Sunday, April 30, 2017

Re-Power Port Augusta Campaign Full Of People Power Optimism

Ned K.

On Sunday 30 April, about 500 people held a community event on the steps of Parliament House in Adelaide as another step towards winning a solar thermal power station at Port Augusta following the closure of the coal fired power station last year.

The event was organised by the community group Re-power Port Augusta and there were many people from Port Augusta who came down to Adelaide to attend.

Speakers included a power station worker from Port Augusta who lost his job last year with the closure. Although he worked in a coal fired power station for over 15 years, he was not looking backwards but focusing all his efforts in to changing government policy to force them to support renewable energy and break with fossil fuel. He said that the sunny weather in Port Augusta most of the year round combined with the threat of global warming made the building of a solar thermal power station at Port Augusta a no brainer.

Two young women who have been involved in the campaign for five years and who completed a 300 km plus walk from Port Augusta to Adelaide as part of the campaign, also spoke at the rally. They said that Turnbull government had been forced by public pressure to make some financial commitment to a solar thermal plant in Port Augusta. State Premier Jay Weatherill was quoted by the two women as having said, "I'd love for a solar thermal project to get up".

Speaker after speaker said that the state ALP government now had to "put its money where its mouth is" and provide the financial support to make the solar thermal plant a reality.
An announcement by the state government is likely in June this year as renewable energy and gas extraction companies compete for finance from both state and federal governments.

The state government has to decide to put money towards a solar thermal plant at Port Augusta or a new gas fired power plant located elsewhere or both. SA Labor must be ruing its privatisation and sale of the SA Gas Company (SAGASCO) in 1993 to help pay off the State Bank debt.

In a state election year in 2018, the Premier Weatherill will be tempted to put more money in to a gas fired power station at Port Adelaide and market it as job creating for workers who lose their jobs in nearby suburbs as a result of the closure of the car industry in October this year.

A smarter option would be to finance both with strings attached for any privately owned corporation that is involved.

There was a feeling of both optimism and determination at the event in Adelaide. Prominent in the event were the Australian Services Union who have members in the power industry at Port Augusta. Their members spoke out today in what was a good example of working class leadership by rank and file ASU members uniting with Port Augusta community and a diverse range of people form Adelaide who support renewable energy and the ASU's placards which read "Climate Jobs Justice".

Build the movement against U.S. imperialist aggression

Alice M.

In our millions the ordinary people want to live in peace with each other, in safety and well-being, and fervently oppose wars of aggression. Understanding the main forces driving imperialist wars, and recognising allies of the people, is a powerful weapon in building a broad and united anti-war movement. More than ever the U.S. is revealing its naked face and generating a great movement of the people against imperialism.

U.S. imperialism is stepping up its aggression and belligerence against the people of sovereign countries. The bullying, provocations and threats of massive attacks in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific are undoubtedly preparations for war and sending a message to the world that America still wears the crown of the great superpower and unchallengeable global policeman.  

Aggression in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, provocations against North Korea, overt and covert engineered “regime changes” and coups, invasions, occupations, assassinations, illegal bombing of sovereign countries and military build-ups in east Europe and Asia-Pacific are exposing the U.S. as a ruthless, blood drenched warmonger putting the world on a dangerous path.

It uses the screen of fighting ISIS terrorism in the Middle East and whipping up fear and panic of a North Korean nuclear attack, but its main targets are Russia and China who are challenging its world hegemony.

This is the behaviour of a desperate and dangerous imperialist super-power economically in decline, and flexing its military muscles to prop up its waning world supremacy. 

Deeper economic and political decay

The impoverishment of millions of America’s working people, shrinking commodities markets, and the resulting falling rate of profit for U.S. multinational corporations is pushing the desperation to seize more markets and resources, and go to war. The US ruling class savagely attacks the people at home, and inflicts wars and suffering on people and sovereign countries who refuse to bow to its imperialist dictates. 

U.S. driven globalisation, or free trade (NAFTA, TPP, TTIP, TISA), is now less able to rescue U.S. monopoly capitalism from its inevitable economic crash. It has only worsened the impoverishment of the people and the crisis of overproduction. It has generated strong public resistance around the world.

Unable to sufficiently re-boot the U.S. capitalist economy, and shore up its declining influence around the world, preparations are made for a major war as one of the few remaining options left to the 1% parasitic class to rescue its system. This is what Trump means by “Make America Great Again”- return to former position of unchallengeable super-power and global policeman for the U.S. ruling class of monopoly corporations.

The merging of U.S. military-industrial-finance capital is shaping a higher form of monopoly capitalism and imperialism today. Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Electrics are the main U.S. industrial manufacturers and merchants of weapons of mass destruction. They reap huge profits from the expansion of U.S. wars around the world.  

Australia – servile client state

U.S. imperialism needs loyal and servile “allies” to do its bidding and give credibility to its military aggressions and economic hegemony. The backing of servile puppet governments who unquestioningly follow their U.S. masters is essential in the U.S. armoury for executing its wars of aggression, regime changes and interference in other countries.   

