Friday, July 31, 2020

US imperialism responsible for military tension in our region

Written by: (Contributed) on 1 August 2020

The Indo-Pacific region, in recent times, has experienced a massive wave of US-led militarism.
As one military exercise ends, another begins, in a relentless campaign to dislodge China's influence as a competitor in the wider region.
A closer study of one recent military exercise, however, has revealed a great deal about dominant thinking at the highest levels of the Trump administration and Pentagon and their Cold War positions toward China.
The wave of US-led Cold War militarism sweeping the Indo-Pacific region is not particularly difficult to establish. A recent edition of the Australian newspaper, for example, carried front-page coverage that about 'as many as fifty US patrols have been carried out this month' around Taiwan, together with other military manoeuvres and war-games elsewhere in the region. (1)
A page two article of the same edition carried a five-column article about a supposed network of Chinese secret agents operating in Tasmania. (2) No evidence, however, was provided from official government sources. The article, quoting two little known academics, was highly speculative. Quotations in the article, furthermore, also included lurid reference to China's Consulate in Melbourne being used to co-ordinate 'a network of CCP agents of influence operating in Hobart's political, business and university communities'. (3)
The media coverage was fairly typical of daily Cold War propaganda from mainstream media outlets in contemporary Australia.
One recent US-led military exercise in the Philippine Sea, however, has revealed a great deal about US Cold War military planning: the exercise, composed of US, Australian and Japanese navies, took place in late July with a minimum of publicity. Diplomatic links between the US, Australia and Japan form the main triangular defence and security provision for the vast Indo-Pacific region. The area of the Philippine Sea, close to the main South China Seas, is regarded as highly sensitive with access and egress to major shipping-lanes.

While the military exercise was US-led and planned, it was composed of five Australian naval vessels: the Canberra, Hobart, Stuart, Arunta, Sirius. The US and Japanese contribution was based on one naval vessel each, revealing the commitment the US expects of Australia for regional policing roles. (4)
The exercise also rested upon numerous US military facilities being re-opened in the Philippines in recent times. (5) There was, however, no official Philippine military involvement in the exercise. They were quite clearly, not invited to participate. Duterte, fascist murderer of his own people that he is, said on July 27 in his annual State of the Nation Address that the Philippines would continue upholding an independent foreign policy, would not pick sides between China and the United States, would now not agree to allow U.S. troops back to military bases in the country, and would not confront China over the South China Sea. (6)
The Philippines, nevertheless, has had long-time involvement with the US, being centrally and strategically placed in Asia. However, it has long been regarded by the Pentagon as politically unstable and highly volatile; US military facilities, therefore, are invariably linked to other places for longer-term viability and security.
The US-led military exercise in the Philippine Sea, for example, would appear closely linked to manoeuvres around the strategic Bashi channel in southern Taiwan, which runs to the island of Luzon in the Philippines. The Pentagon, in recent times, has become obsessed with island chains in the Asia-Pacific region, which are assessed as acting as buffers to repel adversaries.  
The Philippines also rests upon the same arc as Guam, in Micronesia, a main US hub, from ADF facilities in Brisbane, forming a strategic triangle for US-led military operations, resting inside the main triangular relations with the US and Japan and providing demarcation lines with Island Chain Theory. (7) The relationship between the two has revealed the linkage between main defence and security hubs and other military sub-facilities. 
The fact the US subsequently flew two bomber planes from the Anderson Air Force Base on Guam to the South China Seas via the Sula Sula entrance point part way through the naval exercise formed part of the grander military plan with real-war scenarios being a calculated option. (8)
The developments have taken place amid an escalation of regional Cold War hostilities directed toward China despite the findings of two recent credible studies:
*Early last year an official US Defence Intelligence Agency assessment of China as an adversary concluded that there 'was no indication China was looking to take military action anywhere soon' (9);
*A risk assessment of likely military conflict between the US and China conducted by Air Power recently published a report stating 'conflict in the next twelve months as likely, over the next two years as highly likely and over the next three years as almost certain'. (10)
Evidence, therefore, from highly credible sources would point to US-led militarisation in the Indo-Pacific region being the outcome of Pentagon planning with calculated real-war scenarios being the chosen option. There is little ambiguity.
With Australia being drawn ever closer to these US-led military plans:
                                         We need an independent foreign policy!
1.     US spy planes track China's monitoring activity of Taiwan, Australian, 29 July 2020.
2.     Ibid.
3.     Ibid.
4.     Australia with Japan and US Navies, Navy Naval Maritime Defence Industry, July News; and, Australia joins US and Japan for navy drills, The Telegraph, 22 July 2020.
5.     Tightening Philippine military involvement with the US, The Philippine Star, 5 May 2018.
6.     China appreciates Duterte's remarks on South China Sea, Xinhua 29 July 2020
7.     The Strategic Significance of Manus Island for the US Navy, US Naval Institute, December 2018.
8.     Beijing sends fighter jets to disputed islands, Australian, 24 July 2020.
9.     Chinese military 'beef up threat', Australian, 17 January 2019.
10.     Temperature rising as China opposition growing, Australian, 28 July 2020.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Bringing LIFE to life

