Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Book Review: Dead in the Water


Written by: Nick G. on 25 February 2021

Richard Beasley’s new book’s cover describes it as a “very angry book” about the death of the Murray-Darling Basin.

In fact Beasley, who was Senior Council assisting the SA government’s 2018 Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission, prefers to say that he was not angry, but livid, when writing the book. I suspect “livid” is defined by the mathematical formula “livid = (fury x anger)²” if his scathing denunciations of fraud, incompetence and unlawfulness are anything to go by. 

The book is a compelling read and explains in great clarity why the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is unlawful and why this is responsible for our greatest environmental catastrophe.
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is charged with implementing the law contained within the Water Act (2007) passed by the Australian parliament during the last term of the Howard Government. 
The Water Act was Howard’s response to the Millenium Drought and sought to overcome the Constitutional prohibition on the national government having any responsibility for the nation’s waters. Beasley praises him for this, adding that “…this book is not an analysis of what he can be blamed for. I have a strict word limit.” 
What Howard hoped to achieve, but didn’t, was the nationalisation of the waters of the Murray-Darling Basin so that the government’s obligations under a number of international treaties relating mainly to wetlands and migratory birds could be implemented. 
Instead, state powers over water were referred to the Commonwealth in a “cooperative federalism” arrangement that still leaves states, through threats to withdraw, with real power over water.
The MDBA is the body through which the four states sharing the Basin make up the rules by which they circumvent their legal obligations under the Water Act. Those obligations are to establish the minimum required level of water in the system that would result in environmental sustainability, and to prioritise that over social and economic consumptive uses.
Scientists have determined that the Basin environment requires between 3900 and 7600 gigalitres (GLs) per annum. Through their unlawful inclusion of socio-economic factors alongside those of the environment, the MDBA has reduced this to 2750 GL, and has since brought this down through other frauds to 2100 GL.
The winners are what Tolarno Station grazier Rob McBride calls the 4Cs (cotton, China, corporates and corruption). They are connected in one way or another with the Northern irrigators and the foreign and local financial speculators who spin the wheels on the water trading tables. They are served, in turn, by the arrogant, anti-science and anti-people members of the National Party.
In a sign that things won’t get any better, Scummo has just appointed former cop and NSW Nationals leader Troy Grant, a former state MP for Dubbo and deputy premier of NSW, as Interim Inspector-General of Water Compliance of the MDBA. The Undertaker is in charge of the Old Rivers’ Home! Don’t forget that as Deputy Premier of NSW, Mr Grant threatened seven years’ jail for farmers and others disrupting any mining or gas related activity. 
Beasley covers lots of contentious ground, such as why a focus on postcodes was used to settle on the unlawful 2750 GL environmentally sustainable level of take, why a million or more fish had to die in the Barka/Darling, and the economic imperatives behind the deliberate destruction of the Menindee Lakes.
He does not deal, except in passing, with the water market (“an entirely different kettle of fuck-up”). 
He does, however, praise the validity of the original “Aboriginal Basin Plan” as enunciated before the Royal Commission by the late Ngarrindjerri elder Tom Trevorrow: “Don’t be greedy. Don’t take any more than you need to, and respect everything around you.”
With the Productivity Commission belatedly agreeing that First Peoples’ cultural needs for water be included in a revised National Water Initiative, Ngarrindjerri and other First Peoples’ wisdoms may yet help us save the Murray-Darling Basin.
Richard Beasley, Dead in the Water: a very angry book about our greatest environmental catastrophe…the death of the Murray-Darling Basin, Allen & Unwin, 2021, rrp $29.99 or free to be borrowed at your local library.
To keep up with the fight against the 4Cs, check out these fb pages regularly:

Monday, February 22, 2021

Fight new attacks on workers' rights!

 Written by: Danny O. on 22 February 2021

In the final sitting days of federal parliament last year, the Morrison LNP government tabled two new bills aimed at attacking workers’ rights and their unions.

The first was the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Withdrawal from Amalgamations) Bill 2020. It removed legal barriers to amalgamated unions demerging after the five-year cooling off period had passed. While the law itself appears rather innocuous, giving union members the democratic right to vote to demerge if they wish – though final decision rests with the Fair Work Commission (FWC) – its real aim is to split the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU), to isolate the more militant Construction and Maritime divisions and clear the way for further targeted attacks on the strongest sectors of the union movement.

For the past 18 months the government had failed to get the necessary support for its nuclear strike option targeting the more militant Construction Division in the form of the Ensuring Integrity Bill. Fear of widespread fallout hitting all unions meant the union movement was, even if somewhat reluctantly, united in opposition to the bill. By contrast, this new legislation was a well-placed surgical strike.

