Thursday, April 29, 2021

Bringing Antarctica into the new Cold War

 Written by: (Contributed) on 30 April 2021

A report tabled by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) at the highest levels in Canberra in April will have far-reaching implications if implemented by the Australian government next year.

The report, part of a US-led Cold War military and security package, is aimed at transforming logistics with Antarctica for rapid access and egress with a continent of vital strategic significance and rich in minerals.

There are two important considerations:
the moves will introduce a wave of militarisation into a continent which is supposedly neutral;
the potential environmental damage including rare plant, wild and animal-life.
Neither consideration has been addressed in the report, which has followed a line typical of US-led regional Cold War military planning.
In late April the ASPI forwarded its report to Canberra. It was primarily concerned with Australia's hegemonic presence across the vast frozen continent and the plan to construct a 2.7 kms paved concrete runway for international flights near the Vestfold Hills area adjacent to the Australian Davis Station. (1)
The Davis Station was established during the previous Cold War in 1957. It now looks set to become a vital strategic asset with the present Cold War; the ASPI report stated fears existed that China might also lodge territorial claims and establish its own landing strips. (2) No evidence was provided about any serious plans by China to develop interests on Antarctica. The ASPI, likewise, are no strangers to the Cold War political muck-raking against supposed Chinese influences in Australia; previous examples have included targeting people of Chinese ancestry with highly questionable motives and levels of accuracy about the subject matter. (3)
At present there are seven countries with territorial claims which include: Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the UK. A number of other countries also have stations on Antarctica although they work through one or more of the main seven countries. The US, for example, makes extensive use of Australia as the conduit through which they conduct their interests on Antarctica.
There are already at least 55 different landing strips on the continent to serve various
interests; most, however, are only operational for part of the year and covered with gravel and not capable of being used with 'heavy airliners'. (4)
Historically, Antarctica has had numerous research and weather stations, although few serious territorial claims. Most of the continent is hardly inhabitable for lengthy periods of time; there are no Indigenous peoples.
Plans, however, for increased Australian development of Antarctica now appear under-way.
It is interesting to note, therefore, that the ASPI report stated the Davis Station 'requires long-term funding and political commitment' based upon Australian 'influence on Antarctica'. (5) The report, furthermore, also noted 'the proposed Davis aerodrome will increase Australia's strategic weight in Antarctica, where we claim 42 per cent of the continent'. (6)  
It is also interesting to note the proposed aerodrome is planned for all year operations with heavy airliners in a small area of the continent which is usually ice-free. Due to the area being about twenty kms from the continental ice-field, it is rich in marine and bird-life. The proposed major aerodrome will obviously have a serious effect upon environmental issues; it has been noted 'pollution, dust, noise and carbon emissions are further problems'. (7)   