Since the British colonial theft and dispossession of the First Nations People nearly 240 years ago, Australia’s foreign policies have been dictated by its colonial and imperialist overlords. Except for WW2 and East Timor, Australia’s foreign policies and involvement in overseas wars have mirrored the British, and now U.S. global imperialist objectives. They had nothing to do with defending Australia from an external threat or our sovereignty. It is no exaggeration to describe the relationship between U.S. and Australian governments as one of a master and its obsequious doormat servant. Australia is the “deputy sheriff” and a key regional outpost doing the bidding for U.S. imperialism and its monopoly capitalist class.  

America’s ‘Pivot into Asia-Pacific’ is an economic and military expansion to shore up its waning economic power and influence in the region.   The failed TPP was a last ditch attempt by the US to galvanise its dominance and undermine China’s economic influence. 
Australia’s defence policies, the military and the defence industries are now more than ever deeply enmeshed in the U.S. industrial-military complex, openly serving U.S. imperialist global military and strategic agendas.

The two main parliamentary parties, Labor and LNP, are sycophantic flunkeys trying to outdo each other, grovelling to their U.S. masters to prove their unquestioning and obedient allegiance to a warmonger.                                                  

Australia’s defence manufacturing industries are now designed for building U.S. weaponry, naval warships and planes for inter-operability with U.S. global military aggression, and have little to do with self-defence of our sovereignty.

The U.S. arms monopolies are being integrated into Australia’s public education system with Lockheed Martin recently establishing a major Research Laboratory Centre in the University of Melbourne, with former Labor leader Kim Beazley as its main executive director in Australia. The Lockheed Martin Research Laboratory is its largest outside the U.S.
Raytheon has been involved in South Australian state schools. It has recently been awarded a $2 billion Federal government contract to build ground based missile defence system for the “protection” of ground troops in U.S. imperialist wars overseas. 

U.S. bases in Australia, especially Pine Gap, are integral to U.S. military global aggression and service the military-industrial complex.

The cost to the Australian people

Australia’s working people are carrying the financial cost of the U.S. Alliance. Working people’s taxes have been paying for the successive Australian governments servicing U.S. military agendas, and using Australia as a launching pad for its wars.

The financial cost of sending Australian soldiers and military advisers to U.S. wars around the world, expanding, building and maintaining the infrastructure for 2,500 U.S. marines in Darwin, the expansion of Australia’s air and naval bases to accommodate American planes, ships and submarines, purchasing 75 F35 war planes at a cost of $10 billion, $2 billion to Raytheon, and the list goes on – these are the costs carried by working people through our taxes.

This military hardware is designed exclusively for offensive wars, not self-defence of Australia’s sovereignty. Most expenditure on U.S. military agendas is not publicly revealed.
In announcing the Pivot in 2011-12 Obama and Clinton made it clear that Australia would have to increase its defence spending to pay for increased U.S. military activities in the Asia-Pacific and in Australia. The demand was repeated by President Trump, ordering the ‘allies’ to increase their defence spending to 2% of their GDP.
ustralia has spent billions of dollars servicing and supporting U.S. wars and integration into America’s industrial-military complex. At the same time governments cut funding to public health and education, welfare, community services, scientific and technological research and measures to halt climate change.  

Much of the recently acquired weaponry, hardware and arms procurement is from the U.S. multinational arms manufacturers – Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, IBM, Boeing, General Electric, etc.  Australia is purchasing from the U.S., 75 F35 joint strike fighters war planes at a cost of $10 billion; and 12 Barracuda submarines from France (member of NATO), at a cost  of $50 billion. This hardware is specifically designed and built for America’s long range warfare, and has no useful value for self defence of Australia’s sovereignty.

Demands are now being raised for the government to stop spending billions of dollars of people’s taxes on U.S. wars and instead direct it to meet the needs of Australia’s working people. 

Public calls for an independent and peaceful Australian foreign policy are widening and gathering momentum. From the late Malcolm Fraser, retired Defence personnel, lawyers, unionists, former politicians, faith organisations, community groups, medical doctors and thousands of others, the tide towards independence and breaking out of U.S. Alliance is gathering pace. 

It is our view that real independence can only be guaranteed in a socialist Australia, where the working class will rule for people’s needs and interests.


Friday, April 28, 2017

May Day 2017: Our Day, Our Demands!

Nick G.

May Day is the day of international working class struggle and solidarity for a world free of exploitation, imperialist wars and repression.

On May Day we express our solidarity with the struggles of the working people of all countries, and our warmest greetings to the courageous comrades in fraternal revolutionary parties and organisations.

May Day belongs to the working class

For as long as there are workers determined to fight for their own class interests, no-one can take it from us, buy it off, commercialise it or make it acceptable to capitalism. It’s a day when workers proudly proclaim our independent working class agenda that’s independent of parliamentary parties and advances working people’s needs and interests.