Written by: Ben H. on 28 July 2020

The Federal government is reverting to its usual instincts to punish and impoverish unemployed and low-income Australians by tapering off the JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments over the next few months. 
Remember that the JobSeeker supplement of $550 a week and the introduction of JobKeeper were not about meeting needs, but about stimulating the economy in the face of full-blown recession (now likely to be a depression of 1930's scale). 
But despite the resurgence of the Covid-19 virus, which is very likely to grow in other states beyond Victoria, the government is not only cutting payments but bringing back punitive dealings with those on income support (so-called “mutual obligation”); allowing eviction moratoriums to end soon without any response; and proposing tax cuts (rich-skewed) and workplace “reform” as the way forward out of the recession/depression. 
This is straight out of the playbook of the Institute of Public Affairs, Business Council of  Australia, Australian Financial Review and the Murdoch press. But reaction meets counter-reaction, and Australian workers are not taking this major attack lying down. 
A new organisation called LIFE (Living Incomes for Everyone) has been building and is now launched, doing what has been rare (and impeded) in Australian politics and society for decades – bringing together those on all kinds of income support with low-income and part-time workers. 
LIFE now has over 70 endorsing organisations, from unions like the United Workers Union and Trades and Labour Councils to groups representing the unemployed, pensioners, people on disability, students and young people, those opposing income management and the basics card, affordable housing, single parents, migrants and solidarity organisations sharing the views and demands of LIFE.
LIFE welcomes individuals from any or no political party, but refuses to accept endorsements from parties. This is to distance it from the toxic swamp of rorts, paid influence peddling and elite-pandering which is modern electoral politics. 
Demands currently centre on the JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments, and raising other income support to the same level (no more divide and rule). 
On Friday July 24, LIFE campaign participating group Anti-Poverty Network SA held a Covid-19 era, lively snap-action outside Human Services Minister Anne Ruston's office after the disgraceful announcement that her Government will cut the incomes of millions of people (see photo above).

See the LIFE Australia Facebook page here:
LIFE can be contacted at 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Manus naval base – the best laid plans of imperialist mice and men…..

Written by: (Contributed) on 21 July 2020

(Above: PNG newspaper photo from 2019 directed at former PM O'Neill)

Problems have arisen with the upgrade of the US-led military plan for Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island which were to be front-line facilities for regional operations.
Diplomatic officials from Canberra and Washington did not follow appropriate and accepted procedures during the initial stages of implementing the military planning. Their behaviour, correspondingly, has revealed a callous indifference and disrespect toward the peoples of Papua New Guinea.
In mid-July a statement from the Governor of Manus Island, Charlie Benjamin, backed by the Limondorol ethnic group, announced they were blocking the proposed upgrade of Lombrum Naval Base. The surrounding area is regarded as their customary land, and they were not consulted about the US-led military planning. (1) The statement was timed to coincide with the start of construction work at the site. The fact that local firms were excluded from the tender process had added to the opposition to the project.
The announcement met with noted diplomatic silence from both Australia and the US; a reference was eventually forthcoming whereby the Trump administration urged the Morrison coalition government in Canberra to 'quickly resolve the matter'. (2)
The US-led military plan for the Lombrum facilities was originally announced in November, 2018, by vice-president Mike Pence as part of the 'Pacific step-up' to counter China at an APEC Summit in Port Moresby. (3) In his speech to the regional trade forum Pence stated the US would partner Australia with the planned $175 million upgrade, to enable the facilities to 'provide great advantage in both offence and defence in wartime' and 'sea-lines of communication (SLOC)'. (4)
Manus Island was regarded as strategically important for facing the open seas to offer multiple lines for military operations, and 'positional military advantage could be leveraged to support operations in the western Pacific'. (5) It also has deep-water channels, to accommodate larger-size naval vessels. Reference was also made at the time to the nearby Momote air-field which would provide 'additional lines of operation'. (6)
The fact the Trump administration has appointed an ambassador specifically for PNG has revealed the importance attached to the Lombrum Naval Base initiative. The US, historically, always used diplomatic personnel based in Canberra for duties in the South Pacific.
No doubt the Manus Islanders would like to be flies on the wall when Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds fly to Washington for annual talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper. So too, for that matter, would many Australians sick to death of Australian servility to the US overlords.
Strategic importance of Manus Island

