In short, human-driven climate change poses a great threat, unprecedented in type and scale, to well-being, health and perhaps even to human survival.

Long term, there is a threat to human survival.

So we aren’t on the eve of destruction right now and we can all relax can we? Well, no.

Capitalism as a system of production is blind to long term consequences, to so-called ‘externalities’ producing possible extinction for example.  Its purpose is profit as quickly as possible and reinvestment of that profit in capital and labour power to make …. more profit.

The political expression of this is the climate science deniers and their neanderthal cousins, the ‘free’ market politicians and all the others who worship at the altar of profit.  They might talk about direct action or a price on carbon but this masks a deeper reality, one which takes on an even more macabre sense now that some academics are warning of possible extinction.  That deeper reality is that profit comes before people, that profit comes before the planet.

Capitalists would live in shit if it meant they made a good profit.  Climate change might deliver on the first part of that scenario but not the second because, according to a leaked IPCC report mentioned in the Sydney Morning Herald, rising temperatures (of say 4 degrees centigrade by 2100) will reduce global productivity by 40% in the warmer months.

Put simply we won’t be able to adapt enough to the much higher temperatures. You can’t air condition the environment.

It is not just the bosses’ bottom line this will affect. As the three academics say in The Conversation:

The chapter discusses three impact categories in particular:

under-nutrition and impaired child development due to reduced food yields

injuries, hospitalisations and deaths due to intense heat waves, fires and other weather disasters and

shifts in the seasonal duration and spatial range of infectious diseases.

Starving people, and those burned or flooded out, will move to find food and shelter. Memo to the Scott Morrison’s of the world: One hundred million Bangladeshis fleeing floods and looking for food can’t be turned back.

Climate change is and will continue to have a big impact on Australia. Let me summarise in my own words chapter 25 of the report which is on Australia (and New Zealand, which I don’t discuss.)

Rockhampton will be in Sydney. See the Great Barrier Reef before we kill it. Kiss goodbye to the snowfields. Find some way to cool down all day every day or move somewhere a bit cool, like Tasmania. Take out flood and fire insurance. Stock up on water purifiers. Don’t buy homes too close to the coast. Definitely don’t buy a farm. If you are indigenous or poor or both, you are completely stuffed. Well, maybe not you but your grandkids for sure.

We can begin mitigation strategies to address the impacts of climate change now, but it is already past the tipping point for major changes to occur. How then can we address the challenge of already in place but forthcoming climate change and prevent it worsening over time?

Plant a few more trees, like that spokesman for the polluters, Tony Abbott, suggests. Yeah, Tony, the boy with his fingers in the dyke.  Or maybe we could put a price on carbon like Labor implemented?  Yeah, fiddling while Rome burns.

It was Australian National University earth and paleo-scientist Andrew Glikson who wrote in The Conversation that the consequence of the dumbing down of the debate was that ‘an irrelevant discourse ensues between those willing to undertake symbolic action and those who deny the science altogether.’

An irrelevant discourse and symbolic action – that’s both direct action and the carbon tax.

It is time to end the fantasy of finding the ‘right’ price on carbon. As Simon Butler has said:

‘At the launch of last year’s Climate Summit, I argued that carbon pricing – the notion that we can best reduce pollution by extending private property rights to pollution – had a fatal flaw at its core. Prices can never reflect true ecological values because those values simply cannot be expressed in dollar terms.’

What can we do?

Let’s start the fightback for system change to stop climate change

The challenge of climate change is so immense and capitalism so incapable of addressing it that only overthrowing the rotten system can limit the damage and ultimately prevent a possible spiral into extinction.

Capitalism is built on fossil fuels. Getting rid of its dependence on fossil fuels requires getting rid of capitalism.

Democratic working class revolution is the solution.

Like all posts on this blog, comments – see the link under the heading – close after 7 days.



From the Labor Party to the Australian version of the US Democrats?

The push is on to break the link between unions and the Australian Labor Party.

On Sunday morning deputy leader, Tanya Plibersek, told Sky News’s Australian Agenda that she supported removing the requirement for all ALP members to be union members in those cases where they ‘worked for themselves, …were retired, or … were employed in jobs that did not lend themselves to union membership…’

This follows on from leader Bill Shorten who during the week said he wanted to more than double membership from 44,000 to 100,000.  However Shorten didn’t paint a grand vision for Labor to do this by shifting the Party to the left, abandoning neoliberalism, adopting pro-working class and humane policies (for example on refugees) and opposing the outright bosses’ party, the Liberals.

