Monday, April 28, 2014

Corporate message to politicians: toe the line

by Louisa L.

The sudden departure of NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell smells rotten. Despite savage cuts to the public service, O'Farrell represented the softer face of the Coalition's service to capitalism.

He goes, and suddenly Sinodinos's memory loss about big sums of money disappears from the front pages.

In capitalist terms, O'Farrell was hardly corrupt. Politicians regularly sup with their overlords and drink the best wine. It's highly unlikely, but perhaps he did forget the Grange. But why would such a trivial bribe even surface at ICAC?

Never get between corporations and buckets of money

The late CPA (M-L) Vice Chairperson and ex Victorian Wharfies' Union Secretary, Ted Bull, said, "I never took anything from the bosses, not a lunch not a drink. I was always polite, but I didn't want to owe them anything."

Perhaps keeping the "thank you" note gave an apparently corrupt wheeler and dealer a bargaining chip. But in this case neither the Grange nor the likely lie is the key.

Never get between corporations and buckets of money. Plunderers like Rupert Murdoch are up to their necks in the lucrative education industry, and O'Farrell was the first to sign up for Gonski after a huge campaign in NSW led by teachers and their union.

The capitalist class no longer want the masses in a largely de-industrialised Australia to be well educated, and they want control over - and profit from - education. They're happy for public education to be starved of funds. Government-subsidised for-profit schools are springing up around the world. Just days before O'Farrell drank his vintage hemlock and resigned, Federal Government touts announced they wanted to fund for-profit universities

Gonski is the main game

Gonski's needs-based funding has wide public support, and because Abbott and Pyne lose ground each time they directly attack it, they use diversions.

As well as vocally supporting Gonski, O'Farrell didn't reign in his Education Minister Adrian Piccoli who scoffed at Pyne's lauding of Independent Public Schools (IPSs) as lacking any evidence base, or his Board of Studies head Tom Alegounarias who's defended the National Curriculum from Pyne's other diversion, the relaunch of the history wars.

Post election, Gonski was the main game. To guarantee it, the support base has to be mobilised. Tens of thousands need to be active, a big ask in an increasingly casualised environment, where TAFEs and pre-schools are also under savage attack.

Hidden message?

Murdoch's Daily Telegraph gave O'Farrell a clear message to toe the line last September. A colony of endangered grey-headed flying foxes was delaying the construction of the Pacific Highway. Like the Tele, Barry was already opposing the delays. Yet, with added bat wings, he was ridiculed in a 'photograph', reminiscent of the doctored rat images that featured in the Tele's unrelenting campaign against Peter Slipper. Immediately O'Farrell jumped again to condemn 'green tape'.

So why was he attacked? The Tele would isolate itself by attacking him on Gonski, so it chose another pretext. Many union activists have experienced this, being sacked because their work 'isn't up to scratch', when their activism is the real problem.

Perhaps O'Farrell envisaged more attacks if he didn't resign. Of course the Tele can cry crocodile tears and put the boot into the once lauded ICAC. O'Farrell was expendable. Baird will be more reliable and more savage in his cuts.

The ruling class wants total subservience from its managers, and reckons it has enough strength to use the hardest, fastest method for everything. The only protection is the mobilised masses.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

May Day - workers have the power

Vanguard  May 2014 p. 1
Alice M.


On 1st May workers around the world gather to show solidarity with people’s struggles and hopes for a better life. We put forward our own independent working class vision of struggle and a future that’s not tied to the interests of capitalist and imperialist exploitation.

On this May Day 2014 working people in all corners of the world are in intense battles resisting the unremitting attack by capital’s neo-liberal imperialist globalisation.

The people are strengthening, developing and building old and new mass organisations of struggle to resist the attacks of monopoly corporations and big banks.   The working class advances its own demands and agenda of struggle that strike at the main enemy of the people today – US imperialism and its monopoly corporations.

Imperialist attack

Capitalism is in a severe and prolonged crisis of overproduction.  The immense record profits created by the labour of hundreds of millions of working people around the world are appropriated by a miniscule group of monopoly corporations and individuals.  At the same time there is spreading poverty, unemployment, homelessness, high cost of living, and diminishing spending capacity for people to sustain their livelihoods.  Public health, education, pensions and welfare services to the people are gutted and privatised.

