Sunday, October 26, 2014

Important notice to readers

Vanguard  November 2014 p. 3

Vanguard will not be published as a printed newspaper next year. The final edition will be distributed to subscribers and other readers in December 2014.

Vanguard articles will continue to appear on the internet at together with downloads of leaflets, booklets and other material of interest to our readers. is updated regularly to provide readers with timely news and analysis of national and international struggles. Your comments and feedback are always welcome and will assist the further development of the website.

The decision to go fully online has been made in recognition of the fact that most young people use the internet as their primary source of news and communication. Computers and tablets are commonly used in schools and by workers in many workplaces, while libraries, councils and clubs conduct basic computer training for older people and others in their communities.

While another factor has been the ever-rising cost of production, with postage particularly expensive even with bulk mailing, the release of human resources will allow us to devote more time to deepening and extending our tasks, both theoretical and agitational.

Naturally, there will still be substantial costs. Readers are urged to support this initiative by continuing their donations to Vanguard, P.O. Box 196, Fitzroy, Victoria 3065.


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TPP: Threat and betrayal

(Above: Japanese farmers protest against the TPP)

On October 25, Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb hosted ministerial meetings of the 12 countries negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, the latest “free trade” deal inspired and orchestrated by US imperialism.

Countries involved are Australia, the US, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, Mexico, Vietnam, Peru, Chile, Brunei and New Zealand. The meetings were called to finalise negotiations prior to signing formalities scheduled for November 8.

 (Above: Malaysians protest against the TPP)

The TPP threatens Australian jobs and living standards, as well as hard-won social benefits such as the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). It allows open slather for foreign corporations to trash laws and regulations protecting the environment and public health, and undermines fundamental democratic rights.

Wikileaks has recently exposed the draft text of the investment chapter and the negotiating positions of the countries involved on the issues of copyright and patents, and no surprise, Australia is in lock-step with US imperialism as other countries are bullied into line.

US imperialism wants to impose criminal penalties for disclosure of ‘trade secrets’ that lead to “commercial advantage or financial gain” or benefit “a foreign economic entity” or “are detrimental to a (TPP) party’s economic interests, international relations or national defence or national security.”

This is aimed not just at commercial espionage, but most pointedly at journalists, activists and whistle-blowers who, for example, attempt to expose the taxations rorts and environmental damage of many large corporations.

Even though Robb has promised not to accept “an outcome that would adversely affect the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme”, the draft text on copyright allows for the extension of patents for very minor changes to a drug, preventing the introduction of cheaper ‘generic’ drugs and maintaining the high cost monopoly of the foreign drug companies.

The copyright provisions of the draft text also provide for criminal penalties for non-commercial infringements of “intellectual property” such as downloads of films and music, and even the use of patented medical procedures! It seeks to extend up to 100 years the copyright laws for authors, again with the threat of enforceable penalties.

To make matters worse, the full text of the agreement will be hidden from the people (and even parliament) until after it is signed off by Cabinet.
None of this is in the interests of the Australian people and the people of the Pacific region. It stifles the spread of knowledge and limits the sovereign rights of countries to protect their people and their environment. It only serves US corporate greed and facilitates the further penetration and takeover of the Australian economy by the multinationals.

If the Abbott government goes ahead and signs this trade deal, it will be a major betrayal of the Australian people, comparable to the notorious Brisbane Line of World War 2.


Support the TPP protest rallies in the capital cities on November 8.

Defend Australia's public postal services!

by Alice M.

A broad alliance of unions, postal workers, small business and communities has come together to fight Australia Post’s CEO and government plans to gut the public mail delivery services and thousands of jobs along with it.

The Coalition of Mail Service Stakeholders is growing, and so far represents Communication Workers’ Union, Printing Division of AMWU, Communication and Public Services Union; Printing Industries Association of Australia (PIAA) which represents printers and mail houses; and licensed Post Offices (franchisees).

The coalition states, “We have come together to ensure that the future of Postal services in this country continue to be delivered in an equitable and sustainable manner.”