Drawn up in collusion by the federal government and disgruntled right-wing Labor Party aligned officials from the Mining and Forestry/Manufacturing divisions following two years of well publicised infighting in the CFMMEU, it took less than 24-hours from when it was introduced for both houses of parliament to pass the bill into law with the full support of both the government and the opposition Labor Party. The silence from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and many other unions was deafening.

Whatever the internal tensions that exist between the official leadership of the various divisions and branches in the CFMMEU, no solution that really benefits the interests of the union’s members and the broader working class can come from union officials running and collaborating with the rabid anti-union and anti-worker government of the ruling class.   

The move to demerge, far from being an initiative of the rank and file for more democratic control of their union – something that all class conscious workers would support – is rather a cynical move concocted by union bureaucrats which serves the long-term interests of the bosses dividing and weakening the organised workers’ movement.   

The fate of the unity of the amalgamated CFMMEU now lies in the hands of the rank and file members of the Mining and Energy Division who are expected to vote on the future of the division in the near future. If they choose to leave, the Forestry/Manufacturing division is likely to follow close behind.

Don’t get hit by the Bus

The second piece of legislation is the Fair Work Act (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 – commonly being referred to as the federal government’s Industrial Relations Omnibus Bill. Although its name suggests that these reforms have been brought together to deal with the economic downturn connected to the ongoing global pandemic, the proposed changes in the bill have been on the wish list of big business for a long time before the pandemic began.

On the whole, the reforms have been designed to do one thing – increase profit for business at the expense of workers’ pay and conditions. In particular, many of the proposed changes target casual workers, workers in insecure and low paid work, and the unorganised.

There’s no denying that these attacks on workers’ rights are drastic and severe. Yet it is also not the root and branch shake up of the entire industrial relations system that some in the boss class were hoping the government would push for under the cover of the pandemic.

With a federal election looming in the not-too-distant future, Morrison has made clear that IR reform is not going to be the hill which his government dies on. Nor are the crossbench senators that the government needs on side to pass the legislation likely to want to be seen attacking working people after they have already made so many sacrifices during the pandemic. Better to claw away whatever conditions they can get away with now, and try for more later.

Indeed, the government has already announced that they are dropping one of the more blatant attacks of the bill after crossbench senators said there was no way they would support it. The proposal would have allowed employers ‘affected by the pandemic’ to undercut the legal minimum conditions of Industry Awards by creating Enterprise Agreements that didn’t have to meet the requirements of the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) in the Fair Work Act. It’s the kind of outright assault on workers’ conditions reminiscent of the Howard government’s WorkChoices, a connotation Morrison’s government is hoping to avoid. 

Just how much the dropping of the BOOT changes placates the crossbenchers remains to be seen, though it’s likely to give ground to the government to argue for the passage of the rest of their ‘modest’ attacks.

Of course, the remaining attacks are anything but modest. Among them are proposals that:

* undermine the FWC’s ability to check if workers are better off under new agreements and allow bosses the chance to slip through dodgy agreements

*overturn a recent Federal Court decision that allowed casual workers entitlements comparable to non-casuals if they worked a regular roster over a long period of time

*cut overtime penalty rates for part-timers in effect making part-timers into casuals but without casual loading

*extend the duration of greenfields agreements for major construction projects from four to eight years effectively locking workers and unions out from negotiating better pay and conditions during the life of the project

And to help ram these attacks through, the government has tied it all up in a neat ribbon of deception with a toothless federal anti-wage theft provision that undermines more rigorous recent state laws passed in Victoria and Queensland.

Independent working class agenda – not class collaboration!

Whatever shape the final bill takes when it’s voted on in the coming months it must be fought. So far, the official union movement’s response to these new attacks has been nothing short of underwhelming, relying on not much more than lobbying of the crossbench senators begging them not to pass the Omnibus Bill.

For five months the ACTU was party to round table talks with big business lobbies and the government about IR reform. During that time there was not a whimper about the need for workers to get organised and prepared to fight. The ACTU were completely side swiped when the draft bill was tabled. Did the they seriously think they could protect workers’ rights by being “partners” with big business? If ACTU secretary Sally McManus’ speech at the National Press Club in early December before the announcement of the Omnibus Bill is anything to go by, she certainly did: “The union movement has had its national role returned to where it should always have been – as a widely accepted part of Australia’s civil society, and a trusted social partner for Governments and business.”

This outright class collaborationism and compromise is reminiscent of the major sell-out of the Accord and exactly how the trade union movement has gotten to its weakest point in decades. It’s the kind of approach to class struggle that’s as dangerous as the attacks coming from big business.

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.

As workers, we need our own demands, our own priorities, and our own organisations to take up the fight and be prepared to organise and mobilise. We need an independent working class agenda and movement that starts from an understanding that as workers our interests are not the same as the interests of the capitalist ruling class and their institutions of class rule, like parliament and the courts. An independent working class agenda would not subordinate itself to the electoral interests of parliamentary parties, nor would it line itself up with the interests of businesses to “keep the economy going”.

