Thursday, November 24, 2011

Business Council set to continue reactionary agenda

The Business Council of Australia is the representative of the biggest local and overseas companies.

In early November, it elected a new President, Transfield Services Chairman Tony Shepherd.

Transfield is an Australian company but Shepherd will speak as BCA President for the interests of imperialist capital – just over half of BCA’s members are foreign companies or their subsidiaries, and more are local companies in which foreign private and institutional investors have a controlling influence.

In any case, Transfield’s business and investment practices place it at the centre of the infrastructure development required by the multinationals to enable them to squeeze more and more profit out of the Australian people.

It has contracts with coal seam gas operators in the Surat Basin south-west of Gladstone, has major defence industry contracts for "garrison support services" at military facilities throughout the country, runs some of the biggest Public Private Partnerships projects in Australia, and was a major player in 1999 in the privatization of Australian Defence Industries which opened the war supplies sector to the US, French and British companies which now operate in Australia.

Shepherd is no shrinking violet.

He has spoken out strongly against the carbon tax ("We are a carbon-intense economy…we should do everything in our power to protect that"), and strongly supported Rudd’s "Big Australia" proposal for a population of 36 million. "Our domestic consumption base is too narrow to support the industries we need," he told the Australian Financial Review on 25 November. It was a fairly blunt statement that the basis for determining the size of our population is the need for capital to continuously accumulate. More people, more infrastructure, more Transfield profit.
What else does Shepherd have in his sights?

The big ticket item is industrial relations. He hankers for the days of WorkChoices and says that Fair Work Australia is flawed. Actually, FWA works pretty well for the ruling class as the Qantas and Victorian Nurses’ disputes have shown. But having the power to fine and jail unionists who dare go beyond "protected" industrial action is not enough for Shepherd - he wants individual work contracts back!

"I certainly have no problems if companies want individual contracts and employees want to do that," he told the AFR.

He also wants the Federal budget back in surplus "as quickly as possible", even if it means "cutting the cloth" to decrease government expenditure.

Education comes in for a big serve from Shepherd who complains of its "abysmal failure" to provide industry with a skilled workforce.

But what about a social vision for the country, for something that goes beyond the greedy demands of big business?

With more and more people outraged at sky-rocketing CEO salaries, Shepherd is simply dismissive. "Who cares? It’s irrelevant," he told the AFR.

That’s small consolation for the "overwhelming majority of the Australian community (that) is sensible, frugal and hardworking". Noses down, bums in the air and keep slaving folks while those who wallow in wealth praise you for your "frugality"!

But at least the social democrats can be pleased with the praise Shepherd heaps on Hawke, Keating and Kelty. They knew how to use class collaborationist policy to achieve an "integrated" populace without division "into a political class, a business class, and a working class".

Shepherd is not going to go away, but neither are the Australian people.

There are very good signs of an increasing awareness of the injustices of mega-wealth on one side for a tiny handful, and of "frugality" and "cloth-cutting" for the "overwhelming majority of the Australian community".

And that is leading to a rising tide of struggle, and to a willingness to defy rulings and injunctions against the very actions that are needed to address the yawning gaps between rich and poor in the country.

Let the Business Council be warned - the people are on the move!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Murdoch’s Australian spruiks the US line

The Australian is a disgusting rag. It’s made up of about 20% distorted news and 80% open or disguised opinion pieces and editorial columns justifying the spin.

As if it’s not bad enough that it has its own stable of hacks like Greg Sheridan, Janet Albrechtsen et al, it has a coterie of former Labor politicians and tame-cat academics who can be relied upon to keep the discourse within the parameters of safe discussion.

The framing of discourse around the stationing of US troops on Australian soil is a case in point.

It is obviously aimed at China, so China has to be demonized to make the betrayal of our independence and sovereignty into a "response" to a China "threat".

For example, comprador academic Paul Dibb was given column space on November 15 to explain how the US troop invasion of Australia protects our sovereignty. His explanation was based on a deficit view of Beijing: "it is open to Beijing to contribute much more to maritime security concerns in the region by supporting the universally recognized Law of the Sea convention…"

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is widely recognized: 161 member states have ratified it.
But it cannot be said to be "universally" recognized while ratification is refused by a major player.
And no, that is not China, which has signed and ratified the Treaty.
It is the United States.
Perhaps the good professor had a senior’s moment and put in "Beijing" where he really meant to say "the United States"….but I think that’s being a little to kind to him.

He knows what he’s doing.

Likewise, on the front page the following day was an EXCLUSIVE (their highlighting and capitalisation) exposure by reporter Cameron Stewart of the "fact" that a "satellite ground station in the West Australian desert is being used by the Chinese military to help locate Australian and US navy warships in the region."

A close reading of the article shows nothing factual at all - just a series of speculations and half-truths emanating from Professor Des Ball, described as "the nation’s foremost expert on space-based espionage".

Despite an Australian government denial of the claims, buried towards the end of the article, this crap piece of pimp journalism was picked up by the likes of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age and given further prominence.

