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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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Capitalism and the floods in Australia

The devastating floods in Queensland and Western Australia have raised a number of questions and exposed a number of truths about capitalism. 

Are the floods a consequence of climate change and global warming?  The wild and fluctuating weather – flooding, fire, heatwaves and cold snaps across the globe and in Australia – certainly back the argument of many scientists (including the CSIRO) that global warming will lead to extreme weather events and that such events will happen on a regular basis.

The floods in Queensland and Western Australia fit into that analysis.

Of course the combination of La Nina and the Arctic Oscillation add further to that volatility. The question is do they explain it?

Certainly reinsurance companies are factoring in a general increase in weather extremes over the next century.  Their money tells me global warming is real.

Can we avoid future extreme climate events? It is the drive for profit that produces anthropogenic global warming. Without a fundamental reordering of social relations climate change could engulf us all.

It is clear the Government’s response to the floods has been inadequate. Compare that to the community response. The working people of Australia have rushed to support those affected by floods. We expect and demand that the Gillard Government respond quickly, generously and effectively.

The Government response is less than that, partly because to capitalist politicians working people are mainly producers of profit, their number one priority.  So we have Gillard effectively telling us that cutting the budget deficit is more important than helping people.

That is why she promised the flood costs wouldn’t blow out the Budget. Labor is going to cut public services to make you and me, not for example the big mining companies, pay for the possible billions the floods will cost.

The inadequacy of the Labor Government’s response is also partly a consequence of the inefficiencies of capitalism in anticipating and dealing with crises. Democratic planning freed of the profit motive would have addressed these issues before they occurred and developed plans to avoid them if they do occur.

Are the floods Julia Gillard’s Katrina moment?

Insurance companies will begin to welch to save money and protect their profits. They too won’t have factored in the extreme events and so will try to duck shove the social costs on to us.

In a society based on exchange, the floods will have destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of farmers and others.

Even disasters have class impacts. Housing closer to rivers is often cheaper because of the possibility of flooding. So when the rivers do flood it is the poor and working class who bear the biggest brunt as their homes are flooded or cut off.

Because of the widespread disruption many workers won’t earn income for weeks if not months. The banks won’t stand for mortgage non-payments for very long.

For example many mines are flooded or isolated and mine workers won’t be able to work. Yet the mining bosses will do nothing to address the costs the floods impose on the people of Queensland and WA. They are too busy counting their untaxed billions.

You and I on the other hand will willingly pay to help residents recover from the floods.

Until we go to  the supermarket and find food prices have doubled or in some cases trebled and all the profits go to Coles and Woolies,  not the beleaguered farmers. We workers will pay through increased food costs and hence lower living standards while the big retailers’ profits must continue untouched.

Or until the Government shuts down our local school or hospital or lets them go to seed because it doesn’t have enough money and won’t go into debt. It will however refuse to really tax the mining companies; it will however spend $25 billion on defence, including $2 billion on having troops in Afghanistan; it will however spend billions on the racist Northern Territory intervention.

The floods show clearly that the priorities of the ruling class and their politicians are profits, not people.

This was written on Saturday before the full extent of the crisis became known – at lest 9 people are dead as I write on Tuesday morning with Premier Anna Bligh warning that figure could double. 66 people are missing. The floods are approaching Ipswich and Brisbane.

I don’t think this will be Gillard’s Katrina moment. She has mobilised money and resources and is expressing her support. One suggestion – why not bring the troops home from Afghanistan to help deal with the crisis? And one question – why couldn’t the Bureau of Meteorology foresee the localised rain and flash flooding?

The time for a more in-depth examination will be after the floods have receded and the clean up has begun and we can hear from the people affected. However predictions are that la Nina could mean flooding will continue on and off till mid March.

Further update Friday afternoon as the floods recede in Brisbane. The time for analysis has come. Looking at global warming, planning, developers’ influence, infrastructure and services underfunding must be on the agenda.

Readers might also like to look at The Queensland floods, community and profit and Make the rich pay for the cost of the floods in Queensland.

I think Socialist Alternative gets it right in its article ‘Government should rethink priorities to deal with flood region’ when it says:

All those who have lost their homes need a guarantee that they will have another rebuilt at no cost. All those who have lost their jobs should continue to receive their full pay, or where that is not possible, should be guaranteed a job through the government. All those who were unemployed and wanting work should be given a full-time well-paid job assisting the clean up. That’s just for starters.

