Sunday, February 24, 2013

The corruption of sport

Vanguard March 2013 p. 1
Jim H.

Exposure of the extent of the use of performance enhancement drugs in the various football codes and other sports has had a profound impact.

Associated with this is the existence of what seems to be compelling evidence of match fixing, involving the bribing of officials and players. The two issues cannot be separated.

The vast majority of people are revolted by this. There is a broad sense that this may only be the tip of the iceberg. Most people want decisive action to put an end to this insidious cancer.

So far, a lot of attention has been put on the wrongdoing of players and coaches and officials who have either participated in or turned a blind eye to what has been going on. These individuals are culpable, whether it’s accepting payments for throwing games, or participating in the circulation and use of performance enhancement drugs. Either way, it provides a honeypot to criminal elements, who then extend their influence through many aspects of sport.

Any decent person would agree that this has to be countered. Those found participating must be held to account. If the problem is going to be solved once and for all, this on its own is not enough. While the conditions to corrupt sport remain, it will continue to be corrupted.

Sport as a commodity

The essential problem is that sport has been turned into a commodity. Because of this, it is no longer so much an activity for the development and testing of skill, as it is about manufacturing a package that can be marketed for a large amount of money.

Increasingly, big business runs sporting clubs and teams. Sponsorship is vital, and failure to win threatens sponsorship. Media and advertising barons make squillions out of it, plus the huge merchandising industry. In Australia today, the commodification of sport has created a $9 billion a year industry.

Gambling and corruption

In recent times, a huge gambling industry has grown around spot-betting on various sports. It is a magnet for widespread corruption, and obviously criminal activity. At the elite Olympic level, vast sums are spent wining and dining the sporting code bosses and their flunkies. It gives rise to an atmosphere where of making big money by jumping on the gravy train surrounds every player, and inevitably some will become infected with this outlook. For many of those who have the dominant influence over elite sport nowadays, nothing must get in the way of generating cash flow.

The outlook of capitalism
The difficulty in doing something about this is that the commodification of sport is capitalism at work. Ideologically capitalism is founded on extreme individualism, greed and the sacrifice of all else to individual benefit. It was always inevitable that this outlook would eventually infect sport at the highest levels. After all sport cannot be totally immune from the environment in which it exists.

Return sport to the people

The problem is not uniquely Australian. It exists around the world. Any official action that exposes what is going on and deals with the culprits appropriately is welcome. And we can do something about it on our own turf.

It is important that players, coaches and others take a stand, and that Australians as a whole demand and assert decisive influence to remove sport from the clutches of big business and criminal elements, through its de-commodification.  Sport will then be returned to the people.

Other than the obvious promotion of fitness, sport has other positive qualities. It teaches teamwork and helps to build communities. It teaches many skills connected to organising to achieve a common objective and to communicate more effectively to others.

These qualities are important and deserve to be valued. When they dominate, as they do when sport is in the hands of the people, they create an effective barrier against the present problems.

The BBQ King and class warfare

Vanguard March 2013
Contributed by a construction worker

(Above: Brisbane construction workers take to the streets in support of Bob Carnegie)

Cooking a BBQ for others and helping out our mates is usually seen as an honourable and worthy aspect to our day to day lives. It is an almost obligatory part of a civilized society to have access to someone who is willing to turn a chop or poke a snag at short notice. Many of these volunteers so consistently put their hand up and do such a good job they are known as a “BBQ King”.

Many of us have a joke about these types of individuals as is the national pastime of taking the mickey out of others, but underlining the jokes is usually a very healthy respect for what they do. They are always first to put their hands up to do the cooking, rain or shine, always around when needed and always prepared to help others at the drop of the hat. Another thing these people are good at is talking and giving good worldly advice. We would classify them as bloody good mates.

But not everyone thinks that way.

