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John Passant

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June 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)



Some things Labor should do, but won’t

Rudd - not our cup of tea either

The ALP is looking down the barrel of electoral annihilation writes Tom Bramble in Socialist Alternative. Labor politicians have been running around like headless chooks. Caucus discipline is shot to blazes.

The symptoms of collapse are everywhere, but the diagnoses for Labor’s ills are as shallow as they are plentiful. Most common is the idea that Labor has “failed to communicate” its successes. Supporters of this idea point to low interest rates and an economy seemingly the envy of the world. But this overlooks the fact that many low income Labor supporters are still doing it very tough and have been hard hit by the government’s policies – the refusal to boost the job seeker allowance from its scandalously low level being perhaps the worst example.

Others blame Rudd for Labor’s woes and tell him to shut his trap. Former leader Mark Latham has described him as “a once in a century egomaniac”. But ego has never been a barrier to electoral success before, as Hawke demonstrated. Latham also pointed to the “loose federation of back-stabbing factional warlords” who dominate the party. But these factional warlords have been a feature of the party for decades, through its successes as well as its failures. And anyway, the problem with the factions is not their existence but the total capitulation of the left to the dominant right-wing agenda, best represented by Gillard herself.

To the extent that there is any Labor criticism of the government’s policies, it has come from the right, with serial offender Laurie Ferguson urging Gillard to chase Abbott even further into the gutter on asylum seekers. His brother, former minister representing Gina Rinehart, Martin Ferguson, argues that Gillard should drop the “class war rhetoric”. As if!In the absence of any sense coming from within the ALP itself, here are some things that Labor should do, but won’t, to pick itself up off the floor. These wouldn’t win the ALP the election, but they would be a step towards rebuilding the party and give its supporters something to rally around.

First, Labor should, but won’t, abandon its nearly 40-year infatuation with neoliberalism. It should introduce a serious super profits tax on the mining companies, raise the tax rates on those at the top end back to where they were under Malcolm Fraser and end the concessions on capital gains.

Labor should, but won’t, lift restrictions on union rights to strike, scrap the bosses’ ability to lock out workers at will and peg the minimum wage to a decent share of average earnings.

Labor should, but won’t, commit serious funds to rebuilding public schools and end all funding of rich private schools. The party should scrap NAPLAN, “devolution” and the MySchool website on the grounds that they are no more than big sticks to beat teachers.

Labor should but won’t eliminate the promised spending boost to the military that will waste billions more on the latest generation of warplanes and ships.

On civil rights, Labor should but won’t immediately grant same sex marriage rights. Labor should, but won’t, scrap mandatory detention of asylum seekers as a repugnant abuse of human rights. Labor should, but won’t, stand up for Julian Assange. And Labor should, but won’t, call off the attack dogs of ASIO and the Federal Police from systemic harassment of the Muslim community.

Having listed all these things, the obvious question is raised: why won’t Labor do them? They are not radically left-wing measures, nor are most, on the face of it, an obvious electoral liability. Poll after poll has demonstrated that the basic precepts of neoliberalism – coddle the rich and soak the poor, introduce user pays into public services – are unpopular.

Boosting state pensions, forcing the mining companies and banks to pay more tax, getting public education to a standard befitting a rich country like Australia, diverting money from the military to do so and supporting same-sex marriage rights would all boost Labor’s polling.

Further, and most importantly for the long-term future of the party, they would galvanise the party’s core supporters and give them something to fight for. In fact, it’s this last thing that is so obviously missing today. The crisis of the ALP is measured not just by its appalling polling but also by its internal disintegration and degeneration – its loss of membership, the collapse of its branch structures, the absence of any breath of progressive debate within its ranks. And that’s why Labor should, but also won’t, walk away from its Howard-era policies on asylum seekers and so-called “terrorism”. Shifting on these issues would require a political battle and would not be immediately popular in the way that same-sex marriage rights would. But Labor can never rebuild the morale of its members if it continues to pursue policies that are anathema to so many of them.

But neither Gillard nor Rudd nor any conceivable Labor leader will entertain any of this between now and September and, possibly with the exception of same-sex marriage, nor will they in opposition. This is because they are totally wedded to the capitalist system and the demands from the top end of town. The refusal to curb the tax rorts of those with enormous superannuation balances is just one case in point. And we only have to remember Gillard’s immediate surrender to the mining companies when she won the leadership in 2010 to see evidence of Labor’s flat refusal to take on big business and stand up for workers’ interests.

Labor will likely be smashed come September. That shouldn’t be the cause for hand-wringing and pessimism, but a spur to those who want to build a party that will take the fight to the bosses and give workers an organisation they can be proud to join and support.



Comment from Caroline Storm
Time June 26, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Yes, to all suggestions…thank you for the sanity! I’ve supported the ALP for more than 60 years; now the putrid smell of their dead, still unburied party sickens tens of thousands of us. The Prime Minister has deliberately aimed for the female vote and yet, now we will be rid of Ferguson in Batman, she presents a favoured male for election, already offensive to many, instead of the strong and popular female candidate available! I give up. The only alternative is The Greens. Vale Australian Labor Party.

Comment from Clifton Ramos
Time June 26, 2013 at 9:41 pm

She remained in the party because she believed it would be bad for the country to see Opposition Leader Tony Abbott become prime minister.

Comment from Chris Warren
Time June 27, 2013 at 9:08 am

That shouldn’t be the cause for hand-wringing and pessimism, but a spur to those who want to build a party that will take the fight to the bosses and give workers an organisation they can be proud to join and support.

But this was the case under Keating and Hawke and probably under Arthur Calwell and Whitlam.

Where was the non-ALP Left then when various attempts to form a New Left Party, New Labour Party, and Progressive Labour Party??????

Missing in action, it seems to me.

These remnants have variously drifted towards the Greens or ALP Left or into cranky isolation.

You prove your mettle by your record – not your banners.

Comment from Jolly
Time July 1, 2013 at 11:51 am

Times have changed, John. In the absence of extreme poverty, low wages, lack of educational opportunities and scarcity of resources will often gel people together under union movements and ultra left groups that are bent on revolution and radical change. Australia has moved away form the depression and massive exploitation of workers of the past. Aussies are generally comfortable and a significant number of people are emerging as business owners (small/large). They now understand the delicate balance between profits and redistribution. “Profit’ is certainly not a dirty word.
The ALP needs to renew and embrace a wider section of the populace to survive and continue to implement its policies. Gillard (and Latham’s) class war and gender war did not gel with most Aussies. Rudd is right in wanting to include a broad section of the current Australian population. Times have changed, John.

Comment from Jolly
Time July 1, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Secret ballot or open ballot within the ALP doesn’t matter to me, now. Rudd is back; I am happy that the wrong has been righted. BUT I have moved away from the once Labor stance I sometimes took (voted for Rudd’s party then) . The stench of the Rudd assassination, the public contempt and degradation of the once saviour of the ALP (Rudd) by its own members (Gillard supporters) have all contributed to my embarrassment and shock of the nature of the people in the ALP. The class war, the gender war, the proposed arbitrary changes to super of self-funded retirees, mining tax failure, billions of dollars of the black-hole deficit, etc etc have made me realise that the ALP is not the right party for modern Australia. I don’t particularly like Abbott (wish Turnbull was running as leader) but I shall vote for the LNP this time. CHANGE is what we need right now. Relative to the Gillard Labor, the LNP is looking sooooo cool, united and respectable. My mind is made up, apologies Rudd.