Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pyne occhio has got to go!

Thanks to my friend Kate for this inspired comment on the Abbott-Pyne dismantling of Gonski:
And it came to pass

That the terrible Daemon Christopher Pyne MP didst preside over the Australian Education System

And pronounce one day that "Gonski was a goner" and "Shorten was a shambles"

And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth

And the teachers at the public schools didst remove their shoes

And smite Pyne's likeness all across the land,

Crying "Down with the Daemon and all his cohorts"

And the small children and adolescents in Public Schools cried out:

"Woe, woe

Verily it is true that, under this government, those who have will receive more, and those who have not will receive bugger all"

And rise up from their desks did they, and rend their school uniforms in twain,

And up and down the land, didst set fire to all the shiny European late-model vehicles outside the leafy private schools

Causing the mummies and daddies to grieve mightily

And cry "Woe to us for voting for the Daemon Pyne, for he has caused the social fabric of our people to dissolve

And our Australian Dream to be laid waste utterly"


We raised our hands for Gonski.

Now those hands must become fists!!!


Monday, November 04, 2013

Why I want Menzies in the curriculum

Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne deplore the "scant attention" afforded Liberal Prime Ministers in the Australian Curriculum for History.

Specifically, they want more prominence given to long-standing PM Sir Robert Menzies.

I can't agree more.

Menzies has made invaluable contributions to our understanding of the mindset of the privileged born-to-rulers who have done so little for our country and our people.

Menzies was Prime Minister (prime monster, more likely) at the time of the dispute at Pt. Kembla over the loading of pig-iron for the Japanese.  Led by Communists, the wharfies engaged in a nine-week strike to prevent Australian pig-iron being turned into bombs and bullets to assist the Japanese invasion of China.
(Above: Pt Kembla wharfies support the Chinese people against Japan and its dirty collaborator Menzies)

To the great benefit of Australian school-children, this is to be the subject of a film the contents of which are explored in this article from the Illawarra Mercury:

The "wonder woman" in the article's title refers to Ma Croft who yelled the term "Pig Iron Bob" at Menzies during a demonstration against him, a term that was to haunt him for the rest of his political life.  A trailer for the documentary is embedded in the article.

On a return trip from Nazi Germany in 1938, Menzies had told Parliament "I have a great admiration for the Nazi organisation of Germany. There is a case for Germany against Czechoslovakia. We must not destroy Hitlerism or talk about shooting Hitler".  Part of Menzies' admiration for Hitler was the "resolve" he showed in crushing the rights of German workers and their unions. 

The Japanese did not forget a true friend as they advanced towards Australia during World War 2.  A radio station in Japanese occupied Batavia, capital of the Dutch East Indies (later Indonesia) referred to Menzies as a "clear blue-eyed soul".

The end of Nazism did not mean the end of ruling class attempts in capitalist countries to crush the working class, its party and its unions. 

In 1950, Menzies proposed the Communist Party Dissolution Act.  A huge campaign in defence of democratic liberties was followed by the defeat of a referendum proposing implementation of the banning of the Communist Party.

Menzies loved the idea of Australians benefitting from the latest developments in science and technology and collaborated as a traitor to his people and his country with the British imperialists to arrange for the detonating of atomic weapons on Aboriginal lands around Maralinga during the period 1945-1963.  Aboriginal victims of these tests, and veterans amongst the civilian and armed forces deployed to set up and monitor the tests, are denied the right to compensation for the illnesses to this day.

Every school-child should be warned of leery old men ogling young women and uttering oleaginous inanities.  The sycophancy of Menzies towards the English monarchy took the revolting form of the 72-year old prime monster waxing poetic on the occasion of the English Queen's 1963 visit to the colonies.  "I did but see her passing by, yet I shall love her till I die", he said, quoting someone else. A borrowed turn of phrase for a borrowed monarchy.

Having committed Australian military "advisers" to assist the US imperialists replace France as colonial master of Indo-China, Menzies announced on April 29, 1965 that Australian troops would be sent to suppress the Vietnamese struggle for independence. 

His hands are stained with the blood of Australian service personnel - conscript and regular - who were killed and wounded by Vietnamese patriots on Vietnamese soil in the cause of freedom and independence.

