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John Passant

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Keep socialist blog En Passant going - donate now
If you want to keep a blog that makes the arguments every day against the ravages of capitalism going and keeps alive the flame of democracy and community, make a donation to help cover my costs. And of course keep reading the blog. To donate click here. Keep socialist blog En Passant going. More... (4)

Sprouting sh*t for almost nothing
You can prove my 2 ex-comrades wrong by donating to my blog En Passant at BSB: 062914 Account: 1067 5257, the Commonwealth Bank in Tuggeranong, ACT. More... (12)

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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Celebrity salaries are as easy as ABC

Over 3 years ago one of the papers in Rupert Murdoch’s stable in Australia lodged a freedom of information request for information about the salaries of the top presenters and senior managers of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The ABC resisted and continues to resist the release of the information.

Then on 7 September the Coalition won government. In opposition many in its Liberal arm were vehemently anti-ABC, although for many rural and regional voters the ABC is a god send of information and communication from the outside world.

This opposition to the ABC was and is based on either the neoliberal idea that the state should have no role in media or alternatively that the ABC was some hot bed of leftism and radicalism because they adopted the ‘sensible’ neoliberalism of the Labor Party rather than the version of neoliberalism of the fruitcake faction of capital that exists among some Liberals.

It comforts conservative politicians too that Rupert Murdoch’s loss making machine for the last 49 years, The Australian, is on a jihad against the ABC.

So after not getting their hands on the details for more than 3 years, less that 80 days after the election of the Abbott government, someone leaks the information. Of course that could have been a conservative in the ranks of the ABC emboldened by the election of the Abbott government. It could also possibly (but unlikely) have been the Minister or someone within his cabal with access to the information or, perhaps more likely, with conservative connections to the Government and access to the information. Who is on the board? Or maybe it was a Liberal on the Senate Committee with access to this information. Or someone in middle or even senior management annoyed about the overblown salaries or wanting to bring them all down a per or two?

It might also be pay back for releasing the Snowden revelations about Australia spying on Indonesia.

Whoever did it, and speculation, while interesting isn’t proof, the information will come in handy for the Liberal government when they begin attacking the ABC’s funding.

Last year we paid the ABC $1.03 billion. You can imagine what the slashers and burners will say when they cut ABC funding. “Look, [‘look’ is perhaps Treasurer Joe Hockey’s favourite word] if you want to cut costs cut the pay of some of your big wigs.’

Of course that will only have a tiny impact overall on the wages bill which is 49% of the overall funding we provide. The real burden of cost cutting at the ABC will be felt by people working there on the average wage or below, and of course listeners to ABC radio and viewers of ABC television.

Having said that, the fact that Mark Scott, the managing director (it is a corporation after all, not a commission), is paid a base salary of $678,940 or, with bonuses, $773,787, is also worthy of comment. He is paid roughly ten times the average wage.

Two of his other managers receive pay well over $300,000. But what has excited most interest is the pay of the TV and radio presenters. While the figures might not be totally accurate they are I would guess for the top managers and journalists certainly in the ball park.

Top of the list after the 3 senior managers is Tony Jones, the host of Lateline and Q&A who is paid $355,789. Now Tony is no raving red. I find Q&A boring, made up of right wing and fake left politicians and celebrities. It is full of personalities, not analysis. On Lateline, the questions are hardly insightful, even from the point of bourgeois journalism.

Juanita Phillips hosts ABC News in Sydney. She is paid $316,454. By comparison her equivalents in Adelaide and Perth earn a little over $100,000. The pay disparity between the mass of workers and the superstars of management and screen and sound will create tensions in the organisation between the workers and the well paid wankers, especially given it is those workers who will bear the brunt of the Government’s very likely forthcoming assault on the ABC.

Some have compared the pay of the well paid entertainers at the ABC to the rich rewards private enterprise infotainers get. It is true Kyle Sanderson is paid $2 million a year. So?

That is a different market and reflects the backwardness of most sections of the Australian working class at the moment. Andrew Bolt too is well paid. He is a Rupert Murdoch clown, a tasteless, talentless, trumped up turd who reeks out a living writing rubbish that the backward sections of the working class, and the downwardly mobile middle classes (or the many more who fear the possibility of ending up in the working class) lap up.

The ‘top’ managers and journalists at the ABC earn more or the same as politicians. They mix in the same circles, have the same interests, the same world view. None question capitalism; some question aspects of it. But that is true too of some capitalists and politicians. They are all part of the same bourgeois club, divorced from the working class.