Real working class leadership will not come from the ACTU and class collaborationist union officials. It will come from rank and file organising in work places often in opposition to union officials who seek to compromise unnecessarily. It will come from union delegates and organisers with unyielding commitment to class struggle politics. The role of the Communist Party, as a strong, disciplined organisation of the working class is central to bringing together these committed activists to co-ordinate, analyse, strategize, and push forward the struggle for an independent working class movement.

Demands will change with different workplaces and communities, but the common thread must be the working class taking independent action to build its capacity to fight as a class in its own class interests. It will require mass, militant, and sometimes illegal, action by large sections of workers – the victories of our class have always come from waves of militant struggle on the jobs, in communities and in the streets.

None of it is easy. But it is the only way forward if the union movement is to turn itself around and really fight back the constant attacks from big business and their puppets in government.


Friday, February 19, 2021

Papua New Guinea amid US-China rivalry


Written by: (Contributed) on 20 February 2021

Concerns, raised by the Morrison Coalition government in Canberra, about China's increased involvement in Papua New Guinea have raised two considerations:
the importance of PNG as a strategic country and neo-colonial partner in the South Pacific, closely linked to the military and security planning of the northern approaches to Australia, and its national sovereignty;
the wider implications of the US and allies to deal with China in the Indo-Pacific region.

During the past year three large-scale economic development projects sponsored by China in PNG have raised serious concerns from the Morrison Coalition government. The first, a $39 billion New Daru City with a major sea-port, industrial park and free trade zone on the southern coast of PNG, was met with scepticism from Canberra. (1) The second, a $200 million fisheries industrial park in PNG's Western Province was met with a similar response. (2) The third, a massive $2.6 billion hydro-electric plant for power generation met with an official diplomatic response from Canberra that 'PNG is pursuing the project against the wishes of the Australian government'. (3)

All three projects present a direct challenge to the neo-colonial relations which have marked relations between PNG and Australia for generations. Despite achieving independence during the mid-1970s, PNG has never really achieved sovereign control of their massive mineral deposits which have been pillaged and plundered largely by Australian-registered mining companies. While shareholders have received huge dividends, life for the vast majority of the people of PNG remains based in subsistence agriculture and poverty.

Life expectancy in the country of just under nine million population remains at 64 years, while over a third exist below the poverty line. Infant mortality rates remain at nearly 39 deaths per thousand live births. Educational opportunities are extremely limited for most of the population, with less than two-thirds of the adult population being literate.

Australia, historically, has allocated a large part of its aid budget to PNG, although with few tangible success stories. It has been noted PNG already owes Australia $558 million in previously allocated 'aid' budgets which have failed to facilitate meaningful economic development. The present Marape government in Port Moresby is also requesting a further $400 million to 'shore up the country's battered finances'. (4)  

Part of a previous Australian aid allocation to PNG included the provision of $2.9 million to each of the country's 111 M.P.s to provide 'local service improvements'; Australian aid budgets are usually concerned with maintaining compliance from decision-makers in PNG, to safeguard existing neo-colonial relations. (5) It should be noted local services, for a large section of PNG’s population, remain virtually non-existent.

Australian diplomacy toward PNG has tended to be big on ideas with little, if anything, in meaningful and practical outcome. At the 2018 APEC summit in Port Moresby, for example, Australia, together with the US, Japan and New Zealand, promised to begin electrification of the country and provide internet services to at least 70 per cent of the population. To date, however, the only initiative has been the announcement of a $250 million solar power project, the work on which has not even commenced. Whole areas of the country remain without electric power, which effectively hampers any economic development and hinders local services.

In recent years, however, China's increased involvement in PNG has dislodged some of the neo-colonial relations, raising defence and security considerations in Canberra. The Australian Defence Forces have always retained a strong foothold inside their PNG counterpart’s military organisation; the fact Australia followed a US-led initiative to re-develop the Lombrum base on Manus Island is evidence of the close working relations, allegedly designed to provide a buffer against military incursions from the north into Australian sovereignty, but really to assist with US and Australian projections of military force into the region to the north.

Elsewhere, in the vast Indo-Pacific region, US-led forces have acknowledged a changing balance of forces.

The Pentagon preoccupation with Island Chain Theory, used to block access to areas of the region considered sensitive, uses the main first chain from southern Japan, through the Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan, the Philippines together with a link to Vietnam; China has already broken through the chain and established a presence in Oceania. (6)

The recent disclosures from US joint military chiefs’ chairman Mark Milley that 'Uncle Sam had lost assured command of the Western Pacific' and that 'China was now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the US', for example, has revealed the extent of the changing balance of regional forces away from traditional US-led hegemonic positions. (7)

The US clearly fears a similar scenario occurring in the South Pacific; the Pentagon has therefore thrust greater responsibilities upon the Morrison Coalition government in Canberra to deal with the perceived problem. The fact the development has coincided with an official Pentagon media release stating a nuclear war with China has 'become a very real possibility' has revealed just how far diplomatic tensions have soared in recent years. (8)

With developments such as these taking place we need an independent foreign policy!

