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John Passant

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April 2019



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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)



Election 2019: the cost of living

Mr Morrison pulls a face as he misses a ball. People watching on are laughing

ABC News: Adam Kennedy

It is now 17 days into the election campaign and the offerings today (Sunday) highlight the differences between the Coalition and the Labor Party.

The Prime Minister offered more fear of refugees; the ALP offered cheaper childcare, better wages for childcare workers and free dental treatment (up to $1000 over two years) for seniors and pensioners. According to Labor, 3 million pensioners and seniors will be better off under their dental scheme. [What about students, the unemployed and the low paid Labor? Why aren’t dental costs part of Medicare for everyone? But I digress.] And over 880,000 families will have cheaper or free childcare.

The Prime Minister on the other hand promised to ‘cut’ the immigration intake at 160000 (its current level). They will also if re-elected freeze the humanitarian refugee intake at its current level of 18,750 (compared to Labor’s promised 32,000 by 2026). Not only that but, contrary to the usual bleatings from the Conservatives, there would be a quota on the number of humanitarian refugees to ensure 60% were women.

I suspect promises trying to address the cost of living and showing some compassion are likely to resonate more with voters than the tired old trope of refugees or immigrants or whatever as the enemy.

Wages have been stagnating for a few years now. This fact alone (apart from skyrocketing prices in some sectors like childcare and healthcare) creates very real problems for millions of Australians.

Yet the decline in real wages, and the consequent shoveling of more and more income and wealth into the pockets of capital, the very rich, is not an accident. It is a response to ongoing processes and changes in Australian and global capitalism, aided by Australian government policies. Couple that with a labour movement led by and large by people scared of their own shadow and beholden to the Labor Party and ‘change’ from above, and the forces needed to improve wages and living standards have a huge challenge ahead of them.

Attempts to reduce cost of living pressures will resonate. According to Michelle Grattan, under Labor’s childcare proposal:

  • families with children under five on incomes up to $174,000 would be better off on average by $26 a week – $1,200 a year – per child
  • the majority of families earning up to $69,000 would get their child care free. This would save them up to $2,100 annually per child.

Those families with income above above $174,000 would receive the same amount of support they currently receive.

Bill Shorten has also talked about increasing the pay of child care workers by 20 percent. This is admirable. He has even threatened price controls on child care centres that increase their prices to hoover up the $4 billion in government benefits he is proposing for the parents of children in child care. That too is admirable.

We could but hope it might be the start of a new reality. Price controls on a range of basic commodities – fresh food, other groceries, electricity, oil, petrol, interest rates, rents, etc – would help working class people struggling with ever increasing costs and low wages.

Unfortunately Labor will not regulate prices for the benefit of workers. For a start such controls at a Commonwealth level are likely to be held to be unconstitutional. Second, Labor is not the party to put controls on capital. It is the party who, as the Accord and its echoes down the decades show, has freed up capital while holding back labour. Third, Labor in power, at the Federal or State and Territory levels has not once in the last few decades mentioned let alone attempted to control prices.

Labor are, when all is said and done, a party whose aim to is manage capitalism. The Party has close links to the trade union bureaucracy. That bureaucracy has a material interest in continuing to balance between labour and capital (i.e. not be part of either class) but to be the retailer of the price of labour. This locks the trade union bureaucracy, and its Party, the Labor Party, into unquestioning support for capitalism and the continuation of their own privileged positions.

Labor’s proposals for wage increases, whether it be for child care workers, or raising the minimum wage, or for other groups of workers I suspect they will identify before the election to win their votes, raise an important question. Without strikes, how are workers supposed to win big wage increases and defend jobs?

Let’s take child care workers. Shorten is right. With a workforce that is 96 percent female, they are, like many female dominated industries, poorly paid. Shorten has promised them a 20 percent pay increase, over eight years.

Leaving aside the fact that they deserve the 20 percent now, how is Labor going to deliver on this aim? That is not clear to date from any utterances by Shorten or other Labor luminaries. Through legislation? Taking a case to the Fair Work Commission? Exactly how will they deliver this? And what about all the other female dominated low paid industries? Don’t all these workers deserve a big increase in their wages?

Other moves by Labor, such as restoring penalty rates, will improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers. (I merely note that the promised increase in employment promised if penalty rates were reduced has not eventuated. Is anyone suprised?)

Their talk about a living wage as opposed to a minimum wage will, if it becomes a reality, improve the lives of millions of workers.

If it becomes a reality. That is the real test.

You will have to excuse me but without class struggle undermining the power and dominance of the ruling class and winning big real wage increases, I cannot see much besides a dog’s breakfast of a few minor pay increases coming for the low paid, those on the minimum wage and child care workers.

To change the rules we need, as Sally McManus said before she became totally infected with Actuitis, to break the rules. Labor could legislate an unfettered right to strike to help workers win big pay increases. They won’t. The ACTU could lead big so called ‘illegal’ strikes to win large pay increases. They won’t.

Only rank and file workers can create the reality of increased real wages.



Comment from douglas hall
Time April 29, 2019 at 2:47 am

I believe Marx called them “the Labor lieutenants of capital” i.e. the industrial police for smothering and eviscerating workers demands.

Pingback from En Passant » Election 2019 – the first debate
Time April 29, 2019 at 9:50 pm

[…] I have argued, an unfettered right to strike, and encouraging workers to strike for higher pay and conditions, […]

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