Saturday, April 30, 2016

May Day: Build the revolutionary movement for independence and socialism!

Nick G.

May Day is the day for international celebration of the socialist objective of the working class. It is a day born of the struggles and sacrifices of working class activists, a day immersed in the contemporary struggles of the working class, and a day which defines the future and sets the tasks for the working class.
People want a better world, but imperialist domination
and monopoly capitalism stand in their way

What is socialism….

People’s understanding of socialism differs.  

For some it simply means a fairer distribution of incomes and services without any fundamental change to the prevailing system of capitalism.  For such people there is hope for parliamentary means of achieving that “fairness” through a Labor (or Greens) party. 

The sentiment behind this hope is quite resilient: despite all the betrayals by Labor governments, some people seem unable to break out of a cycle of hoping for a better deal than they are going to get from the Liberals, and then losing heart every time Labor wins office and backtracks on its promises to the point where it seems indistinguishable from the more open party of big business. 

This hopeful sentiment has been given new life by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory in the British Labour Party, and by Bernie Sanders’ challenge to Hillary Clinton in the US Democratic primaries.

We respect this sentiment, but do not share it.  We need to break out of its dead-end cycle.
For us, socialism has two main characteristics.  Firstly, it means ending the private ownership of the major means of production, distribution and exchange.  It means ending the system which enriches a few, and reinvesting all profit and wealth in society for the benefit of the many. 

Secondly, it means depriving the capitalist ruling class of its political power and its machinery of the state and creating new institutions of power through which the working class will take control of the decision-making processes.

…and how will we get it?

We do not believe that either of those characteristics can be obtained through the parliamentary process.  In no country have the rich and powerful ever surrendered their right to profit from the labour of others.  They did not do it under Allende in Chile, and they are not doing it in Venezuela despite the heroic leaderships of Chavez and Maduro. Leaving the existing institutions of the capitalist class’s creation intact only invites subversion, instability, sabotage and ultimately, armed removal of the progressive government.

More and more workers in Australia must involve themselves in the fight for anti-imperialist independence and socialism.  That fight will eventually be waged as a revolution against capitalism and imperialism.  We are not yet at that stage: there is no revolutionary situation, but there must be a revolutionary movement to prepare for it.

That revolution will be a two-stage process

Australia is a dependent, client capitalist state; whose politics, economy and military is dominated by US and foreign interests. 

The first stage, the anti-imperialist stage, is defined by the socialist character of the expropriation of the assets belonging to the imperialists and their local associates, assets which are at the heart of capitalism in Australia.  

This can only occur under working class leadership, leading to the deepening of the socialist character of the revolution and its embrace of all economic and political functions throughout a second stage when remaining influences of capitalism will be eradicated. There is no intermediate capitalist stage between these two phases; rather, there is an overlap with the first stage melding into the second.

In our Party’s logo, the first anti-imperialist stage, represented by the Eureka flag, is foregrounded in and rests upon the foundation of the red star of socialism.

On this May Day, 2016, we express our complete confidence in the Australian working class, in the revolutionary movement that advances the interests of the working class, and in the independence and socialism that are the future of our class.

Disillusioned twice over!

The double dissolution election being set up by Prime Minister Turnbull will at least spare us from the endless detailed reports of point-scoring in the American primaries.

Unlike present-day America, the main contenders in our election will generate little passion or enthusiasm among the people. This is because the people sense that there are really no fundamental differences between the Coalition parties and Labor.

Both want to steer the good ship Australian Capitalism on a course set down by US imperialism and the Business Council of Australia. The Coalition will hold the course regardless of storms and reefs (South China Sea can be tricky) while Labor will zig and zag and backtrack, but end up in the same place.

Neither will challenge the unelected holders of power that rule Australian political and economic life from foreign boardrooms, private think-tanks and wealthy clubs, and the top echelons of the public service and military. Neither will challenge the political and economic domination of US imperialism that these collaborators work to uphold. Neither will reverse the transfer of wealth from the working poor to the rich that accelerates inequality and spreads insecurity across the middle sections as well.

Sensing that the differences are not so great, most people will still vote, without much enthusiasm, for the ‘least worse” of the main parliamentary parties on offer.

