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John Passant

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January 2015



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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)



The Australian and the contest of ideas

I read Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian every day. I want to know what the fruitcake faction of capital is up to. That includes not just Murdoch’s journalists and his major ‘serious’ newspaper outlet in Australia but the Abbott government they serve and influence and the Liberal base they feed and incite.

However even Rupert and his minions seem to realise that Tony Abbott and/or his government are on the nose. Poll after published poll in The Australian shows Labor easily winning the next election.  That has been the case almost since the day Abbott and co were elected.  Australians voted Labor out and almost straight away twigged that the incoming lot were just another pack of rotten neoliberal politicans caught between the desires of business and the needs and wants of ordinary working Australians.

At the moment, with The Australian’s promotion of Julie Bishop, it looks to me as if they see the problem as Abbott rather than his Government and its neoliberal policies like the GP co-payment, increasing the pension access age, cutting university funding and freeing up their fee setting, to name a few.

These are policies which over time are designed to benefit capital as a class and individual capitalists,  assuming they can be carried out against a reluctant working class. They benefit capital by reducing government expenditure, at least on welfare and the working class,  and this over time can be redistributed to capital in the form of company tax cuts, once the Budget deficit bogey is addressed.  Indeed, the Budget deficit becomes an excuse for cutting state payments to the working class

So far the Senate, reflecting popular discontent, has held up a number of unpopular Budget measures, although Labor did agree to pass $20 billion worth of cuts before Christmas. Abbott and co also managed to introduce a number of cuts, such as the GP co-payment in another guise, administratively rather than legislatively.

The other day The Australian published an article by former Labor Party Keating Government Minister Gary Johns called No contraception, no dole. It basically argued that contraception should be compulsory for those on welfare.  Evidently the poor, especially poor Aborigines, breed too much and shouldn’t be allowed to. Now where have I heard this sort of social engineering before? Anyone want to remind me?

The Australian received a lot of bad press for publishing this tripe, tripe aimed at blaming the victims of capitalism, in particular Aboriginal Australians, for their plight. This, and the response to another disingenuous piece asking Is science showing there really is a god? prompted an editorial in The Australian in defence of … you guessed it, The Australian.

Two arguments in the editorial stood out. One was that ‘a serious newspaper should present a variety of opinions.’ The other was that ‘we love a contest of ideas.’

On both counts The Australian fails. Let’s personalise this first. Since I got my new computer in late August I have sent 7 letters to the editor to the Australian and one article for consideration. None have been published. However to give the opinion editor her due, she at least, unlike the Fairfax newspapers, had the decency to respond, saying she didn’t have room for one. An earlier one was rejected by another editor who said:

Thanks for your contribution, which I enjoyed. Your call for an overthrow of capitalism, however, runs counter to the ethos of the paper. It would be odd to publish it.

At one stage the national politics editor, David Crowe, shouted me a modest late breakfast in Manuka (his timetable was full, not mine, hence the early morning get together) to discuss if he could run some tax ideas past me and quote me. He did, for one article. Then he stopped, presumably because he discovered quoting a socialist on tax matters probably wasn’t helpful to him, his boss or his audience.

Of course none of this proves my case that The Australian is part of the fruitcake faction (i.e. the extreme neoliberal wing) of capital in Australia.

Indeed my strike rate with the Fairfax papers, in particular the Canberra Times, is even worse when it comes to articles being rejected. None out of eight in four months is my Fairfax strike rate. They are happy to quote me on tax matters in staff articles (see this and this and this for example) but not to publish me in their pages.

My home town newspaper, the Canberra Times, part of the Fairfax stable, used to publish my letters regularly but no longer does. I have had only 2 of my 23 submitted letters published in the last 4 months.

Maybe I am just not that publishable. Anymore. I suppose it could be that my writing style and topic choice condemn me to the editors’ dustbins. I suspect however that my politics is the determining factor.

