Saturday, May 28, 2016

US Imperialism Still Dominant Economic Force In Australia

Ned K.

Much has been said in the mainstream media about the "threat' of Chinese investment in Australia. 

From the leasing of the Port of Darwin to attempted purchase of Kidman cattle properties to high rise apartments to a new milk factory at Tantanoola in the South East of South Australia this media frenzy has been developed to create a scapegoat for people's concerns about the destruction of whole industries in Australia and resulting job losses. 

Blaming the Chinese lets the main cause of the loss of industries, US imperialism off the hook. It is the US more than any other foreign investment power in Australia that has led to the destruction of whole industries in Australia, led by the car industry, to suit their global economic needs. It is the US which at the same time has trapped Australia into becoming its willing military partner to keep the 'free world' safe from a rising Asia, particularly China.

It is convenient for the US to have the Australian people believe that the Chinese are investing so heavily in Australia that it is only a matter of time before they have taken over the place. The "yellow hordes" fear of the 1960s and 1970s peddled by the pro-US forces is replaced by the "yellow renminbi".

Occasionally sections of the big business press not so tightly connected with US imperialism spill the beans on what is the real situation regarding investment trends by overseas finance capital in Australia. One such occasion was 26 May 2016 when the Australian Financial Review printed an article headed "The Australian Myth of Massive Chinese Investment". The article revealed the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data on foreign investment in Australia over the last year.

Belgium invested $22.3 billion
China (excluding Hong Kong) invested $7.8 billion
China (including Hong Kong) invested $14.6 billion
USA invested $55.9 billion

The article said, "The accumulated stock of US direct investment in Australia is five times larger than that of China, while it also holds 16 times the value of equity securities and 123 times the value of debt securities. There was another standout observation in the ABS data. In 2015 Australians acquired Chinese assets worth $10.5 billion. Yes, that's correct, $2.7 billion more than the value of Australian assets acquired by the Chinese"!

So it is pretty clear that US imperialist investment in Australia is still number one, which matches its military and political influence and presence in the country. Perhaps the more sinister domination by US imperialism in Australia is the cultural influence with emphasis on individualism rather than the collective, whether it be in the workplace or communities. Even our Australian Rules football code businesses at the elite level look to the USA for new marketing tricks and how the game should be presented to maximize corporate dollars and corporate media monopoly interests.

This is not to say that all Chinese investment in Australia or foreign investment from other countries should be welcomed with open arms. Far from it. Independence for Australia should be the yard stick.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Australian authors and publishers declare war on the Productivity Commission

Max O

British and US cultural imperialisms have massively shaped and influenced Australia's cultural mores and bodies. This cultural dominance is found anywhere you care to look - media, arts, film, performing arts, education, publishing etc. 

From the earliest days of the European colonial unsettlement of Aboriginal lifestyles and cultures, attempts have been made to create an identifiable and independent cultural identity for Australia. These attempts have largely reflected the values and beliefs of the working class. Communist authors were very prominent in the 1930s and 40s.

From the 1970s an attempt at cultural assertiveness took place to oppose imperialist cultural control and the 'cultural cringe' that resulted.  The demand for an Australian voice and place to express our stories, experiences, diversity, history, discoveries and inventions was widely supported and saw the rapid expansion of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian cultural identity.

However multinational corporations that produce cultural products have been unrelenting in pushing back this cultural independence and commodifying culture in their own image. Cultural dominance is an important weapon in the arsenal of imperialist hegemony.

One successful outcome of this 1970's push for cultural independence was the flourishing Australian book authors and publishing scene. There has been a massive growth of Australian written and produced books that gave Australia a voice after almost two centuries of a 'colony of the mind'.

These gains are now under threat as a result of a draft report released by the Productivity Commission in late April this year. The report titled, "Inquiry into Australia's Intellectual Property Arrangements" supports the Harper Review's proposal that the Federal Government drop parallel importation restrictions and advocates a US concocted 'fair use' policy that reduces authors’ copyright to 15 years.

If and when Australia's territorial copyright is dismantled, foreign book publishers can then muscle in on and loot a local book industry that generates $2 billion income, publishes 7000 titles each year, employs 20,000 Australians across the industry and invests $120 million yearly in Australian books.

The Productivity Commission justifies the annihilation of the Australian book industry and cultural workers with the following bizarre logic: "The expansion of the books production industries over recent decades has attracted and held productive resources, notably skilled labour and capital, that have thereby been unavailable for use in other industries. The upshot will have been reduced growth in employment and output in other parts of the economy.”

Only a neo-liberal comprador organisation could come up with such a flawed analysis that only benefits the huge British and US publishing industry. The removal of parallel importation rules will flood the market with cheap foreign editions of Australian authored books and damage the local publishing industry.

