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John Passant

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September 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)



Why is Australian politics so hollow and boring?

Why is Australian politics so boring? asks Diane Fieldes in Socialist Alternative.

Remember the scintillating debates of the last federal election? That riveting choice between “moving forward” with “the real Julia” or “ending the waste” and the “great big new taxes” with Tony Abbott? Well, perhaps not.

And yet election campaigns are supposed to be when what passes for “politics” under capitalism is at its best. No wonder that veteran journalist Laurie Oakes characterised the 2010 election campaign as “there were no issues, there was no policy inspiration, there were no ideas. We had two parties led by two political pygmies.”

Other mainstream commentators have been moved to try to explain why politics these days consists of electoral product differentiation without content – endless repetition of carefully scripted sound bites (“people smugglers’ business model”, for example), relentless carping, and debates about the incompetence of the other side.

Some have suggested that the need for scandal to fill the 24 hour news cycle, or the rise of social media, have dragged politics down to the level of Craig Thompson. Others reckon that it’s politicians’ concern with opinion polls (in reality, something that goes back at least as far as Menzies).

The real explanation for why politics is so hollow is much more straightforward. The major parties are pretty much the same on every issue, from refugee-bashing to industrial relations policy, so the battleground is necessarily about trivia and not about substance.

George Megalogenis’s Quarterly Essay: Trivial Pursuit: Leadership and the End of the Reform Era, from the start of this year, makes the point well in relation to Kevin Rudd and his “persona for every demographic. There was Kevin the erudite for the ABC set. Kevin the dag for FM radio and the Twitterverse. Kevin the genial dad for the Seven Network’s Sunrise program. Kevin the bloke for Today Tonight and A Current Affair.”

It is nonsense to believe, as Age political editor Josh Gordon would have it, that “the adversarial system of modern politics” is the cause of this. Instead, it’s the overwhelming consensus that’s the problem. So politicians increasingly stand for nothing except staying in government and holding on to their own seat with its high salary and cushy pension.

No reader of Socialist Alternative is likely to expect anything more of the Liberals. But with Labor’s policies now the same as or worse than the Liberals’, some explanation of why they act like this is needed. Many Labor supporters feel there has been a fall from grace. However, there was no “golden age” of Labor, as any worker who lived under the vicious attacks of the Scullin Labor government in the 1930s depression could attest.

Instead, as Tom Bramble and Rick Kuhn argue in their book, Labor’s Conflict: Big Business, Workers and the Politics of Class, the changes in the ALP’s policies reflect not a transition “from true belief to betrayal…[but] shifts in the requirements of Australian capitalism and changes in the balance of pressure on the party from the working and capitalist classes”.

Politics becomes interesting when our side starts moving. Signs of this exist even in recent memory. Compare the 2007 election night parties with their John Howard dartboards or piñatas of Howard’s head, and the much less numerous and infinitely more sedate affairs of 2010.

What was the difference? For the first time in 14 years, thanks to a union campaign against WorkChoices that at its height had involved hundreds of thousands of workers striking and demonstrating, Labor seemed to stand for something different to the Liberals.

This is even clearer in times when the working class has been much more on the offensive. At the height of the strike waves of the late 1960s and early 1970s there were a broad range of groupings in the Labor party whose verbal radicalism would make the likes of today’s “left” leaders like Doug Cameron – let alone Gillard and Swan – shake in their boots.

As workers’ struggles in 1969 smashed the anti-union penal powers without waiting for a Labor government to be elected, even right-wing Labor frontbenchers like Frank Stewart were moved to say, “the people of Australia now realise that without demonstrations and without industrial strife the unions cannot get far”. Hard to imagine any politician today praising industrial strife.

With all the parliamentary parties including the Greens supporting capitalism and thus the rule of the rich, they don’t particularly want workers to have an active interest in politics. They are concerned that we don’t totally lose confidence in the institutions and stop voting, for example. But we shouldn’t have expectations so high that we really start demanding or expecting great things of them. For that, we will have to mobilise ourselves.



Comment from Bernard
Time September 20, 2011 at 9:03 am

At least Pigmys do not live on the fat of the land.

Comment from Ross
Time September 20, 2011 at 8:24 pm

John; I thought you’d worked it all out by now.The Central Banks since 1913 create from nothing all the money for our Govts to function.These banks have shares in all the major multi-nationals around the planet.Politicians need funds to win office,so those who create all the money,have all the power.

Our pollies have now let the corps take control of Govt.Our pollies are now impotent and know it.The real decision making has been taken from them,so Govt is now an absolute circus.Parliament is a distraction,a media circus to keep the masses confused and frustrated.

Comment from John
Time September 20, 2011 at 8:53 pm

So why now and not since 1913 this boring and hollow politics?

Comment from Ross
Time September 20, 2011 at 10:12 pm

John ;When we went off the gold standard in the mid 1970’s John,the banksters had the green light to create enormous amounts of fiat currency.Hence we had exaggerated boom and bust cycles.The 1980 recession one was huge and so was the Keating 1990 one.Note also since 1980 we sold off 4 State Govt Banks + the Commonwealth.These banks were creating money from nothing to partially equal increates in pop,productivity and inflation.When the Commonwealth was sold off,Howard had to bring in the GST to pay debt to private banks.

This was the era of enslavement of our Govts via debt to domestic and Global Central banks.

30% of our mortgage money is borrowed OS.Since 1975 our total debt has gone from 3% of GDP to 53% of GDP.The debt climax has now been reached and our pollies have no answers.

Just see ‘Secret of Oz’ by Bill Still ,John and you will begin to understand.

Comment from Hanora Brennan
Time September 20, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Politics is about people. Period.

Comment from Ross
Time September 20, 2011 at 10:58 pm

By the way John,1913 was the instigation of the US Federal Reserve,the private group of banks who under the auspices of Pres Woodrow Wilson owned the US currency.Maer Rothschild,”Give me control of a nations’ currency and I care not who makes the laws.”

Comment from MarionK
Time September 21, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Of course, the socialist alternative is SOOO not boring. You get out there and boycott chocolates and fiull Garema Place (well, a corner) chanting and yelling … that’ll stop the world on its axis. Then back home to tenure, fortnightly pay check, mortgage payments, the lawn, footy … so exciting I can hardly contain myself.

Comment from John
Time September 21, 2011 at 9:59 pm

Well argued MarionK. So not boring. Even our meetings are fun. This Thursday at 6 pm in G 52 of the Haydon Allen Building ANU on why we oppose humanitarian intervention. As you said, SOOO not boring.

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