US-led military planning for the Lombrum facilities has been based on a strategic triangle with the arc from Brisbane to Guam and the Philippines. (7) The triangular relationship also fits inside the second and third layers of island chains (see diagram). Military facilities near Brisbane are already used for the recently established Australian Defence Force (ADF) Pacific Support Team as part of the Army's 1st Division. (8) Guam is a major US military facility in Micronesia. The Philippines, likewise, has had long-standing US military commitments; in recent times a number of sensitive US military facilities have been reactivated at:
                                        Basa Air-base, Pampagna,
                                        Antonio Bautista Air-base, Palawan,
                                        Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija,
                                        Lumbia Air-base, Cagayan de Oro City,
                                        Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air-base, Cebu City. (9)
Manus Island is strategically situated approximately mid-way on a straight-line between the ADF military facilities in Brisbane and their US counterparts based in Guam using a standard actual-size regional map. It is, therefore, revealing to note the US-led military plan to develop the Lombrum facilities was taken on the basis that 'Manus … was … safer than Guam from enemy attacks', leaving little to the imagination about the nature of the extensive plan. (10) It is, furthermore, also important to note opposition to the planned upgrade by local people on Manus Island was because 'the base could become a major military outpost like that in Okinawa, Japan'. (11) It was not idle speculation but a realistic consideration.
Behind the scenes of the major stand-off between local people on Manus Island and the US war-machine lies a very important factor which would appear to have been overlooked by decision-makers in Canberra and Washington; PNG has two legal and political systems. The Australian colonial administration and British Commonwealth established a full Westminster-model of parliamentary democracy in Port Moresby prior to independence in the mid-1970s. The model constitution, however, rested upon older traditional Melanesian law, practised by ethnic groups for thousands of years through democratic processes of consultation and discussion amongst collective peoples with decision-making by tribal elders. Their custodianship of lands and property was regarded as the basis of their entire legal and political system.
Military and government officials in both Canberra and Washington, it should be noted, did not even bother to consider Melanesian law when planning the Lombrum upgrade, revealing a total disrespect for the peoples of PNG in a manner reminiscent of neo-colonial control of another country. The fact the US-led military planning has appeared to have placed the peoples of Manus Island and PNG in the front-line of real-war scenarios without even bothering to consult with local people is a disgrace.
With this type of diplomacy taking place in the name of Australian values:
                                            We need an independent foreign policy!
NOTE: Messages of support for Governor Charlie Benjamin and the Limondorol people should be forwarded / emailed to the PNG High Commission, Canberra: kunducbr@

1.     Manus clan threatens naval base deal, Australian, 17 July 2020.   
2.     Ibid.
3.     Australia must take threat, The Strategist, ASPI., 15 June 2020.
4.     The Strategic Significance of Manus Island for the US Navy, The US Naval Institute, December 2018; and, Joint Initiative at Lombrum Naval Base, Defence Strategic Policy and Intelligence Group, Department of Defence, Australia.
5.     Ibid., The Strategic Significance of Manus Island for the US Navy.
6.     Ibid.
7.     Ibid.
8.     ADF could open doors to Pacific military elites, Australian, 22 October 2019.
9.     Tightening Philippine military involvement with the US, The Philippine Star, 5 May 2018.
10.   Strategic Significance of Manus Island, op.cit., December 2018.
11.   Australian, op.cit., 17 July 2020.

Capitalism devours all that stands in its way!