Working people around the world are under immense and fierce attack from the corporate ruling class, the 1%. The decaying system of capitalism is in economic and political crisis. Millions of people are struggling to make ends meet, more are thrown into poverty. At the same time, billions in profit, created by the labour of workers, are stashed away by the parasite ruling class. Capital’s war on the working class is relentless and escalating.

The ruling class uses the tactics of racism and religious fundamentalism to divide the working class; and war and fascism are in preparation, but there is no way out of this economic and political crisis for capitalism.

For an independent working class agenda!

An independent working class agenda, an independent set of demands and independence of action in achieving them are urgently needed. More than ever workers need to unite and fight for demands of the people and independent working class organisations.

New ACTU Secretary Sally McManus has assisted that agenda with her public support for the militant CFMEU. In fact, McManus’ statement that it was acceptable to break unjust laws is remarkable for its civility. Her statement on civil disobedience said nothing that a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King Jnr hadn’t already said half a century ago. 

Nevertheless, Shorten moved more quickly to dissociate himself from her call than he has on most other issues. He prefaced his words with “As a parliamentarian….”  Enough said!
Turnbull and Co. went into a frenzy over McManus’ “support for illegal actions”, but have since come out and backed Trump’s entirely illegal bombing of Syria, an independent and sovereign country.

Defiance is not a bad thing, but a good thing

For our part, we fully endorse the observation that when injustice becomes law, defiance becomes duty. Defiance of bad laws is not a bad thing, but a good thing. Everything positive in history has been achieved through, or associated with, defiance of what the then ruling classes have held to be sacred, above challenge.

Only a willingness to advance demands that directly challenge the hold of the capitalist class - the decisive sector of which is foreign multinationals - over the economy and society, and a willingness to struggle outside the confines of parliamentary agendas and niceties will enable workers to fight for themselves as a class.

A truly independent working class agenda demands the abolition of the ABCC and removal of all laws that condemn hard working unionists from doing their job of defending and advancing the interests and welfare of workers.

It demands taxing the multinationals and big business to pay for decent public health, education, welfare, affordable housing and building local manufacturing industries; to nationalise key infrastructure such as water, oil and gas, energy generation and distribution, mineral resources and public transport, to serve the needs of the working people.

It demands breaking clear of the suffocating US Alliance and promoting an independent foreign policy that promotes peace and cooperation in our region and across the globe.

There can be no reliance on Labor

The history of the Labor Party reveals continual tension between its claims to serve and represent workers and its practical service to capitalism and to big business. It was born as a party of capitalism in that it confined its demands to those that accepted the continuity of capitalism and confined the pursuit of those demands entirely within the capitalist political institution of parliament.

Many class conscious workers know and understand that reliance on the Labor Party will condemn them forever to the mercies of the big end of town.

In our unions and our community organisations we need to bring together the elements of our own agenda, to raise the level of struggle, and to accept the sacrifices and dignity of defiance.

For anti-imperialist independence and socialism!

Dare to struggle, dare to win!

Workers of the World, Unite!

US threats will not bow the DPRK!

Nick G.

US imperialism will not achieve its goal of making North Korea bow to its threats.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has faced aggression from US imperialism time and again, has steadfastly defended its independence and sovereignty and defiantly kept to its preferred model of socialism.

Despite running as an isolationist, Donald Trump has used his first 100 days in office to demonstrate what “making America great again” is all about.

It is all about using force and violence, or the threat of force and violence, in pursuit of “full spectrum domination”, the military perspective embraced by the US since 2004, and defined by the US Department of “Defence” as “The cumulative effect of dominance in the air, land, maritime, and space domains and information environment, which includes cyberspace, that permits the conduct of joint operations without effective opposition or prohibitive interference.”

It is almost as childish as chanting “I’m the king of the castle, and you’re the dirty rascal” except that real consequences flow from what is obviously not a child’s play scenario.

To date, Trump has thrown missiles into Syria, dropped the Mother of All Bombs (MOAB) on Afghanistan, and threatened North Korea with a preemptive military strike.

Imperialism cannot accept other nations’ sovereignty

Common to each of these three provocations is an arrogant refusal to recognise the sovereignty of independent nations.

In the case of Syria, the missile attack follows a commitment of US ground troops inside Syria under the pretext of fighting ISIS. 

In the case of Afghanistan, only limited military advantage was evident with some 90 terrorists taken out.  What was achieved instead was a test run of US imperialism’s biggest non-nuclear weapon and a public display of its willingness to throw it around in other people’s countries.

Hamid Karzai, Afghan President from 2004 to 2014 and formerly a key ally of the US, condemned the dropping of the MOAB, said the US should stop using Afghanistan as a "testing ground" and re-engage with Afghans towards a peaceful solution.

"This was an inhuman act, a brutal act against an innocent country, against innocent people, against our land, against our sovereignty, against our soil and against our future," Karzai said in Kabul.

