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John Passant

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January 2013



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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)



How the poor are shunted into deeper poverty just for political capital

Yours truly in today’s The Age on Jenny Macklin, the dole and driving single Mums into more poverty. I argue we need to fight industrially against the neoliberal Labor Party to end this sort of systemic misogyny.  

Here are a few snippets: 

‘The rich are getting richer and we are not bothering to fight back.’

‘On the morning of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s famous misogyny speech, she pushed $728 million in cuts to the single-parent payment through the caucus, affecting mainly poor single mums. This is systemic misogyny.’

‘The policies of neoliberal Labor and Liberal governments in the past 30 years have been to shift more wealth to the rich and business. The share of national income going to labour is at its lowest and to capital its highest since records began.’

‘The shift of wealth to the rich in the past few decades and increasing poverty has been in part because we workers haven’t fought back. The time has come to tell the very, very well-paid Jenny Macklin and the ruling class she represents that the poverty she and the rest of the Gillard Labor government create through their deliberate policies has to end now. That can only come about through a massive societal and industrial campaign to put the poor and working class before the rich and business.’

Read more:

I am talking about taxing the rich at Marxism 2013 in Melbourne over Easter. It will be a sort of tax policy meets Marxism, so if you want both an introduction to some basic ideas of Marx and to taxing the rich, come along.

But there’s much much more. Apart from boring old me there are over 70 great talks and shows over the 3 days, including John Pilger, Gary Foley, Black Panther Billy X Jennings, Brian Jones (and his show Marx in Soho), Jeff Sparrow, Antony Loewenstein, Toufic Haddad, Bob Carnegie, Sandra Bloodworth, Diane Fieldes, Rick Kuhn and many more socialists and activists from Australia and around the world, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Palestine, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the US and much more.

Get your tickets to the biggest left wing gathering of the year. Marxism 2013.

Comments (see the link under the heading) close after 7 days. Note that many comments get caught in the spam detector so may not appear immediately. 



Comment from Dave
Time January 4, 2013 at 8:06 am

Interesting…but I totally disagree. Rather than summarize my argument it can be found here

Comment from Lorikeet
Time January 4, 2013 at 8:42 am

In this morning’s news, I also heard that female university graduates are being paid 20% less than their male counterparts, particularly in male dominated occupations.

As I see it, the appointment of females to the Ministry by both Coalition and Labor/Greens seems to result in rich women being used to kick poor men and women in the guts as much as possible.

On my list of most disliked female politicians are Bronwyn Bishop, Amanda Vanstone, Tanya Plibersek and Jenny Macklin.

Under the Howard government, changes were made to the Family Court and Child Support Agency which adversely affected women.

Howard kicked sole parents, disability pensioners and the unemployed. His rotten agenda towards the poor has been consistently continued by Labor/Greens.

One minute Jenny Macklin is talking about sending disabled children to the Paralympics while the needs of older people are completely neglected; and the next, she is dumping sole parents on the dole and refusing to increase Newstart Allowance for genuine job seekers.

Comment from Mary
Time January 4, 2013 at 10:54 am

The class system is perpetuated by the education system where private school offer better education facilites that cannot be matched by any state school. Nepotism controls the employment system- it is who you know not what you know prevents social mobility from those at the bottom end of the education system. Poorly educated mothers perpetuate poverty cycles. Yet the opposition want to wait another two years before doing anything about the poor standards in state schools. Many single parents are trapped and so are their children. Poverty is promoted by our public education system that preserves the priviledged.

Comment from Mary
Time January 4, 2013 at 11:01 am

The present education system perpetuates the povery cycle for those who cannot afford a private education. The opposition want to wait another two years before even considering the Gonski report. They want to preserve the public system grants at the expense of state schools that need a makeover so they can offer better facilities to those who cannot afford a provate education. You only have to compare the schools to know how deprived some kids are in state schools. Don’t blame teachers they are stuck with substandard facilities and children than need more attention to help them succeed.

Comment from John
Time January 4, 2013 at 11:02 am

Dave, as you know I am just a simple man.. Where is this total disagreement?

