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Keep socialist blog En Passant going - donate now
If you want to keep a blog that makes the arguments every day against the ravages of capitalism going and keeps alive the flame of democracy and community, make a donation to help cover my costs. And of course keep reading the blog. To donate click here. Keep socialist blog En Passant going. More... (4)

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. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/18-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-g20-meeting-age-of-enttilement-engineers-attack-of-austerity-hardship-on-civilians.mp3 (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. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2014/02/11/john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-2/ (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/4-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-end-of-the-age-of-entitlement-for-the-needy-but-pandering-to-the-lusts-of-the-greedy.mp3 (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
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Sick kids and paying upfront

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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. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2013/12/03/john-passant-australian-national-university-8/ (0)

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Do not send Assange to the US

As readers would know, I have no love for Julian Assange. I want him sent to Sweden to face inquiries and possible prosecution over allegations of sexual misconduct (e.g. rape.)

I oppose sending him to the United States for any reason. The reality is the ruling class there want to imprison, if not execute, Assange for revealing the truth. The US is a vicious, brutal military machine serving the interests of its own big capital. It is an imperialist power which carries out crimes against humanity, as Assange has clearly shown. See for example his Collateral Murder video.

At this very moment President Trump is considering pardoning a number of US soldiers guilty of war crimes in the countries they invaded over the last 20 years. He has already pardoned one. So, the intentions of the American ruling class seem clear – destroy anyone who exposes their war crimes, and free those who commit them.

The two messages are clear. By the latest pardon and proposed pardons, Trump is telling his invading troop it is OK to kill innocent people. It is fine, indeed encouraged, for US service men and women to commit war crimes. President Trump will protect you.

At the same time Trump is telling journalists not to expose those war crimes, or else. We will imprison you (or rather attempt to imprison you) under the Espionage Act. Look at what they did to Chelsea Manning for providing the information exposing US crimes to Assange.

She was in jail for seven. In 2017 Obamacommutedher sentence. She has since recently been jailed twice under the Trump administration, both times for refusing to testify against Assange in US Grand Jury investigations into his alleged crimes. She is at this very moment in jail, and will remain there while the current Grand Jury continues its persecution of Assange.

The initial US charge against Assange was one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. On Thursday the US filed 17 additional charges under the Espionage Act.  This Act is normally used against spies or whistleblowers and leakers from the US intelligence members.  Or, I MIGHT ADD, against the left.

Apart from Assange and Manning, for socialists and anarchists familiar with history, those charged and sometimes imprisoned include, according to Wikipedia:

Victor L. Berger, labor leader and five-time Socialist Party of America candidate, Eugene V. Debsanarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, … Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel EllsbergCablegate whistleblower Chelsea ManningWikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden.’

In other words, the Espionage Act can be a tool to suppress dissent. In Assange’s case it is a tool to punish him for revealing unhelpful truths about the American dictatorship and to suppress others who might be tempted to do the same.

Freedom of the press is part of the the first amendment constitutional right to free speech in the US. Clearly Assange is a journalist. Bringing secretive government information to the attention of the public is journalism. Indeed Assange and Wikileaks won a Walkley Award from the MEAA, the Australian journalists’ union (my union) in 2011 for their revelations. It was an honour from Australian journalists given to a journalist for great journalism.

The Australian government has been very quiet about defending Australian Assange from US imperialism. Prior to the election Prime Minister Scott Morrison said after Assange’s arrest that he would get the same treatment as everyone else. This is a devious way of saying he will get no help from the Australian government against the US.

This should not surprise us. The Australian government is a partner with US imperialism. That partnership strengthens Australian imperialism in the region.  The Morrison government will do nothing to upset the close military and economic ties it has with the US.

So, while our government is talking about in effect legislating ‘religious freedom’ for anti-gay hate speech, it does nothing to defend free speech. In Assange’s case it supports suppressing it. The Australian government will sacrifice Assange on the altar of the US Alliance.

Assange won’t be the last, as the other victims of the Espionage Act listed above hints at. If the US can prosecute him under the Espionage Act it will be able to prosecute journalists anywhere for the ‘crime’ of revealing US war and other crimes. It will shut down the release of powerful dissenting material.

For example, many mainstream media outlets revealed the Wikileaks material. Will they too be prosecuted under the Espionage Act? Possibly not, but they will likely err on the side of silence in the future.

Trump may have overplayed his hand. In attacking Assange he is attacking the capitalist press. More importantly from my point of view he is attacking you and me and curtailing even further our already limited ability to read about and understand the crimes our governments carry out, let alone report on them.

We must defend Assange against extradition to the US.

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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.

What now?

The Coalition has retained government. At the time of writing on Sunday it has 74 seats, Labor has 66 and various independents and minor parties, including a Green, hold another 6.

Five seats are in doubt with 4 potentially going to the Coalition. This would give it 78 seats in the new Parliament, enough to provide a Speaker and still have a majority.

Of the others, the Coalition can count in any confidence motion on the vote of Katter, Starkie and Steggall at least, giving them enough leeway to survive for a while, before their internal divisions (over climate change for example) pull them apart just as those climate change divisions have been doing since 2009.