There is strong support from parliamentary independents Bob Katter, Nick Xenophon, John Maddigan, and some members of the National Party.

Australia Post is embarking on a far reaching restructure that clearly serves the interests of the big business parcels and transport monopolies. The public funds and people’s taxes used to provide a cheap, efficient and accessible mail service by the government-owned Australia Post for 205 years will be syphoned into big business private profit making. 

Foreign and local big corporations are greedily eyeing the growing and highly profitable Australia Post parcels processing centres, national infrastructure and transportation networks. They demand government abolish the legislated Community Service Obligation that requires Australia Post to provide a 5-day reliable, low cost uniform letter delivery service to all parts of Australia.

Australia Post CEO, Ahmed Fahour, who sits on $4.8 million a year salary, is pushing hard to reduce the letter delivery services to 3 days per week and raise the cost of stamps. A two class letter delivery system will be set up, with an increased cost to continue 5 day a week letter deliveries and an inferior 3 day delivery.  Rural communities, people on low incomes, benefits, pensions and welfare will be disadvantaged.

Thousands of jobs will be axed from Australia Post over next few years.  In the first phase, between September 2014 and March 2015 more than 1,000 jobs will go.  Hundreds of these jobs will be contracted out or sent off shore.

Combined, all these measures are priming up Australia Post for privatisation.

The Business Council of Australia, through its Commission of Audit, spelled out the big foreign and local corporations’ agenda to privatise Australia Post and open it up to free market profiteering. 

It’s no coincidence that Ahmed Fahour’s public announcement of Australia Post’s plans was made at this year’s May gathering of the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia.  Fahour was sending a message to his masters, US corporations, that restructure and deregulation of Australia’s Postal services is under way for future privatisation.

The unions and the small business and community alliance are gathering wide support. Postal workers are organising in their communities; the County Women’s Association of Australia, country service clubs and members and supporters of the National Party are angry and organising local community protest meetings and rallies. Welfare, community and pensioners groups are sending strong messages to parliamentarians and mobilising their communities.  

The CWU Postal Division has warned the government, “The prospect of a well-organised, grass roots fightback that bridges traditional political divisions is a nightmare in the making for the government.”

The unity and broadness of this fightback is not often seen. It gives a glimpse of the enormous potential and capacity for a people’s movement to toss out the parasites and shape Australia into an independent and socialist country run by the working people.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A rock solid network brings power to the people

by Louisa L.

Oatley, a tiny Sydney suburb, more like a country town tucked in a bend of the Georges River, has an electricity depot with 30 engineers employed, of 500 statewide. Many of the local engineers backed a meeting in the neighbouring suburb of Mortdale to stop electricity privatisation.
Nick Gotsis, of Professionals Australia which represents engineers and other technical professionals, is convinced most of these jobs would go if poles and wires are privatised, saying the reduction in numbers would lead to greater stress and increased intensity workload.
He said outsourcing was already increasing, imposing cost savings “off the backs of the workers.”
Contractors, he stated, make mistakes, because they don't have expertise or local knowledge. Meanwhile boards lack engineers, and only focus on profits.
He expressed concern that while engineers currently plan for long term safety and reliability, “decreasing maintenance is a great way to reduce costs.”
“It's a rock solid network and it would be a tragedy to see it run down ... Our members are proud to have designed our (electricity) network ... They are community focussed and oppose privatisation.”

Power struggle builds in NSW

by Louisa L.

Community groups led by unions are gearing up to stop the NSW power sell-off.

State budget papers prove electricity poles and wires are the biggest income generating assets in NSW Government hands, bringing in up to $2.5 billion per year.

With an Ernst and Young study showing 60% of NSW residents are failing to pay electricity bills on time, and support for the sale in four National-held areas at just 14%, people are ready to say no.

In mid-October, a community meeting in suburban Mortdale saw over 70 locals determined to fight back.