The cutback of Australian authors' copyright from 70 to 15 years will reduce their income and control of their literary work. Currently the average Australian author earns around $13000 a year for their literary efforts.

Why the need for Parallel Importation Restrictions (PIR)?

Australia regulates parallel importation of books. This results in retailers buying bulk copies of a book only from a publisher who holds Australian rights. Consequently a publisher has to make their book available in Australia swiftly in order to retain their exclusive rights. Nevertheless, this does not deny the right of booksellers and consumers to buy single copies of books directly from an overseas seller.

If PIRs were eliminated this would dismantle the notion of territorial copyright for Australian authors and their publishers. Ironically, authors in Britain and US retain their territorial copyright privileges.

The removal of the PIRs would result in:
•    Reduction of purchasing of international rights by Australian publishers, a practice which has allowed the local industry to generate income to invest in Australian authors.
•    Substantial reduction in the value of international rights trading, which is how Australian authors and their publishers manage financial risk and increase income.
•    Reduction in author income because of the potential shift from local retail royalties to the lower net receipt royalties of overseas editions.
•    Reduction in local print as a result of overseas stock flooding the local market.

The neo-liberal compradors in the Productivity Commission showed no interest at all to the damage done to New Zealand and Canadian authors and publishers when these countries changed their laws on territorial copyright. New Zealand saw the sale of their titles fall by 35% after their PIR was eliminated, whereas sales rose of Australian titles over the same period.
In Canada teachers and students have seen the erosion of local educational content in their books that are now available to them. A clear warning to Australian teachers and students of the adverse effects of removing PIR regulations!

Australian authors hit back

The Australian Book Industry Awards in Sydney, 19 May gave local authors the opportunity to blast the Productivity Commission and the Turnball Government for selling out Australian arts and culture. Richard Flanagan, (seated middle above at the ABIA night), author of The Narrow Road to the Deep North and a 2014 Prime Minister's Literary Award winner had some choice words for them when he delivered the final speech of the night.

Flanagan declared that, "The last two Liberal governments have been the worst in history for arts and culture." He went onto say: "The report’s proposals, which even before seeing them the Turnbull government agreed to endorse, effectively extinguish the Australian book industry as we know it and deliver our market to American and British publishers.

"And that’s what this government thinks of everyone in this room. Be under no illusion: they want to destroy this industry. And with it, Australian literature. They want you out of a job, they want us no longer writing. Cultural externalities are, after all, external to who and what we are.

"And perhaps this is all not so surprising, because the Turnbull government’s decision is not based in reality. Vassals of an outdated ideology unrelated to the real world, they can, when questioned on this issue, only mumble neo-liberal mantras that have delivered the world economic stagnation, rising inequality, and global environmental crisis. Hollow men, stuffed men, their words rats feet over broken glass. The only thing these people read are The Panama Papers to see if their own name has cropped up.

"This decision to destroy the book industry by removing parallel import restrictions is consistent with the government’s relentless assaults on science and scientists. It is of a piece with its ongoing attacks on thought and debate. Who benefits from ignorance and silence other than the most powerful and the richest?"

There will be no benefits but unmitigated disaster for Australian literature, authors and publishers when the PIR is dismantled and the local copyright provisions are reduced to virtually nothing. What is happening to Australian literature is part of the long litany of destruction of local manufacture, agriculture, science, education and technology that continues in this country; making our nation a dependent, client capitalist state that is easily ravaged by foreign corporations.

International contradictions and our fight for proletarian power

Comrade Nick G. recently addressed a meeting on the current international situation. We have decided to publish those comments.

International Situation

Let’s begin by looking at the position of US imperialism.  It is the world’s strongest military and political power; for the moment, no other imperialism can take its place in the exercise of global leadership. Nevertheless, it has entered the period of its own decline and is in trouble economically. It has not yet fully recovered from the Global Financial Crisis and there is certainly no sense of a new golden age of economic growth and expansion. The sentiment associated with this in popular terms is expressed in Trump’s campaign call to “make America great again”.

A comrade has recommended I read David Kilcullen’s book Blood Year. Kilcullen is an Australian pro-imperialism anti-terror strategist and political adviser who has worked at senior levels of the Australian and US states. He traces a shift in US strategy from what he calls “aggregation” (lumping all opponents together, declaring war on all of them, Bush’s “You’re either with us or against us”) to “disaggregation”.  The latter term means something like our “narrowing the target” – separating out its opponents so as not to have to deal with everything and everyone at once. From this follows the Obama initiatives of a sort of reconciliation with Cuba and the nuclear deal struck with Iran (now officially designated a “competitor” rather than an “enemy” in the “Axis of Evil”) – initiatives inconceivable under Bush; of increased reliance on the military collusion and cooperation of the “international community” of secondary level Western imperialist powers together with developed second world nations such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia; and of the encouragement of proxies to secure US imperialism’s goals in regional conflicts. The latter range from openly terrorist factions in the Middle East, and Syria in particular; and of the Saudis, Quataris and other Sunni ruling classes.