How is it possible the Coalition has retained power? I thought after the leadership changes, the infighting, the inaction on climate change, and the stagnation of wages, among other things, that the polls and betting agencies were broadly right about a Labor victory. In my more pessimistic analysis I thought Labor would win 76 seats. I was wrong. Completely wrong.

According to Antony Green there is a swing Australia wide TO the Coalition of 1.5% compared to the 2016 election. In Queensland, at around 3.4%, the swing against Labor is even more pronounced.

On first party votes the swing against the Coalition was 0.7% and against Labor was 0.8%. Despite this the coalition gained 3 seats and Labor lost 4. Right wing parties like One Nation and United Australia Party helped win it for Morrison and co. Palmer’s $60 million in advertising was well spent, for the Coalition.

In Tasmania the swing against Labor was 3.9%. Despite the swing against the Government being 1% there, they picked up 2 seats compared to Labor, who lost two.

On top of that, the swing to Labor in Victoria of 1.8% was not strong enough to deliver any new seats to the Opposition (other than those already factored in because of the redistribution).

South Australia and Western Australia have remained unmoved in terms of seats.

To blame Palmer for the loss, or Murdoch, or whoever, is to blame the symptom for the disease. The position of the Queensland mining branch of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union on the Adani coal mine captures the problem. In April it demanded Labor candidates in Queensland sign a pledge supporting for coal industry jobs.

The end result of Shorten prevaricating on Adani and sections of the Queensland working class accepting the lie that coal mines mean jobs was a primary vote of 26.7% for Labor in Queensland, a disastrous result. Its national primary vote of 33.3%, itself disastrous, looks almost good by comparison. It isn’t.

Labor has a problem. It is only receiving one in three votes, a result that raises questions about its future direction, if not its future.

The main explanation for the defeat has been that Labor’s policy program was too ambitious. This is nonsense.

It paints a few minor tax changes, some fiddling with greenhouse gas emissions and a bit of spending on cancer patients as momentous. As I pointed out in discussing Labor’s franking credit proposal, Labor’s cack handed seeming attacks on the 1% were more an attack on a range of people including workers and those less well off. They advanced these policies because they are trapped in the logic of neoliberal budget surpluses.

Indeed, being trapped in the logic of capitalism is the problem for Labor. But how could workers vote for their class enemy?

Well, the ACTU Change the Rules campaign reinforced the lie that change comes from above and not from below. Vote Labor and all will be good. It will not.

The quality of workers’ lives under capitalism in a period of global recession depends on the level of class struggle. Low class struggle means low class consciousness. Couple this with an identified trend away from unions the further you move away from the major centres of population and you have a recipe for disaster in places like Queensland.

Strikes and other forms of class struggle challenge the dominant (neoliberal) worldview that your boss is your friend and that strikes do not work or win. They make working class ideas acceptable and show that workers united can win their demands and ultimately run a new world.

In this environment campaigning around voting to change the rules does nothing to inject the one factor that can win a better life for workers, class struggle. To change their rules, break their rules. Strike.

As Australia prepares to enter an economic downturn, there is one choice for the union bureaucrats – class struggle. The alternative is continued irrelevance.

And could Labor win back workers in Queensland for example? Yes, a bold program that rejected Adani, and that promised a decade long transition to renewable energy with pay and jobs for miners and similar guaranteed in the new industry, would be a good start. Tax the 1% to pay for it. But the ALP is not Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour in the UK. It is not even Bernie Sanders.

This is a weak, conflicted government of old white men. It could be dispatched with a big round of class struggle.

There is a choice for workers – class struggle or ongoing immiseration. My hope is that workers organise irrespective of what the grey men and women of the union bureaucracy want and strike for higher wages, to defend current jobs and create new ones and to build a new world based on renewable energy.


Labor to win between 76 and 82 seats?

And so the last day of electioneering and voting has arrived. Thank the gods the 5 weeks of lies, rubbish, obfuscation and vagueness have finished.

Here is a list of seats to keep an eye on. It is based on the latest aggregated odds of 7 bookmakers fielding on the result and taken from information in the Australian Financial Review. Aaron Patrick in today’s Fin says:

‘Betting on seven commercial [betting] markets predicted Labor would win 83 and the Coalition 60 seats.’

It is not comprehensive in the sense that seats with seemingly safe majorities could swing wildly to the other sides or sides. But it at least gives us a guide as to what is likely to happen. Another note of caution. Betting in individual seats is perhaps not strong enough to ensure accurate predictions.

Finally, the Newspoll on Saturday morning in the Australian has it Labor on 51.5% two party preferred and the Coalition on 48.5%

We start off by assuming that because of re-distributions the current state of the House is notionally Labor 72 and the Coalition 73.

Let’s start with Queensland.

Herbert

This is a seat won by Labor’s Cathy O’Toole by 37 votes two party preferred in 2016. It is too close to call. With odds of $1.26 for the LNP, compared to $3.30 for Labor, the bookies have the LNP in Queensland winning the seat. Why? Adani and the lies about jobs for the region. As a pessimist, let’s give the seat to the LNP, for the purposes of seeing who can/will form government.