Written by: Alec L. on 27 July 2020

Across the world today we are seeing the effects that capitalism has left on the world with the BLM movement in the United States and here in Australia. Capitalism has without doubt played the major role in the racism that plagues postcolonial societies. It was the bourgeoisie’s need for resources to support their rising capitalism that drove the ships to new lands. Be it gold, spices or cotton, they came to take the resources in order to make a profit. The lives of the Indigenous peoples weren’t considered, nor the lives of the slaves taken to work. Profit and wealth were all that mattered.
The aftermath of this is evident in the struggles that face the victims of capitalism and colonialism such as the African-Americans, native peoples of the Americas and First Peoples of Australia. But capitalism hasn’t stopped, it hasn’t lost its appetite nor its heartless disregard for lives and culture. Today we see it in the quest for oil and natural resources across the globe. 
In Australia this is clear in the actions of the large mining and energy companies such as Rio Tinto, BHP and Shenhua. In May , news reached our ears that Rio Tinto had destroyed 46,000-year-old sacred sites (above) in Western Australia .Despite widespread anger and dismay over this cultural vandalism and destruction, it was reported that the company was allegedly not sorry for this action . BHP has announced due to the backlash over Rio Tinto’s actions that it will put similar plans on hold for the time being . Seems like a matter of when, not if, they will take it off hold and commit similar vandalism. In New South Wales, Shenhua Energy plans to build an open-cut mine near Gunnedah on the Liverpool Plains . This would put in danger cultural sites of the Gomeroi people such as scarred trees, sacred sites and grinding grooves . 
For centuries, capitalism through trade, colonialism and imperialism has taken natural resources for its gain without any care for the environment, the slaves and indentured workers forced to work or the Indigenous peoples who owned the land along with their cultural connection to it. This is clear in Australia with how mining and energy companies are willing to destroy sacred sites in order to further exploit natural resources for their gain and those of their shareholders. Lenin wrote about “exceptionally rich and powerful states which plunder the whole world simply by ‘clipping coupons’” and this is as clear today as it was in 1920 . Nation states and large corporations have treated the world like this since the days of the Spanish Empire and British East India Company. Same story with similar characters today. 
Nothing will change until socialism wins. The peoples of the world must unite to save their cultures. 

Covid-19 pandemic and capitalism

Written by: Alice M. on 26th July 2020

Whichever way we look at the Covid-19 Pandemic and its dire consequences for the people, especially the working class, we inevitably come up against the brutal profit driven capitalist system.
As the Covid-19 pandemic unfolds every day, we also learn more about monopoly capitalism and the urgency to end the capitalist system. On all measures, capitalism is not only incapable of preventing, managing the pandemic and protecting the people, but is itself the root cause of the economic and health crises.  This pandemic is shining a powerful light on capitalism’s destructive forces against humanity and the environment.
The single driving force of capitalism is the need for constant expansion and increasing profit for its survival.  It invents new means to accelerate and intensify production and exploitation of people and the environment.  It constantly re-arranges old markets and creates new ones where capital can invest, expand and reinvent itself.  In the process it creates devastating economic and health crises.
Like climate crisis, the root cause of Covid-19 pandemic is capitalism
Capitalism is the cause for the rise in zoonotic diseases. The origins of the deadly corona pathogens and the global outbreak of Covid-19 Pandemic can be traced to monopoly capitalism’s intensified production in agriculture and food production, deforestation on a massive scale, environmental degradation and climate change.   In short, capital’s sheer exploitation of the environment, humans and animals is creating the unprecedented release of new deadly viral and other diseases in humans and animals.  Monopoly agri-businesses like Monsanto dominate global food production and food supply.  They develop and impose new intensified mono-culture farming methods to generate higher profits and create an expanding market for their highly concentrated chemical fertilisers, insecticides, pesticides and weed killers.
Capitalism cannot provide prevention 
Prevention is not a tool in the capitalist kit, unless immediate profits can be realised.  As far back as 2008 medical scientists and infectious diseases specialists and experts warned of the urgency for the nations of the world to collectively invest in research and development of vaccines against a wide range of newly emerging corona viruses.  The global privatised and monopolised pharmaceutical industry that controls more than 90% of the world’s research, production and distribution of medicines and vaccines refused to invest in the research because there was no immediately visible profit to be made. 
In early April 2020 Professor Peter Doherty, Australia’s leading immunologist and Nobel Laureate, was asked why there had been little, if any, research into Corona viruses.  He replied, “There is just not enough profit margin in it for pharma companies. They live by profits and the rules of capitalism. And capitalism has no interest in human beings other than as consumers.” 

Capitalism is not designed to take care and protect people and the environment.  Its survival depends on constant expansion and ruthless exploitation that puts profit above all else and is the root cause of hardships and suffering for millions of people around the world.  
This is no better illustrated than in Melbourne where in spite of the hard lock-down for a short period in early March-May, Covid-19 has come back with a vengeance as soon as the short-lived restrictions were lifted.  And this is the situation repeated around the world in capitalist countries.  The second outbreak in Melbourne further exposes the destructive and lethal forces of capitalism. 
The imperialist neo-liberalism of the past 30-40 years has imposed privatisation and monopolisation on a massive global scale.  Every stone has been upturned by monopoly capital’s drive to expand, find new markets and new areas for its investments and commodities, and to intensify the exploitation.  In most countries former publicly owned instrumentalities and services have been privatised and handed over to big multinational corporations.  Many private small and medium businesses have been swallowed up or wiped out of existence by corporations and finance capital.  
Hand in hand with the privatisation and monopolisation of industries, imperialist driven casualisation of labour and intensified exploitation of workers globally has sent millions of people into economic and social hardship and poverty. 
The pandemic has amplified Australia’s economic vulnerability and dependency on foreign capital.  Imperialist globalisation has wiped out many local industries and production. From steel fabrication to the production of basics like medicines, personal protection equipment, masks and ventilators. The Australian people’s livelihoods, health, and safety are completely dependent on imports from overseas countries. 