His lick-spittle grovelling to the imperial masters of his youth was matched only by his lick-spittle obeisance to US imperialism.

However, only the former had the decency to reward him in the style to which he aspired.

An empty ceremonial title, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, was bestowed upon the Crown servant by HM Queen Elizabeth in 1966.  Luxuriating in mediaeval bling, Ming the Great never looked such a fool as he did performing his role as guardian of a couple of Kentish harbours.

So yes, let us have Ming the Disastrous front and centre in the Australian History Curriculum.  There is so much negative example from which to learn.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Book review: The Swan Book

This is a cross-posting from the Vanguard website of the CPA (M-L).  Readers might like to cross-reference it with my review of an earlier Alexis Wright book, Carpenteria.

Book Review: The Swan Book

Nick G.

Imagine the AAMI black swans TV ad took place in Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row.  Imagine that the swans were not on the attack, but were the spiritual brothers and sisters of a mute Aboriginal girl living half a century into the future under an even more punishing and widespread Intervention regime.

Indigenous author Alexis Wright, whose previous insight into Aboriginal Australia was set in a mythical Queensland community appropriately named Desperance, has delivered another powerful statement about the State’s denial of black self-determination in The Swan Book.

The protagonist is Oblivia Ethylene, who pursues, but is unable to articulate, a “quest to regain sovereignty over my own brain”.  She lives on a contaminated lake controlled by the Army and filled with the detritus of war machinery and naval craft.  Her homeland has become a secret locality for Defence Force scheduled training manoeuvres and bombing runs.

Into this incarcerated community, and others like it, are shipped all Aboriginal persons deemed unable or unwilling to adapt to life in capitalist Australia.  These “growth centres” of “truck people” are the outcome of the National Aboriginal Relocation Policy which is set up to deal with  the old people who, having done “nothing to change things by themselves for the future… had given up the right of sovereignty over their lives”.  

Not all Aboriginal people are trucked to such camps.  There are those who are exempt from the coercive policies imposed upon their compatriots by virtue of “presenting themselves as being well and truly yes people who were against arguing the toss about Aboriginal rights”.  They were “anti about whatever there was to be anti about if white people say so” and were thus granted an Aboriginal Nation Government.  From their ranks emerges young Warren Finch, and where have we heard before of a “Warren” in Aboriginal Australian political life?

Wright says of Finch: “He had become the only public Aboriginal voice of the era. The only one Australians would listen to, and reported in the newspapers, or had given their airways to whenever he spoke publicly.  It certainly seemed as though there was national deafness to hearing what other Aboriginal people had to say of themselves.”  And so she disposes of the black Judenrats promoted by the Murdoch media!

Finch claims Oblivia as his promise-wife and orders the Army to bomb her community out of existence so she has nothing to which to return.

Like Desolation Row, Wright’s novel has its cast of strange characters.

There is Oblivia’s protector, Bella Donna of the Champions, who arrives in the swamp community as a refugee from the climate change wars of the global north, an old white lady with a swan-bone flute.  She and others like her were the “new gypsies of the world…millions of white people…drifting among the other countless stateless millions of sea gypsies looking for somewhere to live.” 

Bella Donna spends much of her time arguing with the Harbourmaster, an “Aboriginal man with an Asian heritage…a healer for the country…he just flies where he wants to” although we are not talking aeroplanes here.

He and his monkey Rigoletto appear and disappear at will, as one would expect of a healer of great power; however, he is in reality a delusional character who “only had a big mouth and that was not going to move the sand mountain” that kept building up like a pile of unsolved social problems at the mouth of the lake’s entrance to the sea.

Wright’s acknowledgements include a nod in the direction of the late Tom Trevorrow, a Ngarrindjeri Elder from the Coorong which, like the Lake, had its entrance to the sea silted up as a result of climate change. 

These two powerful themes, failure to respect Indigenous self-determination and failure to respond to climate change, make The Swan Book a powerful weapon for dissecting the problems of contemporary Australian reality.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Defend Australian science from corporations!

(A Canadian in the city of Kitchener-Waterloo makes her support for science very clear)

New Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has wasted no time in answering the prayers of the coal industry and other big polluting corporations.