The government won’t go close to it. It continues to commit itself to putting the budget into surplus. It should stay in deficit. If there are financial trade-offs, “sacrifices” to be made, let them be borne by those who can afford it:

The Afghanistan war cost $1.2 billion last financial year – scrap it.

Gross operating profits of business totalled $248 billion over the last year – tax it.

The coal industry receives subsidies equivalent to around $1 billion per year – stop them.

Private schools will receive $28 billion in government funding between 2009 and 2012 alone – end it.

Put those savings and extra revenues into development projects that are desperately needed. 

The Maritime Union of Australia – many of whose members have been affected by the floods – has set up a flood appeal fund: 
BSB Number: 062-006
Account number: 1001 0464
CBA Swiftcode: CTBAAU2S
Bank Address: George Street, Haymarket, NSW, 2000
Reference for lodgement:  Flood Appeal

 

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Comments

Comment from Arjay
Time January 7, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Watch the banks closely as they fore close on people at their most vunerable.Paul Keating Should never have sold off the Commonwealth Bank.

Over seas buys like China will now move in to buy up properties for cents on the dollar and eventually we will become their slaves paying top dollar for food produced on our own soil.

Comment from Wendy
Time January 8, 2011 at 9:39 am

John, you write “Housing closer to rivers is often cheaper because of the possibility of flooding. So when the rivers do flood it is the poor and working class who bear the biggest brunt as their homes are flooded or cut off.” I live on the north coast and this isn’t actually correct. Many of the wealthiest houses are built with ‘waterfront views’.

Sure, some of the older places and the ‘Queenslanders’ may be working class, but the river districts are now prime real estate and the top end of town.

Comment from Arjay
Time January 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Wendy, who you call the top end of town in QLD are mere small fry compared to these global players. China and other players are buying up food producing land and we need to wake up to the reality of world food scarcity.

Comment from Wendy
Time January 8, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Huh? I wasn’t talking about China or food production. John was writing about the floods up here and where houses are situated. WTF has that got to do with food scarcity? And please mister, don’t patronise us by saying these floods are ‘small fry’ compared to some fixation you got with overseas issues. You want to help the working people, then have some sympathy for the working men and women who have lost their homes, their farms, their jobs – or don’t you care about Australians??????

Comment from John
Time January 8, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Thanks Wendy. I was basing this on something Anna Bligh said in response to a young man who said that it was the working class and poor areas being flooded. Bligh said that often those places closest to the river were cheaper houses so it would impact on ordinary working people. Or words to that effect. I must admit when I wrote it I had my doubts because in some cities I suspect living near the river is a status symbol. I’ll see if I can find out more detail.

Comment from Wendy
Time January 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Thanks John. i think in general you are right – and certainly historically those low lying areas were always working class and never provided with the infrastructure and services other areas received, but now as house prices soar the working class/poor are being pushed out from anything with a ‘water aspect’ and dispatched to the western suburbs or the like!

PS -Abbott’s plan to build dams will only make this worse and I suspect it will involve expelling many old families from ‘the poor side of town’. The man is a fool!!

Comment from Calligula
Time January 8, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Good of you to open a topic that has impinged upon our existence these last few weeks.

Just down the road from us is our brand new submarine electrical sub-station.
The project was approved by a useless, greedy local council in 2006, was built in 2009 and went underwater, 29/12 last year.

We photographed the best part of an acre of high voltage power distribution equipment underwater and heard the arcing and sparking with our own ears.

Our corrupted regional council and ‘corporatised’ electricity providers pretend that building that multi-million dollar excrescence – below flood level and directly beside a children’s playground was perfectly okay and no risk whatsoever to anyone.

Then as the waters rose the reports came in – insurance refusing to pay and looters in the streets.

I can vouch for that since we’ve already been knocked back for rain damage by a mob of robbers claiming to be our insurer and had to give this little twerp with a Victorian accent five seconds to remove himself from our premises.

The lower deck is indeed becoming good at emulating the behaviour of the corporates and those Madame Bligh imports into Q to act as our ‘guardians’.

Absolutely amazing that the qld premier had to be dragged away from her holiday yet both she and the PM recently visited a floodbound town lacking a mayor.

In stark contrast with the mayors of other communities our badge carrying member of “Emily’s List”, our mayoress, couldn’t get her fat butt back from holidays even for a photosession with her superior colleagues in the other two arms of government.