Comment from Dave
Time January 4, 2013 at 11:05 am

I think the changes are part of a larger raft of policies to address the shortage of labour-power in the context of the mining boom, you argue it is about reducing state expenditure as a way of transferring wealth up, which I can’t see now that plans to reduce company taxes have been shelved ( for the time being….)

Comment from Lorikeet
Time January 4, 2013 at 11:21 am

Mary, I think the Australian education system is mainly geared to empower the third world students to take the better Australian jobs.

Even private school students cannot attain useful achievements across various subject areas due to poor curricula, low standards of discipline and a list of difficult unaddressed social issues.

Comment from Dave
Time January 4, 2013 at 11:24 am

Hi John, did my previous comment get lost? Basically I think these changes are part of a bigger policy package aimed at addressing a shortage of labour-power; you are arguing it is about saving the state money and transferring wealth to capital which I don’t see happening at the moment with the (perhaps temporary) shelving of planned cuts to company tax.

Comment from Dave
Time January 4, 2013 at 11:25 am

….but I argue my position better on my blog ( shameless self-promotion)

Comment from John
Time January 4, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Thanks Dave. The labour shortage argument has some validity – witness the Gina Rinehart 457 visa deal. And Abbott is now floating the idea of no dole for under 30s to force them to work in the mines, I understand.

However clearly there has been an ongoing transfer of wealth to capital from labour and tax policy can’t be immune from that and as I hope I show, has contributed to it. Cutting taxes on capital is one of the countervailing factors to address declining global profit rates or perhaps more accurately declining profit rates in old capital countries and increasing rates in some new capital countries. The argument about Australian profit rates is one not necessary for this discussion.

One of the band of hostile brothers is the state. If it takes less surplus value (eg through taxing the surplus value which companies have taken in various forms,) there is they think more that flows to business in whatever fashion. (I am leaving aside any discussion of class struggle or lack of it and who economically bears tax as a consequence). Clearly the previously proposed tax cuts, to be paid for out of resource rent taxes, were a redistribution from resource capital to all capital (although some sectors lose from lower imputation credits, eg super funds, unless their low tax rate is reduced disproportionately more). As I have argued elsewhere this looks like an attempt to mimic competition by the state implying something that makes profits rate sin mining closer to average profit rates on the miners.

The Henry Tax Review revealed the real thinking of the capitalist class – more tax on fixed and less movable factors (workers, land (especially land of workers) and immobile capital such as mines) and less tax on mobile capital. The politics of doing that are proving somewhat difficult as the RSPT and the furious reaction of mining capital and the failure to tackle the GST show.

And as I say in the article this looks like it is part of an attempt to lower wage costs, but I am not sure how that is going to markedly address labour shortages in the mining industry. It might make margin industries in Australia, retail, manufacturing, slightly more profitable…

BTW most comments get caught in my spam filter. And yes, a convenient way to bring readers attention to your far superior blog.

Comment from Joe
Time January 4, 2013 at 2:02 pm

John I read your Age article today but to me it was preaching to the converted. Firstly you called the NT intervention racist without explaining why. Also, income management and shifting sole parents to the dole are 2 different issues. Instead of specifying the economic insanity of cutting payments, why appeal to the authority of Penny Wong.
You said “it might also put downward pressure on wages” but it wasn’t clear to me what you were arguing. Labor is NOT “out of touch” with workers, it simply doesn’t care about them, as long as they keep voting ALP. Instead of mentioning neoliberalism, why not explain why the ALP won’t tax the rich or why it prioritised the budget surplus. Also, the ALP obviously have no intention of creating loads of green jobs.
If you are going to make vague references to the working class fighting back, please provide examples of what you mean. While I’m pleased you got your article published by the corporate media (due to your middle class status as an academic), I didn’t find it insightful, mostly just whinging. Actually the stuff written on is more useful.

Comment from Chris Warren
Time January 4, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Does your paper go into how deductions from workers incomes would (or could) work under socialism.

Marx, covered this is Critique of Gotha Program.

The Yugoslav’s had this organised quite well under self-management.

Comment from Marcus
Time January 4, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Hi John, I have the same problem with your comments that I have with most lefties or socialists. You all seem to believe in gov’t interference to promote more equal outcomes. I think it is governments job to provide equal opportunity, not outcome. In Australia we have that. Every kid gets to go to school and if they study hard Uni. Then if you work hard a good career. Some people choose to do nothing.

