Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Construction workers organise against casualisation
Louisa L.

A tsunami of casualisation and subcontracting is crashing over our country, submerging workers' wages and conditions, and drowning the hopes of most young people for job security and the chance to ever own a home. Casualisation is no accident. Oversupply of labour power, born from inevitable capitalist boom-bust cycles, is deliberately used to entrench corporate rule.

Yet in NSW the CFMEU held back this tidal wave from the construction industry for a time.
Workers are strongest when demand for labour is high, so in 2013 the NSW CFMEU took advantage of the mining and construction boom's labour shortage to enforce security of employment in the State Code, by requiring subcontractors to pay the same rates to employees as the major contractor. They didn't sit down and chat nicely with the bosses, they fought for what they got!

The corporate ruling class was prepared to put up with it for a time, but waited till conditions suited it better.

Keeping companies in line

According to the Financial Review, the Fair Work Building and Construction Inspectorate (FWBC), established under the Gillard administration to replace the Australian Building and Construction Commission, “has developed a robustness of activity under the Coalition Government”, with over 1000 investigations in the past year, and 62 current legal cases, a large number against the CFMEU or its officials.

But there's more to it than the Coalition's  iron fist tactics against workers.“Tough Jobs, The Rise of an Australian Working Underclass”, a CFMEU published research analysis led Dr Kristy Jones, points out 3,700,000 Australians are now either unemployed, casually employed or working as 'independent' contractors.  

Corporations have a new message to workers, “You're expendable,” and Fair Work Australia (FWA)  has now blocked every NSW construction EBA coming up for renewal. None have been signed in months, halting overdue pay increases.

FWBC is organising this tactic's implementation, conjuring up rules that companies and unions have 'no right to tell another employer what to do '.

Individual companies have sometimes been prepared to back down to union militancy, but FWBC also enforces corporate unity of action. While denying that right to others, it can and does tell companies what to do. It helps organise corporations as a class, instead of separate competitors for profit.

Nothing workers have won is secure

In '07, Labor rode in to parliament on the union-led Your Rights at Work campaign, yet corporations still ran Australia as usual, driven by the capitalist imperative – make greater profits or perish.

Unlike the Coalition, which plans to reinstate the ABCC immediately (despite barely mentioning it during the actual election campaign) Labor, under both Rudd and Gillard, delayed and then watered down Howard's industrial laws instead of junking them. Current ACTU President Ged Kearney declared that not maintaining workers' mobilisation enabled this.

The results speak loudly; under “Fair” Work Australia it's OK for a company to sack half its  workers and replace them with casuals on 65 per cent of wages, or dump Australian seafarers on local routes, and replace them with deeply exploited foreign crews.

But it's illegal for workers to strike at all in some industries and legal only during 'bargaining' periods for the rest. Doing their job is also illegal for the 30 union officials denied right of entry to job sites. 28 of them are CFMEU officials.

While ever multinational corporations hold the commanding heights of  Australia's economy, they will stand above parliaments, and ensure nothing workers have won in the past is secure.

Questions and solutions

Construction is a physically tough industry which results in the death and maiming of workers. Where unions and workers are weakened, safety suffers. Deadly asbestos has already reappeared on Australian construction sites in the race for profits. 

Policy changes, laws passed by parliaments, are not solutions. They arise from the real solution, our ability to organise and fight.

We must ask the question, what do unions and working people have to do to destroy the network of laws and  punishments that trap unions and workers, denying them fundamental rights like the right to strike?

It can only come from the selfless action and sacrifice of  leaders prepared to stand up to threats of fines, jail and sale of personal assets. So much has been lost, and the cost of taking it back will be high.

Beyond that is the much bigger struggle to end capitalism's rule once and for all, to put our country genuinely under the control of the overwhelming majority of the people, making capitalist booms and busts a thing of the past.

Australia's people are crying out for leadership, for fundamental change. That requires a different kind of leadership and different kinds of organisation, that go beyond the union role of winning better conditions under imperialist rule, to overthrowing that rule.

When the tail end of this boom finally busts, there will be hell to pay. The implications of that crash will make the current casualisation tsunami look like a ripple in a toddler's wading pool. We'd better be ready.

Asbestos returns to Australian building sites

Louisa L.

Asbestos is back. A Chinese company has imported asbestos in giant facades, and as insulation, packing and handling material. Construction workers on huge sites around the country were unknowingly drilling asbestos, cutting it or wrapping it in semi-loose form around facades to protect those facades while welding.

This isn't the first time a Chinese-owned company has brought asbestos into Australia. Great Wall had previously imported cars with asbestos in linings and brake pads.

NSW construction workers are better off than their comrades in other states, because it was unpacked off site, but workers in the unloading yard are particularly affected.

The Fair Work Building and Construction Inspectorate has plenty to say about so-called illegal behaviour by construction workers, their union and its officials, but is strangely quiet on this.
Meanwhile, Border Force says it “only looks for drugs” and asked the CFMEU's help to stop asbestos coming in. 

In a new FiFo world

The company didn't try to hide the asbestos. A construction worker didn't think it looked right and  googled the product's translation, “This is chrysotile asbestos.”

