Sunday, August 30, 2020

Could you clean a hotel room in 15 minutes?

 Written by: Ned K. on 30 August, 2020

The outbreaks of Covid-19 in Melbourne and Sydney have put residential hotels in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. 

Large corporate owned hotel groups such as Travel Lodge, Rydges, Hyatt and Pullman have been used by arrangements with state governments to quarantine people for 14 day periods or longer in an effort to contain the Covid-19 virus. 

Poorly trained, low paid contract security industry workers have been unfairly blamed in the media for the spread of the virus. Then people holed up in these big hotels released to the media that the rooms they were "imprisoned" in for 14 days or more were filthy and much in need of maintenance updates. 

Rydges and Travel Lodge Hotels in particular were named as providing unhygienic rooms. In the Travel Lodge hotel in Wentworth Street, Sydney, the state government was forced to act and move all those quarantined to another hotel.

The unhygienic state of some of residential hotel rooms is not something that has just occurred in the Covid-19 period. For many decades now huge corporate hotel chains have been in a race to the bottom to cut operating costs to make more profit. The people most affected by this race to the bottom are the housekeeping staff who clean the hotel rooms. They are at the bottom of the profit-making pyramid. At the top are the international hotel group owners like Hyatt. Then comes the management companies who operate the hotels. In some cases, they have a direct contract with the owner of the hotel/s. In other cases, the hotel owner acts as franchisor and the management group are the franchisee. 

Then there is another management layer with an industry calling itself "accommodation services industry". These companies provide the labour to clean and service the residential hotel rooms and provide the catering. To get their cut in the profit pyramid, they employ large percentage of low paid, migrant labor to do "back of house" work which includes the cleaning of rooms.

The rise of serviced apartments and people renting out their own homes for short term accommodation also increased competition between the residential hotel chains in their shrinking market.

This intensified the workload pressures put on back of house workers, particularly housekeeping cleaners. First their employers cut the number of cleaners from two per room to one per room. Then they cut the time given to clean each room. Cleaners in large residential hotels are given on average 15 minutes to clean a room. They are told to "do the basics" which is a euphemism for doing a 'looking good" clean which will fool the hotel guests into  thinking they are in a clean hygienic room. 

What happened recently with the exposure of the Rydges and Travel Lodge hotels is that people cooped up in a small room for 14 days were themselves more fully exposed to the unhygienic state of the rooms, whereas in the pre Covid-19 days, guests would be spending more time outside their hotel room and often not notice the actual state of the room regarding hygiene standards.

Hotel workers and their Unions across the world have been struggling for years for better conditions and pay for hotel workers. They have taken on the big end of town and had some important wins.

For a taste of their struggles, go to You Tube and watch "This Is A Bad Bad Hotel", which shows the workers and community supporters' actions against a big US owned hotel chain.


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Yasukuni Shrine visit keeps alive the danger of revived Japanese militarism

 Written by: (Contributed) on 27 August 2020

The recent visit by a leading Japanese politician to a controversial war-shrine was a calculated and timed attempt to appease the far-right in forthcoming elections in the country and to rally support across the wider region, particularly in South Korea (ROK).

The official visit took place amid wave after wave of US-led militarism, with Japan being the major hub for 'US interests' in the northern part of the region. It has far-reaching implications for Australia which has a similar role in the southern part of the region.

In August, a leading Japanese politician, Shinjiro Koizumi, and three cabinet colleagues visited the Yasukuni war-shrine in Tokyo. (The photo shows a reenactment of Japanese Imperial Army and Navy personnel at the Shrine.)The official parliamentary delegation was high-profile, with Koizumi tipped to be a likely prime minister in due course. Present Japanese PM Shinzo Abe is thought to have serious health problems, and in recent times experienced falling poll ratings leading to questions about his tenure as a long-standing political leader.

The delegation to the war-shrine was also controversial; Yasukuni honours 2.5 million Japanese war dead together with fourteen military generals and politicians convicted of A-class war-crimes, of whom seven were executed.

While Japan's neighbours still condemn the past militarism and its enslavement of millions of people into imperial designs, the far-right continue to applaud their past and remain unrepentant. They also remain a notable force to be reckoned with inside the Japanese political system and military. Koizumi and his three colleagues were seeking to appease the Japanese far-right and rallying their support by appearing at the war-shrine.

US protected Japanese rightists

A study of the Japanese far-right, however, has revealed the hidden hands of the US from the immediate Second World War period to the present-day in a manner similar to that of a puppet-master pulling the strings of playthings. Shortly after the dust settled following the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the US military occupation forces 'had a change of heart about Japan's war criminals … as the Cold War began … the enemy was no longer the fascists but the communists'. (1) Japan was subsequently economically developed to become the second biggest economy in the world, and a loyal US ally in the northern part of the Asia-Pacific.