The multi-national property and Infrastructure Company, Lend Lease, owners of construction companies, the Abigroup and Baulderstone amongst others, has taken a dislike to Bob Carnegie a Queensland worker and community activist (and perhaps a BBQ King but certainly a well respected community leader).

Bob’s persecution commenced when construction workers on the Lend Lease/Abigroup project, Queensland Children Hospital, went on strike to get an agreement that subcontractors pay EBA entitlements and stop the sham sub-contracting and rip-offs rife throughout the project. Lend Leases/Abigroup took legal action against the union (CFMEU) and obtained an injunction to cease supporting the strike and other ancillary actions. But the protest continued for 9 weeks with the help and support of community members like Bob, until eventually an agreement was reached. The workers returned to the job and all was well until Bob received court documents detailing 54 separate contempt of court charges and a civil case for damages. Why Bob, because he was named in the legal action against the union even though he is not an official of the CFMEU? Bob was recognised by Lend Lease/Abigroup as a community leader and he now faces hundreds of thousands dollars in fines, unlimited damage costs into millions of dollars and/or jail.

Bob’s big crime was that he stuck with the workers for the whole 9 weeks of the community protest. He was prepared to cook the BBQ to ensure protesting workers were fed and he was there to listen and provide a helping hand when the weeks without pay took toll on the workers and their families.

In fact he acted like a bloody good mate would.

Bob’s case has now been heard and he awaits the verdict expected in April. The company withdrew many of the 54 charges prior and during the course of the trial yet the outcome could still result in huge fine, costs and or jail. Even if he wins Bob and his family could be financially ruined due to cost for his own defense.

But for a multi-national it has nothing to do with the money, they know Bob couldn’t pay millions or even tens of thousands yet they continued to pursue him. Even if they lose the case they achieve what they want, the message is loud and clear, “don’t f..k with us or we will destroy you”. The message is aimed not particularly at any individual but the working class and its supporters generally.

It is a deterrent aimed at unions and community activists and is a reflection of the class war raging underneath the “respectability” of a “democracy”.

As the contradictions between capital and labour intensifies so does the class war. Class warriors like Bob Carnegie must be supported and encouraged to continue because the other side has no intentions of walking away peacefully.

Aborigines take up the cause of West Papuans

Vanguard March 2013 p. 2
Nick G.

Arabunna elder Uncle Kevin Buzzacott (above)  is urging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and supporters in the wider community, to take up the cause of the West Papuan people.

Suffering under Indonesian occupation, the West Papuan people are developing an independence movement that cannot be silenced by repression and violence.

Uncle Kevin, well-known in the South Australian community as an anti-nuclear activist and an opponent of the Olympic Dam expansion, says he is motivated by a duty of care for his northern neighbours.

“We have a responsibility to care for our brothers and sisters from across the water,” he said in a recent statement issued in conjunction with a proposal for a land and sea convoy from his country around Lake Eyre to West Papua.

“We must bring the water, the fire, the love and the music to heal the country as we move in solidarity.

Organisers of the convoy say that once upon a time the land between Australia and the islands to the north was joined, then Australia, the big mother, split from her children, the islands of Melanesia.

According to Uncle Kevin Buzzacott, “We were one people, we must uphold our cultural connection, the old land is calling us.”

Starting with a music festival on the shores of Lake Eyre from July 20-25, the convoy will travel via Alice Springs and Tennant Creek to Cairns, launching their flotilla in mid-August.

They will follow the underground water and ancient songlines in a freedom ride of artists, musicians, Free West Papua activists and Indigenous ambassadors, carrying water from the sacred mound springs dotting Arabunna country, fire from Lake Eyre and ashes from the various Aboriginal tent embassies across Australia.

Organisers hope that the land and sea convoy will further publicise the cause of West Papuan independence and give hope and encouragement to the peoples in their struggle for peace and justice.
Further reading: For  more information on the convoy, on the West Papuan struggle and on Uncle Kevin Buzzacott, including Youtube links, see here.