That means Labor, on this assumption, will have 71 seats, the Coalition 74.

Forde

Forde is held by Liberal Bert Van Manen on a margin of 0.6% in 2016. The bookies have Labor at $1.30 compared to the LNP’s $3.20. Let’s give that to Labor.

So now we have Labor on 72 seats and the Coalition on 73.

Petrie

Luke Howarth holds this for the LNP on a margin of 1.7% The bookies have it as close but favour Labor on $1.66 compared to $2.10 for the LNP. Let’s give that to Labor.

So now we have Labor on 73 seats and the Coalition on 72.

Capricornia

The Nationals Michelle Laundry holds Capricornia by a margin of 0.6%. The bookies have it even stevens at $1.85 each for her and the Labor candidate. Let’s err on the side of caution and give this to the Nationals. No change.

So we have Labor staying on 73 and the Coalition on 72.

Dickson

In Peter Dutton’s seat of Dickson we find the Labor candidate, Ali France, on $1.60 and the incumbent on $2.10. Let’s continue being pessimistic and put this close seat into the Liberals basket.

Labor stays on 73 and the Coalition on 72.

Flynn

Flynn is even closer than Dickson, at $.170 for the LNP and $2.00 for the ALP. Pessimism rules. Let’s keep that with the Nationals.

The status quo remains Labor on 73 and the Coalition on 72.

There are other seats like Leichardt, held by LNP member Warren Entsch on 4.0% and Bonner, held by the LNP’s Ross Vasta on 3.4%, which might also be in contention. Let’s assume they remain with the Coalition. So we are still stuck in status quo territory of Labor on 73 and the Coalition on 72.

Can WA help Labor?

Cowan

Cowan is held by Labor’s Anne Aly on a 0.7% margin. This may fal to the Coalition. However the betting agencies have Aly on $1.16 and the Liberal candidate on $4.50. At those odds, let’s keep it in the Labor camp so our count remains 73 to Labor and 72 to the Coalition

Hasluck

Liberal Ken Wyatt holds Hasluck by a margin of 2.1%. This seat could change hands. The odds are $1.44 Labor and $2.90 the Libs. Let’s give this as a win to Labor.

Labor 74 Coalition 71.

Swan

The betting odds have this going to Labor’s Hanna Beazley, the daughter of former leader Kim Beazley. She is $1.50 to win it. The Liberals Steve Irons ($2.35) holds it by a margin of 3.6% so let’s play conservative and keep it in the Liberal camp.

Pearce

Christian Porter, the current Attorney General and future leader of the Liberals, holds this by a margin of 3.6%. The betting ($1.50 for him and $2.40 for his Labor opponent Kim Travers) sees us keep it in the Liberal fold. It remains Labor 74 to Coalition 71.

Stirling

Vince Connolly is contesting this for the Liberals after sitting member Micahel Keenan retired. Keenan held the seat for the Liberals by a margin of 6.1%. The betting agencies have Labor’s Melta Markey at $1.72 compared to $2.00 for Connolly. Let’s play safe, given the margin, and keep this in the Liberals’ camp. 74 Labor, 71 Coalition.

What about Tasmania?

There are five seats up for grabs in Tasmania. Four are held by Labor and one by independent Andrew Wilkie. Two of Labor’s seats are in contention.

Braddon

This is close. Labor’s Justine Keay holds it but her odds at $1.90 are slightly behind the Liberal Party’s Gavin Pearce on $1.80. Let’s continue the pessimistic theme and give this to the Liberals. Labor 74, Coalition 72.

Bass

Bass is the other seat some commentators suggest might be up for grabs. Am I being too optimistic, given the margin in Labor’s favour is 5.4%, and Labor’s Ross Hart has odds of $1.36, compared to $2.75 for the Liberal’s Bridget Archer, to keep this in Labor’s camp? I do not think so. Labor 74, Coalition 72.

I am going to break the territorial approach and look at seats where Independents might win it, or lose it.

Wentworth

This is Malcolm Turnbull’s old seat which at the by-election in 2018 fell to independent Kerryn Phelps. Given the margin is just 1.2% and the fact Liberal voters vented their anger in the by-election last year at losing Turnbull as PM and local member, and with the odds for Phelps being $4.0 compared to the Liberals Dave Sharma on $1.22 I am giving this to the Liberals.

Labor 74, Coalition 73.

Cowper

The Nationals’ Patrick Conaghan holds this seat with a margin of 4.5%. Independent Rob Oakeshott is mounting a strong challenge, and the bookies have him a slight favourite at $1.72 compared to Conaghan’s $1.93. Given the margin, and the odds, let’s play conservative and keep this in the Nationals’ grasp.

Labor 74 Coalition 73.

Farrer

Former Liberals’ Health Minister Sussan Ley holds this traditionally safe seat by a massive 20.5%. It might be in play because of the Murray-Darling Basin disaster. The betting markets have Ley at $1.85 and the Independent Kevin Mack at $.180. This seems too close to call, and given the huge margin, let’s play safe and keep it with Ley and the Liberals.

Labor 74, Coalition 73.