In Melbourne, hot-spots of the second wave of the pandemic are concentrated mainly in working class suburbs and jobs; and in public housing towers tightly crammed by 3,000 residents living in neglected, unsafe and unhealthy physical conditions.  Working from home is not an option for many workers.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that privatisation and mass casualisation of millions of jobs is the main source of the current spread of the Covid-19 outbreak in Melbourne, and in other parts of the world.  80% of infectious transmissions in Melbourne’s present second wave are traced to mainly working class people in casual part time, insecure work, with no sick leave entitlements, low wages, many working 2-3 jobs struggling to make ends meet.  Under the threat of losing their jobs they go to work sick, unable to take off 2-3 days from work to isolate whilst waiting for their test results. With no sick leave and job security many can’t afford to take 2 weeks off to stay in quarantine.
The outbreak can be traced to health breaches by contracted private security companies in quarantined hotels, to unsafe working conditions in abattoirs and meatworks, and privatised aged care facilities.  Casual workers are at the highest health risk of getting sick themselves and transmitting the virus to their families and in the wider community. Casualisation, outsourcing, insecure work, intensified exploitation of workers, cutting corners in health and safety, sham contracting and privatisation, are the common threads in the new transmissions in workplaces and in the community. 
Between 2015-2016, under increasing public pressure, State and Federal governments held 2 inquiries into contracting, sub-contracting and the casualisation in industries with a high concentration of casual workers - private security, agriculture, cleaning, abattoirs and meat processing.  The inquiries released hundreds of pages of recommendations.  In 2018 the Victorian Andrews government established an $8.5 million “independent” Labour Hire Authority and appointed a Commissioner.  As predicted by many, the Inquiry’s recommendations haven’t left Parliament House archives, while casualisation, unsafe working conditions, exploitation and abuse of workers by corporations is spreading and worsening.
Breaches in Covid-19 hotel quarantine
The Victorian State and Federal governments contracted out security at quarantined hotels to highly profitable private security companies, labour hire firms and sub-contractors, renowned for rampant casualisation, paying low wages, no health and safety training or protective equipment, no job security and frequent movements between different sites and industries.  The biggest is MSS, a big international security company owned by an Indian billionaire politician based in India.  It has 43 subsidiary companies across South East Asia, including Australia and New Zealand. It’s renowned for abusing workers, intense casualisation, underpayment of wages, sub-contracting, tax evasion and political influences.  In 2018 the conglomerate boasted about their growing profits from efficiencies (cutting costs) in labour.
Security guards working in quarantined hotels were given safety training that amounted to between 0-15 minutes, were not provided with proper personal protective equipment, and no protection to ensure safety for themselves, their families and the community. Labour hire firms rotated security guards in and out of quarantined hotels into other jobs and sites between different workplaces with no health and safety training.  Being casual workers with no sick leave or other entitlements they were turning up to work sick to protect their livelihoods. 
Casual and underpaid workers in abattoirs and meat processing
This picture is repeated in the abattoirs and meat processing plants where big clusters of Covid-19 were located. 5-6 major abattoirs and meat processing plants in Victoria have been shut down due to Covid-19 break-out.  Many casual workers in Cedar Meats and JBS, the second largest food company in the world, are employed by Labour Solutions, a large multinational labour hire conglomerate based in South Africa and used extensively by multinational companies in Australia, including the notorious ExxonMobil and Alcoa.  Many casual abattoir and meat processing workers are migrants on low wages working in dire conditions. 
Casual and underpaid workers in privatised Aged Care facilities
Workers in Aged Care facilities are mainly part-time casuals trying to hold down two, and even three, jobs to make ends meet.   They are some of the lowest paid and undervalued workers, and most are migrant women.  The privately owned Aged Care facilities did not provide these workers with adequate personal protective equipment, sufficient training and constantly move them around between different Aged Care sites, cutting corners in health and safety. 
It’s a universal class picture repeated in every country hit hard by Covid-19.  It’s the workers in low waged abattoirs, the meatworks, the aged care facilities, workers in crammed housing conditions with little, if any, health protection, the poor and the homeless where the transmissions and fatalities are highest.  
Capitalism/imperialism is a deadly criminal system of which the Covid-19 pandemic is not just an abnormality that can be mended.  The brutality and cruelty of this profit driven system cannot be reversed or excised.
The people’s only way out of capitalism and imperialism is to take matters into our own hands.  To unite, to organise and mobilise a powerful people’s movement to put an end to this horrid system. 
Make big business pay for the health, safety and secure livelihoods of working people!
No bail outs for big business and multinationals!
Fight for an independent socialist Australia!

