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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
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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)



Day 13 of the election campaign – watering down the Pub Test

Photo courtesy of The New Daily

It looks as if the government is in a bit of hot water thanks to Barnaby Joyce. If you listen to Barnaby explain the water buy back issue, the problem was and is not him but ‘Labor, Labor, Labor, Labor, Labor. ‘

The government has a water buy-back scheme to help save the Murray-Darling Basin. It buys water (entitlements) from agriculturalists to supposedly allow more water to flow in the river systems. It was set up after a commitment by John Howard in 2007. The new Labor government also implemented a version.

In 2017, when Joyce was Minister for Agriculture, he authorised the government purchase of water for almost $80 million from a company called Eastern Australia Agriculture. EAA was at the time owned by Eastern Australia Irrigation, a company registered in the Cayman Islands.

Now, let’s begin to deconstruct this. By the way, deconstruct is a fancy academic word for doing the pub test. Would the story stand up to scrutiny from drinkers at your local?

As someone who until ten years ago frequented too many pubs too often, I reckon (note the good scientific language) the pub test is a valid way to determine what ordinary working Australians are thinking.

On that score, I reckon – more science! – this water buy back is likely to be a real problem for the Coalition government all the way to polling day. Not to put too fine a point on this, the deal stinks to high heaven and would fail the pub test in any hotel or club in the land.

As I mentioned Eastern Australia Agriculture was, until January this year, wholly owned by Eastern Australia Irrigation, a company registered in the Cayman Islands. For those who do not know, the Cayman Islands is a tax haven. Why is it set up there, and not in Australia? Could it be to avoid Australian tax? If so, was it successful in avoiding tax on the $80 million it received for selling its water to our Government, or more accurately the $52 million gain EAA made on the sale?

Michael West has an interesting analysis based on what appears to be some good investigations into this issue. He says, among other things:

“Foreign companies often give loans to their associated companies in Australia. The interest on the loans goes offshore before tax. There was $15 million in interest on loans to EAA’s Cayman parent company EAI and $30.4 million in convertible note payments. That gets us to $45.4 million, pretty close to the $43 million identified before (in possible profit distributions in the relevant year); the difference may come down to currency. “

Eastern Australia Agriculture, an Australian company, and its then owner, Eastern Australia Irrigation, a Cayman Islands company, should release details of their tax situation, including tax paid in Australia. Then we, the Australian public, would be in a position to judge the nature of the arrangements and the amount of tax paid in Australia on the profits arising from the purchase by the Australian government of Australian water from an Australian company, an Australian company which just happened to be wholly owned by a Cayman Islands’ company.

There are many other questions. Before entering into politics, Angus Taylor, now the Energy Minister in the Morrison government, set up EEA and EAI. As he says:

‘Minister Taylor concluded all association with EAA and related companies prior to entering the Parliament. He received no benefit from this transaction.’

One question for Mr Taylor might be, why the Cayman Islands? And who are the shareholders in EAI? One important point about tax havens is the secrecy they provide to their companies, the owners and other ‘taxpayers’. It may be Taylor does not know. In the interests of transparency, he should tell us what he knows about the companies and their arrangements. The pub test demands it.

Anne Davies in The Guardian gives a glimpse of Taylor’s early involvement. She says:

‘EAA’s ultimate holding company between 2008 until the time of the water sale was Eastern Australia Irrigation, which is domiciled in the Cayman Islands. Its shareholders were reported to be a number of major investment funds based in Hong Kong and the UK. The early directors of EAA included Angus Taylor, who is now the energy minister, but who was at that time was an investment banker specialising in agriculture investments. He has described himself as a co-founder of Eastern Australia Irrigation in his parliamentary biography. Asic records show he was a director from mid 2008 to late 2009.’

Then there is the price paid for the water – $79 million. Under Labor, and for the first year or two of the Abbott government, the buying and selling of water was done under an open tender process. That changed in 2015, under then Minister Barnaby Joyce.

According to Anne Davies:

‘an exception in the government procurement guidelines … allows the government to avoid an open tender if the purchase amounts to “exceptionally advantageous conditions” for the government to acquire the asset. ‘

She also says:

‘Joyce announced he would no longer hold tenders because of what he said was the damage the program was doing to farming communities. When water is bought it can lead to irrigators closing down and the loss of jobs.’