He has shut down the Australian Climate Commission which provided the government and the community with expert advice on climate change science. He has also foreshadowed the closure of other climate-change government bodies, namely the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

And in a further insult to Australian scientists, one which has even been criticised by government backbenchers, his is reputedly the first Australian Federal Government in 81 years not to have a Minister for Science.

It would be tempting to dismiss Abbott’s anti-science stand as deriving from his religious views - he was once a trainee for the priesthood and still takes personal advice from the arch-reactionary Cardinal Pell of Sydney.

But the attack on scientists is really part of a larger pattern of neoliberal revenge against advocates of evidence-based policy making.

David Suzuki, the well-known Canadian scientist, has linked Abbott’s moves to those of his ideological bedfellow, the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

(September 16 rally in Toronto)

Suzuki states that “…the politicians and corporate executives… are driven by a totally different set of values, by the drive for profit, for growth, and for power”.
“Harper”, he says, “has cancelled virtually all research going on in Canada on climate change. He has muzzled government scientists: they are not allowed to speak out in the public, even in areas in which they are expert, unless they are first vetted by the prime minister’s office.”

(Toronto citizens rally in defence of science)

“That is what Abbott is doing,” he said. “It is criminal negligence through wilful blindness”.

Abbott is representative of big corporate interests that reject science if it does not serve capital accumulation. Last June, the head of Abbott’s proposed business advisory council, Maurice Newman, called for the renewable energy target to be scrapped “because he believes the scientific evidence for global warming and the economic case for renewable energy no longer stack up”.

Abbott’s pre-election policy for resources and energy took a climate change denialist position and further advanced the interests of the coal industry by proposing an investigation into the so-called “deleterious effects of wind farms.”

He has also imposed stringent new guidelines on the Australian Research Council which will divert funding from so-called “wasteful” research areas like arts and social sciences into areas that have immediate commercial application that can be utilised by corporations.

David Suzuki has called for Australian scientists to take to the ramparts, and the body representing 68,000 scientists and technologists, Science & Technology Australia, jas published a statement of “profound concern” about political interference in the awarding of research grants.

Meanwhile, back in Canada, scientists and their supporters held mass rallies in at least 17 cities as part of an Evidence for Democracy campaign. Reports on this campaign, and on the rallies, are to be found at item 7 in the Additional Reading links below.


Additional reading:

1. Climate Council faces ‘titanic struggle’, says Tim Flannery here (  )

2. David Suzuki accuses Tony Abbott of ‘wilful blindness’ to climate change here ( )

3.Tony Abbott’s climate change policy: the science is still crap here

5. Anti-science, effective climate change denialist Abbott Coalition Australian Government azes expert climate commission

7. Cross Canada rallies defend science against Harper Government’s anti-social offensive  

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Katyn: Was Stalin responsible?


In one of the great reversals of historical judgement, the massacre of thousands of Polish officers at Katyn during World War 2, originally blamed on the Nazis, has come to be accepted as one of Stalin’s major “crimes”.

The Wikipedia Katyn Massacre site ( ) provides a lengthy explanation of how this reversal occurred.  The judgement was sealed in 1990 when the Russians officially accepted the blame for the massacre, citing a 1940 proposal by Beria to execute 25,700 Polish officers. The proposal was counter-signed by Stalin, Molotov, Voroshilov and Mikoyan.

The Russian confession was a final repudiation of the era of Stalin.  The repudiation had begun in 1956 with Khrushchev’s so-called “Secret Speech” to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.  Between 1956 and 1990, Soviet leaders undid much of the socialist collective economy of the Soviet Union and retreated from core elements of the theories of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. 

For nearly a quarter of a century the new orthodoxy of Katyn-as-Stalin’s-crime has become accepted fact in the mainstream media and history text books.  It has built on and further consolidated the anti-communist hostility that creates so many barriers to people working for the overthrow of capitalism and imperialism.

(Above: verdict not set in stone after all)

However, new developments may presage the reversal of the reversal.  History may be forced to rewrite its malicious judgements on Stalin.