Greens and protest votes

And, as usual, a solid percentage of voters will vote for the Greens or other progressive independents, hoping that capitalism/imperialism can be regulated or reformed to exploit and oppress the people in a nicer way. In some ways this vote can be a reflection of ‘mass consciousness’ even when it reinforces illusions about parliamentary democracy. At least it reflects the desire for substantial, if not fundamental, change. It is more significant than a pile of informal votes that can be interpreted any way you like.

Real democracy

While respecting this, our party believes that real democracy should have more content than an election every few years to shuffle personalities. We think that democracy should extend to workplaces and communities where working people can participate in the development of plans and policies and actively monitor their implementation. This empowers the people rather than focus groups, lobbyists and bureaucrats, and gives them ownership of decisions affecting their lives and the future of the country.

Although socialist democracy is not currently a hot topic, the election will provide plenty of opportunities for raising working class demands and building greater awareness of corporate greed, the threat of imperialist war, and the need for national independence  and socialism.

BCA plan: “a new architecture for Aboriginal affairs”

Louisa L.

A Maori representative once told Narungga Elder Tauto Sansbury, “If you're not at the table, you're the menu.
“Right now,” Tauto says, “we're being chopped up into little pieces.”

Terry Mason, Awabakal Elder and NTEU representative, speaking with Tauto and others at a 'Men for Treaty' event in Sydney recently, described the 500 Aboriginal people who descended on a Victorian Government meeting, and voted unanimously for Treaty.

“They wanted to break us into four groups and give us focus questions set by the government, ” he said.

The participants took over. “We'll do this Aboriginal way. Focus groups mean you have us heading somewhere you want us to head. We'll stay together and we will talk about what we want to talk about. It'll be open and everyone will hear it, and when we come to a conclusion, it'll be our conclusion,” Uncle Terry reported.

Tony McAvoy Australia's first Indigenous Senior Council said the Victorian meeting called for unity, “a collective voice”.  Sovereign Peoples across the continent echo this call.

Calling Treaty “a winner” Uncle Tauto said, “We are a grass roots campaign. We don't get dollars or cents for this. Some of us borrow money to fly over here...Recognise is a multimillion dollar campaign.”

Uncle Tony added,“It shouldn't be those who can afford to go, those with a vested interest, who represent certain organisations.”

Awash with money and power

In 1988 Sovereign peoples were united and powerful, while aggressive policies had isolated corporations and undermined their profits.  It's not so now.

Brenda Croft, a Gurindji Elder spoke with strong feeling at an earlier Women For Treaty gathering, “It's theft upon theft upon theft! … I want action!”

Bunurong author, Bruce Pascoe, writes in 'Bread', “Imagine that the culture so wilfully ignored was your own. Try and describe the magnitude of your anger, and don't hold back, because anger and sorrow of themselves are not criminal acts.”

Facing despair, it's small wonder that when corporations, awash with money and power, with governments at their beck and call, promise order imposed on chaos, employment, education, high order skills and money to solve problems, some choose cooperation.

Talking about 'settlement'

The Business Council of Australia (BCA) is the ruling class's executive. It sets agendas and systematically applies the vast resources of its 100 plus corporate members to implement them. For the BCA 'Indigenous Engagement' is a priority issue.

Its members are integral to Reconciliation Australia (RA), and its offshoot, Recognise. Recognise has twenty BCA members sprinkled amongst hundreds of community organisations on its Campaign Partners Network.

Giant legal firm, Allens-Linklater, is a key BCA player in the development of Recognise. Partner Ian McGill speaks of “explicit recognition … of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' occupation of this continent before European settlement.” (Not invasion!)

In December PM Turnbull appointed Allens' former Chief Executive Partner, Michael Rose, to the Referendum Council on Constitutional Recognition.

Then there's Melinda Cilento, simultaneously on the boards of RA and Woodside Petroleum through the entire Walmadan (James Price Point) dispute that left the region's Jabirr Jabirr and Goolarabooloo peoples bitterly divided. Both Ms Cilento (a former BCA Deputy Chief Executive) and KPMG's Peter Nash remain on RA's board.

