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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
(0)

Sick kids and paying upfront

(0)

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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Canberra’s election – one view from the left

The local Liberals in Canberra are cock-a-hoop. With almost 88% of the vote counted in the Australian Capital Territory Assembly elections they have 38.9% of the vote, a swing to them of 7.3% compared to the last election in 2008.

The Labor Party is equal with the Liberals on 38.9% of the vote, a swing to them of 1.5%.

The likely makeup of the Assembly will probably see them win 7 seats and the Liberals 8. The Greens will probably lose half their seats and have two members.  The latest test analysis suggests that in fact it could be even worse for the Greens – one seat, with Labor and the Liberals winning 8 seats each.

The swing against the Greens is 4.9%.

If this 7 Labor, 8 Liberals and 2 Greens analysis is correct  – and the intricacies of the ACT 3 electorate proportional voting system mean it could be a week before we know the exact outcome – the Greens will hold the balance of power. Even at 8 Labor, 8 Liberals and 1 Green that one Green – Shane Rattenbury – will hold the balance of power.

Most are dismissing any chance of a Greens and Liberal alliance, and a rational look at the Greens’ priorities and personal animosity to the Liberals might back that up. In Tasmania in the 90s the Greens entered into an alliance with the Liberals to form Government.

After the 2008 ACT elections, in which the 4 Greens held the balance of power, Bob Brown, the party’s Federal leader, urged them to support a minority Liberal Government because the Liberals had promised ministries and the speakership for the Greens. 

The local party rejected Brown’s advice and supported Labor in exchange for the speakership, some environmental committee chairs and a fairly wishy-washy agreement of commitments. 

The Canberra Liberal leader Zed Zeselja has ruled out any ministries for the Greens in the prelude to discussions. He has however mentioned light rail – one of the Greens’ priorities – favourably today, indicating it was something he was open to discussing.

In the 2008 election in the ACT the swing against Labor was over 9% and the swing to the ACT Greens more than 6%. This was a vote for a hoped for left wing Greens Party prepared to take on the Labor of school closures, lengthening hospital waiting times and social conservatism to name a few issues.

For the last 4 years, instead of fighting Labor the ACT Greens have tailed them. Their parliamentary cretinism and failure to build any extra-parliamentary activity saw them in this 2012 election lose much of the left wing support (4.9% of the 6.3%) that they had won in 2008.

Nowhere is the Greens’ cowardice highlighted better than in their capitulation to Labor on civil unions. Instead of moving for equal marriage the Greens tailed Labor on a cop out on civil unions, a cop out designed by ACT Labor not to upset its own homophobic wing or embarrass Julia Gillard.

This Greens’ cowardice is systemic. It stems not from some character failings on the part of the Greens but from their concentration on Parliament and the games played in that sand pit rather than building real struggles in the streets and workplaces of Canberra.

There are 3 electorates in the ACT Assembly. Brindabella in the South returns 5 members, as does Ginninderra in the North. In the middle, Molonglo returns 7 members.

Liberal leader Zed Seselja moved from Molonglo to Brindabella and ran a campaign against Labor’s tax reforms to reduce and eventually abolish stamp duty on housing sales and increase land tax. 

The Liberals painted this tax reform, despite conservative and progressive bourgeois economists agreeing that it produced a more efficient and less distorting tax system, as a tripling of rates.  

It was a variation of the Tony Abbott ‘great big new tax’ propaganda. And like much of Abbott’s huffing and puffing, it was a lie.

However it resonated, especially in Brindabella with its large number of young families concerned about cost of living pressures. One irony is that the reforms could have reduced the cost of homes for these people over time by abolishing stamp duty on housing sales.

The other is that this tax reform is just changing the way workers are taxed. A real campaign from the Greens or Labor on taxing the rich rather than workers could have won votes. Neither party will do that because both are infected with trickle down theories of economics.