The role of the British government during the same period was no better; following the establishment of a Vietnamese National Liberation Committee in Hanoi on 19 August 1945, the British landed an expeditionary force in Vietnam and re-armed the Japanese to make way for the re-establishment of the French colonial administration. (2)

Other revelations about the Japanese far-right include more recent studies conducted on behalf of the US intelligence services which draw attention to their continued obsession and identification with the 'societal goals' of Japan, due to militarism and racial purity which is considered a role model for elsewhere. (3)

With the second Cold War now well under-way, the US now has even more important roles for Japan as a northern hub for 'US interests'. The country has been dislodged into third place by an economically rising China. Japan has also, in effect, shed its pacifist constitution and their military now regularly take part in US-led military exercises. It is also formally linked to Australia as a southern counterpart, to police the vast region.

Three generations on from the end of the Second World War have seen the US and their Japanese allies attempt to erase the legacy of their militarism and war from popular memory.

To say they are re-writing history would be an under-statement; the government of PM Shinzo Abe has already been condemned for attempting 'to put a gloss on Japan's wartime history'. (4)

The fact the recent high-profile visit to the Yasukini war-shrine took place on the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and surrender by the Japanese, remains evidence of a lack of Japanese and their US puppet-masters sensitivities when dealing with the matter. Despite following parliamentary protocol, the delegation to the Yasukini could be better understood along lines of a display of swashbuckling bravado to acknowledge support likely to be forthcoming from the far-right for a future Koizumi challenge for the prime ministership.

Korean implications

Elsewhere, across the region, the matter raised serious questions about the true nature of Japanese diplomacy: relations between Japan and the ROK, 'remain at their lowest point in years' over recent legal verdicts that Japan was liable for compensation for war-time atrocities and the enslavement and forced labour of Korean workers. The fact the ROK was celebrating its liberation from Japanese military occupation at the time further strained relations between the two countries. (5)

ROK politics has undergone a significant change in recent years with the election of President Moon Jae-in and his centre-left administration, keen to develop stronger links with China. The ROK is, in effect, moving away from traditional US-led hegemonic positions; the Pentagon is in the process of considering withdrawing some of their nearly 30,000 military personnel from the country for deployment elsewhere, possibly Guam, which is regarded as more stable and politically compliant.

Such developments have thrown the ROK far-right into disarray; a series of recent corruption trials have seen their chosen leaders and supporters removed from office with some serving prison sentences. They, nevertheless, continue to support pro-US positions and the role of Koizumi and his three parliamentary colleagues has also served their interests well, pushing a far-right line and polarising Korean politics. (6)

With high-level diplomatic talks scheduled to take place very soon between PM Scott Morrison and his Japanese counterpart PM Shinzo Abe, over a 'further broadening and deepening of the defence and security relationship (7):

                                           We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Inside the League, Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson, (New York, 1986), page 62.

2.     Saigon 45, with the Japs in Vietnam, Phil Kaiserman, (Manchester, 1997), pp. 1-22.

3.     Wikileaks: The Global Intelligence Files, Justiciar Knights, Files released 5543061, Sean Noonan, Tactical Analyst, reveal information about the so-called Knights Templar and their modern-day organisation in a file specifically prepared for the Texas-based global intelligence company, Stratfor, which, in turn, provided intelligence for the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Defence Intelligence Agency. The document is a long-term manifesto composed three specific stages of far-right operation/s:
        Phase One, (1999-2030) cell-based shock attacks;
        Phase Two, (2030-2070) bigger cells/networks armed militias;
        Phase Three, (2070-2100) a coup.   

4.     Academics blast efforts to revise war history, The Age (Melbourne), 11 February 2015; see also, Japan puts disputed islands on school curriculum, The Age (Melbourne), 13 January 2014.

5.     Shinjiro Koizumi and other Japanese ministers visit war-linked Yasukuni, The Japan Times, 15 August 2020; and, ‘We are ready to discuss with Japan', The Korea Post, 18 August 2020.

6.     Inside the League, op.cit., page 11, 47, 51, 5204, 105, 106, 110, 122-30, 239, 263, 266, 271, which provide information about the Korean far-right and front-type organisations including those in the governmental, corporate and religious domains; and, Wikileaks, op.cit., South Korea also features in the far-right 'societal goals' on the basis of it being regarded as a mono-cultural society.  

7.     PM, Abe to deepen ties on defence, Australian, 9 July 2020; and, Morrison, Abe air shared concerns, Australian, 10 July 2020.


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Book Review: They Did Not Come From Nowhere

 Written by: Ned K. on 26 August 2020

Round 13 of the Australian Football League (AFL) from 21 August marked the Indigenous Round of the "Aussie Rules" football season in 2020. 

The game at the top league level has featured many outstanding footballers, especially from the 1960s to present times. Since the 1990s the AFL was taken over by corporate interests with games programmed to maximize the interests of corporate advertising around the grounds, on players’ clothing and particularly for the TV audiences. Teams in the AFL searched the land for the best players to pick at the national draft each year. 