What mainstream media newspaper regularly publishes a socialist? What mainstream media newspaper ever publishes a socialist? By socialist I don’t mean some warmed over social democrat who has made his or her peace with capitalism and who now writes acceptable puff pieces for Fairfax or Murdoch. I mean a socialist, one of those people who wants the working class to overthrow capitalism and spread democracy into the economic area so that production is organised democratically to satisfy human needs and wants.

Nick Cater, formerly a journalist with The Australian but now the Executive Director of the Menzies Research Centre, and a weekly columnist with The Australian,  had this to say about my writing ability in an article in The Australian.

In today’s world of eff-you politics, Passant is an anachronism, and not because he wants to see the overthrow of capitalism. He is an oddity because he insists on articulating his case.

As I pointed out in a blog article at the time, The Australian hadn’t published one of my 30 submitted letters in the previous year. So if my writing is well argued, as Cater believes, why wasn’t even one of them published?

It gets worse. I have in the last week made two comments online on The Australian. Neither have been published.

The answer to the question why I am not published is pretty simple. Let me republish again the comment by one of the editors to The Australian. “Thanks for your contribution, which I enjoyed. Your call for an overthrow of capitalism, however, runs counter to the ethos of the paper. It would be odd to publish it.”

That is it. The ethos of the paper isn’t about presenting a variety of opinions or a contest of ideas. It is about capitalism and its defence. It is about legitimising the current structures of society and power relations; it is about ensuring legitimacy in a time of austerity. As one of my friends remarked: ‘Like the rural bar in The Blues Brothers that played both kinds of music, “country and western” the Australian is open to discussion that is both neo and liberal.’

[As an aside that is why I think Abbott will resign or be knifed. His leadership undermines the legitimacy of neoliberalism in a way Hawke, Keating, Howard, Rudd and Gillard never did. However those Labor leaders in the list alienated their supporters with their neoliberal policies and in power have laid the carpet out for the election of Howard and then Abbott. The number of rusted on Labor voters and members has fallen markedly since Hawke came to power as disillusioned voters and former members look for electoral alternatives.]

This process of legitimation requires some differences of opinion. In the Australian this swings between unapologetic and enthusiastic Abbott government supporters to more reluctant supporters to right wing Labor Party hacks. Even the occasional left ALP writer is a prisoner of the times – a mixture of neoliberalism and Keynesianism with a dose of pretend social empathy that wends its way into a broad based Keynesian neoliberalism and zombie social democracy.

In the Fairfax papers it means some of the neoliberal Keynesians get a run. I merely note that John Quiggin, a respected Keynesian academic, lost his regular gig at the bosses’ newsletter, the Australian Financial Review, after a former Australian manager and journalist took over the editorship. Richard Denniss, from the Australia Institute, a centre-left group, now seems the Fairfax Keynesian of choice. But their columns hardly challenge the status quo that is capitalism. Certainly they challenge some neoliberal ideas and some vested capitalist interests but not capitalism itself.

It makes some business sense to publish these writers because their social democratic ideas actually represent or resonate with a majority of the Australian population. [As a left field thought I was going to suggest that this might see The Australian try to broaden its appeal by employing a regular centre left writer, but maybe some things are a step too far. As John Quiggin noted, while the Australian editorialised against him it did not publish him.

Online media is somewhat different. For example the Guardian runs more radical left-wing and socialist writers. It is trying for a niche that attracts the social democrat majority.

What is not acceptable to the doyens of the mainstream capitalist media of course is a writer of calibre who is a socialist. Neither Fairfax nor Murdoch would regularly publish one. Indeed as far as I know they have not published a revolutionary or radical political article in decades. (Go on, show I am wrong. But be warned. The one case that disproves my case will prove it.)

For me a famous Noam Chomsky meme captures brilliantly the narrow range of debates allowed within the capitalist media.

A variety of opinions? A contest of ideas? Only those writers imbued with the capitalist ethos are published in the mainstream media.



Comment from Ross
Time January 5, 2015 at 8:52 pm

Journos of today just print what they are told.
Murdoch eliminating Abbott will not change their fortunes since it is their policies that stink as well as the messengers. Julie Bishop is even more dry and impersonal than Abbott.

