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John Passant

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May 2014



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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)



After the marches in May, where to now?

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Treasurer Joe Hockey enjoy cigars outside Parliament House in Canberra.


Tens of thousands demonstrated in major cities across Australia on Sunday against the Abbott government’s Budget attacks on the poor, the sick, the unemployed, public servants, pensioners, the disabled …  The list of those attacked, except of course the rich and capital, is almost endless.

There were  15,000 in Sydney, 12,000 in Melbourne, 8,000 in Adelaide and around 1000 in Brisbane.  There were marches in Hobart and Perth too but I don’t have the figures for them. However the video of the march in Perth is fantastic and my guess is thousands upon thousands were there.

At the same time the people were flooding the streets letting Abbott and Hockey know we rejected their bosses’ Budget, State premiers and Territory Chief Ministers (5 of the 6 Conservatives and 2 Labor) were rejecting the slashing of $80 billion from health and education spending over the next decade. They don’t have that money or the means to raise it. They warned of the loss this coming year of at least 1200 nurses across Australia if the cuts went ahead. We could expect something similar for teachers.

Abbott and Hockey have managed to alienate their own political playmates in the States and Territories and unite tens of thousands of Australians in opposition to the Budget cuts in some of the biggest rallies since the invasion of Iraq.  They represent the millions who oppose these Budget cuts.

Another march is planned for August. Let’s be clear. I think the marches are an inspiration.  They give hope in a time of despair and show there is a lot of anger out there among a lot of people and a fighting spirit among many.

However the marches themselves don’t threaten Abbott and his cronies and won’t deter them from their course of action.

To understand what we need next, let me give readers a simple lesson in class. We workers produce the wealth of society. The bosses expropriate it after paying us wages and the social wage. We do the work and they use the profits we create to reinvest for more profits.

However because they do this, there is a trend to use machines and other capital instead of humans to make goods and provide services.  Since profit is ultimately derived from the labour we do and the amount of expenditure on machines and other capital is increasing at a  rate greater than the rate of increase of the wealth they can extract from us, there is a tendency for the rate of profit to fall.

Of course there will be countervailing activities to stem the drop in profit rates. Lengthening the working day is one such response. Australia has high unpaid extra working hours, with the average working week being around 44 hours and about $110 billion of that extra time unpaid.

Another way to address it is to cut taxes so that more of the wealth can flow to the bosses rather than the state.  That has been the trend too across the globe. It means cutting spending on public health, education and transport for example, important components of the social wage for workers.

Cutting real wages is another way to help offset some of the drop in profit rates. Australian wage increases are now on average below inflation.

In a booming economy the bosses can get away with increasing real wages if the greater amount of social surplus (surplus value) goes to them, and that is what has been happening in Australia. The share of national income going to capital is at record highs and that to labour at near record lows. They have been feeding us scraps from their boom.

However the boom and hence increasing Australian profit rates (unlike much of the developed world since the early 2000s) have been built on two sectors – the mining and finance sectors.

The mining boom has ended as it moves from the exploration stage to production stage. On top of that the Chinese economy is slowing and the demand for resources is falling, as are most prices.

The Great Recession, unleashed during the global financial crisis, having engulfed North America and much of Europe, is now spreading into Asia.

Because Australian profit rates were boosted by mining and finance profits, and much of the rest of the economy was either just ticking over or in trouble, the slowdown in the mining sector may have devastating consequences in the near and medium term for the Australian economy.

Abbott and Hockey are pre-empting that slowdown with their version of austerity – massive cuts to health and education, to the public service, extending the pension age, co-payments to go to the doctor. This then gives them some leeway to cut company taxes and prop up the tax expenditures (disguised grants through the tax system) to capital and the rich worth up to $50 billion on the revenue side.

They are re-prioritising some spending away from health and education and into infrastructure (roads, rail, ports and airports) for the mining companies and other capital.

The Abbott government will cut company tax by 1.5% from 1 July 2015. However big business will be hit with a 1.5% levy to pay for the government’s paid parental leave scheme.  Given that up to 50 percent of big business pays no income tax, let me do the maths for you.For those companies which don’t have any taxable income, one and half percent of nothing is still nothing.  Thirty percent (the current company tax rate) of nothing is still nothing.