The Australian Antarctic Program also rests upon strong strategic links with Hobart. The airport in Tasmania is regarded as 'a leading gateway to Antarctica', by Australian military officials. (8) Plans, therefore, for a major $100 million upgrade of Hobart Airport for international flights, to double capacity reveal longer-term planning with Antarctica in mind. (9)
Elsewhere in the coverage of the proposed aerodrome a brief reference is made in passing to possible competition for Antarctica's resources and possible potential military uses. (10) The  
Australian Casey Research Station already has a program to study bedrock geology and marine biology although official websites reveal little information about any of their findings.
A study of the 77 Australian registered mining companies, likewise, has revealed nothing of their interests or plans on Antarctica.
It would appear, nevertheless, the Casey Station is important as a satellite tracking facility and was upgraded in 2016. It also has its own Wilkins aerodrome about seventy kms south-east of the station.
Many of the projects hosted by various foreign governments based on Antarctica have had other more clandestine operations. During the Apartheid period in South Africa, for example, publicity about Pretoria's Silvermine Maritime Operational and Communications Headquarters had a stated range from Argentina to Bangladesh and North Africa to the South Pole.  Its establishment, in 1973, was regarded by Pretoria as part of a 'current global struggle for power'. (11) Following the demise of the Apartheid regime, South African projects on Antarctica were quietly shelved.
The proposed aerodrome project in Antarctica is, furthermore, part of a much bigger package aimed at re-asserting traditional US-led regional hegemonic positions: it has not been particularly difficult to establish the US quietly pulling the strings of their puppets in Canberra; in recent months the coalition government has implemented the 'foreign arrangements scheme' which has enabled Foreign Minister Marise Payne to review more than a thousand agreements between foreign national governments and their federal and state Australian counterparts together with universities. (12)
An official media release from the Australian Defence Department recently acknowledged there were literally thousands more cases also planned for future investigations. (13)
With the present coalition government in Canberra expected to make a decision over the next year about the proposed aerodrome on the basis that it would provide 'a distributing hub for personnel and equipment', Australians might well ask the question in whose interests will it serve?
It has already been noted the cost outlay for the proposed aerodrome will be likely to be 'substantial' and involve a massive fifteen-year building program. It is said that 'investing in Antarctica logistics is the most effective way to advance our long-term Antarctic interests' which carries little sensible weight when other areas of government expenditure have been subject to cuts and failures to provide adequate coverage and support  for ordinary Australian people.
All the proposed aerodrome will achieve is a further wave of US-led militarism sweeping the Indo-Pacific region and contravening the neutrality of Antarctica.
We need an independent foreign policy!
1.     Game-changer, ASPI., 21 April 2021; and, Antarctica runway 'a good strategic move', Australian, 21 April 2021.
2.     Ibid.
3.     Water licence given to group with China ties, Australian, 27 April 2021.
4.     Australian, op.cit., 21 April 2021.     
5.     Game-changer, ibid., 21 April 2021.
6.     Ibid.
7.     'A real bad precedent', The Guardian (U.K.), 31 December 2020.
8.     Antarctic flights 'a huge success', Contact: Defence Rates, 20 February 2016.
9.     Hobart Airport, ABC News, 9 April 2019.
10.   Australian, op.cit., 21 April 2021.
11.   Maritime Operational and Communications Headquarters, The Star (South Africa), front page, 10 March 1973; and, Security in the mountain, The Star (South Africa), 17 March 1973.
12.   Push to cut more Chinese accords, The Weekend Australian, 24-25 April 2021.
13.   'We must get real on a possible China war', Australian, 26 April 2021.


Canadians continue to buy up big

 Written by: Duncan B. on 29 April 2021

According to the latest Foreign Investment Review Board data, the number of Australian farms owned by foreign interests increased by nearly 10% in 2019-2020.

China is the biggest foreign-owned landholder with 9.2 million hectares, 8.4 million ha of which is leasehold country. Gina Rinehart is the biggest landowner in terms of size, with 10 million hectares.

The biggest foreign-owned landholder in terms of VALUE is PSP Investments, a Canadian pension fund which manages the superannuation funds of Canada’s public sector, armed forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

In the past five years PSP has assembled a portfolio of Australian farmland and water assets worth an estimated $4 billion dollars. They have investments in cropping, beef cattle, dairy farms, cotton, horticulture and almond, macadamia, pecan and walnut orchards.

PSP is keen on purchases which come with attached water rights. In 2019 PSP paid $360 million for 12,000 hectares of Almond orchards in northern Victoria which came with 90,000 megalitres of high security water. PSP also paid $854 million for Webster Limited which gave it 340,000 hectares of land and 153,000 megalitres of water.

Next biggest in terms of value is Macquarie Agriculture with farmland investments over about $3 billion. Macquarie Agriculture is Australian owned but partly foreign-backed by organisations such as the Netherlands’ public sector pension fund. Macquarie has a portfolio of farms totalling more than 4.9 million hectares. They are involved in sheep, cattle, cropping and cotton. They are seeking to expand into citrus orchard and berry farms.

Coming in third with investments in land and water assets of $1.8 billion plus, is the US-based Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America and College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF).  They own 73 properties totalling 284,000 hectares.

Foreign investors are keen on investing in Australian agriculture because of Australia’s economic stability and cheaper farmland costs. Investment in Australian agriculture allows investors to take advantage of the opposite seasons in each hemisphere and offset any possible losses with their investments in the northern hemisphere. Institutions that have committed to being carbon-neutral by 2050 can use investments in agriculture to show that they are doing positive things for the environment.

Another area where foreign companies are becoming involved in Australian agriculture is the purchase of soil carbon offsets. Recently two farm companies owned by Rupert Murdoch sold soil carbon credits to Microsoft.

Many Australians are concerned about the continuing take-over of our best farm land by foreign investors. Their hold over vast water rights in this dry continent is of special concern. Control by Australians over our farm land and water is an important part of the fight for National Independence.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Book Review The German Resistance: 1933-1945

 Written by: John S on 28 April 2021

The German Resistance:  1933-1945, by T Derbent (published by Foreign Language Press)

The extraordinary, courageous resistance to Nazi fascism by the German Communist Party (KPD) has been deliberately and pervasively hidden, ignored, and written out of history.

