ga('send', 'pageview');
John Passant

Site menu:

August 2011



RSS Oz House



Subscribe to us

Get new blog posts delivered to your inbox.


Site search


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)



QANTAS, BlueScope, OneSteel – why won’t the unions fight?

QANTAS is cutting its workforce by 1000. Steel producer BlueScope announced this week it would sack 1000 workers. OneSteel got rid of 400 workers a few weeks ago.

WTF are the unions doing? Not much, other than negotiating redundancy payments. What a disgrace.  

To clarify, the unions are doing nothing to fight job losses at OneSteel and BlueScope. OneSteel by the way has sacked 1500 workers since the Global Financial Crisis.

QANTAS seems to be a little different. There some unions have threatened strikes, and also come up with the brilliant idea of organising scabs to break the one hour strikes, at great cost they think to the airline. Genius, sheer genius, a union organising scabs. 

It is a snapshot of the backwardness of class struggle in Australia today that this nonsense could be on the agenda.

230 years of class collaboration by the union leadership, beginning with the Accord with the Hawke Labor Government, have destroyed working class combativeness, rank and file organisation and union membership.

As Marxist wrote  ‘…all the dead generations weigh like a nightmare on the brain of the living.’

Maybe it i time to wake form the nightmare and for workers in teh affected industries to bypass the chains of the past of their zombie leadership and fight the job losses Strikes would be a good first start.

‘Oh no,’ cry the conservatives. ‘That won’t work.’ Well then why not occupy the workplaces?

‘But there is no market for steel products. Or: It is too expensive to fly.’

And that’s the point. Capitalism is the obstacle to satisfying human need.

Imagine what all that steel could be used to help build. Solar panels, wind farms, wave generators; public buses and trains, light rail; new homes for the homeless.

And free flights around the country so people could visit their friends and relatives, go to major hospitals and education centres. 

Nationalise QANTAS, BlueScope and OneSteel under workers’ control.

Fight the job losses. Strike and occupy the workplaces. Organise production to satisfy human need.



Comment from Terrance
Time August 24, 2011 at 11:03 am

Isn’t one of the problems with steel that the dollar is too high and Chinese production too cheap.

If you nationalised the steel industry and these two conditions remained the same, then the worker owned entities would either have to accept reduced wages or shed jobs. How would a worker run steel manufacture attract investment to build the solar panels and wind farms etc unless there is some form of income for the workers?

In thoery you are right John, but what control would would a worker-owned entity have over international commodity prices?

Qantas I totally agree with you on – Keating should never have privatised it. So yes, let’s nationalise it, but I don’t get how BlueSteel would run any better in a diminishing market with falling commodity prices. Better solution is to abolish executive bonuses!

Comment from John
Time August 24, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Because that would be part of the move to a society based on production to satisfy human need Terrance. It would only really occur when a revolutionary situation existed. If that is too utopian, alternatively tax the rich and big business to pay for steel workers to keep their jobs and/or be retrained.

Comment from Ross
Time August 24, 2011 at 9:48 pm

I don’t think nationalising anything will solve the unemployment problem.We have to confront the debt problem.In 1975 our current account deficit was 3% of GDP.Now it is 53% of GDP because we sold off all our Govt banks and now borrow from OS central banks for all our new money.

John the NAB borrowed $4.5 billion in 2008 from the US Fed and raised another $3 billion on the share market.We as the tax payer have guaranteed them for $ 7.5 billion plus any other losses they may incur.Let the big boys fail.

Keep production private since we will just have more nepotism and curruption we see in our Govts .Fair competition is the key.Put a tarrif on the differential on wages here as opposed to China.Every company should pay a wage that enables a worker to buy the goods that they produce.This is where I disagree with Ron Paul.He wants to end the US Federal Reserve which is great, but wants open slather on eliminating all tarrifs.

Currently we have a socialised finance system of money creation by the elites and for the elites.We now know what an absolute disaster this is.They call it capitalism but we know it is theft.Real competition has been eliminated.There is no such thing as too big to fail.This is why the market is collapsing.

Comment from Phil
Time August 26, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Most of the BlueScope workers will be picked up by contractors around the Illawarra or in the mining industry further afield, sometimes much further. The coin will be about the same, or better, but they will not be on as good conditions, but that is how you ratchet down working conditions, innit?

As for occupying and running the place themselves, well, you’re joking aren’t you? forget it. Where they going to get coking coal from for starters? Who pays the power bill?

In many ways shutting down BlueScope is the bnest thing to happen to Port Kembla since George Bass pulled up in the Tom Thumb.

And that’s not taking into account rule numbers one through ten of going on strike – the workers have to want to. There are enough in the current workforce whose eyes will light up at the thought of a payout to go “you beaudy!” and pocket the coin.

