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John Passant

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July 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)



Let’s call Manus Island and Nauru detention centres what they really are – concentration camps

I listened to the discussion on Wednesday from the Press Gallery of the 3 major media outlets in Australia all lamenting the decline of press freedom in Australia. They are right to be worried. There is clearly, to me at least, a decline in our freedoms. This decline has been consistent with the rise of neoliberalism in Australia as the dominant economic story to justify the transfer of wealth from the working class to the capitalist class.  

Yet speaking truth to power does not really seem to be at the heart of the News Corps media, Channel 9 newspapers, (formerly Fairfax media,) or the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Of course there are differences about the way forward for Australian capitalism, but the joint neoliberal project of the main parties and the mainstream media means they are all united in supporting the system of working class exploitation that is capitalism. To quote a Socialist Worker US article from 2011:

‘Exploitation is the forced appropriation of the unpaid labor of workers… Marx argued that the ultimate source of profit, the driving force behind capitalist production, is the unpaid labor of workers. So for Marx, exploitation forms the foundation of the capitalist system.’

Where the major parties differ is over the details of that exploitation – the rate of exploitation, for example over penalty rates, government spending, tax cuts etc etc. The exploitation however continues.

Of course there are exposés of rotten government action. This is done mainly by the press, including of late the less mainstream press. And whistle-blowers! It is no accident that journalists and whistle-blowers are being raided and/or prosecuted for the ‘crime’ of revealing possible government crimes.  

Yet these exposés and whistle-blowing do little to question the exploitation of workers that is the heart of capitalism and from which the bosses’ profit arises. When for example was the last time you read an article in the mainstream media explaining our current economic situation in Marxist terms, or their equivalent made comprehensible? Of course outside a  few academic, student and union circles, you will find few Marxists, and even fewer who understood Marx’s essential message that the liberation of the working class must be the act of the working class.

Let’s focus on speaking truth to power, something you might think should be the role of the media.  In particular let’s talk about Australia’s detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru.

A debate has broken out in the US about the nature of Donald Trump’s detention centres. Some politicians there and one Jewish group at least are calling them what they really are – they are  concentration camps.

This is not to demean the Holocaust but to recognise that the hundreds of concentration camps the Nazis set up preceded the five extermination camps, laid the ground work for them and somehow, with a range of other state actions, readied many German people for the murder of six million Jews.   Not only that, but as David M Perry in Pacific Standard points out, there is a history of concentration camps before the Nazis used them.  He says:

‘Historian Andrea Pitzer, author of One Long Night: A Global History of
Concentration Camps
defines concentration camps as facilities used for
the “detention of civilians without trial based on group identity.”
She traces the emergence of such camps to those erected by imperial Spain
during the Cuban rebellion of 1896, by the U.S. not long after in the
Philippines, and by the British in South Africa during the Boer War and
beyond. These were not death camps per se, but vast numbers of people died in
each by design, as governments tried to crush, expel, and isolate specific
populations. … The same thing seems to be happening along the American Southern

To that we might add that the same thing seems to be happening in the Australian run camps on Manus Island and Nauru.

Yet a quick google search highlights how few articles there are in the Australian media calling them concentration camps. One exception is retired judge Stephen Charles QC who in a 2016 Fairfax article called Australia’s detention centres concentration camps.  His commentary in the mainstream media stands almost alone.

Never again means never again.  Let’s tell the truth. Manus Island and Nauru detention centres are concentration camps.  Over to you, media, the ALP and the Greens.

John Passant is a member of the Canberra Press Gallery. To republish this article contact John to work out the terms. Roughly they will be pay me if you are mainstream media or an ‘independent’ media outlet whose aims are revenue. Publish it for free if you are not. But check first.


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