"A bomb of that magnitude has consequences for the environment, for our lives, for our plants, for our water, for our soil - this is poison."

US threatens to take out North Korea

Emboldened by its actions in Syria and Afghanistan, US imperialism sent nuclear submarines and an aircraft carrier strike force towards the Korean peninsula, threatening pre-emptive action designed to eliminate the "supreme headquarters of the north" and "strike its nuclear and missile bases."

The DPRK called US imperialism’s bluff, holding a massive military parade and conducting a new missile test.  Within days, US rhetoric changed claiming that it did not want to bring the North Koreans to their knees, but only to their senses.  It claimed that it had abandoned “strategic patience” and would impose “maximum pressure” by stronger sanctions whilst reserving the right to go to war at any time.

THAAD deployment brought forward

Contradictions abound throughout the universe and in every aspect of life on Earth. The contradictions between China and the US have been exacerbated by US imperialist aggression.  China was relatively silent on the MOAB incident, and abstained in a vote on Syria at the UN Security Council.  It initially adopted its version of a “middle way” in relation to the US-DPRK standoff, warning that US provocations would destabilise the security of East Asia whilst condemning the DPRK’s nuclear missile program as equally provocative and a violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

However, the temperature in Beijing rose when the US brought forward its deployment of the THAAD missile defence system last Wednesday, April 25, moving six military vehicles containing parts of the system onto a disused golf course about 250 kilometres south of the South Korean capital Seoul.

Whatever pretext the US may make about using THAAD to counter North Korean missile attacks, it reaches well into China and also Russia thus undermining the ability of those countries to use missiles in their own defense. 

Zhao Xiaozhuo, director of the Center of China-US Defense Relations Studies of the PLA's Academy of Military Science, said the deployment of the THAAD system has moved a step toward substantially shattering the strategic balance among major powers in Northeast Asia.

A Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun said on Thursday that China will conduct "combat-oriented live-fire drills" and test new weapons to counter the THAAD deployment.

The same day, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that China has drawn a red line for the U.S., North Korea, and South Korea, that war on the Korean Peninsula is not allowed and that all consequences would be borne by the relevant countries should war break out.

Contradictions sharpening

With contradictions sharpening between China and the US, Trump entered the fray and, from South Korea’s point of view, made the provocative remark that the South should pay for the THAAD system.

Trump said the THAAD missile system would cost about $1 billion and questioned why the United States was paying for it. Most of the profit will go to Lockheed Martin Corp, the prime contractor for THAAD.

"I informed South Korea it would be appropriate if they paid. It's a billion-dollar system," Trump said. "It's phenomenal, shoots missiles right out of the sky."

Trump’s demand has only served to heighten contradictions between the US imperialists and their erstwhile South Korean allies.

Asked about the remarks, South Korea's defense ministry said in a statement there is no change to the existing agreement that Seoul provides land for the deployment while Washington shoulders the cost of installing and operating the system.

Others in South Korea denounced the deployment as a pre-emptive strike against South Korean elections to be held on 9 May given that front-runner Moon Jae-in has called for deployment to be delayed until after the next administration is in place and can review the decision.

Moon’s promise to review South Korea's decision to host the anti-missile battery reflects a deep anti-war and growing anti-US sentiment in the South. On the same day that the THAAD vehicles entered the golf course at Seongju, local residents in their hundreds came out in protest.  So scared were the authorities that they mobilised over 2000 riot police to control and intimidate the locals.

Protesters carried signs reading, "No THAAD, No War" and "Hey, U.S.! Are you friends or occupying troops?" Kim Jong-kyung, co-head of a group of villagers protesting the THAAD deployment, told Reuters that more than ten people had been injured in clashes with police and some had suffered broken bones.

DPRK stands firm

On April 26 the Korean Central News Agency carries a statement of resolute defiance of US imperialist pressure.

“The ferocious provocation of the U.S. to drive the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of war is just an extension and vivid manifestation of the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK to stifle it at any cost as it is a socialist fortress standing guard at the outpost for preserving global peace,” it said.

Reviewing the events of the past week, it added “But the U.S. is utterly misjudging the DPRK, being so arrogant. Such threats as "maximum pressure" touted by the Trump administration may work on others but can never work on socialist Korea in which the army and people, single-mindedly united around the headquarters of the revolution and socialism, have formed a destiny-sharing community to remain true to the leadership of the great Party.”

“The DPRK is a peace-loving socialist state,” it added. “It sets store by peace and loves peace more than anyone else but it neither fears a war nor is to avoid it.

“Its army and people will not rule out any crucial option to defend socialism representing their life and to preserve peace on the Korean peninsula and in the region.”

We are living in the end times for the imperialist system.  But it will not disappear quietly or peacefully. It will go to the extremes of barbarity and cruelty to keep itself in power.

The threat of war is real.  The greatest possible efforts for peace and against imperialist war provocations are called for.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Welfare debt policy hits its targets

Rob M

Now that it’s “old news”, the articles about automated welfare debts (AWDs) have disappeared from the print and digital  mass media.