If exploited foreign workers had been on that job, they would probably not have known about the danger, and definitely not what to do about it, putting not just their own health at risk, but others' health too.

This has enormous implications because temporary visas are about to become a big issue in the construction industry.

The Australia China Free Trade Agreement allows jobs over $150 mill - not a big job these days - to import their workforce, and only 20 per cent of the capital has to be Chinese to be covered.
Brookfield Multiplex was about to run a Sydney job for a Chinese company. Now the Chinese company will run it. It's expected that the workers will fly-in, fly-out.

This is already happening in some WA mines, where Australian workers and unions are barred entry. Some unemployed WA mineworkers were recently flown in to replace sacked workers at the Carlton and United Brewery Victorian site, for 65 per cent of the wages.

Other priorities

But according to Australian Mines and Metals Association chief executive, Steve Knott, there are far worse things than Australian job losses or the intergenerational mass murder of asbestos exposure. True, those last words have been put into his mouth by this writer, and perhaps he's blissfully ignorant about growing safety issues on construction sites. But he has his priorities, and a particular union amalgamation is in his sights.

"It's hard to believe an amalgamation of two of the most self-declared militant unions, the MUA and CFMEU, could be in the public interest. These unions publicly and proudly commit to breaking the law," Mr Knott said. Like importing a deadly and illegal product?

Master Builders Australia chief executive Wilhelm Harnisch chimed in, describing the merger as “bad news” for the construction industry because the unions had “scant regard for the impact of their unlawful behaviours”.

Spin doctor and dirt digger for Reith during 1990 waterfront dispute, Ian Hanke, also flapped around parliamentary corridors predicting doom if the merger went ahead. Recently the Hobart Mercury exposed Mr Hanke's $20,000 jackpot for a month’s work for the Tasmanian government, as a fly-in, fly-out consultant.

Lives, livelihoods, supply chains and safety

By June Senator Michaelia Cash had taken up the anti-merger battle cry. It was “against the public interest” and she wanted to outlaw it quick smart.

"Any proposed merger between two registered organisations with significant economic power should be subjected to a public interest consideration in the same way that the merger of two companies with significant economic power would be," Senator Cash told The Australian Financial Review.

Tell that to the 55 CUB maintenance workers sacked in preparation for the world's biggest beer brewing company Anheuser-Busch InBev swallowing the second biggest, SABMiller, which owns CUB.

"In relation to offshore and onshore resource sector projects, a future amalgamation between the MUA and the CFMEU would potentially put at risk the stability of an entire supply chain,” she said.
Vanguard reckons that deliberate reintroduction of asbestos on Australian construction sites puts people's lives at risk, that dodgy trade deals put the whole supply chain in foreign corporate hands and that sticking exploited foreign workers in Australian work sites undermines people's livelihoods and safety.

But corporations rule, so if profit is at stake, they'll do what they can get away with.
People need to organise and stand up against them. If that's illegal, so be it. It speaks volumes about who really runs Australia.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

IBM and the Census

Pat F.

“If you lay down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics, under the leadership of the Chief Statistician, the Minister, and the Prime Minister, contracted to IBM the task of designing and implementing the 2016 Census of Australia. 

IBM, “International Business Machines”, is one of the largest US multinational corporations, and has been operating in Australia and other countries for many years. It is a corporation with a history of exorbitant profits, failure of projects, abuse of employees’ rights, bribery, and avoidance of contractual responsibilities.

IBM’s Census Failure

IBM’s history is outstanding. It is in decline as a tech giant. One of its most notorious fails was in Australia. IBM’s appointment to introduce Australia’s first on-line Census is so egregious it requires investigation for its possible impropriety, corruption, negligence and ignorant stupidity.

The facts are simple. IBM did the job. The on-line Census operated successfully for less than 12 hours. It then crashed because it could not handle the amount of traffic coming to the website. Concerned that this was an attack on the system, with a risk that private information might be stolen, the ABS ordered the site to be closed until appropriate protections could be restored after the crash. 

The credibility of the ABS has been shattered. The Census has effectively stopped. The final night in September will provide another opportunity for the system to fail. More likely there will be no final rush, and the Census will fail to achieve the numbers required to achieve statistical significance. Which is not important, as the ABS coerces people to provide the data, and then sells the data to the capitalists so that they can better exploit, control, and train their wage slaves.

A website can be brought down by an organised attack (using robots to mimic users), or simply succumb to an unexpectedly large number of genuine users. Either way, it is routine practice to protect systems from that type of failure. It is no more complicated than ensuring that there are sufficient gates to allow spectators rapid ingress and egress from sports events.

IBM is already trying to avoid responsibility for the failure by claiming firstly, that ABS declined to accept an optional extra in the system which would have avoided the problem. And secondly, that it was an ABS decision to close the website, not a failure of their system. This is like a vehicle manufacturer trying to avoid responsibility for their cars crashing, by saying the customer declined the opportunity to have brakes installed as an optional extra, and anyway it was the driver’s decision to drive the car on the road.

In Consumer Protection legislation (which does not apply in this case because the ABS is not a ‘consumer’), the Census website would be described as “not fit for its intended purpose”.