United Services Union General Secretary, Graeme Kelly told the meeting that job losses amongst the 13,000 NSW electricity workers would be enormous. ‘‘Why on earth would a government wish to sell an asset which brought in $1.7 billion last year and paid for thousands of teachers, nurses and cops?’’ he said. “This massive revenue stream is likely to end up in the hands of foreign corporations and governments.”  

99 year lease is a con
Steve Butler, General Secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, described himself as “an old power line worker”, like his father and grandfather.

He said, “The infrastructure is an essential service, a strategic asset. It's not important; it's critical!”

He reckoned the $20 billion for a 99 year 'lease' would see a foreign multinational corporation taking profit offshore.

“In 99 years everyone in this room will be dead,” he said, calling it privatisation pure and simple. He debunked the government figures, saying it was relying on a delusional $5 billion in interest on a price of $13-15 billion, to be spent on non-profit-generating infrastructure.

“NSW has just spent $16 billion updating the electricity network,” he said. It's more than the expected price!

Victorian disasters
Job losses would be 'collateral damage', according to Mr Butler, with 80 per cent of jobs (8,000 in total) disappearing in the ten years after Victorian privatisation.

“NSW has the largest, most remote electricity network in the country, yet it's the cheapest,” Mr Kelly stated.

In Victoria prices rose 79% in ten years. A Consumer Action Law Centre report reveals that power companies are accused of advising some desperate customers to borrow from family and friends to pay off their bills and 77-year-old woman with a sick husband struggling to pay $1500 who was told to switch off the gas heater and rug up.   (See

Mr Butler said not one apprentice has been trained in Victoria since privatisation. Additionally, safety has been compromised. The Inquiry into the Black Friday fires at Kinglake was scathing of the private electricity contractors. “$20 parts could have stopped some of the fires,” he said.

Corporate power behind the throne
Questions from the floor pointed to the culpability of previous ALP governments, derided for handing over assets to foreign corporations, despite bitter struggle.  These corporations run the joint, the power behind shaky thrones, and are key.

The campaign to defeat the NSW Coalition in the March election will alert the public and derail the corporate agenda, but only temporarily. Keeping it off the tracks completely will be harder still, and require much more than manoeuvres at ALP conferences.

But for now, the fight will build on forces created through initial meetings.

“They don't want us to campaign,” Mr Butler said, pointing to new laws limiting how much union or related organisations could spend on political campaigning.

Mr Butler concluded, “We can't match the coin [of corporate opponents]. The only way we can fight back are the arms and legs we can put on the ground.”

BHP: No justice for workers through the courts, no protection under Fair Work Act

Ned K.

On October 16 2014 the Daily Mercury and Australian Financial Review reported that the High Court upheld a Federal Court Decision that a CFMEU shop steward’s dismissal by BHP-Mitsubishi Coal was fair and legal. The miners’ shop steward, Henk Doevendans was sacked for ‘misconduct’ by BHP weeks after a strike by miners the Dystart coal mine.

The ‘misconduct’ alleged by BHP and upheld by the ‘independent’ High Court was that he stood on a picket line holding a sign which said “No Principles – Scabs – No Guts”.

The sacking took place several weeks after the dispute with the company had finished. It was a calculated move by BHP to attack the miners’ organisation on the ground by chopping off their workplace leader.

The mine manager, Mr Brick, said that the word ‘scab’ was ‘unacceptable in the workplace’, yet CFMEU members have to put up with daily, hourly verbal tirades against them by employers,  the media and parliament  under the guise of ‘fighting corruption’.

What happened to Henk Doevendans is a good lesson for workers everywhere in this country. When workers unite and get organised, the employers, especially the biggest like BHP, will try all and any means to break up workers’ collective power.

Sacking workers’ leaders has always been a tactic in their bag of tricks. That’s why for every worker who is the declared shop steward or delegate under capitalism’s industrial laws, there needs to be a network of leaders surrounding them, some visible to the boss and some not. These networks need to extend across industries and have links with communities.