This book starts to redress this omission.

It outlines the truth of active, ingenious and incredibly brave resistance within Germany, in the occupied countries, inside the German military (the Wehrmacht), in the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War, and in the concentration and labour camps.

By 1933, the KPD was a large, powerful organisation, having organised around one million people, including a militia of one hundred thousand, and then an anti-fascist league of 250,000, to resist the Nazi SA, and the Social Democrat-controlled police that came to rescue of the Nazi SA storm troopers.

The Social Democrat governments willingly administered the capitalist system, and actively and callously suppressed any serious opposition, especially from the KPD and from any unions and workers that it did not control, using any political, legal and police/military means.

The KPD had to navigate its way through a complex situation which featured quite wide, though rapidly waning, working class support for social democracy, despite its pro-capitalist stance; the growing threat of fascism under the despair of the Great Depression; and the need to defend the working class in particular from the treachery of the Social Democrat governments. The European Communist Parties followed a line of opposing and condemning social democracy as “Social Fascism” because of its facilitation of the growth of fascism, and, at the same time, building a united front against fascism from below, endeavouring to draw in supporters of social democracy.

When the Nazi Party grabbed power in 1933, the Social Democrats not only refused to co-operate with the KPD to resist and overthrow the fascist rule, but completely capitulated to the fascists. They refused to support a general strike, the prospect of which terrified the Nazi leadership which was unsure it could survive one. The Social Democrats actually handed lists of communists and militant unionists to the Nazi police for arrest and torture and/or murder. They declared that they would “support the new order” and approved the Nazi foreign policy program.

The KPD and allied organisations and people continued to resist the Nazi state repression on the streets, through strikes and protests and massive propaganda,. The KPD was decimated by arrests and murders; the organisation went underground, but continued to resist.

Over the period from 1933 until the Nazi defeat in 1945, hundreds of thousands were arrested, imprisoned and/or executed for political opposition The Gestapo constantly hounded, and rounded up opponents (mostly Communists), but as soon as a network was destroyed, Communists set about recreating it, and propaganda re-appeared, agitation amongst workers resumed, and strike activity gradually increased as the Nazi rule went on. Communists who had been arrested, then later released or escaped, immediately set about organising cells, networks, propaganda and sabotage.

This activity occurred in factories, suburbs and concentration and forced labour camps, where Communists established networks for German and foreign workers and POW's. These networks sabotaged production so extensively that 80% of military products from the Dora factory were scrapped; ¾ of the rifles produced at the Gustloff plant were unusable, and, of the 120 Heinkel177 bombers built in1943, none were usable. Many ships transporting war materials were sunk.

Communist took over administrative responsibilities in many camps, to ameliorate conditions for inmates, especially Jews and Soviet POW's. They also organised military detachments in several camps to prepare for liberation, and actually took over the Buchenwald camp and arrested the SS guards before US troops arrived.

In the occupied countries, Communists agitated and established resistance networks within the German military to undermine the effectiveness of the Nazi army, and to funnel information and arms to the local resistance. Many German soldiers joined the local resistance and fought against the Wehrmacht. In Brive, France, 350 soldiers, led by their colonel, went over to the resistance. Germans fought with the resistance in Greece, Yugoslavia, France, Poland, the USSR, Slovakia, Albania, Denmark and Italy.

These activities occurred despite the collaboration of many governments and authorities, especially police forces, in the occupied countries.

The Allies exhibited attitudes ranging from ambivalence to hostility toward the Communist -led resistance (except perhaps for Yugoslavia). This morphed into active opposition as Nazi defeat neared. The resistance network in Leipzig had begun clearing and de-Nazifying the city before US troops arrived. However, the Americans refused a nominee for mayor from the resistance committee, instead appointing a conservative politician and banning the committee.

Two Conclusions.

Firstly, bourgeois histories of Nazi Germany and the internal resistance always focus predominantly on the July 20 assassination attempt against Hitler. This was organised by a group of aristocrats and military officers, most of whom were motivated principally by anger and despair that Hitler was leading Germany to defeat, and fear that defeat would likely result in a Communist revolution. They sought to eliminate Hitler, arrange a peace with the capitalist Allies, and then turn German forces to the east to fight the Soviet Union.

