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John Passant

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January 2011



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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)



The Queensland floods, community and profit

The response of the rest of the Australian community to the Queensland floods has been magnificent. Our hearts and wallets have gone out to the people affected.

More importantly members of the local community have helped each other, looked after each other, cared for each other. The community response to the Queensland floods and our sense of shared humanity gives us a tiny glimpse of a new future – a possible cooperative world. This is community born of adversity; imagine the possibilities when the sense of community is born of hope.

Our Federal Government has echoed this mood of community and cooperation and responded with money and resources. Anna Bligh, the premier of Queensland, has become a national hero, echoing the hopes of the nation for those affected and representing our shock and concern and best wishes. 

We are with you in this dark hour.

Our sense of community shines through.

There is no room for neoliberalism and the madness of the market in rescuing people and rebuilding lives, although that will come no doubt when the neoliberals mutter about the cost and we begin to debate the question of who pays for the terrible costs the floods have created. Indeed it will come even before that when we ask why the State Emergency Services, the Bureau of Meteorology, the CSIRO, early warning systems, public housing in flood safe areas, measures to address climate change and its consequences have not been funded adequately.

Neoliberalism of both Labor and Liberal varieties has underfunded these priorities in the interests of capital. It has put coal infrastructure before flood planning and mitigation.

Questions will arise when we look at the inadequacies of  the planning process and ask why planning is an adjunct of profit and not for people?

It might even spread to ask why the hell are our troops in Afghanistan when they are needed here to help the rebuilding? Is a treaty with the US of more value to Labor and the Opposition than helping reconstruct the State?  Posing the question gives its own answer.

It will be asked again when the cost of rebuilding Queensland translates into Federal Budget dollars and Gillard Labor cuts services for the poor and needy across Australia to fund the reconstruction rather than taxing the rich and their untouchable profits. It will be asked again when the Government uses the excuse of the floods not to spend enough on community sector wages, climate change, public health, education and transport and on and on…

How did it get to this? Are the floods just some act of nature which we have to bear? Do we just fatalistically shrug our shoulders and accept the consequences? Is some retributive god to blame?

No. Humans have a dialectical relationship with nature. We are part of it but at the same time interact with nature in ways that change it. Our capacity to think elevates us above other animals in this regard.  As Engels explained in his Dialectics of Nature:

At every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature – but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.

Under capitalism there can be no ‘correct application’ of the laws of nature. Capitalism divorces us from our humanity. A system driven by blind profit rapes the environment and can do nothing else. Everything is an opportunity for profit – the earth must be and is being destroyed to that end.

Capitalism subjugates community decision making to the needs of profit. Planning, as far as it exists, involves planning within pockets of capital against other pockets of capital and within nation states and various subdivisions for Mammon.

The state seems like an excrescence on the body economic and yet it is a vital part of the accumulation process, constructing the very civil soceity reflective of that process and regulating and controlling society for profit.

So of necessity planning is done not to protect people but to maximise profit. We let people live on flood plains because it helps the profit process in normal times – through cheap housing and big profits and cheap and accessible labour.

And in times of floods, it is the people who ‘chose’ to live there (often becuase it is cheap to do so and they are not well paid) who will bear the immediate costs  – the loss of lives, family, friends, homes, livelihood.  Other costs will flow through to us through increased insurance premiums to cover the hit to the bottom line of insurance companies that the floods have made. And further on the costs will be imposed on we workers through increased taxes on us or massive cuts to social services.  Or both.

Not to forget the price rises for basics like food. Coles and Woolies will continue to make their required profits by charging those affected by the floods high prices for fruit, veggies, meat, milk and bread. Petrol will skyrocket. The banks will still demand mortgage payments from people who haven’t worked for weeks or months because of the floods.

When prices explode and the banks come knocking and insurance companies point out sub-clause 2.3(a) means you aren’t in fact covered, Bligh’s halo might begin to slip as the reality of life after the floods and the paramountcy of profit at the expense of those devastated by the floods becomes clearer.

Profit never pays the cost – it is always us.

Any reconstruction will also be done within the confines of a system based on profit, within the logic of capitalism. This is the very system that has created the conditions for the horrors of these floods. We will repeat the mistakes of the past and suffer the consequences, again.

The concentration on local or national profit making disguises the international aspects of capitalist production, especially the externality of pollution. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is clear: global warming will produce more extreme weather events.

In 2007 the IPCC warned: ‘It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent.’ Very likely in IPCC language means more than 90 percent likely.

This is arguably the strongest La Nina ever and the floods are a consequence of that. According to Professor Will Steffen, executive director of the Australian National University’s (ANU) Climate Change Institute,  it is likely the floods are climate change related. He went on to say:

What we can say about the Queensland floods is there is a strong La Nina, which tends to give this heavy rainfall, but in addition to that there are very high sea surface temperatures.

Higher sea temperatures are related to global warming and over time,  more droughts, fires and floods. A warmer world is a wetter world.

According to Professor Steffen what were once like these floods, one in 100 year events will, with global warming, now become once in 20 or 30 year events.

Is there a solution? Planning, not almost after the event sandbagging, is a necessity. There can be no real planning under capitalism because it is undemocratic. Only democratic planning can help society address the threat global warming poses to humanity and the ability to address its consequences.

But to do that means a move away from profit as the organising principle for society and move to production to satisfy human need.

Planning. Democracy. Production for people. That’s socialism.

Readers might also like to look at Make the rich pay for the cost of the Queensland floods and Capitalism and the floods in Australia.

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



Comment from Calligula
Time January 13, 2011 at 6:47 pm

John –
In my opinion the climate tweaking we’ve been experiencing is caused by man made electromagnetic radiation – not the products of hydrocarbon combustion at all.
Just call me a crank – I do not care.
As to how to deal with the results – the Seppos have always lead by example unless ordered off by the likes of dear ol’ Dubya.
The US Army Corps of Engineers have always been involved with civil projects in the States.
Any defence organization not involved with their own community is an asset wasted – as is wasted their chance to gain experience and compassion throughout their cadres.

Comment from Calligula
Time January 13, 2011 at 6:58 pm

“Is some retributive God to blame?”
No. Gaia bites when ill treated.
Humanity has become ‘big’ enough a fungus to annoy a once comfortable but dynamic earth.
Then there is HUBRIS.
Stupid people are hardly ever punished directly by elemental forces.
They just end up having bits chipped off their overweening egos by circumstances that appear to be less than coincidental.
Terry Pratchett’d be able to explain that better.
Like me he has little regard for the sort of pomposity displayed by our ‘masters’.
When Beattie went away it began raining.
If Bligh goes away it’ll stop raining.
If we begin behaving ourselves and treat others as they should – the weather will undoubtedly likewise respond.

Pingback from En Passant » Make the rich pay for the cost of the Queensland floods
Time January 14, 2011 at 12:31 pm

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Pingback from En Passant » Capitalism and the floods in Australia
Time January 14, 2011 at 12:37 pm

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