For recent news of armed clashes in West Papua, see:

Community gardens promote local food production

Vanguard March 2013 p. 2
Ned K.

Free trade agreements, such as that with the United States and the looming Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, have opened the door for multinational food production companies and retail giants like Coles and Woolworths to import more food products into Australia.

Many of the grocery items on large supermarket shelves are now imported product. More fresh fruit and vegetables are also being imported. Often even Australian produced food (such as cashew nuts) travels thousands of kilometres overseas for processing before arriving back on supermarket shelves.

There is a growing resistance to these trends by the Australian people who do not want to see the country become dependent on multinational food companies and agribusinesses to feed their families. They are also increasingly concerned with the carbon footprint of the multinationals' food distribution networks, which require basic items of food to travel thousands of miles.

Resistance by the people takes many forms, from fighting mineral and coal seam gas companies' encroachment on agricultural land, to farmers' markets, to community gardens, to 'growing your own'.

People practice self-reliance

Across the capital cities of Australia, there is a rapidly developing community garden network where working people in their suburbs create community gardens for local food distribution and consumption. Some of the product is exchanged, some sold to small retailers, and some given away to those in the communities who simply can't afford to buy fresh vegetables and fruit.

Recently in Adelaide's working class suburb of Elizabeth, a number of adjoining households opened their gardens to the public on Open Gardens Day, to show what can be done. Their gardens are linked by pathways and surrounded by a smorgasboard of fruit trees and a huge variety of vegetables. The households have shared their voluntary labour and knowledge to create a food oasis in a suburb where working class households are targeted by fast food chains like McDonalds and KFC.

This is not an isolated case. There are now many varieties of community gardens springing up across the country, and like the example in Elizabeth, thousands of people networking and helping each other in working bees to develop local community food production and maintain it.

Small scale production of food in urban areas will not by itself sustain a whole country's population. Nevertheless, the experience of Havana and other Cuban towns over many years has shown that it can be an important source of food variety and health benefits for the urban population.

The unity of purpose of Australian farmers and an urban population conscious of the need to contribute to and support local food production is indeed a positive development. Readers interested in seeing the extent of people's action towards independence from agribusiness should visit the web site

Victoria's teachers take massive strike action

Vanguard March 2013 p. 3
Jim H.

The impressive Victorian teachers’ strike, mass meeting and rally on 14 February in Melbourne, marked a new chapter of the ongoing battle to defend the public education system.

It was also about improving wages and conditions, not only as a right for teachers, but also as an important factor for lifting morale and ensuring the teaching outcomes that young students deserve. A great example has been set for all working Australians.

By the time of the meeting many more than 10,000 had filled Hisense Arena to capacity. A large crowd had to stay outside and participate via video link. Another successful meeting was held in Mildura. It was clear that the mood amongst teachers is to fight and take on whatever is necessary to win through. The mood is militant.

The Australian Education Union’s carefully developed strategy was overwhelmingly endorsed. This is based on the necessity for this to be long term strategy, based on the need to isolate the main target, that is, the Victorian Coalition Government, by winning and maintaining the support of the majority of Victorians.

To this end a period of local activities, geared to garner local support and involvement is a major aspect of the current period. Emphasis will be put on marginal electorates. While there is some concern about the danger of being limited by parliamentary politics, in this case the method is justified as a means of putting pressure on the government.

Some critics have said that this amounts to subservience to the Labor Party. It is a wrong view. Of course, this must also involve other action. The main thing is to encourage the growth of local community activity in defence of schools and support for the rights of teachers.

There will be a range of rolling half day stoppages. Teachers at the mass meetings overwhelmingly gave support to the strategy put forward by the Australian Education Union.

March on Parliament

There was a 30,000 strong march to Parliament House, with the sea of the union’s red tee-shirts making an impressive sight that drew in many Melbournians. The march then joined with the Independent Education Union, whose members were taking their own action. This builds on the last rally in November 2012 that drew similar numbers.

