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John Passant

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June 2012



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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)

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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)



Fairfax, Rinehart and defending media jobs

Fairfax is restructuring, positioning itself for its late entry fully into the digital age of media. It will do this by sacking 1900 staff, closing down its printeries, setting up a paywall and going tabloid.

A week ago, last Tuesday, I wrote about the Fairfax proposal to offshore 66 sub-editing jobs to New Zealand. I said:

If Fairfax can get away with this, no area will be safe.

Now that the union leadership’s plan for cutting jobs and costs has collapsed, the only alternative to defend all the jobs immediately under threat and those in the future likely to be under attack is to strike, and not just for 3 days.

That action would also be illegal under Labor’s industrial laws.

Clearly it is the role of the rank and file to win the argument for a strike, an indefinite strike, and impose the decision on the MEAA leadership if necessary.

Fairfax management has proved my analysis correct, a little earlier than I anticipated. There is now no alternative to striking if Fairfax workers want to defend jobs. As I also wrote a week ago in the same article:

Many years ago the BLF had a slogan – if you don’t fight you lose. It is as true today as it was then.

Close Fairfax down until it withdraws its job cuts.

Today more than ever an indefinite strike seems the only way forward. You can’t play by Marquis of Queensbury rules against barbarians. You don’t negotiate from a position of weakness.

You bring them to their knees by cutting off the revenue from their major mastheads, the Australian Financial Review, the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, as well as their other publications.

Why is this happening?

Some are blaming Gina Rinehart for this. Not so. Such a move would have been planned for a long long time, well before the world’s richest woman showed any interest in Fairfax. Now that she has nearly 20 percent of the stock, and is demanding 3 seats on the board, it might be convenient to use her as a whipping girl, but she isn’t the cause. She might have prompted the timing but not the content of the announcement.

While the papers may well become the Sydney Mining HaulAge as David Pope’s cartoon in today’s Canberra Times (itself a Fairfax paper) put it, at best Rinehart’s creeping purchase prompted Fairfax to announce the attacks now. The causes are more long term and systemic.

In the last year Fairfax’s market valuation has dropped from $5 billion to $2 billion. Its share price has collapsed from $1.70 to 60 cents.

The circulation of its flagship newspapers has dropped, and more importantly advertising revenue is in freefall.  The rivers of gold that flowed from its Saturday housing and jobs ads in the Age and the Herald have dried up.

There are now alternative online advertising avenues for property, jobs, cars and the like. Fairfax has tried to digitise its own advertising of these areas, but it has not been a success.

It is hard for me at least to see how moving to a paywall will address this loss of advertising revenue.

Second, readership of the paper has dropped. It is and continues to be a long slow decline. The argument appears to be that people are reading online so they will pay to read newspapers online.

Maybe the problem is that people are online, but the issue might be they are playing, not reading; they are talking to friends on facebook, or communicating through twitter.

So putting a newspaper behind a paywall won’t attract new readers. It may just cut off old ones, especially those who recognise and realise that a shift to a tabloid edition is not just about downsizing the layout; it is really about downsizing the content and what is left of any intellectual and investigative material.

The problem may not be that people prefer their news in a different format. It may be that 30 years of neoliberalism has created a mindset among many young people of rampant individualism and ignorance  of or at least indifference to the world outside their comfortable life.

It may be that our neoliberal education system is training atomised automatons whose technical abilities might be fair superior to previous generations (at least when it comes to online communications and playing games) but whose critical abilities are circumscribed and corralled into narrow areas of enquiry for the benefit solely of capital.

So any sensible role for capitlaism in Australia would be to reduce the chronic underfunding of public schools, working class non-public schools and universities and TAFEs.

Tax capital, who benefit enormously from an educated work force by exploiting it and making more profit out of us, to pay for it.

It ain’t gunna happen without a fight, a bloody big fight. But Fairfax may have a material interest in making it happen.

But there is something else in all of this. The disengagement is also because the political landscape has moved so far to the right and both parties now offer little by way of difference. The market ideology of Labor means there is little (other than overplayed surface differences) to differentiate it from the Liberals.

Compare that situation to Greece, where SYRIZA offers a real alternative, within the capitalist framework, to the stale old neoliberal prescriptions for capitalism.

Their program is ambiguous because defending jobs, living standards and social services in the long run won’t just require a change of government from New Democracy to SYRIZA; it will require a change of system, from capitalism to socialism.

But the game’s afoot and the radicalisation of Greek society is expressing it self at the moment in the working class and young people supporting SYRIZA.

That radicalisation has energised society and political debate. People are hungry for ideas – left wing in the main, although as the rise of the fascist New Dawn shows, some will be tempted by Nazism in times of social crisis.

We don’t yet have a political, economic or social crisis in Australia. What we do have is white bread politicians spinning the same line and a white bread media parroting it. ‘Buy my shit sandwich.’  ‘No, buy my shit sandwich. ‘

Most politics, ‘debate’ and commentary today is about discerning the difference between the shit sandwiches on offer. It doesn’t deal with the obvious. It’s still a shit sandwich, whether it is Gillard or Abbott selling it.

If Fairfax wants to improve its circulation, whether on line or elsewhere, it could begin by stirring up class war, by attacking the rich who rule the roost, by questioning if capitalism is sustainable. It could laud the global resistance to neoliberlaism, acknowledge the prior ownership of land by the original inhabitants, campaign for higher wages for nurses and teachers and other workers, argue for more education and health spending, push for real action to address climate change.

In short Fairfax could take the side of workers and the oppressed against the oppressors.

It could contemplate becoming the SYRIZA of newspapers.

Fairfax workers could contribute to that atmosphere of debate and enquiry, of questioning and critique, by walking off the job until Fairfax comes crawling to them with a decent plan for their future, one that puts workers at the centre of change and its management, not one that throws them on the dustbin of unemployment over the next 18 months or so.

That means shutting Fairfax down by walking off the job.

To repeat my message of  a week ago:

Many years ago the BLF had a slogan – if you don’t fight you lose. It is as true today as it was then.

Close Fairfax down until it withdraws its job cuts.


John is a member of the MEAA. You might also like to read Fairfax to offshore jobs.



Comment from paul walter
Time June 19, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Another neolib reality that you really feel like ducking away from, like a noisy fighting drunk in a pub.
We notice once again a response far too tepid, from Senator Conroy.

Comment from paul walter
Time June 21, 2012 at 5:53 am

An amusing sequel, Graham Young at online opinion devlopes a spin the has Fairfax in strife for peddling, “a soft left line against he wishes of its readers”.

I”d like to score a bit of whatever he’s smoking..

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