Deep poverty and unemployment are no longer confined to developing countries under the heel of imperialism, but now grip the people in developed countries at the heart of imperialism, as austerity programs are unleashed across the world.

Cut throat imperialist competition is driving all current wars and the threat of wars in the Middle East, Ukraine, Africa, Asia and the Pacific.  Free trade is simply different sections of monopoly capital and their governments capturing, restructuring and redividing the world’s resources, markets and labour between themselves.  Trade is a tool of imperialist globalisation to crush wages, conditions, jobs, people’s services and remove all obstacles standing in the way of corporate profit making.

Capital is shifting manufacturing and technological industries from the industrially developed nations to developing countries with low wages and few labour and environmental regulations. 

People’s democratic rights are attacked to suppress people’s organisations and resistance to the onslaught by capital.

Working Class Fight Back

In Australia, the economic crisis of capitalism and imperialist globalisation is wiping out the manufacturing industrial base, sending jobs and services off shore, privatising the few remaining public instrumentalities and services and redirecting public funds away from people’s needs into the coffers of big business.  In tandem with this there is concerted attack on workers’ wages, conditions and rights to organise.

The working class alone has the capacity to unite and mobilise wide sections of the people to resist the assault by big business.

To do this we must have our own independent working class movement and a vision that goes beyond bourgeois parliamentarism, building unity across trade unions and grass roots communities.  This movement would take up the immediate demands of the people for secure jobs, decent working conditions, access to quality public health and education, affordable housing, fair and just social services and benefits, affordable child care and cheap and reliable public transport.  These are the main things that impact on people’s daily lives.

There are some in the Labor Party who want to control this movement, who want to build it as a movement to secure their return to office. They are dismissive of grass roots organising that they do not control. We must break free of this cycle of hope in Labor when it is in Opposition, and despair and anger when it gets into office and flaunts its loyalty to US imperialism and the whole neo-liberal agenda of privatisation and deregulation.  We can and we will have an agenda that is independent and that puts the needs of the people before the those of the big end of town where Liberal and Labor share rented office space.

We are bold enough to give the lie to the nonsense about budget deficits and austerity. There’s enough wealth created by working people in this country to meet people’s needs. Most of this wealth is controlled by foreign mining and oil corporations, banks and financial institutions, and multinational corporations who send most of the profits overseas. 

A movement of the people led by the working class would have the power to nationalise the key resources, industries and banks to build an independent economy that serves the working people and protects the environment.

This is part of the struggle for socialism.

Important anti-war activities in Canberra

Vanguard May 2104 p. 3
Bill F.

Over the Easter period, a large number of anti-war groups and activists came together in the national capital Canberra, making up the 2014 Peace Convergence.

An important part of the activity was the first national conference of the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) to expand and consolidate its position as a representative national umbrella for the many peace and anti-war groups across Australia. There were extensive discussions on building the movement, and activities and campaigns for the period ahead.

IPAN was formed in response to the US military ‘pivot’ into the Asia-Pacific region and the basing of US marines, warplanes and military equipment in Darwin.

More than 90 people attended the conference from all parts of Australia, representing over 40 different organisations and interested groups. Many had a long and dedicated history in the peace movement, environmental struggles and support for indigenous struggles.

Guest speakers included Vince Emanuel, an American Iraq war veteran who also spoke at a rally outside the United States Embassy on 24 April.

A statement endorsed at the conclusion of the conference summed up the concerns and positions that formed a powerful expression of unity and determination among the delegates. It reads…

“This first national conference of Independent and Peaceful Australia Network affirms our support for an independent Australian foreign policy as the most effective path for our country to build peace in the region.

“It is our view that Australia’s successive government policies of willingly following the US to wars, the stationing of US bases and troops on sovereign soil and the deeper integration of Australian foreign policies and military into the US war machine is a major threat to peace in the region.

“We’re concerned that Australia is complicit and actively involved in the US wars of aggression. We’re concerned with successive Australian governments’ subservience to foreign powers’ economic and military interests. We’re concerned that the financial cost of militarisation and engagement in foreign wars is a burden on our country that comes at the expense of people’s lives, welfare and the environment.