Representatives of a range of other unions covering diverse industries gave their support to the teacher’s efforts. The united purpose was to deliver a loud message to the government.
Victorian Trades Hall Secretary Brian Boyd told the assembled crowd that Trades Hall was behind them all the way and ended with the words “you cannot lose.”

A good foundation

In terms of the immediate industrial dispute, it is vital to focus on the immediate enemy and take advantage of all contradictions. The major successes of the campaign so far are the high level of community support and a capacity to bring out more than half of all union members.
The large turnout reflects this community support, especially among parents and students.

It provides a very good foundation to expand organising work in the schools and local communities. The prospects look good for building the campaign and forcing the government to back off on ‘performance pay’ and to finally concede a decent pay rise for teachers. Premier Baillieu’s future is less certain.

Defend public education

Defence of the public education system is not only important for its own right. It is also an important aspect of the ongoing efforts of working Australians to build a better and fairer future, and works in the direction of raising the capacity to exercise our national independence and self-determination. The work that teachers do in the schools, despite the imposed limitations, works towards empowering the people. Nothing could be more important.

Teacher quality: quick fix solutions not the answer

Vanguard March 2013 p. 3
Nick G.

A series of so-called “consultations” was held around the country during February on a government discussion paper advocating alternative pathways into teaching.

The traditional pathway has been that of school leavers going straight into tertiary studies, gaining the appropriate qualifications, and then getting a position as a beginning teacher.

Most of the options for alternative pathways remove the requirement for educational qualifications.

The two schemes currently supported by the government are Teach for Australia (a clone of the US-based Teach for America), and Teach Next.

The latter aims to recruit people with “relevant industry experience” who are put into classrooms after an 8-week training session.

The former recruits graduates with good academic records (but not an educational qualification) and puts them into a school after a 6-week training session.

This is a bit like appointing dentists because they have good teeth.

Teach for Australia appointees are only required to stay in the classroom for two years.  After that they are offered positions in big corporations which believe that they will have developed good communication skills and resilience in the face of challenges while in the schooling sector.

There is nothing wrong with training academically gifted graduates or field professionals from areas like engineering or accountancy to become teachers, but they must be trained, and not put through Mickey Mouse courses and then told to learn the craft on the job at the expense of other people’s children.

 Alternative pathways for unqualified staff will be facilitated by giving principals power to hire and fire teachers from a school-based budget.  Putting on new and unqualified teachers in the place of qualified and experienced staff on higher salary steps will go hand in hand with “empowering principals” to make such decisions.

 Alternative pathways appeal to right-wing ideologists who are at the forefront of the media’s frequent teacher bashing forays.  They are quite consciously the spokespeople for big multinational corporations who want education to simply churn out a productive workforce.

The giant multinational Pearson publishing group has a near-monopoly on the new Australian Curriculum and the national testing program NAPLAN.  Rupert Murdoch has his eyes on the market for educational resources, declaring education to be the “last frontier” for investors.

Teach for Australia has the support of the big end of town through formal links to Ernst and Young, big law firms serving corporate interests such as Allens Linklaters, and Corr Chambers Hogarth, the multinational Boston Consulting Group, and a WA-based private foundation that channels corporate donations into selected schools.

The real agenda here is not a concern to improve teacher quality through such inappropriate alternative pathways into teaching.  It is to marginalise the teacher unions, employ business-compliant but otherwise unqualified teachers and force public education to open itself to commercial market forces.  It is part of imperialism’s neo-liberal assault on all public sector institutions.

If you are a parent of kids at school help teachers maintain a qualified workforce in our schools.

CPA (M-L) Immediate Demands

Vanguard March 2013 p. 4

With the next federal election now set for September 14th, there will be many opportunities in coming months to discuss with families, friends, workmates and others the real issues confronting the Australian people and the poor regard given to their concerns by the main parliamentary parties.

The Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) has developed a number of demands which, we believe, put people before profits and Australian national independence in place of the interests of US imperialism. These demands can be raised in an appropriate way, when organising or taking action on many issues.
Workers/union rights and democratic rights
·         Empower workers with the right to strike!
·         Scrap the ABCC – Stop criminalising workers demanding decent wages and conditions!
·         Guarantee workplace rights!
Right to job security
Right to a safe workplace
Right to organise
Right to collective action
Right to union OH & S representatives
Right to full entitlements when companies fail
  • Make the polluters pay!
Cap and tax carbon emissions – no “market solutions”
No emission reduction costs passed on to the people
  • Phase out coal!
Create clean power using renewable energy
Retrain workers for new clean, sustainable industries
  • Water belongs to all – it’s not for trade or sale!
  • No uranium mining – unsafe for workers, communities and humanity!

Manufacturing, jobs, mining tax
·         Stop nation-wrecking by multinationals – nationalise and build the nation for the people!
·         Regulate and control foreign investment - reject unequal “free trade” deals!
·         Tax the profits of the mining monopolies! Keep the wealth in Australia!
Develop renewable energy production
Build clean, safe, sustainable manufacturing and value-adding industries
Improve services and amenities in mining communities and regional areas

Health, education, and livelihood
·         Serve the people – no privatisation!
More and better public schools
More and better public hospitals
More and better public housing – implement rent controls
More and better public transport
More and better community-run childcare centres
·         Nationalise the banks!
Regulate interest rates, Cut bank fees
·         More affordable private housing!
·         Scrap Negative Gearing!
·         Increase pensions and entitlements!

 Aboriginal sovereignty and the ‘intervention’
  • End the racist Intervention now - Aboriginal control of Aboriginal affairs!
  • Stop land grabbing by mining companies!
  • Scrap compulsory ‘Income Management’!
  • Leave Land Rights alone - recognise Aboriginal sovereignty!
  • A just Treaty with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples!

Foreign policy
·         For an independent and peaceful foreign policy!
·         No more support for American wars – get out of Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines!
·         No US Alliance – no foreign military bases on Australian soil!
·         Nuclear free Australia!

Social issues
  • Equal rights for women!
                        Equal pay for equal value
                        Make equal opportunity a reality
                        Right to choose legal, safe abortion
                        Parental leave paid at full wage
  • For a multicultural Australia!
No to racism
                        Stop demonisation of asylum seekers and refugees
  • No discrimination on grounds of sexuality!

No to US marines! No to US bases! No to US war plans!

Vanguard March 2013 p. 4

This Petition was circulated by the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN)and signed bymore than… It was published in the Australian on February 15th. For further information, see here.

“Ten years ago in February 2003, unprecedented numbers of people joined the largest demonstrations in recorded history to oppose the invasion of Iraq. They were right; there were no weapons of mass destruction and war was not the answer.

“Learning from recent history, we, the undersigned call for an independent and peaceful Australia.  We are concerned about developments that appear to jeopardise Australia’s friendship and cooperation with nations in our region. In particular, we are concerned about the basing of foreign troops on Australian sovereign territory.

“We are opposed to the stationing of US marines in Darwin; the presence of the Pine Gap surveillance facility; the use of West Australian naval facilities by US warships and the possibility of US military aircraft and warships being stationed at Stirling in WA or  the Cocos Islands.

“Rather than being of benefit, we hold that the presence of US forces on Australian soil to be a handicap to Australia’s international relationships. We see domestic costs to us in financial, social and environmental terms.

“Through recent decades we have witnessed a steady increase in the level of Australia’s military involvement with the US. We believe the integration of the two countries’ defence forces and foreign policies has reached a point where our independence is at risk.

“We are witnessing expanding US military presence in the Asia Pacific region, with the apparent aim of ‘containing’ China. We fear a consequent rise in regional tensions and an expensive arms race.