The White Rose group of young Catholics in Munich is also often mentioned. The only Communists, or Communist-sympathisers, routinely mentioned are those of the Red Orchestra group that passed information to the USSR.

The bourgeois consensus is that the sum total of these resistance activities made little impression on the effectiveness of the Nazi war effort.

The silence about, and denial of, the active, widespread and quite effective Communist resistance by bourgeois historians is not accidental. German historiography (the writing and interpretation of history) is dominated by the lies, biases and orthodoxies arising from the continued employment and domination after the war of Nazis, or supposed ex-Nazis, throughout West German structures, including government, police forces, universities and legal institutions, fostered and protected by the USA in particular. It is part of the anti-Communist propaganda that seeks to take any credit away from communists, and to reinforce the  line that fascism and communism are both totalitarian – two sides of the same coin.

It is an example of the class nature of history, and indeed all knowledge. Historians are biased, depending on their world view, and loyalties and self-interest. Historians can lie; they can selectively cite or acknowledge particular facts; they can ignore or downplay others, either consciously or unwittingly because it suits their pre-conceived view; they can lazily and uncritically repeat orthodox claims or common words, such as the pejorative term  “Stalinism”, without bothering to ask what that really means or to check whether it is based on real evidence. They place value on facts or events. For example, one well-known historian equates the crimes of the collaborators in occupied France with the punishments handed out to them by the Resistance after the war. Treating unequal things as equal, whilst it appears to be even-handed, is really a subtle form of bias, and projects an ideological message.

The deletion from historical accounts of the Communist resistance during WW2 is a form of propaganda.

Secondly, we salute the astounding bravery, heroism, ingenuity and dedication of the hundreds of thousands of German communists and other militants and democrats who stood up against the vicious, fearsome brutality of the Nazi fascists, as well as the millions who fought them across the occupied countries.

These Communists were hounded, arrested, tortured and often murdered. Nazi records show hardly any Communists succumbed, surrendered or collaborated. Those who regained freedom immediately set about organising again.

They refused to be defeated. What brave, brave heroes.


Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Nationals are at it again!

Written by: Duncan B. on 23 April 2021

Just when you thought that the National Party could not sink any lower into the depths of infamy with their Climate Change denial, support for the coal industry and sabotage of the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement, they are at it again. This time they have launched an attack on our native forests.

In a move described as unusual for a member of the government, Bridget McKenzie, leader of the Nationals in the Senate has moved a private member’s Bill to exempt native forest logging across Australia from national environmental protection.

Senator McKenzie’s bill is in response to a Federal Court ruling by Justice Mortimer in May, which sets a precedent for logging to be subject to the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The Federal Court found in favour of an environment group against VicForests over its logging of Central Highlands forest coupes which include habitats for Greater Gliders and the endangered Leadbeater’s Possums.

VicForests claimed that it is exempted from federal oversight by the logging agreement between the state and federal governments known as a Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) which provides a management plan to “balance” the environmental effect of logging with economic factors.

In return, commercial logging operations have been exempted from national laws that protect endangered species. Justice Mortimer’s ruling has set a precedent in the Federal Court that invoked national protections for the listed glider and possum species under the EPBC Act.

VicForests, a body owned by the Government of Victoria, has appealed against the Court decision. VicForests’ actions appear to be at odds with all the fine-sounding words on the VicForests website about their care for the environment and native species.

Our native forests have faced destruction from logging and bushfires yet the Nationals want to make it easier for the destruction of our native forests and the habitats they provide for native species to continue unrestricted. Even the Environment Minister Sussan Ley has said that McKenzie’s amendments are not government policy.

Bridget Mc Kenzie was elected in the 2010 election and entered Parliament in 2011 as a senator for Victoria. She has held a number of portfolios including Rural Health, Sport, Regional Communications, Regional Services and Agriculture. As Minister for Sport she earned lasting notoriety for her role in the “sports rort” scandal.

Like McCormack, Joyce, and Canavan and the other crazies in the National Party’s leadership, McKenzie is a fervent advocate for the coal industry. She has also voted in Parliament strongly in favour of unconventional gas mining. This goes against the interests of the very people the Nationals claim to represent. Many farmers have led the fight against fracking and are active in organisations such as “Shut The Gate.”