I guess you haven’t run too many strikes in your time John but I’ve run about half a dozen and been in about thirty odd more. You simply cannot run an indefinite strike in 2011 – people have credit obligations and cannot afford to miss much more than one or two days pay. Most people don’t want to miss one or even half a days pay. So unless your workforce is completely united and ready to pull the house down then most people will just walk right in to work and smile and wave at you as they do. Once that happens pretty much everyone else will follow them in. The trick is to keep getting paid, or even maximise pay, while causing as much angst for the employer as possible – hence the clever work by the flight engineers. What they are doing is one of the smartest industrial tactics I’ve seen for a while. The engineers still get paid, (at overtime rates – which costs Qantas plenty). Far from ‘organising their own scabs’ they are hitting Qantas where it hurts while keeping themselves afloat.

I could go on, but my overarching point is that your post doesn’t cover you in glory John – to put it bluntly you come across as a fool. It shows a painful ignorance of the modern workforce, the working class and the realities of trying to run industrial action – which is pretty much pointless in this day and age. If you have a problem with your job instead of organising you’re better off just looking for another job.

Because there are so infinitely few people in the working class who can either afford or be bothered to back up their workmates that you will end up being hung out to dry and living on the Newstart Allowance, which ain’t no fun. Meanwhile the let’s all tear down capitalism brigade have mummy and daddy’s money to fall back on, a luxury not afforded the Gen X working class.

Comment from Phil
Time August 26, 2011 at 5:51 pm

I didn’t mean the above post to sound snarky John. I don’t think you’re a fool, I just worry that it may be read that way.

Comment from Tony
Time August 26, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Phil: “… I’ve run about half a dozen and been in about thirty odd more. ” … “If you have a problem with your job instead of organising you’re better off just looking for another job.”

Well, an appalling argument. Reading those words would suggest your role in the the union movement was that of an informant/agent provocateur for “the Man.” In any case, spoken like a true shill.

Comment from Phil
Time August 27, 2011 at 12:26 am

Christ Tony, that’s bloody ridiculous. You don’t know jack about me and you come out with that crap, which is some kind of insight into how far you are from the working class. The real working class of 2011, not some dream working class from some academic gospel.

I’m 44 years old and work in Canberra, sleeping in my car three days a week to save on fuel. Try sleeping in Canberra in winter old son and come and lecture me about “the Man”. I do this job and the money’s crap, but at least I’m permanent, which is more than I can say for a lot of mates busting boxes at Colesworths and Dummings. I’ve also got a half decent super scheme, although it remains to be see whether or not I’ll collect on that lottery. Ask John, he knows who I am.

I’ve been beaten up, spat on, arrested and had my house attacked over the years for standing up for organised labour. The sad fact is that in Australia today labour is not organised – the union movement is merely a toy for people who want a career as an ALP politician or no-hoperes who run it like it’s a charity organisation; begging for the privilege of being able to organise collectively.

The working class are fearful, suspicious and up their proverbials in debt. Do I like this? No. Can I see anything that can be done about it? No. So what the fark do you expect people to do about it Tones? Rise up in glorious revolution? Give me a break, people are more worried about Masterchef and childcare! The solution I posted above is no more than what literally millions of working class Australians do every year!

You mightn’t like the truth Anthony, but the reality is that workers today are a disorganised rabble who have learnt that looking out for yourself is the order of the day. If you think that’s not true then get a job at Colesworths old son and report back – to us, not “the Man”.

Fair dinkum, that post is the stupidest thing I’ve heard in twenty years, and I’ve heard some stupid things.

PS, if you live anywhere near Canberra you might want to let me park my car at your place a few nights a week! That could be a bit of practical help instead of throwing around crap like your post above.

And people wonder why the working class laugh at the left.

Comment from John
Time August 27, 2011 at 4:46 am

Clearly Phil is right about the state of the trade union and wider working class movement at the moment in Australia. His error I think is to mistake the present for the future and to see this as a permanent state of affairs. The one sided call war cannot an will not last forever.

That is why it is important now to build a socialist alternative ( to take advantage of that upswing and to help build those struggles that do exist today. And given the lack of class struggle that mainly means the realm of ideas, winning people to the revolutionary perspective through debates and discussion, not action. Hence most of what I write is about the ideas of class struggle. In Australia it is not an actuality although overseas right now there is real class struggle going on.

Comment from Tony
Time August 27, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Phil: You wrote what you wrote and it had inferences. Like John, I agree with your take on the strength of unions. However, your slant is completely defeatest, and framed little different to many of the sock puppets who post here. Apologies, Phil, although if you don’t want to see your prescriptions questioned, then be more careful about what you say.

I have neither ‘a place’ nor the privilege of ‘permanent’ employment (whatever that really is these days), so playing the guilt card ain’t gonna work, Phil.

Wondering how on earth we got into this mess and in between digging trenches I’ve read a bit on history and political economy, so what? The fact I can read and write a complete sentence trivialised as ‘academic gospel’ says more about you than me.