1.     PM sceptical of PNG city plan, The Weekend Australian, 6-7 February 2021.
2.     China dangles $39 bn carrot to build city on our doorstep, Australian, 5 February 2021.
3.     Warnings over PNG's Chinese hydro project, The Weekend Australian, 13-14 February 2021.
4.     Ibid.
5.     Ibid.
6.     Defend the First Island Chain, US Naval Institute, April 2014.
7.     US losing control of Pacific to Beijing, The Weekend Australian, 5-6 December 2020.
8.     Nuclear war real possibility: US chief, Australian, 5 February 2021.  

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Micro-chips and the new Cold War

 Written by: (Contributed) on 17 February 2021

The increased significance of the micro-chip industry in many areas of manufacturing has created an industry dominated by hard competition. With the US falling behind in the competition and the main micro-chip producers based in Asia, the present US-led Cold War targeting China has had far-reaching implications for the entire industry.

Recent problems with Intel and the removal of one its main corporate leaders have reduced the number of micro-chip producers down to only two: Samsung in South Korea (ROK) and TSMC in Taiwan. Both places are strategically-placed in Asia with problematic diplomatic relations with the US. The fact there were over 25 micro-chip producers only twenty years ago has revealed the intense competition inside the industry, which is now responsible for producing a trillion chips a year with $583.2 bn of annual sales. (1)

Most electronic devices use increasing numbers of micro-chips and modern electric cars use over 3,000 for each vehicle.

The US, however, has been falling behind with their research and development of micro-chips for some years, while China has been striving to achieve self-sufficiency.

Additional problems to the intense competition to continually update micro-chip production has included vital supply-chains and interruptions caused by logistics and transportation with the COVID-19 pandemic.

A further additional problem which has not been particularly well-publicised has been the US-led Cold War embargo imposed on China, which has become their major diplomatic offensive in the Indo-Pacific region. US-led regional diplomacy has created a situation whereby an Australian defence update in 2020 stated that 'Australia's security environment is increasingly characterised by grey-zone competition; state behaviour that is aggressive but often covert, or at least deniable, and falls short of acts of war'. (2)
Recent US-led diplomatic activity in the region, furthermore, has revealed just how far the balance of forces has already swung away from traditional hegemonic positions with a commission formed by Congress to assess the situation, finding that the 'US is no longer clearly superior … with … implications for American interests and American security … being … severe'. (3) Elsewhere, a recent statement from General Mark Milley, chairman of the US joint military chiefs, provided the military assessment that 'Uncle Sam had lost assured command of the Western Pacific seas to its great power rival'. (4)

Problems for the US were, furthermore, exacerbated by the incompetence and buffoonery of the Trump administration which attempted to establish an anti-China alliance across the region. It led to a diplomatic position in which 'not many allies participated'. (5)

Such developments have far-reaching implications for micro-chip production.

Taiwan already exists in a tense diplomatic position with China; moves by the presidential administration of Tsai Ing-wen to consider full independence recently led to an Australian intelligence assessment warning Canberra that China was 'highly likely to attempt to take over Taiwan using all means short of war as early as 2024'. (6)

The fact the American Institute in Taiwan has nearly five hundred US diplomatic personnel on temporary leave from the State Department has revealed the significance and importance the US attach to their unofficial diplomatic relations with the entity. (7)

Such assessments have already sent shock-waves into the heartlands of US-led defence and security which has been increasingly worried about the growing imbalance across the Taiwan Straits for over a decade; the loss of Taiwan to control by China would remove an estimated fifth of all micro-chip manufacturing together with as much as half of 'cutting-edge capacity' from ready access by the US. (8) It would also devastate the manufacturing bases of countries allied with the US, such as Australia.

It is, nevertheless, the ROK dimension to the problem which has caused the US further serious considerations. The ROK was always considered one of the most loyal regional allies of the US, and still hosts nearly 30,000 US military personnel for rapid deployment with the Defence of Japan doctrine. In recent times, however, favourable and mutually beneficial trade with China has drawn the country closer to Beijing and with the development, a more confident foreign policy marked by an increased pride in their own sovereignty. They, no longer, automatically accept US dictat without question:

                                          Trade Relations China – South Korea

                                     Exports – ROK to China – 1995 - $9.33 bn.  
                                                                                2018 - $160 bn.,

                         which signify an annual increase of 13.1 per cent over 23 years;
                           Exports – China to ROK – 1995 - $7.34 bn.  
                                                                                 2018 – 107 bn.,