There are doubts that the $79 million was value for money. The Commonwealth may have overpaid for the water. As Michelle Grattan in The Conversation reports:

‘Water expert Quentin Grafton, professor of economics at the Crawford School at the Australian National University, lays out the issues. Grafton estimates the Commonwealth paid about $40 million too much for this water. He identifies three areas of concern: the government’s failure to get value for money (remembering this was floodwater, which is unreliable); the lack of transparency in the deal, and the nature of the process – a negotiated sale rather than an open tender.’

To add to this rotting corpse of crap is the fact that EAA gave $55000 to the Liberals in 2013 to support their election campaign.

None of these inconvenient facts mean there is any wrongdoing. They do suggest an inquiry is needed to get to the bottom of what happened. ICAC anyone? A Commission of Enquiry (Labor’s approach)?? A Royal Commission?

Hang on. South Australia had a Royal Commission into the Murray-Darling Basin. Other than written submissions, the Commonwealth basically refused to cooperate.

I have a novel suggestion. How about politicians be open with voters?

This scandal is likely to haunt the government all the way to the election on 18 May. This is not just because it is fails the pub test and nothing the Government does, including asking the Auditor General to investigate all buy backs since 2008, will remove the smell in the room by the time election arrives.

More importantly, the affair just reinforces in many voters minds a truth they have already arrived at – you cannot trust politicians. Given this is a government scandal, that feeling is likely to weigh on some voters minds when considering voting for the Liberals, the Nationals or their bastard child, the Liberal National Party.

Many voters already have major concerns about the environment, water, the Murray-Darling Basin and the like. This will only reinforce their concerns.

It doesn’t mean Labor will benefit. It may be some voters will pick other fakes like Clive Palmer or Pauline Hanson, and then slink back to the Coalition. It may also be that they will then preference labor. Who knows?

Certainly the government is keen to get Clive ‘I don’t pay back my workers‘ Palmer on their side in any preference deal. It could even, god forbid, save this rotten government.

When you vote, just remember that this water scandal is a typical example of how many bourgeois politicians want to hide information from us. To be honest with us is, they fear, to sign their political death warrant. Democracy anyone?

John Passant is a member of the Canberra Press Gallery. Mainstream and other media should contact him to discuss his rates for republishing this or publishing other articles.


Eleven days into the election, and?

At first I thought all the hallelujahs were for the risen Christ. Not so. I mistook the relief people felt for the election campaigns going quiet for the joy of Christians celebrating the resurrection of their Lord and Saviour.

In the secular but not really secular society that is Australia it is an easy mistake to make. A few days without Scommo and Shorten has been blessed relief.

For too short a time there were no three word slogans, no accusing the other side of being liars, and no promulgating ‘policies’ that will have little impact on people’s well being and no impact on addressing climate change.

All that quietude disappeared with the release of the photo of the Prime Minister, a Christian fundamentalist, at prayer.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and wife Jenny sing during an Easter Sunday service at his Horizon Church. Photo: AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and wife Jenny sing during an Easter Sunday service at his Horizon Church. Photo: AAP

I have no problem with Morrison being religious, although I am not sure Christian fundamentalism is religion. I do have a problem with him politicising his ‘religiosity’ in an attempt to win votes. In this he is aided by those on the left who mock him for a supposedly Nazi style salute or for attending Church. That is ridiculous and self defeating.

Presumably Morrison invited the media in (with the agreement of his Church) because he thought it would advantage him politically. I suspect that might not be the case.

The other problem I have with Morrison’s Christianity is the what appear to me to be UnChristian aspects of his government. For example Christ’s exhortation to love your neighbour as yourself sits very uncomfortably with locking people up on the concentration camps that are Manus Island and Nauru.

Why is the election campaign so uninspiring? I think ultimately it is because both sides are offering us more of the same on the big issues. Even Labor’s reforms are hardly radical.

However, ignore the mainstream media propaganda about the set backs for Labor, over for example superannuation. Shorten’s answer was correct, taking into account the already announced changes. Nothing will turn on this, despite the conservative media, and the reactionary media, painting this as a major gaffe. It wasn’t. That media (Murdoch and Channel 9 newsprint) were merely beating up a story to make Labor look bad.

More interesting will be the unfolding of the water sale controversy, which I hope to write about soon.