Indi

Independent member Cathy McGowan won the seat in 2016 with a margin of 5.5%. She is retiring and has endorsed independent Helen Haines. Both the Liberals and the Nationals are running candidates in the seat. The betting markets have the Coalition odds at $1.60 and $2.20 for Haines. Let’s give that to the Coalition.

Labor 74, Coalition 74.

Time to turn to NSW. Let’s start with the independent challenge to Tony Abbott in Warringah.

Warringah

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott holds this seat with a margin of 11.6%. Independent Zeli Steggall is putting in a strong challenge. In betting markets she is $1.40 to win, while Abbott’s odds are $2.65. Given the big margin, name recognition, the nature of the elctorate, I am going to play safe and keep this with the Liberals.

Labor 74 Coalition 74.

Labor could also lose a seat or two in NSW. The obvious one is Lindsay.

Lindsay

Lindsay, won by Emma Husar for Labor at the 2016 election, could fall to the Liberals? Why? Husar is not recontesting and the internal Labor battles this highlighted might see some voters switch to the Liberals. Labor’s margin of 1.1% may disappear. The betting markets have the Liberals at $1.64 compared to Labor’s $2.02. It is too close to call, but let’s err on the side of conservatism and give it to the Liberals.

Labor 72 Coalition 75.

The other seats I look at in NSW could fall to Labor.

Gilmore

Former Labor Party president (yes!) Warren Mundine is standing for the Liberals. The angst surrounding the departure of former Liberal member and Turnbull supporter Ann Sudmalis, plus the pre-selected Liberal candidate being dumped by the PM for Mundine and now running as an independent, make this a potential Labor win. Labor is $1.30 and the Liberals $3.00. Those odds are too great, and given the turmoil among the Liberals, and the fact that Mundine is a Labor rat, I am going to risk this one as a win to Labor candidate Fiona Phillips.

Labor 73, Coalition 74.

Reid

The Liberals’ Fiona Martin holds the seat by a margin of 4.7%. The betting has it a toss up, with Labor’s Sam Crosby on $1.80 and Martin on $1.90. By my reasoning there is not enough there in these conservative calculations to give the seat to Labor. So my conservatism means the situation remains the same, with Labor on 73 and the Coalition on 74.

South Australia

Boothby

The Liberals hold Boothby by 2.7%. There is some chatter that it could fall. The betting markets have the Liberals candidate Nicolle Flint on $1.30 and the Labor candidate Nadia Clancy on $3.00 For our election result purposes let’s keep this as a Liberal seat. So the status quo remains – Labor 73 to the Coalition 74.

Northern Territory

Solomon

Again, there is some chatter that Labor’s Luke Gosling could lose Solomon. His margin is 6.1%. Betting markets have him on $1.35 compared to the Liberals’ Kathy Ganley on $2.85. Given the margin and the odds, let’s keep this with Labor.

Labor 73, coalition 74.

That leaves Victoria to decide.

Corangamite

Corangamite after a redistribution is notionally Labor. The Liberals’ Sarah Henderson holds it by a margin of 0.03%. Labor’s Libby Coker is favourite with the bookies at $1.32 compared to Henderson on $3.10. Given the small margin, the redistribution, the swing against the Liberals at the last State election, and the odds, let’s keep this in Labor’s seats. So the running tally remains the same at 73 Labor, 74 Liberal.

Dunkley

The Liberals’ Chris Crewther holds the seat with a margin on 1.0%. Labor’s Peta Murphy is on $1.10 in the betting markets, while Crewther can get you $5.75. This is a Labor win.

Labor 74, Liberals 73.

Chisholm

The Liberals held this seat at the 2016 election with a margin of 2.9%. With a new candidate, Gladys Liu, against Labor’s Jennifer Yang, and betting markets in favour of Lang over Liu by $1.35 to $3.00, I am giving this one to Labor too.

Labor 75, Liberals 72. .

La Trobe

La Trobe is held by Jason Wood for the Liberals on a margin of 3.2%. The betting markets have him at $3.00 and his Labor candidate Simon Curtis at $1.33. That makes it Labor 76, Liberals 71.

This is just enough for Labor to form government. Just. The cross bench – one Green and 3 independents on these figures, will make life very interesting.

Other doubtful seats in Victoria include Casey, Higgins and Kooyong. As part of my worst case scenario I am predicting, with my pessimissm/realism factor locked in, that they all remain with the Liberals.

Deakin

Deakin, held by Michael Sukkar for the Liberals, might also be in play. His margin is 6.4% but his closeness to Peter Dutton calls this into doubt. The markets have him on $1.77 and the ALP candidate Shireen Morris on $2.00. This is close, but let’s leave it for our worst case analysis with the Liberals.

Labor with 76 to 82 seats?

So, according to my rough and ready worst case betting analysis Labor ends up with 76 seats, enough to provide the speaker and a majority on the floor in case of a tied vote. If they can convince an independent to be speaker, they will have an absolute majority.

If I am slightly less pessimistic Labor could end up winning Reid, Capricornia, Stirling, Flynn, Deakin and retain Braddon. This would give it a workable majority in the House of around 82.