The teams' corporate backers realized that First Peoples players attracted spectators and therefore profits to the game, so recruiting First Peoples players from far and wide became a top priority. 

However, First Peoples football players had to struggle for recognition as footballers many, many years ago. Sports historian from Melbourne Roy Hay's new book "Aboriginal People and Australian Football In The Nineteenth Century - They Did Not Come From Nowhere" collects evidence to show how in the mid-1800s First Peoples in regional Victoria, SA and WA ( the three mainland  Aussie Rules states) on Missions and stations learned the game and brought their own skills to it.

In the 1860s the game of Australian Rules football was characterized by slow position play and congested play which suited the heavier European born players. The First Peoples brought to the game "speed at ground level, rapid hand movement and brilliant hand-eye and foot-eye co-ordination". They also introduced the kicking of the ball to space, anticipating where the receiving player was running to. Roy Hay argues that this skill was similar to their ability to bring down wild animals with a woomera or throwing spear.

Despite the injection of exciting new skills into the game, First Peoples' top players found it near impossible to play at the top level. An example of this discrimination was at Corandeerk Station in the Upper Yarra Valley about 60 km from Melbourne.

One player from there, Dick Rowan, also played for Healesville and played so well that he attracted the attention of the South Melbourne Football Club who played in the top league in the Victorian colony from as early as the 1880s. Rowan played one game for South Melbourne against Williamstown. He applied to play a full season for South Melbourne but the football governing Board "feared that the granting of the application might lead to numerous other similar requests and refused it"!

In other words, the white authorities were quite happy for First Peoples to play football in regional teams but went out of their way to exclude them from playing in the top league. In the local regional leagues across Australia, the First Peoples players formed their own teams and won local competitions.

As Roy Hay says, "they were prevented from reaching higher levels by the gatekeepers of the domestic game until late in the twentieth century".

Like in most areas of society, Roy Hay displays to the reader of his brilliant book stories to be told about attempts to deny First Peoples equal opportunity and stories to be told about their skills and knowledge not only about football but their contribution to local communities.

His book is well worth a read as football fans among us marvel at the brilliance of modern day First Peoples players in many sports.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Military spending is an obscenity that must stop!

 Written by: Nick G. on 21 August 2020

 Imperialism, the modern system of threat and counter-threat, is depriving people all around the world of funds that could alleviate poverty, provide for better heath and education, and help save the planet from global warming and environmental destruction.

Threats and counter-threats are the stuff of holding onto spheres of influence, of areas for investment, of markets for goods and for the cheapest sources of available labour. They are also the stuff of the struggle to redivide those spheres of influence according to the relative strengths at any given time of the of those powers in a position to exercise control, bullying and domination.

US imperialism is still the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nation.  It survived the threat from its superpower rival, Soviet social-imperialism when the latter imploded at the beginning of the 1990s.  Puffed with arrogance, US imperialism boasted that it would seek “full spectrum domination” – that it would control everything, everywhere. 

It hasn’t.  

It has failed to impose itself militarily on Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria. 

Although smaller and weaker Russian imperialism has contributed to its failure to dominate the Middle East, its most significant challenge now comes from the social-imperialism (“socialism in words, imperialism in deeds”) of China following that country’s restoration of capitalism.

Data from the website on military spending (they call it “defense” spending) of the ten leading nations, and their numbers of military personnel (they call it “man” power) are provided in the graphs below.

They show that US imperialism outspends China 3 to 1 in US dollar terms; China, however, leads the US in military personnel.  

The data also shows that the top ten countries globally control a military spending of $1.4 trillion as of 2020. That’s better written as $1,400,000,000,000!

That figure is a colossal act of social theft since its only purpose is to threaten and counter-threaten rivals for the control and plunder of the vast majority of us who do not want and do not need imperialism.

Where does Australia fit into this?  

The Australian ruling class long ago attached itself to its “great and powerful friend” – US imperialism. It had little choice in the matter as the Australian economy was penetrated by US capital and came under its near-complete control.

Part of that attachment is the humiliating exercise of proving our “loyalty” to US imperialism by blindly following it into whatever act of aggression it undertakes. What the Gurkhas were for the British Empire, Australia has become for the US Empire.

Not only do we send troops whenever and wherever US imperialism wants them, we spend enormous sums of money to keep ourselves ready to serve Uncle Sam.  Most of that money goes to the major multinational armaments manufacturers based in Australia (Raytheon, BAE, Thales etc), but a growing proportion is allocated to small local manufacturers slotted into the military value chain. Hardly a day goes by without some contract or other being awarded to local companies -  a great way to buy off the small national bourgeoisie and tie it into US domination of this country.