The Liberals won’t attack capital or its individual personifications, the rich and their management lackeys. These are, in their mind, the wealth creators. They, and it must be said, Labor and the Greens, worship at the altar of profit. It is the capitalist system which is creating this crisis.

It is why Labor in power implements many of the same sorts of policies as the Liberals, but with the cooperation of the trade union bureaucracy in the main, rather than its opposition (verbal but not otherwise so far against the Conservatives).

It would be a mistake to imagine Labor in power would be any better than the Liberals.  Hawke and Keating were more successful in cutting wages in Australia than Thatcher was in Britain. Thatcher failed; Hawke and Keating, with the support of the trade union leadership, didn’t.

It was Labor who fully supported the Northern Territory intervention; it was Labor who condemned 80,000 single mums to greater poverty by moving them off the single parent payment; it was Labor who increased the pension age to 67.

It was Labor ‘saint’ Paul Keating who introduced mandatory detention for refugees. Labor have ever since tried to outbid the Liberals on demonising and vilifying asylum seekers.  The parties that attack refugees will attack you.


Our campaign should not be to get Labor elected but to get rid of the rotten policies both parties want to implement to ‘fix’ the economy,  that is to make you and me pay for the global crisis of capitalism as its cold bony claw begins to grip our throats. In arguing for reforms that benefit workers and the poor and why governments of either persuasion cannot or will not deliver, we can not only put winning here and now on the agenda but make the case for revolution.

So how can we take the movement against the bosses’ Budget forward? Because their profit flows from our labour, withholding our labour can force the bosses and their politicians to back down, at least for a while so they regroup for the next battle.

Certainly that happened in Mai 68 in France where the political immaturity of the working class and the class collaboration of the thoroughly Stalinised Communist Party (PCF) led the movement to compromise and defeat. This was despite a general strike of ten million workers and factory occupations capturing the imagination of French workers and showing the possibility of a new world of democracy and production to satisfy human need, not to make a profit.

Obviously Australia in 2014 is not France in Mai 1968. However there are similarities. The weakness of the unions bureaucracy and the political and intellectual weakness of reformist parties (the PCF and the small Socialist Party) meant that radicalising workers worked outside their structures for a time and dragged these conservatives with them to the left and in support, however grudgingly, of mass actions.

But because there was no mass revolutionary party with strong roots in the working class pointing an alternative way forward, the movement, at the urging of the PCF, eventually accepted the compromises of de Gaulle and were resoundingly beaten at the June elections.


Similarly there is no mass revolutionary party in Australia, although Socialist Alternative has the potential to be the embryo of one.  Perhaps these current marches and other agitations are the consummation the class needs for a mass revolutionary party to be born soon. Or maybe the seed will fall upon the ground.

More concretely, under pressure from rank and file union members, the Victorian Trades Hall Council is holding a meeting on Tuesday night to decide on the movement’s response to the Budget. I understand a similar meeting will be held in Brisbane.

Union activists should be urging their own local trades hall councils to hold all member union meetings to decide a way forward. That way forward must be strikes, legal or ‘illegal’ and massive demonstrations. A walk off from work one day later next week for all workers to rally in major city centres might be one first step. Joining with students on their national day of action on Wednesday makes sense to me.

This current juncture offers the union leadership the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves and show the real relevance of unions by taking on the bosses and calling strikes against the Budget. If they did, workers would flock to join.

If they don’t and the activists are strong enough they could impose their will for action on the curmudgeons or sweep them aside.

Now these imaginings might be utopian, and the class not ready to undertake the steps necessary to defend itself and the poor, pensioners, the sick and the disabled from attack.

However there will be a minority of workers and others who are being forced by the current Budget attacks to understand that if you don’t fight you lose and that striking is the best way to fight. If that is the case then it is our task to talk to that minority and show them by our arguments and activity that our vision for action now and for the future is the way to win the current fight and the ultimate goal, a truly democratic society in which production occurs to satisfy human need.

Stop work to stop the bosses’ Budget.


On Wednesday there will be demonstrations on many campuses against the cuts to higher education.  Let the students spark us to better things.

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