Firstly, Russian Duma (parliament) member Viktor Iliukhin has produced materials that cast doubt on the authenticity of the “Beria letter” to Stalin.  If you have the time and the interest to pursue this matter, go to Grover Furr’s “The Katyn Forest Whodunnit” page here:

Secondly, a joint Polish-Ukrainian group of archaeologists has unearthed evidence that persons listed on Soviet transportation documents could not have been killed by the Soviets, but were in all likelihood captured by the Nazis and shot at a later date.  The transportation lists name persons held in POW camps by the Soviets who were being moved to labour battalions.  Anti-communists such as Anna Cienciala et. al. (see Katyn: A Crime Without Punishment) have simply declared that these are lists of persons identified to be executed by the Soviets at Katyn.  The new evidence strongly suggests that the lists are what they claim to be.  The fact that a Polish prisoner’s name is on a Soviet transportation list can no longer be said to constitute proof that the prisoner was earmarked for execution.

Grover Furr, a multilingual professor of medieval English literature at Montclair State University at New Jersey in the US has translated documents relating to the new evidence and constructed a compelling account of the falsity surrounding the new Katyn orthodoxy.
This is available here:

It is the pre-publication version of the peer-reviewed final, published as Grover Furr. "The 'Official' Version of the Katyn Massacre Disproven? Discoveries at a German Mass Murder Site in Ukraine." Socialism and Democracy 27:2 (August 2013), 96-129.

I said in an earlier post that history will in all probability be kinder to Stalin than are the strident critics of our present era.

Grover’s article gives me further confidence that this will be the case.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cuba holds a smoking gun to Australia

Cuba enjoys a very high prestige among progressive people the world over because of its extensive public health system.  This includes its contributions to developing countries in training and supporting medical personnel in those countries.

Which makes it all the more disappointing that Cuba has joined Honduras and the Dominican Republic as complainants against Australia in a case taken to the World Trade Organisation by the Ukraine.

Ukraine’s complaint concerns “certain Australian laws and regulations that impose trademark restrictions and other plain packaging requirements on tobacco products and packaging”.

As an article in yesterday’s Australian Financial Review notes, “The complainant countries are being supported by multinational tobacco companies”.  Or perhaps that should be “The multinational tobacco companies are being supported by the complainant countries”.

Australia is also being prosecuted by US tobacco giant Philip Morris in a case before the courts in Hong Kong under an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause.  This is a clause that allows a company to sue for damages in any country that enacts legislation that impacts negatively on the company’s investments.

ISDS clauses clearly undermine the sovereignty of countries which agree to them, giving corporations greater rights than independent nations.

Worried by the Hong Kong precedent, the Labor government of Australia stated in 2011 that it would not allow ISDS clauses in any new trade agreements.

This is a significant and correct stance and comes as the US is attempting to enmesh Australia and various other states in our region, as well as several in Latin America, into a Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), the terms of which are top secret. 

What is known, and this only because of leaked documents, is that the US is insisting on the inclusion of an ISDS clause in the TPPA.

Australian citizens only have until October to insist that the TPPA be abandoned and that the Australian government maintain its commitment to opposing any further ISDS clauses.

In the meantime, please contact the Cuban Embassy in Australia, respectfully requesting that Cuba respect Australian sovereignty and support our attempts to improve public health through plain packaging requirements on tobacco products sold in this country.
Cuban Embassy:

For further reading;

The Ukrainian case against Australia at the WTO:

Melbourne’s Occupy TPPA website:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sarin: US imperialism tries to create a pretext for intervening in Syria

US imperialism must not be allowed to further inflame the violence in Syria.

The same criminals who misled the world about the “Gulf ofTonkin Incident” in order to openly wage a war of aggression against Vietnam, and who misled the world about Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” in order to invade and occupy that sovereign state are now misleading the world with allegations of Syrian president Assad’s use of sarin gas in order to invade and occupy the sovereign state of Syria.
With an estimated 65% of US citizens opposed to such a course of action, perhaps it’s time to wheel out Colin Powell to make a presentation to the UN about the use of sarin.

But that might not be possible, because the UN has already heard a report from one of its own.
On May 5, UN human rights investigator Carla del Ponte alleged that the so-called “rebels” were likely to have used sarin against Syrian government troops and civilian supporters.