Australia stands in 13th place in terms of military spending. Yet our population is relatively small. When military spending is converted to per capita US dollars (see below), we suddenly sky-rocket from 13th place to second place, behind only the US imperialists themselves!

This is not a silver medal we can be proud of!

This level of military spending is an intolerable burden and we must end it.

Australia should be respected as a nation, peaceful and independent; instead we are viewed as little Americans, as US imperialism’s deputy-sheriff, as its latter-day Gurkhas.

Join the movement against war and against imperialism.

Support good organisations like the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN).

Condemn the obscenity of military spending.


Taiwan: US imperialism’s excuse for war with China?


Written by: (Contributed) on 21 August 2020

The arrival of three US B-2 planes at Diego Garcia reveal a Trump administration preoccupation with Island Chain Theory (ICT) and Taiwan; they are desperate to reassert traditional regional hegemonic positions.

The development has also revealed the strategic importance of Australia for US regional foreign policy with sensitive intelligence facilities.

As diplomatic tensions between Washington and Beijing soar, Australia is locked into joint operations with US-led Pentagon planning for real-war scenarios.

In mid-August, an announcement that the US had placed three B-2 planes on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean revealed a further round of diplomatic tensions between the US and China.

The planes have a flight range of 11,000 kms and have operations linked to guidance provided by Global Positioning Systems (GPS); they form part of the 509th Bomb Wing which, in turn, is under the control of the Global Strike Command and can penetrate enemy defences without alerting usual radar facilities. (1)  

The deployment of the three planes has also revealed the importance of Australia for US-led regional planning. Diego Garcia rests on an arc from Pine Gap, central Australia, which also swings through Guam, another sensitive US military and intelligence facility in Micronesia.
Both Diego Garcia and Guam have been developed as bomber bases for regional deployments.

The US-led GPS facilities are also linked to the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, which is also linked to Australian-based facilities.

While the reason provided by the Pentagon for the deployment of the three planes was a military exercise by China around the Zhoushan islands, 550 kms north of Taiwan, US-led intelligence assessments also fear China may be planning to occupy the Pratas/Dongsha islands (above) which at present are administered by Taiwan but claimed to be under Guangdong Province’s sovereignty by China. (2) The Pratas/Dongsha islands, strategically-placed 170 kms off the coast of Hong Kong and 400 kms south of Taiwan, are considered sensitive at the point linking the South China Seas with the wider Pacific, together with their close proximity to Hong Kong.

An added dimension to the development has been an announcement from Taiwan that President Tsai Ing-wen was considering leasing the Pratas/Dongsha islands to the US 'to deploy intelligence-gathering' facilities. (3) In recent times Taiwan has also sent two hundred marines to defend the islands which also have a large air-strip, for rapid deployment.

Moves in Taiwan have also coincided with the Trump administration re-using ICT as their main basis of demarcation within the region. Taiwan has central importance with the theory, of using control of islands to act as buffers, preventing China from ready access to areas of the region. The fact that Japan nationalised 280 island-masses on the basis of 'important national territories' is evidence the theory has also been previously regarded in Pentagon circles as important although not well publicised. (4)

While ICT was largely discredited during the previous Cold War it has served the Pentagon well with lines of defence and security and military planning when dealing with the rise of China. The US now has to deal with a competitor, which has been assessed as a major threat to traditional hegemonic positions as an adversary.

It is, therefore, no coincidence that the US has increased its unofficial support for Taiwan in recent times despite the US having switched diplomatic support to China in 1979 under the One China policy as ratified by the United Nations. They continued, however, to support Taiwan and in recent times the American Institute in Taipei, which functions in all but name as an official embassy, now has a staff of nearly five hundred US diplomats who are on temporary leave from the State Department. (5) It is also interesting to note recent moves to link Taiwan with Japan with 'maritime security, intelligence-sharing' facilities. (6)
An added dimension of Taiwan's strategic position for the US has included the New Southbound Policy of President Tsai Ing-wen, which has portrayed the country as a model for the Indo-Pacific region and functioned as an unofficial form of diplomacy to target countries with strong links with China.

It is, however, unofficial mechanisms and secretive networks used by the Taiwan which require greater scrutiny to establish their influence elsewhere: the so-called World League for Freedom and Democracy (WLFD), a far-right shadowy body is based in Taipei being a central feature of their unofficial diplomacy.

The WLFD was originally established as the World Anti-Communist League (WACL) by Taiwanese leader Chiang Kai-shek although following unfavourable publicity as a major player in the Iran-Contra scandal, underwent name change while retaining the same political and intelligence functions. (7) Direct involvement with sanctions-busting with Iran and arms sales linked to massive drug trafficking in Central America, the US and elsewhere, could hardly be regarded as favourable publicity in the eyes of world leaders and their compliant middle-classes.