“Through recent decades we have witnessed a steady increase in the level of Australia’s military involvement with the US.  We are concerned Australian governments’ subservience and complicity in the US military Pivot into Asia-Pacific is increasing the threat of war, rather than building peace and security in the region.

“We are opposed to foreign military bases and the deployment of foreign troops and military in Australia and the Asia-Pacific.  We are opposed to the integration of Australia’s foreign policies and military into the US plans.

“We want to live in Australia with an independent foreign policy, under which our country is free to choose what is truly in the best interest of peace in the world.

“However, we recognise that a truly independent and peaceful Australia cannot be fully realised without a just treaty with Australia’s indigenous people.”

On Thursday 24 April, prior to Anzac Day, a number of rallies were held outside various embassies and locations in Canberra to highlight the increasing threat of war and the increasing integration of the Australian military into the plans of US imperialism.

On Anzac Day, many peace activists and groups marched in support of the indigenous contingent who carried the memory of the warriors who had died during the ‘frontier wars’ and violent occupation.

In all, a unifying and inspiring week of anti-war activity.
Further reading:
Former Liberal Party Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser on Australian independence and the need to break away from the US military alliance:

The role of a revolutionary party

Vanguard May 2014 p. 4
Bill F.
Updated from an earlier Marxism Today article

Most people who are serious about the need for revolutionary change in Australia agree that the working class is the main force, and that the working class needs its own revolutionary organisation. The form and style of working class revolutionary organisation is a point of difference between various trends in the revolutionary movement.

Marxist-Leninists seek to build a revolutionary vanguard party as the ideological, political and organisational leadership of the working class. Here we look at some of the characteristics of a revolutionary vanguard party and examine how these differ from other models sometimes put forward.

An organisation of revolutionaries

A key feature is Lenin’s concept of a ‘vanguard’ party consisting of ‘professional’ revolutionaries dedicated to organising and leading the working class through its inevitable economic and political struggles.

Revolutionary work should be carried out in a way that steadily develops the political consciousness of the working class. Political consciousness empowers workers to understand the economic and political features of their particular society, their class position in that society and the need to ultimately overthrow the dominant class rulers of the society, rather than merely pursuing day to day narrow economic interests.

To provide the necessary leadership for this to happen, it follows that party members must study and really grasp the essence of Marxist ideology and philosophy. It is not enough just to be ‘progressive’ or ‘left’ or even ‘militant’ without a depth of understanding of Marxism.

Depth does not mean theoretical understanding alone, although familiarity with fundamental concepts is essential. It means being able to interpret events from a class standpoint, being able to apply the Marxist method of dialectical analysis to all sorts of struggles, situations and people. It means finding ways to advance the political awareness of workers in struggle and the class as a whole. It means finding ways to mobilise workers into activities and actions where they can learn from their own experience the real nature of the class system that exploits and oppresses them.

It means every comrade must become an active contributor, taking responsibility and being accountable to the collective. Some may have the time, capacity and opportunity to contribute more than others, but all play their part in advancing the Party Program. In this revolutionary party Lenin noted, “…all distinctions as between workers and intellectuals, and certainly distinctions of trade and profession, must be utterly obliterated.” (What is to be Done 1902)

Most other models of revolutionary organisation do not require such high individual and collective standards from the membership. Some put forward the concept of a ‘mass revolutionary party’ which usually means that anyone can join, whether or not they are activists or just active when they feel like it, or are merely passive supporters.

Seemingly anti-elitist, this concept ensures that the membership is quickly sorted in tiers, with the leadership dominated by a small group of well-read and articulate intellectuals rather than both workers and intellectuals working and learning alongside each other in struggle.

Mass line method of political work

Another key feature of a revolutionary vanguard party is the way in which it conducts its political work amongst the workers and the masses.

The starting point must always be investigation, both academic and practical. Mao Zedong put it bluntly enough, “No investigation, no right to speak.” In other words, listen to people, seek the facts and don’t just charge in with preconceived ideas. Knowledge must be connected to practice and this demands research, study and understanding of the principal and secondary contradictions in society.