                         which signify an annual increase of 12.4 per cent over 23 years. (9)
Two further factors have to also be placed into the equation: despite a US-led embargo on China, the country is still able to import an estimated $300 bn worth of micro-chips each year; the annual trade between the ROK and China during 2018, included over a quarter of the total being officially referred to as integrated circuits. (10)

These developments have far-reaching implications for countries such as Australia which has, historically, remained a close ally of the US; Australia clearly runs the risk of being drawn closer to traditional US-led positions, even if they are not in our interest and subsequent interruption to supply-chains for micro-chips may well cause serious problems for manufacturing industries employing hundreds of thousands of workers:
                                         We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Chips the next economic flashpoint as costs rise and the US battles to contain China, Australian, 25 January 2021.
2.     We can't combat China's 'grey zone' war while polarised, Australian, 20 January 2021.
3.     Study: US no longer dominant power in the Pacific, Paul D. Shinkman, Information Clearing House, 22 August 2019.
4.     US losing control of Pacific to Beijing, The Weekend Australian, 5-6 December 2020.
5.     Chinese foreign minister visits South Korea, The Diplomat, 27 November 2020.
6.     Takeover of Taiwan by China 'likely', Australian, 9 February 2021.
7.     Beijing keeps a wary eye on new US Taipei post, Australian, 18 June 2018.
8.      U.S. seeks new Asia defences, The Wall Street Journal, 24-26 August 2012: and, Australian, op.cit., 25 January 2021.
9.     Website: OEC (Observatory of Economic Complexity), China/South Korea.
10.   Australian, op.cit., 25 January 2021; and, OEC, op.cit. China/South Korea.


Sunday, February 14, 2021

Altona Refinery workers: Victims of the de-industrialisation of Australia

 Written by: Bill F. on 13 February 2021

The announced sudden closure of the Altona Refinery by ExxonMobil has hit the western suburbs of Melbourne very hard, with 350 jobs to go later in the year. There are wide national ramifications for energy security.

To quote Tim Kennedy, National Secretary United Workers Union, “There is nothing inevitable about the destruction of secure and decent jobs. The Altona refinery workers are highly skilled and valued by their employer. However our domestic labour market has been hollowed out so extensively that these workers will likely not have equivalent jobs to move into once the site closes. This is a failure of vision. If we want to be a country that can ensure a secure and decent job for everyone who wants one, the Federal Government needs to invest in just transition and quality jobs of the future.

“For decades workers have been told they must skill-up for the future or be left behind. That’s exactly what these workers did. Yet this Government has failed to provide opportunities that match these skills. The closure of the Altona site, without any plan to repurpose these workers’ skills for future industries, is a terrible missed opportunity.”  

Countless others in nearby foreign owned chemical industries such as Qenos, BASF, and Dow Chemical, which use product from the refinery, are also threatened. And local transport industry workers’ jobs are suddenly less secure.

For the billionaire bosses of ExxonMobil, the rate of profit from Altona Refinery was just not sufficient. This clique of unknown people in another country will have planned their announcement months ago, if not years, with no consideration whatsoever for the impact it would have in Australia. 

Ten years ago there were seven oil refineries in Australia, now only the Viva Energy plant in Victoria (Geelong) and the Ampol plant in Queensland (Lytton) will continue for a while, and may eventually become storage depots for imported refined fuels. The Viva plant also has tentative plans to expand into a gas export hub to compete with US monopoly Chevron in exporting liquefied natural gas.

ExxonMobil has been making huge profits from the oil and gas fields in Bass Strait, while slashing into workers’ wages and conditions. ( See Longford workers still standing up and fighting back ) Most of this crude oil is shipped to more profitable refineries in Singapore with cheaper labour and lower environmental standards, and then comes back to Australia at high cost to customers. 

The Morrison government is quite relaxed about this and has even been negotiating to store Australia’s reserves of refined fuel at depots in the United States. So much for energy security, self-reliance and national independence! And it won’t be Australian crewed ships bringing the fuels here!    

Australia is being de-industrialised and is becoming increasingly dependent on imports. For workers this means less skills, less training, lower wages, insecure casual jobs, falling standards of safety and poor working conditions.

The anarchy of capitalism
It well demonstrates the anarchy of capitalism, where production is carried out solely for profit rather than to meet the needs of people. So-called “market forces” dictate what is produced, not rational planning. When profit cannot be sustained and improved, capital is withdrawn, and the creators of the wealth, the workers, are thrown into unemployment. 

Capitalism has evolved from its harsh beginnings in primitive workshops, mines and factories. Ruthless competition has seen the domination of whole economies and even countries by monopoly companies, and later, by global corporations controlled by a handful of super-rich shareholders. Sure, many small and middle capitalists operate as assemblers and providers, producing commodities and services which return lower levels of profit. Their continued existence is not secure, often at the mercy of the banks and the larger monopolies.