Not that the policy oppression is any less: it’s just that the relatively sympathetic stories of harsh and unjust impacts have run their course of shock value.
he trouble was that they were presented as mistakes/clumsiness/unintended consequences – very few acknowledged that the policy was working exactly as intended, though the PR was badly handled.

The sector of welfare recipients it was aimed at are not the poorest in Australian society.  The latter are not even on welfare. They are homeless people unable to register and some Indigenous people unwilling to put up with the humiliations of the “sequestered payments” system.

No, the target of AWDs is the growing group of Australians who slip in and out of Newstart due to intermittent, uncertain and variable income. This is because only that group generates real income to be brutally wrenched back by the federal government – it explicitly stated that the initial target was $4 billion.

The intention of the AWDs is both to discipline people on welfare in general, and to specifically claw back significant sums to government coffers so that corporate welfare and tax cuts to corporations can continue.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman has just released acritical report into AWDs, but again it concentrates on injustices and mistakes rather than the system’s rationale. It states that up to 20 percent (possibly $3,075,503 worth) of demands to repay debt were incorrectly issued – but that in turn means 80% (possibly $12 billion) was correctly issued.  On these figures, up to $15 billion in debt notices have already been issued. Even though some will be dropped and others reduced, this indicates that the federal government’s target of $4 billion is well on its way to being realised, if not more.

As more and more Australians have to rely on underemployment, more and more revenue can be squeezed from this large section of the working class. Under the cosh of both government and employers, only collective action can prevent ruthless and deepening exploitation of these workers.

Existing unions need to offer a better service to attract them, or new organisations must arise such as the new Retail and Fast Food Workers’ Union. Meanwhile, organisations such as the Anti-Poverty Network (South Australia) and the Unemployed Workers’ Union (national, but mainly Victoria) can help organise from the other end of the system.

US-China rivalry: Australia in Danger of Being Left Behind

Ned K

There have been warning yelps from some media outlets and former politicians like Paul Keating that Australia will get left behind unless Australian Governments adopt a more independent stance regarding ties with the USA. 

The immediate issue regarding Australia's relationship with the USA is the latter's potential military assault on North Korea. Due to the military presence of US troops and bases in Australia, Australia itself could be bombed and many lives lost as a consequence.  The Australian Government and the Labor Party "opposition" have both sided with the USA regarding its arrogant position that it should be the maritime trade "policeman" in the South China Sea and western Pacific Ocean region, far away from the shores of the USA.

This potential hot spot could erupt into military conflict between China and the USA and who knows how that may end?

Apparent military madness by the USA towards both North Korea and potentially China though may have at its core an economic foundation. While the USA is out to protect its geographical military sphere of influence, what is driving its behaviour is losing in the economic stakes as the number one imperial power.

While Trump huffs and puffs about making America great again, its main economic rival China is busy expanding its economic (trade and investment) ties with more and more countries every year. 

One only has to read the Australian Financial Review's China Watch insert on Fridays to see how rapidly China is extending its economic ties. Its latest initiative is the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. According to the latest China Watch, which repeats articles from China Daily, more than 40 countries from Asia, Middle East and Europe have signed co-operation Agreements with China on trade and investment.

On 14 and 15 May the Belt and Road Forum for International Co-Operation will be held in Beijing with 28 countries represented and 1,200 delegates. Australia is not one of them.
China is setting itself as the global leader with an alternative vision to Trump's "protectionist agenda" according to the China Watch. It is projecting China as standing for "a new form of globalisation based on international connectivity". 

Where does Australia fit in with these economic developments to our north? With the Australian economic lifelines still tied to US imperialism, there is a danger of Australia continuing its economic decline at a more rapid rate as US imperialism continues its economic decline. Some sections of the capitalist class in Australia are already seizing opportunity to make profits from the Belt and Road Initiative. For example, Australian business person Kevin Zhang is CEO of hotel chain, Argyle Hotel Group. It has 105 hotels in China and is building more on the Silk Road in far western China. Business is booming according to Zhang. However it is doubtful that decisive sections of the Australian capitalist class will break ties with the US, especially those connected to finance capital and defence.

At the end of the day, capitalist Australia will be left behind from the tremendous economic activity to our north as long as we have governments that are unable to fulfil the Australian people's desire to develop an economy that promotes "connectivity" with other countries, based on mutual benefit and the people's needs. 

The current economic system, based on the profit maximisation of local and overseas corporations, is not good for the people.

Nor will it be any good for the Australian people if governments instead of being servile to the USA become servile to the rising Chinese world power.

The answer is genuine anti-imperialist independence and a socialist economy led by the working class.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

No workers, no worries? - A case of automation

Danny O.

Two new cold storage facilities currently under construction in the western suburbs of Melbourne provide an opportunity to consider some trends in the future of work under capitalism.