The swing will not be uniform and will differ within States and Territories, and between States and Territories. And I may, simple man that I am, have missed a seat or two in contention. And of course there will be surprises across the nation. However, if I were a betting man, I’d put money on Labor winning about 81 or 82 seats, enough to form a workable majority.

If it happens, will a Labor government make much difference to wages?

Of course, a Labor government will make a difference to the industrial landscape. Its minor industrial law changes, plus the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, are welcome. But like much of Labor’s program, they do not go far enough.

Sally McManus has warned that the right to strike is almost dead but then side-tracks us into the ACTU campaign to “change the rules”. Workers need more than words. Change the rules translates to Vote Labor and a Shorten government will fix things up. This ignores a couple of important facts.

There has never been a legal right to strike in Australia. At best, there have been periods when Parliament has allowed strikes but closely controlled them and imposed financial – and sometimes penal – penalties on “offenders”. 

Fifty years ago (almost to the day), John Kerr (yes, that one) gaoled union leader Clarrie O’Shea for “contempt of court” for failing to open up the union’s accounts. The union had had fines imposed as a result of taking industrial action. 

Rolling general strikes across Australia, organised by left-wing unions, saw the fines paid by a rich benefactor and O’Shea released from jail after five days. The employers and the government were too frightened by the rolling general strikes to use the penal powers for some time.

In recent times, both Labor and LNP governments have legislated restrictions on strikes. Paul Keating, for example, gave us Enterprise Bargaining and limited strike capacity to the bargaining period. John Howard gave us the hated Workchoices, built on the philosophy we are all individuals capable of negotiating our own best wages and conditions. 

The Rudd Labor Government’s Fair Work laws were WorkChoices Lite. Among other things, they kept the restrictions on striking, only allowing it in the bargaining period.

Shorten Labor in power won’t enshrine a general and unqualified right to strike in law.

Striking is a key to understanding why wage rises are low today. Outside the bubble of Parliament, women are over-represented in the low paid sections of the workforce and in part-time work. The Morrison Government has done nothing to confront the structural imbalance that is the gender pay gap.

The Labor Party has promised to address this gap. But given the problem is an expression of the capitalist system in Australia it is difficult to see how this can happen without mass strike campaigns led by women workers in female-dominated sectors.

Despite Australia being (according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) the wealthiest country in the world, poverty – which, to continue a theme, is gendered – remains high.

Wages growth has been very low in Australia since 2013. As Greg Jericho and Gareth Hutchens said in The Guardian:

‘… the average Australian household has less disposable income in real terms than when the Liberal/National Coalition took power in 2013. And the major reason is persistent low wages growth.’

That persistent low wage growth helps explain the underlying disquiet with politics and the major political parties. But some people did alright. In 2017-18, profits grew five times faster than wages.  This continues a trend in place since the mid-1980s.

Saul Eslake in The Conversation has helpfully put the wages and profits share of national income since 1960 into one graph for us to see the long-term results:

(Source: The Conversation)

Without radical policies, that trend is likely to continue.

Another key set of figures which help explain the political, economic and social morass we find ourselves in, including low wages, are the strike statistics. In 2018, strikes and other industrial action remained at historic low levels.

Director of Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work, Jim Stanford, found a close statistical relationship between the level of industrial action and the growth of wages over time:

(Source: The Australia Institute)

The lack of strike action not only leads to lower wages, but it also blunts our class consciousness and reduces our political awareness. This has all sorts of political consequences, including the long-term trend to fewer first votes for the Labor Party.

Labor’s wish and prayer proposals for a living wage, and for increased wages for child care workers, are welcome, but do not go far enough. Without an unfettered right to strike and workers exercising it, any minor wage benefits Labor gives will be eaten away by the bosses in their war on wages.

Scott Morrison – from Mother’s Day to deporting mums

Marx famously thought there was a difference between appearance and reality. It was what drove him to look into the real workings of capitalism, a system of exploitation of workers.

Our current election campaign is showing that appearance and reality distinction up.  Now, don’t worry, I am not going to talk about deep philosophical matters or delving. I am going to talk about the appearance of our Prime Minister and the reality of our PM.

The Liberal Party launch on Mother’s Day was all about Morrison and his family, in particular the three generations of women in his life – his mother, his wife and his daughters. It was vomit inducing, at least for me.

I suspect that some voters came away thinking what a wholesome family man Scott Morrison is. It is certainly an image the PM wants to project, especially as a counterbalance to the reality that he governs for capital, not workers. As his Finance Minister said, falling wages are part of their economic plan.

In part, they are a consequence of a trade union movement unprepared and unwilling to strike.  Labor’s election might slow the downward trend in real wages a little, but not much if there is no class struggle.

But I digress.  There was Morrison at the Liberal Party election launch, introduced by his mother, lauded by his wife and cuddled by his daughters. It was Mother’s Day so he, of course, gave his mother and his wife flowers.

There were no flowers for Tamil refugee mum Priya. She has been held in a detention centre for 15 months, along with her husband Nades and two young, Australian born girls. Instead, on Tuesday the High Court refused to hear their appeal to prevent them being deported to Sri Lanka.