VAN DAIRY-The grim downside of foreign investment in Australian agriculture


Written by: Duncan B. on 16 April 2021

Van Dairy traces its origins to one of Australia’s oldest companies. In 1824, King George IV established the Van Diemen’s Land Company as a charter company. In 1825 he granted the Van Diemen’s Land Company 350,000 hectares of land in the colony. (What the Indigenous inhabitants thought of a foreigner giving away something that wasn’t his to give is not known.)

In 2008 the New Zealand-based New Plymouth District Council, through its investment arm Taranaki Investment Management, purchased the VDL Company from the New Zealand company Tasman Agricultural Limited who had purchased the VDL Company in 1993. In 2015 the New Plymouth Council decided to sell the VDL Company. Initially it looked as if an Australian company would be the purchaser.

Two Australian companies, OnCard and Tasfood bid for the VDL Company. The New Plymouth Council initially accepted an offer of $250 million from Tasfood, but reneged on the deal in favour of a higher offer of $280 million, from a Chinese company.

That company was Moon Lake Investments, run by Liu Xianfeng. Liu Xianfeng ran a seafood business before founding Niangbo Xianfeng New Material Company in 2003.  This company is the controlling shareholder in Kresta Holdings of which Mr Liu is the biggest shareholder, Managing Director and Executive Chairman. Kresta is well known to Australians as a major retailer of blinds and awnings.

The takeover of the VDL company by Moon Lake was approved by the then Treasurer Scott Morrison. At the time Morrison praised Moon Lake and spoke in glowing terms of the investment the company would bring and the number of jobs it would create.

The Foreign Investment Review Board attached undertakings to the deal which required Moon Lake to hire an extra 95 staff and to invest $100 million into the company. The company has not met these undertakings with staff numbers remaining the same and only about $20 million being invested.

After the take-over, Moon Lake changed the company’s name to Van Dairy. The company has 25 farms, 30,000 cows on 17,000 hectares and about 145 fulltime employees and 34 casuals. It produces fresh milk, milk powder and infant formulas.

Trouble started as soon as Moon Lake took over. In 2016, even before he had completed the purchase of Van Dairy, Mr Liu tried to sell the company in China to raise some cash. This attempt was blocked by the Chinese Securities Regulator.

In 2018, the CEO, Deputy Chairman and the four independent non-executive directors all resigned, over the owner’s failure to make necessary investment in irrigation systems and maintenance. This left Mr Liu to run the show himself with a general manager.

In 2019 a group of senior staff wrote to Mr Liu warning of animal welfare issues due to poor operational repairs and maintenance standards.

In early 2020, Van Dairy was sued by the previous owner over a sum of $2.3 million which they claimed they were owed due to an agreement on changes to milk prices.

A much publicised plan by Van Dairy to transport ten million litres of fresh milk each year directly from Tasmania to China has never eventuated.

If you go to the Van Dairy website, you will read many fine words about how Van Dairy looks after its livestock, its employees and the environment. The reality is very different. The livestock, employees and the environment have all suffered at Van Dairy’s  hands. There have been many allegations of animal welfare abuse and over-stocking of cattle, including cows being left without food and water, and cows suffering from disease.

The overstocking has caused the effluent systems of the farms to be over-loaded and to fail with an enormous risk of polluting waterways and the environment which Van Dairy claims to care so much about.   There is a lack of maintenance and repairs to the effluent systems and irrigation equipment. A Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority (TDIA) audit of Van Dairy earlier this year found that 83% of Van Dairy’s farms had failed to comply with the Farm Dairy Premises Effluent Management Code of Practice. It is not surprising that Van Dairy is having trouble finding experienced staff willing to work for them.

It is alleged that the Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority, EPA and other regulatory bodies have failed to deal with Van Dairy’s problems since 2016, and are only recently starting to do anything about them.

According to recent reports, Mr Liu is looking to sell ten of Van Dairy’s farms to a Melbourne-based investment company, Prime Value Asset Management. A British company and local farmers are also interested in buying some of the farms.

We often hear from certain interested parties how much Australia needs foreign investment in our agriculture, and how much we benefit from it. The Van Dairy saga shows that this is not the case. This company was just a plaything, sold by one foreign owner to another foreign company. Australian workers, cows and our environment have all been the losers from this deal.


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Corporatised Religion

 Written by: John G. on 21 April 2021

The deaths of 46 aged care residents at St Basil’s Home for the Aged in Melbourne suburb Fawkner raised failures and financial and operational arrangements in the Greek Orthodox Church.