Clearly the move of Seselja to Brindabella paid off because in that electorate the Liberals outpolled Labor by ten percent. Part of this was not only because of the triple rates lie. Clearly Seselja as leader attracted votes to the Liberals in his new and generally more conservative voting electorate. So too did a popular former Community Alliance Party candidate Val Jeffrey running this time for the Liberals and receiving 3.7% of the vote in his own right. 

Besides the swing against the Greens, the other swing was against ‘Others’ – independents and other parties. In 2008 this rag bag of groups won more that 15% of the vote. This election it was 3.6% less, and it appears this too went overwhelmingly to the Liberals.  However, within that trend, more than 4% of the vote went to the new Bullet Train for Canberra Party. It may be this group’s vote leaked from and will flow back to the Greens as preferences are distributed.

Labor ran in part on a campaign of fear of Liberal Party public service cuts, with Campbell Newman’s attacks getting some mention.  More generally, fear of an Abbott government and its attacks on public servants may also have spilled over to a return of some voters to the ALP.

The problem for Labor is that it too is the party of attacks on public servants, if only slightly less manic than the Liberals. In the ACT the Labor government’s efficiency dividend and pay cap of 2.5% showed its true colours as just another party of neoliberalism. Its failure to tax the rich and to spend more on health and education only reinforced that.

At first blush the swing to Labor of 1.7% seems to confirm the argument that fear of an Abbott government or the local Liberals all being secret Campbell Newmans may have seen some shift back to Labor.  However, in both Brindabella and Ginninderra there was a swing against the ALP of 0.5% and 0.4% respectively. All of the swing to Labor was in Molonglo on the back of Chief Minister Katy Gallagher’s strong vote.  Her personal vote improved by ten percent and that of Labor in that electorate by five percent.

My tentative conclusions about the Assembly elections in the ACT are that people moved back to voting for one of the two major parties of neoliberalism, that the move was in the main to the Liberals in Opposition rather than to Labor in Government, that part of that move at least was because of concerns about cost of living pressures, that the Greens’ support of a fairly modest and neoliberal Labor Government and their role as followers rather than leaders backfired on them and that a tax scare campaign full of lies can work. Fear of public service job cuts seems to have played little role in the vote.

If these tentative conclusions are correct, and if this response is typical of Australians more generally (and I think as the economic storm clouds darken it is and will be) we will have an Abbott government with a big majority in 2013.

Without a fighting trade union movement and a left wing focus for real struggle and opposition to the neoliberalism of the ALP and the Liberals, there is I think an inevitability about the Liberals, the first choice party of the bourgeoisie, winning federally.
________________________________

For those interested, at the next Socialist Alternative Canberra meeting John will be discussing why there is so little choice in Australian politics. What’s the left alternative?

6 pm on Thursday 25 October in room G 8 of the Moran building at the ANU

The ACT elections were held on Saturday 20 October. The choice was between the 3 parties of neoliberalism – the ALP, the Liberals and the Greens. It is the same federally and in the other States and Territories.

John will be discussing why there is so little choice in Australian politics. What’s the left alternative? The answer isn’t voting for one or other party of neoliberalism; it is to be found in the struggle on the streets and in the workplaces. It is in building a socialist alternative.

And for what is it worth here is a link to one of the first articles I wrote on my blog 4 years ago about the 2008 elections. Some of it seems eerily prescient. For example I say:

…at least we can say that the next four years with the Greens on the cross benches in the ACT will test their capacity to balance between left and right and their ability not to lose the support of their supporters as they do ‘pragmatic’ deals with Labor.

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Comments

Comment from Gary
Time October 21, 2012 at 1:30 pm

You are wrong about Bob Brown. He never urged the Greens to join the Liberals – he urged them to consider Labor’s offer of a ministry in 2008. If you have evidence to the contrary, I stand corrected; but Bob Brown has never urged a Green party to align with the Liberals.