What John says above is in accord with our experience here.

Madame Bligh has paid lip service to assisting those who have been flood affected and expending money towards upgrading infrastructure that has been damaged/destroyed.

Those encumbered with flood prone property, she proposes, shall be relocated and compensated.

It should cost little more than what the unlawful sale of our railways, ports, etc. will deliver into her coffers – so of course it’ll never happen since contrary to Wendy’s comments it is the poor that have been flooded out in our region – and in qld, the poor don’t bloody well matter.

While on this subject I remember seeing thousands here pouring their hard earned money into the collection buckets in support of Victorian bushfire victims.
I have not heard a single reference about reciprocity from the southern states.

To summarise –
The ways that Queenslanders are being ‘managed’ during this flood crisis has nothing to do with the risks confronting them.
The historical record proves that ordinary Queenslanders have always had to deal with detriment caused by natural disaster in any way immediately available.

This time, despite a pretence of close risk management, we have an appreciable death toll.
This time we have the application of arbitrary prosecution for those who attempt to ford floodwaters.
This time we have people who have needed to risk fighting floods in order to save losing income.

This time we have ‘masters’ who have no clue whatsoever telling us to abandon our homes and assets to looters and a bad guess at damage control dreamt up by ‘administrators’ who are too damned thick even to take advice from those who have lived here since they were whelped.

The Keystone Kops ain’t in it!

Comment from John
Time January 8, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Calligula, you say: ‘While on this subject I remember seeing thousands here pouring their hard earned money into the collection buckets in support of Victorian bushfire victims. I have not heard a single reference about reciprocity from the southern states.’ Actually, banks and supermarkets have collection points.

Comment from juanR
Time January 8, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Hi John

Wendy says: “PS -Abbott’s plan to build dams will only make this worse and I suspect it will involve expelling many old families from ‘the poor side of town’. The man is a fool!!”

Calligula says: “Just down the road from us is our brand new submarine electrical sub-station. The project was approved by a useless, greedy local council in 2006, was built in 2009 and went underwater, 29/12 last year.”

So what is it going to be, dam or not dam?

It took the pharaohnic Egyptians several thousand years and the assistance of the USSR to dam the Nile (an ecological disaster, apparently, according to those who know) to stop the floods.

In today’s oz (QLD) are we better prepared/informed?

Comment from Calligula
Time January 9, 2011 at 7:30 pm

John –
I’m pleased that you can report that banks and supermarkets have collection points.
Hearing that restores my faith in human nature.

I had kind of hoped you would have found more to comment about in my report from ground zero.

I’d like to report that we have not gone underwater – yet.
I didn’t write to grumble about out lot – rather to report what was the misfortune of others.
My concerns were more to do with those we old Queenslanders refer to as ‘blow-ins’.
There is a set of well heeled ‘blow-ins’ who set up business here to exploit a precession of less wealthy ‘blow-ins’ constantly arriving from down south.
It is a lucrative trade based not on water aspects but rather mudflat aspects long ago traded off by the locals to a succession of southern punters who have usually been sucked white of their last assets by an unscrupulous property trade upon arriving here.

Believe me when I say that the ‘locals’ are relatively high and dry and somewhat insulated from this misery.

This time though the floods have interrupted the twice yearly erection of the ‘for sale’ signs dotting our residential areas after the luckless and jobless have been ground to the bones by those intent on exploiting them.

This time, instead of just walking away the forces of nature and a spot of compo might accidentally cause some of them to dig in their heels and stay.

If so I have two minds about that.

Firstly, I’m not too impressed with the quality of person forced on our community by this southern migration process for so many years.
They tend to be a bit grubby – they lack skills suitable for employment in a region lacking meaningful employment anyway – so they tend to resort to petty crime to meet their food and substance bills.

Put it this way – a set of them from rental digs immediately opposite from the rapidly submerging sub-station mentioned in my last were pissed brainless mid-afternoon when the emergency services were trying to help them evacuate themselves and their property from the flood.
How does one help those who will not help themselves?

Then as I indicated – another set of blow-ins with no clue at all seem to have somehow supplanted those of local knowledge – to the detriment of this unsustainable region.