After investigation, sort out the main contradiction from the secondary ones. Sort out the strengths and weaknesses of the forces involved, the people’s forces and the enemy’s forces. Sort out the tactics of struggle most likely to involve the mass of workers or people in struggle, and work to win support for this. At all times, promote unity around the main demands, be where the struggle is hardest, build networks of allies and encourage natural leaders from the ranks of the masses.

In the aftermath of struggle, whether successful or not, be there to assist in summing up and drawing out the main lessons from people’s experience. In this way, comrades can move the level of political consciousness to a higher level.

This style of political work is not easy. It requires comrades to have close and regular involvement with people over a prolonged period of time, whether in the workplace, community or in particular issue organisations.

In contrast to this, the style of some petty-bourgeois radical groups is to set up a headquarters and drag people away from their natural circles into a ‘left’ hothouse. They hobnob with trade union officials and ‘left’ personalities. Some even blow in on activities organised by others and push their newspapers, leaflets and badges promoting often completely different issues. Such behaviour only alienates people and gives a bad name to ‘socialists’ and the ‘left’ generally.

Democratic centralism

Democratic centralism is also a key feature of a vanguard party. It is characterised by a high level of self-discipline based on an understanding that the role of a Communist is to serve the people and to recognise the importance of the collective, not to seek personal gains.

Decision-making is carried out through systems of democratic consultation and democratic voting. Once a decision has been made, there is an obligation on all members to carry it out. Dissenting minority views can be reserved and re-presented on a future occasion, but in the meantime, all members are expected to unite and work to implement democratically agreed decisions.

It was plainly put by Mao Zedong in his article, The role of the Chinese Communist Party in the national war (1938) where he stated, “We must affirm anew the discipline of the party, namely: the individual is subordinate to the organisation, the minority is subordinate to the majority, the lower level is subordinate to the higher level and the entire membership is subordinate to the Central Committee.” Mao himself was in a minority position on the Central Committee for more than ten years, but never violated democratic centralism.

In other political organisations, such discipline does not apply. Those with minority views can just walk away from any responsibility to implement the agreed policies. Factional activities are accepted and often formalised, even when the factions work to undermine and sabotage democratic decision-making. This petty-bourgeois attitude to party discipline stems from the substitution of liberalism and trade union politics and methods over revolutionary politics and methods.

Forces of the state

Another key feature is the attitude to the forces of the state apparatus. While making use of the limited scope of ‘legal democratic rights’ to agitate, distribute material, conduct meetings and so on, a vanguard party also takes into account the surveillance and disruption instigated by the paid agents of the state apparatus.

It should never be forgotten that many millions of dollars are pumped into spreading rumours, intercepting mail, telephone and email communications, tracking comrades, friends and acquaintances, to say nothing of outright spying, infiltrating agents and poisoning relationships, as well as blatant bribery and intimidation.

There may now be greater recognition of this with the WikiLeaks and Snowden disclosures, but that just means the revolutionary movements must exercise greater responsibility and greater care.

A revolutionary vanguard party guards its members, supporters and mass connections as much as possible. It does not conduct all its business in public scrutiny. It does not proceed as though the ruling class in ‘its’ country is so ‘civilized’, so ‘nice’ as to never resort to vicious, fascist repression in defence of its wealth and power and domination of society.

The real purpose of the Royal Commission into unions

Vanguard May 2014 p. 5
From an article by Brian Boyd, Secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council

 It is important that union members and the public in general understand the real purpose of this exercise, instigated politically by the federal government.

 The Chief Executive of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), Mr David Byers, spelt it all out loud and clear. He called on the Abbott federal government to impose “urgent workplace reform.” Byers said “lower costs” were the centre-piece for IR reform so that “global capital” can be attracted to build new plants or expand existing energy infrastructure.

The APPEA head said there was currently $180 billion worth of investment on the table. It turns out “lower costs” is code for less wages and conditions for resource sector workers. Mr Byers called for Tony Abbott to introduce “a new type of enterprise agreement.” He said current EBA arrangements between contractors and miners were “driving up costs.”

The whining was pathetic from the APPEA. Apparently unions on behalf of workers used earlier struck agreements as a “the floor for wages and conditions” when renegotiations for new agreements occurred! Shock! Horror! This process has been going on for a hundred years.