Covid deaths at other church homes in Sydney, the Dorothy Henderson Lodge run by BaptistCare and Newmarch House run by Anglicare, suggest these may not be aberrations but systemic failures. They also raise the issue whether behind this lies the entwining of religious enterprises in corporate capitalist systems of purchasing labour power and production and sale of care services. 

If St Basil’s and the others are aberrant individual failures, then further regulation and a tight system of compliance auditing by competent independent inspection authorities would be the response, if one trusted a capitalist government and others to create such improvements for people. History identifies that such trust would be misplaced.  

Where these are the product of systematic failures, even the supporters of this economic system accept solutions that require a rebuild of the system to effect necessary change. 

Judgement of bad apple failure or systemic problem can only be made by examining the manner of service delivery by church run operations more generally than those of St Basil’s and Greek Orthodox Church. 

Major religious institutions have extensive operational “commercial” arms. Most operate as Legal Trusts which provide no transparency as to their financial and operational affairs. Some are more centralised while others like the Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches operate through thousands of separate operational enterprises. Their charitable arms sometimes provide public operational and financial reports.  Below are insights into a couple of church operations and their nature gleaned from publicly published reports. 

Wesley Mission’s Commercial Operations 

Wesley Mission produces a public annual report. 

Originally operating from one Sydney church it has broadened to a limited extent with 85% of its staff now Sydney-based. The public accounts provide an opportunity to look into this church’s operations as a service providing enterprise in this capitalist economy to see how much institutions have been drawn into capitalism. Relevant details are outlined here: 

Wesley Mission’s operations, workforce and finance by the numbers

Wesley’s revenues in the 2020 financial year were just shy of $230 million, including income from sale of services of $117.5 million and government grants of $97 million. Donations and legacies were less than $8 million or 3.5% of the church’s total income, a tiny amount of church operations.  

The cost of purchasing labour power directly was at least $163 million though the accounts don’t exclude that being larger. Surplus for the year was $9.6 million. 

It has a huge asset base of $489 million, with liabilities of $269 million, the bulk of which is care residents licence agreements of $173 million. Wesley Mission’s net capital value is $220 million. 

It had 2,251 employees, 813 full-timers and 938 part-time and 500 casuals, 73% women and engaged an army of 4,592 volunteers for 92,598 hours proudly boasting they saved $4,231,729 in wages. The voluntary labour represented just 2.5% of all labour power used by the church in their operations. 

The figures involve the church operating service provision by purchasing labour power from 2,251 wage workers for $163 million supplemented by volunteer labour equivalent to 10 full-time staff. In addition, some ‘clients’ were employed in packaging and other industrial production,

The tiny portion of both income and labour derived by donations in all forms, as against the 97.5% of labour-power purchased for the provision (production) of services, reveals how deeply the church has been integrated into the capitalist system of production, purchasing labour power for its production.

The integration includes the alienation of the labourer from the product of that labour, the commodity of care. 

Fundamentally the Wesley Mission is operating as a capitalist with 97.5% of its labour power purchased, employing wage workers. 

Religions as Capitalists

There is no basis for expecting any difference with larger institutional churches. In fact the big bazookas of church capitalism are the Catholic Church with its extensive school network and its massive St Vincents operations across the whole country as well as Diocesan Trusts , the Anglican Church of Australia Trust Corporation, the Presbyterian Church of Australia Property Trust, Uniting Church Trust Association Limited, and other religious groups running schools and limited care services also ending up in capitalist relations purchasing wage labour.   