IBM’s Previous Failures

In 2010, the Queensland Government contracted with IBM to supply and install a computerised payroll system capable of being utilised at many different facilities within the Government. IBM seems to have been paid $27m for this job. It did not work. It cost the Queensland government $1.2 billion to make it work. IBM denied responsibility, and the Australian Supreme Court ruled that the IBM’s carefully worded contract did exempt IBM from responsibility for their failure. Whistle-blowers within IBM revealed the use of unethical tactics to secure the contract. IBM is now banned from all government contracts in Queensland.

In the USA, IBM has recorded serious project failures in Indiana, Texas and Pennsylvania. In Japan, the Bridgestone corporation accused IBM of intentional deception, fraud and misrepresentation throughout another failed project. In Britain, the Fujitsu corporation found IBM declined to take responsibility for the failure of a contracted project.

Why IBM Again?

So why would Prime Minister, Minister and ABS Chief give IBM the Census job after those IBM disasters?

Bribery allegations against IBM have surfaced in the past in Poland, Argentina, Bangladesh and the Ukraine. In Feb 2011, a Judge in the USA declared; “This (IBM) is a company that has a history of violating the books and records provisions of the FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act).”

IBM has a reputation not only for abusing its clients, but also for abusing its own workers and workers of other corporations. IBM was sued by the City of Sterling Heights Police and Fire Retirement System in Michigan USA over a deceitful valuation. At the time, IBM owned a computer chip making business which was a loss making drag on the company’s profits. IBM tried to sell the business to the retirement fund at a valuation of $2.4 billion. Eventually IBM succeeded in off-loading the loss making business to Global Industries, which is owned by Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. It was not sold for $2.4 billion however. It was sold for -$1.5 billion, that is, IBM paid Global Industries $1.5 billion to take the business off their books!

The Cost

In 2005 the ABS contracted with IBM to supply the Census system for $9 million.  In the Australian budget papers of 2013-4, a provision appears for a further payment of $9.6 million to IBM to host the Census and analysis on an IBM data centre.

An Australian competitor of IBM, also wishing to get the job, remarked that these amounts, although large, were chickenfeed for a company like IBM, and well under the price he could quote for the job. The explanation, he said, is that IBM was buying the right to charge ABS for ongoing storage and operation fees for the huge bank of data involved in the Census. It’s like taking your broken down car to a repairer with a request to repair it and send the bill. And then being shocked when it breaks down again after 12 hours and you receive a bill for thousands of dollars.

The Remedy

IBM will probably waive the contract clauses and claim no responsibility for the failure. What would an independent Australian Government do? 

Seize all of IBM’s assets in Australia until ABS is reimbursed for its immediate and consequential losses. 

Black list IBM so it can never again make a contract in Australia. 

Give future contracts to Australian providers.

Hold Prime Minister, Minister, and Chief Statistician responsible.

Gurindji Freedom Day Festival Celebrates Unity and Commitment

Nick G.

Ngumpin, kartiya karru-la jintaku-la. 

These words, in the Gurindji language, expressed the theme of the celebrations held to mark the 50th anniversary of the Gurindji Walk-Off from Wave Hill cattle station. 

In English they mean “Blackfella, whitefella unite as one”.

The celebration of this landmark event took the form of a three-day festival of sporting events, music and political activity.

Walk-Off Track

The first official event of the Festival was the opening of the Wave Hill Walk-Off Track, a national heritage listed tourist trail, which begins at Jinparrak, the site of the original Wave Hill Station homestead, and culminates at Daguragu where the Gurindji set up camp and at which Whitlam’s handover of the lease to part of the Vestey land occurred eight years later.

The walk-off track is signposted, but basically follows a fence line from Jinparrak to the Buntine Highway at Gordy’s Creek, then along the Highway to Kalkaringi, the main administrative centre for the Gurindji Corporation, and from there to Daguragu. 

The Gurindji walked across country to avoid Vestey’s management.  Remembering earlier massacres of their people, they feared being shot and horse-whipped by station staff. One plaque records the statement of walk-off participant Michael “Nutwood” George that “We was worried Vestey mob gonna cut us off and shoot us. We had boomerang, spear and nulla nulla ready. We was real frightened.”

The opening ceremony, at Kalkaringi, was addressed by Jimmy Wavehill, an elder who had participated in the walk-off as a child.  He said Vesteys had always given the Gurindji a hard time, but that he was happy that such a large mob of people had come to the Festival to show their support.

Several granddaughters of Vincent Lingiari also welcomed visitors to country.

Celuia Mabo, (left), youngest daughter of Eddie Mabo brought greetings from her family and Torres Strait Islander people, symbolically linking the two great struggles for land rights (Gurindji) and native title recognition (Mabo).

Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony for the Freedom Day Festival followed. 

A Bedford truck of the same vintage as that used by Darwin wharfie Brian Manning to bring food and blankets to Daguragu during the eight year strike, with the copper-coloured Eureka flag logo of Unions NT on its front door, was used to lead a roughly one kilometre walk from Kalkaringi to the Lipanangku waterhole on the Victoria River, one of the spots at which the Gurindji had camped.