The ruling class in the past has wanted and needed a reliable non-commercial voice to ensure it and sections of the working class get a more mature pro-capitalist voice and debate, rather than the diatribes issuing from the rabid sections of the gutter press (which The Australian has joined or is joining). As we move deeper and deeper into the age of systemic irrationality it looks as if it no longer has that need or desire.

For example the Australian Financial Review is becoming less a forum for debate within the bourgeoisie and more an upmarket Murdoch imitator.

The ABC is not immune from the trend to dumbing down and sensationalism both on radio and TV. That is not always the case for the ABC or other mass outlets but as a generalisation the mainstream media have moved away from analysis and interrogation to superficiality and right-wing populism.

Despite the bleating of the fruitcake faction of capital, a study a few years ago showed that in fact the ABC reported more of the then Opposition (i.e. conservative) politicians than it did the ALP and Greens. Indeed, the Greens with ten percent of the vote do not get ten percent of the coverage let alone ten percent favourable coverage.

The ruling class today however may not need a reliable mainstream outlet for bourgeois rationality. They face the twin challenges of a never ending recession in two major sections of global capital and climate change which will destroy the planet and their system with it if they do not do something urgent.

Their response has not been to analyse the nature of capitalism and why these twin threats arise from a system of production organised around profit for profit’s sake. It has been to retreat into irrationality on climate change or one tenth baked measures which keep the very drive for profit based on fossil fuels alive.

In relation to the economic challenge it has been to scratch their heads and avoid the real questions about capitalism being based on the exploitation of labour and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall which arises from the very way capitalism is organised.

Instead we have interminable debates between confused Keynesians and foolish free marketeers about the non-ways forward for the capitalist economy. Austerity doesn’t work. Quantitative easing doesn’t work.

Over the last four decades, in response to the collapse of profit rates in the developed world, policy makers, politicians, bourgeois economists, big business etc, have adopted neoliberalism as the way to restore profit rates.

In Australia (and other developed countries) bourgeois society has moved to the right economically, politically and socially. This is true too of the organs of capitalist propaganda, both the commercially owned varieties and those owned by the rightward moving capitalist state. (Ironically survey after survey shows the Australian population well to the left of politicians and capitalist propagandists economically and socially.)

In Australia part of that move has been to turn the ABC into a Corporation. The Liberals’ long term aim might be to privatise it but given the rural and regional support it gets that is unlikely to happen in the short term so further corporatism will be the compromise.

This corporatisation means in part that the ABC offers large salaries (compared to the average wage of the mass of its workers) to some celebrity journalists. These are journalists who have played the game and learnt the ropes of guided democracy and who ask either anodyne questions or ‘hard hitting’ ones that reinforce rather than challenge the rule of capital. Which journalist for example has asked Labor or Liberal politicians about the refugee concentration camps they run? About the exploitation of labour? Even about growing inequality as the logical expression of their policies to shift more of the wealth we create to the profit bludgers like Palmer, Rinehart and Forrest.

The exorbitant pay rewards the top ABC managers, interviewers, commentators and news readers for playing the bourgeois game so well and guarantees they continue to do so. It also removes the celebrity journalists from the working class. Someone on $75000 in the ABC right now could do the job these over paid voices do so well for their masters and do it better because they would not be, at least initially, part of the bourgeoisie’s club.

Is there an alternative? Well, there are blogs like this (which runs at a loss) and newspapers like Red Flag, the paper of Socialist Alternative. These have a small circulation. My readership for example averages around 200 a day. Red Flag will have a wider number of people who subscribe and buy the paper at stalls, demonstrations, pickets and the like. But the number is still very small compared to the ten million workers in Australia.

We get a glimpse of what is possible from Greece. The government closed down the government broadcaster ERT and sacked its 2600 employees to show international lenders how resolved it was to reduce government debt. The dismissed workers occupied the station and broadcast an illegal news channel to the public via the internet.

This truth telling was such a threat to the bourgeois order that earlier this month riot police stormed the building and drove the occupying workers out.

What about the ABC? Well, it is unlikely the mass of its employees are at this stage going to occupy it and broadcast working class news. But the fact that the bourgeois managers and bourgeois celebrity journalists are paid so much means that an illegal strike campaign for say a ten percent pay increase per year for all ABC workers and defence of all jobs could cut the gap.

Eventually ABC staff are going to have to confront the real issue – the way to defend jobs and end the culture of corporatism is to shut the ABC down until their wages and conditions are improved markedly and their jobs are made safe.

I sent this to the ABC’s The Drum for consideration for publication on The Drum website, but got absolutely no response.

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