The Catholic Church, one of Australia’s largest employers   
An internal Catholic Church research paper on employment, “Our Work Matters” published in November 2017, identified that the Catholic Church purchased labour power from approximately 220,000 people by compiling data from 3500 agencies or 99.5% of its affiliated organisations. 
The total combined employed Catholic workforce amounted to 1.8% of Australians selling their labour power.  This gives some idea of the scope of the integration of this Church alone to wage labour purchasing in Australia. It was a bigger employer than the big 4 banks combined, all local government across the whole country, just 23,000 short of the Commonwealth public service,  and more than the Woolworths group at the time. 
77% of the employees of the Catholic Church are female. 84,801 of the workforce was full-time, 92,700 part-time, 40,301 casual with some whose status was not confirmed. Pay and conditions of 89% are covered by enterprise agreements and awards. 
These numbers exclude priests, brothers and nuns, who number just another 7,988 in the Catholic workforce apart from the Bishops. 96.4% of the labourers utilised by the Catholic Church are not religious officers. Just 5.3% of the Catholic workforce is utilised in pastoral parish and diocesan activity. 
The Church purchased the labour power of 194,823 wage labourers in its education, health, aged care, and social services provision. That was 94.7% of the labour force whose status was identified that the Church utilises. 
The Catholic Church overwhelmingly operates as a capitalist in purchasing the labour power it uses to produce services.
The Wesley Mission and other religious-run service operations are purchasing wage labour to produce services, commodities, sold in aged and disability care homes, contracted to government for provision of shelter for the homeless, teachers at religious schools, etc. To the aged, disabled and homeless, the staff and others are carers, not engaged in capitalist production as productive labourers. However, to the religious institutions they are employees, wage labourers producing commodities – care, education, etc. 
The religious institution exchanges a part of its capital for their labour-power to produce the services, as does a capitalist in metal manufacture exchange part of its capital for labour power to produce manufactures, for instance. 
The religious institutions are thoroughly integrated into the capitalist mode of production. 
Notoriously, religions are tax-exempt and their charitable and not for profit arms operate tax-exempt, while the case of St Basil’s sees millions transferred to the Church, supporting leaders living in luxury. The tax exemptions largely remain though religious enterprises are thoroughly capitalist in their mode of operations, and they have accumulated enormous financial, land and other assets. All assets are the accumulation of values, representative of accumulated commodities, the products of labour previously engaged in production of commodities.
Those assets represent the religious institutions’ accumulation of past labour exploited from wage workers as surplus value. We can conclude churches generally are now exploiters of labour on a grand scale.

Bosses luxury lifestyles accompany capitalist mode of production. 
The relations of production of the Catholic Church are reflected in the sumptuous lifestyles of some of its leaders. The former Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart lived in an upmarket Kew mansion, pictured above, valued at $3 million when listed for sale recently. This was a downgrade on the Archbishop’s residence for decades until the 1980s, Raheen, now the home estate and mansion in Kew of the billionaire Pratt family.
The church also spent $872,000 on a beach house with bay views in Dromana for Archbishop Hart, which he now personally owns after buying it off the Archdiocese for $1.12 million in 2017.
So much for vows of poverty.
The scandal in aged and other care across the land following hard on the heels of exposure of abuses in Church-run orphans and children’s homes, as well as their educational institutions, involves religious institutions and other capitalists all engaged in a capitalist system of labour power purchase to provide services and thereby profit, accumulating capital. 
This is a systematic failure in production of services for the people. It requires systematic change, a rebuild of the care and other service provision. 
By the nature of the capitalist system, with its army of wage labourers tending to eliminate from the field any other alternative means of securing labour power necessary for producing goods or services other than by the purchase of labour power as capitalist not consumer, religious institution have been drawn into the capitalist mode of production. 
Capitalist competition’s tendency to drive costs down runs services down
The outcome in capitalism is competition’s tendency to drive down costs, reduce staffing levels, reduce spending on facilities and inputs like food and medical services. Religious institutions are thoroughly integrated into that capitalist mode of production in their care and educational service provision. 
The costs are borne by the people. 
The catastrophes at St Basil’s, Newmarch House and Dorothy Henderson Lodge, as well as Greek Orthodox leaders reported adoption of capitalist lifestyles, is the tip of a very large iceberg in the care, education and social service provision industries run by religious institutions.  The case of the Catholic Church workforce confirms that systemic problem with the mode of production of these services. 
As these incidents and the aged care industry are investigated, more of these capitalist characteristics will be exposed. 
To resolve the catastrophic tendencies at stake in the provision of care services, much more than tinkering within capitalist service provision will be needed.
It confirms the need for an independent working class program for the well-being of the people with independence and socialism driving the elimination of the trends capitalism sets in train, ruining the lives of people.  


St Basil’s Covid Catastrophe and Corporatised Religion


Written by: John G. on 20 April 2021

Revelations about huge payments from aged care homes run by the Greek Orthodox Church to the Archdiocese shocked many in the light of how hard Covid hit the residents of the church-run St Basil’s Home for the Aged in the Melbourne suburb of Fawkner.

45 of St Basil’s 150 residents died in the middle of 2020 as the Covid outbreak swept through Melbourne, and another 38 aged care residents at private sector Epping Gardens home also died. These two homes death toll comprised 10% of the Victorian total of 820 deaths in the outbreak. 