Mr Byers specifically wanted more limitations on right of entry of unions, an end of unions using previous agreements to be a starting point for new arrangements and an end to labour market testing for foreign workers coming in on 457 visas.

In recent times APPEA board chair Martin Ferguson (former federal ALP MP and former President of the ACTU) has singled out the MUA and the CFMEU for attack. Their crime; fighting for decent wages and conditions for workers on major resource projects. They were disgusting attacks on two unions that work hard to represent their members and potential members.

This behaviour by Ferguson has been sustained for some time. Recently the West Australian Trades and Labour Council (Unions WA) and the Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) have passed resolutions calling on the ALP to expel Martin Ferguson from the Party for his public union-bashing.

Recently, multi-billionaire mining magnate Ms Gina Rinehart has been exposed as misusing Sec 457 workers on her new project at Roy Hill WA. Some wages are reported to be as low as $18/hour! Is this the new “floor” the APPEA is aiming for?

The FWBC/ ABCC 11 head Nigel Hadgkiss back in March called for agreement clauses allowing industry-wide Rostered Days Off (RDOs), weekend shutdowns and restrictions on subcontractors and labour hire to be “consigned to the past where they belong”.

The truth behind Aussie wage levels

In The Age of Monday February 10, 2014, Ross Gittins reported under the heading – “the fiction of excessive wage growth”:

“It’s been two decades since we had reason to worry about excessive wage growth. This remains true despite cabinet ministers and some economists saying we have a problem.

“The structural reason we don’t have to worry is the continuing effect of the Hawke-Keating government’s micro-economic reforms – particularly the floating of the dollar, the removal of protection against imports, deregulation of many industries and the move from central wage-fixing to bargaining at the enterprise level.

In The Age of Thursday 20 February, 2014 Peter Martin reported under the heading: “Wage growth very low, contrary to what government says”:

“Don’t believe what you’ve heard. Wages are barely climbing. The Bureau of Statistics compiles the only reliable measure and it came out on Wednesday (19 February 2014).

“In the year to December 31, the bureau’s wage price index climbed 2.6 per cent. That’s less than inflation – which is 2.7 per cent.”

On the same day in The Herald Sun of Thursday 20 February 2014, in the business section, under the heading – “Wages growing at slowest rate since 1997” it is reported”:

“It is becoming increasingly tough to land a job, but securing a pay rise seems just as difficult, with wages growing at their weakest pace for more than 15 years.”

 “Labour productivity is improving. Last financial year it rose 2.2 per cent, the fastest growth in 11 years, while Australian workers generate a good deal more output per hour than the average of other developed countries.
The Royal Commission needs to be seen in the wider political and economic context. It also needs to be seen in the broader activities of the corporate sector – where corruption and bribery is in the millions of dollars every day - more on that later.

Queensland public health workers in fightback

Vanguard May 2014 p. 6
Ross G

Organisers estimate about 2,000 doctors and supporters attended a meeting in Brisbane on 19th March, and voted overwhelmingly to reject Government contracts (ABC News photo)

The ongoing crisis for capital in most of the capitalist world, including Australia, is leading to greater pressure from governments and business leaders to wind back state financing of public utilities as an "unproductive investment".

The Queensland LNP government elected last year is going about this process in a methodical and politically strategic manner.  They have learnt from the heavy handed approach which the Howard government applied that led to its downfall.

Currently they have set one of their sights on the public health system, which currently accounts for 27% of Queensland government expenditure.  In the context of a government campaign aimed at building public support for transferring Qld State assets into private hands, we should question whether the privatisation of public health assets and hospitals is being seriously considered.

The Qld Government has used the widely known Qld Health payroll disaster as a pretext for a sustained assault on nurses in public hospitals. 

Secretary of the Nurses Union in Qld, Beth Mohle, said last year that "nurses and midwives are facing privatisations, out-sourcing, cutting of positions, attacks on the Union...Not only have we lost 1100 jobs in 12 months but there’s demotions going on everywhere. In Metro North they wrote to 3,000 experienced Grades 5 and 6, (that’s the base grade registered Nurse and clinical Nurse) to take redundancies so that they could be replaced by part-time, temporary new graduates [with a lower pay rate]. So they’ll save millions of dollars each year, and have a more contingent workforce....they are also rolling back many of the advances that were made for women in the previous two decades, for example power has been more equally distributed within the Health system with nursing and midwifery, and allied health and other groups getting more power. Now the tables have been turned around, and they’re trying to get some of that power back “(Qld Journal of Labour History, Sept, 2013).

