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John Passant

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July 2010



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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)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



I’m for a big Australia

I’m for a big Australia. Big in its vision; big in its heart; big in its hopes; big in its thoughts and big in its humanity. This is an Australia where all are welcome; where planning replaces the anarchy of the market; where democracy is the essence of everyday life.

Instead we have an election battle between two parochial, narrow-minded, backward looking, reactionary parties. They know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.  Their hearts are full of hate and their minds are full of shit.

They are the leaders from behind. They gather their forces to retreat, retreat, retreat – not one step at a time but galloping headlong to the abyss of doing nothing.

Fuck off we’re full appears to be their real but unbidden slogan.  They couch their small Australia in terms of sustainability, population, congestion and infrastructure but their goal is the same – to blame the most recent arrivals for the problems of the system.

Shamefully some conservationists and Greens give this racism a veneer of respectability with their Malthusian mantras.

Of course Tony Abbott is pulling a swiftie when he says he will reduce immigration to 170,000 in the Coalition’s first term. Labor is on track to do more than that anyway.

The disgrace is that Labor proclaim this as a virtue rather than the outrage it is.

In 2008 we had net migration into Australia of 300,000. We survived. Some of it was Australians returning as a result of the global financial crisis. Much of it was skilled migration.  And some of it was students studying here.

Leaving aside 33,000 immigrants from New Zealand who are not counted in the figures, only 30,000 immigrants last year came from predominantly ‘white’ regions out of 158,000 arrivals.  So any debate about immigration is necessarily about race too.

In the 2007/08 financial year for example there were almost 115,000 skilled immigrants who came to Australia. Last financial year the target was just over 108,000.

Labor cut the planned skilled immigration program, according to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship website, ‘by 14 per cent from 133 500 to 115 000 in mid March 2009 in light of the economic situation.’ This year it has cut it a further 7,000 or about 6 percent.

The Liberals have made much of the fact that in 2008 the net overseas migration intake was 300,000. What they don’t mention is that much of this (perhaps over 100,000) was Australian expatriates returning home after losing jobs, pay or prestige in other countries badly impacted by the  Global Financial Crisis or students coming to study in Australia who return to their home country after a few years.

The Liberals will attack international students. Last year education was our 3rd biggest export.

It earnt $18.6 bn. There were 200000 international students in higher education alone, and 491,000 all up. The Liberals will destroy international higher education.

They are protecting their mining mates and the money they make from selling our minerals, but offer education as the sacrificial lamb for the possibility of winning an election.

But the problem for both Labor and the Liberals is that the student program, and especially the skilled migration program, are both vital for the long term survival of a vibrant Australian capitalism.

So both sides will talk about cutting immigration but the reality is that the bourgeoisie will demand more skilled workers and, to a lesser extent, more international students. 

International students are a great earner for Universities and a source of cheap labour for retailers. On top of racist proposals to restrict their numbers, many international students are not coming anyway. The festival of racism led by the two major parties makes us a very unattractive education destination now.

As to skilled immigration we have grossly underfunded our training and education systems and because our booming industries like mining cannot keep up with the demand. So we bring in already trained workers from overseas either permanently or on 457 work visas for a few years.

Abbott might have ‘saved’ the mining bosses from a small tax rise but cutting immigration could do more damage to them than any tax. He’ll listen, just as Gillard will.

On April 6 this year I wrote the following (can I claim prescience here?) when Tony Burke was appointed Minister for Population:

His role is to square the circle on population, what we might call the third way between the xenophobes who want no immigration and the ruling elite who want more immigration. One possible Labor compromise  is growth in regional and less developed centres and stagnation in the major cities. 

Business is mostly concentrated in the big cities, apart from the miners and agribusiness who have their headquarters there but their productive enterprises in the bush and beyond. Most capitalists need workers in the cities, not regional and outback Australia.

So the unplanned anarchy that is capitalism will continue to crowd new arrivals into the big cities.  What Governments won’t do is spend any money on improving life in the crowded working class suburbs with better public transport, public housing, public hospitals and public schools let alone allow ordinary people to plan the future to meet human need.

Labor and Liberals won’t and can’t spend more on people because that would require taxing big business much more to pay for better cities.

It’s far easier for the two major parties of capital to rail against immigrants and asylum seekers than to do anything that would actually address the real problems of overcrowding and congestion.