Carla Del Ponte, a member of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said that testimony gathered from casualties and medical staff indicated that the nerve agent sarin was used by rebel fighters.
“Our investigators have been in neighbouring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” Ms Del Ponte said in an interview broadcast on Swiss-Italian television on Sunday.

“This was used on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” she added.
Del Ponte’s “strong, concrete suspicions” are confirmed by Turkish state media reports that Turkish police have seized sarin gas from Al Nusrah rebels preparing to leave Turkey for Syria.

In 2012, the President of US imperialism had made much of a “red line” that Assad would be deemed to have crossed if Syrian government forces used chemical weapons.
But when del Ponte made her allegations against the US mercenary “rebels” he was strangely silent.

So there is a “red line” for those you are trying to overthrow, but no “red line” for your agents in that overthrow.
To add to the hypocrisy of the imperialists, there are reports that the CIA has supplied chemical weapons to its proxies among the heart-devouring “rebels” and trained them in their use.

The reports add to suspicions that the US imperialists have used “rebel” forces to use chemical weapons as a means of then laying the blame at the feet of the Assad government, feet that will then be deemed to have crossed the “red line”.
There appear to be no end to the crimes that imperialism can engage in.

There appear to be no lies that imperialism cannot spread.
There appear to be no hypocrisies that imperialism cannot create.

Either the “red line” applies equally to the Assad government and to the US mercenary Al Qaeda “rebels” OR US imperialism stands exposed and condemned for aiding and abetting a war crime by its proxies at the same time as it alleges a war crime by a sovereign state.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Nationalise the Australian auto industry!

US carmaker General Motors Holden is pressuring its vehicle assembly plant workers at Elizabeth in South Australia to take a wage cut of around $200 per week as it plunges into further financial difficulties.

The US giant plans to put a series of proposals to reduce production costs to workers and ask them to vote on them.
"This is about giving Holden employees a direct say in their future," managing director Mike Devereux, a US citizen, said in a statement on Tuesday June 15.
Of course, such noble sentiments of workplace democracy were never raised by management in earlier and more profitable times.

"We made $100 million in profits this year - better call the workers to a meeting and let them vote on how much they want to take out of that."

The company in recent times has cut shifts and reduced working hours, putting workers on reduced pay via a four day week.

It has also received millions of dollars in state and federal government assistance.

Never was there a more cynical example of privatising the profits and socialising the losses.

Well, if we’re going to have to socialise the losses, let there be no hesitation in raising the demand that the whole operation be socialised.

Auto manufacturing should be possible in Australia.

With Ford shutting down, and Holden teetering on the brink of closure, it’s time to nationalise the whole industry, rationalise the whole industry and concentrate on advanced technologies and processes to support green energy car, commercial vehicle and public transport production in line with market requirements.

Planned production, not market anarchy.

Nationalise the auto industry in Australia!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Murder in Woolwich

Like the Boston bombings, the murder of a British soldier yesterday in Woolwich has received massive publicity. That is, of course, understandable: these are violent acts occurring in places where we do not expect to see violence, and in situations where any of us could be among the random victims. However, the far greater violence of imperialist attacks on people resisting "full spectrum domination" is editorially disappeared from the capitalist mass media or buried in a page 37 paragraph and by and large accepted by Western peoples because it is "over there" and in places where we assume violence to be some sort of norm.

How do we respond to workmates and friends when a topic like Woolwich comes up?

Acts of terrorism must be condemned.  But we cannot condemn them in the same self-righteous and blinkered manner as the capitalist media and right-wing nationalist and reactionary people do.

They refuse to admit that there can be any rational basis for the actions of the terrorists. 

I have before me the Adelaide Advertiser, a Murdoch publication.  On page 4 it excerpts the comments of one of the terrorists under the heading “Rantings of a madman”.  On the same page, it directs readers to its website with the prurient appeal to “Watch the extremist’s manic rant”.

Hence, any consideration of what may have motivated the murder of the soldier is dismissed.  A “madman” does not have rational motivations. A “manic rant” is incoherent and crazy, illogical and delusional.