Friday, July 24, 2020

VALE Ka Fidel V. Agcaoili, Filipino People's Revolutionary Servant

Written by: Central Committee, CPA (M-L) on 24 July 2020

The Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) has learned with deep sorrow of the death of Ka Fidel V. Agcaoili, Chairperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines Peace Negotiating Panel.
Ka Fidel 75, died at 12:45 p.m. Thursday, July 23 in Utrecht, The Netherlands, where he was exiled. The cause of death was “pulmonary arterial rupture which caused massive internal bleeding. It was not Covid-19 related,” the NDFP said in a statement. 
Ka Fidel shouldered the heavy responsibility of attempting to negotiate an end to the fighting between the Philippines Army and Government, on one hand, and the people’s revolutionary forces of the New Peoples Army under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines, on the other.
Ka Fidel was a man of great integrity and honour. Philippines Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd, the government’s chief negotiator, said that Agcaoli was a revolutionary whose passion for peace was as ardent as his love for structural change for the Philippines and the Filipino people.
His remains will be flown to the Philippines in accordance with the wishes of his family.
On behalf of our members and supporters, the Central Committee of the CPA (M-L) expresses its heartfelt condolences to Ka Fidel’s comrades and family.
Nick G.
Chairperson, CPA (M-L)

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

For whom are we “projecting military power in the region”?

Written by: (Contributed) on 23 July 2020

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) acquisition of an anti-ballistic missile defence system is further evidence of the Trump administration’s escalation of Cold War hostilities toward China.
In early July the Morrison coalition government announced the deployment of a US anti-ballistic missile defence system in Australia. The facilities formed part of the massive ten-year $270 billion defence budget. The official media release from the Defence Department specified the defence system would be used to 'project military power in the region and defend against adversaries seeking to launch attacks from targets such as the South China Seas'. (1)
With a stated range of 550 kms, the defence system would appear hopelessly ineffective when dealing with range from the South China Sea. The location of the defence system, therefore, has not been disclosed; nor has the country which will host the facilities.
This is the same region in which five Australian warships were “confronted” by the Chinese navy last week. The Australian ships sailed teasingly close to the Nansha (Spratly) Islands, acting as a cat’s paw for US imperialism. The Nansha Islands are within the so-called nine-dash line defining China’s territorial claim to the South China Sea. The line predates the coming to power of the Communist Party of China and was not disputed at the time of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Australia. No doubt the Australian Navy would feel justified in “confronting” Chinese warships sailing provocatively through Torres Strait, to our north, or Bass Strait to our south.
The defence system itself, forms part of a regional-wide system, where radar facilities identify a missile's trajectory and then destroy it in flight before it reaches a target. Similar defence systems exist in various locations across the Indo-Pacific region and have been used  extensively for surveillance purposes. A major problem, however, with real-time intelligence has hampered US military positions. Computer systems operating with satellite transmission and reception tend to have a micro-second time delay, enough to make the defence systems inaccurate with fast-moving missiles. (2)
The US, however, has continued to deploy defence systems across the region on the stated basis they enable the US to 'focus and project our force in the Pacific'. (3) Analysis of the wording of the media releases leaves little to the imagination. It is, therefore, hardly surprising to find a recent statement from the Morrison government which specified the defence system was intended for 'greater focus on the immediate region and put adversaries on notice that Australia will respond with military force if needed'. (4)
Behind the scenes of recent developments, the Trump administration has pursued an agenda clouded in intrigue.
Reliable information about the changing balance of forces across the Indo-Pacific, for example, has not been difficult to establish: in November 2018, a commission established by Congress concluded the US was no longer a superior regional power. (5) The findings, however, were not accepted by the Trump administration.
The Pentagon subsequently established a special China Strategy Group, 'to focus the Pentagon's efforts on countering the growing threat'. (6) The organisation has recently issued a new strategic threat assessment, which has included the reviewing of all war-plans with China. (7)
And following suit closely has been the Morrison coalition government in Canberra which has tabled $270 billion for defence spending over the next decade. Real-war scenarios are clearly a main part of the agenda. Whether the stated anti-ballistic missile defence system, as a major component part of the plan, is ever actually operational remains as yet, however, to be established. If it is anything like the similar facilities based in Japan, it should be noted they were quietly shelved due to their stated inefficiency and protests from local people. (8)
With US-led military planning such as this taking place in Australia:
                                         We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     PM shoulders arms to China, Australian, 1 July 2020.
2.     U.S. seeks new Asia defences, The Wall Street Journal, 24-26 August 2012.
3.     Ibid.
4.     Australian, op.cit., 1 July 2020.
5.     Study: US no longer dominant power in the Pacific, Information Clearing House, Paul D. Shinkman, 22 August 2019.
6.     China now biggest military threat: US., Australian, 10 July 2020.
7.     Ibid.
8.     Japan axes US missile defence, Australian, 26 June 2020.