As the BCA sees fit

Building a new Aboriginal leadership that the BCA deems fit is paramount.

Eight BCA companies are part of the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre, while BHP Billiton helped create the Indigenous Governance Awards.

Michael Rose is also chair of the the Advisory Board of Empowered Communities, which Allens describes as “a new architecture for Indigenous Affairs”, where communities “with proven and legitimate governance” get “more power to determine priorities and funding.”

But there are those who think the lives and futures of Sovereign Peoples is not for corporations to decide. They're fighting back.

The basic needs of the working class can only be guaranteed by socialism

Bill F.

In Australia’s capitalist society the working class and all working people have common needs – employment, housing, healthcare, education and reliable transport are critical issues for workers, their families and their communities.

These issues will be highlighted even more as the federal election campaign grinds on, and people digest the detail in the federal budget.

Whatever happens, beyond the parliamentary smokescreens and fireworks, there will be the usual ‘little gives” and ‘big takes’ and the transfer of wealth from the working class to the rich will continue. The lesson of the history of modern capitalism is one of the working class winning a few reforms and concessions and then seeing any gains watered down and eventually taken back. 

The monopoly media will trot out their usual dumbing-down analysis, reducing all political discussion to the shallow personalities of Shorten vs Turnbull and the parliamentary numbers game, as if this is the only choice for workers to make.

Asking the hard questions
However, workers aren’t so easily distracted. They want to know how the changes will affect them. Will they be better off? Will the country be better off? Will essential services be cut? Will the super-rich get away with it yet again? Behind these questions are the constant insecurities that working people face in capitalist Australia.

The need for secure employment and reliable transport
Employment is at the top of the list. While earlier generations had ‘a job for life’, even full-time workers are haunted by insecurity as their jobs could vanish in a sudden merger or takeover, a restructure or a decision by a foreign or local bank. Globalisation (the imperialist market-place) might mean workers can buy more gadgets, but you can’t buy much without a job!

While mining jobs are disappearing as demand for resources tapers off, and manufacturing jobs are being exported to low-wage countries, part-time, casual and short-term contract work is replacing full-time positions in many sections of the economy. Trade union organisation has been slow to respond and consequently these workers have to endure lower wages and poorer conditions, forcing many into long term credit card debt. The capitalist class also uses desperate 457 visa-workers and impoverished students to pressure further attacks on working conditions and drive down the general level of wages and penalties.

And just getting to work can be a problem for people in the cities where the great majority of the population lives. People deserve better than to spend hours each working day crawling in peak-hour traffic jams. Their alternative is to rely on run-down networks of public transport with unreliable service, cancelled trains, and trams and buses caught up in traffic jams.

The need for housing
The biggest expense for workers in Australia is buying or renting a house or unit. Whereas earlier post-war generations were able to pay off a house within 25 years, it now takes 40 years or more for an average house in an outer suburb in one of the main cities. Just scraping together a deposit for a bank loan takes many years of sacrifice in the face of ever-rising living costs, to say nothing of extortionist rents charged by landlords.

For young people trying to break into the housing market, it is particularly hard. Many younger workers stay on in the parental home or move into a ‘share house’.  What used to be ‘a student lifestyle’ has become common for young people in the workforce.

And even if approval for a bank loan has been granted, young people quickly learn that they have to compete at auction with well-healed speculators and ‘investors’ who feast on the negative gearing tax concession rip-off.

For older people, even if they have paid off their house, it can be forfeited if they need extended nursing care and have to hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars in bond money to the privatised nursing home industry.

The need for quality healthcare and education  
Sixty years ago, doctors in Australia used to make house calls and working people could get free treatment in a public hospital. Sixty years ago, parents could send their children to a public school, paying only for a simple uniform and cost-price school books. Sixty years ago, retired workers could get by on the age pension. All that has changed as progressive social services have been wound down and privatised, and society is now carved apart into ‘winners’ and ‘losers’.

An independent working class agenda
These are the common issues that workers want resolved, regardless of parliamentary election promises, regardless of party factions and regardless of union membership or affiliation. They are starting point for their demands and struggles that are both economic and political, and around which the working class and trade unions can unite and mobilise, rather than just being content to letter-box every three years or so when the Labor Party whistles.