The strategy of disaggregation has allowed the US to distance itself somewhat from current theatres of conflict and to buy itself some breathing space as it tries to maintain full spectrum domination in the face of global recognition that it is in decline. With no-one to whom it can easily pass its baton, US imperialism will eventually run out of options under its strategy of disaggregation.  The more it declines, the greater will be the necessity for it to lash out with new aggressions directly or indirectly against those rivals unwilling to be integrated within a global order dominated by yesterday’s hero.

Russia and China both fall into this category and have the military strength, including nuclear capability, to challenge the US on its preferred turf: war. Each is characterised in US-led media discourse as “increasingly expansionist” – Russia in relation to Crimea and the Ukraine, and China in relation to the South China Sea. Such a characterisation is typical of US imperialism’s preparation of public opinion for war. US preparations on the ground include the quadrupling of US/NATO troops and weapons on the north-western borders of Russia, announced on February 2 and including an increasing number of formerly socialist countries such as Romania; and its continuing build-up in the Pacific where Australia and Japan are expected to help contain the power and influence of China.

On a lower plane, less likely to be military opponents of the US, but susceptible to the subversion and destabilisation of “colour revolution” and “regime change” internal opposition movements financed and supported by US imperialism are key members with Russia and China of the BRICS grouping. Attempts will be made through “soft tactics” to prise India and South Africa away from BRICS, while Brazil is currently facing a textbook case of constitutional coup d’etat with moves to impeach the left social democrat Rousseff demanded by middle class and wealthy Brazilians. The destabilisation of Rousseff’s government aims to destroy the emerging integration of what can loosely be called anti-imperialist governments that have appeared in parts of Latin America. It also aims to further moves towards privatisation in Brazil of its state-owned oil company Petrobras and of the Bank of Brazil and the postal services.

The African continent is assuming growing importance in imperialist considerations. The US has massive AFRICOM commitments with troop deployments, bases, and military exercises with 53 African nations. AFRICOM has at least three main objectives: to respond with intimidation and threat to growing ties between China and Africa; to strike with force and violence against anti-Western terrorists now operating in places like Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Sudan, Senegal, Nigeria, Morocco and Somalia, and to coordinate with allies such as Britain and France where this can be achieved; and to secure African resources, and especially energy resources, for US needs. French imperialism continues to operate in a military capacity in several African nations, whilst China has economic initiatives at its disposal and has participated in naval operations against piracy in the waters off the Horn of Africa.

Presently, resistance to imperialism and to capitalist crisis is fragmented. The place of a dominant, unifying anti-imperialist ideology has been overshadowed by the capitalist and imperialist ideologies of social democracy, revisionism and the reactionary outlook of fundamentalist Islam.   These ideologies are the products of monopoly capital’s imperialist economic imperatives and ruthlessly imposed on the world by the US, in particular.  The particular brand of Islamic fundamentalist religious fascism was encouraged and nurtured by US imperialism as a counter to the Soviet presence in Afghanistan but then broke loose from its US backers and turned against them. Even so, US imperialism has given covert support to Islamic terrorists active in Libya and Syria, and turns a blind eye to the overt cooperation between Turkey and the Islamic State.

In spite of this, the proletarian ideology continues to exist in areas where reactionary Islamic fundamentalism is active but there is as yet nowhere that Marxism-Leninism is embraced as a successful alternative to the appeal of IS and related groups.  In Syria, and amongst the Kurdish resistance, there are forces capable of growing and providing that alternative, and we can only hope that a resurgent genuine Left will bring unity and genuine leadership to the region. In the Philippines, the revolutionary forces led by the Marxist-Leninist Philippines Communist Party are expanding their significant mass base and political influence.

In Europe, there is a strong undercurrent of opposition to the austerity measures pursued by imperialist finance capital and the European bourgeoisies.  Greece was recently witness to mass opposition to the privatisation measures pursued by Syriza and Tspiras.  Needing some €86bn to pay off Greek debt, Tsipras, who still masquerades as leftist, even a Communist, has leased most regional airports to German company for €1.2bn, and last week, transferred ownership of the Port of Piraeus to China’s COSCO shipping company for €368m.  These are the first two major privatisations under Syriza’s austerity regime but still leave Greece €84bn short of the amount it must raise through its reactionary sell-out program.