The state-of-the-art warehouses are being developed by rapidly expanding Dutch cold storage and logistics company NewCold Advanced Logistics, with the actual construction being overseen by local notorious anti-union builder Hansen & Yuncken, in the outer-western Melbourne suburb of Truganina.

With the help of the Victorian state Labor government, NewCold will establish its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Truganina and is looking to roll-out similar facilities in other states as well as New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. The company already has facilities in France, Germany, UK, and Poland, and have just started construction in USA.

The specs: huge, state-of-the-art, fully automated

The first warehouse is a giant freezer with the storage and loading docks to be at -23°C. It will stand at 34m high with a footprint of 176m x 100m and have a total storage capacity of over 102,000 pallets. 

The second warehouse is a giant refrigerator with different compartments at +2°C, +8°C and +11°C. It will stand at 34m high with a footprint of 176m x 140m and have a total storage capacity of over 110,000 pallets.

Both facilities have the ability to handle over 10,000 pallets per day and have shipment buffer zones that can hold over 900 pallets at a time to create minimal waiting time for trucks before loading. The entire process will be computer controlled and automated using in-house control software developed by NewCold, and operate using state-of-art picking and stacker cranes and conveyor belt systems to handle the products from storage to the truck loading bays for distribution. 

Multinationals leading the move
It will probably come as no surprise to readers of Vanguard that the giant multinationals are the first to get behind such new technology.

According to various reports, the first warehouse will be used by Canadian multinational frozen food company McCain Foods who have signed a 10-year contract with NewCold, and plan to store all the frozen products of their Australian arm in the warehouse by July 2017. 

The New Zealand-based multinational Fonterra, the world’s largest dairy exporter, will occupy the second warehouse on a similar long-term agreement. Fonterra plans to consolidate its entire Australian distribution network and six existing warehouses under the one new fully automated warehouse in Truganina, a move that is sure to mean lost jobs for hundreds of workers around the country.

It’s a fact that didn’t seem to occur to the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews as he talked up the creation of 127 full-time jobs across the two facilities. Considering the two warehouses will operate 24/7, a quick bit of math will reveal that at any given time of the day only a handful of people will actually be working at either warehouse. Their role will be primarily to monitor the computer systems to ensure they are operating smoothly and efficiently, as well as security staff. 

The capitalist logic of technological innovation and automation
Capitalism is a system that depends on the creation of profit. It is only from that fundamental premise that we can fully understand the continuous and rapid development of technological innovation that capitalism enables. Karl Marx, as long ago as the mid-1800s, recognised some of the factors that led to this continuous technological change we see today. 

Marx noted that capitalists in any given industry continually try to undercut their competitors by trying to produce their commodities more cheaply than their rivals in order to capture a larger share of the market, and therefore make a larger profit.

One way to do this is drive down the workers’ wages and increase their work load; a limited approach. A more effective method is to increase the overall efficiency of the production process by re-investing in new technology to produce commodities faster. This allows the individual capitalist to gain an advantage in the market place, though only temporarily, as before long their competitors will soon adopt the same new technology or develop even more efficient systems in order to avoid going out of business. This continual drive to realise more profit by ever more efficient production processes is a major factor behind the technological dynamism we see under capitalism.

However, all is not well. Fundamental to Marx’s understanding of capitalism is that the source of profit is surplus value which can only be added to commodities by being extracted from human workers’ labour-power in the production process. As the capitalists invest in ever more efficient technology reducing the average labour time necessary to produce an individual commodity, the ratio of investment in machines (constant capital) to human labour (variable capital) becomes more and more skewed. This means that the amount of surplus value embodied in each individual commodity produced becomes less and less. This phenomenon is what is referred to as thetendency of the rate of profit to fall

And so, the central contradiction of technological advancement under capitalism is revealed. Human labour-power is the source of surplus value and profit, yet competition between capitalists compels them to replace humans with more machines and robotic labour, collectively undermining their own rate of profit.

Some future trends and what is to be done?
In the short term, very little will fundamentally change. There is still sufficient surplus value being produced through the whole system.

The workers who extract the raw materials, the workers who design and make the machines, the software engineers who write the computer programs, the workers who build the warehouses and facilities etc. all produce value. Importantly however, as the trend towards automation continues greater responsibility will fall on workers such as I.T and software engineers. It is crucial for unions and revolutionaries to throw off 20th century prejudices and to make serious headway into organising this sector of workers.

Longer-term, as automation gains deeper roots in ever more diverse fields, the systemic disruptions and potential for crisis will become more pronounced. Huge sections of the global working class will be made redundant and disposable, thrown in to long-term unemployment and their very existence made more precarious. For capitalism, this raises the question of who will buy all the products that technological efficiency enables. For revolutionaries, it poses important questions of revolutionary strategy. As greater numbers of the masses are removed from the point of production, how does the revolutionary party go about organising the masses for the revolutionary transformation of society that is needed for the sake of the planet and humanity as a whole.