And since I’m writing to an allegedly socialist page – I’d like to hear some profound advice about how I might help my fellow travelers in life find sustenance and a fair go in amongst their new adventure in the deep north.

juanR –
The dams, weirs and barrages have blocked the natural flow of our rivers to the extent that the tidal reaches of our rivers have almost completely silted up in the past dry.

Then the dam walls constrict flow and turn what was once an acute coastal incident into a chronic statewide disaster.

That is precisely why the floods are taking so long to run off to sea and why what remains on the flooded areas stinks to high heaven afterwards.

Indeed – a colossal “clusterfcuk”.

Comment from John
Time January 9, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Calligula, give me a break. I have other things in my life to attend to at the moment. I will respond soon. Allegedly socialist indeed.

Comment from juanR
Time January 9, 2011 at 9:48 pm

My commiserations John.

Comment from Calligula
Time January 9, 2011 at 9:51 pm

All I have mentioned is what sort of poor are being displaced by natural disaster and begged your advice as to how they may be helped in their misfortune.

Did I make a mistake by mentioning precisely how they are being duped in the ‘dual economy’ environment being exercised in regional queensland?
Should we talk truth or abstract concepts?

Comment from Dee
Time January 9, 2011 at 11:16 pm

I wonder at what might be possible if the Flood Data by Postcode from Risk Frontiers were cross indexed, or whatever, with the Mean Incomes by Postcode from the ATO. Just thinking!

Pingback from Floods Continue to Devastate Australia · Global Voices
Time January 10, 2011 at 2:06 am

[…] The floods in Queensland and Western Australia fit into that analysis. The floods in Australia […]

Pingback from Floods Continue to Devastate Australia @ Current Affairs
Time January 10, 2011 at 2:12 am

[…] The floods in Queensland and Western Australia fit into that analysis. The floods in Australia […]

Pingback from Floods Continue to Devastate Australia :: Elites TV
Time January 10, 2011 at 6:01 am

[…] The floods in Queensland and Western Australia fit into that analysis. The floods in Australia […]

Comment from John
Time January 10, 2011 at 7:07 am

Calligula, there was a phone in last might that rasied millions. See here: http://www.news.com.au/national/deluge-of-donations-as-11m-in-pledges-pours-in-at-telethon-event-for-flood-victims/story-e6frfkvr-1225984693827

Comment from John
Time January 10, 2011 at 7:16 am

Calligula, thanks for your moving and informative post. It reinforces the point in my article about the inadequacies of Government divorced from the people.
Have their been looters?

I expect nothing less from the rapacious insurance companies but actually looters as well? (Re the insurance: put in a claim anyway and threaten to fight them through the courts.)

I was trying to think how this would be different under a truly democratic society based on organisation to satisfy human need. We wouldn’t be putting housing in flood prone areas. Or we would build it appropriately depending on the circumstances.

And, as the telethon shows, but with workers in power we would move heaven and earth to help people affected if it did happen again.

The wider question of climate change would be addressed through moving to different energy sources. Since we would have a society based on need not costs and profit there is no impediment to doing that.

It all sounds utopian but in the end I can’t see a real solution to these issues unless we, the vast majority, run society to satisfy human need.

Comment from Wendy
Time January 10, 2011 at 10:18 am

Calligula – you wrote this: “Firstly, I’m not too impressed with the quality of person forced on our community by this southern migration process for so many years.
They tend to be a bit grubby – they lack skills suitable for employment in a region lacking meaningful employment anyway – so they tend to resort to petty crime to meet their food and substance bills.”

This is racist, prejudiced and the type of language I thought was reserved for the elite, rulling class. Ooo ee, I don’t like [insert: blacks, Mexicans, homosexuals, Jews, Sudanese, Muslims, socialists] as they come here with their crime and grubby ways etc! And ‘forced’ on you – what, slavery is alive and well? Forced migration? Genocide? Did we truck ‘these people’ from the South up there to Camp Queensland?

What rubbish!! Read John’s post on Amercia today. Your view is what – the blacks in jail are grubby criminals, or the working class are brainless pissheads so they get what’s coming to them??

And local knowledge my arse. I’ve lived north for years and floods are floods – people from ‘the south’ experience them too. So next time a bushfire hits QLD, I’ll say, idiot banana-benders (I am one, BTW) they know nothing about fire!

Working people have been wiped out by floods – don’t generalise, don’t make sweeping comments about things you know bugger all about. That’s what the elites do to us!!!