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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/18-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-g20-meeting-age-of-enttilement-engineers-attack-of-austerity-hardship-on-civilians.mp3 (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. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2014/02/11/john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-2/ (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/4-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-end-of-the-age-of-entitlement-for-the-needy-but-pandering-to-the-lusts-of-the-greedy.mp3 (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
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Sick kids and paying upfront

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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. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2013/12/03/john-passant-australian-national-university-8/ (0)

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Defending asylum seekers against Labor’s attacks

‘As of today, asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia.’ With those words on Friday Kevin Rudd declared war on refugees and destroyed any illusions in Labor being a progressive party let alone a compassionate one.

This new policy is more vicious and brutal than Howard ever dared implement and Abbott has so far ever dared to dream.

As Greens’ Senator Scott Ludlam correctly noted at Saturday’s snap demo for refugees in Perth “This is a proposal so offensive that even Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott hadn’t thought of it.”

Rudd has outflanked Abbott from the reactionary right. That only means the next manoeuvre from the Liberals in this descent into Hell will be even more thuggish and obscene. Now that Labor are offering $200,000 bounties for information leading to the conviction of people smugglers, it looks like the Labor Party will outbid itself in attacking refugees. I await the Liberals even lower bid with fear.

One might be tempted to ask in light of this descent into irrationality and depravity when does the burning of the heretics start? Let’s have a witch hunt and sacrifice a few witches to the gods of profit. It makes as much sense as demonising asylum seekers.

Neoliberalism

This attack on refugees doesn’t come out of the blue. It is part of the ongoing degeneration of the ALP. The current iteration of Labor’s decline began in the 1980s with the Hawke government’s enthusiastic embrace of neoliberalism to address falling profit rates in Australia. The collapse of profit rates in the late 1960s and early 1970s was a global phenomenon arising, as Marx argued, from the very way capitalism is organised. Inbuilt into the system is a tendency for the rate of profit to fall.

Labor’s embrace of neoliberalism saw it co-opt the trade union bureaucracy in the process with a resulting fall in real wages and an increase in the share of national income going to capital at the expense of capital. Labor’s Accord formalised this class collaboration, destroyed rank and file organisation in unions, concentrated power in the bureaucrats’ hands and saw union membership fall over time from more than 50 percent of the workforce to less than 20% today.

During the reign of Hawke and Keating there was a shift from centralised wage fixing to enterprise bargaining, there were more and more restrictions on industrial action, the Labor governments federally and in New South Wales and Victoria smashed the Builders Labourers Federation, Australia’s most militant union, and the Hawke Labor government used the Air Force to break the pilots’ strike.

Both pilots and building workers threatened in their own way the cosy class collaboration of the trade union bureaucrats and Labor Party leadership with the bosses and their wage cutting union busting agenda.

The consequences of this class collaboration can today be seen everywhere. The shift to the right in Australian politics has been unremitting. There is a real continuity from Hawke and Keating to Howard to Rudd/Gillard/Rudd, and if it eventuates at the next soon to be held election, Abbott. All are part of the neoliberal pantheon that has dominated Australian politics for the last 3 decades.

There is now little to distinguish the ‘respectable’ ALP parliamentary left, the lap dog left, from the right of their own party or indeed in some circumstances the left of the Liberals a few decades ago. Such is Labor’s degeneration that Malcolm Fraser is now, on some social issues, more left wing than Doug Cameron. Cameron supports the forcible deportation of asylum seekers, putting him to the right of multi-millionaire Malcolm Turnbull, the liberal Liberal whose approach might best be described as a softer kinder Abbott. Turnbull has called the  PNG refugee plan ‘very cruel.’

At the same time as the bosses are receiving a near record share of national income at workers’ expense, workers in jobs are working much longer – about 44 hours per week. According to the Australia Institute much of this extra labour is unpaid and is in effect a $72 billion free gift from workers to the bosses.