As to tax, Labor getting rid of a few tax benefits that flow overwhelmingly to the well off (and in the case of dividend imputation credit refunds doing so hamfistedly and catching some less well off people) is hardly radical. The lie the Liberals were spreading that Labor had a secret agreement with the Greens to introduce a wealth tax (or death tax) was so far from the truth that everyone believes Labor’s denial.

It is a pity really that Labor is not considering a wealth tax as part of a program to reduce inequality in society. I wrote about this in a chapter in a book in 2017. Picketty recognises the threat growing inequality poses to democratic society. It’s time, time for a wealth tax. Unfortunately Labor won’t say that, now or in the future. Neither will the Greens, since they abandoned their wealth tax policy not so long ago.

As the Greens leader, Senator Richard Di Natale, also made clear, there is no deal.

Image may contain: 3 people, text

As a long term lung cancer survivor (almost a year now, touch wood) Labor’s cancer plans will benefit me. They mean I will be able to have a second PET scan for free, rather than the $800 I was quoted by my oncologist. All well and good Labor, but where is a free fully funded Medicare system for all?

Labor will attempt to overturn the penalty rate cuts that exist already for workers in some industries, and in the pipeline for other industries. However the Greens, among others, are pushing Labor to make sure unions cannot trade off penalty rates. Such a restriction would upset the SDA, the shoppies ‘union’, which has a long history of doing dodgy deals with the bosses on penalty rates and other negotiable items.

More generally, Labor this week will campaign on wages, calling the election a referendum on wages. For a number of years now wages have been flat-lining or falling in real terms. More and more people are feeling the pinch as the real value of their wages declines.

Labor has made noises about supporting fair wage increases for workers. While workers might be fooled by Labor’s words and wishes (or should that be thoughts and prayers?), the party has not set out any clear policies for achieving this.

The decline in workers’ living standards is a consequence of Labor and Liberal neoliberalism over the last 36 years. The decline in Labor’s share of the national product and the consequent increase in capital’s share began in the mid-1980s under Hawke and Keating and has continued ever since.

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

One of the main reasons for this is the lack of class struggle by workers over the last almost four decades. Strikes are at historic lows. Labor has no intention of making striking easier, let alone enshrining the right to strike in legislation.

The Director of the 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

Without a turn to strikes and other industrial action workers will continue to suffer the systemic decline in living standards we are witnessing now, with a consequent growth in inequality and increase in the number of Australians living in poverty.

One way to address some inequality would be to raise Newstart. All Labor has promised is to review it over 18 months if it wins power. Hardly radical.

This slow tango of Labor and Liberal in step policies continues into climate change, with some slight left shoe shuffle by Labor over electric vehicles and renewable energy. Too little too late comes to mind. Labor’s failure to openly state that it will halt Adani is one clear case in point. The Notre Dame that is our planet is on fire. It is burning to the ground.

I want Labor to win this election. If socialists are running in my electorate and the Senate in the Territory in which I live, I will vote for them. People before profit resonates with me.

I suspect strongly that the Socialists are not running here – nominations close in a week – so I will vote Green and then Labor to send a message to neoliberal Labor that some of us want humane policies and reforms that benefit the working class. We do not see Shorten Labor and its sweet words as delivering that.

Whose Broken is This? CD and book launch 27 April Canberra

Whose Broken is This?

CD and book launch 27 April Smith’s Alternative 76 Alinga ST Civic, Canberra.

Tickets $25 from Smith’s Alternative website. Click here.

Two of Australia’s highly-regarded creative talents have joined forces to collaborate on a unique album of songs, Whose Broken Is This?

Poet John Passant, who is currently receiving treatment for cancer, has collaborated with acclaimed singer/songwriter Milena ‘Mili’ Cifali to set John’s poetry to music, with an album incorporating a number of readings by him.

The poems are from John’s published volumes, Whose Broken Is This and Other Poems (Ginninderra Press 2018).

Canberra-based John is a poet as well as a journalist, member of the Canberra Press Gallery, retired senior tax officer, and tax academic and blogger.

The hauntingly beautiful songs are performed on the album by duo The Awesome (Milena on guitar and vocals, Jim Horvath on bass and percussion), with special guest musicians. Hailing from far-east Gippsland in Victoria, The Awesome are self-described ‘musical gypsies’ who travel and perform constantly around the country, including at the 2018 National Folk Festival.

