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John Passant

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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

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)



Nauru is hell


This article from the Saturday paper captures that reality. It says among other things:

‘One woman lies catatonic in hospital after being raped and beaten. Another was raped and immolated. This is the world awaiting refugees released from detention on Nauru.’

To read the whole article click here. Nauru rapes: ‘There is a war on women’



Government budgets aren’t household budgets: a cartoon

Asylum seekers: a picture

Syrian refugee Laith Majid holds his son and daughter, after arriving via a flimsy inflatable boat crammed with about 15 men, women and children on the shore of the island of Kos in Greece on 15 August 2015


The photographer, Daniel Etter has now written about it in The Guardian. Click on this link. After taking this picture, I cared more about the people than the image

An update: they made it to Germany. Great news.


If only we could elect better politicians eh?

This is a letter I sent to the Canberra Times on Friday in response to two letters echoing widespread dismay with our politicians.


Bob Douglas (Canberra Times Letters 19 August) has given eloquent voice to the despair many many Australians feel about their elected ‘representatives’. However I don’t think, as Bob seems to, the answer lies just in searching for better candidates.

The problem I suspect is systemic. Most Australian voters have an essentially social democratic outlook – a desire for better public health, education, transport, looking after those in need and so on. This desire is born I believe of the need for workers to sell their labour power to a boss. In other words it is innate within the very essentials of capitalism. Survey after survey shows for example that on most issues Australian voters are well to the left of either L-NP or Labor politicians.

Why then don’t ‘our’ politicians represent us? They are elected to an institution of capitalism. In power they manage capitalism for capital and often for particular sections of capitalism such as mining companies.

The global crisis of profitability in capitalism – what Marx identified as the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall – sees governments in power undertake policies which essentially attempt to redress that tendency by shifting more and more of the wealth workers create to the capitalist class. This involves a cut to social welfare, attacks on pensioners, the sick, the unemployed and so on, and of course a range of attempts to cut real, and in dire cases of crisis, nominal wages.

The fundamental weapon in the armoury of the elite in shifting wealth from us to them is limiting unions. There are two ways to do this – through up front attacks like those of the current government, or more subtly through winning the cooperation of the union movement through the election of a Labor government. Thus Hawke and Keating were more successful in this transfer of wealth from workers to bosses over time than Thatcher and laid the groundwork for Howard to continue the shift.

In other words the failure of Australian politics reflects the underlying crisis of profitability of the capitalist system, a global crisis now encroaching our shores and those of China too.This means electing good women and men to Parliament won’t solve the problem.

It seems to me the alternative is to build the resistance to each manifestation of neoliberalism when it arises, whether it be, for example, GP co-payments(first introduced by the Hawke government, by the way), attacks on single parent mums (Julia Gillard), cuts to pensions, refusal to recognise equal love (both sides), the bipartisan abuse of asylum seekers in Australia’s concentration camps or attacks on penalty rates, wages and jobs (for example public service job cuts by both sides).

Real power to win these campaigns lies in their radicalisation. I think for example that the equal love and refugee campaigns should now consider mass civil disobedience, with tens of thousands occupying our streets and stopping business as usual.

Any radicalisation must ultimately involve the working class and its ability to withhold its labour. The government that attacks Aborigines attacks penalty rates. The government that denies gays and lesbians equal rights and denies asylum seekers any rights restricts union rights. The government that wants to tax fresh food and increase the GST takes more money out of your pocket pro rata than it does out of Google’s, or Apple’s or any of the big mining companies.

So by all means consider forming new electoral alliances to fight for better representatives. But understand that the forces at play are much deeper and more entrenched than can be solved by having that nice Mr Turnbull or likable Mr Albanese (or variations on that theme) in the Lodge rather than the two pathetic alternatives offered up to us at the moment.

I have a declaration too to make, which may at first seem paradoxical or even hypocritical in light of what I have said above. I am considering, although I have not yet decided, to run as a candidate for an ACT Senate spot in the next election. I am not doing that because I think electing me will make any difference to the functioning of capitalism. I will receive few votes. If I did decide to stand it would be under the slogan put a socialist in the Senate to coalesce those anti-capitalist forces of resistance to the neoliberalism of the two major parties and to build that resistance into a real fighting force, or at least lay the groundwork for that into the future. My focus would not be the leather seats of the Senate but the workplaces of the voters and any struggles that erupt against the attacks of whichever party of neoliberalism, Labor or L-NP, is in power.

Impromptu: Can I stand and poet?