Against this background of neoliberal dominance, in 1992 Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating, then facing a resurgent opposition seemingly on track to win a resounding election victory in 1993, introduced the mandatory detention of asylum seekers. It was the same year his proposals for a shift from centralised to enterprise bargaining took shape.

The other

The demonisation and quasi-criminalisation of refugees is part of the defence of capital and from Keating’s point of view was also an attempt to retain workers’ votes at the forthcoming election at the same time as he was implementing anti-working class policies. The deeper the neoliberalism of Labor the shriller are their attacks on ‘the other,’ in this case boat people.

It is part of the ideology of capitalism to create false enemies – the other – to bring workers and bosses together in a fake unity and allow the bosses an easier path to increasing the rate of exploitation of workers. While we are focused on the non-threat from the ‘other’, in this case asylum seekers, the bosses can put their hands deeper into our pockets.

A brief history of racism in Australia

Racism has a long and dishonourable history in Australia. A newly establishing capitalism carrying out genocide against the original inhabitants de-humanised them and made them legal non-people to justify its brutality. Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders are the home grown ‘other’.

Racism against Chinese workers became another tool of the ruling class’s process of engendering fake unity between workers and bosses. This was enshrined in the White Australia policy, one of the foundations of the bosses’ Federation in 1901, creating their nation state Australia. The external ‘other’, the non-white coming here, and its threats to the ‘Australian way of life’ (read to the chummy relationship between labour and capital and better ability of the  bosses to extract surplus value from workers) has been a common propaganda point for the Australian  bourgeoisie.

The ongoing integration of the Australian economy into the global economy saw the Liberals begin to dismantle White Australia and Labor in power in 1973 formally abandon it.

Immigration policy became more diverse, seeking skilled workers no matter what the colour of their skin. Australia’s closer and closer links with the developing powerhouses in Asia saw increasing numbers of skilled and semi-skilled immigration from countries like China and India.

This meant that the overt racism of White Australia as an ideological glue for the ruling class had to find another expression. The ‘other’ from outside the country was for a time ‘Communism’ – in fact Stalinism or more correctly state capitalism – and then over time became Muslims, or refugees, or boat people. While these people were in the main dark skinned the attacks on them were hidden behind language about protecting the borders, queue jumping and terrorism. To this we can now add ‘economic’ refugees.

Each one of course is an utter lie but for the ruling class, with its control of the mass media, an oft repeated lie that serves its purposes can become the truth in many people’s minds if repeated often enough. The Australian and its anti-refugee contumely is a good example.

The ‘other’ within the country is both Aborigines and Torres Strait islanders and increasingly Muslims. This is a well worn theme for colonialism and imperialism. Whether it be the invaded Irish, or Africans to feed the slave trade, or South American indigenous peoples, the invading power paints the invaded as less than human to justify its barbarity and conquests to its own population and sections of the conquered countries.

Today as US and Australian imperialism occupy Afghanistan and have recently occupied Iraq, the conquered people and those  resisting our invasions become the enemy. This can easily translate for some as Muslims bad, whitey good.

Alienation

This fear of the other resonates with some workers because of the alienated nature of work and the alienating nature of the society we live in as it becomes more and more dog eat dog. Work is more precarious, unemployment according to Roy Morgan is three or four percentage points higher than  official unemployment, eight percent of the workforce is underemployed, work is more individualised and stressful, in most workplaces the boss is more and more powerful and exercises that power as unions have lost their clout and the working week is long and inadequately rewarded.

The real enemy

In these circumstances, with a rabid media pushing lies about asylum seekers and building on the underlying fear that work can create,  some workers will see boat people as the enemy. Murdoch and Fairfax have done their work. Our anger can become focused on some of the most defenceless and persecuted people in the world.

By demonising boat people, the real enemy of workers, the ruling class, can and does escape our wrath.  Such demonisation also pits or can pit workers against each other, although the experience of working in workplaces with people from around the globe may overcome that. Certainly industrial action together does.