The working people should be the ones setting the agenda, not the bean-counters and lawyers. This really means the building of a powerful mass movement demanding fundamental change, independent of the parliamentary parties. In the process, workers can find out who’s really on 
their side and who’s out for themselves.

Socialism is the only real alternative
Currently, the biggest challenge is to take on the most powerful section of monopoly capitalism, to free Australia from the grip of US imperialism and its local agents and apologists, and to nationalise the main industries and resources. On this base, with key resources owned and controlled by the working class, the basic needs of the working class can be met, and further improved as the revolutionary process continues on to socialism.

Unlike the insecurity of capitalism, socialism guarantees decent, permanent work for all the people in a planned economy where products are made and services are provided for the benefit of working people rather than the enrichment of a greedy minority.

Under capitalism, workers just take orders, but socialism empowers the working class through union and workplace assemblies, cooperatives and industry councils where they can have input into workplace, local and national decision-making, and then can monitor the implementation of agreed policies.

Socialism guarantees decent, affordable housing and accommodation for all people, whether singles, couples, families or groups, with regulated quality standards, controlled rent and utility charges. Socialism wipes out homelessness and builds houses and units for people’s needs, not for speculation. Rather than each household being an island economically and socially, socialism actively encourages community engagement and mutual assistance within neighbourhoods, towns and regions.   

Socialism guarantees well-resourced hospitals, medical centres, schools and universities where quality services are provided free of charge – with proper funding coming from the people’s ownership and control of major industries and resources, rather than being syphoned off to line the pockets of the rich.

In caring for the well-being of the people, socialism not only seeks an end to war but also takes on the responsibility of protecting the natural environment, cleaning up the centuries of pollution, waste and destruction that accompanied the growth of capitalism/imperialism. Only socialism can mobilise the political will and the technology to roll back escalating climate change that threatens all humanity.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Small Nation Standing Up To US Imperialism

Ned K.

North Korea is a small country compared to the USA and by population about half the size of South Korea. South Korea hosts US troops and large military bases. 

North Korea is called 'the hermit kingdom" because it does not embrace the imperialist 'free trade' in goods and services. It is fiercely independent and there is little information about how its political system works but much criticism from the West that it is essentially run like a feudal monarchy. There may be some truth in this with one family dominating for decades in the leadership positions of government.

Despite its faults, there are some things its leadership says that make sense, especially regarding relations between North Korea and the USA. The North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong visited New York this month to attend a UN meeting on sustainable development. The US restricted his movements in New York due to the firing of a ballistic missile test off the coast of North Korea.
Minister Ri did not kowtow in response. 

He said, "If they believe they can actually frustrate us with sanctions, they are totally mistaken...A country as small as the DPRK cannot actually be a threat to the US or to the world. How great would it be if the world were to say to the US and the American government not to conduct any more military exercises in the Korean peninsula. But there is not a single country that is saying this to the US. These big countries alone or together are telling us that we should calm down For us, this is like a sentence, that we should accept our death and refuse our right to sovereignty."

Minister Ri said that the US drove North Korea to develop nuclear weapons as an act of self-defence. He added that North Korea saw the increased military exercises between South Korea and the US as preparation for an invasion of North Korea.

Such a move would be a disaster for the Korean people in the South and the North, not to mention the people of the world.

The Australian government and the Labor Party both support the growing US military presence in Australia, using Australia as a launching pad for aggression in the Asia Pacific region to our north. 
On Anzac Day it is worth asking the question as an election approaches, do the Australian people want the country to be used for this purpose and possibly see Australian military personnel die in yet another war far away from our shores in the interests of a foreign imperialist power? 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

PNG Supreme Court rules Australian “Guantanamo” illegal

Nick G.

By unanimous decision of the Full Bench of the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court, the Australian concentration camp for asylum seekers on Manus Island has been declared illegal, unconstitutional and a breach of asylum seekers’ human rights.

The Australia and PNG governments have been ordered to close the camp “forthwith”.

The PNG Supreme Court decision is in marked contrast to the decision by the Australian High Court, delivered in February, which found that offshore detention of asylum seekers was constitutional.