Their real home, the place Priya and Nades were building a new life with their young Australian born daughters, is Biloela, north of Brisbane. The town has rallied to them.

Sri Lanka is not a safe place. DFAT’s Smart Traveller site recommends that people reconsider their travel plans to the Island. To quote selectively from the site:

‘Terrorists are likely to carry out further attacks in Sri Lanka… A State of Emergency remains in place and night-time curfews can be imposed with short notice… There is the potential for civil unrest and violence against people and property.’

Priya and Nades and their children are Tamils. The Tamil Refugee Committee is this week remembering the tenth anniversary of the genocide the brutal Sri Lankan State committed against Tamils and the ongoing occupation of Tamil areas of Sri Lanka.

Instead of a Mother’s Day welcome and flowers, Priya could be sent back to the hellhole that is Sri Lanka.

This is part of the deliberate government policy to demonise asylum seekers and refugees for political benefit. It appeals to the crimson thread of racism that runs through Australian society. Demonising the other wins a few votes for the Coalition, so Labor tails them.

Running concentration camps on Manus Island and Nauru and the onshore detention centres reveal the reality of Scott Morrison and his coalition of cruelty.

Give Priya and Nades a delayed Mother’s Day present. Give them and their children permanent residency on the way to citizenship.

It is unlikely the caretaker Immigration Minister will do that. He might be tempted to deport them immediately. While that would throw meat to his Party’s rabid base, it might lose votes. My guess is he will hold off and the pressure will be on the incoming Immigration Minister to grant residency or citizenship. Will Labor do that?

Who knows? They parade their women friendly credentials (with a bit more numerical justification than the Coalition) but they also walk arm in arm with the Government when it comes to refugees and asylum seekers.

It will be up to us to mobilise to bring Nades, Priya and the girls home to Biloela.

John Passant is a member of the Canberra Press Gallery. Mainstream and other media wishing to republish his material should contact him to discuss the rates for doing so.

Our socialism or their barbarism? – a poem

The words, the article, the politics

Cannot write tonight

The not right of campaigns

The pain of lies, untruths, sales

By the men and women with snake oil

Greasing our minds

With thoughts to supposedly explain

Our economic insecurity as gain

But exploitation is insecure

Systemically, crises are its cure,

Unplanned, undemocratic

Men in suits decide

For us all

A few women ride beside them

Profit is king

Their profit

Our misery

Nothing sets us free

Yet,

Yet hope rises

It is us

In various guises (all without ties)

Our truth against their lies

Few listen, yet

The Palmer palms our minds

With 50 million pieces of silver

Or so he thinks

And the other parties of capital

Battle

One the baddies, the other the not so bad baddies

Exploitation continues

It has its value

Are we happy slaves, or sad?

With longer days than peasants

And less days off

Who can say?

They cannot pay us enough

Profit is tough

To make

Work harder

The larder is empty

Because of you

Working

Wages high, retiring?

Pay for that too

Pay for everything

As the crime that is capital

Builds its fortress

Against our unrest

But we are quiet

For now, that is our problem

The structures of silence

Are our democracy

We will be free

When … when?

I dream of revolution

Evolution will destroy us

And the system

It destroys our world

The death sentence is handed down

Stage four of capital

Is upon us

We are the cure

Unmoved today

And tomorrow?

The choice is ours

Our socialism

Or their barbarism

I choose freedom, from exploitation

From fake democracy

When we choose

We will be free

These are my words tonight

John Passant

13 May 2019

Women as support acts in the Liberal Party

If there was ever any confirmation needed that the Liberals and the Nationals see women as props to rich men’s politics, the Liberals’ election launch on Sunday confirmed it. Canberra Press Gallery member John Passant reports.

There was Prime Minister Scott Morrison, surrounded by three generations of women from his family – his mother, his wife and his two daughters.  I am sure they are perfectly decent people. I fail to see what they have to do with an election launch, other than in this case to hide the reality of the lack of women in the Conservative parties and the anti-women policies of the Liberals and the Nationals. It was almost as if they are the supporting actors, included only to help the movie win a wider audience.  

The disconnection between his party and women could not be clearer.  As Morrison wheeled out three generations of his female family members I could not help but think about the Biloela couple, Nides and Priya, who fled Sri Lanka in 2012 and 2013 and their two Australian born daughters.

The four have been imprisoned for over 12 months in immigration detention in Australia, awaiting deportation back to Sri Lanka, and the exhaustion of all appeals. It is alleged one of their daughters has not received adequate medical treatment in onshore detention.

Imagine if the Liberals treated Priya and her two daughters with the same respect they give to Scott Morrison’s wife, Jenny Morrison, and their two daughters, Abigail and Lily.

Or, as the Prime Minister says, the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.  I am reminded of the comment by the great left wing Labour Party UK MP Tony Benn (possibly misattributed) that ‘the way a government treats refugees is very instructive because it shows you how they would treat the rest of us if they thought they could get away with it.’

One of the other indicators of the second-class treatment of women in and by the Liberal Party was the absence of former Deputy Leader Julie Bishop from the launch. She was the one the mainly male Liberal caucus decided was not good enough to lead their old boys club. She got just 11 votes compared to Peter Dutton’s 38 in the first round, knocking her out comprehensively. The overwhelmingly male caucus went instead for another man, Scott Morrison.