The WLFD is also linked to the notorious Political Warfare Department which has promoted Taiwanese foreign policy. As countries switched allegiance to China in the 1970s and 1980s, the organisation, subsequently, became more important. Shadowy Taipei-based figures, for example, developed strong links with right-wing dictatorships in Central and Latin America and elsewhere; the Political Warfare Cadres Academy provided training in 'unconventional warfare' which included use of institutional political parties to promote US and Taiwanese interests and para-military type organisations for clandestine operations. (8)   

WLFD involvement in the Philippines, historically, took place through established political organisations and far-right death squad-type activities. The main conduit for their operations was and remains the Marcos oligarchy, which is now vying once again for political power in forthcoming presidential elections in 2022. (9) Those associated with the Marcos dynasty are largely held responsible for the elimination of over a thousand trade-union and opposition figures in recent years. The large Philippine international diaspora has provided the WLFD with an additional network to promote their nefarious agendas elsewhere.

The WLFD also has strong Australian connections through established Liberal Party figures and far-right organisations. (10) They wield considerable influence in present-day Cold War Australia, while maintaining a low profile.

The deployment of three US B-2 planes on Diego Garcia is the logical outcome of an increasingly hawkish Cold War position by the Trump administration toward China. It has potentially dangerous, if not lethal, real-war scenarios as a main agenda item.

Australia has been drawn into this appalling diplomatic position through a series of sycophantic governments more inclined to kow-tow to 'US interests' and the so-called 'alliance' than the defence and security of our own interests:

                                         We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Stealth bombers sent by US to Diego Garcia, Australian, 14 August 2020.
2.     Ibid. See also “Pratas Island tensions. Could this be war?” 
3.     Taiwan sends marines, Taiwan English News, 24 June 2020.
4.     Japan to nationalise 280 islands, The Age (Melbourne), 10 January 2014.
5.     Beijing keeps a wary eye on new US Taipei outpost, Australian, 18 June 2018.
6.     Ibid.
7.     The Iran-Contra Scandal: The Declassified History, Peter Kornbluh and Malcolm Byrne, (New York, 1993), page xxx.
8.     Inside the League, Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson, (Boston, 1986), pp. 56-9.
9.     Ibid., page 59, page 281.
10.   Ibid., page 59, page 276; and, WACL website: 9 January 1990, which provided coverage of their 1989 conference in Brisbane, Australia attended by John Howard, later Prime Minister, among the 120 delegates representing fifty countries.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Comrade Betty Little/O'Shea: Lifelong Communist


(Above: Betty speaking at May Day march, late 1950s) 

Written by: on 16th August 2020

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) is saddened by the recent passing of our veteran comrade Betty Little/O’Shea. To her family and friends and comrades, we express out deep condolences.

Up to her last breath at the age of 97 Betty devoted a lifetime of service to working people and the struggle for an independent and socialist Australia.  She was born into a working class family and from an early age spent many years organising and supporting struggles in numerous workplaces and communities. 

Betty did not have an easy life. For many years she worked as a machinist in clothing factories along Sydney Road, Brunswick, Melbourne, where she was deeply involved in struggles of clothing factory workers, many of them migrant women.  Betty organised strikes, go-slows and pickets outside the factory gates. She was warm, deeply interested and cared for people.  Her working class roots gave her deep insight and respect for workers’ lives and struggles. All her life Betty immersed herself in mass work and the study of Marxism-Leninism.

For many years Betty managed the Party bookshop Kalkadoon in Melbourne CBD.  She warmly welcomed everyone into the bookshop with a big smile and a handshake. She never imposed herself or her politics on anyone, instead always wanting to listen, learn and guide. 

She expressed the strongest feelings of international solidarity and friendship with the struggles of oppressed peoples and nations across the world and was a spirited defender of the Chinese Revolution and the contribution of Mao Zedong. For many years she was a leading figure in the Australia China Friendship Society, and helped to break down the ruling class propaganda barriers, leading to the opening of extensive trade links and Australian government diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China.

Her close connections to the people, her experience in struggle and her dedication to the great cause of an anti-imperialist socialist revolution placed her on the Central Committee for many years, where she consistently continued to make important ideological and political contributions.  

Betty was a Vice-Chairperson of the CPA-ML and wrote articles for Vanguard on workers’ lives and struggles.

Betty was highly valued and respected by many in the party and in the people’s mass movements.

Betty was proud of her family, her daughters and grandchildren who admired and supported Betty in her work.

A more complete tribute to comrade Betty will be published shortly.  


Class Struggle Continues in Covid-19 Environment

Written by: Ned K. on 16 August 2020 

Each night on the TV News, we hear and see reports of the latest Covid-19 numbers of those testing positive and those losing their lives. 

The TV News reports even show maps of the suburbs most effected, particularly in greater Melbourne. The worst hit areas are working class suburbs where many have had to make a choice between going to work feeling a bit sickly in order to keep their casual or labor hire job or because they and their family live week to week regarding income reserves. 