This is the seed of organisation and people’s power that the likes of BHP are haunted by every day, the seeds of a new society where the mines and other industries are owned and controlled by the people themselves.

BHP got rid of one ‘nightmare’ in their eyes, but there are thousands more ‘nightmares’ awaiting them.
See also "Some awful substance..."

International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran:
In Solidarity with Kobane

The vicious forces of the Islamic State (ISIS) have been killing thousands of people in Iraq and Syria in the past few months. In recent weeks, we all have witnessed that the people in the city of Kobane in Syria, have been under heavy and brutal attacks by the ISIS forces. Hundreds of people have been killed, tens of thousands have been forced to flee the area while thousands others have been defending their City despite very limited resources and weaponry. There is widespread fear that a great human tragedy might occur if Kobane falls under ISIS.
There is mounting evidence that the Turkish regime has been colluding with the ISIS in order to facilitate the defeat of Kobane. The Turkish government has been blocking and persecuting thousands of people who have been willing to volunteer in support of Kobane by crossing the border. The Turkish police and security forces have been attacking protesters across Turkey killing and maiming scores of people.
In recent days we have witnessed that workers and social activists in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and other parts of the world have been standing up widely in solidarity with the people of Kobane and their courageous resistance. Workers, students and progressive political parties and groups across Turkey particularly in Kurdish regions have been launching various actions in support of Kobane. In Turkey, for instance, the Confederation of Public Workers Union (KESK) and its affiliates, have been taking part in demonstrations and strike actions across the country. Actions in the workplaces, universities and on streets are daily occurrences across Turkey despite heavy-handed repression and mass arrests by Erdogan’s security forces. In Iran, independent protests in solidarity with Kobane have been organised by ordinary people and progressive and labour groups from Tehran to Sanandaj and Tabriz and in many other cities. Demonstrators in some cities across Iran were assaulted by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s security forces and a number of people have been arrested. Independent labour groups such as the Free Union of Workers in Iran, members of the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organizations in Iran and the Haft Tapeh Sugarcane workers’ Syndicate have been issuing statements in support of Kobane and against ISIS, the Turkish regime and the US-led coalition and their imperialist policies in the Middle East.
It is important to emphasize that as workers and socialist organizations across the world we have not been as pro-active as we should have been regarding what has been happening in Kobane. It is now becoming increasingly clearer for the working class organizations and progressive forces around the world that Kobane is not just a town among other towns recently sieged by the murderous and deeply reactionary forces of ISIS (even though every ISIS victory is a great step backward and a tragedy in itself). Kobane is one of the three cantons in the predominantly Kurdish areas in northern Syria, on the border with Turkey. For the past two years, people in Kobane, including women and workers, have been engaged in grassroots, self-organizing and collective decision making processes through formation of general assemblies, councils and other community-based tools and avenues. There have been great emphases on women equality and leadership as well as anti-discrimination and equity among people from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds in Kobane during this period. It is apparent that the progressive and egalitarian social changes in Kobane during the past two years were inspired by socialist and emancipatory ideals while almost the entire region has been under the control of repressive and corrupt regimes and reactionary Islamic forces. Of course, there is no need to romanticize Kobane; we are aware that there have been numerous weaknesses as well as serious critics of the political parties that have been dominant in Kobane during this period; nevertheless, nothing must undermine the fact that the defence of Kobane today is not merely the defence of a geostrategically or geopolitically important area; it is the defence of the ordinary and oppressed people’s aspiration for creating a better society during one of the darkest periods in the history of the region; it is the defence of the hope for creation of a just and egalitarian society, a society in which workers and women and all those oppressed and exploited throughout the years would be able to work collectively towards real social and economic justice and freedoms.
Within the above context, it has also become increasingly clearer for the workers and ordinary people around the world why the Turkish capitalist regime, the US imperialism and its coalition, and all other capitalist, repressive and corrupt regimes and governing bodies in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Iran, Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan’s bourgeois-nationalist rulers, have no real interests in defending people’s resistance in Kobane. It is precisely the responsibility of the working class and its organizations and all progressive forces around the world to stand up for Kobane and its people’s collective achievements. 
International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran (IASWI)

October 13, 2014

Big Business: The real tax bludgers!

by Max O.