If the Great Recession reaches Australia’s shores, as seems more and more likely, the demonisation of refugees by both major parties and others will increase exponentially.

US imperialism

Why are there millions of refugees in Pakistan, Iran and Kenya?  Western invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia might give an answer.

The rise of China and the decline of US capitalism saw US imperialism attempt to retain its dominant economic position militarily. The US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were attempts to reassert US global dominance and contain China. Control of the Middle East and hence the flow of oil to China is the key to this. US support for its Middle East dictators and Israel became even stronger as China’s growth continued.

The increase in US military action across the globe and support for US friendly but often dictatorial regimes produced not only fight backs like the Arab Spring and blow backs like 9/11, but also massively increased the flow of refugees across the globe. Compared to the millions or hundreds of thousands of refugees in Pakistan, Iran and Kenya, the number coming to Australia is very very low.

Let them in

Despite our wealth and the fact we take in between 100,000 and 200,000 immigrants a year, and up to 50,000 white visa over-stayers who fly in,  evidently 5000 or 10000 or 20000 refugees is unsupportable. This is laughable. In fact the 5000 refugees languishing in Indonesia and the 100,000 in  Malaysia could with little trouble be brought and processed in Australia. The reason this isn’t done is political, part of the exercise of control over the working class that the one percent tries to exercise.

Alternatively we could increase the refugee intake to 100,000 or 200,000 a year and send processing units to places like Malaysia, Indonesia Pakistan and Iran.

Australian imperialism

Rudd has used Australia’s imperialist and neocolonial power to win the agreement of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government to this this deal.  After years of being bled dry by Australia and multinational companies PNG is a very poor country, ranked by the IMF 139th in the world. Its per capita GDP is US $2896. Australia is ranked the 10th richest country. Its per capita GDP is US $44013.

PNG’s social infrastructure is what one would expect for such a  poor country.  Health care and education are completely inadequate. Crime is high. Rape levels are high.

Recently pious Christian Kevin Rudd proclaimed he had changed his mind and now supported gay marriage. It was and is a calculated and cynical manoeuvre.  Homosexual activity is illegal in PNG. Rudd will be sending gay and lesbian asylum seekers to possible imprisonment for expressing their sexuality. For example anal sex is a crime punishable by up to 14 years in jail.

Sick asylum seekers will not be treated.

For example PNG is a high risk malarial country and Manus Island has the highest level of malarial infections in the country. As WSWS wrote a decade ago:

“Malaria is a dangerous disease which can rapidly lead to severe illness and death, particularly in pregnant women and young children,” Dr Jill Sewell, president of the College’s Paediatrics and Child Health Division, pointed out.

“Australia’s national antibiotic guidelines recommend that pregnant women should not travel to areas with chloroquine-resistant falciparum malaria, and Australia’s policy of placing asylum seekers on Manus Island is putting them at high risk,” she stated. “In addition, preventative drugs such as doxycycline and mefloquine are unsuitable for prevention for pregnant women and young children. The detainees should be moved to a location where malaria and other potentially dangerous diseases are not endemic, in order to protect the health of asylum seekers and staff working in the facility.

Refugees whose bid is rejected but who cannot be sent back to their country of origin or elsewhere will be locked up indefinitely. PNG will become the prison house of nations.

More than 60% of the PNG people live on less than $2 a day. Refugee prisons with slightly better conditions will only inflame social tensions. Papua new Guineans are not passive players but can rebel against their neocolonial masters, at least in relation to this reprehensible policy.  mass demonstrations and other disturbances in PNG can be an important part of smashing Labor’s racist attack on refugees.

What can be done?

Already demonstrations have broken out across Australia in support of refugees.  Hundreds have turned up in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane.

The Greens have condemned the HowRudd government attacks and been involved in the demonstrations. Mobilising their ten thousand members will be one important element of any resistance to Rudd’s outrage. From Labor for Refugees to the Greens, to socialist groups and the unaligned the demonstrations need to draw in the widest possible spectrum of Australian society that wants to fight to defend refugees.