France has also seen some months of militant protests focussing on a reactionary piece of labour legislation featuring individual workplace agreements, reductions in redundancy pay, extensions in overtime hours, cuts in penalty rates and threats of higher unemployment. This has given rise to a movement not unlike the Occupy Movement where workers and students have taken over city squares, and linked struggles such as the Air France and Goodyear strikes to issues like education cuts and support for asylum seekers. This movement, Nuit Debout (“Arise at night”) continues as we meet, but must have the conscious leadership of a proletarian vanguard or eventually decline as spontaneity and “movementism” prove incapable of being self-sustaining. It is worth mentioning that the movement has broken out in reaction to measures introduced by a social democratic government on behalf of the French bourgeoisie.

There is spontaneous, and uneven, resistance to the tightening control and expansion of US imperialism parading under the guise of “trade” liberalisation – TPP, TTIP, TISA, driven by the US.  The so-called “free trade” multilateral agreements are a higher concentration and monopolisation of global production, labour, markets, resources, by US imperialism. 
The people’s resistance to US imperialist “free” trade agreements is strongest in Europe, Japan, Malaysia and New Zealand.  It is characterised by calls to defend national sovereignty, people’s livelihoods, democracy and against austerity.  The people’s resistance in these countries is strengthened by rivalries and competition between the different forces within monopoly capital’s class in the US and European Union, resulting in some temporary setbacks for US imperialism.

Alongside these welcome but isolated examples of working class resistance is the phenomenon of a revived European fascism.  Golden Dawn in Greece, Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, and the various fascist groupings in the Ukraine all have support within the working classes of those countries.  Together with Donald Trump in the US, they espouse anti-foreigner racism and anti-free trade populism. They tap into the spontaneous class consciousness of disenfranchised and marginalised workers.  We need to study this phenomenon which is bound to grow beyond Reclaim Australia and other, for the moment, tiny groups here.

The above sketches out something of the current international political landscape.  The international economic landscape is no less complex and confusing. We are in a period, following the 2008 global recession, of very low to negative interest rates which have failed to stimulate capitalist economies as planned; and of a minor retreat by finance capital from the speculation of derivatives back to the safety and security of government bond issues. In neither case is capitalist industry, the productive sector of the economy and the home and condition for the existence of the proletarian class being supported by finance capital.

We now have central banks in four European economies—the Eurozone, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark—with negative interest rates. In Asia, Japan has had negative interest rates since January. Interest rates elsewhere are at record low levels and there are signs that even more central banks may go negative. Negative interest rates are meant to be inflationary for the same reason that the printing of paper money is inflationary. Both are ways of putting a greater quantity of money into circulation without a corresponding increase in the value of goods in the market place.  If a central bank lends a dollar to a commercial or merchant bank at a negative interest rate of minus one percent, then instead of getting an interest payment back from the borrower, the central bank has pay the borrower one cent in negative interest. Quantitative easing was the cute name for printing money and is just as applicable to negative interest rates.

Inflation leads to an increase in prices, but this has not happened with either form of quantitative easing. And it is a sign of some degree of awareness by finance capital that there is no recovery in sight that speculative capital is leaving the Over the Counter (OTC) derivatives market and heading to safer havens. According to the Bank of International Settlements: “The notional amount of outstanding contracts fell by 11% between end-June 2015 and end-December 2015, from $552 trillion to $493 trillion. Trade compression to eliminate redundant contracts was a key driver. The fall in notional amounts was accompanied by a sharp drop in the gross market value of outstanding derivatives contracts, which provides a more meaningful measure of amounts at risk. Gross market values decreased by 6% between end-June 2015 and end-December 2015, from $15.5 trillion to $14.5 trillion, their lowest level since 2007.”

Capitalism is not on the verge of collapse, but it is staggering along in a prolonged no-growth phase and capitalism without growth is unsustainable.  Turnbull has tapped into a real fear shared by foreign and local corporations in Australia when he promises “growth and jobs”. “Growth” is what all capitalists expect governments, their own executive committees, to provide for in legislation and policy. To over-produce in a no-growth economy creates that crisis of overproduction that Marxists believe to be the Achilles heel of capitalism.

Comrades, it is hard to discern at the international level how the contradictions besetting imperialism and the people’s movements will play out in the immediate future.  There is the threat of war and of fascism.  There is ongoing economic crisis and resistance to that. It places renewed responsibility on those here who support a revolutionary movement to keep abreast of developments and to deepen understanding of how contradictions emerge, develop and move towards their opposites, of what can be identified within a complex situation as the principal determinants of the historical process.

Immersing the ideology and practice of Marxism-Leninism in the struggles of the people will deepen the understanding and the development of Australia’s anti-imperialist proletarian revolution. 