Classically-trained Milena is a guitarist of rare talent, enchanting audiences with her uniquely intricate style that fuses elements of John Butler, Rodriguez and Michael Hedges. She has released several CDs of original music highlighting her love of folk/jazz fusion and her impressive interpretive range.

Jim Horvath, playing distinctive upright bass, is also a talented percussionist with a flair for African, Latin/Jazz/Blues rhythms, having learnt his craft from the legendary Stui Spears of Max Merritt and the Meteors, and through performing with unforgettable blues band Chain.

Other artists featured on the recording are award-winning blues artist Dorothy DJ Gosper, Tony Hunter (mandolin) from Canberra, Johnny Reynolds ( lead guitar) and Julia Horvath (cellist), also from Canberra.

Milena says: “John’s poetry is a vital body of work for Australian poetry; at once thought-provoking, sensitive, brutal, honest and always hopeful. The poems shake and stir the dust in your soul, remaining there long after the dust has settled.”

Inside the Canberra bubble: Tuesday 16 April

It has been five days since Scott Morrison called the election. Already I feel underwhelmed.

First there is the bullshit. For example, according to senior government Minister Michaelia Cash, Labor with its electronic vehicle policy, one that looks suspiciously like the Government’s, is going to steal tradies’ utes. I mean, seriously, is this the calibre of conservative politicians these days? Not only that, they can utter tripe like this but that they think it will resonate and won votes.

Cash is not alone. Anyone who saw Senator James McGrath on Q&A on Monday night knows he not only joined Cash, he surpassed her. Maybe he even made it to the highest ranks, previously only enjoyed by the likes of Liberal Party Federal Vice President Teena McQueen and her train wreck on Q&A a few weeks ago.

Clearly the conservative side of politics has a problem. Their gene pool looks pretty weak. Just ask yourself, who will become Liberal Party leader when they lose the election? Tony Abbott is already spruiking his wares.

In August it was Peter Dutton plotting to take the top job. Dutton is the man who frightens Victoria, and much of the rest of Australia. He is the man who terrorises innocent asylum seekers and imprisons them on the concentration camps that are Manus Island and Nauru.

Dutton is also the man who said his Labor opponent Ali France was using her disability – she lost part of her leg in a car accident protecting her child – as an excuse not to live in the area.

On top of that, the uneasy alliance between conservatives and liberals is unravelling. In part this is because the Conservatives have the upper hand, and the liberals are leaving or have left, or been pushed out. In part it is because the overly conservative message does not resonate. Peter Dutton in Victoria is but one example. In part it is because some conservatives, like Bernardi, have left and can carp from the sidelines, or, like One Nation and others, attract voters away from the Coalition.

Against a background of division and leadership change, and falling living standards and increasing inequality, it seems unlikely to me (unless there is a new Tampa) that the Coalition can retain government.

Unlike the Coalition, the ALP, after 5.5 years of the one leader (compared to 3 Prime Ministers in almost 6 years in Government for the Coalition) presents a picture of unity. What they do not present is a coherent approach to addressing the problems of Australian capitalism or the Australian working class.

The elections is being fought out over tax, and the economy, and public health, education and transport. The tax debate always amazes me. Australia is a low tax country. Labor’s ‘reforms’ fix a few legal loopholes that benefit mainly the well off. Labor’s appraoch could be tax the rich till their pips squeak, but it isn’t.

There has been a bit of sparring over climate change, but as Adani shows, both sides support coal. Labor has talked a bit about renewable energy and emissions targets but these are small change compared to the environmental revolution needed to stop and ameliorate climate change.

In the land of the climate blind, the one eyed Shorten is king. We need much more than an one-eyed leader whose good eye is occluded.

As real wages stagnate or fall, workers everywhere are feeling the pinch. For the Liberals this is part of the grand economic plan, according to Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. For Labor it is a problem that can be addressed by bosses and workers sitting around the campfire and chanting the Accord Kumbaya.

The trouble is that the Accord started the process of decreasing the share of GDP going to the working class, and increasing the share going to the capitalist class. The outcome of this logic, the logic of disarming the working class, has resulted today in stagnating wages while the income and wealth of the ‘top’ ten percent grow at rates well above inflation.