A spokesperson from the Chinese Embassy in Canberra, Miao Miao, had to submit a letter to the Australian to get the Chinese side of the story into print – not on the front page, but tucked away on p. 15 where it was the last letter printed.

Miao Miao found it "difficult to agree with" Cameron Stewart’s article.

"I note his claims," she wrote, "that a satellite ground station at Mingenew is being used to locate US ships.

"In fact, the Australian government recently confirmed that the station is entirely for commercial purposes. It identified no security concerns with operation of the facilities.

"People cannot but wonder the purpose of publishing such an article at this moment.

"China is Australia’s largest trading partner and has never posed any military threat to Australia. Any attempt to spread Cold War remnants is against the trend of the times."

But can we trust a Chinese denial?

It is not a newspaper on the national stage, but the Geraldton Guardian sent out a reporter to discover the truth.

Here is his article:

Chinese "spies" at Mingenew were the flavour of the US presidential visit week, judging by reports in a range of capital city newspapers.

They were excited by President Barack Obama’s declaration that the US would step up its military presence amid "growing fears about the rise of China".

And the satellite tracking station 20km west of Mingenew was claimed to be the target for nefarious Chinese military activities.

Australian National University Professor Des Ball was quoted as saying the federal government may have unwittingly acted against the national interest by allowing China to use the station to track its Shezhou satellite launched on November 1.

The satellite "was not just part of China’s space program but was used to collect electronic emissions from warships", it was claimed.

Geraldton Newspapers decided we had better get on to this, so a reporter and photographer were dispatched to investigate.

There the station’s manager, Vince Noyes, said the original story in a national newspaper was as far from the truth as its observation that Mingenew — in the middle of the Wheatbelt — was in "the WA desert".

"There’s no kerfuffle between the Chinese and the Americans about using the station," he said.
"They both signed international traffic in arms regulations and entered into a technical assistance agreement so China could use the station to track satellites associated with its proposed space station."

As well, Mr Noyes said, everything done through the station — now owned and operated by the Swedish Space Corporation — was overseen by the corporation’s onsite staff.
Mr Noyes works for Electro Optic Systems, which is subcontractor for the corporation’s Mingenew satellite tracking operations.

He said there was nothing secret or sinister about the station, which had been operating in various forms since 1979 before the Swedish Space Corporation became involved.

"Under the arms regulation agreement, required by the US because the corporation is using a satellite station owned by them but built by the Americans, there’s no way the Chinese can use the equipment for anything but scientific purposes," he said.

Mr Noyes said the "kerfuffle" arose because China had taken a lease on satellite station time and had recently placed tracking equipment in the station.

This was being used for tests to ensure correct docking of parts being assembled for the Chinese space station.

Mr Noyes said there were no guards or restrictions on visits to the satellite station, and its facilities were used by the United States, Geoscience Australia and the University of Tasmania as well as the Chinese.

"It’s even on the route for grey nomad wildflower tours," he said.

Mingenew Shire CEO Ian Fitzgerald also discounted claims that it was being used by the Chinese as some form of spy base.

"This has gone viral and I’ve been interviewed by the BBC and a Chinese newspaper about it," he said.

"Happily, the latest publicity simply places Mingenew at the centre of the universe, just where it should be," he said, adding that there might be an opening for a Chinese restaurant in the town.

There’s another reason China might have an interest in Mingenew.

The husband of local baker Michelle Boylands makes the fireworks used in big events in Geraldton.

"I guess we could sell some of them to the Chinese," she said.

So let me get this straight.
The US President stands in an Australian Parliament to lecture China on "playing by the rules" and "upholding international norms".
At the same time, he encourages us to sell uranium to India, one of only three states not to "uphold the international norm" of being a signatory to the UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (the others are Pakistan and Israel).
This is after he and Gillard have agreed to disregard "international norms" of political independence, state sovereignty and territorial integrity by stationing US troops on our soil who are answerable only to their own military command.
The purpose, as outlined by Hillary Clinton most clearly in an article in the November edition of Foreign Policy magazine, is to enhance the meddling by the United States in China’s waters under the banner of "defending freedom of navigation in the South China Sea".
There is bipartisan support for this from Gillard and Dr No although China, our top foreign direct investment destination and largest trading partner, is a country that has "played by the rules", having ratified the UN Law of the Sea, whilst the US has not.
For the US to dictate the terms of our subservience in disregard of international norms is a disgrace.

And the comprador journalists, like the comprador academics, are simply willing servants of imperialism to be named and shamed.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No to US troops in Australia!

("Cartoon by Mark Rhodes -")

The Australian bourgeoisie is totally servile to the interests and needs of US imperialism.

The struggle for the redivision of the world into areas for the most profitable investment of export capital has direct implications for the Australian people.

We are cemented into a subservient political and military relationship with US imperialism on the basis of an economic situation that is fluid and changing. Part of that change involves the only significant potential challenger to US "full spectrum domination", and that is China. "Australia is China’s top foreign direct investment destination...China is Australia’s largest trading partner and will remain so for the foreseeable future" (see ).