Can I stand and poet?

I can stand
And talk
I can stand
And walk
I can even stand
And recite

These are not the same
As poetry
On the night

Is there art involved?
Or the porn of words?
A place of joy
Or a factory of turds?

Made up,
On the spot
God she is good
Damn he is not

Do I have a place?
Dare I save my face?
For later
Always later

Come forth, self hater
And sing a poem now
For you know how
You know how

(c) 20 August 2015

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: two of history’s worst war crimes

Khury Petersen-Smith in Socialist Worker US punctures the mythology about the U.S. decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of the Second World War–and why the myths still endure.

Devastation in Hiroshima after the U.S. atomic bomb was dropped


IN THE spring of 2009, activists in Hiroshima, Japan, launched a project to persuade President Barack Obama to visit their city. Hiroshima and Nagasaki became known to the world in 1945 as history’s first victims of nuclear attack when the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on those cities. The effort to bring Obama involved hundreds of middle- and high-school students, as well as hibakusha–survivors of the atomic bombings.

A visit by the president could have sent a message: A recognition of the horror of nuclear weapons and solidarity with the efforts of Japanese activists seeking to abolish them. Buoyed by Obama’s winning of the Nobel Peace Prize, the “President Obama Invitation Project” approached former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, also a former candidate for the presidency, to extend a formal invitation to Obama to visit Hiroshima. Kucinich vowed to deliver the message.

You could be forgiven for missing this event. The story died when the White House ignored the invite. As with so many who expected a departure from policies and politics associated with the Bush administration, Obama betrayed the hopes of activists in Hiroshima.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

EARLY AUGUST marked 70 years since the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

While people in those cities and elsewhere in Japan marked the occasion by remembering the catastrophic bombings and their aftermath, there was silence from the U.S. government. For its part, the New York Times posed the following question on its website: “Did the U.S. have to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?” TheTimes invited readers “submit their arguments” and promised to select some for publication.

The fact that the Times considers the U.S. decision to use nuclear weapons against cities of people an open question–70 years after the fact–speaks to the shocking extent to which the U.S. government and mainstream media apologize for one of history’s greatest war crimes.

The nuclear attacks are treated very differently, especially in the U.S., than other atrocities committed by the warring powers of the Second World War. Writing in an opinion piece for the New York Times last year, Norihiro Kato pointed out the double standard in the way that history remembers the crimes committed by the United States, compared with those of Japan in China and Germany throughout Europe.

The difference lies not in the atrocities themselves, but in the attitude the world has taken toward them. The international community has reached a consensus regarding all those other horrors: They violated international law; they never should have occurred in the first place; they must never be permitted to happen again…

The situation is completely different with respect to the atomic bombings. Even if most people around the world privately believe the indiscriminate killing of civilians with nuclear weapons is wrong, there is no shared public consensus to this effect…The permanent members of the United Nations Security Council oppose the notion of an unconditional ban; they themselves possess nuclear weapons and want to reserve their “right” to use them.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

BECAUSE TODAY’S dominant world powers have a vested interest in whitewashing America’s history of atomic warfare–combined with the fact that, as a victor of the Second World War, the U.S. government exercises tremendous power over how that war is remembered–the relative silence about Hiroshima and Nagasaki is rendered explicable.

It is not mere coincidence that the country with the most power on the world stage today is also the one that committed unforgivable crimes. Indeed, the U.S. established its superpower status at the end of the Second World War by demonstrating both its capacity to produce as well as its willingness to use the most destructive weapons ever invented.

It is ironic, to say the least, that the U.S. has used the mantle of “superpower” to regulate the war-making of other countries–in particular, the production and use of nuclear weapons. The inconvenient truth is that the very country that has appointed itself as the guardian of the world from nuclear proliferation is also the only one in history to use atomic bombs in war.

The most unmistakable reminder of this strange reality arrived in the form of an agreement–negotiated by the U.S.–to curtail Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. The deal was controversial, but not for what should be the most obvious reason: The state that brokered it produced the most extensive system in history for the production and deployment of nuclear weapons–and is still the only state to have used them in war.

The ability of the U.S. to play the role of global policeman regarding nuclear proliferation–and all other geopolitical matters–rests on a distortion of history, in addition to its actual military might.

According to the mythology of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the U.S. actually saved lives by using the weapons–because the bombings avoided a costlier ground invasion.