Voting Green won’t save refugees. The Greens won’t form Government. This is not an argument against voting Green but an argument for building the demonstrations in defence of asylum seekers.

A series of mass demonstrations brings an alternative vision about refugees to those force fed the mass media lies. Further the demonstrations have the capacity if they are big enough to draw in more people and escalate the resistance.

The immediate task for the left and for others concerned about Labor’s attacks on the most vulnerable must be to relate to the anger many decent Australians feel and help build the demonstrations scheduled over the next week and make them as militant as possible. As Martin Luther King has said “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”  To that I would add unjust actions of government.  That can only come about through mobilising people now in the fight and making the arguments for seriously challenging the injustice that is this rotten Labor government policy of deporting asylum seekers.

Forthcoming demonstrations and meetings include:

Monday 22 July at 9:30 am outside a special ALP Caucus at Balmain Town Hall. The caucus of heavies has been called to ratify the ‘Kevin as leader for life’ changes to the Labor Party’s constitution and to undermine the strength of unions in the party. What better way to tell Rudd how despicable his policy is than to demonstrate against the slew of sellouts as they go into their meeting.  Facebook details are here.

Saturday 27 July 13:00 State Library Lawn Melbourne. Facebook details are here. There is an organising meeting called by the Refugee Action Collective Vic and open to all on Monday 22 July from 6:30 pm at the Australian Nursing Federation offices, 540 Elizabeth St, Melbourne CBD. Facebook details are here.

Saturday 27 July 12:00 Sydney Town Hall. Facebook details are here.

Thursday 25 July 18:30 Trades Hall 54 Victoria Street Melbourne. Socialist Alternative public meeting  No crime to seek asylum: Oppose Rudd’s fortress Australia and let the refugees in . Facebook details are here.

Saturday 27 July 12:00 Woden Square Canberra. Facebook details are here. The ACT ALP are holding a conference in Woden so the demo will be in Woden to let Labor know we oppose their rotten, reactionary and racist policy of deporting asylum seekers.

Saturday 27 July 13:00 Murray St Mall Perth. Facebook details are here.

As I get details of Brisbane, Adelaide, etc I will post them.

Post script: I wrote above:

Rudd has outflanked Abbott from the reactionary right. That only means the next manoeuvre from the Liberals in this descent into Hell will be even more thuggish and obscene. Now that Labor are offering $200,000 bounties for information leading to the conviction of people smugglers, it looks like the Labor Party will outbid itself in attacking refugees. I await the Liberals even lower bid with fear.

The Liberals have answered the question by further militarising refugee policy and declaring war on asylum seekers. They say ‘A Coalition government will establish a military-led response to combat people smuggling and to protect our borders – Operation Sovereign Borders.’ Labor’s racist reactionary policy has laid the groundwork for this Liberal response. The descent into Hell continues apace.

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

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Comments

Comment from Chek
Time July 22, 2013 at 11:08 am

John

Rudd’s move is a natural corollary to Howard’s Tampa break with the bipartisan approach to boat people, especially when there had been so much barracking in the media against these queue jumpers, etc, sanctifying the hypocritical cries of saving lives (we otherwise heartily demonise), and the constant howling at incompetent government policies. It is not much different from the law and order auctions that have taken place in State elections over the years.

For an issue of such national disgrace, let’s hope that it will become a bipartisan policy issue again, after the election.

Sadly, this side of the elections we will see more and more attempts to discredit this possibly workable solution if not undermining it by whistling to the people smugglers to swamp us with boats so that the solution would not get started up.

We are an innovative, free, and compassionate society. If only we can get rid of some of the political warriors who seem to be mired in a past era: winning is everything, by hook or by crook.

It is a repeat of the way the Chinese were demonised and persecuted through the pollies trying to out-do the other side in their power-play to the populace of their superior solutions to get rid of the Chinese in the 19th century.

We live and learn?

Chek