The difference in interpretations lies in the fundamental differences between the constitutions of the two countries.

The Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, to give it its full title, was enacted by the PNG parliament in 1975 and enshrines the rules for the operation of capitalism in PNG. Significantly, it contains a lengthy Division Three (“Basic Rights”) which has provided the basis for the Supreme Court’s decision.

Australia’s Constitution was enacted by an imperial parliament and enshrines the rules for the operation of capitalism in Australia. It assumes the correctness of the seizure of Australia from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by British colonialism and reflects a compromise between the British as colonial masters, the elites and ruling classes of the separate colonies, and the representatives within the ruling class of those who favoured a central power for the newly emerging nation.

Significantly, it made no provision for defining the basic rights of the Australian people. Australia entered nationhood without a Bill of Rights and is still without one.

This means that there is no formal document in Australia upon which a decision like PNG’s Supreme Court decision can be made.

At the beginning of 2015, the Attorney-General of Australia had referred to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) responsibility for a public Inquiry into the relationship between Commonwealth law and the exercise by Australian citizens of their traditional rights, freedoms and privileges.

In establishing the enquiry, the ALRC noted: “The Australian Constitution does not expressly or impliedly protect most of the rights, freedoms and privileges listed in the ALRC’s Terms of Reference”.

In its submission to the enquiry, the CPA (M-L) noted:

5. The rights, freedoms and privileges of the Australian people are not guaranteed under the principle of legality.  The “sovereignty of Parliament” which our law-makers so jealously guard against a Bill of Rights, allows the Parliament to make laws which encroach on our rights, freedoms and privileges so long as those laws encroach clearly and unambiguously.

6. The same applies to international law.  International treaties, conventions and other instruments provide no guarantees for the rights, freedoms and privileges of the Australian people.  So long as the sovereign Parliament makes its encroachments clearly and unambiguously it may thumb its nose at our international obligations.

We Australians live in a fool’s paradise if we think that our rights and liberties have any legal protection.  The Australian Building Construction Commission, the so-called “trigger” for the July 2 election, is living proof of that. The Australian working class has more than one reason for standing alongside asylum seekers. The future of the working class lies in the defence of the rights of all.

International opinion, from the United Nations to the New York Times, has labelled Manus Island “Australia’s ‘Guantanamo’”.

We say that the 850 men imprisoned by private company Broadspectrum (formerly Transfield) on behalf of the Australian government must be released immediately and flown to Australia to have their refugee status processed expeditiously.  As it is, around half have already been granted refugee status, yet they remain within the concentration camp as prisoners.

All asylum seekers and refugees are in one way or another, victims of capitalism and imperialism.

Responsibility for the inhuman response to their plight is shared equally between Labor and Liberal.

The people and not the politicians have morality on their side.

End the indefinite detention of asylum seekers!

Look below the surface in submarine decision

Nick G.

Prime Minister Turnbull has just announced that 12 new submarines will be built in Australia by a French consortium.

On the surface, this is a significant victory for the Australian people.

As the CEO of the Defence Teaming Centre, a peak “defence” industry body in South Australia said on radio today, “This is the people who got this across the line, so well done to the people!”

It is indeed a significant defeat for the preferred political agenda of the US imperialists which they planned to impose through the arch-Rightist former PM Tony Abbott.

That agenda was for the submarines to be built in Japan by Mitsubishi and Kawasaki.

Abbott was prepared to sacrifice Australian jobs, Australian industries and Australia’s sovereignty to do the bidding of the US overlords.

They saw in a Japanese build the most effective way to guarantee the interoperability of the US, Japanese and Australian submarine fleets against the emerging rival, China.

They also saw in a Japanese build the most effective way of assisting Japanese PM Shinzo Abe to demolish the so-called pacifist Constitution adopted by Japan after WW2, a Constitution which places certain impediments in the way of a revival of a highly developed Japanese militarism and of armaments exports as part of a militarised economy.  All of these are desired by the US imperialists in order to “contain” the growing strength of China.

However, the Australian people took offence at Abbott’s sell-out to the Japanese, particularly as it involved breaking an iron-clad election promise of an Australian build at the Australian Submarine Corporation in South Australia.