Only a return to class struggle can challenge the flow of profits going into the pockets of capital at the expense of labour. The ALP has not committed to enshrining an unfettered right to strike in legislation.

Then there is the reality that over 3 million Australians live in poverty. Newstart for example is almost $150 a week below the poverty. Labor has only agreed to review the level of Newstart. Over one third of Australian pensioners live in poverty. Over 100,000 Australians are homeless. Nothing either party proposes addresses any of this.

We need drastic action now to end poverty. Neither of the major contenders for power offers that.

And so it goes on, and on, and on. Electing Labor will not solve climate change, or increase real wages, or get rid of poverty.

Workers striking for better pay offers the best way forward, a glimpse of the future of a world without bosses, without war, without poverty; a world in which each of us can live decent lives.

John Passant is a member of the Canberra Press Gallery. Media outlets wishing to use this material should first contact him to make arrangements for payment and use of the article.

Send Assange to Sweden, not the United States

[My apologies for the formatting, but transferring material from a file to this new WordPress seems to produce very odd results.]

Julian Assange has exposed US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. For that we must thank him.  His release of information, much of it via Chelsea Manning, deserves praise and support for showing us the reality of the world. The major Western powers are run by war criminals who should be in jail, not power.

revealed recent Western leaders like Bush, Blair and Howard for the liars and,
in my humble opinion, the unprosecuted war criminals they are.  The Collateral
video for example shows US troops shooting from a helicopter and killing
18 people (non-combatants, including
2 Reuters staff

recent arrest in the UK
and potential extradition to the US is part of the
fight back against these revelations by the American empire. It wants to punish
Assange for showing us the truth about our global and local leaders. It wants
to stop any future releases of information that undermines US imperialism. 

It can do that if it gets Assange into its clutches and hits
him with a range of charges going far beyond the current one of “conspiracy
to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified
U.S. government computer
”. These include treason (to which the death
penalty can apply) or being an enemy combatant, with life imprisonment.

Under the US UK extradition treaty there may be difficulties
in the US bringing these other charges after Assange is extradited, but it
appears these can be overcome with the agreement of the extraditing power, the

In the UK, Labour’s Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has opposed sending
Assange to the US
, as has Labour’ Foreign Affairs spokesperson Diane
Abbott. She said Assange is ‘being
pursued because he exposed US wrongdoing
‘.  Absolutely correct Diane.

In Australia by comparison the Labor
(up to its eyeballs in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq)
has supported the Liberal Prime Minister and his wishy-washy comment that
Assange is receiving ‘standard
consular assistance’
from the Australian government. This is code for ‘the
Australian government is doing nothing to upset the US and will sell Assange to
Trump for a good relationship with the chief imperialist power’.

The difference between Labour in the UK and Labor in
Australia over Assange is that in the UK the Labour Party has a strong
left-wing base and strong left-wing leaders.  

We must oppose Assange’s extradition to the US for telling the truth about the crimes of the American state. If Corbyn can do it, why not Shorten? If Greens leader Richard Di Natale can do it, why not Labor leader Bill Shorten?

If there were any justice those war criminals in charge of
the United States and other Western nations who invaded Iraq would be on trial
in the Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Instead, the person who exposed these crimes is liable to be
sent to the US for trial on trumped up charges. 
This attempt to extradite Assange to the US is an attack on free speech.
Assange and Wikileaks won a
Walkley award from his journalistic peers in Australia for his exposés
Silencing him in the US silences us all.

Silencing those who expose the lies and crimes of our
leaders is a time-honoured tradition in Western democracies. As neoliberalism
enriches the well off, suppressing dissident voices seems to have worsened over
the last few decades. Witness
K and the Timor Leste spying by Australia
is a recent example, as are government
restrictions on social media,
harsh and restrictive
defamation laws
and the like. Forcing Melissa Parke out of the position as
the ALP candidate for Julie Bishop’s old seat for
the ‘crime’ of telling the truth and saying Israel is an apartheid state
just another example of the decline of difference in our political debates

There is a downside to all this ‘Assange can do no wrong’ worship.
According to Anna
North in Vox

‘In 2010, a Swedish woman initially referred to in the press
as Miss A said that Assange had tampered with a condom during sex with her on a
visit to Stockholm, essentially forcing her to have unprotected sex. She has
since spoken publicly under her name, Anna Ardin. Another woman, referred to as
Miss W, said that during the same visit, Assange had penetrated her without a condom
while she was sleeping.’