So, when we talk of capitalism in today’s world, we really mean the domination of these large corporate monopolies entangled with finance capital and supported to varying degrees by collaborating governments. This is the core of modern capitalism today – what Lenin called “Imperialism – the highest stage of capitalism”.

US imperialism is the main bastion and standard-bearer for modern imperialism, with more than 800 military bases and outposts scattered across the world, nuclear armed ships, submarines and planes on permanent patrol, all to “protect American interests” in places where profits can be made (especially oil, minerals, weapon sales) and collaborating politicians enlisted.

Australia is one such place, host to growing numbers of US Marines and Air Force looking to defend US interests here, which amount to 25% of all foreign investment. Our subservient government grants all sorts of tax concessions, and the profits derived from Australian workers are sent back to the USA, with often minimal or no tax at all.

The domination of Australia by US imperialism is reinforced and propagated by the Murdoch media, and by US agents in the Institute of Public Affairs, the Australia American Leadership Dialogue, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and the monopoly-heavies in the Business Council of Australia.

The ‘globalisation’ agenda of US imperialism has seen manufacturing jobs and skills in Australia transferred to low wage countries. Industries that can’t compete just disappear, such as the clothing and footwear industry and domestic appliance manufacturing. Other industries are reduced to assembling imported products and providing parts, such as the car industry.

The security of socialism
In contrast to the insecurity and haphazard boom and bust of capitalism, a socialist economy is built on consultation and planning which prioritises the needs of the people, providing a measured balance of industries, agriculture, technical and scientific, trades and skills to ensure that all working people have secure and satisfying jobs. While capitalism alienates workers from their work, (and indeed the products of their work), socialism empowers workers to have control over their work and their lives, to contribute their ideas and enthusiasm to benefit the workplace and the society.

As US imperialism staggers under its crises of overproduction, endless war, obscene inequality and political decay, Australian workers can look ahead to more frequent and intense struggles to break free from US economic, political and military domination. Only then can we build a secure and decent socialist future.


Sunday, February 7, 2021

Britain to lend US a hand in countering China

 Written by: (Contributed) on 7 February 2021

Moves, by the Johnson government in Britain, to forge stronger diplomatic relations with US-led allies in the Indo-Pacific are not merely designed to seek higher returns for foreign policy dividends. They are an example of the UK seeking to strengthen their own diplomatic alliance with the US; the latter, in recent times, has experienced a dramatic reduction in traditional hegemonic regional positions at the hands of China, which has become a major competitor.

The UK, therefore, are seeking to assist the US to reassert their traditional positions by using the Commonwealth and other regional bodies to achieve objectives. The moves provide a further example of the US-led escalation of diplomatic tensions across the Indo-Pacific.

In early February, it was announced that the Johnson government were considering an application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) or TPP-11 regional grouping. At first glance this might appear rather strange; the UK has only recently voted to leave the European Union (EU), the members of which were its nearest economic neighbours for decades. The CPTPP is a regional free-trade economic body consisting of eleven Pacific Rim countries including Australia together with others in the Americas, including Chile, Peru and Mexico.

The timing of the announcement is also noteworthy; moves to initially establish the original TPP took place under the Obama administration and were subsequently discontinued by the Trump administration. The close nature of UK-US diplomatic relations can be easily established following the demise of the one-term Trump administration; once departed, there were no obstacles for the UK to consider joining the CPTPP.

The official media release noted the UK were expected to begin negotiations for membership of the exclusive organisation this year. (1) It also noted the CPTPP had been established 'to remove trade barriers among the eleven nations representing nearly 500 million consumers in the Asia-Pacific region in a bid to counter China's growing economic influence'. (2)

It is, therefore, not particularly surprising to also find the Johnson government is also considering joining the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), a regional defence and security organisation consisting of the US, Australia, Japan and India. The QSD organisation grew out of previous US-led regional defence and security organisation in an attempt to establish more effective diplomatic posturing for challenging China (3)

The moves, furthermore, also included diplomatic initiatives by the Johnson government to discuss formalising an 'expanded so-called D10 group of democracies, which is also aimed at countering China'. (4)

What has shaken US-led regional diplomacy has been the rapid nature of China's ascendency, from a developing country to a major player in a few decades. Diplomatic initiatives, from Beijing in recent years, have been noted to have secured their access to eighty per cent of Pacific exclusive economic zones. (5) Fears exist for the Pentagon that China has already successfully broken Island Chain Theory, securing access into the main part of Oceania.

The UK has also been part of the Indo-Pacific region although it has tended to keep a relatively low-profile and rely upon major Commonwealth countries such as Australia and New Zealand. The 54-member country British Commonwealth, however, has nineteen members in the Asia-Pacific region, with their diplomatic representatives and Commissioners having direct access to the Privy Council, an exclusive private advisory body for the head of realm, who is now Prince Charles. The secretive system is, in essence, MI6, the British overseas intelligence service, and an important player across the Indo-Pacific region behind the scenes. (6) It is also an appendage to the Five Eyes intelligence system through long-standing and secure tentacles into strategically-placed countries.  

