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John Passant

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April 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)



Neoliberalism: from Margaret Thatcher to Julia Gillard

The collapse in profit rates in much of the developed world in the late 1960s and early 1970s saw the ruling class abandon Keynesianism and embrace what we now call neoliberalism.

This ideology is about addressing falling profit rates by cutting wages, public services, and imposing the market on public goods and services.

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 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.

The political response to the fall in profit rates took a few years to work its way through the democratic systems. It wasn’t until 1979 that Margaret Thatcher came to power in Britain and Ronald Reagan in 1981 in the US.

The precursor to this democratic embrace of anti-working class policies was the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile where from September 11 1973 onwards the armed thugs could transform the Chilean economy on the bones of the Chilean working class.

In power, it took five years before Thatcher felt confident enough to launch a full frontal attack on the working class. After more than a year of brutalising striking miners and their communities she and her class emerged victorious in 1985.

The Australian ruling class took a different route. The shadow boxing between the working class and ruling class under the Fraser government produced no decisive victory for the one per cent in addressing falling profit rates.

Instead of confrontation the ruling class in Australia opted for cooption. The election of the Hawke Labor government signalled the beginning of neoliberal reforms in Australia with the working class as partner, not opponent.

The trade union bureaucracy, some of whom even believed the rhetoric of the Accord, embraced class collaboration as the new El Dorado. In one sense that was right – for the bosses.

As class struggle collapsed, the Hawke and Keating governments were able to set in place policies that transferred wealth from labour to capital. In doing this they were more successful that the confrontational approach of the Thatcher government.

When there was confrontation, as in the pilots’ strike in 1988 and its direct challenge to the wage cutting Accord, the Hawke Labor government was able to mobilise not just the armed forces, in particular the air force, but also the mainstream of the trade union bureaucracy against the pilots and defeat them.

It did the same when earlier, in 1985, it de-registered the militant Builders Labourers Federation in New South Wales and Victoria.  The rest of the union leadership sat on their hands or began to position themselves for taking over the BLF members.

In supporting these attacks the union bureaucrats defeated themselves. Today as one consequence of the class collaboration of the Accord and all that has been built on its back – enterprise bargaining, WorkChoices, and now Gillard’s WorkChoices Lite- the union movement has lost massive working class support. Less than 20 per cent of the workforce are now union members, compared to more than 50 per cent in the 1970s.

In overseeing a big shift in wealth to capital and weakening the trade union movement, Hawke and Keating laid the groundwork for the election of the Howard Liberal government. That government by and large continued the previous Labor governments’  neoliberal policies and felt emboldened at times to attack workers either specifically, for example on the waterfront, or more generally with the hated WorkChoices.

The continuity of neoliberalism from Hawke and Keating to Howard was carried on with the election of the Rudd Labor government in 2007 and the minority Gillard Labor government in 2010.

Although Rudd was elected on the back of a largely passive union campaign against WorkChoices, tapping into working class anger but giving it a respectable ‘vote for us’ outlet rather than class struggle, the Rudd and Gillard governments’ industrial relations laws – Fair Work – can best be described as WorkChoices Lite. The laws keep much of the previous WorkChoices provisions with only some of the more egregious provisions removed.

So although Thatcher and Gillard have or had seemingly very different approaches to industrial relations, their goal is the same – to shift wealth from labour to capital to address falling profit rates. They use different strategies on occasion to get there. Thatcher tried to manhandle unions into a strait jacket. Labor in Australia asks workers nicely to try it on and compliments us on the fit.

It is not just in controlling the working class that there are similarities between Thatcher and Gillard.  Both are warmongers, giving the lie to the crass section of feminist ‘analysis’ which paints women as carers.

Thatcher for example ordered the sinking of the Belgrano as it was sailing away from the Falklands’ war zone and killed hundreds of mainly Argentinean cadets.  She supported to the hilt the murderous Pinochet regime in Chile and South African apartheid.

Gillard has kept Australian troops in Afghanistan and they and the rest of the allied forces have killed thousands of women and children.  Gillard is one of the strongest supporters of Israeli apartheid. She locks up women and children in refugee concentration camps.

The current hunger strike of asylum seekers against their unlawful detention for seeking freedom and justice evokes memories of the Irish martyrs like Bobby Sands who died at Thatcher’s hands in British prisons fighting for their freedom and justice.

Thatcher devastated whole communities with her attacks on unions, especially the miners, her privatisations program and her cuts to public services.

Right now as I write Gillard is overseeing a market system which is destroying hundreds of jobs at the Shell oil refinery in Geelong and Holden car plants in South Australia and Victoria. The result will be devastation for the workers and their families and Gillard does nothing to defend them.

Labor’s neo-Thatcherism is paving the way for an Abbott government, a government which may, given the weakened state of unions in Australia generally, begin a direct attack on unions soon after it comes to power.

The surrender experts from the Australian Council of Trade Unions are likely to continue their traditions of class collaboration and retreat at the first whiff of grapeshot from the bosses and Abbott.

The way to fight the neoliberal Abbott is to fight the neoliberal Gillard.


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