Comment from Marco
Time July 27, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Frankly, I am a migrant myself (part of the skilled migration intake, in fact) but I don’t see immigration as a clear-cut issue.

Let us be precise and constrain the scope of the conversation:

(1) Asylum seekers are not part of the immigration issue; asylum policy is part of international commitments and is a moral imperative. Period. They should be kept apart from immigration policy discussion, whatever position one may favour in the immigration debate.
(2) Immigration policy cannot ever stipulate race, religion, gender or sexual orientation as acceptance criteria for a would-migrant.
(3) If a migrant is accepted, then his/her family should be granted acceptance.

I agree with all the things you identified as immigration benefits:

(1) Migrant workers do make a contribution to the Australian economy. They also pay taxes, while being denied many of the services Australian residents and citizens still enjoy; so they make an even larger contribution to the Australian economy than their local counterparts in similar occupations.
(2) International students provide an important source of income to Australia.
(3) Both international students and migrant workers further lower the costs of reproduction of the Australian working class, as they don’t require public/private funding for training; they come “ready” to work, without costing a cent to the Australian taxpayer in childcare services, health, or housing.

It is those very things making immigration such a good thing to Australian capitalists that make it a really bad proposition to migrant workers, international students, and Australian local workers.

We all have read the news on international students and temporary migrant workers (visa category 457) being swindled by local employers, so I don’t need to insist on this: it’s clear they are getting a rough deal and that some people are making a killing out of their misery.

What I want to emphasize is that, by being swindled, they lower wages to everybody.

They also offer a convenient scapegoat to the major parties: wages are low? “That’s the international students’ and temporary migrants’ fault!”

Public services are crowded or otherwise deficient? “That’s the international students’ and temporary migrants’ fault!”

What this immigration policy does is (1) further impoverishing the already poor (both local and “imported”); (2) pitting foreign against local workers and in general, against the poor in Australia in an insane competition (and this antagonism will be exploited by racist elements: it gives them an easy target and a target that will be hard to incorporate into the wider community); (3) providing huge profits to Australian capitalists; (4) providing an excuse for deteriorating living and working conditions.

And the exact same thing is happening elsewhere: in Denmark, for instance, the so-called centre parties favour migration, as they are proposing halving by law the wages of migrants! Curiously, it’s the left parties and the lunatic right that oppose it.

I don’t know if there are studies on this subject: how many foreign graduates make it to a graduate position? Judging by my personal experience (having seen Iranian 747 pilots driving buses, Indonesian biochemists working as deli attendants at Woolies, and other examples), I would bet not many. I invite you to think why that should be the case.

I’m sorry, John, but I don’t see this as a clear-cut issue.

Comment from Marco
Time July 27, 2010 at 7:44 pm

This is a Der Spiegel article about the Danish migrant workers’ wage initiative:

Denmark Debates a Lower Minimum Wage for Immigrants,1518,706762,00.html

Comment from Edward
Time July 28, 2010 at 5:36 am


I think ‘old Australian leftie’, or similar, would almost equate with ‘small ‘l’ liberal’ – the sort John Howard, almost Vice-President of the ICB, tried to eliminate from our missdubbed ‘Liberal’ Party.

I see the coming election being between Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber. I am inclined to vote for the former, the incumbent, on the grounds she is not a wild card.

There has been a considerable debasement in the standard of federal politicians recently. Hacks and party apparachuks have replaced the likes of Mick Young, Clyde Cameron, Frank Crean, Petro Giergiou and Bruce Baird. I’ll never forget on one ABC Q & A, a member of the audience telling his federal MP – the one who replaced Bruce Baird – that he was sorry he could no longer vote for a MP who would not take the stale Howard line on refugees. And of course we have Belinda Neal…

There is a solid core of decency in the average Australian which I think politicians fail to realise.

I’m sorry we no longer have the Democrats because we need a sane third party.

I think the Greens certainly have integrity and may hold the balance of power.

Oh for decent Australian political leaders of the calibre of Deacon or Curtin!

Comment from Auntie Rhoberta
Time July 28, 2010 at 10:07 am

Informal will get my vote — I’ll vote for anyone on the far left, but that’ s effectively the same thing as far as the general election is concerned (through no fault of any of the left parties). ‘Parliament’ is a Potemkin village.

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