In recent times the US-led regional allies have been concerned at the unfavourable publicity attached to traditional US diplomacy, particularly during the Trump administration. It has led one regional political leader, Singapore's PM Lee Hsien Loong, to suggest the fated America First policy associated with the Trump administration 'will have long-term repercussions in Asia that may never be reversed'. (7) With China already established as a major regional player, it was furthermore noted, 'not very many countries would like to join basically a coalition against those who have been excluded, chief of whom will be China'. (8)

Against this backcloth of diplomatic practicalities the announcement that planning was already underway for President Biden to attend a function at Buckingham Palace in June, prior to the G7 meeting, and it will include the 'Queen's soft power reception', has left little to the imagination; moves are afoot for the UK to formally step-up their regional diplomatic position in the Indo-Pacific. (9)

The US have brought influence to bear upon the UK to take a more decisive position, on their behalf. And, as already seen, the subservient Johnson government, ever obsequious and sycophantic, have jumped at the opportunity. The fact the Pentagon has begun to remove and dismiss a large number of members of 42 prominent boards and committees who had been placed in positions of authority by the previous Trump administration is evidence, in itself, that the present UK government has been freed from the US foreign policy directives of the 2016-20 period. (10) Members of the secretive boards and committees will be replaced by others, with the changing of the guard, who are closer to the Biden administration.   

The forthcoming US-led pomp and ceremony of the Rule Britannia mentality, unfortunately, will have far-reaching implications for Australia:
                                          We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Britain wants to join ranks of TPP-11, Australian, 1 February 2021.

2.     Ibid.

3.     The reasons behind Washington's push for GSOMIA., Hankyoreh., 12 November 2019.

4.     Australian, 1 February 2021.

5.     China now controls 80 per cent of the Pacific EEZ., Rieko Hayakawa and Jennifer L. Anson, 2020.

6.     MI6., Stephen Dorril, (London, 2000), contains numerous references to the clandestine nature of the British intelligence system and their use of traditional class and state power to obscure the nature of their business.

7.     Asia's perceptions of America may never recover: Lee, Australian, 18 November 2020.

8.     Ibid, and, Strategic Analysis Paper/s, Future Directions International: The South-West Pacific and Sino-US Competition, 23 July 2019, US Strategic Objectives in the South Pacific Challenged by Sino-US Competition, 10 October 2019, China's Strategic Objectives and Ambitions in the South-West Pacific, 31 October 2019.
9.     The Queen reportedly plans to host President Biden at Buckingham Palace in June, The Business Insider, 1 February 2021.

10.   Pentagon clears out advisors, Australian, 4 February 2021.

Chinatown Community Rallies Against Wage Theft

 Written by: Ned K. on 7 February 2021

A violent attack by a manager at a Chinese cafe/restaurant in Chinatown Adelaide against a worker exposing wage theft sparked two Chinatown community rallies in the first week of February. The Chinese worker was hit in the face, knocked to the ground and kicked by the manager for demanding she be paid the Award wage instead of the $12 per hour casual rate she received!

This incident was filmed by another worker and went on social media. Not only did it spark the arrest and charge of assault against the manager, it sparked an outpouring of support for the woman worker and two rallies against wage theft.

The rallies were organised by two migrant groups, Fair Go SA and SA Labour Info Hub, with support from the Working Women's Center, SA Unions and affiliates and progressive Upper House Labor MP Irene Pnevmatikos.

The most important aspect of the rallies was the boldness, bravery and determination of the Chinese migrant workers who told their stories to the press and rally participants. Some were bold enough to identify themselves by name and their status as temporary overseas students from mainland China. One young overseas student said that research showed wage theft or wage swindle as it is sometimes also called was not just a problem in Adelaide's Chinatown. There are an estimated 170,000 migrant workers in Australia being paid as little as $12 per hour. In fact, one case involved an overseas student being paid $1 per hour!

Another spokesperson from Fair Go SA said that many migrant workers in Chinatown were reluctant to speak out because the employers blacklisted workers who they called "trouble makers" just for demanding their minimum rights under bosses’ laws!

However, the tide was turning and the very existence of the rallies in support of the young worker was a warning to employers and governments that wage theft and associated violence or threats of violence against migrant women workers would no longer be tolerated.

Migrant workers and migrant women workers in particular are a leading force within the working class in Australia in the fight for an independent and socialist Australia.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Capitalist greed and the destruction of sanctuary mangroves

Written by: Nick G. on 3 January 2021 

150 defenders of the St Kilda (South Australia) mangroves held a rally yesterday on the steps of Parliament House to coincide with World Wetlands Day. World Wetlands Day marks the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (the Ramsar Convention) on 2 February 1971 in Ramsar, Iran. Australia is a signatory.

