Monday, March 30, 2015

Cynicism undermines action

By Louisa L

Unless it is linked with an understanding that the subservience of Australia to its imperialist masters can be broken, disillusionment with politics and politicians can be profoundly disempowering.  

This was capitalised on in last weekend’s NSW election by No Land Tax (NLT), whose bewildered pamphleteers were paid $30 an hour to hand out leaflets attacking 'Labor crooks'  and 'Liberal crooks', and suggesting “Teach them both a lesson” by not distributing any preferences. The ALP was the real target. 

Apparently the head of the group, Peter Jones, had been rebuffed by the Liberals in a preference deal, and had a verbal brawl with shock jock Ray Hadley. As not too much mud had stuck to Teflon Mike Baird compared to the decade of deep and personal corruption of NSW Labor under Joe Tripodi and Eddie Obeid, the Labor vote was diminished.  

While the vote was small, for a group that had materialised just weeks before the election, in at least one seat, East Hills, the NLT vote of 2.15 per cent may have changed the result. 

More important was the role played by the Christian Democratic Party (CDP). Their preferences went straight to the Coalition, while their bright orange placards “No Sharia Law” and “Stronger Bail Laws” muddied the waters. Nowhere in Australia is sharia law being considered, and bail laws are now more punishing than for decades. Our gaols are bursting with people on remand, many of whom will be found not guilty.


In the marginal seat of East Hills where the CDP garnered its largest vote, the ALP candidate, Cameron Murphy - former head of the Council for Civil Liberties who only needed a 0.2 per cent swing to take the seat - was a particular target. 


But it didn't stop there. 

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, unknown people plastered Murphy's corflutes “with stickers maliciously alleging he is a 'paedophile lover'”.

Mr Murphy was awarded the Order of Australia in 2014 for his contribution to human rights, and is the son of former Labor federal attorney general and former High Court judge Lionel Murphy.
"It is very disappointing when people engage in gutter politics," Mr Murphy told the Herald. "There have been leaflets and stickers claiming I am a paedophile, a serial rapist, and in favour of a mosque in every street.”

It all had an effect and Murphy may not gain the seat. Labor sources told the Herald, “voters were walking into pre-poll booths this week, and booths on Saturday, saying they wouldn't vote for a paedophile.”

And this is our grand democracy. No wonder people are disillusioned. 

Turning that to deep knowledge and action is important post-election.

NSW Election – doing something right!

Louisa L

Paul Keating, Mark Latham, Martin Ferguson, Michael Egan and Michael Costa all attacked Labor and sided with the Coalition in the weeks leading up to the state election.

The first three are well-known to Vanguard readers. Former NSW Labor Treasurer and Energy Minister Egan also put the boot in the day after the election. Michael Costa closed rail lines, denied global warming and supported electricity privatisation when he was NSW ALP Treasurer. These days he mouths off in the Murdoch media, the Alan Jones Show and the Bolt Report.

So NSW Labor must have been doing something right. Big business wanted assets privatised, and these five lined up to lend a hand. 

Distortions abounded. $1.7 billion yearly profit from electricity distribution subsidises NSW people's services, but for two years the state-owned companies have been told to pass on just $400 million. $2.6 billion awaits whichever multinational corporation is handed the contracts. But Murdoch and Co. targeted the $400 million figure and accused the unions, Labor and Greens, who opposed privatisation, of lying.
On election night ABC reporters still spoke of the 'lease' of the assets. Even on election day, the comment, “It's not a sale, it's a lease” could be countered. “Well mate, in 99 years even your grandkids will be dead. It's a sale.”

One cut at a time

The Coalition's whole spending agenda was contingent on electricity privatisation. 

The lease tactic showed the Coalition had learned from long years under Labor. They avoided Campbell Newman's fate, by attacking people's rights and services a piece at a time, rather than face a united backlash by gobbling the lot. They closed hospitals in safe seats and promised big spends on those near marginal ones. 

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli typified this tactic. He bowed to the Gonski mass movement before he was elected, and has stuck with it. 

But TAFE is at stake too. With nationwide bipartisan agreement on privatisation of TAFE - except in NSW - Piccoli refused to budge despite a persistent campaign led by unionists, which won huge support. Piccoli talked of 'safeguards', and had the tactical sense to delay the introduction till just months before the election.

