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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)

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)



Kevin: Messiah or Magician?

Four days into the reign of Kevin the Magnificent Mark II and the first polls are showing that with a 4% swing to the ALP the Labor government is back in the electoral race. The Galaxy Polly in Courier-Mail – yes, I am in Brisbane at the moment – shows Rudd has lifted Labor’s primary vote by 6% to 38%. Its 2 party preferred is now 49% compared to the Coalition’s 51%, a big improvement on the most recent 55/45 result under Gillard to the Coalition. And that was one of the better ones for Gillard Labor.

What is going on? With the usual caveat that is just one poll, there may be a second honeymoon factor as people embrace Kevin anew. That might wear off as all the reasons for the first divorce reveal themselves again in the intimacy of the relationship.

It looks too as if the swing is built partially around a return of Labor voters who had switched to the Liberals. The Greens vote has fallen one per cent while the Coalition’s is down 3%. The vote for other parties and Independents is down 2%. Rudd has given those former ALP voters reason to abandon the open party of the ruling class and the reactionary Abbott and come back to the ALP. But he has also picked up some Green and Independent voters.

It isn’t clear to me what his specific appeal is, other than that he is not Julia Gillard and he isn’t Tony Abbott. Is it because he is a man and male swing voters are returning? Maybe but I don’t have any break down of gender in all of this. Possibly it reflects the general but specifically working class disengagement from politics and the view stemming from that that Rudd is the anti-politician, the one who is not part of the establishment represented by Gillard and Abbott.

Workers may have been looking for a reason to return to Labor and Rudd gives them that reason. Reformism is not just a practice of parties in power. It is an idea in people’s head. The idea of a better world through fixing the current one with progressive reforms that benefit workers and disadvantaged groups arises from the very fact of the sale of our labour power to a boss.

It is life itself for workers under capitalism that implants the desire for a changed and better world. Nine to five (or more accurately in Australia today 8 to 6) and the paucity of the rewards that go with it creates that desire. The hope for a better world flows from that sale of the soul and is limited and constrained by it. In those circumstances it appears that progressive change comes and can only come from within the system, whether it be in higher living standards or wages or benefits.

Rudd appears to have tapped into that longing. It says something about Australian political life that a man like Rudd is the lightning rod for hope in Australian politics and that he is the best the ALP can offer up. The reasons for this are complex. Briefly they include the degeneration of the Labor Party and the lack of a revolutionary alternative with real roots in the working class which is big enough to be a pole of attraction for class conscious workers.

However the reality is that reformism in Australia has a new champion, a Messiah to lead the ALP back from the desert of impending Opposition. He may not succeed in retaining government but it looks as if he might save many of the formerly doomed members. In Opposition, as the Australian economy declines because of the madness of the Liberal’s forced austerity and the global economy catching up with us, the star of Rudd reformism will shine even brighter in the sky of hope.

If he wins, o mirabilis diem, then the star will wane. Reformism might be a desire but the reality is that social democracy across the globe has been at the forefront of delivering neoliberalism, not reforms that benefit workers and the disadvantaged.

In present economic circumstances – with the trend of profit rates in much of the developed world downwards, as Marx predicted – reformism cannot satisfy our desire.

This is because these parties manage capitalism, and the global system is in economic crisis. The Great Recession is showing no signs of ending, and its looks as if it is drawing China and with Australia into the abyss. No amount of reformism can restore capital’s profit rates without attacking workers’ living standards, jobs and conditions of work and the social welfare system.

So while the reality may be, as I have argued elsewhere, that it makes no difference which Labor leader is selling us the shit sandwich of neoliberalism, in the short term it does. The swing to Labor under the newly recycled Rudd expresses workers’ hopes for a better world. Time, and the reality of capitalism, will destroy that illusion but at the moment many of us appear spell bound by the magician whose tricks give us hope.

It is false hope to be sure but it will take workers time and the experience of Rudd in power for longer than a few weeks second time round to understand that.



Comment from peanut gallery
Time July 1, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Have you ever worked in a job where you weren’t on the public teat?

Comment from John
Time July 1, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Running international tax reform in the ATO for nearly 4 years was a bit like standing in front of the Office and handing out hundred million dollar cheques to billionaires. So I guess that is one where I wasn’t really on the public teat, more like being a prostitute for big business. But it does raise a wider question. Could Australian capitalism survive with the massive support it gets from the Australian state and the taxes we workers pay to support them? I doubt it.

Comment from Chris Warren
Time July 2, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Dear peanut

The biggest sucking on the public teat comes from foreign multinationals such as Ford.

The survival of capitalism depends on public funded infrastructure and the maintenance of expensive services such as AQUIS, courts and emergency services.

Many people are already allergic to peanuts – you give the rest good cause.

Comment from John
Time July 3, 2013 at 10:07 am

Chris, it is not just foreign multinationals. Australian business is up to its armpits suckling on the teat of government directly and through the tax system, plus institutionally as you point out.

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