We need everyone to contribute what they can to our collective understanding of change in the world, change for a future that places power in the hands of the proletarian class.   

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Proposed Cuts To Penalty Rates Demonstrate The Inherent Contradictions Within Capitalism

Ned K.

So far in the federal election campaign for the spoils of office, the issue of employer attempts to cut weekend penalty rates have not featured prominently in the mainstream media. However, at the grass roots level, the unions campaign Save Our Weekends No Cuts To Penalty Rates continues to have widespread community support.

Hundreds of thousands of workers have signed petitions in support of no cuts to weekend pay rates. The Turnbull government says it is a matter for the Fair Work Commission to determine. Bill Shorten stated that if he was Prime Minister, Labor would respect the Fair Work Commission's decision.

So fundamentally both major parliamentary parties have the same position on the issue of cutting workers' weekend pay rates. There are differences between them on how to implement the cuts.

The employers in hospitality and retail industry, where any reduction in weekend rates will have a big impact on working people's family income, are pretty confident the 'independent umpire' will order a cut to Sunday penalty rates. The Australian Financial Review on Thursday 12 May reported that employers are now arguing among themselves on how to implement the reduced rates of pay. The large supermarket chains have said that their existing permanent workers should have the right to refuse to work Sundays when reduced penalty rates are implemented (not if implemented!). This sounds very noble of the large retailers and appears that they care about their permanent workers. However what they do not say is that the rate of pay for most of their permanent workers on a Saturday in their Enterprise Agreements has no penalty rate at all! Secondly the big retailers want the right of refusal by permanent workers to work on Sundays to only last for 2 years. With turnover of labor, how many existing permanents will still be working with the same employer?

The Pharmacy Guild, effectively representing the big drug distribution employers and the Australian Industry Group submitted to Fair Work Commission that Sunday was no different from a Saturday and therefore no worker should have any right of refusal to work a rostered shift on a Sunday.

It is possible that the big retailers are confident in filling Sunday shifts with "flexible" casual labour and juniors while the Pharmacy Guild are concerned they may have a shortage of skilled labour on Sundays if workers have the right to refuse Sunday shifts when (not if) the cuts to Sunday rates become operational.

At a more general level, some sections of big business are complaining that the economy is "sluggish" (sales and profits down) and that part of the reason for this is "low wages growth"! They fail to see that this argument is contrary to a 25% drop in pay that a Sunday worker will receive if/when Sunday penalty rates are reduced as a direct result of employer submissions to the Fair Work Commission.

What it boils down to is that each capitalist or industry group of capitalists wants to keep wages to a minimum for the workers they employ but wants "wages growth" generally speaking to realise profits by people buying their products or services.

This is also the message coming through in enterprise bargaining negotiations around the country in most sectors. One employer after the other argues that the inflation rate is low and that their competitors are paying lower wage increases in enterprise agreements so to remain "competitive" they must do the same.

However in the same breath they argue that sales of their products or services are down. When their workers' bargaining representatives reply that a decent wage increase is need to enable workers to pay for the things they and their families need, there is silence form the other side of the table.

A comrade summed up this situation which will remain as long as capitalism exists in the following words:  "Oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight".

Whoever wins the spoils of parliamentary office in the coming federal election, the fight between oppressor and oppressed will continue until the oppressor is vanished from society completely by the collective organised power of the people led by the workers whichever days of the week they work on.

South Australian Government Economic Strategy Reduces To "Growth Is Good"

Ned K.

As imperialism reorganizes its economic interests in the Asia Pacific region, industries and companies that are household names in South Australia disappear at an alarming pace.

The car industry is the most obvious one, followed by the threat to steel works at Whyalla. The South Australian Government is desperate to find replacements all within the confines of capitalist development for profit rather than people's needs. 

Hence the government's hope that it gets its nuclear waste dump in the north of the state and its naval war production in the form of submarine building by a French multinational. 

That is not enough though, so other forms of growth are sought through the expansion of the Sky City Casino , a new skyscraper hotel behind Parliament House and another one at the site of the old icon Trims Menswear store in the south of the city. Millions will be borrowed from banks by Sky City Casino, Walker Corporation and developer Karidis to create more gambling problems and over supply of residential hotel space. However all this will create some construction jobs and hospitality jobs, the latter on low pay and mainly insecure work.

The government is becoming more reliant on the expansion of capital in areas of the economy where the use value for people's needs becomes an ever more distant second to the dictates of so called development for profit. 

None of the expansion mentioned above will assist the community of the northern suburbs in particular, the area hit hardest by the destruction of manufacturing in the state. 