It is in these suburbs where most Award-reliant workers live. Just when they needed a boost to their income the most, the Fair Work Commission handed down a measly 1.75% pay increase and these increases were delayed increases as far out as February next year for many of the Awards. 

Meanwhile companies like Rio Tinto make millions (or is it billions) now from exporting iron ore (a resource belonging to First Peoples and working Australians) overseas, mainly to China.

Blue collar production and service workers have to keep going to work and have the greatest range of contact with different people, while many managers and CEOs and Board members of companies, senior bureaucrats and politicians are able to try and patch up the capitalist system from home!

Most of the latter group are well versed in the English language and have access to the best Information Technology, whereas may of the workers in the hot-spot Covid-19 suburbs have English as their second language and less up to date information about Covid-19 restrictions in a form they can easily understand and explain to their families and communities.

Then there is the hypocrisy of the big end of town regarding ideology. They promote the ideology of individualism over collectivism, especially since US imperialist culture became the dominant imperialist culture in Australia post Second World War.

Now in Covid-19 times they wonder why some individuals don't stick to the Covid-19 restriction rules? This is a case of the capitalist ideology of individualism before the collective interest coming back to bite them, the capitalists.

Organised Working Class Leading The Way

However the advanced sections of the working class are leading the way in showing the way regarding how to practice collectivism. This is demonstrated by the collective efforts of hospital workers, truck drivers, aged care workers, early childhood workers, doctors, food production workers, farm workers and the list goes on. It is their collective efforts that have prevented outbreaks of Covid-19 like we have seen in the USA or Brazil. It is their collective work that still feeds the population during these hard times.

The collective action of workers has also seen some notable victories. Such as paid pandemic leave for aged care workers and a magnificent struggle and win by Woolworths warehouse workers in Wyong north of Gosford in NSW (see photo above).

These workers have been the "poor cousins" of other Woolworths warehouse distribution workers in the eastern states. Only this time round in the enterprise bargaining cycle they decided enough was enough.

They were not only wanting a decent catch-up wage increase but also greater job security through a casual conversion clause and existing regular casuals being made permanent.

They went on strike for a couple of weeks and then Woolworths locked them out. This did not dampen their spirits. In fact, it broadened the dispute with Woolworths distribution workers taking their struggle to the doors of the company offices in Sydney and a solidarity protest around the country telegraphed to the company to occur on Saturday 8 August.

Just before the day of solidarity action on the 8th, Woolworths caved in and made an offer that was acceptable in principle to the Wyong workers. They returned to work having withstood a company lockout. 

Not surprisingly there was no report of this victory of collective action by workers in the mass media. Nor did Morrison and Co say what a great example of collectiveness these workers showed and that this was what was needed to beat Covid-19. Strange about all this silence! Not really, though, as it shows whose side who is on 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Another corporate mouthpiece calls for attack on our rights

Written by: Nick G. on 14 August 2020

We have already commented on demands by the Minerals Council of Australia and the Australian Industry Group (see below) that the federal government rewrite the industrial relations playbook in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

These two corporate mouthpieces have now been joined by the so-called Centre for Independent Studies, a corporate think-tank whose claim to “independence” is as effective as the emperor’s new clothes in hiding its naked intentions.

The CIS has a 30-member Board comprising representatives of the very biggest end of town. Its Chairman is a former Chief Executive Officer of Macquarie Group Limited, and the names of finance capitalists, their legal attack dogs and foreign multinationals litter the CVs of Board members. Wesfarmers, Caltex, Prudential Finance, Cathay Pacific, QBE Insurance, SingTel, UBS, LJ Hooker, the American Chamber of Commerce, Deutsche Bank and Coca Cola Amatil are some of the better-known guarantors of the “independence” of the CIS.

One of the CIS’s leading opinion-makers is Murdoch columnist Judith Sloan (above). What are her credentials beyond the A$357,000 she was earning in 2018 for her work as contributing economics editor at the Australian?

Sloan was a commissioner on the Australian government's Productivity Commission and the Australian Fair Pay Commission, and she was deputy chair of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and is a former board director of the Lowy Institute. She sat on the boards of several companies, including Mayne Nickless, SGIO Insurance, Santos, Primelife (chair).

Let’s keep all that in mind as we look at the report she has just published on behalf of the CIS.

Her report, released a few days ago, is called Industrial Relations in a Post-COVID World

Although the title implies a forward-looking approach, Sloan’s prescription is for a revival of Howard’s WorkChoices expressed in the double-speak of the pastoralists of the 1890s.  The pastoralists wanted to crush the unions and abolish award wages and sanctified this behind their demand for “freedom of contract” between individual shearers and pastoralists.

She bemoans the fact that the current industrial relations (IR) system is “highly prescriptive and complex, with substantial third party involvement”. The third parties she objects to are the unions, employer organisations and the Fair Work Commission.