Yet in Murdoch’s national flagship, the Australian, comprador journalist Greg Sheridan says that what was “appalling” – even “especially” appalling – was “the calm, even lucid, fashion in which one of the two murderers explained the Islamist nature of his motives to the mobile phone camera of a passer-by.”

So what was it?  A “manic rant” or a “calm, even lucid” explanation?

At least one cannot accuse Murdoch of not allowing different views and interpretations in his newspapers!

And in any case, Sheridan was hardly stepping out of editorial line.  He opened with the one result that terrorism is guaranteed to produce, namely, a call for even greater repressive powers to be vested in the capitalist state’s security services: “…the terrorist threat is increasing, our ability to combat it is beginning to decline and we are contemplating further handcuffing of our security agencies in their counter-terror efforts.”

So what did the terrorist of the manic calm, of the lucid rant, have to say?

It is true that he praised Allah and bemoaned the killing of Muslims in Afghanistan by British forces.  I suppose that is what Sheridan means by the “Islamist nature” of the killer’s motives.

But the core of the killer’s message was the need for the British people to get rid of their government, a government that cares as little for the people of Britain as it does for the people of Afghanistan, and for the British people to demand the return of British troops (“our troops”) so that “we can all live in peace”.

Editorially, the Australian was in no mood to contemplate such a rational message.

Its opening salvo was that the “horrendous slaughter of a British soldier on a London street, like last month’s bombing of the Boston Marathon, is a gruesome reminder of the Islamic terrorist evil that lurks within even the most civilised societies.”

This is the same paper and same global media empire which never reminds us of the gruesome terrorist evil of massive airpower strikes at “weddings, parties, anything” in the “other” parts of the world, in “even the most civilised societies” that are not yet subject to the “full spectrum domination” of US imperialism and its NATO allies.

Here is one statement that goes to the heart of the matter, from the UK-based World to Win News Service. Are there others?


The state feeds on terror and ignores serious threats to society
Events in Woolwich yesterday show that the state is totally geared up for emergency action when it wants to be – committees meet, officials are called in, politicians focus their attention and insist something must be done.

One is entitled to ask why they can respond so strongly to a lone terrorist event when they are so entirely unable to react to long-term, serious threats to society – poverty, climate change, banking and tax corruption and youth unemployment to name a few? No committees met when it was reported last week that the concentration of CO2 has risen above 400 parts per million!

Cameron says the "British people" will "never buckle in the face of terror" and promised "terrorists will never win". But those who carried out yesterday's horrific attack and others like the Boston Marathon attack, were not aiming to win – they were aiming to die, and to strike a blow against their enemy as they did so.

Yet such acts of terrorism can no more “win” than the NATO powers can win their so-called war on terror. Instead, the world is now locked into a continuous conflict and the state adopts the rhetoric of “crushing” the terrorists, a rhetoric that is easily transferable to crushing all opposition.

The reaction of the state media shows the extent to which even intelligent journalists adopt distorted thinking in order to support the kind of imperialist and colonialist rhetoric that still colours so much public discourse in the UK. In an astonishing article on the BBC website, home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani says:

For jihadists, it really comes down to the presence of soldiers - and an entire framework of belief that sees those personnel, whatever role they have been given under international law, as the enemy of Islam. That argument is often backed up with graphic images online of the suffering of ordinary women and children. It's all designed to whip up anger and a sense of burning injustice - the kind of injustice that leads people to be convinced that something must be done.

So women and children suffering in the Middle East and Afghanistan are just "images" and only serve to "whip up" a sense of burning injustice. They are not really burning injustices in themselves! He goes on:

Now, most people who feel a sense of injustice obviously combat it in [sic] purely peaceful means. The point about terrorism is that the sense of injustice becomes a springboard for mental somersaults in the mind of someone who thinks that indiscriminate violence can create justice.

So "most people" obviously combat injustice by peaceful means? Would that include the troops sent to Mali by the French government? Or the first invasion of Iraq, after Saddam fell out with the West and invaded Kuwait? Or the second invasion, when, as Blair now admits, the goal was regime change? Or the invasion of Afghanistan in response to the attacks on the Twin Towers? Or illegal drone assassinations?

Of course not! These claim the sanction of “international law” and fighting to “preserve our way of life”, which, when it comes down to it, means sustaining corporate and financial power over ordinary people’s lives.