The number of women in the Liberal Party Parliamentary Party after the election could possibly be less than ten. That is likely to be less than 20 percent.

Of course, Bishop was not the only no show. Former Prime Ministers John Howard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull were absent too.  Morrison and Abbott display a reality that cannot be denied – the Liberal Party is divided between reactionaries and half-hearted conservative ‘reformers’, groups at war with each other.

One political woman at the launch was Melissa Price, the Minister against the Environment.  Until now, she has stayed out of sight. The day before the PM called the election, Price gave the approval for the Adani mine ground water plan, despite scientific advice against doing so.  At the launch all we saw of Price was her robotically applauding when the prompt message came on, along with Ministers, hangers on, and the other few dozen or so supporters there.

Once the Morrison family con fest ended, (after some horrible little vignettes trying to humanise the man who used to run Australia’s offshore concentration camps on Manus Island and Nauru), the policies were pretty thin. There was money promised (but not specifically budgeted) for transport in Melbourne. Labor’s loop transport proposal far surpasses it.

That was about it. You’d think with the female family parade there might have been a few policies addressing the concerns of women. No.

Nothing about fixing the gender pay gap. Nothing about improving real wages for millions of women and men.  Nothing about addressing female poverty, female homelessness, female retirees in poverty, female pensioners in poverty, women on Newstart in poverty, helping working mums, helping mums … You get the idea.

Women are merely part of the support act in the Liberal Party and their government.  Men run the joint, for rich men and for capital.

John Passant is a member of the Canberra Press Gallery. If mainstream or other media wish to republish this, contact John to discuss the fee for doing so.

I read the Murdoch newspaper, The Australian, every day

I not only read Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian. I subscribe to 6-day delivery (there is no Sunday edition) and digital access. Many of my friends think I am mad. I am not.  

Of course, Murdoch’s down market Daily Telegraph in Sydney went low rent in attacking Bill Shorten over his deceased mother’s legacy. One of the other low rent Murdoch publications, The Herald Sun in Melbourne, refused to run with it.  Murdoch man par excellence Andrew Bolt condemned the article.

Now it appears staff at Murdoch’s Australian newspapers are pretty pissed off, not just with this latest outrage but with the overall decline of the papers into right wing paranoia.  As Rick Morton, a senior social affairs journalist with The Australian, says, ‘the craziness has been dialled up’ in recent times.

As for the idea the journalists are free to write what they want, Morton told University journalism students that the senior journalists there knew what the editorial line was and wrote accordingly.

This story broke on Friday morning, in The Guardian. Does Morton still have a job with News? At the time of writing, yes.

Free speech and all that stuff, the sort of thing the fulminators at News Corp go on and on and on (incorrectly) about, while denying alternative views being expressed by their own staff and for many of their readers.

Fulminators is one description. It is obvious, to me at least, that the quality of opinion in the paper has fallen.  All a former News Corp employee (for 30 years) Tony Koch sees is ‘shameful bias’. I agree. 

Reading commentary by Paul Kelly, Chris Kenny, Greg Sheridan or Dennis Shanahan for example is like reading a press release from an extreme right- wing Liberal Party MP, with bigger words and better English. The reporting of Australian politics appears to echo what I imagine to be the banter in a rich old white mens’ club, old chap. ‘We must attack, attack, attack.’

Even the reports in the newspaper about Australian politics often have little substance, other than being anti-Labor. Or anti-Green.

When it comes to climate change, the existential threat facing humanity and future profits, The Australian veers between denial and doing nothing. It is mostly do nothing denial. Maurice Newman is their denier par excellence. Par excellence is a fancy French phrase meaning without peer.  That certainly is true of Newman. When it comes to climate change and climate science, he is without peer. Nobody would join his club of illogicality and denial willingly.

Given all of this, why do I subscribe to The Australian? Members of my family love working out the solution to the word quiz.

There are other reasons why I subscribe. The Australia’s reporting of non-Australian matters is more informative than Nine Media and their papers, which I also subscribe to. I find out, despite the conservative spin, what is happening in other countries. Its coverage of Australia matters that are not political is also often informative.

I also subscribe because not all the commentators are right wing nut jobs (RWNJs). One or two are sensible liberals. Even those who are RWNJs or their allies sometimes give me insights, mostly into the thinking of the reactionary right, but sometimes into the issue itself.

Not only that, I want to see what if any debates there are among the ruling class. The Australian Financial Review often gives a sophisticated view on one or two of its inside back pages, but by and large it is now a gossip sheet on business affairs and the machinations of competitive capital among themselves. The Australian gives the right wing side to many arguments and policies.

Another reason for subscribing to The Australian is to know the enemy. It is to know not only what sections of capital are arguing about, but also why. This helps me in formulating ideas, if needed, in response.

I am also interested in the following The Australian has. I avidly read the letters page. It is instructive to see the every-day RWNJs pouring forth their nonsense in print. It reminds me daily their is world view beyond mine.

The Australian is in decline, perhaps a terminal decline. It is often a loss maker for Murdoch. What is to be done?