There was also great cynicism directed at Abbott’s decision to create a “competitive evaluation process” (CEP), the initial aim of which was to provide a sounder basis for the Japanese build than the secret handshake deal believed to have been made between Abbott and Abe.

Abbott eventually became a liability for the ruling class.  Many factors contributed to his unpopularity, but the change of government leadership opened the possibility of cancelling the Japanese build.

A US setback but their control is intact

US interests were given top priority by both Abbott and Turnbull.  Whatever the outcome of the CEP, US interests were to be protected by the appointment of senior US government and naval personnel to positions that allowed them to oversee the CEP and its peer review process.

This meant that while the Japanese would not get the build, US imperialism would still be able to maximise the potential for interoperability under its leadership.

The following statement by the Australian government indicates the degree of control and oversight exercised by the US imperialists:

This rigorous and independent process was led by Head of the Future Submarine Program, Rear Admiral Greg Sammut AM CSC, and General Manager Submarines, Rear Admiral Stephen Johnson USN (retired), who was previously in charge of the program to replace the Ohio Class ballistic missile submarines.

The process was overseen by an independent Expert Advisory Panel, chaired by former Secretary of the United States Navy, Professor Donald Winter. It was peer reviewed by Vice Admiral Paul Sullivan USN (retired) and Rear Admiral Thomas Eccles USN (retired).

The US oversight of a process “essential to Australia’s national security” (Turnbull) clearly indicates Australia’s position as a client state of US imperialism.  The US, for its part, would never in its wildest dreams contemplate such a sacrifice of national sovereignty to another power, would never appoint another nation to oversee processes essential to US national security.

And as much as today’s decision is important in closing a shameful chapter in recent Australian political history, it does not alter the intention of the US navy to take control of the deployment of the Australian submarine fleet and to use it as part of its provocations and confrontations against its major rival, China.

Australia’s continental defence does not require submarines with “long range capability”.  US confrontation with China does.

The submarine debate must now switch direction and be expanded to embrace the campaign waged by the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) and others to stand up to the incorporation of the Australian military into the predatory plans of US imperialism.

For an independent foreign policy!

For the peaceful resolution of international conflict!

For the defeat of imperialism everywhere!

For Australian independence and socialism!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Public meeting strongly denounces Trans Pacific Partnership

Alice M.

The exposure of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a tool of US government and its biggest multinational corporations and banks to increase the exploitation of people and plunder of the environment outrages people around the world.

The TPP exposes not only the sham of capitalist democracy, but the naked dictatorship of US imperialism over the national sovereignty of countries in enforcing its economic domination.

A public forum held on 21 April in the Lower Melbourne Town Hall, and attended by over 180 people, called on Australia’s politicians not to ratify and implement the Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact being driven by US imperialism.

Broad opposition and concern

The public forum was endorsed by 24 unions and community organisations, including the Victorian Trades Hall Council, ETU, ASU, MEEA, MUA, CFMEU, CWU, Public Transport Unions, Environment Victoria, Citizens for Liveable Melbourne, Spirit of Eureka, Friends of the Earth, Unitarian Church, Migrante Australia, and many others.

The meeting was called by the TPP Unions and Community Roundtable Coalition (Vic), an alliance of unions and community organisations formed in early 2015 to oppose the outrageous sell-out of people and the environment to multinational corporations.  

The meeting was chaired by retiring Victorian Federal Labor politician Kelvin Thomson who has been a strong and outspoken critic of the TPP and free trade agreements.

Professor Jane Kelsey from New Zealand, an academic and TPP activist, spoke passionately and described the formation and growth of the very successful and broad people’s movement “It’s Our Future”, in her country.

Dr. Deborah Gleeson from the Public Health Association of Australia spoke of the impact the TPP will have on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and people’s access to affordable medicines and public health.

Samantha Castro from Friends of the Earth spoke on the devastation to the environment that the TPP will allow. 

Ged Kearney, President of the ACTU spoke of new attacks on people’s livelihoods under the TPP.

Shirley Winton from Spirit of Eureka and member of the TPP Unions and Community Roundtable Coalition read out several messages of solidarity.