Immediately behind the truck came Gurindji community members, followed by union members from the Maritime Union of Australia, the CFMEU, Electrical Trades Union, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, United Voice, Australian Education Union and the National Tertiary Education Union.

Together with organisations like the Northern and Central Land Councils, and the Fred Hollows Foundation, and with all the other supporters, the march swelled to about 1500 people.

At Lipananku, Gurindji elders from Daguragu and Kalkaringi sat on a stage with Land Councils representatives and politicians.  The only moment of discord occurred when the very unpopular Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, was confronted by four Indigenous women holding a banner that read “No justice, just us!” and a drawing of a young Indigenous child looking out from a jail cell.

The women stood to one side of the main stage, holding their banner towards Scullion and turning their backs on him.  They remained silent during his speech until he made the mistake of accusing them of turning their backs on the elders on stage and disrespecting the traditional owners of country.  This, from a man who said he couldn’t be interested enough in the plight of young Aboriginals in custody to bother to watch the Four Corners program exposing abuse at the Don Dale Detention Centre, sparked outrage.  All of a sudden, the line had grown to about twenty strong and spontaneous heckling and interjections came from every section of the crowd.  Chants of “Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land” drowned out the remainder of Scullion’s speech, and he left soon afterwards.

Festive atmosphere

For the remainder of the three days, a real spirit of mutual respect and shared commitment to continue the struggle for self-determination and sovereignty prevailed.

Celuia Mabo was invited to Vincent Lingiari’s grave where she stood with Vincent’s descendants and simply said “Thank you, thank you, thank you” to the old man who had been her father’s inspiration.

Teams from remote communities such as Lajamanu, Yuendumu, Ali Curong played football and basketball; discussion groups at Daguragu focussed on topics like Collective Action, Two Way Law, and Protecting Country Today; films were shown such as The Unlucky Australians and How the West Was Lost (the latter linking the Gurindji struggle to the massive Pilbara-wide strike by Aboriginal stockmen in 1946); books were launched – the bilingual oral historyYijarni: True Stories from Gurindji Country, and Charlie Ward’s A Handful of Sand; and each evening saw great musical performances by the likes of the Lajamanu Teenage Band, the Tjupi Band, Shane Howard, the Mills Sisters, Dan Sultan, the Lipanangku Band, Neil Murray and Robbie Mills.

Nothing better epitomised the celebratory atmosphere than all of the performers gathering on stage on Sunday night, together with the Lingiari family and Celuia Mabo, to sing the Paul Kelly-Kev Carmody song “From Little Things Big Things Grow”, including teaching the audience to sing the chorus in Gurindji.  

From the opening chord to the song’s rousing end, a massive fireworks display served as a backdrop to the song, lighting up this remote community in spectacular fashion.

We’re still walking….

In 1966 Vincent Lingiari said the reason for the walk-off was that “We want to live on our land, our way”. 

The big mining companies and agricultural corporations, mostly foreign owned, and a succession of State, Territory and Federal governments, also mostly foreign owned, have never reconciled to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination and sovereignty.

Health, education, housing and employment to meet the needs of Indigenous Australians on their land and in their way, remains a goal yet to be achieved.

The walk-off took place half a century ago, but the walk to justice and freedom for all Australians, for blackfella and whitefella Australians united as one, continues step by patient and determined step.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Gurindji walk-off at Wave Hill ignited the First Nations' Land Rights movement

Max O.

A historic commemoration was held at Kalkarindji (600 kms south of Darwin), Northern Territory in August this year to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Wave Hill walk-off by the Gurindji people. This amazing struggle that initially fought for better wages, working and living conditions transformed into the massive 'Land Rights' movement that shook the country and confronted Australians with the issue of Aboriginal Sovereignty.

The cattle industry in Northern Australia was essentially built and ran on the backs of Aboriginal labour. They were not paid wages equal to white stockmen. Pastoralists argued against equal wages when an attempt was made to introduce it in 1965. Up until 1968 it was illegal to pay Aboriginal workers over a stipulated sum in money and goods.

The first protest by Aboriginal people for equal wages took place at Union Camp, Newcastle Waters Station (270 km north of Tennant Creek) in 1966. Whilst the strike was lost, it brought the nation's attention to the appalling entitlements and conditions imposed on Aboriginal people and was the catalyst for the Wave Hill walk-off.

The Wave Hill walk-off took place on August 23, 1966, after the Wave Hill Station manager rebuffed Vincent Lingiari's approach for a weekly wage for Aboriginal stockman of $25. This amount was much less than what usually was paid to white stockmen in the 1960s. 

Around 200 Aboriginal stockman, domestic hands and their family members of the Gurindji and Walpiri people went on strike and walked off Wave Hill station, owned by the British aristocrat Lord Vestey, and camped at Wattie Creek some 13 miles away.

Gurjindjis settle on traditional site at Daguragu

Wattie Creek is called Daguragu in Gurindji and was chosen by Vincent Lingiari (community elder and head stockman) and the community because it is near a significant cultural site, in the centre of their traditional land. The Gurindji  struggle was reinforced by such famous names as Dexter Daniels (a Roper River man and union organiser), Robert Tudawali (Aboriginal actor and unionist) and by non-indigenous people, in particular Brian Manning (Darwin waterfront worker and staunch unionist).