Nurses are using their organisation to fight back.  At the Mater Hospital in Brisbane, nurses face severe restrictions on working conditions such as continuing professional development allowance, long service leave, and maternity leave. The hospital bosses also want the ability to force them into redundancy or redeployment elsewhere.  They have not received a pay rise in the past three years. They are now campaigning to gain public support to restrict these attacks and put in place an agreement that will restore pay rates.

Doctors in public hospitals are also facing a determined attack on their conditions.  They work for wages significantly lower than they could gain in private practice, in order to work in "public service".  They are committed to ensuring that patients in public hospitals receive health treatment that is consistent with best practice, not second grade treatment.

Last year, the State Government announced it was breaking an enterprise agreement with public hospital doctors and would introduce statutory individual contracts.  The three unions covering these doctors attempted to negotiate a good outcome for their members, but in January this year the State government announced it had finalised the contracts to be offered.  The contracts would strip away vital working conditions, for example significant provisions relating to fatigue management, and allow doctors to be dismissed at any time for no reason.

The response from the AMA to these contracts has been a strong rejection, saying:

·         - Specialist contracts give Government unilateral power to vary hours and pay

·         - There are no requirement to notify or consult on roster changes, no mechanism for accrued days off

·         - There are no guarantees rostering will be fair and equitable

·         - Senior medical officers (SMOs) can be arbitrarily dismissed with no unfair dismissal provisions

·         - SMOs will no longer have access to the Qld Industrial Relations Commission

·         - There will be no incentive for junior doctors to train in Qld

 Senior Medical Officers (SMOs) and Visiting Medical Officers (VMOs) across Queensland have overwhelmingly rejected these contracts. On 19th March, 2,000 doctors and supporters attended a meeting in Brisbane and voted to reject the contracts and proceed with plans for mass resignations.

The Queensland Government response to this show of solidarity and strength from doctors has not been to sit down and discuss the extraordinary passion and commitment shown by a traditionally very conservative section of the community.  Rather, the response has been to threaten them with strike breakers, and attack their organisations.

"If we have to recruit people from interstate or overseas, Madam Speaker, we shall do that," Premier Campbell Newman told Queensland Parliament.  "...people like ASMOFQ [Australian Salaried Medical Officers' Federation Queensland] ... they are simply a bunch of people who want a war, not a solution."

The ferocity of the Qld Government attack on doctors and nurses indicates an agenda not based on ideology, but rather on underlying economic and political strategies essential to the major sections of capital in Queensland.

To every action, a reaction.  This attack has united all health workers in Queensland around their ongoing struggle.  It has also led to a widespread support for these workers from workers around Queensland.  A poll conducted by the "Keep our Doctors" campaign group (see their website) in four Queensland electorates found 68% of people support the doctors.  However, they are still pushing ahead with individual contracts for these doctors, as they are for all higher paid public servants – as a means of removing them from union organisation and coverage.

The collective response of these medical workers is an inspiration to all other workers around Australia.

Determination sparks Geelong rally for jobs

Vanguard May 2014 p. 8
Alex M and Duncan B

On Monday April 7th nearly 500 people marched through the streets of Geelong. Many were workers and families protesting about the loss of jobs in Geelong due to the impending closure of industries such as Ford and Alcoa.

According to the Brotherhood of St. Lawrence, about 3000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 in Geelong and district are unemployed. The youth unemployment rate increased by 29% to 14.7% over the last two years and is tipped to reach 19.1% for 2014.

The closure of manufacturing industries has resulted in the loss of entry-level jobs for young people. The problem will only get worse as Ford and Alcoa close down, further reducing the number of apprenticeships available.

A study by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research predicts that almost 5000 Geelong residents will lose their jobs over the next three years due to the collapse of Victoria’s vehicle manufacturing industry.