However, China is no longer free of the contradictions and crises of capitalism, its Gini coefficient is one of the highest in the world, and there is an underlying social discontent amongst its working and peasant classes. It is exporting capital to areas from which the US imperialists would dearly like to exclude it.

These circumstances mean that the current struggle for economic redivision of sources of raw materials and markets between the US, Western Europe and China (with smaller but significant input from India, Russia, Brazil) is directly involving Australia and that the political and military loyalties of the Australian bourgeoisie will sharpen contradictions at a potentially huge expense to our people and our class.

Thus, we have the news of the permanent stationing of US troops on Australian soil under conditions in which they are only answerable to the US.

The following comment was released today on the website of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist):

No to US troops in Australia!

In a shameful abdication of responsibility for the protection of Australian national independence and sovereignty, the Australian government has agreed to the permanent stationing of US troops in Australia.

US imperialist President Barak Obama announced the permanent stationing of 2500 US marines at Darwin’s Robertson Barracks on his mid-November visit.

In a cynical manipulation of media spin, the announcement was leaked the day after the annual misuse by the ruling class of people’s genuine remembrance of war dead on November 11.
In order to deflect popular opposition, the base will not be identified as a "US base" and the US Pacific Command troops will be rotated on a "pre-positioning" basis which one assumes means before being sent to other areas in the Pacific region.

Robertson currently houses 4500 Australian soldiers, and will have to be expanded to accommodate the desired US deployment size.

Obama also indicated that a greater number of US war planes will use RAAF bases in the Top End including for live bombing training exercises, and there is talk of the Curtin naval base near Perth becoming virtually a permanent dock for ships and nuclear-powered submarines of the US Pacific Fleet.

US imperialism struggling to control the region

The Asia-Pacific Region is seen by the US imperialists as crucial to their continued economic, military and cultural domination of the globe. Establishing a much more prominent "forward presence" in the Pacific and Indian ocean regions is seen as central to out-manoeuvring China and keeping India under control respectively. (Gillard’s proposal to reverse the ban on sales of uranium to India has also been made on US instructions and is part of the same plan.)
This new development was the thrust of a revealing article in the November 2011 edition of Foreign Policy magazine, by Hillary Clinton.

Under the heading, "The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action", Clinton articulates a vision about being "smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy, so that we put ourselves in the best position to sustain our leadership, secure our interests, and advance our values."
Central to that vision is positioning the US militarily to vie with China, or as she puts it, "defending freedom of navigation in the South China Sea".

The so-called "freedom of the seas" has been a bone of contention between colonialist and imperialist powers since at least the mid-1600s when Holland and Britain struggled over the issue.

It is ironic that the US purports to champion the principle, now embedded in article 87(1)a of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, since it is the only major power to refuse to ratify the Convention. China, on the other hand, has signed and ratified the Convention.
Clinton went on to define the new US regional strategy. "For starters, "she wrote, "it calls for a sustained commitment to what I have called ‘forward-deployed’ diplomacy. That means continuing to dispatch the full range of our diplomatic assets -- including our highest-ranking officials, our development experts, our interagency teams, and our permanent assets -- to every country and corner of the Asia-Pacific region."

We will, we will rule you!

It is not difficult to see that the dominant imperialist power will stop at nothing to deny sources of raw materials, access to labour, opportunities for investment and political and cultural influence to its competitors. In this respect, an imperialist power led by a Nobel Peace Prize winner is nothing but an imperialist power.

"We have to guarantee that the defense capabilities and communications infrastructure of our alliances are operationally and materially capable of deterring provocation from the full spectrum of state and nonstate actors," declared Clinton. It is almost like she has rewritten the old Queen lyric and is singing "We will, we will rule you!"

And Obama has made it clear that only the US can make global rules and that China must abide by them.

US imperialism redefines Australia’s subservience

Clinton again: "We are also expanding our alliance with Australia from a Pacific partnership to an Indo-Pacific one, and indeed a global partnership. From cybersecurity to Afghanistan to the Arab Awakening to strengthening regional architecture in the Asia-Pacific, Australia's counsel and commitment have been indispensable."

This is the US imperialist state machine dictating the terms of the service it expects from the client traitor class running Australia. It is not necessary to consult the Australian people on the role they wish to play internationally as they do not hold state power and are under the class dictatorship of a bourgeoisie that aligns with US imperialism.

Noting that "we have resumed joint training of Indonesian special forces units," Clinton observed that "The stretch of sea from the Indian Ocean through the Strait of Malacca to the Pacific contains the world's most vibrant trade and energy routes."

Hence, in addition to basing US forces at Robertson, there will be a significant permanent naval presence in Singapore. "The United States will be deploying littoral combat ships to Singapore, and we are examining other ways to increase opportunities for our two militaries to train and operate together", wrote Clinton.

All of this adds up to what Clinton called "a more broadly distributed military presence across the region (which) will provide vital advantages".

We Australians must reject the imposition on us of even greater subservience to US imperialism.
We must demand of our government that it develop and maintain a capacity for independence in foreign policy.

Ultimately that noble goal can only be achieved when we take state power into our own hands and formally establish national independence on the basis of a socialist economy.