Comment from Henry
Time January 4, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Great article in the Age – thanks.
I think John Howard did a good job on the unions and the country has been hypnotized by a credit/RE boom. We live in interesting times. Thanks again Kind Regards Henry

Comment from Ken Taylor
Time January 4, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Ok to nearly all that John, but who will actually lead that serious fight? The ACTU died way back, active unions like ETU play hard & well for their members only, and the huge labour rep (AEU) that I’m a founding member of, won’t even do that cos they are really just a front for the ALP. I was recently involved with a little leftie AEU crowd who claim the role of opposition. One of them intoduced himself as a “Bolshevik” which was the last interesting thing he said, they couldn’t organize a meeting in a community room, and I was censured for colourful language.
Leading a debate is one thing but real political action is a grubby, hands on, hustle and this country does not appear to have the leadership needed (except Malcolm Fraser) to make that work. Maybe there is a more genuine debate in the Liberals.

Ready, Willing, & Able, now or whenever.

Comment from Dave
Time January 4, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Hi John. I am general agreement with you about tax policy – but I don’t think these changes are part of that rationale. And yes the labour-shortage is caused by the mining boom but these changes are probably about increasing the labour supply for retail and services.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time January 4, 2013 at 4:06 pm

I think the general trend is to put most business and farming enterprises into the corporate sector (big business) and give them access to Slave Labor by a variety of means.

When the joint agenda of both major parties is to bring all nations down to the lowest common denominator, we would clearly see more Aussies earning less, losing homes and ending up on the streets.

I think it has been clear for many years that we are moving towards a global corporate neo-communist government, which is largely empowered by the government giving corporates massive access to people’s superannuation savings, together with the ongoing privatisation of pensions and government assets. Add to this, corporations paying low rates of taxation in Australia while reducing wages and working conditions for their employees. Bringing in cheap foreign labour and failing to give aspiring Australians their citizenship also adds to this problem.

There is then also less money in government coffers to pay pensions and allowances.

The sale of Cubbie Station to a Chinese led conglomerate instead of splitting it up and selling it to Australian farmers is but one example of the sellout to global big business interests at the expense of the Australian government and its citizens.

Comment from John
Time January 4, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Ken, I think it true some on the revolutionary left have difficulty getting past the ‘I am the font of all knowledge bow down before me approach.’ Building a fighting alternative industrially and politically is a nice phrase but is the (THE) task for the left today. I hope my article got some people thinking.

There are people building various struggles (eg Equal Love, for refugees, for indigenous people and in their unions for equal pay and better pay). For example in my union I argue for industrial action to win and am proved correct in practice but nobody listens. I think ultimately it is when a large numbers of workers move to take action to protect jobs, wages etc that society can shift to the left and the ideas I put can gain a wider audience. if there is also a serious campaign to defend single parents along for example the Equal Love lines I’d join and help. But it would have to involve large numbers committed for example to mass demos. The last one in Canberra was small, mainly because I think that unlike Equal Love it impacts on small numbers. SO Labor will continue to pick off the targets like indigenous people, single parents and others over time.

And on the revolutionary left there is a regroupment and unity program going on led by Socialist Alternative ( But that is small beer at the moment – a few hundred people and more generally a few thousand on the revolutionary left. These are the sorts of ideas which will also be discussed at Marxism 2013 (

I am not sure we need leadership of Malcolm Fraser’s kind. His grab for power in 1975 was a dirty rotten anti-democratic push. The Liberals are the rose of reaction and the ‘debate’ there, eg around climate change doesn’t happen.

Comment from John
Time January 4, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Marcus, equal opportunity? The gender pay gap is 17%. Indigenous people dies many years earlier than the rest of us. The sons and daughters of the rich get better education. Australia is a low tax country. The rich and business could pay a bit more. By the way, I don’t Newstart is about governemtn interference. It is about paying people poverty amounts to force them to take low paying jobs.

Comment from John
Time January 4, 2013 at 6:03 pm

I suggest you read my article instead of misrepresenting it and just whinging, Joe.

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