After questions, the meeting unanimously carried a resolution moved by TPP Unions and Community Roundtable member, and Spirit of Eureka Chairperson, Kevin Bracken.

This Public Forum of unions and community organisations, held on 21 April 2016, in the Lower Melbourne Town Hall, calls on all Parliamentary Parties and Independents in Australia to act in the best interest of people and the environment and decline ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) will not improve the lives of ordinary people, but instead will undermine the livelihood of working people, local industries, the environment, and our democratic rights and sovereignty to decide what kind of country we want to live and work in. 

The TPP will undermine workers’ rights and working conditions, exploit and trample the environment even more, increase the cost of medicines and public health, remove protection of local jobs and industries, abolish domestic policies that preference employment of local workers and source local materials on government projects and public services, trample on Indigenous rights, undermine public education, and exploit even more overseas workers in Australia.

The public release of the full TPP Agreement in February 2016 confirms some of our worst fears of the harmful impact of the TPP on people, the environment and our national sovereignty.  

The Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in the Trans Pacific Partnership will override domestic public interest laws and policies where bigger profits can be made by the multinationals.  The Investor State Dispute Chapter provisions empower multinational corporations and foreign investors to sue federal, state and local governments for damages resulting from domestic legislation which they claim could harm increasing the profit-making from their investments.

We need trade policies that engage unions and community organisations to improve the lives of all working people, uphold human rights, workers’ rights and protect the environment through the inclusion of climate change provisions, and that ensure the protection of our national sovereignty.

We insist all members of the Australian Parliament: Refuse to Ratify the TPP and any trade agreements with ISDS provisions; Don’t Sell Out the People and the Environment for Corporate Profits.

This Public Forum resolves to continue building a broad based public campaign of unions and communities to urge the Australian parliament not to implement enabling legislation required to ratify the corporations-driven Trans Pacific Partnership.

Economic imperialism

The TPP has nothing to do with trade but everything to do with attacking hard-won living standards, working conditions, social services, affordable medicines, public health and education and protection of the environment. It will sweep away hard-won democratic rights; trample on the sovereignty and independence of countries.

It makes a mockery of Australian sovereignty, as the parliament can only rubber-stamp the deal, and even then the locally made laws to implement the deal have to be approved by US imperialism via the US Congress!

The TPP and other big free trade agreements (eg TISA, TTIP), also drawn up by the US and waiting to be rolled out, will remove the few remaining barriers to maximising profits by multinational corporations and foreign banks.

In the face of growing economic competition from China, US imperialist free trade agreements are also a mechanism to lock countries, with their resources, markets and wealth, into the US economic hegemony.

The TPP and all current free trade agreements pushed by the US and multinational corporations and banks are desperate measures to save US imperialism from economic and political crisis.   
Imperialism is in the final stages of decaying capitalism that has reached its use-by-date.

An independent and socialist Australia, where the reins of the country will be held firmly by workers and working people, is the only alternative to the rotting, barbaric system of capitalism, and will guarantee national sovereignty and protect the well-being of people and environment.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Future of Steel Production at Whyalla Raises Issues about the Nature of Australian Independence

Ned K.

The future of steel production at Whyalla in South Australia is uncertain with Arrium being in administration and governments at state and federal levels looking for a bail out that will delay big job losses past the next election cycle.

Some of the blame for the situation in Whyalla has been pointed at steel producers in China who are accused of flooding the country with "cheap steel". There are cries from various spokespersons of industry and governments that China should slow down production of steel to give smaller operations like Arrium in Whyalla a chance to compete for their share of the steel market.

However the more the Chinese corporations cut back in production the less iron ore they buy from Australia and the more job losses in mining in Australia. Over the last couple of years, big business interests connected to the mining and resources sector were calling for the Chinese economy to keep expanding at a growth rate of 8% or more per annum and warned of dire consequences for Australia's exports if the Chinese economy slowed.

Leaders from both the Liberal and Labor Governments at both federal and state levels support free trade agreements and cannot give any assurances about steel orders for the steel works in Whyalla.

The situation will get worse next year when the car industry shuts down. The car industry is one of the biggest users of steel after the construction industry.