The largest companies in Australia have been able to dodge $80 billion in tax between 2004 - 2013, argued the United Voice union and the Tax Justice Network.

In their joint report, "Who pays for our Common Wealth", it found that of  Australia’s 200 top stock market listed companies, 84% of them paid less than the company tax rate of 30%.

The story gets worse because almost a third of these companies have an effective tax rate of just 10%. How low can you get? Well 10% of these ASX200 companies paid a tax rate of 5% or less!

21st Century Fox, from the Murdoch stable of companies, effectively paid a tax rate of 1%. Then there's James Hardy, of the asbestos infamy, paid virtually zero tax.

If you thought it can't get any worse than this, the mining giant Glencore received a tax rebate of $8 million! Overall the report found that the effective tax rate of ASX 200 companies during the last decade was 23%.

Quite a difference from the official statutory rate of 30%. The proportion of total tax revenue from business, over the past five years has fallen from 23% to 19%.

In stark contrast the proportion of tax paid by individuals, over the same period (2004 - 2013), increased from 37% to 39%. Add the burden of the regressive Goods and Services Tax, which hits the less well-off, one can see who suffers the tax burden.

But as the big end of town continually reminds us, avoiding tax is not illegal. Australia’s taxation system makes it completely legitimate.

How business gets away with it
By using tax havens, where big business establishes subsidiaries who carry out transfer price fixing (these subsidiaries overcharge the parent company for goods and services) thus transferring their profits to the offshore haven.
Of the 2,156 companies listed on the ASX, who have a reported 26,096 subsidiaries, 524 of these companies acknowledged 15,564 subsidiaries were located in secrecy jurisdictions.

The most common tax havens are Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Mauritius, Luxembourg, Singapore, and Switzerland.

It is known that 119 ASX200 listed companies are registered in Bermuda and Jersey, where their tax rate is zero.

The "Who pays for our Common Wealth" report disclosed that at least 60% of the ASX200 companies declared debt levels of over 75%, indicative of tax avoidance scams. These companies as well borrow from their subsidiaries, where tax deductible payments are made in Australia but the interest goes to the zero tax rate tax haven.

BHP Billiton, Commonwealth Bank, Rio Tinto, Telstra Toll Holdings and Westfield carry out this type of tax evasion practice. Their business ethics demand that the bigger their profits are the lower the taxes should be.

Another tax evader culprit is Apple Computer. Since 2002 Apple sold $27 billion of products in Australia. However they have paid just $193 million in tax, suggesting their profit was around $500 million. Estimates have put Apple’s actual profit at $9 billion, which no doubt was shifted to a tax haven.

Subsidies for corporations
Another method of tax evasion is the iniquity of government subsidies, especially to the mining corporations. The August Vanguard article, "The age of entitlement keeps getting bigger for mining corporations" details the enormous amount of corporate welfare that is handed over to the mining giants.

Other subsidies are the corporate health insurance company rebate, where the Commonwealth government gives the 30% subsidy towards insurance premiums – a $6 billion bonanza to the insurance industry and private hospitals. Then there is the fossil fuel subsidy which costs the Commonwealth government over $10 billion each year.

Consequently the government loses many billions of dollars in revenue by subsidising the corporate sector, then uses the lack of revenue to carry out austerity attacks on social welfare. The Australian Council of Social Service reports that one in seven Australians or 2.5 million people are living below the poverty line.

In recent decades there has been a massive transfer of wealth from the 'have nots' to the 'have mores'.

For example the seven richest seven people in Australia hold more wealth than 1.73 million households in the bottom 20%.

It cannot be said enough, that the profits and wealth that capital accumulates comes from workers' labour power . The above facts and figures demonstrate the point that the major purpose of capitalist governments is to ensure that corporations can maximise their profits.