The Swedish authorities wanted to extradite Assange to
Sweden for questioning. It was this action that saw
Assange flee to the Ecuadorian Embassy
in London and claim asylum, a claim
that was granted. Assange claims the Swedish complaints were a ruse to get him
to Sweden and then to extradite him to the US. Various internationally
well-known left-wing figures agree. There is however no evidence that these
complaints stem from anything other than two women wanting justice.

If there is any lesson for the left to learn from the MeToo movement it must be to believe the women making the allegations of assault, domestic violence, sexual assault, rape or whatever they happen to be.  For too long the patriarchal capitalist society, and with it, sections of the left, have not done this, or have not been prepared to do it.

We had a very recent example of this in the Geoffrey Rush defamation case (admittedly not a criminal case.)  In this civil case, the judge dismissed the evidence of Eryn Jean Norvill as ‘neither credible nor reliable’.  As she said in response to the decision:

‘I stand by everything I said at trial. I told the truth. I
know what happened. I was there.’

Not believing women is one of the consequences of the
oppression of women in capitalist society. 
Their labour is worth less; their word is worth less.

The Swedish women have effectively been silenced by Assange
hiding out in the Ecuadorian Embassy. They did not get the chance to have their
stories or those of Assange tested in a criminal investigation, and possible
criminal trial.

Sweden is investigating whether to
reopen the cases
. As I understand it, the time for doing so in one case
does not end till August 2020.  Until the
Swedish process is allowed to follow its course and produce whatever result might
flow from that, I believe the women.

Believing women is a good starting point in a capitalist society traditionally rigged against them. As UK Labour’s very soon to be Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn and Home Secretary Diane Abbott say, send Assange to Sweden, not the US.

Review of CD and book launch ‘Whose broken is this?

Whose Broken Is This ? CD and Book launch review by Leanne Wicks published poet, artist and historian.

“Through the bookcase door of Beyond Q on Saturday 30th March flourished a provoking fusion of poetry and music. Canberra poet, John Passant and Mallacoota duo Jim Horvath and Milena Cifali aka ‘The Awesome’, launched their book and CD Whose Broken is This?

Over sixty-five people witnessed the magic musical collaboration of Jim on bass, Milena on guitar and vocals as well as Canberra’s finest players of cello, Jessica Coote, mandolin, Tony Hunter , guitar, Johnny Reynolds and blues harp , DJ Gosper, and Orbost’s Robbie Beel on percussion. Thirty more people were turned away as the venue was full to capacity. The audience were challenged by John’s political and passionate poetry and confronted by deep questions about our impact on the environment.

This knitting together of poetry and music began last year when John gave Milena three poems to set to song for the National Folk Festival 2018. Since then, Milena has been working hard to compose music to recreate an album’s worth of John’s more personal poetry. It is a project that John has been keen to see through to completion and, though he is battling a rare form of lung cancer, he is determined to tour with The Awesome and celebrate the collaboration. The CD also has John reading his poetry backed by Milena’s classical guitar compositions.

Milena says, “it’s as if John handed me a big ball of wool and I’m knitting it into musical creations. Each composition fits the poem perfectly, they are warm and comfortable and even though I’m singing John’s words, the songs feel very much my own.”

Make sure you come to at least one of the events on the tour:

• Mallacoota Art Space, Maurice Ave, Mallacoota, Saturday 20 April, 4 – 5.30pm
• Smiths Alternative, 76 Alinga St, Canberra, Saturday 27 April, 4pm
• River of Art Festival event at Mannat, 53 Princes Hwy, Narooma, Friday 24th May, 7 – 9pm
• Mudbrick Pavilion, Mallacoota, Sunday 26 May, 4pm

Whose Broken is This? CD is $25 and the book $25. Both for $45. Message me for details if you want to buy a copy or copies.

Review: John Passant’s Whose broken is this? and other poems

John Passant has packed 58 remarkable poems into the 108 pages of his second volume of poems, Whose broken is this? and other poems, writes Paul Burger in Independent Australia.