Also, as there was no Socialist Alternative, it’s hard to know if Canberra voters would have shown some level of support.

I don’t understand why you didn’t run. How else can you argue against the system and the status quo if people don’t even have a choice of expressing their will and beliefs through the option of alternate candidates?

Yes, they chose ‘neoliberal’ parties, but only because there was no socialist alternative on the ballot paper.

Sorry, but you cannot be critical of the outcome if you didn’t offer the voters an option or a chance to reject the structures in place.

Comment from John
Time October 21, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Of course I can criticise the farce that is parliamentary elections and argue the real choice is to build an alternative that fights in the workplaces and on the streets for better wages, conditions, in defence of jobs, for equal love, for refugees, for taxing the rich etc etc.

The Australian reported that that is what Brown urged the Greens to do. Christian Kerr said (http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/one-out-of-five-julias-best-hope/story-fn9ey0nn-1226489207008):

The 2008 election returned seven Labor members, six Liberals and a record four Greens. The Liberals attempted to woo the Greens, offering them cabinet positions and the speakership. Bob Brown advised his colleagues to accept. Instead, they threw their support behind Labor, guaranteeing supply in exchange for parliamentary reforms and the chairmanship of some environment-related committees.

Here is what The Age (http://news.theage.com.au/national/labor-to-form-minority-government-in-act-20081031-5fea.html) said at the time:

The Greens sided with Labor even though the Liberals offered them two ministries.

Ms Hunter said her party could better serve Canberra on the cross-bench, where it could keep the executive accountable.

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown had advised the ACT party to side with whichever party offered frontbench roles.

“My counsel throughout this election was for the Greens to take ministries, to share government,” Senator Brown said.
.

Comment from Jolly
Time October 21, 2012 at 4:42 pm

I’ve been saying this all along …”Labor is DEAD”. If current state elections are anything to go by …hmmmm. Now that we’ve got the UN Security Council seat, will Labor cronies be stabbing each other for it, too? People like Arbib, Shorten, Swan and perhaps even Gillard after the coming devastating defeat at the Fed election. Just can’t wait for the Fed election.

Comment from Gary
Time October 21, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Apologies – I stand corrected. Never knew this; can’t believe Bob would ever want a Lib government. Learn something every day.

Again, sorry to call you on this, you were right and I am still shaking my head in disbelief.

Comment from ross
Time October 21, 2012 at 9:32 pm

If there is to be a new party to replace Labor,it must not accept corporate donations.It must have a proper constitution that will protect the people from their Govt.

The Oligarchs rule today and we live in a modern version of serfdom run by robber barons.

Nothing will improve unless we have the courage and will to make the change.

Ever since the instigation of the US Federal Reserve in 1913 this planet has been wracked with wars and poverty in an era of monumental plenty and creativity.If women have an education and the freedom to control their fertility,over population will never be a problem.

The criminal elites want more and more for themselves and less for everybody else.They see the masses as being a threat to their New World Order. These elites are made up of the old inbred Aristocracy of Europe,England and the USA.War,deception,lies and subversive acts have always been their tools of trade.

Change will not come from the major parties or the Greens.They are all owned and controlled by the large corporates.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time October 22, 2012 at 9:56 am

I’m surprised that John would describe minor party and independent candidates as belonging to a “rag bag”.

I think there are quite a number of reasons for the Greens vote going down, and the swing to Labor.

First of all there’s the backlash to Liberals caused by Campbell Newman sacking thousands of workers without giving a thought to the consequences. The ACT has literally squillions of Commonwealth Public Servants.

Then there’s the general unpopularity of Tony Abbott, and Julia Gillard rising up in the polls through excellent stage managed performances, both at home and overseas.

The election has also come hard on the heels of Australia winning a temporary seat on the UN Security Council, and recent attempts by Julia Gillard to resurrect the Matriarchal Glow which attracts female voters. (Katy Gallagher’s very strong performance in Molonglo is a case in point.)

