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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)

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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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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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Booze, bingeing and bullshit

The alcopop tax turned out to be a shout short.

The Opposition and Family First combined in that festival of reaction called the Senate to defeat this alcopox. Vale $1.6 bn in revenue over four years.

(For those unfamiliar with the debate, alcopops are cans and bottles of spirits mixed with soft drink or juice. The Rudd Labor Government here in Australia decided to increase the tax on these drinks from 33 per cent to 70 per cent or thereabouts.)

There is a lovely irony in this Government defeat, and forthcoming defeats over the Emissions Trading Scheme and possibly the Fair Work Bill.  [Update: The Fair Work Bill passed the Senate after a deal with the cross-bench, especially Senator Fielding].

To keep the Greens from winning another Senate seat (in Victoria) the Labor Party preferenced the very very conservative Family First ahead of their seemingly more natural and amenable ally, the Greens. 

Senator Fielding from Family First got 55,000 votes out of over 2 million in Victoria but ALP preferences elected him.  Mr 3 per cent owes his Senate seat to the geniuses in the Labor Party, the very same geniuses who now run the country.

The alcopox was always a revenue measure cloaked in faux moralism about young people binge drinking.

As any first year economics student could tell you the substitution effect would see the target audience over time change to other (more potent as it turns out) alcohol from the heavily taxed and hence more expensive alcopops. 

Straight spirits to which you add your own fizzy drink is cheaper than an already made up can of spirits and fizzy drink.

Alcohol is a most addictive drug – perhaps more so than pure heroin.

As someone who in the past danced to Johnnie Cash’s Sunday Morning Coming Down let me assure you it is seductive beyond belief.

 An alcopox would not address that addiction because alcohol use and abuse are an integral part of our society. 

 

Abuse comes from both a genetic predisposition and particular social relations which create mass alienation through the expropriation of  our labour, in other words through wage slavery.

The alcopox made no inroads into that systemic alienation. In fact the proposed tax reinforced that alienation.

When Thatcher began to complain about football louts, the Football Association rightly branded them Thatcher’s hooligans, not theirs.

The same can be said of young people getting blotto on crap fizzy drinks laced with dangerous levels of alcohol.

These are your binge drinkers Kevin Rudd. No amount of tax is going to stop Rudd’s revellers escaping the alienated hell our society is with its regimented and powerless workplaces and bland consumerism as substitutes for the free expression of each person’s individuality and humanity.

Couple that with the denial of societal participation that unemployment imposes and the abuse of alcohol will increase among young people as they join the dole queues.

Conservative estimates are that an extra 200,00 young graduates and school leavers will be unemployed by mid next year.  Double it and you may be close.

The Great Recession will see more alcohol sales, not less, as people use grog, pizza and scratchies as ways to escape the reality of a system in its economic death throes. 

A subsidiary matter is the role of alcohol in the profit system itself. Much of Woolworths’ profit for example is built on on liquor (and gambling.)  They are truly the fresh fool people.

Companies like Fosters and Lion Nathan are huge profit making (and sometimes loss making) organisations whose products employ hundreds of thousands directly and indirectly.

The alcohol industry depends in part for its existence on the abuse of alcohol. Ten Drambuies a day and ten schooners of beer keep bar staff, pub owners, beer brewers and a particular distiller and the consumer (temporarily) happy.

 Alcohol is all about profit and if that means destroying people’s lives then so be it.  The more consumers, and the more they consume, the more profits the industry can make.

 I understand more people die of alcohol related complications in Australia than of cancers like prostate and breast cancer. (There is also a link between drinking and the increased incidence of some cancers.)

No capitalist Government is going to take on the purveyors of slow death since that would challenge their ‘right’ to profit and alienate large sectors of society, especially the working class.

So Rudd Labor has straddled both sides of the fence – giving the impression of doing something about alcohol abuse among young people but at the same time leaving completely in place, nay reinforcing, the right of the brewers to sell an essentially dangerous drug.

The Government has already collected almost $300 m from this tax that didn’t have legislative support. Rudd Labor has no room here – it will return that money to the distillers. 

They in turn are going to give the money to a health group. Not back to their customers (who bore the economic burden of the tax) but to a health group.

What a joke.  This will have no more effect on alcohol abuse than the alcopox.

But there is one ray of hope.  The Great recession is causing some in society to think about alternatives to the way we presently run things.

It was Comrade Kevin who identified the threat the revolutionary left could pose in the long run to the rule of capital.  What he fears we should welcome. 

In a mass, democratic movement to break the chains of wage slavery lies the hope of smashing the siren song of the syrup.

Let’s get drunk on our power, not their poison.

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Comments

Comment from Graham Young
Time March 20, 2009 at 11:05 am

John, friends of mine tell me that their kids preferred alcopops to separate mixers and spirits because even though they were more expensive, even before the government taxed them at a higher rate, you knew how big the dose was.

If you take a bottle of vodka and some orange juice to a party you have no idea how much you’ve poured into your glass, or what else has been poured in.

Comment from John
Time March 20, 2009 at 11:25 am

Thanks Graham

What you say makes sense, but for those who want to get blotto the latter option seems a viable one – after few more or less carefully measured drinks (disguised with fizzy crap or juice) they probably don’t care how much alcohol they pour into their glass.

It all raises a wider question to my mind. We condone drug taking if it is one form, (even if it is abused we often laugh it off as boys being boys or similar) but criminalise other recreational drugs. It makes little sense to me.