If Labor get back in they will just run up the debt and grease the palms of their cronies.

There are no choices are worth any consideration.

The real reason for these repressive laws has nothing to do with terrorism but they are there for when the wheels fall off the economy to keep us subjugated. Perhaps Abbott is balking at bringing in the really nasty ones and this is why he must go.

On the alternate media there is a general consensus that the derivative markets will collapse this year along with the $ US. Why else would they rubber stamp “bail in” ie confiscation of bank deposits at the last G20 meeting in Brisbane. Why else would Congress repeal the Dod Frank Bill putting tax payers on the hook for $ billions in Wall St derivative gambling?

Comment from Lorikeet
Time January 7, 2015 at 9:28 am

I would not expect to get anything published in the Murdoch Press now that a Queensland state election has been called. I was preselected to run for a minor party at the 2012 election. I was completely blocked from the local rag for 8 weeks, even though I withdrew due to illness. One of my letters to the editor was published on the Monday AFTER the election.

Campbell Newman calling an election in 3 weeks’ time will effectively prevent minor parties from running candidates, who would have had their best chance in years due to public disgruntlement with liars from both of the major anti-Australian parties.

Once again the Coalition is also running scared of Clive Palmer, now that he has recruited John Bjelke-Peterson as his state leader.

No matter what we thought about his father Joh in general, he ran better schools and hospitals than a Liberal dominated Coalition which plans to charge fees in Independent public schools. This is to say nothing of 20 years worth of Labor sending our schools backwards on both the national and world stages.

For the editors of a paper to see someone like Tony Abbott as the problem, rather than the policies of his party and those who drive it, is simply an attempt to shaft one leader while attempting to convince the people that the rest of the Coalition politicians are okay. Unfortunately lots of numbskulls are easily convinced of BS.

Another problem with the electorate is that they don’t have time to see and hear what people like Joe Hockey and Wayne Swan have to say in the media. For example, a clobbering of welfare recipients was first very briefly floated by Wayne Swan, who seemed to shut up again very quickly.

Then the torch bearer for an assault on the poor and a windfall for the rich immediately became Joe Hockey. I put their candidates at the bottom of both of my ballot papers. Too bad others were not as sharp.

I agree with Noam Chomsky. He/she clearly understood the basic tenets of Mind Control & Manipulation.

I also think it is true that the Coalition and Labor/Greens do whatever the UN tells them, but they must go about it in such a way as to fool the general public as much as possible. Anyone else will only get a token hearing from time to time, in an attempt to prove that we still live in a nation which practises democracy in action.

In the last 2 or 3 weeks, I have had quite a number of published comments deleted from the blog of an organisation which has lots of Coalition supporters.

A lot of my comments seem to get published on the Courier Mail blog. I think it is true that The Australian is more of a right wing publication.

John, I’m wondering if you see a link between the superannuation system, the UN and the financial disempowerment of individual governments.

Comment from John
Time January 8, 2015 at 3:48 pm

Lorikeet, you asked: John, I’m wondering if you see a link between the superannuation system, the UN and the financial disempowerment of individual governments.

No. Other than all being part of the rich tapestry that is capitalism.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time January 9, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Thanks for your answer, John. Can you tell me when the superannuation system commenced in Australia and who implemented it?

Do you know of any connection with some kind of global agreement?

Comment from John
Time January 9, 2015 at 7:17 pm

Keating in conjunction with the ACTU introduced 3% compulsory super in 1993(?). It was paid for by unions agreeing to forgo a % pay increase.It is not linked to an international agreement of any kind. In fact Australia’s system of pension, compulsory super and personal contributions was (and still is, I think) unique.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time January 9, 2015 at 9:19 pm

To my knowledge, Keating made superannuation compulsory for everyone at 3% in 1992. But superannuation was in place for public servants in the 1970s, possibly sooner. My father was a waterside worker who also had access to superannuation well before 1992.

I’m wondering who introduced superannuation for public servants and when.

Would you support a steady u-turn and windback to an Age Pension (no super)?

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