This story begins with President Truman’s claim during his August 9, 1945, radio addressinforming the American public of the decision to use the weapons. He justified the bombing of Hiroshima both as an act of revenge for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and brutal treatment of American prisoners of war, as well as a means to “shorten the agony of war” and “save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.”

President Truman said that the U.S. took on an “awful responsibility” by becoming the world’s first nuclear power. He framed his decision to use the bomb, despite its destructive power, as a calculated one. The contrast between Truman’s rational, American mind against the racist caricature of the fanatical, belligerent Japanese was obvious in 1945, after years of anti-Japanese propaganda and the detention of 100,000 Japanese-Americans in concentration camps, which was explained as a way to prevent them from becoming a fifth column bent on undermining the U.S. war effort.

Truman argued in that speech that the U.S. had selected Hiroshima, which it had designated as a “military target,” in order to save civilian lives.

All of these rationales were, of course, lies.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

IN AN article for TomDispatch, historian Christian Appy recounts an episode whose outcome could have been a new conversation about the American decision to use the atomic bomb. In 1995, the Smithsonian Institute prepared an exhibit on the 50th anniversary of the bombings.

Originally, it planned to present the differing opinions among U.S. generals at the end of the war about the military necessity of dropping the bombs. As part of the exhibit, charred artifacts from Hiroshima and photos of dead and injured bomb victims would have been displayed.

But right-wing organizations and the U.S. Senate itself intervened to prevent this well-rounded exhibit from happening. The Senate passed a resolution affirming the use of nuclear weapons as “momentous in helping to bring World War II to a merciful end.” Appy writes:

Merciful? Consider just this: the number of civilians killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki alone was more than twice the number of American troops killed during the entire Pacific war. In the end, the Smithsonian displayed little but the Enola Gay itself, a gleaming relic of American victory in the “Good War.”

The U.S. government buried the truth, and it continues to do so seven decades after the war–with the complicity of the mainstream media and museums like the Smithsonian. The act of obscuring the real reasoning and devastation of the bombings began a history of hiding more nuclear crimes on the part of the United States, including its extensive and devastating nuclear weapons testing program in the Marshall Islands and elsewhere in the Pacific.

The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission treated Pacific Islander victims of radiation not as medial patients, but as human subjects in its experiments. Whereas there is some recognition among progressives and the left in the U.S. that the government’s crimes in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unforgivable, there is virtually no conversation about the testing program in the Pacific islands–or its victims–due to the government’s efforts to marginalize them.

The fact that the U.S. government–under both Republicans or Democrats (and remember, it was a Democratic president who ordered the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki)–has not reckoned with its actions 70 years later shows that it simply will not, unless it is forced to. A new movement against U.S. imperialism, one that exposes its crimes of the past and resists those of the present, is sorely needed.

This summer, a new antiwar movement is shaking Japan. Tens of thousands of people, including a younger generation of activists, have mobilized against Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to rewrite the Japanese constitution in order to allow the country to have an offensive military–which was outlawed at the conclusion of the Second World War.

With the nightmares of that war in mind, protesters have set out to oppose Japanese militarism. The challenge remains in this country to revive a struggle against U.S. empire–in solidarity with its victims around the world.

Stop Hutchison’s divide and rule tactics: restart the strike and fight for every job

MUA botany


In light of the return to work and then exclusion of some Hutchison workers, comrades in Solidarity have written an article about the way forward for Hutchison workers to beat the boss and defend every job. They say among other things:

The union has to be able to negotiate from a position of strength. The only sensible approach is to keep the workforce united; restart the strike action, and maximise the pressure on Hutchison’s.’

To read the whole article in Solidarity magazine click here.

Boycott the witch hunt into trade unions


The Labor Party is going to ask the Governor General to sack the Trade Union Royal Commissioner, Dyson Heydon, because of perceived bias. The trigger for this was of course the former conservative High Court judge and current Royal Commissioner accepting an invitation to speak at a Liberal Party fund raiser celebrating conservative High Court judge Garfield Barwick.

Labor will move a motion in the Senate calling on the Governor General ‘to revoke the letters patent issued to the Honourable John Dyson Heydon AC QC.’ It will need cross bench support for this to pass. The Governor General won’t act on it. In ‘normal’ times he follows the advice of the Government.  I suspect Labor are using this tactic to argue that the majority of the Senate support getting rid of the Royal Commissioner (which may also mean winding up the Royal Commission).  This gives it the veneer of democracy and presumably strengthens the argument that there is a reasonable apprehension of bias on Heydon’s part.