On the one hand, this heroic anthology reveals great contemplation of his personal life. On the other hand, it is an outspoken anthology which reveals his political stance. This heartfelt poetry collection offers food for thought, humour, word-play, insight, inspiration, compassion and much more. This masterpiece of paradox will undoubtedly provide years of reading pleasure.

Rich in allusion and imagery, a legion of nuances will keep readers enthralled as they make a close inspection of the mirror before their eyes. Much of the delight obtained from these poems derives from resolving the divergent elements of each piece. Here a double-edge cuts through the personal and exposes the social. There the double-edge dices the social to let loose the personal. Laden with life and politics, and clearly showing the author’s stance, these poems also expose the reader’s personal attitudes and private opinions. And yet, despite coming face-to-face with our self, we can derive a good deal of pleasure and many insights from our responses to the commonplace and the provocative.

These poems play out on a range of levels that include the knowable, the emotional, the historical, the semantic and the structural.

The beach walk takes us from a note of love to a communal moment that ends with a touching lament. In ‘The poetry of tax’,  humour leads to a crescendo of indignation that resolves with a biting realisation. The request of ‘Do not play cricket with my soul’ weaves a surreal web from the themes of love, life, death and sport. The ironic imagery of ‘The butcher reigns’ depicts a macabre scene with sinister overtones. ‘Sing with me in the rain’ combines the contemporary with the historical in a direct and moving address to the reader.

This expanse of topics and tones, punctuated with myriad concrete details, provides many opportunities to respond with our own emotions. In those poems narrated in the first person, we see the author’s personality. We peek behind the author’s narrative persona. But we do not see a catalogue of traumas, polemics on ideology and exposés of scandal. Instead, we see the worldliness of life. We encounter epigrammatical language and enigmatic sketches that urge compassion, provoke empathy, fuel outrage and incite humour. We travel through a familiar landscape that often eludes our immediate perception. On the way, the free-verse conjures moments of personal reflection and tugs at our social conscience.

A wide array of voices attests to a mastery of the language as we laugh and sigh, ponder and vent. With great dexterity, the contemporary, the familiar and the historical congeal. Here, among the social, we meet humanity within the personal. And in the background, we can discern signs of home — the land down-under is never far away. Pain, anger and sorrow give voice to the silences that fill the media in the mainstream. Here, asylum is not a dirty word — refugees are a symptom of a systemic disorder. We meet figures of history trashed by the victors and find reason to review our opinions.

This timely and brave book captures the contemporary moment. It wrestles the articles of our faith. It shines a compassionate light in our dark corners. It dares to shake the foundations of our moral fibre. Strident poems exhort us to forsake the comfort of political indifference. Heart-rending poems confront our scruples. Equivocal poems reveal the profound within the ordinary. In these poems, we see what connects us to one another and the hidden hand of power that shapes our daily life.

John Passant reveals a depth of contemplation, exercises the power of language and rewards the reader with years of reading. This collection of poems is a safe bet on the trifecta of private, political and public insight.

Dr Paul Burger is a social scientist and author. 

Signed copies of John’s newly released second book of poetry, ‘Whose Broken is this? and other poems‘, are available for purchase from the IA store HERE.,12559

Whose broken is this? CD and book launch in Canberra

A powerful collaboration of poetry and music by two of Australia’s creative forces, John Passant and Milena Cifali .

Back by popular demand. Performed by The Awesome with guest DJ Gosper and others.

Smith’s Alternative Sat 27 April 4-6 p.m. 76 Alinga Street Civic in Canberra.

Tickets $25 from Smiths website.

No photo description available.

Together, we must – a poem

This is a poem I wrote about Christchurch and published in Independent Australia.

To read it, click here.

Facebook censors me – the first step in my action against them

Dear Readers, this is a copy of the letter I sent to the A.C.T Human Rights Commission about Facebook censoring me and one of my posts.

To: The Human Rights Commission

Dear Dr Watchirs and

On Monday 11 March
2019 Facebook advised me, and I quote:

‘You’re temporarily
restricted from joining and posting to groups that you do not manage until
Wednesday at 10:03 AM. If you think this doesn’t go against our Community
Standards let us know.’

I did let them know
that I had not breached community standards (whatever that is) and this
breached my human right to freedom of expression but of course once again have
had no response.