“We are convinced that these developments are not in Australia’s best interests. They have the potential to sour existing good relations with our neighbours and even to embroil us in further warfare on behalf of a foreign power.

“We want to live in an Australia with an independent foreign policy, under which our country is free to choose what is truly in our best interests.”

Time to target the rapacious mining monopolies!

Vanguard March 2013 p. 5
Max O.

After enormous public pressure to reveal how much revenue the Federal Government has managed to raise from its Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT), Treasurer Swan finally conceded and released the fact that the MRRT collected a measly $126 million in the first 6 months.

The Minerals Resource Rent Tax has been exposed as a miserable flop.

Previously, the Government, to avoid embarrassment over the pitiful amount its MRRT has collected, insisted it couldn't separate out mining tax revenue from its other resource rent tax receipts, such as the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax, arguing that the Tax Office would breach taxpayer confidentiality.

Swan blamed external factors, "... the huge drop in commodity prices and the higher Australian dollar had a huge impact on all of our profits-based taxes." He conveniently ignored the tax deductions that the mining monopolies wrote-up for themselves in the MRRT; writing-off exploration and investment costs, refunding State mining royalties and that the MRRT only applies to iron ore and coal mining.

Obviously the Liberal opposition wants to scrap it; fortunately the Greens want to ramp it up. The Liberals gloated over the latest desperate attempt by the Government to cover up the massive failure that is Labor's mining tax, and shamefully declared they will carry out the mining industry's bidding to end the MRRT.

On the other hand, the Greens described the revenue collection as "shockingly low" and demanded the Labor Government make substantial changes to the tax.

They contend that state royalty increases should not be refunded by the Federal Government, that the tax rate should be increased to 40%, and that the coverage of the tax be broadened to include other minerals.

Green's leader, Senator Milne stated the awful truth: "This is a Government that said it was prepared to take on the mining industry, but now what we've seen is that the miners once again had a big win over Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan in the negotiation of this tax."

Campaign to share benefits of mining - “Let’s Spread it Around”

The Queensland and Western Australia branches of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) launched a national advertising campaign, in Brisbane and Perth on January 28th, to demand a greater share of the mining boom. The campaign focuses on maintaining jobs for Australian workers, more investment in mining communities and improved management of the impacts on manufacturing and construction.

The campaign is called, “Let’s Spread it Around” and focuses on the stories of four Australians and how the mining boom has impacted on them. The CFMEU launched a dedicated website to provided facts about what is really happening in the mining industry and what the mining monopolies are up to. 

The “Let’s Spread it Around” campaign points out that the mining boom might have created opportunities for some Australians, but it has left many more behind, badly hurting job-rich sectors such as manufacturing, tourism and education.

It states that while thousands of Queenslanders are losing their jobs, and unemployment has leapt to 6.2%, big mining companies want to bring in temporary overseas workers to build and operate their mines. The clear intention of this action is to reduce labour costs and conditions.
The same applies for Western Australia, where unemployment has climbed to 4.3%, despite the boom, and youth unemployment continues to be a major issue, while the big mining companies use claims of a skills shortage to bring in temporary workers.

The CFMEU believes many mining communities are also missing out on the community resources they deserve. The union argues that people from mining communities suffer from the high cost of living, and that the lack of amenities put a strain on local infrastructure.

Mining companies rely heavily on Fly-in Fly-out (FIFO) and Drive-in Drive-Out (DIDO) workers. These workers report high levels of stress and there is a high level of turnover; one out of three FIFO workers do not last 12 months in the job.

The mining boom has also led to a historically-high Australian dollar, which is hurting manufacturing industries. The high Australian dollar has seen our exports fall and imports of cheap and often inferior products coming into the country on the increase. This is why the CFMEU is demanding the Federal Government make sure that local projects, in particular mining operations, use local products.

There is also a community petition to raise the tax on the mining corporations’ super profits to 40%. See