Manning, Dexter and Tudawali organised a strike fund amongst unionists and Manning made fifteen 1,600 km round trips from Darwin to Wave Hill in his truck loaded with supplies for the Gurindjis. This sustained the strike and was crucial to the Gurindji's victory.

Support also came from Frank Hardy, communist and author of the famous and celebrated book of the Gurindji struggle, "The unlucky Australians". He travelled to the Northern Territory in June 1966, camped with the Gurindji strikers spending time trying to understand their injustices. In the early stage of this struggle white supporters, who were mainly unionists and Communist Party members, concentrated on addressing the economic grievances and initially overlooked the deeper issue of Gurindji's desire for the return of their land.

With the assistance of Hardy the Gurindjis documented their work and living conditions grievances in a claim entitled, 'Program for improved living standards for Northern Territory Aborigines'. Starting to realise the Gurindji's greater objective of restoration of their traditional lands and sacred places, Hardy wrote up a petition at the Indigenous people's request in 1967 to Governor-General Casey for the recovery of their 'tribal lands', of which they were dispossessed a hundred years earlier.

Whilst the Federal Government cabinet and Governor-General rejected the petition, the new language of land rights came into being and moved the cause of First Nations' sovereignty into territory without precedent in Australia. Despite the fact that powerful friends of the pastoral industry and the capitalist state (Northern Territory Cattle Producers Council and the Northern Territory Administration and Federal Ministers of the Interior, Social Services, and Territories) opposed the Gurindji's land claim, allies from the union movement vigorously supported the campaign to inform non-indigenous Australians about their cause.

Non-indigenous Australians unite with the Gurindjis to mobilise support

The actors, building workers, waterside workers, teachers unions around the nation in conjunction with the Northern Australian Workers Union over the ensuing years sponsored Gurindji representatives to go on speaking tours of the southern states.  Lupna Giari and Dexter Daniels met and spoke to non-indigenous audiences about the exploitive working and living conditions they endured, and their desire to regain their traditional lands.

Financial support and national mobilisation around the nation overcame the isolation that the pastoral industry and capitalist state had hoped would crush the Gurindji campaign. After striking for nine years, a partial victory was in sight when the Labor Whitlam government came to office in 1972, on a platform to undertake legislation for land rights.

Eventually the original Wave Hill lease was relinquished and two new leases were issued, one to the Vestey Group and the other to the Murramulla Gurindji Company. Around 3300 square kilometres, which included important sacred sites, were leased to the Gurindjis.

The Prime Minister Gough Whitlam on the 16 August, 1975 arrived in Daguragu (Wattie Creek) and in the unforgettable symbolic gesture poured a handful of Gurindji soil into Vincent Lingiari's hand in the official handover ceremony. In the same year the Gurindji people bought the pastoral lease. 
Afterwards the Northern Territory government threatened to take over their lease, compelling the Gurindji to lodge a land rights claim. By 1986 they won freehold title to the Dagaragu waterhole, situated in the Northern Territory's Victoria River region.

The Wave Hill walk-off was a significant historical turning point for Indigenous Australia and blazed the way for a number of land rights acts in the nation. By the 1970s the cause of Aboriginal Land Rights had gained such momentum and public imagination that urban Indigenous activists began to flex their political muscles. 

On Invasion Day, 1972 four Aboriginal men (Billy Craigie, Tony Coorey, Michael Anderson and Bert Williams) planted an umbrella opposite Parliament House in Canberra an established the now famous 'Aboriginal Tent Embassy'. It became a powerful symbol  of the landless who were treated as foreigners in their own land. Support for the embassy massed to over 2000 people, who had to frequently oppose the violent dismantling of their tents by the police. 

The recurring clash between the political action of the Aboriginal activists and police violence against the 'Tent Embassy' was captured by television film crews and screened on Australian TVs, and made news overseas. Public outrage was swift against the Federal government, and the 'Aboriginal Embassy' drew unprecedented support from people across Australia and the world.

Wave Hill walk-off poetry and song become Australian folklore

The now famous Wave hill walk-off of the Gurindjis became folklore and is celebrated in the equally famous poem,Gurindji Blues, and the song, From little things, big things grow, both readily recognised throughout Australia. The Gurindji Blues poem was written by Ted Egan with Vincent Lingiari in the 1960s. With some of the most memorable lines being:

"Poor Bugger Me, Gurindji
Me bin sit down this country
Long before no Lord Vestey
All about land belong to we
Long time work no wages, we,
Work for the good old Lord Vestey
Little bit flour; sugar and tea
For the Gurindji, from Lord Vestey

The From little things, big things grow song was composed by Kev Carmody with Paul Kelly in 1991, to commemorate the Wave Hill walk-off. The opening lines of the song immediately set out the struggle:

“Gather round people let me tell you a story
An eight year-long story of power and pride
British Lord Vestey and Vincent Lingiari
Were opposite men on opposite sides”

The Gurindji struggle for the return of their land ignited the Aboriginal Land Rights movement and steered First Nations to campaign not only for civil rights, but for Sovereignty and eventually for a genuine and just Treaty. Under capitalism no victory is ever permanent and the First Nations' peoples well and truly know that with the bitter experience of the NT Intervention, closing of the community out stations - which are in effect land grabs - "Black deaths in custody", "Stolen generation" and the list of oppression goes on and on. 