Adelaide’s St Kilda mangroves are part of the 60 km long Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary National Park - Winaityinaityi Pangkara. Winaityinaityi Pangkara means ‘a country for all birds and the country that surrounds these birds’ in the language of the Kaurna people. The sanctuary stretches north of St Kilda along the coastline hugging mangrove swamps and samphire flats.

Adjacent to the mangroves and samphire flats are artificially created salt fields. They are pumped full of sea water and left to evaporate into highly saline ponds from which salt was harvested.

The salt fields were purchased in 2014 by an Adelaide capitalist, Peter Jurkovic, after the previous owner ended salt harvesting. He purchased about 30 km of the coastal belt. 

Jurkovic is the sole shareholder and director of Royal Park Salvage and Adelaide Resource Recovery, quite prominent companies involved in demolition, waste management and recycling. Buckland Dry Creek is part of the Jurkovic Group. Signs saying “Jurkovic Group” are on the fence lines surrounding the salt fields.

He is also the owner of the Epic Building Group and was confronted by strong community opposition in 2018 when he proposed demolishing the 17-room historic Escourt House in the beachside suburb of Grange to make way for 60 “village units”.  His plans to vandalise the heritage-listed site were eventually blocked.

Having purchased the Dry Creek salt fields, Jurkovic revived an ambitious plan by the previous owners to build ten thousand houses, a shopping complex, schools and a marina over the salt fields. In 2019, trucks belonging to Royal Park Salvage began dumping earth fill onto the salt fields.

Comment on social media was mixed, with some welcoming the proposal, but most ridiculing the idea of establishing houses and gardens on top of a salt field, and noting that “the developer won't be required to contribute a cent toward establishing education, health, or transport services in, to, and from their estate, either.”

In 2017, Jurkovic tried to cash in on carbon offsets by flooding the salt fields nearer the St. Kilda mangroves.  Working with a university-based Goyder Institute for Water Research, a trial flooding of a small pond took place. The aim was to achieve emissions abatement through carbon sequestration and/or emission avoidance as a result of long-term revegetation. The promise of revegetation was a key feature of the flooding. It was claimed that it “could potentially return the saline and acid sulfate soils to thriving intertidal mangrove and saltmarsh wetlands that provide a suite of ecosystem services and support… important bird species.”  A spokesperson acknowledged that the trial “could not have proceeded without the help and goodwill of the University of Adelaide, Buckland Dry Creek Pty Ltd, Royal Park Salvage” and various government departments.

A Goyder spokesperson proudly announced in January 2019 that “the blue carbon work has already resulted in a revival of plant life in one salt pond after 18 months of tidal reconnection.” It was claimed that “most of the pond can be recolonised by mangrove.”

On the basis of the trial, Buckland Dry Creek installed a pump on the much larger salt fields at St Kilda in 2020, apparently against the terms of its tenancy, and reopened the ponds on the salt field.

However, the ponds had been empty since 2014 when the site ceased operating, leaving their gypsum lining to dry out, "rot", and crack. The brine immediately started to seep out into the adjacent mangroves and salt marsh area, and the mangroves, instead of revegetating the salt fields, were poisoned by them and began dying off.

Part of the irony was that the dead mangroves were first noticed next to a mangroves interpretive centre and boardwalk popular with tourists (above). Providing they sprayed themselves with tropical strength mosquito repellent, visitors could stroll through the quiet, enchanted forest of mangroves, observing marine life and birds such as the endangered Samphire Thornbill, Grey Fantail, Singing Honeyeaters and Blue-winged, Elegant and Rock parrots.

But no more. In his rush to flood the salt fields, Jurkovic has caused the death of 10 hectares of mangroves and 35 hectares of samphire salt marsh. 
Despite being directed on December 24 last year by the Department of Energy & Mining to remove brine from the gypsum ponds, Buckland Dry Creek has yet to comply. 

This direction was considerably weakened by the wording " far as reasonably practical, remove brine from all ponds within Section 2 (adjacent to the impacted St Kilda Mangroves)".

The brine is becoming stronger daily, and starting to precipitate salt, making it harder to move through pumps and pipes. The longer Jurkovic’s company can delay, the more likely they will be able to use the "reasonably practical" phrase as a "get out of jail free" card.

The SA government is unlikely to press the company too hard, having already made provision in the Agency Statements of the SA Budget 2020-21 to

“• Continued to facilitate Buckland Dry Creek Pty Ltd to transition the former Dry Creek Salt Field to a mix of commercial, residential and conservation uses.
Develop a concept plan for tidal drainage of Crown Land on the former Dry Creek salt fields.”

With the devastation continuing, scientists say that at least 20 years will be needed before the health of the affected mangrove forests can be restored.

We can no longer tolerate the private greed of capitalists taking precedence over the community and the environment.