At the same time as unemployment is growing in Geelong, and many workers will be looking for re-training, Geelong’s Gordon TAFE College will struggle to assist these workers thanks to massive cuts in State Government funding to the TAFE sector in 2012.

The Gordon’s share of this was a $17 million cut in funding which resulted in the axing of 27 courses and the loss of up to 100 jobs at the Gordon.

The ‘Geelong jobs rally’ showed that working class people are not only tired of the job losses, but that they are also tired of the promises and hand-wringing that seem to be the only responses coming from local, state and federal politicians.

There is a broad understanding in the community that more needs to be done. Also, if the mood of the rally is anything to go by, there is a quiet determination that working class people, unions and other organisations such as the Trades Hall Council in Geelong will persist to turn the current situation around.

The jobs rally started outside the Trades Hall Council, with the Secretary Tim Gooden leading the crowd through chants that were to be hollered out on the march down Moorabool Street. He attacked the Government over lack of action to assist Alcoa workers who will lose their jobs at the end of July.

Part of the way down Moorabool Street (the main street of Geelong) the crowd was addressed by union officials from amongst others, the Australian Education Union, the Australian Workers Union and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

The state secretary of the Australian Services Union Ingrid Stitt pointed out that charity was not what Geelong workers wanted; rather they wanted secure jobs and thus a future for themselves and their children.

State Deputy Labor Opposition leader James Merlino heaped the blame for the current demise of manufacturing and other job losses in the region squarely on the shoulders of the current Coalition government led by Dennis Napthine.

Aside from the usual blame game that the representatives of the mainstream bourgeois political parties childishly indulge in, Merlino did however promise increased funding, training and what he called a jobs plan for Geelong.

Whilst the demands put forward by the speakers, many of whom were union officials, all start from acceptance of the social, political and economic conditions of capitalism, it is important that working class people and their allies in the class struggle fight back against the closures and the job losses.

The rally in Geelong was just one small step in the long march to Australian independence and socialism, where planning for the all round development of Australia and its working people will be the ultimate goal.       

Private for-profit capital moves into aged care

Vanguard May 2014 p. 8
Ned K.

In recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of private-for-profit operators moving into residential aged care.

The giant BUPA private health fund is well established in the aged care industry in most states. More recently, private equity companies like Archer Capital have been buying aged care facilities in the eastern states and now South Australia, with their takeover of Elderly Citizens Homes’ residential care.

Archer Capital trades as Allity in aged care and is moving into the sector as the funding arrangements by the federal government enable aged care providers to charge more (and increase profit) from residents under a user-pays system.

Companies like Allity have a strategy of being one of the higher payers of staff in the industry to attract and retain staff to provide a consistency of care to over-charged residents. This is a clever strategy because companies like Allity know that the

increasing numbers of migrant workers in the sector are desperate for a living wage to establish the basics of life for their families.

However, what it disguises is the research done by several university studies which show that the private-for profit operators in aged care have the worst record on safe staffing levels and safe workloads.

When the Abbott Government announced that it would not require aged care providers to direct increased government funding of $1.2 billion to staff wages and safe workloads and safe staffing levels, the association representing the private providers cheered from the rooftops.

Workers in the industry are struggling collectively to win fair workloads and decent work to provide better care for the residents. They are doing this by raising these issues for inclusion in enterprise bargaining agreements where better conditions of work are often the top issue ahead of a wage rise.

While the Fair Work Act restricts their options for effective industrial action in an industry where going on strike is a last resort, aged care workers have in a growing number of cases voted a majority “No” to Agreements that do not address staffing and safety issues to make a point. Their unity in struggle is sure to grow.

Bracks forgives, forgets

Vanguard May 2014 p. 8  

Former Victorian Labor Premier Steve Bracks has obviously forgiven Prime Minister Abbott for sacking him from his plum job as Australia’s consul-general in New York.

In his new job as Chairman of CBus Super, Bracks states, “Let me give credit where credit is due – the Abbott government has correctly recognised the importance of getting infrastructure development moving…

“Continuing investment should ease the burden on our roads and public transport systems, making commuting to work from the sprawling corners of our suburbs quicker and safer. It can aid the community and economy in dealing with the challenges posed by climate change.”

This conveniently overlooks the fact that the Abbott government has no interest in public transport systems and is downright hostile to doing anything about climate change.