The short term demands should be for investment in industries which address social and community needs of the people such as manufacture of public transport, better hospitals in working class areas rather than high rise hotels to saturation point, weapons of destruction such as submarines, and the nuclear waste industry.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

2016 Coalition Budget makes the poor pay!

Max O

The old saying that a leopard can't change its spots is an apt description of the Coalition Government's attempt to garner support for their third budget whilst in office. Their change of mantra from the 2014 "Budget emergency" to the 2016 "Jobs and Growth" doesn't really disguise the fact that both are attacks on the working and under class. 

Prime Minister Turnball enjoys contrasting his progressive social attitudes against the previous incumbent Abbott's conservative outlook; however, when it comes to the sphere of economics he is just as reactionary as Abbott. With the 2016 budget Turnball and Treasurer Morrison have only moved the deck chairs around the ship's bridge to appear they are doing things differently, but in effect maintaining the same economic assaults of their previous two budgets of taking from labour and giving to capital.

With the world economy in decline, Treasure Morrison's budget speech to federal parliament asserting that it is an "economic plan for jobs and growth" is unlikely to fool struggling workers and the poor. The Reserve Bank's cut to the base interest rate to a rarely seen before low of 1.75 percent, makes Morrison's forecast that the Australian economy would grow from the present 2.5 percent to 3 percent in the coming financial years up to 2020-21 look bogus.

All areas of the Australian economy are witnessing declining profits. The falls in earnings of the banks, mining and retail point to the fact that capitalism in Australia is heading for recession/depression and a deflation slump, not growth!

The Reserve Bank reduced the interest rate due to a 0.2 percent drop in the consumer price index in the first three months of the year; a measure in line with many other countries who are also experiencing a slump into deflation.

Without mentioning austerity measures that aim to reduce government spending Treasurer Morrison projected a return to budget surpluses by the beginning of the 2020s. Morrison's budget will be achieved by savage cutbacks to government social, welfare spending and to worker's living standards.

The capitalist class are always the budget winners

The three big winners in this year's budget are: the corporations, who'll receive a reduction in their tax rate eventually down to 25%; the wealthy, who'll gain some small tax cuts; and the military, who'll gain a big increase in spending.

The corporate tax cut is initially disguised as a rate cut of 1 percent to 27.5 percent for small to medium businesses with earnings less than $10 million. During the next 10 years the rate will be cut to 25 percent including large corporations. A massive $49 billion tax cut to big business; a figure  that Turnball and Morrison were too embarrassed to publicly acknowledge.

Morrison's budget claims that there will be 1 percent increase to economic growth resulting from the company tax cut isn't backed up by his Treasury, who actually estimate the economy to grow by 0.15 to 0.2 percent. The sophistry that reducing company tax for businesses will produce a boost in jobs and economic growth is nullified by the fact that Australia has system of dividend imputation.

Under Australia's taxation system, the less the company pays in tax, the more tax the owners pay on their dividends; and conversely when the company pays more in tax, the less tax the owners pay on their dividends. Plausibly, a cut in taxes will encourage companies to hang on to their profits in the business, rather than pay it out as dividends or spend on new investments.
It takes many years for any economic gain to occur after the tax cuts have been implemented, and that's only when it flows on to big business. Once big business receives a reduced company tax rate it attracts more foreign investment into Australia, boosting outlays in plant, equipment and possibly some jobs. 

However any benefits to Australia's economic growth through lower company tax attracting foreign investment will be countered by the fact that profits from the investment will flow back overseas. Also any supposed gains in growth and jobs through the reduction in company tax will see a loss of tax revenue for government social and welfare spending.

The wealthy, as always, get a nice little bonus from the Morrison budget. Individuals will now begin to pay the 37 percent personal income tax rate from $87,000 instead of $80,000. 
Less than 25 percent of taxpayers earn over this figure and the 3-4 percent who earn over $180,000 will be the main beneficiaries; for example someone who earns $1,000,000 will see their income tax reduced by $16,000. On top of this the temporary 2 percent tax impost on the rich that was brought in 2014 will be eliminated.

This tax gain for the rich is compensation for the loss of their superannuation tax concessions which allowed them to amass their wealth through tax avoidance. Wealthy investors will continue to maintain their negative gearing and capital gains tax discount advantages, a tax subsidy which disproportionately goes to the top 10 precent of the population.

70 percent of taxpayers have gained nothing from the shift in the tax bracket of paying 37 cents in the dollar, because they don't earn the 'average wage of $80,000'. A more accurate wage figure is the median wage (mid-point), which is $62,000 for median full-time wage and $52,000 for median wage overall.

The working and under class are the budget losers

The big loss to the working and under class is the cruel cutbacks to government social services. Morrison's budget executes $13 billion in cuts to paid parental leave, income support for young people and family payments. 