The whole situation also has a distinctly anti-China flavour as the ABC Radio reported last week that of all imported steel in to Australia, the amount coming from China amounted to only 16%! 

The report said that the biggest exporter of steel to Australia by far is Japan.

The likely outcome of the crisis of steel workers at Arrium in Whyalla is that the place will shut altogether or continue on as a smaller operation in the short term.

For Australia as a whole, the crisis in Whyalla raises questions about the Australian government's relationship with China at a time when contradictions between China and US imperialism are intensifying. The situation in Whyalla is a microcosm of all the competing self- interests within the ruling class.

The commitment of government to “free trade agreements” means that generally speaking manufacturing workers in Australia lose out. Whyalla is likely to be no exception.

Longer term when the Australian people led by the working class (the big majority of the employable population) win an independent country they will be the ones who decide what is made here and what is imported from overseas, based on trade and investment to the mutual benefit of the nations concerned, rather than being based on trade agreements that favour multinational corporations.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Women Workers in the Health Sector Lead the Way in Rebuilding Unionism in Australia

Ned K.

The Friday 8 April edition of the Australian Financial Review included an article headed "Nurses buck unions' long term demise". 

It explained that while overall union membership density in Australia continued to decline,union membership among nurses grew by 12% in the last two years and the AN&MF WITH 249,000 members was now the largest union in Australia. 

The article pointed out that nursing in Australia is the most trusted profession according to opinion polls and is one of the few areas where women workers are able to combine a career and job security with family responsibility time out of the workplace.

Most nurses care for the people they care for whether it be in a public or private hospital or an aged care facility. They also have to work together under enormous pressure due to inadequate funding of the health system.

A few years ago nurses standing together in their union took on the Victorian Government not over a wage increase but to maintain and extend staffing levels to enable proper care of patients and safe work. In aged care nurses are working with enrolled nurses, carers and support service workers to demand better staff ratios and more regulated funding of aged care by governments.

The increase in union membership in the Health Sector is not confined to nurses and the AN&MF. Non nursing workers in hospitals and aged care facilities are joining unions in large numbers and share common goals with the nurses. Divisions between unions within the Health Sector over which union should cover carers (formerly called nurse assistants) in the aged care sector must be resolved in the interests of all workers and the general public. With more funding cuts to health and more privatisation of services in health on the agenda of capitalists who see the health sector as a new profit frontier, disunity is death both for workers and potentially for some patients.

The hundreds of thousands of mainly women workers in nursing and caring in hospitals and aged care facilities are a shining light for the millions of service sector workers who are looking for a way forward to defend their rights and working conditions.

They do indeed "hold up half the sky".

Building and Construction Workers Stay Strong Despite On-Going Attacks from Big Business

Ned K.

Nearly 30 years to the day (Wednesday 13 April) of the de-registration of the BLF, construction workers at a Lend Lease construction site in Brisbane went on strike when Lend Lease removed the workers' Eureka flag (symbol of their union CFMEU) from the site.

More than 90 workers took the strike action despite it being "unprotected action" under the ruling class's Fair Work Act.

The Australian Financial Review reported on Friday 15 April that the company ran to the Fair Work Commission to get the predictable Order for the workers to end the strike. However the workers had made their point and while they lost wages Lend Lease lost whatever small amount of credibility it may have had for showing such a lack of respect for workers. 

Perhaps Lend Lease provoked this strike action on purpose a week out from Turnbull trying to pass the ABCC laws in federal parliament. Or perhaps it was an act of disrespect towards builders’ labourers.

The deregistration of the BLF 30 years ago was supposed to restore 'law and order' to construction sites and the employers and government hoped to turn the CFMEU in to a tame cat union by having labourers’ influence curbed by a labour aristocracy from the trades groups within the union. The opposite has occurred over the 30 years with all building and construction workers irrespective of their job, trades or non-trades, uniting to defend their rights and working conditions.

No more clearly was this shown than in the extraordinary level of support for Ark Tribe (above) who was facing gaol as a result of the ABCC.  

Mao used to say that the imperialists make trouble, fail, make trouble and fail again.

The same can be said for the imperialist controlled building and construction industry employers and their lackeys in parliament.