Automation under socialism – the real solution
Automation in itself is not the problem. In fact, automation has the real potential to enrich the lives of the people by freeing them from a lifetime of menial labour, giving them the opportunity to realise their full potential as human beings. The real problem is the capitalist system under which it is developing. A system that puts the creation of enormous profits for a tiny few over the well-being of the vast majority of humanity. Only a system that can put the interests of the vast majority of the people first, and a system that can develop automation in such a way as to do just that, provides the real solution. That system is socialism.

Housing Bubble About To Burst?

Ned K. 

The issue of housing and household debt is prominent in the media at the moment. Warning signs of a crash in the housing industry are accompanied by some pretty staggering statistics and predictions. 

For example, in the Weekend Australian (6-7 April 2017) Adam Creighton wrote a piece titled "If The Housing Bubble Bursts, Our Entire Economy Will Crash"! 

He said that excluding resource exports, greater than 20% of Australia's economic growth in the last four years related to home building and there are 600,000 jobs in home building all up. Each new home built gives rise to consumption growth, provided the home is sold of course. Sold they are, but often to speculators or developers with investment in property at a three year high.
Foreign buyers make up over 20% of the housing sales in Victoria and NSW.

The housing market is highly concentrated with Sydney and Melbourne making up more than 50% of the market. Despite the continued demand for housing from working people who have to borrow heavily to purchase one, investment analysts such as Jonathon Tepper from UK says the bubble is about to burst with home approvals having peaked in early 2015 and still falling.

He asks, "Could Australian home values be a mirage?" with house prices in Sydney and Melbourne having risen 100% since 2008.

How have people been able to buy houses over this period when it is also no secret that wages and salaries as a percentage of GDP have declined?

Where does the money come from? From what the capitalist press is saying, it is largely due to people borrowing amounts of money for inflated house prices that they cannot afford, courtesy of the banks and other financial sharks.
Australian household debt is rising three times as fast as wages and has been doing so for nearly a decade and is now over 190% of GDP.

Most of Australians' wealth is tied up in housing directly and also through shares in the very banks to whom people are in debt!
One staggering figure from the Australian article is that 40% of the $1.65 trillion in mortgages outstanding is in interest alone!
In the 1980s, business loans made up more than 67% of loans from banks.

In 2016, business loans are less than 33% of the $2.67 trillion of outstanding loans.

Now the prices of housing in the dominant markets of Sydney and Melbourne are beyond most young working class homebuyers and those that do buy are taking ever higher risks of not being able to pay off their house payments. 

Job losses and reduction in family income through reduced working hours or irregularity of work add to the brewing problem. The loss of full time jobs over the last four years and growth in more precarious jobs with respect to hours of work is still the dominant trend, despite the last two months seeing the highest number of new full time jobs in over 25 years.

This latter statistical information from the ABS is a misleading because it includes full time casual work which is not guaranteed work even in a capitalist economics sense. The figures also include labour hire jobs created by companies and governments outsourcing work. These jobs register as new jobs as their employer (the labour hire company) records an increase in its workforce!

How Super Is Super?

This question was asked when the employer-paid superannuation scheme was brought in to awards in the late 1980s in lieu of a wage increase. 

Ever since its inception there has been a struggle between the industry run funds on behalf of workers and the big end of town who want to get their hands on the accumulated funds worth trillions of dollars now. 

The latest idea of young people being able to divert employer-paid superannuation payments in to an account to be used as a deposit on a new home is really a transfer of workers’ money to the financial institution issuing the loan for the purchase of the home. It is yet another transfer of wealth from the workers to finance capital, a desperate move to try and keep the capitalist system growing which is its modus operandi.

You would think that the housing industry and banks would support Sally McManus and the ACTU push to lift the minimum award wage towards 60% of the median wage. The minimum award wage is currently a historic low of 44% of the minimum wage. Some may support it, seeing that an increase in wages will entice more to keep an interest in buying a home. However other sections of the capitalist class including the Business Council of Australia are outraged at a $45 increase to the minimum weekly wage and think the increase should be less than 2%.

Whatever they do, it is unlikely the competing sections of the capitalist ruling class can prevent a crash in the housing market and the catastrophe for families immediately affected by it. 

Perhaps they know it, the same as Trump knows he cannot provide the thousands of blue collar jobs he promised to 'make America great again'. Perhaps that what is what the talk and growing practice of war is all about. 

Their last resort to breathe life in to a moribund system is to force the people on to a war footing.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Gravedigger and the President

Nick G

“No investigation, no right to speak” was an aphorism asserted by Mao Zedong.

When ignorant people act on unfounded assumptions, innocent people can be badly hurt.

Let’s start with an Adelaide gravedigger.  Brett McKay, 47, was unjustly accused of photographing corpses and sharing the images “in social situations”.