I think the Greens’ support for asylum seekers has also gone against them. Most Aussies want to see all of their countrymen and women housed, clothed, educated, “medicined” and employed before they will countenance the same for outsiders, let alone any kind of preferential treatment.

The huge debacle over Live Exports might also have seen a decline in the Greens’ vote. Labor voters are more than happy to blame the Greens for poor government decisions.

Labor has also cleverly laid the blame for the Carbon Tax on the Greens. When Tony Abbott referred to a “great big new tax”, he was probably predicting the future. As we know, the Greens support a much more punitive level of carbon taxation than Labor, and this has certainly gone against them.

Very recent reports of a huge increase in HIV/AIDS in the homosexual community may have also put the kybosh on some votes for Greens candidates.

I have relatives living in the ACT, and visits there have certainly turned up a huge number of unionists and rabid Labor voters, but in the last 2-3 years, this has declined due to falling wages and working conditions.

I believe the main reason the ACT now has a hung parliament is due to a general hatred of Labor, Liberals and Greens in fairly equal measure, and various components of the “rag bag” being effectively blocked from the media.

Until recently I considered that the next federal election would be a landslide to the Coalition, but now I’m not sure what to expect. In Queensland, most people now hate both of the major parties with a vengeance.

I think if all candidates for election had equal public funding, no access to private donations and equal media time, we would certainly have a far more democratic parliament and better representation of ordinary Australians.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time October 22, 2012 at 10:06 am

Gary, there are some fairly rich people among the Greens. A significant number live in expensive inner city areas as well as in snobbish semi-rural areas.

In my local area, semi-rural Greens and Liberals are very keen to land all of the noisy infrastructure, pollution, traffic jams and overcrowding on the urban working class.

I think the same applies to poisoning the third world with pollution while Australia manufactures very little.

If you and John are correct in thinking that the Greens are corporate neo-communists the same as Labor and Liberals (pro-bankster), we should not be surprised that they might want to form a parliamentary pact with the Coalition if it suited them at the time.

Comment from Jolly
Time October 22, 2012 at 10:34 am

The ACT election results will be reflected in the Fed election if the Liberal Party continues to ignore people’s sentiments. Most reasonable people want a moderate Liberal party. With the ultra right Tony Abbott and his advisors, the party may continue to look at success at the fed election as “O’ sooo close yet sooo far”. I am sick of this minority govt stuff. Australia needs a strong majority govt. This can only be achieved by changing the Liberal leadership. The Liberal part deserved what it got at the ACT elections. WAKE UP!!

Comment from Lorikeet
Time October 22, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Some people want Malcolm Turnbull to return to the Liberal Party leadership. Perhaps they have forgotten that he supports an Emissions Trading Scheme and is a Merchant Banker. It took thousands of us a lot of hard work to get him out of the top job previously.

Comment from Ewen
Time October 22, 2012 at 4:59 pm

There is a Socialist party, The Socialist Alliance.

Comment from John
Time October 23, 2012 at 7:10 am

Ewen, that is the point. It is contestable. The approach by the Alliance to Socialist Alternative for discussions at least recognises that your claim to the Alliance being THE party is not shared by all in the Alliance. And I doubt most would call it a party even accepting it has a membership on paper of say 600. Further, here in Canberra I do not have any sense that the Alliance is actually a viable organisation. Secondly I think the focus of the Alliance is very different to the group that will emerge from the regroupment of Socialist Alternative and the Revolutionary Socialist Party. As I have said before Socialist Alternative is the biggest revolutionary group on the left, and the merger with the RSP will strengthen that claim and the claim to and reality of diversity and difference within its ranks. It seems to me that revolutionaries must, in thinking about the way to pursue their political goals, consider (but not of course necessarily accept) Socialist Alternative as their political home and the way forward for them and the revolutionary left in Australia to further the overthrow of capitalism by the working class.