Reports make clear – US imperialism top dog in Australian economy

Written by: Danny O. on 23 July 2020

The level of Australia’s economic integration and dependence on the United States has been made abundantly clear in two recently released reports.
The first, Building Prosperity: The importance of the United States to the Australian economy, was commissioned by the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia (AmCham) and funded directly by the US State Department.
The second, Enduring Partners: The US-Australia investment relationship, was written by right-wing former Australian economics journalist David Uren for the United States Study Centre (USSC) at the University of Sydney and funded by the American Australian Association, a leading privately funded organisation of the US lobby in Australia established by the Murdoch family patriarch, Keith Murdoch in 1948.
In other words, the two reports taken together represent nothing less than US imperialism spelling out the size and scope of its hold on the Australian economy. Along with a similar report from the USSC and AmCham released in 2017, it’s an ongoing attempt to counter the commonly held but mistaken belief that the Australia-China economic relationship is deeper and more significant than the US-Australia relationship.
In a recently conducted survey by the USSC, 71% of people mistakenly nominated China as the largest foreign investor in Australia, while only 17% correctly identified the United States as number one. It wouldn’t be a hard mistake to make given the constant barrage of China-bashing and fear mongering coming from the mass media and politicians, but the statistics paint a starkly different picture.
USA #1
The Enduring Partners report states, “Australia has been resource-rich but capital-poor for most of its history, hungry for foreign capital to fuel its economic development. The United States is Australia’s largest foreign investor… Australia’s most indispensable and resilient economic partner.”
Investment from the United States makes up more than 25% of all foreign investment in Australia. At the end of 2019, that amounted to a total of $984 billion. Not only is it the largest single investor by far, over recent decades its investment stock has been growing at a faster rate than overall foreign investment to the country. In the 15 years since the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement came into effect in 2005, the amount of US investment in Australia has almost tripled.
China on the other hand, ranks just 9th (5th including Hong Kong) with only 2% (5.7% incl. HK) of total foreign investment in Australia.
The Building Prosperity report calculates that “7% of Australia’s GDP in 2019 was the direct result of US trade and investment”, or $131 billion. To put that in comparison, its approximately equivalent to the share of GDP attributed to the entire mining sector in Australia.
And what does the US invest in? In 2019, nearly 50% of US foreign direct investment was in mining and manufacturing alone, while the other half was spread out over a number of financial and services industries.
That large portion of investment in mining (which includes gas) is important to note. Australia’s trade is heavily lopsided to the export of raw materials and energy resources, most notably to China and Japan. However, it is often US investors who stand to gain the most from that trade as US multinationals are heavily invested in the resources sector.
The LNG industry is a prime example. “US investment in Australia’s mining sector has helped drive the surge in liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports over the last five years,” states the Building Prosperity report. As Australia competes for the world’s largest exporter spot, US giant Chevron is the single largest holder and producer of LNG in Australia. That investment, far from benefitting ordinary Australians, sees the economy distorted so much that plans are underway to import LNG as there isn’t enough to meet domestic demand because the multinationals are making a bigger killing selling it overseas, rather than using it to meet the needs of the Australian people. Then there’s the pervasive tax dodging.  
But you won’t find facts like those in either of the reports.   