The last time the cabinet’s emergency unit Cobra was in almost continuous session was in 2011 when riots broke out in London and other cities – another outpouring of anger at burning injustice. On this occasion it was the injustice of police shooting a young black man and anger at the impact of the economic crisis being foisted on to the young and the poor.

The reaction was ruthless and the justice system was instructed by the government to repress those who were caught. First-time offenders were given long prison terms; young people got four years just for Facebook messages.

Of course terrorism and rioting are not going to change the state of the world, or the state of the state. The state feeds on such acts and uses them to mobilise reactionary forces and reinforce repression against every community.

So the capitalist state is itself the problem, not the solution. It can never address the grievances that drive people to terrorism or to riot. Only when power is in the hands of ordinary people will the conditions exist for that to happen.

Penny Cole
23 May 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The dangerous charm of Michael Chaney

Last night, the ABC TV program Lateline included a segment where presenter Emma Alberici interviewed one of the senior members of the Australian ruling class, Michael Chaney.

Unlike some of the buffoons belonging to that class, Chaney is urbane, charming, personable, pleasantly-spoken, articulate and oh so reasonable.  His formative years were spent at Aquinas College, which, together with his family, can take credit for grooming and nurturing these qualities.

Speaking of family, Chaney’s father Sir Fred was a member of the reactionary Menzies Cabinet, while one brother was a conservative Senator, and another is a Supreme Court judge.  Michael Chaney is in business, is Chancellor of the University of WA and heads a federal government advisory body on international education, so the family embraces capital, politics, education and law in its areas of influence.

The Lateline segment can be viewed here ( and there is also a transcript of the interview.  It is worth watching at least a portion of the segment just to get a feel for how smooth, how unassuming, modest and refined is our ruling class member Chaney.

But perhaps I’m concentrating too much on the person.  After all, if this were a diatribe against Clive Palmer or Gina Rinehart or Twiggy Forrest a myriad of bourgeois voices would demand that we “play the ball and not the man/woman”.  So what did he say?

Firstly, Chaney was asked for his opinion on the National Insurance Disability Scheme.

“Well, you know,” he began, “there are many causes that people would like covered. I mean I don't think many people in our community would deny the worthiness of that cause. The Opposition supported it, the Government supported it. The question is whether these sorts of things can be paid for….”

Despite his acknowledgement of bipartisan support for a “worthy cause”, Chaney took a bash at the “size of government”, a favourite hobby-horse of the corporate-financed Centre for Independent Studies of which he happens to be Director.

Returning to the topic, which he again stated to be one of a number of “terrific ideas”, Chaney effectively put the kibosh on the NDIS, saying: “no one would argue with many of them, but we need to be able to pay for them, and you can't just keep spending money without getting the revenue.”

I was at this point busy picking myself up off the floor. 

We shouldn’t be having this “terrific idea”, the NDIS, because the government can’t get the revenue to pay for it.

And who has been running campaigns against the pollution tax, against the resources super profits tax, and campaigning to reduce government expenditure from 35% of GDP to 30% of GDP if not Mr Chaney and his cronies in the ruling class?  And who would howl like a wolf in the night if, in order to increase its revenue base, the government adopted a financial super profits tax?

Perhaps the Chairman of the National Australia Bank.  Now, who might that be?  Oh, it’s the saintly Michael Chaney in another of his roles as finance capitalist. 

The banks are raking it in, as this opening paragraph from yesterday’s Murdoch rags made clear:

 AUSTRALIA'S big four banks are tipped to pocket more than $13 billion - a record high half-year profit - after refusing to pass on interest-rate cuts in full and sacking thousands of staff.”

And if we were not all convinced by the avuncular tut-tutting “great-idea-but-pity-you-can’t-have-it-‘cos-we-won’t-let-you-tax-the-super-rich”, Chaney sealed the fate of the NDIS with a dire warning about Australia heading for a crisis of Cypriot proportions:  “ In the end you end up like the countries we're seeing now in Europe that have very high levels of debt and very few ways of getting out of it.”

Emma demurely asked whether such a scenario was likely, and Chaney smilingly assured her that unless “hard decisions” were taken, we’d end up like that “basket-case, Ireland”.