She objects, not on behalf of the Board of CIS, but on behalf of the poor worker deprived of the benefits of “freedom of contract”. “There is also a strong collective bias in the system,” she complains, “with only limited rights of individual workers to make their own arrangements.” She continues:

Reform must mean moving away from a one-size-fits all approach and allowing employers and workers to agree to arrangements that suit themselves. Rather than having third parties such as the Fair Work Commission impose often uncommercial dictates on employers, the new approach must confer primacy on the common sense of employers and workers to establish mutually-acceptable arrangements in respect of wages and conditions. Freedom of contract needs to replace paternalistic and costly third-party intervention.

Pity the poor worker, shielded by unions and tribunals, from the common sense he or she shares with such unselfish types as Wesfarmers, Caltex and Co!

Didn’t Carlton United only want a “mutually-acceptable arrangement” with the workers they locked out?  Wasn’t that the benevolence behind ExxonMobil’s lock-out of its workforce at Longford? When Kimberly-Clark sent its production offshore, wasn’t that a “mutually-acceptable arrangement” with the 220 workers it sacked?

On Sloan’s hit-list are the minimum wage, permanent employment (“contain the risk of directly employing workers”),  the referral of IR powers to the Commonwealth, preventing “past regular casual workers (from being) able to claim back-payments for leave entitlements”, and  “matching the duration of greenfields agreements to the duration of projects”.

Her proposed changes to greenfield agreements echo those of the Minerals Council about which we said “Greenfields agreements are those negotiated between an employer and a union before the company has started operations.  At this stage there are no workers on site and the company can strike a deal with a preferred union and exclude unions it dislikes. Greenfields agreements run for four years at which stage the workers are free to negotiate a new agreement, hopefully with improved wages and conditions. By seeking to extend greenfields agreements for the life of the company’s operations, the MCA hopes to lock workers out of any future claims based on increases in their productivity and on the company’s profitability.”

She also wants either “a streamlined and simple award covering small businesses” or “enterprise contracts contemplated by the Productivity Commission, in which small businesses could seek variations to awards based on light-handed oversight.”

“Light-handed oversight” to cut wages and all other rights at work!

No doubt platforms will now be offered to Sloan to spoonfeed us her poisonous remedies to over-regulation and prescription.  

Forewarned is forearmed.  We know what their agenda is. Now we need to gather and unify our own forces for the coming struggles.
See also:
Stop the Minerals Council agenda for attacks on the people and the environment
Time for ‘fresh thinking’ on Industrial Relations says Australian Industry Group. Same old thinking from the capitalists, we say.


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

EDITORIAL: Every Gain Must Be Fought For

 Written by: Editorial Committee on 1 August 2020

Staring down the barrel of the largest capitalist crisis in nearly a century triggered by the COVID-19 health crisis, the Federal government and the capitalist ruling class they represent moved quickly to prop up their system.

The JobSeeker and JobKeeper programs were always stop gap measures designed to stimulate spending, stave off the sudden collapse of the economy, and placate the anger and struggle of the masses of people thrown further into precarity by yet another inevitable crisis of capitalism.

Any notion that the government had discovered “socialism”, or cared about the wellbeing of the people was purely a coincidental alignment of short-term class interests.

Now with the health crisis only getting worse, and the economic crisis only showing signs of deepening, the government has announced the scaling back of its welfare packages and is pushing for the reopening of the economy, the people be damned! They chant their neoliberal mantra that “the best form of welfare is a job”, but have no solution to the reality of a real unemployment rate nearing 20 percent, and 13 unemployed people for every job advertised.

We should have no illusions in the government or the bosses that they will willingly look after our wellbeing. Every gain, every benefit, every measure that serves the peoples’ needs must be fought for and won from the hands of the ruling class. They will never give it up for free.

It is not class collaboration, but class struggle; not begging, but the strength of the people organised that will force the demands of the people to be met.

The first steps towards that crucial independent working class mass movement are being made. Work must be done to unite the vast sections of the people, employed and unemployed, in a common struggle for genuine change that serves the interests of our class.

We should have no doubt that such change is possible – if only we dare to struggle and dare to win!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

AUSMIN Summit 2020: Between the lines of official media releases

Written by: (Contributed) on 7 August 2020

The 2020 Australia-US Ministerial Summit (AUSMIN) in Washington was dominated by an agenda of China-based issues and considerations and took place behind closed doors. Official media releases from the high-level diplomatic meetings were carefully worded.

Some highly significant information was, nevertheless, divulged about the so-called alliance between the US and Australia and the escalation of US-led militarism sweeping the Indo-Pacific region.

The annual 2020 AUSMIN summit in late July with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and their US counterparts, Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper, was billed as the 'most important AUSMIN meeting yet', in the dying months of the Trump administration. (1) The stakes for the White House administration, therefore, were very high.