The Coalition did things too. Projects were started, not just announced. The M5 motorway was widened to six lanes, and what could be a four hour daily commute from outer suburbs like Campbelltown was dramatically reduced. Its privatisation-funded pork-barrelling aims to entrench its position.

Indecision amongst voters

While all commentators on election night said the anger against Labor had died since the last election, Labor's paralysing corruption and subservience to big businesses had not been forgotten. 

The gutting of NSW Labor prior to and at the last election tore away its vilest core, and opened it up to supporting some needs of ordinary people, by opposing or limiting privatisation. But mobilising for struggle, not just elections, goes against entrenched Labor ideology, and marks the ALP as a party of capitalism, despite periods when it rode high on mass struggles.

Indecision was the typical response from unionists contacted by this writer in a marginal seat phone-in organised by Unions NSW. It was not just the fog of corporate propaganda, but bitter experience. Even two days before, most had not made up their minds, but were willing to speak, and be swayed by facts that built on their own concerns. 

And it continues...

The NSW Greens have consistently supported and built people's struggles, particularly the anti-motorway No WestConnex in inner Sydney and the statewide Lock the Gate Alliance against coal seam gas. The Coalition's moratorium on CSG in Lismore and bribe of a new school in Ballina appear not to have stopped the Greens winning, though Lismore is in doubt at the time of writing.

The Greens' long standing, pro-people education, health and social welfare policies are have won them respect, and particular hatred by the corporate media.

There is a huge opportunity to build on the campaigns that led up to the election. A persistent hands-on approach to struggle that empowers  people is the way forward. Targeting the corporate rulers behind the parliamentary facade will strengthen the people's capacity to fight.

To succeed, campaigns must move beyond targeted seats to educating and mobilising the majority. A bit of a breather, and the fight continues.

Talking Tax

Louisa L
Don't you love it! We're going to have another 'conversation'.

Peter Jones and his No Land Tax 'not-a-party' mob got in early for their two bobs' worth in last weekend’s NSW election.


Maybe Jones is just the colourful character he purports to be, but the cost of candidates in every electorate, 4.3 million pamphlets, plus placards and vests, on top of $30 an hour payments to hundreds of pamphleteers at the NSW election, is not to be sneezed at. Perhaps the bills won't be paid, but if they are, where is the dosh coming from?


The party supports an increase in the GST, though they didn't spread that around. But the big banks, multinational accounting corporations, real estate interests and big developers love these policies, especially two days before a new tax report.


And so does Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey. Gets our minds in gear for the big sell.


According to Guardian Australia's Katharine Murphy, Hockey wants to cut Australia’s corporate tax rate, increase both the rate and reach of the GST, and overhaul what she describes as 'generous' superannuation concessions.

Ms Murphy reckons, “The Abbott government’s conversation on tax reform will begin with the launch of a 200-page report which poses 66 questions about whether Australia’s current tax system is supporting growth, labour market participation and economic efficiency.”

Shortest conversation of my life

How do you chat with a tax report? Or a government? Last time I had a chat with a prime minister, police were removing me from the doorway of his car, the week before he declared war on Iraq. I had to settle for telling his wife to pass on the message. It may have been the shortest conversation of my life.

Perhaps politicians pop in to your place for a cuppa, but not mine. A friend said Mike Baird kept ringing her at dinner time for the last week before the election, but he always hung up before she got in a word.

Good and Bad!

Apparently we're old fashioned tax-wise, stuck back in the 1950s. Globalisation and “profound economic transformation” have passed us by. That must be why Twiggy Forrest hasn't paid tax in years.

The report is full of happy words, and Ms Murphy seems pleased to quote them without comment. Take these, “reform...opportunity to significantly improve productivity and foster jobs, growth and opportunities.” (“Opportunities” twice in one sentence!)

And there are equally terrible words! “Decline...uncompetitive...exemptions which detract,” and “complexities and distortions” because we don't charge GST on things

And the report reckons if they cut all the taxes to corporations they'll end up paying more, because they won't need all those tax dodges like transfer pricing, profit shifting or debt loading.

“Monday’s launch is part of a three stage process,” says Ms Murphy. “This first paper contains no formal recommendations but is designed to spark a period of consultation. It will be followed by a green paper released in the second half of this year, and a white paper in the lead up to next year’s federal election.”

Can't wait!