Non-indigenous Australians must acknowledge the history of the invasion of the First Nations' lands, their subsequent oppression and exploitation and finally make reparations that are acceptable to and demanded by indigenous Australians. This is something the capitalist state in Australia will never fully accede to nor accomplish and will have to be achieved in another stage of Australia's history!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

US imperialism, Israel and the militarisation of India


The escalation of India's military capacity provides an excellent means of assessing US-led regional planning. It is not difficult to observe and reveals certain readily identifiable methods of operation: there is little ambiguity surrounding US positions toward India, regarded as a western-backed buttress against China.

There are also other items of interest on US-led defence and security agendas as they seek to counter the hegemonic challenge to their position from China. India is developing arms manufacturing together with other related industries clearly aimed at extending US-led diplomatic initiatives with numerous countries across Asia and the Pacific.

Indian “Defence” Budget

India has begun a massive increase with its defence budget. According to the Stockholm Peace research Institute (SPRI) their military budget for 2014-15 only increased by 0.4 per cent. This year it will increase by eight per cent. (1) In the period leading to 2020 it will increase still further.

In only three years, 2017-20, India has proposed to increase its defence budget by 27.8 per cent to a total of $64.8 billion. (2)

It is easy to establish the reason for the dramatic increase in arms spending. India, due to its geo-strategic position, is used by US-led western defence and security planners as a buttress against China. The rise of China as a regional and global power has been regarded by the US as a hegemonic threat to 'US interests'.

India, already a regional military power, has regularly joined US-led war-games. It is, at present, preparing to join naval exercises, called Malibar, with other regional partners in the Western Pacific. (3)

Involvement in US-led manoeuvres, however, has led India to the realisation that problems exist with their existing defence industries. Hindered by bureaucracy, inefficiency and corruption, India has developed a reliance upon imported armaments which are also compatible with western defence and security systems. (4)

It is therefore no surprise to note the dramatic increase in arms imports and their country of origin.

India and Israel

In the period leading to 2014 India became one of the largest arms importers in the world, many of which were purchased from Israel. In the four years to 2015, India was responsible for importing 14 per cent of all globally traded arms. (5)

Israel has regularly undertaken work on behalf of its US supporters, particularly in sensitive regions of the world where open US operations would prove diplomatically embarrassing. (6) The Central America region has been, historically, just one example. It remains a common feature of Israeli foreign policy. They also specialise in using 'third countries' for arms deals. (7)

The high-level diplomacy between India and Israel and their defence industries has been an important feature of national budgets. In fact, it was acknowledged by Israeli Ambassador to India, Daniel Carmon, when he said 'the defence cooperation for many years has been the central pillar of our relationship'. (8)

Early this year India announced it was close to approving defence contracts to purchase Israeli Spike ATGM equipment. The deal, for 275 launchers and 5,500 missiles, was eventually finalised in May. (9)

Announcements, by the Indian government, to relax foreign investment laws in the defence sector have also formed part of the current trend of militarisation. Foreign corporate business organisations will now be allowed to own 100 per cent and control Indian-based defence industries. Currently they are limited to stakes of 49 per cent in jointly-controlled enterprises. (10)

India is also seeking to develop strong “defence” capabilities with the view to becoming an 'aero-space and defence manufacturing hub for the region and beyond'. (11) Military planners, clearly, are seeking to use India as an arms exporter for the wider region. The 'defence manufacturing hub', however, will not be solely concerned with military hostilities between states.

Other serious related implications arise: Israeli defence industries and their military capability are specialists in domestic defence and security systems for intelligence purposes and counter-insurgency: state power and repression. What proportion of India's defence budget has been allocated for domestic crowd control and related counter-insurgency provision has yet to be established. Likewise, the proportion of the budget allocated for Electronic Warfare (EW) and surveillance systems is also not clarified.

Asia-Pacific region riven with internal conflict, struggles against exploitation occur daily.

It should be noted computer software and hardware together with telecommunications has attracted a total of nearly $40 billion in India during previous years. (12) The latter are an essential feature of military interference in domestic political affairs: one piece of electronic equipment can easily be converted for other uses, if required, as in the case of computer systems for repressive measures.

There are important historical parallels elsewhere, in regions where 'US interests' were threatened, Central America following the Sandinista Revolution being one example.