Oh no. Labour would double in size by recruiting ‘… a broader base including the small business and science community.’

Maybe the ALP might double in size if it defended workers and attacked the bosses rather than sucking up to them.

Having more small business owners, the same people crying that the minimum wage shouldn’t be increased and that penalty rates are an abomination,  will only push Labor into being an out and out party of capital, both big and small.

Readers will know that I have characterised the ALP as a capitalist workers’ party and that the contradictions at its heart are playing out now in such a way that it is now a CAPITALIST workers’ party.

Its link to workers is through the trade union bureaucracy, a group who are not workers and not bosses but whose role is to retail workers’ ability to labour to the capitalist class. They argue with the bosses over the  value of labour power, not whether our labour should have a price on its head.

The best thing the ruling class in Australia have had for the last 31 years is a union bureaucracy utterly committed to the trickle down view of the world, that what is good for capital is good for labour, as long as we get a few crumbs from the table of the rich.

Nowhere is this more aptly captured than with the example of ALP linchpin and ex-union heavyweight, Paul Howes. In an interview with the Australian Financial Review, the bosses’ paper, after he had announced his resignation as head of the Australian Workers Union, Howes said that ‘the only good thing about being in the working class is leaving it.’

He added that ‘when you harness the market in the right way it can be a fundamental force for good.’  Not only that, he thought the market was too powerful for even governments to fight. Talk about a complete and utter capitulation to capital. 

It is in this context – of Labor and much of the union bureaucracy worshipping at the altar of profit – that moves to reform Labor have to be understood.

Take for example the vaunted experiments with ‘democracy’. Bill Shorten beat Anthony Albanese despite Albanese winning 60% of the individual membership vote.  However there is a more fundamental objection to so-called democratisation and community voting exposes that reality.

On her facebook page Tanya Plibersek says:

‘We’re holding a community preselection so members of the community can have a say in who they want as Labor’s candidate for the state seat of Newtown. This is a fantastic new approach that will continue to build Labor’s links with the community. I’ll be hosting a candidates’ forum on Saturday at Club Redfern. Please come along to hear from the candidates!’

In other words in this particular contest you don’t have to be a member of the ALP to pre-select a candidate. This is similar to the open primaries in many US States where both the Republican and Democratic parties have primaries open to all to select Presidential candidates.

One argument here is that in 2008 Democrats crossed over to turn John McCain from an also ran before the voting started to select the 2008 Republican Presidential candidate into a front runner by the time Super Tuesday came around. This is despite that fact that Republican voters in those open primary states favoured Romney over McCain.  The Democrats’ voting in the Republican open State primaries swamped them.

As a generalisation the individual members of the Labor Party are to the left of the elected representatives on most if not all  issues. ‘Democratisation’ of the open primary variety looks like a way of toning down the impact of the already weak influence of the leftish membership on the leadership.

There is also serious talk about breaking the links between unions and the party. Unions provide the base of funding to the ALP and have the majority or large minority of votes at Party conferences and various powerful administrative committees at the state and national level.

Unions link the Party, no matter how thin and indirect the links are, to the working class.

Breaking the link between unions and Labor, opening up the pre-selection voting process to non-members, not requiring members to be unionists are all expressions, not of the democratisation of the party but its Democratisation, ie making the ALP nothing more than another party of the bosses. It is about turning Labor from a CAPITALIST workers’ party to a CAPITALIST party.

This is the end logic of embracing neoliberalism. It flows too from the change in elected member class, from working class to professionals and small business people or uni grad to union research officer or advisor to an MP to union leader to MP.

Despite the illusions the leadership might have in this being a process to attract new active members, it may force those people who want to change the world for the better to leave the ALP (after the fake democratisation reveals its real nature) or not to join it.

The question of Labor linking or not linking to the trade union bureaucracy is the wrong one. The real question is how to build a workers’ party committed to socialist revolution. That task for the revolutionary left involves becoming the place those people in Labor and near it and even more so outside it who want to build a better world turn to and join in that fight. Labor’s neoliberalism and inhumanity help open up that possibility.