Comment from Ewen
Time October 23, 2012 at 11:50 am

The positive thing happening is the discussions about to take place, hopefully there can be an outcome for the better of a left unity or united front. Whatever it takes to bring down the capitalist system, through revolution or through parliament our final goal is the same; to establish a socialist system. Socialist Alliance may be only small but isn’t it best as socialists to be at least working amiably than in opposition to each other. I was talking with some SALT members at a rally on Sunday and they were very interested in talking about the future of our movement and the prospect of unity. There are some brilliant minds in both organisations. Whatever it takes, revolution or through the big house.

Comment from Gary
Time October 23, 2012 at 2:24 pm

John

How do revolutions occur? Is it the masses that begin them and leaders emerge, or do leaders emerge and then the people, seeing a lightning rod representing their issues, fall in behind the figurehead?

In the Middle-East, we see spontaneous uprisings that then bring a leader to the fore. In Russia and elsewhere, I thought socialist leaders emerged and educated and led the people into overthrowing the shackles of capitalism and corruption.

Here in Australia, where people are largely content and lazy, don’t we need leaders to stand up and show there is another way, an alternative to the two major parties?

I see Bob Brown in this mould. He built the Greens into a powerful force. In the ACT, they still got 10% of the vote, and in Molonglo, about a quarter voted Green.
Doesn’t the socialist side need to emulate this by standing up a candidate to argue your cause and articulate your policies?

Change won’t happen here if you just leave it to the people. Humans require leadership and direction, even socialists (or especially socialists).

That’s why all people with political views and ideologies who are not represented must contest elections.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time October 24, 2012 at 9:14 am

Even if you have a leader, anyone other than Labor, Coalition and Greens get effectively blocked from the media, especially the Murdoch Press.

What do you people think of a Distributist economic model?

I don’t think it will be long before we see a backlash against capitalists and people rioting in the streets in response to job losses, homelessness and poverty.

Comment from John Bennetts
Time October 24, 2012 at 11:31 am

To Lorikeet’s list, I would add food prices/scarcity, which has commenced as the world’s food bowls reach their limits and become downgraded.

Back to the election proper, it is no surprise that polarisation drives voters away from minor parties and back to the largest two when conditions are perceived as being bad.

I have no idea as to the real issues in the ACT, but if there was ever to be a spillover from State and Federal politics, it would have reinforced this polarity – not because people are poor or lack food and shelter, but because they have had enough of to-and-fro poll driven vaccillation, otherwise called flip-flops or backflips, which both majors have been doing as they desperately try to retain the wavering last 0.5% which is perceived as the path to victory.

So, it becomes: Either Lib or Lab, but please give them a strong majority.

Tough luck, ACT – you have another few years of indecisive flip-flop ahead of you.

NB: This is not about Greens’ policies. It is about flight to strength; polarisation. Gay marriage and bullet trains and other future wants are virtually irrelevant when the perceived major problem is lack of a working majority in the House for the governing party here and now.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time October 25, 2012 at 11:04 am

Here in Australia, thousands of tonnes of citrus fruits, figs and lychees are rotting in orchards, while the government continues to allow the importation of fruit juice concentrates from third world nations. Some of this fruit has been sprayed with a chemical banned for use in Australia.

Australian farmers are going to the wall. For around 5 years, we have been net importers of fruit, vegetables, seafood and pork.

While Woolworths and Coles sell oranges for $3.00 kg, the Aussie farmer gets 12 cents.

It is now around 30 years since the first orchardists dumped truckloads of oranges onto the steps of Parliament House, as a protest against foreign imports.

The idea that the food bowl is empty is a load of bull generated by those who wish to rip us all off, and create excessive pollution by engaging in unnecessary shipping.

What’s the use of a “working majority” in the parliament, if they are not working towards building the Australian economy (including using our own food).

Libs, Labs and Greens are all on the nose because they allow Australian food production to rot.