In the late 1970s, when the US stopped all forms of arms transfer to Guatemala due to horrific human rights abuses against opposition figures, Israel stepped in and conveniently took over the role for Washington. Israeli-manufactured computer systems were used by various Guatemalan government departments to monitor 'electricity and telephone usage and records of data on individual movements taken from police checkpoints' to establish 'evidence' of political activism and safe-houses. The information was initially collected for ulterior motives: state power and repression. Once collected and collated, the information was passed to 'operations'. Israel military advisors also worked closely with their Guatemalan hosts and police intelligence, G2, to coordinate death-squad and elimination tactics of opposition figures. (13) 

In neighbouring Honduras, during the early 1980s, when the country was being used for military base facilities to train Contra terrorists to destabilise Nicaragua, Israel sold arms and 'electronic devices' together with the provision of military advisors and trainers. (14) 

Across the Central America region during the period, following the US government implementation of the Boland Amendment, 'taking advantage of the restrictions on military aid to Nicaragua, Tel Aviv offered to supply the Contras with the weapons they needed'. (15) The method of operation and source of revenue, should be noted: following high-level diplomatic initiatives within the Reagan administration and the Israeli government it was resolved the arms would be transported by a 'foreign flag' and delivered to the Contra. (16) The massive transportation of drugs, used to fund the covert operations, was subject to denial and diplomatic silence. 

There are numerous other examples of Israel undertaking sensitive work for the US.

There will be little doubt, however, who will really be pulling the strings behind the scenes in India with increased defence budgets. And who they rely upon for their objectives.

Such developments should not be underestimated by progressive-minded people. We should be on our guard and brace ourselves for an arms race as India begins sales to numerous countries in the region, often bitterly divided internally and subsequently raising questions of legitimacy for government and political systems. It is not difficult to envisage the logical outcome.

It is also not reassuring to note Australia has historically and steadfastly left criminal behaviour conducted by Israel, its military and intelligence services, unchallenged. It remains Australian foreign policy to use diplomatic silence when Israeli actions including gross human rights abuses, theft of identity pending passport fraud and information concerning nuclear weapons, occur. (17)

'Israeli interests' are best defined as belonging to a state where war-crimes, criminal activities and weapons of mass destruction merge with intelligence operations to the applause of western defence and security systems.

With India now becoming the chosen theatre of operations for Israeli interests, sensible people in the region ignore the challenge at our peril.


1.     Website: Dawn – Stockholm Peace Research Institute, 5 April 2016.

2.     India blasts away defence barriers, Australian, 23 June 2016.

3.     Chinese warship near islands angers Japan, Australian, 10 June 2016.

4.     Australian, op. cit., 23 June 2016; see also, The $10 bn business: How Israel became India's most important partner in arms bazaar, Economic Times, 23 September 2012.

5.     Australian, ibid., 23 June 2016.

6.     Israel: State of War, pp. 1-19, Information Department, PLO Office, London (n.d.).

7.     The Iran-Contra Scandal: The Declassifed History, Peter Kornbluh and Malcolm Byrne (ed.), (New York, 1993), Document 72, pp. 264-69.

8.     Revealed: India close to approving military deals worth an estimated $3 bn, The Diplomat, 10 February 2016.

9.     India completes price negotiation for Israeli Spike ATGMs, IHS Janes 360, 25 May 2016.

10.   Australian, op. cit., 23 June 2016.

11.   Ibid.

12.   Ibid.

13.   Israel: State of War, op. cit., page 16.

14.   Ibid., pp. 17-8.

15.   Killer Elite, Michael Smith, (London, 2006), page 149.

16.   Ibid., pp. 149-50, with reference to a 'third country' using either their own or a
        'flag of convenience'.

17.  *Website: List of Israeli assassinations/Wikipedia – lists hundreds of 'black operations'
        conducted by Israel during the period, 1956-2015. In the period 2002-08, at least 387
        Palestinians died from 'targeted killings'.
       *'MOSSAD' hit snares Australian, Sydney Morning Herald, 26 February 2010,          provides information about Israeli agents and theft of identity procedures, also,
          'Aussie spy held for treason', Australian, 14 February 2013, provides further
           information about Israeli agents fabricating passports of Australian citizens for
           covert operations.
        *Australia still denies Israel's open secret of a nuclear arsenal,
           The Age (Melbourne), 15 April 2014.

Imperialism is driving the attacks on CUB workers

Alice M.

Into the eighth week and the 55 sacked Carlton United Brewery (CUB) Melbourne, maintenance workers and their unions, the ETU and AMWU, are standing strong in their long fight to stop the multinational’s attacks on job security and hard won wages and conditions.

CUB workers, unions and supporters are fighting the effects of corporate imperialist globalisation – casualisation, crushing unions and workers’ rights, slashing jobs, wages and conditions and removing any obstacles that stand in its way of increasing the exploitation.
It’s no coincidence that the attacks on brewery workers come at a time of the imminent takeover of owners of CUB, multinational SABMiller, by Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest beer (and some soft drinks) brewing monopoly. 

On 10 June CUB sacked its entire highly skilled and experienced maintenance workforce of 55 fitters and electricians, including 5 apprentices, at the multinational’s Abbotsford (Melbourne) brewery. A new labour contractor was hired and CUB told the sacked workers they could apply for their old jobs but this time on a new pay slashed down to 65% of their original wage.  And a non-union EBA.