Economic dependence underpins total subservience
At the launch of the Building Prosperity report, US ambassador to Australia Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr. said, "There's been this notion that you can have economic security on the one side and strategic security on the other. What this report shows is that they are one and the same."
To put it another way, Australia’s economic dependence on US imperialism is inseparable from our subservience to US interests politically and militarily also.
While China is far and away the largest market for Australian exports in trade and our largest trading partner, the US is head and shoulders above the rest of the field when it comes to holding it over Australia’s economy. Therefore, it should not be hard to comprehend Australia’s recent actions in loyally following the United States in souring our relationship with China, or ramping up military spending to prepare to go to war to defend US interests in the region.
They are the actions of a country that is enmeshed in the economic, political, social and military web of US imperialism. Although some cracks are starting to form, the loyalties of the Australian bourgeois ruling class remain overwhelmingly with US imperialism.
The working class struggle for socialism in Australia must inevitably come up against this reality of Australia’s dependence on, and subservience to, US imperialism. Ours is a struggle for independence and socialism. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Covid-19 Impact On Capitalist Growth - Even in Elevators and Toilets!

Written by: Ned K. on 21 July 2020

The Covid-19 Virus is impacting on the capitalist economies in different ways. There is the near complete shutdown of some industries such as hospitality and restaurants in some parts of the country, especially Victoria at the moment. However, there are also examples of capitalism's continued revolutionizing of the way things are made and the way that services are delivered. 
For example, the spotlight has shone on the danger of the spread of Covid-19 in confined spaces used by people, such as elevators  in office buildings and residential hotels and also concern about air conditioning systems in these buildings. This is contributing to the reluctance of city office building tenants to bring their staff back to the office from working at home. It is also a contributing factor of the reason why office workers are reluctant to return to the office and also contributing to low residential hotel bookings in capital cities.
Large property owners like Charter Hall have city building occupancy rates as low as 18% in Victoria and only 44% in Brisbane where Covid-19 is temporarily at least under control.
Capital city residential hotel revenue in June was down 60% on last year. 
Seizing the opportunity to make more dollars, elevator companies Kone, Otis and Schindler are selling property owners destination-dispatch systems which require people using the lifts to get to their work floor or to their hotel room to select their floor from a touch point in the ground floor lobby or from an App on their phone. This restricts numbers in the lift and pools people going to the same floor reducing the time they are in the lift and hence reducing the time spent in a confined space, 
Some property owners are also taking up the option for elevators and air conditioning systems to be upgraded with a system which bombards recirculated air with ultra-violet light to destroy air borne viruses.
However, the changes to take place at airports regarding when and how you go to the toilet when nature calls beats the elevator story for innovation. The privatized airports of our capital cities plan to introduce an App which is to be used by people to indicate they need to use the toilet, developing a virtual queue. The App tells you when it is you next to enter the cubicle. Only you won't have to touch the door or latch it closed when inside. The doors will be automatic open and close to reduce transmission of Covid-19 and future viruses through people touching the same touch points. 
The capitalist companies designing, producing and implementing these services will be making plenty.
These innovations are only occurring now because the big capitalists see Covid-19 not as a threat to human health but a threat to their overall profit-making system. Along the way, there are winners and losers among the diverse range of industries that capitalism gives rise to. 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

When the Generals talk - who is listening?

Written by: Ned K. on 18 July 2020

One of rock band Midnight Oil's songs had the lyrics "when the Generals talk, you better listen to them". The "Generals" referred to US multinationals such as General Electric and of course General Motors. The song was highlighting the power and influence of these multinationals, including their influence on politicians and government policy.
At the moment there is growing tension between US imperialism and the new power on the blocks, China. Listening to Trump one may get the impression that the decisive sections of the US ruling class are behind him regarding his anti-China position on almost everything.  
However, "The General", in this case General Motors, has more to lose from an all-out war with China than Trump would have us believe.
General Motors are in big trouble in their struggle to maintain and increase market share of car sales in China. 
"Global carmakers are looking to China where sales have rebounded more strongly than in the US and Europe...and few carmakers are as reliant on China as GM, which typically records almost half its global unit sales in the country" (The Wall Street Journal 16 July).
"GM'S commitment to China has never wavered" said a GM spokesperson. Over the last quarter GM sales dropped by 25% in China but rather than make a decision to withdraw from the market which Trump would probably applaud, General Motors are responding by launching new models with a big focus on electric cars at its plant in Liuzhou.
European and Japanese multinational car companies are picking up what General Motors is losing in market share in China. 
Adding to the contradictions between the US and China is that in China, the big car multinationals from the US, Japan and Europe rely on joint ventures with Chinese car manufacturers as well to keep afloat in the massive China car sales market which of course they need to grow their global profits.
So, while there are sections of US imperialism who favor all-out attack on China including war if it comes to that, there are headaches for them as so many US multinationals in particular have economic interests in China that they cannot afford to lose.
How this plays out in coming years is no certainty.
So maybe if Midnight Oil rewrote the lyrics to their song about the Generals, it would go like this, "When the Generals talk, who is listening?"