A $3 billion cut to income support for people with disability payments, Medicare, dental health and other essential services. Aged care received a $1.2 billion cutback.

The Coalition will maintain the freeze on Medicare bulk billing payments; the bulk billing rate will stay the same that it was 2 years ago for the next 2 years, which is in effect a co-payment that the government tried to float 2 years ago.

Working and poor women do terribly in this Budget because of the planned cuts to women's refuges and community legal services. The savage $500 million cutback to Aboriginal Australia carried out in 2014 remains.

The Budget underfunds education and health by around $73 billion: $23 billion from 2018 for the Gonski reforms are dumped; and $50 billion cut from future health spending.

Being aware of the widespread anger of millions of working poor about social inequality and the essential services crisis in health, public education, transport and the dangers of climate change Labor leader Bill Shorten dubbed the Coalition Budget as one for the "millionaires" and not for the "battlers", in his pitch to win the Federal election in July.

Whilst he pledged to bring back budget fairness by defending public services and reducing social inequality, Shorten is at one with the Coalition when it comes to military expenditure in the Budget. Military spending will increase by 3.5 percent to $32.5 billion for the next financial year and estimated to reach $495 billion in the forthcoming decade. 

This military expenditure is not for Australia's defence but instead the comprador government's (whether it be Coalition or Labor) contribution to the US-led war drive against China in the East and South China Seas and Russia in the current Middle East wars. 

The Australian Labor Party (ALP) and Bill Shorten have a dismal history when it comes to supporting the working and under class. Labor when in government reneged on many issues that affected the working poor, such as Julia Gillard's Budget cut to single parent mother's allowance. 

The Hawke and Keating government's privatised public utilities, deregulated the economy and carried out tax cuts for corporations. These events occurred because the Labor party is committed to similar neo-liberal economic policies as the Coalition. It accepts and never challenges capitalism.

This Coalition Budget will be detested and opposed by the workers and the poor, with the ALP will trading on this to get elected into Federal Government. Then once in government Shorten true to form will abandon workers. Of more importance is the development of an Independent Working Class Agenda to oppose budget austerity measures and the creation of a people's movement to fight for an independent and socialist Australia.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

May Day Rally & March, Sydney 2016

Jamie C.

Although by the standards of the Moratorium years, the Sydney May Day rally last Sunday was relatively small, it was certainly no less enthusiastic. 

Workers and supporters in their thousands marched with their unions or with political & single-issue organisations to which they were affiliated.

Of particular interest in the latter category was the Action for Public Housing, which put out an excellent, militant leaflet “Saving Public Housing” with a picture captioned “Mike Baird the 'Bulldozer Man' is destroying communities and homes” and comparing Government promises to build more public housing with the reality of 3200 evictions, and 1500 homes built versus a waiting list of 60,000.

Another single-issue leaflet was entitled “Walk for Justice”.  It pointed out that whilst a NSW government parliamentary inquiry two-years ago had made 15 recommendations regarding the unsolved kidnap & brutal murder of three children 26 years ago, the parents were still fighting for justice. 

The bourgeois media love to promote individualism but as far as caring for the just rights of individual workers and their families, crocodile tears are weeped but helpful action rarely ensues.

Workers from all ethnic backgrounds

The diversity of ethnic origins of the workers who were prepared to be counted was an inspiring spectacle as we all rallied with unity of purpose to “fight to defend our rights and liberties”, in the words of the Eureka miners. 

Important May Day statements were issued by various international working-class organisations including the Worker-Communist Party of Kurdistan Abroad Organisation, the Worker-Communist Party of Iran (WPI) , and the Philippines Australia Union Link (PAUL).

The Kurdistan party emphasised the international working-class significance of May Day: “The main message of May Day is to bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat worldwide.  May Day has no national, religion or ethnic identity. Our common struggle for a better life inevitably depends on setting a political goal before us: a  political struggle that aims at the abolition of wage-labour, private property and thus classes. The camp of the proletariat, of workers—for all the variety of thoughts, ideals and tendencies and from the Far East to the North West—represents the will to change the world in favour of the oppressed and the whole humanity.” 

The WPI said: “The International Workers' Day is a day in which we must come to the fore against the top 1%, against the banks and parasites... May Day in Iran is above all a day of protest against the Islamic regime of Iran, the government of billionaire Ayatollahs. It is a day of protest against below-poverty-line wages and the unemployment of millions, and a day to struggle for the right to organise and strike.”

