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February 2015
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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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Amidst all the celebrations we should remember this: Labor is not the Australian version of SYRIZA

Queensland has fallen. Newman has gone. The LNP are in disarray and shock. The Labor Party are ecstatic.

Queensland will this week have a Labor Government, either in its own right or with the support of the one Independent and perhaps the 2 Katter Australia Party members.  At the last election in 2012 the LNP triumphed. It won 78 of the 89 seats. Labor was a rump of just 7 seats.

Four years later and that ALP rump is now about to form government, with a swing to them on a 2 party preferred basis of 12.8%.  How could this happen?  Asset sales, cuts to public services and sacking 24000 public servants are the key.

Anna Bligh’s Labor government in Queensland tried to privatise assets and voters turned strongly against it. They turned strongly against the Newman LNP government for trying to do the same thing, even if Newman tried to disguise the sales as leases. No one fell for that bit of sophistry and it only reinforced the view among many voters that here was a government that thought they were fools.

It wasn’t just assets sales of course. Unemployment in Queensland has been growing faster than elsewhere in mainland Australia. Couple that with a government that deliberately created unemployment for 24000 public servants, nurses and teachers and the flow on unemployment effects of those sackings, and workers were rightly wary of the LNP and its unbelievable spin about being job creators.

Now Queenslanders have plumped for the other party of neoliberalism, the ALP.  Of course Labor will understand the need to package up privatisation in a very different form. And it may make some half-hearted attempts to improve public services and employ a few more nurses and teachers.

Labor won’t however be able to resolve the fundamental problem, namely that the crisis of profitability globally, a crisis starting to impact China and Australia, requires cuts to public services and perhaps privatisations as part of a wider program of shifting wealth and income to capital from labour.  While Labor in Queensland will go softly on privatisations and perhaps further cuts to public services and servants (without of course overturning the LNP cuts or sackings) it will look for other ways to ensure that shift of wealth and income to capital continues.

In the past Labor at a federal and state level has done this with the trade union leadership as its accomplice. Under the Accord, a document of class collaboration based on the idea that what is good for capital is good for labour, that process was overt but the results have been a disaster for the union movement and unionists, so much so that an open Accord is now off the agenda.  What is more likely now is an unwritten agreement between the trade union leadership and the Labor Party about ways to further shift more wealth and income from their members and other workers to capital. That process has in fact been going on under the Abbott government with wage increases now less than inflation; the rewards of increased labour productivity going almost exclusively to capital; unpaid overtime in Australia totalling about $110 billion, or 16% of GDP.

In Queensland this could translate under the new Labor government into some sort of agreement with the public service, teacher and nurses’ unions to do more with less, and perhaps, just perhaps, in that context, to employ a few more workers.  It won’t of course amount to any real reversal of Newman’s cuts and their disastrous impacts on public schools, hospitals, transport and other public services nor to the re-employment of the 24000 sacked workers or their equivalent re-employed.

The volatility in Australian politics over the last 7 years, with for example first term governments losing, and the current Abbott government, according to the latest Galaxy polling in the Murdoch press, heading for a wipe out.

A social democratic desire among workers for improved living standards and services is both systemic, arising from the forced sale of our labour power to survive, and historical. The reality that workers’ living standards are falling relatively, and may have to do so from capital’s point of view in real terms, conflicts with the very real yearning of workers for a better world of full employment, improved wages and conditions and good schools, hospitals and transport.

In Australia at the moment that yearning finds expression not in strikes and demonstrations for these outcomes – strikes are at near historic lows – but in the yo-yo of electoral change from neoliberal Labor to the neoliberal Liberals to neoliberal Labor.  Labor is zombie social democracy.

The global economic crisis has not hit Australia in the way it has destroyed much of Southern Europe and the political response there, still within the bounds of bourgeois parliamentary change, has been to elect SYRIZA in Greece and have Podemos in the lead in polls in Spain.

100,000 rally in Madrid on Saturday for Podemos

 

In Greece, the Greek equivalent of the Labor Party, PASOK, was at the forefront of austerity, implementing it, not because it had a choice but because its role as the manager of capitalism forced it to slash and burn and attack its working class base to make them bear the burden of the economic crisis.

While the anti-austerity SYRIZA won almost 36.3% of the vote, PASOK won just 4.7%.

When the crisis worsens in Australia, the Labor Party will do whatever capital needs to restore their profit rates, and that means attacking Australian workers.

The need of capital for massive attacks on the living standards of Australian workers, their jobs and public services is not yet essential, although the Productivity Commission investigation into penalty rates and the minimum wage (among other things), and the forthcoming white paper on tax, give some indication of the increasing pressure of global falling profit rates and the slow down of the mining boom on the health of business in Australia.

In Greece, and Spain too, the rise of the radical left has been built on the back of massive social struggles, strikes and demonstrations against the misery the attacks on living standards have produced. Neither condition yet exists in Australia.

So we continue to be trapped in the politics of ‘it’s your turn to attack us’.  The two political factions of capital in Australia will debate which is the best way forward for the capital accumulation process. They will differ over the detail of how to shift wealth and income from us to them but not that reality. Until we build a viable alternative, a socialist alternative, it will ever be thus. However we cannot hurry history. We can at best build the radical and revolutionary left for that day when the scales fall from the eyes of workers about the nature of the ALP.

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Comments

Comment from Lorikeet
Time February 2, 2015 at 10:11 am

Premier Newman also lied his head off about public hospital waiting times, and brought in undemocratic VLAD laws.