Independent Australia background

I am a member of the
Parliament House Press Gallery and the Canberra correspondent for Independent
Australia (IA). IA is an online media site.  On its site, it says about itself:

Independent Australia is a progressive journal focusing on politics, democracy, the
environment, Australian history and Australian identity. It contains news and
opinion from Australia and around the world.

Established in June 2010, IA supports quality
investigative journalism, as well as citizen journalism and a diversity of
voices. It believes Australians are short-changed by the mass media — and so it
dedicates itself to seeking out the truth and informing the public.

Independent Australia believes in a fully and truly independent Australia — a nation
that determines its own future, a nation that protects its citizens and its
environment. A land that is fair and free.

IA is also
opposed to partisan politics and supports Independent politicians. (Read more
about this here.)

IA‘s editorial
team possesses a wealth of experience through its senior editorial team*, which
is made up of founder and managing editor David Donovan, senior editor Michelle Pini, contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence and
assistant editor Dan Jensen.

Also on the team, contributing hugely to IA‘s
success, are media editor Dr Lee Duffileld, history editor Dr Glenn Davies,
entertainment editor John Turnbull, Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones and Canberra correspondent John Passant.

IA also
features regular columns from outstanding journalists, political commentators
and cartoonists including Alan AustinDr Jennifer WilsonLee Duffield and Mark David, among others.

Independent Australia is a member of the Australian Press Council and is represented in the Canberra Press Gallery by Canberra correspondent John Passant.


* Note: No-one on IA‘s editorial team is a member of any
political party.

I have been writing
for IA for about four years. I am now an employee of IA.

My role sees me write
a weekly Monday morning political article for them and report back regularly
from Parliament House when it is sitting. 
I was admitted to the Press Gallery in August 2018 but major illness
effectively prevented me taking on that role until late last year and then this
year, as my 2019 Press Gallery sketches show.

IA gets its funding
from subscriptions, but remains committed to providing free and open access to
its articles.

Social media such as
Facebook and twitter are a key part of spreading the word about IA’s recent
publications (three a day is the aim).


I administer a few
sites on Facebook. I am a member of many more. All of them (or almost all of
them) are left, progressive or socialist sites. Some are associated with my
poetry, or poetry generally.

My more than 4000 Facebook
friends are progressive and left wing, in the main.

I have been providing
my weekly articles and my more recent Press Gallery sketches to a range of those
Facebook sites of which I am a member and other sites which accept my posts. It
improves the readership and the reach of my articles in particular and of IA
more generally.  It also improves my
rewards. If 5000 people click on my article I receive a bonus payment. Not many
do, I should add.

To help improve the readership of my IA articles, I often boost my summaries and links on one of my own Facebook sites, En Passant with John Passant, and occasionally from my other site Put a socialist in the Senate. This typically costs me $X or $Y for two days of Facebook boosting, generally reaching a much lower audience than Facebook suggests I might reach.   Banning me from posting I should point out might remove an alternative but free form of advertising for my articles.

I have in the past
occasionally been suspended from posting my material to Facebook sties I do not
administer, for the same reason as outlined above, from memory. In the last
year, apart from today’s ban, there might have been two other instances of the
same or similar bans.

Freedom of expression

It seems to me that
Facebook’s actions (perhaps driven algorithmically, perhaps not) contradict
section 16 of the Human Rights Act 2004. As you know, that section says:

16 Freedom of expression

(1)   Everyone has the right to
hold opinions without interference.

(2)   Everyone has the right to
freedom of expression.  This right
includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all
kinds, regardless of borders, whether orally, in writing or in print, by way of
art, or in another way chosen by him or her.

One of the ways I
choose to disseminate my ideas is through posts on Facebook of my freely
available material to groups who may be interested and to people in those
groups who might be interested. The ‘temporary’ ban Facebook has on my posting
to sites I do not administer interferes adversely with my legislated right to
freedom of expression, and the right of others to read my views as part of that
exercise, or attempted exercise, by me of my freedom of expression, which
Facebook has, in my view, clearly interfered with. It has done this by denying
me access to my audience with my often time sensitive articles.

I look forward to
hearing from you soon. I would forward a copy of this to Facebook Australia but
they are a group well insulated from normal business interactions and one
difficult to contact.

John Passant

Here is a link to the article that prompted Facebook’s censorship. It is called Morrison government takes fearmongering to another level

I have also provided my union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance with details of my complaint.