Multinationals’ corporate agenda attacks all workers

The use of labour hire agencies has been widely used across the world over the past 10-15 years by big business, including by multinational corporations in Australia. The tactic of hiring casual workers through external labour employment agencies is a device used to avoid even the few weak minimal employment laws that provide some job security and protection for workers won through long and hard struggle.  It is monopoly capital’s imperialist strategy to casualise most of the workforce, crush organised labour and slash the cost of labour – jobs, workers’ wages and conditions - in all countries.

Obviously, CUB anticipated the sacked workers and their unions would reject these outrageous conditions and made contingency plans with Programmed, the new labour hire agency, to bus in temporary workers into the brewery.  Not a minute sooner than the 55 unionised electricians and fitters were sacked, non-union casual workers were trucked into the factory.  Some are unemployed FIFO mining workers brought in from Western Australia.  

The Electrical Trades Union explains, “Programmed is using a previously dormant entity from WA called Catalyst Recruitment Systems Pty Ltd, who has an ‘Enterprise’ Agreement that is the minimum safety net Award, plus 50 cents. The effect of this for these 24 hour a day, 7 day a week maintenance workers amounts to a 65% reduction in real wages.

“That is 65% less than the wages of over 10,000 A Grade electricians employed in Victoria working 24 hour 7 day a week rosters.

“The tactics engaged in by CUB appear aimed to maximize the harmful impact on workers through their “contract renewal” process, to coerce them into returning to do exactly the same job, on massively reduced pay.

“This tactic has been used for decades in the UK to decimate the wages and job security of workers. UK tradies are now increasingly forced to front up to labour hire venues every morning, to find out if they have work that day, or not. Now it’s being rolled out here. Permanent, insecure work that can force down wages is the end game of these labour hire tactics. “

The fight of all working people

Unions and community support for the sacked workers is wide.  Working people clearly understand this is everyone’s fight to defend our hard won job security, wages and conditions against the attacks by international monopolies.  Sacked workers and their families are financially supported by many unionists across Australia.  A community picket outside the Abbotsford factory is supported by unionists and communities.  Local Yarra Council passed a motion supporting the sacked workers.

A community campaign to boycott CUB brewery products so far includes more than 20 hotels and pubs around Australia refusing to serve CUB beer. 

Corporate globalisation and monopolisation

In 2011 the Australian owned C.U.B. Foster’s Group, the then biggest beer brewing company in Australia, was taken over by multinational SABMiller, a joint South African, US and British brewing monopoly, and the world’s second biggest beer and soft drinks manufacturer.  Before the takeover by SABMiller, Foster’s sacked 50% of its maintenance workforce and outsourced all the remaining maintenance jobs to a labour hire contractor on lower wages and conditions.  The workers and their unions fought back hard and succeeded in protecting some of the hard won conditions for the 55 remaining workers.  However, they could not stop the outsourcing of jobs to labour hire contractors.

SABMiller multinational operates in more than 80 countries and exploits 70,000 workers who create billions in profits for the parent company.

Now the world’s biggest beer brewing monopoly is gobbling up the world’s second biggest beer monopoly.  The destruction of jobs, wages and conditions is inherent in all corporate takeovers and monopolisation of capital, imperialism.

Anheuser-Busch InBev controls 25% of the world’s beer market and exploits 150,000 workers around the world.   AB-InBev’s headquarters are in Manhattan, US.  It has swallowed up countless small and medium breweries around the world and is the main beer company in the US, controlling 50% of the US market.

Like all mergers and takeovers by multinational corporations and global banks the Anheuser-Busch InBev takeover of SABMiller (C.U.B.) inevitably involves the sackings of workers, slashing wages and conditions. This is the compulsion of capitalist monopolisation driven by profit margins and comes with the territory of imperialist globalisation.

Anheuser-Busch InBev has a notorious reputation around the world for savaging jobs, workers' rights and conditions during and after mergers and takeovers of its competitors.

The merger of SABMiller and Anheuser-Busch InBev will bring $104.3 billion in revenue to the corporations, but at a huge cost to the exploited workers, jobs, wages and conditions in nearly 100 countries the new monopoly operates in.  The takeover of SABMiller by AB-InBev is the largest global merger in the food and drink industry so far, with 100 international beer brands under one beer monopoly.

“UnFair” Work Commission 

And where is the so-called “independent” Fair Work Commission, which bans industrial action by workers during the non-protected period, with threats of heavy fines and gaoling workers and their union officials?  Where is the Fair Work Commission to declare the sackings of 55 CUB workers during the non-protected period as illegal?   It hides behind its own crafted legislation which lets off big business, enabling them to evade the so-called “impartial” laws by using the labour hire contractors to sack workers.  

Australian workers need an independent Australia

The burden of imperialist globalisation is crushing down on people’s livelihoods, job security and hard won rights. 

Economic self-sufficiency and independence from the exploitative monopoly capital (which is mainly foreign) underpins all Australian workers’ struggles for job security, decent wages, working conditions and living standards and workers’ rights. 

Millions of Australians buy CUB beer and other of its products.  As one of the sacked workers said, “These multinational companies pay little if any tax in this country, and yet they send these profits overseas.  They destroy our hard won wages and conditions and every time we win or manage to push back their attacks they come back and try to take them away again.”  

That’s monopoly capitalism and why we need to put an end to it.

CUB workers are showing the way!