That provided Alberici with a hook into other areas of “hard decision”, like increasing, rather than lowering, company taxes to pay for the Opposition’s Paid Parental Leave Scheme should they win government in September.

“Is that something the economy needs right now?” she asked, doing such a great job of really putting her interviewee under pressure.

“Well, no, it's not,” replied the patient and always helpful Chaney. "But it's another example of what I was talking about.”

And just as helpfully he added that “we need rationalisation of the red tape that faces companies trying to do business in Australia. And also reforms in other areas I think like workplace relations.”

Oh, they dare not whisper its name, but give ‘em time, and they’ll have a re-christening of WorkChoices!

To achieve these items on the ruling class agenda Chaney proposed a more powerful and more “independent” version of the Productivity Commission.  The quotation marks are warranted because such institutions may be independent of the government of the day, but they are never independent of the ruling ideology in which is distilled the core values and outlook of the ruling class.

And as for the people, they can just be pushed aside, said Chaney, but much more nicely and reasonably.  In fact, he prefaced that little piece of fascism by citing the example of one of neoliberalism’s most eloquent advocates, the ALP’s Paul Keating:

“In the early '90s the treasurer, then Paul Keating, gave the Reserve Bank independence over the setting of interest rates. One of the most sensitive political variables that you could imagine. He did it, I believe, because he realised that's what the economy needed.”

A quick digression.  Although they speak English, capitalists often try to neutralise the language, or maybe it’s neuter the language, by disguising the class content of meanings. An acceptable interpretation of the word “economy” here would be “the financial elite and the giant mainly multinational corporations”. Re-read that last sentence in the previous paragraph and it will be clear why Keating is a poster boy for bankers and financiers. But we have rudely interrupted Mr Chaney….

“It needed to be free of political considerations and one of the problems we have today, I think, is that every decision that's made seems to be coloured by how will this look politically, how will it affect voters and so on. We need some sensible, long range planning, of people who don't have those sort of interests at heart and who have the national interest at heart.”

Ah yes, Hitler’s and Mussolini’s concept of the “national interest” pursued without reference to “voters” and their “sorts of interests”.

I took a bit longer to get up off the floor at this point and missed some minor pleasantries between host and guest about market solutions to climate change, and the possibilities of floating liquefied natural gas technology, but at least I was in time to hear Alberici courageously broaching the issue of Section 457 visas.

After all, the Federal Court this month had heard allegations that foreign workers were paid less than $3 an hour to work on oil rigs operated by Woodside Petroleum off Western Australia.

As a nice person myself, I have to acknowledge that someone as busy running the country as Michael Chaney cannot be expected to have known about the wages and working conditions of every 457 visa worker employed on a Woodside oil rig, but he surely cannot be unaware that one of his own companies is embroiled in the scandalous rorting of this scheme.

Did Alberici go him at this point? Even Leigh Sales might have by now affected a quizzical stare and made some pointed comment.  But not Alberici. She was too busy trying to compete in the charm stakes. And Chaney?  For disingenuity he has no peer.

“I haven't had personal involvement in this but anyone I've talked to who's utilised the 457 program has been really enthusiastic about it in terms of filling skills gaps.”

I had taken to bracing myself against another fall, so I only gasped a few times as he continued:

“…I've seen the comment that rorts have resulted in a reduction of wages in the IT industry. … how could you pay anyone less who's working alongside someone else, what would that do to the culture of the company? So I can't really understand that point. But, you know, the Minister says there are rorts and if there are rorts they should be fixed up. People should be prosecuted if they're rorting and we should continue with what is a terrific program.”

Hey Mr Charm, your company is facing the Federal Court, and you don’t know about it???

After another denial of knowledge about 457 visa rorts, and a pleasant sideswipe at Minister Brendan O’Connor (“if there are some rorts they should be taken care of. You know, I'm not sure what motivates people in politics, I've given up long ago trying to second guess that. But I'm sure the Minister's genuine in his concerns about some rorts but I suspect they're not material”), it was time for host and guest to blow each other kisses (figuratively speaking) and say goodbye.
Which is what we will do one day to the ruling class, but without the kisses.