Families have been distressed by how the church authorities and the home’s administration failed to act in a decisive way with urgent empathy for the aged, infirm and, in large numbers, ill-fated residents as the disaster overwhelmed them and the staff. The same thing occurred in Sydney aged care homes, the Dorothy Henderson Lodge run by BaptistCare, and Newmarch House run by Anglicare.

The St Basil’s and the other experiences raised questions about how much religious institutions have been drawn into capitalism and are running as businesses. 

The reality of these incidents, and the operations of the care enterprises in which they took place, stand out in contradiction to the conception, promoted by religious leaders, of religions being pastoral and charitable institutions whose leaders are dedicated to lives of service and sacrifice to nurture their congregations and help the poor and needy, sworn to lives of poverty, seem so far from the realities here. 
The ABC programs, 4Corners and Background Briefing, revealed business dealings of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese on April 12, including that $22 million was paid in rent and fees by St Basil’s to the Archdiocese over a period of 8 years. A real estate estimate suggested that this was double commercial rates for the premises. In the same period, government provided $73 million in support. 

This largess came from an enterprise, St Basil’s reporting turnover of just $12, 155, 203 in the 2019-20 financial year. Donations and bequests comprised just $131, 781 or 1% of the income of the home. Government provided $11,813,784 or 97% of St Basil’s income in grants and other revenue. The rest was revenue from investments. The financial realities are that St Basil’s is fundamentally (97%) a corporation producing and selling aged care services to government. The residents and their families are the consumers of the services produced, not the purchasers. 

The System of production and sale of Care Services

The system by which the service production is secured is telling.  While it seems to go without saying, care services production at St Basil’s was undertaken by St Basil’s purchasing labour power and setting it to work, that transaction is important to understanding the nature of this Church enterprise. 

Some further detail on this point. St Basil’s workforce at the time that the Covid disaster was raging through the home’s residents in June-July 2020, comprised 2 full-time, 103 part-time, and 3 casual employees as well as 2 volunteers working the equivalent of 64 Full-time employee hours as reported to the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission.

This church enterprise purchased the labour power of 108 wage workers for a total cost of $7,882,834 and utilised that wage labour to produce the commodity they sold to the Government, aged care services. St Basil’s operations fitted fully in with capitalist production modes generally. The enterprise is operating as a capitalist in its purchase of labour power and mode of production and sale of care services.   

The governance of St Basil’s as with other Greek Orthodox service agencies or commercial enterprises is in the hands of the Archbishop. He is the sole stakeholder who appoints the board of St Basil’s as is the case with other Church enterprises. This led on to other issues.

The ABC reported the Church had bought Archbishop Makarios a luxuriously appointed $6 million high-rise apartment in Sydney with extensive views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera house as well as broad harbour vistas. The ABC noted that they had multiple reports of another $3 million spent in renovations to upgrade this church provided home of Archbishop Makarios. 

They also noted the Archbishop (above) has multiple ceremonial robes valued at up to $30,000 each with their rich gold embroidery and other adornment.  

A question arises as to whether the governance and system of operations of the Greek Orthodox Church enterprises led to leaders living lives of luxury at the expense of quality and safe service provision in church-run homes?

It is not as though working class families and friends can generally purchase these services from individual carers themselves. Long gone are the days of individuals needing aged care services buying individual carers’ labour other than among the quite wealthy. Some remnants of that individual system remain, but even there the service provision to those other than the very wealthy is now more likely to be purchased through agencies rather than by purchasing an individual service provider’s labour directly. 

Making authorities accountable and steps to never experience this again 

This examination cannot speak for the families who lost loved ones in church-run homes. They are more than capable of doing that themselves as Spiros Vasilakis, whose mother died in the epidemic, continues to illustrate, as the matters are aired publicly. This article cannot provide definitive answers or exposure of church leaders in this matter. It cannot make the relevant authorities accountable. 

What it suggests is there are wider issues of how much religious institutions today have been drawn into capitalist production, and whether those institutions have been drawn into acting as capitalists, driving the tendencies towards compromises on the quality and safety of care service delivery.  

The ABC and the further information above opens the door to revealing something of the corporate side of the Greek Orthodox Church. The wider issue of whether it is an aberration, a bad apple, or the tip of the iceberg of systemic failure goes to the whole system of aged and disability care, church run schools, and social service provision operating in Australia. 

That will be the focus of another article - Corporatised Religion – looking into other religious organisations and their operations.