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John Passant

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May 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 Canberra Times: to renew my subscription or not? Or how the mainstream media has gone to hell in a handbasket

I sent this to the Canberra Times Opinion editor for consideration.


To renew or not to renew, that is the question.

A few weeks ago my Canberra Times subscription renewal notice arrived. This year it has been even harder than ever for me to justify spending the money.

Part of the reason has to do with the changing environment. Now I can read most of the articles I am interested in online, for free. My Facebook friends do a good job of highlighting which are the best political articles to read, not just from the Canberra Times and other mainstream media but social media too.

And therein lies another problem. Social media, or at least sections of it, provides a better range of political articles which provoke and challenge my thinking in ways that mainstream media usually no longer does. It is true too that the writers often fit comfortably within the rainbow of ideas I find acceptable but I yearn almost as much for a good conservative writer in the mainstream media as I do for a socialist. Unfortunately the dumbing down of the population is in part a consequence of the dumbing down of the mainstream media.

John Howard supposedly called the Canberra Times the Fyshwick Pravda. This reflected his own reactionary world view but had some grounding in truth in that the Canberra Times in the past challenged governments of both persuasions and displayed, inconsistently, some sort of mildly left of centre approach.

Today it has jumped to the right. Apart from conservative apparatchiks like Amanda Vanstone and Barnaby Joyce, the centralisation of Fairfax media has resulted in a preponderance of Age and Sydney Morning Herald articles becoming Canberra Times reports and opinion. This might save money and presumably is part of some strategy to shift the paper to ‘the centre’ but misunderstands the crisis in Australian politics.

In Labor and the Liberals we have a set of neoliberals offering us slightly differing versions of austerity, restrictions on working class and trade union activity and encroachment on civil liberties. Couple this with a ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink,’ mix of racism and Islamophobia and the loudening drum beat of national security and we have an emboldened right wing of politics actually divorced from and at odds with the majority of the population on almost every issue, apart from the othering of refugees.

Studies show that on climate change, on jobs, on social spending issues like public health, education and transport, and social issues like same sex marriage, the public are well to the left of their parliamentary representatives.

The glue of othering Aborigines, Muslims and refugees cannot hold that fundamental imbalance together for ever. This does not mean any outbreak against the unrepresentativeness of our politicians will necessarily lead in a left wing direction.

There are a number of reasons why the radical right can and perhaps is gaining a foothold in Australia and growing. First it has picked up and run with the messages from government and opposition about the so-called enemy within, whether that enemy be Aborigines, Muslims, terrorists or wannabes like asylum seekers.

Second, the quiescence, indeed surrender in an orgy of class collaboration, by most trade union leaders for the last three decades, and the degeneration of the Labor Party from a capitalist workers’ party to a capitalist party, has seen the organised left decline and has destroyed both the idea and the actuality of class and social struggle. The economic neoliberalism of the Greens, seen most clearly in the market fundamentalism of the carbon tax and emerging again in the internal debates they are having over indexing fuel excise, is no way forward for the working class and the left.

Mainstream media, as a major element in the capitalist system, and the propagandist of capitalist ideas day in day out among the mass of people, ideas that do reflect in part the lived reality of workers in society, must of necessity be part of that separation of the politicians and the majority people and the process of papering over those differences by echoing the othering.

Yet it is the very essence of the lived reality of capitalism that sees workers yearn for a better world, one with improved health care and public education, better roads and train lines, looking after pensioners, the disabled and equality for gays and lesbians. This social democratic yearning crashes into the reality of capitalism and the reassertion since the late 60s and early 70s of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.

It was in Chile after the bloody coup in 1973, that neoliberalism, a set of policies aimed at restoring profit rates by for example restricting unions, cutting government spending on the working class and commodifying government services, was first introduced. The election of Thatcher and Reagan saw the disease infect the UK and US. In Australia the Hawke and Keating Labor governments introduced and deepened these neoliberal solutions, with the help of the trade union bureaucracy. Arguably this class collaboration made the ALP more successful in terms of shifting wealth from labour to capital than Thatcher or Reagan could ever be.

The success of neoliberalism in restoring profit rates began to falter about 1997 globally, although the mining boom saw Australian capitalism buck that trend for the first decade of the 21st century. With the collapse of the mining boom in Australia profit rates are beginning to fall to levels closer to global averages.

Unemployment here is on the rise. Worryingly for the Australian ruling class recent Reserve Bank figures about capital investment show a marked decline as the hurdle rate for investment (what is an acceptable rate of return on investment) remains above the real rate that can be secured. Falling profit rates see capital not invest or seek out other pastures for investment if it can. Investment as a consequence of falling returns is drying up. If that trend continues then the Australian economy is headed for a major fall.

This all means that whoever is in government in Australia will adopt and ratchet up attacks on wages, jobs, conditions, and social spending. To try to hide this reality the attacks on the manufactured ‘enemy within’ will intensify and broaden to more welfare recipients and perhaps on to the left. The terrorist threat will dominate our news when the biggest terrorists sit in Canberra and Washington.

The mainstream media will cheer on the multitude of attacks on the working class. Nowhere among the reams and reams of ’analysis’ of the economic issues facing ‘the nation’ will there be published alternative voices that identify capitalism as the problem and production organised democratically to satisfy human need rather than make a profit as the solution. This article will never see the light of day in the mainstream media.

John Passant is a PhD student in the School of Politics and International Relations at the ANU and a tutor this semester at the University of Wollongong. He blogs at En Passant.



Comment from Colleen Mcgregor
Time May 31, 2015 at 7:12 am

Excellent article John,keep writing to keep us informed about what is destroying our country”the terrorists in Canberra….” with their capitalist rhetoric & undertakings.Love your work!

Comment from Ross
Time May 31, 2015 at 9:37 am

MSM was always corporate controlled. Now it is just a matter of degree. Sadly I do not see the masses waking up in time.

Dane Widdington has been studying Geo-engineering of weather for many years. This is been done by the military to be used as a weapon and to pretend to stop climate change.

According to Dane they are causing far more damage to the environment than any perceived benefits of spraying millions of tons of nano particles into our atmosphere.

If we had a free media the truth would emerge. The masses are too dumbed down, too exhausted by long hours of work and too distracted by MSM hype and BS that hides the reality.

I wish there was some good news.

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