Bracks continues, “… the federal government has initiated a Productivity Commission inquiry focusing on public infrastructure investment, procedures and governance.”

In his enthusiasm to win investment deals, Bracks conveniently forgets that the Productivity Commission is on a mission to cut community and social services and privatise everything in sight. He also forgets that Abbott and Co. are launching a massive attack on construction workers who make up the majority of members in CBus Super. 

He finishes with the absurd conclusion that “More than 5 million Australians are members of industry super funds, through which they hold ownership of ports, airports, rail, roads, utilities and pipelines. In this sense, ownership of these assets remains in the super funds of the public.”

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Climate change threats gets worse

Vanguard May 2014 p. 2
Bill F.

The latest report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a sharp reminder that humanity faces a bleak future unless the domination of the fossil fuel industry is cast aside.

Dealing effectively with climate change requires a rapid reduction in global levels of carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gases released by the combustion of fossil fuels. These gases are the main cause of atmospheric and ocean warming, and the growing acidification of the oceans.

The global fossil fuel industry is, to a large extent, owned and controlled by a handful of powerful corporate monopolies with interlocking interests and tentacles into every continent. Major ones are the US and European monopoly capitalists at the heart of global imperialism, plus the Russian oligarchs.

The science is crystal clear. The real struggle for the people is no longer an academic argument with so-called sceptics, but a political struggle to oppose, rein in and dismantle the fossil fuel monopolies and establish clean, sustainable sources of energy.

IPCC Report

The report is the second of a three part report covering the IPCC’s fifth major assessment of climate change. The first part looked at the science of climate change, and a further part due in April will consider options to cut greenhouse gas emissions. This part of the report was the collective work of 309 scientific researchers and has been endorsed by more than 100 governments.

Dr Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution for Science in California, who was a leading author of the report, stated, “We look around the world and see widespread impacts of the climate changes that have already occurred. Many of these have real consequences…Vulnerability, the susceptibility to be harmed by climate change, is really widespread in society... there are vulnerable people, vulnerable activities, distributed around the world.”

The average temperature across the globe has risen 0.85 since 1880, and without urgent action further increases up to four degrees are possible by 2100. Just one or two degrees of atmospheric warming will be disastrous for hundreds of millions of people across the globe.

The report documents the consequences of climate change, making a case for urgent adaptation strategies to halt the rate of global temperature increase. Some of the more alarming and immediate consequences are…

  • Changing weather patterns, bringing drought and heatwaves to some regions and storms and floods to others

  • Melting snow and ice, leading to floods and rising sea levels, causing mass migrations of millions of people from low-lying islands and coastal areas

  • Warming and acidification of the oceans, effecting fish stocks and coral reefs
  • Changes to crop yields, leading to food shortages

  • Many species will be unable to adapt in time and are threatened with extinction

All these factors combine to increase the risk of conflict through the displacement of people and growing hunger, poverty and disease in poor and vulnerable communities.

Australia hot and bothered

A section of the report dealing with Australia noted that the rainfall pattern is already shifting south, bringing more frequent heatwave conditions to the temperate zones, but with more frequent extreme storms and heavy rainfall in other parts.

The population, which is concentrated in the coastal fringes, faces a greater risk from bushfires and heat stress as climate changes rolls on. Water supplies are always an issue in Australia and some regions will suffer.

Economic damage will increase also, with floods causing destruction of infrastructure and the closure of mines and railways. Tourism will be hit as eco-systems dry out, the Barrier Reef coral dies off, and the snow melts on the mountains.

Farming communities will see lower crop yields, while beef, lamb, wool and dairy producers will have lower output and higher costs.

Bad as it will be for humans, it is catastrophe for Australia’s unique wildlife. Many species are already struggling to survive, and climate change, even at the current rate, will bring more extinction of animals, birds and fish species.


As stated earlier, the struggle is a political one against the hard core of global imperialist interests, who seek to hang on indefinitely to their monopoly on energy resources and the obscene profits they are making every day.

They will not be swayed by science or logic, and certainly not by appeals to their humanity and compassion. No, they will have to be put out of business by the anger of the people, who have the energy and capacity to rebuild a clean world for future generations.