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John Passant

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December 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)

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)



Saturday’s socialist speak out

For Julia Gillard, is the precious, oh my precious, budget surplus dead?  Labor’s rhetoric has changed to give the impression they might be about to abandon the commitment to ‘fiscal responsibility’ or whatever vacuous phrase is used to describe this nonsense goal of a surplus in light of slowing growth in the Australian economy.

Economists have been lining up to say a small deficit isn’t the end of the world and might in fact help stimulate the economy as growth falls. This misunderstands the nature of capitalism and the fact that extra spending doesn’t address the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. But that is a subject for another day.

The OECD has come out and said that a surplus is not needed, and urged the government and future government to consider tax reform to move to more ‘efficient’ taxes. More efficient taxes is code for taxing labour more and capital less.

On the surplus, let me make a left field suggestion about what could happen. Labor will deliver a surplus. Slowing revenues mean it will attack spending; some of that attack will be on the well off (eg the $10 billion in superannuation tax concessions going to the top 5% of income earners) but a significant part of it, I suspect, will be cuts to government spending in public health and public education and other social services. And they might get rid of some more public servants too.

The Liberal Party conspiracy to bring down Peter Slipper and through him the Gillard government is a side show but fun nevertheless. The Party whose sole policy and practice has been to smear the Government with lies, vitriol and innuendo has the one case to get before an independent body thrown out of court as an abuse of process because it was a hamfisted, politically driven load of old cobblers and conspiracy.

Does the bourgeoisie really thinks these idiots can lead the country and make sensible decisions for them? 

It looks as if this Liberal Party and National Party rabble will be the next government. In the most recent News Poll Labor’s vote fell 4% to 32%. If an election were held and those figures transferred to a real vote many many Labor members would be wiped out. Tony Abbott would be Prime Minister with a huge majority in the House.

So despite all the Labor denunciations of the Liberal misogynists and sexists, despite Gillard finally standing up to Abbott, despite pretend goodies like the National Disability Insurance Scheme – a stitch up paid for on the never never –  and the Gonski education reforms – another stitch up paid for on the never never – Labor ended the year in the same position as it started it, up shit creek without a paddle.

Labor, maybe it is time to junk neoliberalism and come out fighting for workers, not bosses.

A reader recently asked what I mean by neoliberalism. Here is a brief response.

Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo Garcia identify five main elements of economic neoliberalism – the rule of the market, cutting public expenditure for social services, deregulation, privatisation and eliminating the concept of public good or community and replacing it with individual responsibility.  For me the essence of neoliberalism is also captured by Eddie Cimorelli when he says:

Neoliberalism is a particular organisation of capitalism. Its most basic feature is the use of the state to protect capital, impose market imperatives on society and curb the power of labour. 

Neoliberalism’s disastrous impact on education became clear during the week. An international report showed Australia’s educational standards are pretty ordinary. The privatisation of education, the shift of spending to private schools, especially rich private schools, the underfunding are all coming home to roost for Australian capitalism. Maybe it is time to tax the rich to pay public school teachers more, to fund better public schools and to adopt the Finnish cooperative model of learning.

Meanwhile the Australian abuse of refugees continues. Many of these refugees are from Sri Lanka, where the genocidal government continues its war against Tamils. It is why a demonstration is planned for 9 am on Boxing Day outside the MCG. Here are details of the Boycott Sri Lanka: Don’t let cricket hide genocide protest.

In the US a gunman has killed at least 20 school children. There will be calls for gun control. We must speak truth to power. To ordinary Americans, to working class Americans, this is the sort of terrorism your government regularly unleashes on kids in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere.  Your government oversights, approves and funds the same sort of Israeli terror against Palestinian kids.

How many children has the tearful father Barack Obama killed overseas? How many innocent fathers and mothers has he killed?

How many kids died as a consequence of the US government’s invasion of Iraq?  Was it 200,000? Or 400,000?  Or some other number. One current Lancet based estimate is that the total number of dead civilians as a consequence of the invasion is about 1.5 million.

Whatever the figure, the numbers of civilians the US invasion of Iraq has killed are so huge that a guess at perspective would be that  Iraq has suffered the equivalent of at least ten Newton massacres every day since the invasion almost ten years ago.  