$50 says the ALP will sell off the assets.

Comment from paul
Time February 3, 2015 at 12:37 pm

But the question has to be asked: how could Abbott possibly believe that it was wise to put the boot into the working people and age pensioners who voted for him while at the same time allowing all the leftist haters (the enemy of ordinary working people) to keep their snouts in the trough and continue to run the political agenda. Some of them have even extended their contracts on the public teat eg ABC presenters whilst almost none have admitted to their so-called “Thought Crimes” against democracy…

For example, Abbott cringes at the thought of taking money off the leftist ABC, yet he has no qualms about taking money off age pensioners with the changes to pension indexation probably because his own support comes from pensioners who listen to the ABC!

Similarly, working people see the taxpayer funded leftist institutions in this country falling over themselves to give money, rights, legal representation and a leg up to all the queue-jumping freeloaders and other undesirables in our society and yet the government continues to give them access to taxpayer funds while at the same time increasing petrol prices through indexation of the fuel excise.

The message is this: don’t take from the people who voted for you while at the same time doing nothing about all of the leftist activists, organisations and institutions that are visibly ruining our society. If you have to take from voters, at least put the boot into the Left and show ordinary working people that you have their interests at heart and when they are asked they will willingly take higher taxes, lower pensions and the rs for the national good. That leads to trickle down economics and everyone is smiling.

Comment from Ross
Time February 3, 2015 at 5:18 pm

Our financial elite’s biggest fear is that the Coalition and Labor will get so on the nose that the electorate will find a new party to vote for.

If Abbott stays, he makes this more of a possibility that Syriza will come to Australia. Melbourne is the 2nd biggest Greek city outside Athens.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time February 4, 2015 at 9:27 am

I think Ross is right, but I think he is overestimating the intelligence of the voting public. I saw through the major parties 35+ years ago. My youngest son started complaining about what was happening to our nation at the age of 12. A pity others, including Kay, are so slow!!

The minor party and independent vote in Queensland is still very low, despite the people vigorously rejecting Labor in 2012 and the LNP in 2015 (once again, a little kiss for Tony Abbott for his extra assistance with this ….sssmmmooooooccchhh!!!

John, we have certainly already seen Labor attack their voter base when they dumped sole parents on the dole and ramped up John Howard’s attacks on disability pensioners. In Queensland, wage increases have been low under Labor and very hard won. The people would be wise to form new unions that aren’t affiliated with the ACTU (and actually join unions, instead of whinging all the time).

There is a huge problem with “indoctrination via media”. Many Coalition supporters believe that the people doing it the toughest are Age Pensioners, but if they looked into it a bit further, they would soon understand that those living on Newstart are the poor cousins of welfare, and that DSP recipients are also treated much worse than Age Pensioners (e.g. harsher income test, ongoing push back to work in non-existent jobs).

It seems to me that the vast bulk of the consideration is given to the young and the strong who have jobs, and the rich, while those in real need are castigated and abused.

Comment from Kay
Time February 5, 2015 at 9:10 am

Lorikeet

I’d support any party that made sense, represented a ‘broad church’ of voters, and whose policies appear to fit into some overall global picture that provides Australia with long-term economic well-being and security. And we always need to ask – how is whatever generous policy that is being proposed going to be funded, especially in the face of an existing debt?

You can’t seriously suggest that PUP and KAP, nor any other minor parties, especially the Greens, fit into those requirements.

Smaller parties tend to be focused on a few pet topics at the expense of the big picture. It seems, for example, that KAP is still insisting on their favourite topic of an ethanol industry in Qld. This will result in a few extra jobs in the north, but will have motorists subsidising the sugar farmers, given that only modern cars can use ethanol, and the much less efficient ethanol fuel costs the motorist more in the longer term (through the extra fuel that needs to be purchased). I would imagine KAP will want to mandate the complete removal of unleaded 91 from service stations – most motorists avoid ethanol fuel because it does not make economic sense for them. Drivers of older cars, poorer drivers generally, will be forced to use the vastly more expensive 95 fuel. More modern cars are being developed – mainly overseas (hydrogen and electric/hybrid cars). And Clive Palmer is just a self-serving super-rich clown, supported mainly by his employees and rellies – and his apparently endless millions in campaign spending.

I think minor parties are very helpful in moderating the policies of both major parties, they represent local constituents better than big party members do, and they help to inform the major parties of public sentiment, so they help to serve democracy. In that respect they are very useful. But actually run the government? No.

Nick Xenophon impresses because he actually does see the big picture, and always comes across as moderate and sensible.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time February 5, 2015 at 9:45 pm

Kay, your last sentence kills your entire argument. In the early days, the parliament was run by minor parties and independents who crossed the floor whenever necessary. Now 2 large blocs of undemocratic politicians hold the country to ransom, while others are blocked from the media.

Globalisation is the enemy of Australia and national sovereignty.

Comment from Kay
Time February 6, 2015 at 1:50 pm

“Kay, your last sentence kills your entire argument.” What???? Just because I said I respected Nick Xenophon?

How come members of the 2 major parties are “undemocratic politicians” while those of minor parties are apparently OK? Does not make sense!

“others are blocked from the media.”???? It seems to me that minor party members have significant media exposure – Clive Palmer, Glen Lazarus, Jacqui Lambie, Rickie Muir, the two Qld KAP members, Peter Wellington – and in the past, Oakeshott, Windsor, Wilkie and Katter. Before that, Cheryl Kernot and Meg Lees. No shortage of media coverage with any of these!