The problem of course is that these are the same sorts of ‘democratic’ arguments Malcolm Fraser used in blocking supply and seeing the Governor General of the time John Kerr act on his own (with the advice of the aforementioned Garfield Barwick) and sack the democratically elected Whitlam government.  It is the wrong tactic.

At the least Labor should be trying to build a mass movement to get Heydon resign. They won’t. The idea won’t even occur to them, and can’t be built anyway in a time of social peace, a social peace imposed by workers courtesy in the main of the Labor Party in government.

There is of course a more radical response. Labor and the unions could refuse to have anything more to do with the Commission because of Heydon’s perceived bias.  This opens up those who have been subpoenaed and refuse to appear to fines of up to $1000 or six months imprisonment. Although this is a strict liability crime, if the person has a reasonable excuse for not appearing then that is a defence. And what could be more reasonable than not appearing at a Royal Commission because of the perceived bias of the Commissioner?

I know Labor won’t do this. They are the meek respecters of bourgeois ‘lawfulness’ ad respectability.  However, imagine the electrifying effect the Labor Party could have if it replied to this most political of Royall Commissions with a political response. Imagine if Bill Shorten rallied our side by declaring in Parliament that because of the perceived bias he would no longer cooperate with the Royal Commission and would not in future be appearing or producing documents. Every Labor Party MP and member could then join him in pledging they would do the same.

No government, not even the Abbott government or its handpicked Royal Commissioner, is going to prosecute the Leader of the Opposition. And before anyone says ‘contempt’, the Royal Commissions Act 1902 also deals with that. The fine is $200 or 3 months in jail (less than the failure to appear penalties) but again the politics of prosecuting and jailing Labor politicians for opposing a biased and political Royal Commission would I suspect be fatal for Abbott.

The other target of this witch hunt is the union movement, in particular those unions, like the CFMEU, that actually fight for and mobilise their members. They too, through the ACTU, could refuse to have anything more to do with this political attempt to destroy them for the crime of defending wages, jobs and imposing safety standards on the bosses in the building industry.

Unlike Labor, unions have more than symbolic power. If the ACTU, or at least the left unions, were to announce a complete boycott of the Royal Commission, and to back that up not only with the threat of (illegal) mass strike action in defence of anyone  prosecuted for not appearing, but also with an education campaign among their members as to why they must walk off the job in response to the biased Commission,  it could destroy the witch hunt.

Thirty years of class collaboration have made these arguments more difficult to make but even the most stupid of union leaders must see that the Royal Commission threatens their own privileged position as the retailers to the boss of our labour power.

Boycott the Royal Commission.

An iconic and historic Aussie Rules photo taken a few days ago

Tayla Harris unleashes with a mighty kick. Image via Getty.


The Australian Financial Review – I am the perfect replacement for Mark Latham

I sent off this letter to the editor of the Australian Financial Review just after I read Mark Latham had resigned or been pushed aside as a columnist for the Financial Review. If I get time I will expand on the arguments, especially why our newspapers are so narrowly limited in their views and opinion pieces.

Dear Financial Review

I am pleased to see that on announcing Mark Latham’s resignation as a columnist Michael Stutchbury has ‘defended the Financial Review’s right and even duty to publish provocative opinions…’ (‘Mark Latham resigns as Financial Review columnist’ 17 August 2015)

As a lifelong unionist and socialist I could fill the huge gap left by the late lamented Latham leaving. My daily blog for the last six years (called En Passant) gives readers the flavour of my style and revolutionary politics. Try before you buy.

I might however provoke not just Westpac but the whole band of hostile brothers and sisters of the ruling class with my pro-working class articles. Then again maybe I am just the sort of writer your turgid and narrowly limited opinion pages need to enliven debate and bring in a new audience for the paper.


There is back story to this I have only just discovered. It is a tale of deep hatred of women. For the details click on the UK Daily Mail story ‘Mark Latham forced to quit column after claims he used fake Twitter account to abuse women – including Australian of the Year Rosie Batty and a transgender army officer’. There are other reports supporting this.

In light of the real reasons for Latham’s sacking or departure, I suggest the Financial Review hire a female columnist from the left. I can think of no one better than black feminist socialist and unionist Celeste Liddle. She blogs at Rantings of an Aboriginal feminist. Have a read. If not her then there are literally thousands of left wing women who could do a millions time better job than Latham did, including many of my comrades in Solidarity. However they have higher standards than me so they might not accept writing for the bosses’ newspaper and giving it the occasional left wing cover.