Mass Murdoch made it front page news in the city’s only daily newspaper.  The slumbering City of Churches awoke to find it had an inhuman monster, a ghoulish predator in its midst.
Talk back radio thundered its disgust; it featured in TV reports; social media spawned a virus of hateful denunciations.
Now it has been revealed that McKay was innocent. Someone who disliked him had called Crime Stoppers and alleged that McKay had photographed decomposing bodies at the cemetery.
Before police had investigated the matter, the harm to McKay was done.  He had resigned from his job out of concern for the reputation of his employer, had been taken on as a casual with a council but then sacked from that job when he was identified in a March 27 TV story.

McKay had become suicidal under the pressure; his wife and children suffered, particularly the latter who had been devastated when schoolmates repeated the stories they had heard in the media.

The police investigation found that his phone contained none of the images his accuser alleged had been taken; none had been deleted; none of his friends or associates had ever been shown such images by him.  Furthermore, the accuser refused to repeat the allegations to detectives.
 A whole town had pointed its accusing fingers at a simple gravedigger, a worker performing a necessary social function, albeit one that few would do in his place.

Syria is far from Australian suburbia, but an allegation that the Syrian President had wilfully gassed his own people spread like wildfire in both mass and social media.  Without any pretence at investigating the matter, Emperor of the World Donald Trump interrupted a meal with the Chinese President Xi Jinping to order a retaliatory missile attack.

This was an illegal and arbitrary act of aggression against a sovereign nation during which lives were lost, infrastructure was damaged and threats of further punishment levelled at the Syrians.
On the basis of reports taken to be factual because of photos of victims of gassing, statements by doctors and others on the scene, six years and more of demonising the Syrian President as an evil dictator, as a monster who systematically attacked and killed his own people, Trump reversed his previous declarations that “Syria was none of our business” and made it business -  especially good business for Raytheon Corporation, manufacturer of the Cruise missile.  Raytheon’s Australian website boasts of its use in Syria and in the overthrow of Libya’s legitimate government.

Even before the missile attack, doubts had emerged about the veracity of reports from the terrorists.  A doctor who provided photos of victims and tweeted alleged details of the attack was revealed to have been one of two terrorists arrested and charged in England over the kidnapping and hostage-holding of two journalists.  The case collapsed when the journalists withdrew from the case.

Memories were evoked of the 2013 gas attack, also sheeted home initially to Assad, but then found by UN investigator Carla del Ponte to have been carried out by “rebels” and not by government forces. These and other references to terrorists having possessed and used sarin gas were circulating, largely outside of mass media, before Trump ordered his attack.

Since the illegal US aggression against Syria, other credible sources have cast doubt on the accepted version of events.  Scott Ritter, the UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, was attacked at the time for claiming that there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.  His investigative integrity was confirmed after the illegal US invasion and occupation. Describing Trump as “Al Qaeda’s useful idiot”, Ritter writes: 

Mainstream American media outlets have willingly and openly embraced a narrative provided by Al Qaeda affiliates whose record of using chemical weapons in Syria and distorting and manufacturing “evidence” to promote anti-Assad policies in the west, including regime change, is well documented.  These outlets have made a deliberate decision to endorse the view of Al Qaeda over a narrative provided by Russian and Syrian government authorities without any effort to fact check either position. These actions, however, do not seem to shock the conscience of the American public; when it comes to Syria, the mainstream American media and its audience has long ago ceded the narrative to Al Qaeda and other Islamist anti-regime elements.

The real culprits here are the Trump administration, and President Trump himself. The president’s record of placing more weight on what he sees on television than the intelligence briefings he may or may not be getting, and his lack of intellectual curiosity and unfamiliarity with the nuances and complexities of both foreign and national security policy, created the conditions where the imagery of the Khan Sheikhoun victims that had been disseminated by pro-Al Nusra (i.e., Al Qaeda) outlets could influence critical life-or-death decisions.

Andrew Wilkie, a former Australian military intelligence analyst who disputed the government’s claims about Saddam Hussein and who is now an Independent Member of Parliament, said he was sceptical about claims that Assad had been behind the gas attack.

'We need to be careful who we back too. About half of the anti-Assad groups are either jihadist or clearly Islamic State or associated with Islamic State. 

'It's an absolute quagmire, we shouldn't have gone in the first place and we shouldn't be there now.' 

Professor Theodore Postol of MIT, who was instrumental in exposing the falsehood of 2013 White House claims that the Syrian government used nerve gas against civilians, has reviewed the White House intelligence report on the April 4 Khan Shaykun attack. His arguments are very powerful and point compellingly toward a terrorist provocation. (A full version, including graphics, is here .)

In the spirit of shooting first and asking questions later, the US, France and Britain made a pretence of supporting an investigation into the Syrian gas attack.  However, the “investigation” assumed the guilt of the Syrian President and was vetoed by Russia.  China sat on the fence and abstained.

Not content with meddling in Syria’s internal affairs, the rogue nation headed by the ignorant egotist Trump has moved to threaten war against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. North Korea has an inalienable right to the social system of its choice, and to the military capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Brett McKay dug other people’s graves.

In unleashing acts of aggression around the globe, Trump is digging his own and that of the system he leads.