The disquiet among News Corp staff is something I hope my union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, can build on.  In my more utopian moments I imagine News Corp workers taking over the papers and running them collectively to tell the truth to their readers, and bring in new readers.  Then I stop daydreaming.

So my guess is, given the money behind the Australian News Corp newspapers, they will continue being an expression of reactionary dreams, and so continue to rot on the vine.  They might struggle on life support for some time yet, but their brain is clinically dead.

Labor’s lesser evilism is still evil

On Wednesday night, the leaders of the two major parties debated how best to manage Australian capitalism. One showed a little compassion, tempered by continued cruelty to asylum, seekers and refugees. The other talked about budget costs, taxes and strong borders.

Both leaders promised to continue to be tough on refugees and asylum seekers. Shorten promised to be slightly less cruel.  Offshore detention should not be indefinite, Mr Shorten said.  News flash Mr Shorten. There should be no detention of asylum seekers and refugees. Putting people in offshore concentration camps for seeking refuge is unconscionable.

Labor’s offer to send a few of them to an agreeable New Zealand is less evil than the actions of the government, just. The compassionate alternative would be to bring the thousand or so on Manus Island and Nauru (and the 164,000 other refugees and asylum seekers languishing in Indonesia and Malaysia) to Australia to process their refugee applications in a short time and settle those who want to in the country.

The Labor Party position of having nicer concentration camps is a classic case of lesser evilism. Vote Labor because we are less evil than the Liberals. The problem is, of course, that evil is still evil, as Manus Island and Nauru show. 

Labor apologists will say that lesser is better than total evil. The problem is that lesser evil leads to total evil. As Hawke and Keating show, Labor in power made the ideas of John Howard acceptable to many Australians. Rudd, Gillar and Rudd prepared the way politically for Abbott, and then the lesser Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, and the three quarter Abbott, Scott Morrison.

But, but, but, splutter the Labor apologists. What about the cancer program Labor is offering? All well and good but the problem of out of pocket costs for cancer treatment will continue.

On Wednesday night Shorten told us competition will force cancer specialists to lower their prices.  Seriously? Labor really thinks trickle-down economics is going to solve the problem of high cancer costs. Ha, ha, ha. I have a bridge in Sydney to sell you, Bill.

Shorten did hint at a solution to high costs earlier in the campaign. When talking about Labor’s proposed child care cost subsidies of up to $2,100 a year for families earning less than $174,000, Shorten said Labor would consider price controls if the centres gouged the subsidies.

Why not price controls on medical costs so ordinary people can afford specialists, and in a timely fashion?. The neoliberal response is heath insurance, an overpriced lurk run by people gaming the health system and too expensive for many workers. So maybe Labor could threaten price controls on health insurance costs? Pigs might fly.

I have an idea. Instead of intermittent price controls, set up a fully functioning national health system where your Medicare card determines the quality and availability of treatment, not your credit card.  Unfortunately, the Hawke and Keating lesser evilists, in rebuilding Whitlam’s Medibank, created Medicare, and in doing so concocted a hybrid public private health system out of the bowels of their neoliberalism and market worship. A health care system that treats a homeless woman the same way it treats Gina Rinehart should be a goal of the genuine left.

Speaking of the homeless, no one did during Wednesday’s debate. Over 100,000 Australians are homeless and neither side has a plan for addressing that.   

Shorten did discuss housing, but in the context of Labor’s negative gearing proposals, and rebutting Morrison’s lies about the ‘disastrous’ impact the measure would have on house prices.  He said:

‘As for falling house prices, the biggest falls in house prices have happened under this government’s watch. If you want to talk about renters, look at the reduction in the amount of social housing. This is an out of touch government.’

So according to Shorten, the collapse of social housing programs had led to housing becoming less affordable for young Australians and others renting. Labor has been one of the two parties of government cutting back on public housing.  Let the housing market sort it out, eh Labor? OK, says Labor, we need to make a few minor tax adjustments to improve the market. The market is the problem. Labor, why not a public housing program to get everyone who wants out of homelessness irrespective of their income?

And then there was climate change. This do nothing government, a government battling between the deniers and the do little faction, makes Labor’s do little environmental policies look like a revolution. Electric vehicles and its 45% renewables target will not do enough. Allowing Adani and all the other polluting mines to go ahead will destroy whatever benefits flow from its specific environmental policies.

Climate change is an existential threat to humanity, and to capitalism. We need a revolution to address it. Labor’s right-wing pro-market environmental policy changes are not that revolution. The UK can declare a climate emergency.  In Australia the government and Opposition bicker over minor changes.

This Government makes Labor look like radicals. They are not. They are the lesser evil. Meanwhile inequality continues to grow. Poverty will remain at over 3 million. The gender pay gap will remain substantial.  Wages will continue to flatten or fall.  And climate change will engulf us or our children.

No to evil. Yes to socialism. Yes to democracy. On the 50th anniversary of rolling general strikes freeing Clarrie O’Shea from jail, fight whichever Party managing capitalism is in power.  In the medium to long term working class revolution is the solution.

John Passant is a member of the Canberra Press Gallery.