These killings overseas are linked to the killings at home. They reflect the mindset of a society built around the mindless and ruthless accumulation of profit and the vicious attempted military domination of the globe to your will for that goal. To stop the massacre of children in the US you are also going to have to stop your Government’s massacre of children overseas.

The unceasing relentless drive for profit and the inadequate health care system contribute to growing mental health problems across the society.

Unity talks on the revolutionary left in Australia continue. A recent contribution from Socialist Alliance leader Peter Boyle elicited a response from both Mick Armstrong from Socialist Alternative and the Revolutionary Socialist Party’s Alan Myers

I must say that I support for example calls for the nationalisation of mines and banks even under capitalism. That is not to abandon revolution, in my case anyway, but to recognise we need to find ways to relate to the working class.  The debate here is partly about how to win some sort of hearing among workers and has echoes of transitional demands. While I do think revolutionaries need to be upfront about being revolutionaries, it seems to me some demands are going to have to intersect with workers’ gut political responses in the here and now – privatisation for example means lower wages and less jobs and poorer products and services – and doing that may help win an audience, albeit a small one in the current climate, for or even to revolutionary socialist ideas.

To have your say or see what others are saying, hit the comments button under the heading. Like all posts on this site, comments close after 7 days.



Comment from Seamus
Time December 15, 2012 at 10:18 am

Great post as always John.

As a teacher, I have a strong suspicion that Australia’s decline in educational ranking has little to do with teacher quality or underfunding, but with the growing stratification of society under neo-liberalism.

Alas I have only my own anecdotal experience to back me up here, but no amount of dollars thrown at the education system can reverse the effects of long term unemployment and institutionalised poverty on student outcomes. There in lies the true culprit, but one that is barely mentionable.

Comment from John
Time December 15, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Thanks Seamus. I think that is true too; it would require a concerted effort to address this further entrenchment of stratification. But the stratification has been there for a long time, and not only in terms of long term unemployment but also the drift to privatisation of education and the idea that money buys a good education.

I guess my comment was a bit anecdotal too; Uni students seem less engaged than 2 decades ago; more assertive of their infallibility; less interested in learning and engaging. My thinking is that testing, rote learning or schools as baby sitting are the causes, and that flows to a large extent from inadequate funding and an ideology of the neoliberalisation of education. I like the Finnish model. What are your thoughts on that?

Comment from Gary
Time December 15, 2012 at 7:10 pm

A good read John as I too was unsure what you meant. But let me ask you this, you say the “five main elements of economic neoliberalism – the rule of the market, cutting public expenditure for social services, deregulation, privatisation and eliminating the concept of public good or community and replacing it with individual responsibility” – yet none of these apply to the Australian Greens.

Why do you call the Greens neoliberal when clearly they oppose cutting public expenditure and dereguation and their polices are all based on expending large amounts of public monies on social services and the like.

They seem the opposite of neo-liberal to me.

Comment from John
Time December 16, 2012 at 8:38 am

Good question. What is the Greens’ solution to climate change? A price on carbon. That is a market solution. It imagines that the market is the way to solve this. It puts the market at the core of the way for humanity to address the greatest challenge to its future. It shows where the Greens thinking lies – the market as a solution to all problems. Beyond Zero Emissions had a very different plan to switch Australia to a fully renewable society by 2010 – before they too capitulated and fell in behind the carbon tax but at least arguing that the tax was only a small part of the solution. It is true the Greens say they oppose cuts to public expenditure but in power they do that. For example Nick McKim, the leader of the Greens in Tasmania and education Minister in the Government attacked public education. In the ACT the Greens have been in partnership with an ACT Labor Government which imposed a 2.5% pay cap on public servants and a 0.5% efficiency dividend. After the October election there Rattenbury is now part of the Government and I have seen no proposals for increase in spending on public schools and hospitals. If you read the ACT LAbor and Greens agreement they aren’t a real priority, but $85 million on the Murray Darling Basin is. Why not put put public education and health up there too? The Greens federally support Labor whose 1.5% and 4% ‘efficiency’ dividends have wreaked havoc in some departments. In other words the greens appear to me to be the left wing of neoliberalism. ‘Cuts are OK, just not too many.’ When given the chance they don’t actually follow through on their rhetoric of opposing cuts, or even at best of opposing cuts in any meaningful way.

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