The US has long relied upon Australia as a major regional hub for operations in the broadened Indo-Pacific region. It was no surprise, therefore, to find the initial series of meetings led to a joint press conference and media release mid-way through proceedings. Later media releases continued to play down the US-led nature of the talks, although Pentagon military planning clearly rested upon the compliance of Australia for the maintenance of traditional hegemonic positions.

Increased role for Darwin in US miitary planning

Information about the plan to place Darwin at the centre of future military strategy together with 'a new bi-lateral team to co-ordinate decisions on joint operations and deployment of hardware and personnel across the Indo-Pacific', left little to the imagination. (2) Coverage that 'this AUSMIN was dominated by China', likewise, clearly showed how the US regard competition to their traditional regional position. (3)      

In more recent times US-led military upgrades to existing facilities have revealed how defence budgets have already established Darwin as a support centre for operations. Intelligence facilities, likewise, on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and Guam in Micronesia, have been upgraded to function as operational hubs. Both intelligence facilities exist on an arc from Pine Gap, revealing the importance of Australia for US regional military planning. Elsewhere across the Indo-Pacific region smaller military facilities hosted by various governments have been re-opened to operate at a clandestine level, as links to the main US-led hubs for defence and security provision in a spider-web of matrix-type formations. (4) They form part of the highly secret Pyramider orbiting satellite system at Pine Gap which provides the US intelligence services with secure communication with agents using transmission and reception devices in what are regarded as 'denied areas'. (5)

Information from the recent AUSMIN summit also revealed:  

*the US intend to escalate their wave of militarism across the region. It was noted, for example, 'a possible expansion of annual joint training with US marines in Darwin', was linked to the establishment of 'a new force posture working group that will co-ordinate the nation's Indo-Pacific military planning'; (6)

*No reference was provided about the composition of the working group and how it fitted into existing defence organisational structures, including the recently Pentagon-established China Strategy Group. (7)

Further information about continual all-year round military deployments of US marines through facilities in Darwin was also announced together with a plan to 'include other friendly nations to bolster regional relationships and capabilities'. (8) No US allies were, however, identified.

Co-operation measures were also announced which included defence industry links with 'greater maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade of US military platforms and components in Australia'. (9) No specific industries or their locations were noted.  

Plans to establish a huge US commercial fuel storage facility in Darwin with a budget of $86.4 million would tend to reveal the harbour being used by US vessels for re-fuelling on regional deployments, and the strategic significance of the port facilities in the Northern Territories as a support centre.

Joke of the year: "We make our own decisisons...."

Partly to acknowledge growing concerns that Australia is too subservient towards the US and its aggressive stance towards China, attempts were made to “show that we made our own decisions in our own interests”.  Thus, the Asia Pacific Defence Reporter stated:

The Australian side however, pushed back against US efforts to force Australia to conduct assertive freedom-of-navigation exercises in the South China Sea. Australia’s Reynolds told reporters such exercises were “subject of discussion” but that “our approach remains consistent, we will continue to transit through the region in accordance with international law”. Payne went a step further and said while Australia had much in common with the US, “we make our decisions, our own judgements in the Australian national interest and about upholding our security, our prosperity and our values.”

In the same vein, toward the end of the 2020 AUSMIN summit an official diplomatic statement from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison noted that 'Australia makes its decisions based on our own national interests and our own timings'. (10) US ambassador to Australia, A.B. Culvahouse, likewise, replied, extending diplomatic niceties and double-talk, with the statement that he 'applauded Australia's robust and ongoing leadership'. (11) When people conduct their professional lives in such a manner, one can but wonder about codes of conduct in private life. Is duplicity ever an ethical consideration for such people?

The 2020 AUSMIN summit quietly closed; the Australian delegation had been briefed and informed of their duties and responsibilities toward the US war-machine.

Finer, more detailed information about the present nature of US-led military planning was not forthcoming, although from the little available with official media releases:
                                          We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Australia loath to sail too close to the wind, Australian, 29 July 2020.
2.     Secret defence pact to counter China, Australian, 30 July 2020.
3.     Good week's work brings the U.S. closer to us, Australian, 30 July 2020.
4.     See: US eyes return to south-east Asian bases, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 29 June 2014; and, US signs defence deal in Asia, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 2 May 2014; and, Tightening Philippine military involvement with the US, The Philippine Star, 5 May 2018.
5.     The Secrets of Pine Gap, William Pinwill, Australian Penthouse, October 1979, page 68.
6.     Secret defence pact, Australian, op.cit., 30 July 2020.
7.     See – China now biggest military threat: US., Australian, 10 July 2020.
8.     Secret defence pact, Australian, op.cit., 30 July 2020.
9.     Ibid.
10.   Australian, op.cit., 29 July 2020.
11.   Send warships to South China Seas, PM told, Australian, 27 July 2020.