PAUL's leaflet called for solidarity with Filipino workers and stopping Australia's military aid to the death squads.  Glencore Copper whose operations had been managed from its Brisbane office was linked to political murders in October 2012 in Mindanao involving the massacre of a 27 year old 2-months pregnant wife of a respected tribal leader, Dagil Campion,  and their two daughters aged 7 and 13. In January 2013, Dagil's brother was also killed during a military operation. Dagil was leading a cultural campaign against a mining project on their ancestral lands.

PAUL paints a dismal picture of the Philippines labour system, likening it to slavery: “The workers have few or no rights, and their income is less than subsistence... If they protest by forming a union and going on strike, the Labor Department outlaws the strike, and the police and goons are used to smash the picket lines and arrest leaders. Military death squads assassinate effective union leaders.”

PAUL is working to have all Visa 457 guestworkers in Australia—over 100,000 from Asia—join their union and supports them when they complain of abuses. It opposes the basic concept of temporary guest labour without equal rights, and instead supports permanent migration where the migrant worker has equal rights, secure residency and a fair pathway to citizenship.

The CPA (ML) at May Day, Sydney

The special May Day issue of Vanguard, distributed by party members and supporters, was well received. Obviously, it was not something that could be read in detail on the spot but many expressed interest in sitting down at home and reading it at their leisure. The task for the party now is to convert this good will into joint action over issues of mutual concern. 

Meeting up with other hard-working comrades from the likes of the Kurdistan party, the WPI and PAUL, gives me much hope that real progress can be made here.

Spirit of Eureka

Spirit of Eureka (SoE) Sydney members handed out 1000 of the Australia-wide collaborative May Day flyer, “For an Independent Working Class Agenda” and marched displaying the banner. Both attracted good feedback with the banner being photographed quite a few times by other marchers. 

Additionally, Sydney SoE members handed out a local leaflet contrasting the inaction over crimes committed by construction giant, Leighton Holdings, with the lack of basic rights afforded to CFMEU workers arraigned by the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and exemplified by the case of the courageous South Australian building worker, Ark Tribe.

This leaflet was very closely read by CFMEU leaders who thanked SoE members for their valuable support and indicated that they will distribute it to their members.

Victoria Park and the CFMEU

The May Day rally assembled at Belmore Park near Central Railway station and then marched to Victoria Park where there was a speakers' stage & tent erected, as well as quite a few stalls and fun stuff for the kids.  As this was a great success, it will be repeated next May Day—stalls providing the party and SoE with an excellent opportunity to promote our paper, leaflets and booklets as well as sell “Fight for a Working Class Agenda” T-shirts.

There were excellent speakers from a number of unions including the nurses and the MUA, but the highlight of the day was without doubt the militant and heartfelt speech of Dennis McNamara, representing the CFMEU. 

He took to the stage accompanied by his children and described the vicious conditions  which workers & union organisers in the construction industry were subjected to, through the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC): a building worker can be required to attend an ABCC hearing, can be forced to answer all questions about who said what at a safety meeting, can be denied the right to choose a lawyer and can be forced, on pain of a gaol term, to remain mum to his family about even having gone to an ABCC hearing. Murder suspects and drug addicts found with ice on them had more rights than a construction worker struggling for decent safety conditions for himself and his mates. 

McNamara said that although he had two young children he was working hard to support and was needed by his family, if push came to shove and the ABCC was reinstated, he would refuse to give up other workers in their secret interrogations even if it meant a stint in gaol. Such is the spirit and principle of the working class! 

The slogan “Dare to struggle, dare to win” comes to mind. 

The CFMEU and their construction workers are daring to struggle. They are daring to struggle for decent conditions. They are daring to struggle for safety for their members.  

The safety conditions today in the construction industry are appalling with a worker suffering on average a serious injury or dying every six minutes of working time according to the CFMEU's website.  

This is the case because construction workers are pitted against a ruthless & powerful foe that comprises the construction giants backed up & organised by the Business Council of Australia (BCA)–an important strategic think tank and fighter for monopoly capital in Australia. The BCA aims to further the interests of the largest corporations in Australia, to maximise profits for them under the slogan of “productivity” and to ensure a docile and compliant working class will fulfil the conditions required to secure the superprofits their member companies greedily require. It is therefore no surprise that the BCA is demanding the reinstating of the ABCC.

Dennis McNamara said that the CFMEU will never be docile nor compliant so it is targetted. It is daring to struggle and it will dare to win. 

The next to speak was an MUA rep who took to the floor in solidarity. He said he was proud that the MUA was joining forces with the CFMEU and promised that the merging MUA members will fight alongside their comrades for justice and for the basic rights that they are being denied.

These May Day speakers were an inspiration to all who heard them. 

The struggle of the CFMEU against monopoly capital is an important component of the struggle for Australian independence and socialism.  

Their struggle gave to May Day Sydney real proletarian content and deserves the highest support.