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John Passant

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May 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)



Labor’s lesser evilism is still evil

On Wednesday night, the leaders of the two major parties debated how best to manage Australian capitalism. One showed a little compassion, tempered by continued cruelty to asylum, seekers and refugees. The other talked about budget costs, taxes and strong borders.

Both leaders promised to continue to be tough on refugees and asylum seekers. Shorten promised to be slightly less cruel.  Offshore detention should not be indefinite, Mr Shorten said.  News flash Mr Shorten. There should be no detention of asylum seekers and refugees. Putting people in offshore concentration camps for seeking refuge is unconscionable.

Labor’s offer to send a few of them to an agreeable New Zealand is less evil than the actions of the government, just. The compassionate alternative would be to bring the thousand or so on Manus Island and Nauru (and the 164,000 other refugees and asylum seekers languishing in Indonesia and Malaysia) to Australia to process their refugee applications in a short time and settle those who want to in the country.

The Labor Party position of having nicer concentration camps is a classic case of lesser evilism. Vote Labor because we are less evil than the Liberals. The problem is, of course, that evil is still evil, as Manus Island and Nauru show. 

Labor apologists will say that lesser is better than total evil. The problem is that lesser evil leads to total evil. As Hawke and Keating show, Labor in power made the ideas of John Howard acceptable to many Australians. Rudd, Gillar and Rudd prepared the way politically for Abbott, and then the lesser Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, and the three quarter Abbott, Scott Morrison.

But, but, but, splutter the Labor apologists. What about the cancer program Labor is offering? All well and good but the problem of out of pocket costs for cancer treatment will continue.

On Wednesday night Shorten told us competition will force cancer specialists to lower their prices.  Seriously? Labor really thinks trickle-down economics is going to solve the problem of high cancer costs. Ha, ha, ha. I have a bridge in Sydney to sell you, Bill.

Shorten did hint at a solution to high costs earlier in the campaign. When talking about Labor’s proposed child care cost subsidies of up to $2,100 a year for families earning less than $174,000, Shorten said Labor would consider price controls if the centres gouged the subsidies.

Why not price controls on medical costs so ordinary people can afford specialists, and in a timely fashion?. The neoliberal response is heath insurance, an overpriced lurk run by people gaming the health system and too expensive for many workers. So maybe Labor could threaten price controls on health insurance costs? Pigs might fly.

I have an idea. Instead of intermittent price controls, set up a fully functioning national health system where your Medicare card determines the quality and availability of treatment, not your credit card.  Unfortunately, the Hawke and Keating lesser evilists, in rebuilding Whitlam’s Medibank, created Medicare, and in doing so concocted a hybrid public private health system out of the bowels of their neoliberalism and market worship. A health care system that treats a homeless woman the same way it treats Gina Rinehart should be a goal of the genuine left.

Speaking of the homeless, no one did during Wednesday’s debate. Over 100,000 Australians are homeless and neither side has a plan for addressing that.   

Shorten did discuss housing, but in the context of Labor’s negative gearing proposals, and rebutting Morrison’s lies about the ‘disastrous’ impact the measure would have on house prices.  He said:

‘As for falling house prices, the biggest falls in house prices have happened under this government’s watch. If you want to talk about renters, look at the reduction in the amount of social housing. This is an out of touch government.’

So according to Shorten, the collapse of social housing programs had led to housing becoming less affordable for young Australians and others renting. Labor has been one of the two parties of government cutting back on public housing.  Let the housing market sort it out, eh Labor? OK, says Labor, we need to make a few minor tax adjustments to improve the market. The market is the problem. Labor, why not a public housing program to get everyone who wants out of homelessness irrespective of their income?

And then there was climate change. This do nothing government, a government battling between the deniers and the do little faction, makes Labor’s do little environmental policies look like a revolution. Electric vehicles and its 45% renewables target will not do enough. Allowing Adani and all the other polluting mines to go ahead will destroy whatever benefits flow from its specific environmental policies.

Climate change is an existential threat to humanity, and to capitalism. We need a revolution to address it. Labor’s right-wing pro-market environmental policy changes are not that revolution. The UK can declare a climate emergency.  In Australia the government and Opposition bicker over minor changes.

This Government makes Labor look like radicals. They are not. They are the lesser evil. Meanwhile inequality continues to grow. Poverty will remain at over 3 million. The gender pay gap will remain substantial.  Wages will continue to flatten or fall.  And climate change will engulf us or our children.

No to evil. Yes to socialism. Yes to democracy. On the 50th anniversary of rolling general strikes freeing Clarrie O’Shea from jail, fight whichever Party managing capitalism is in power.  In the medium to long term working class revolution is the solution.

John Passant is a member of the Canberra Press Gallery.


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