Comment from LeftInternationalist
Time August 29, 2011 at 8:34 pm

John, do you think the left should still assoicate workers control with nationalisation? as you know, there have been some good examples of workers control in such a situation- however, it generally doesn’t last until the workers can force the state to stop trying to manage a worker controlled industry with bureaucrats. Even if it’s a workers state, which I think could exist (a la Paris Commune) which anarchists would support though they would not call it a workers state. For whatever other good ideas he had, Trotsky did argue after all when the Bolsheviks were in power that since the soviet union was now a workers’ state (and at that point was already bureaucratically degenerated, far too much centralisation of power, and suppression of all those who criticised the Bolsheviks because they were supposedly ‘counter revolutionary’ even if they were socialists or comrade anarchists- and we cannot just blame that all on the civil war, and we should not at this point in history seek to justify behaviour which they themselves thought was a temporary oppressive measure to keep Tsarism and the White armies from winning) that the state could appoint trade union leaders at will. Obviously, that deeply undermines workers democracy i.e. socialist democracy, and the Workers Opposition faction in the Bolsheviks was deeply opposed to such a move. Would it not be more accurate to call what we want to do ‘socialisation’? i.e. socialise the assets to workers instead of privatising profits to bosses, favour workplace democracy, and reinvest whatever surplus these wealthy businesses make towards social justice projects like eliminating hunger, homelessness, wage slavery and the active overthrow of these oppressive and anti-libertarian anti-terrorist laws which have been nothing if not a complete farce? Also, I want to say that I think Socialist Alternative has been the most morally, politically and intellectually consistent, interesting and engaging socialist organisation in Australia, at least in my opinion. I regularly read the sa website, and I’m very glad that they (and the International Socialist Tendency, which I know you aren’t officially a part of but have essentially the same politics) have the distinguished record of never once being even sympathetic to so called ‘socialist’ countries, which are nothing more than petty dictatorships with an even more savage ruling class than our own. That cannot be said of other socialist groups in this country. Though I have heard some pretty strong criticisms of sa from other socialists and anarchists. How would you describe your experience with the organisation? I’m thinking of joining when I have the time to do so. If I do, what can I expect? I have hoped that sa is a revolutionary, socialist, democratic and libertarian organisation, dedicated to fighting for social freedoms (i.e. housing, food, healthy environment, good quality jobs, increases in wages, quality of work and reductions in working hours, etc) and invididual freedoms (human rights, civil liberties, free speech and free association) which go hand in hand, and are most ably summed up in Marx’s quote ‘the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all’- i.e. a free society, favouring forms of social organisations which are directly democratic, cooperative, as voluntary as possible, and where creativity, joy, human passion and getting lots of good sleep is valued!

Comment from LeftInternationalist
Time August 29, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Wouldn’t it be better if we did it in a different way than nationalisation under workers’ control, but have the same effects that you desire? Wouldn’t it be better to call what we want ‘socialisation’, since that would be more accurate, i.e., you socialise the profits among workers, favour workplace democracy i.e. socialist democracy, instead of bosses privatising the profits or bureaucratic state control being involved? Sure, if you can force the state to raise wages or concede to workers’ control, sure, but better to keep the bureaucrats hands off worker controlled industry, since they’ll just replace the capitalists as the oppressive bosses and managers, like what happened in the soviet union. Though, of course, you can’t have an island of socialism a la Paris Commune survive unless it can unify with sympathetic forces nationally and internationally, so perhaps a federation of workers’ councils or worker co-ops that are run under self-management i.e. workers’ control? I know that’s not likely at the moment, but they’re a great movement ready to be awakened by the earthworker cooperative idea that Australians have just started to try and get to work, which could see a whole series of co-operatives spring up as counter institutions to the state (though they don’t concieve of themselves that way) that are part of and empower local communities, individuals, and spread the example of workers control. Also, I know you’re a member of sa, and I’m interested in joining, as they have seemed to me to be the most morally, politically, and intellectually appealing socialist organisation in Australia to me by a long mile. Is sa what I hope it is i.e. a revolutionary, socialist, democratic and libertarian organisation? Committed to social freedoms (i.e. housing, food, ending wage slavery, etc) as well as individual freedoms (human rights, civil liberties, free speech and free association) which are inseperable from one another to really have a free society for all. To inscribe on our banners, as the example of all which I have said above, what Marx said: ‘the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.’ What has your experience with sa been like? I’d like to know if you can tell me.

Comment from John
Time August 29, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Dear LeftInternationalist. My apologies. For some reason the auto spam holds up your posts. it happens to some posters. So I have only just seen them and de-spammed them. You raise a number of important questions. Can I take a rain check for a little while? I have to go to bed soon and then to work tomorrow. Hopefully tomorrow night I can get back to you.

Comment from LeftInternationalist
Time August 29, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Sure John, thanks for letting me know what happened-appreciate it.

Comment from John
Time August 30, 2011 at 10:56 pm

And it might have to be tomorrow or the day after before I deal with your important questions and comments. I have been crook with a tummy bug.

Write a comment