Comment and Analysis

GLW Issue 1031

One of the most striking features of the first year of Tony Abbott’s government is the sustained attacks on Centrelink clients.

These started with the federal budget and its proposed cuts to Newstart Allowance for those aged under 30, Family Tax Benefits for sole-parent and low-income families, and restricted access to Disability Support Pension.

These were followed by employment minister Eric Abetz announcing the expansion of Work for the Dole to all jobseekers under 50.

Bill Deller was a well-known left-wing activist in Melbourne and presenter on community radio station 3CR. He died on October 17. Below are remembrances of Bill’s life from some of his comrades.

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Lalitha Chelliah — radio co-host and a friend and comrade of 24 years

I met Bill Deller in 1990 when he employed me to work at the State Public Services Federation (SPSF).

The Gallipoli Centenary Peace Campaign (GCPC) was formed in mid-February at a meeting of the Marrickville Peace Group, Marrickville Residents for Reconciliation (now part of ANTaR Inner West), Pax Christi and the Marrickville Greens. Since then a number of local individuals have also participated in the coalition’s meetings and events.

Moreland City councillor Sue Bolton gave this speech to a rally in solidarity with Kobani in Melbourne on October 25.

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There are two reasons to support the Kurds of Kobane. One reason is humanitarian: to prevent a massacre. The other reason is to protect and defend the building of an alternative society which should be a beacon for all left and progressive people in the world.

GLW Issue 1030

Across the political and media elite in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam, who has died.

His achievements are recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with him.

In the outpouring of grief over Gough Whitlam’s death at the age of 98 on October 21, many people remembered how their lives were changed by the reforms his government brought in.

In an age of worsening neoliberal attacks led by the anti-poor class warriors in Tony Abbott’s government, the reforms associated with Whitlam's twice-elected 1972-75 government can seem almost utopian.

Recent opinion polls show the Queensland Liberal-National government has 51% electoral support compared with 49% for Labor.

So it is not surprising that the privatisation rhetoric has shifted from asset sales to leasing. Under the “Strong Choices Plan”, endorsed by the government on October 7, $37 billion in public assets are to be leased to the private sector on 99-year contracts.

Premier Campbell Newman said: “Today we say very clearly the assets are not for sale.”

Cairns Woolworths caused outrage recently by stocking a singlet with the Australian flag and the phrase “If you don't love it, leave...” But let no one be confused by such a slogan, which, at first glance would seem a little reminiscent of “Fuck off, we're full” stickers or even the infamous “I grew here, you flew here” slogan that raised its head during the 2005 Cronulla race riots.

Sean Brocklehurst is the Socialist Alliance candidate for Pascoe Vale in the November 29

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A good example of the anti-worker attitude of Denis Napthine’s government is its treatment of paramedics.

Victoria's paramedics have been campaigning for pay parity with interstate paramedics for more than two years with no sign of a resolution.

The recent Australian Council of Social Service report into poverty has found one third of sole parents live in poverty.

Many sole parents are suffering after being switched from Parenting Payment Single to the much lower Newstart Allowance. Under former prime minister Julia Gillard, about 100,000 sole parents were switched to the lower payment.

In NSW, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) heard evidence from Operation Spicer of significant breaches of donations laws by Liberal candidates and private donors before the 2011 state election.

The hearings have exposed 12 state and federal Liberal politicians, who have either resigned or stood aside, including former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell. ICAC is due to release its full report next year and this will include recommendations on whether criminal charges should be laid.

With his harsh budget in tatters and his popularity in decline, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and outgoing head of ASIO David Irvine raised the terror alert from medium to high on September 13.

It was justified, they claimed, by the threat of those returning from fighting in the Middle East — all 70 or so of them — posing an increased risk to Australia’s way of life.

Green Left Weekly and ActionAid will be co-sponsoring a Political Economy Society seminar at Sydney University on October 29 to discuss the case for greater international efforts to combat corporate tax avoidance before the G20 summit.

Large corporations systematically avoid paying the statutory level of company tax — a low 30% in Australia — by numerous means including siphoning funds to notorious international tax havens.

In Problems of Greater Britain, the English politician Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke concluded that high wages, cheap food and the time available for sporting and cultural activities made Australia a workers’ paradise.

If Dilke’s observation in 1890 ever had any truth to it, it was a paradise soon lost. The average weekly wage did not recover from its fall in the 1891 depression until 20 years later. For the less skilled in the labour force, the 20% wage loss in the depression wasn’t clawed back until 1921.

GLW Issue 1029

The ebola outbreak in West Africa is "unquestionably the most severe acute public health emergency in modern times", World Health Organisation (WHO) director general Dr Margaret Chan said on October 14.

When the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption was set up by the federal government, it was widely seen as a political witch hunt intended to smear the union movement with guilt by association to the scandals that had emerged in the Health Services Union (HSU).

With a bit of good fortune and a lot of spin-doctoring it would also provide the Coalition with handy ammunition against the ALP at the next federal election, likely to be held in late 2016 — a contrived “ticking Tampa”.

Woolworths was caught out this month selling T-shirts with the slogan “If you don’t love it, leave” emblazoned over an Australian flag.

After George Craig posted a photo of the shirt on Twitter with the caption: “@woolworths cairns, selling racist singlets for everyday low prices! #racist”, the T-shirt was quickly and widely condemned. Woolworths immediately pulled the stock from its shelves and apologised.

Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance released this statement on October 16.

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Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance supports the struggle in Kobani against the Islamic State for a number of reasons.

Kobani, is part of an emerging progressive autonomous region called Rojava where people of all ethnicities and religious beliefs are equal and where women are leading the way forward.

Kurdish fighters in the northern-Syrian city of Kobani have been fighting an armed struggle against Islamic State (IS) fighters for the past month. The Kurdish fighters are resisting IS attempts to take their city, which would result in a massacre.

There has been some debate among left activists about whether the Kurdish struggle is anti-imperialist, whether the people’s militia groups in Kobani have been calling for imperialist military intervention, and what issue Australian anti-war activists should focus on.

Paul Verhaeghe, senior professor of clinical psychology and psychoanalysis at Ghent University in Belgium, has argued in a recently published essay that neoliberal economics brings out the worst in human beings.

He finds that thirty years of neoliberalism, and the privatisation and free-market misery that comes with it, have taken their toll on people’s values and even their personalities.

Now I know things seem pretty bleak in this country right now, but we must remember there is always hope. After all, in 1967, an Australian prime minister entirely disappeared without any warning after he went swimming — and Tony Abbott loves to swim!

So don't give in to despair — it might happen again. The key thing is to not lose all hope.

NSW ALP Senator John Faulkner, luminary of the Labor left, has been complaining of the structural flaws in the party for decades. Despite being a long-time beneficiary of the party’s factionalism, almost 10 years ago he was writing of the “shared venality” of party apparatchiks that led it back beyond factionalism. “It is feudalism, and it is killing the ALP.”

Last week he was at it again in his address to the “Light on the Hill Society” at Revesby Workers Club in western Sydney.

"We are now in the world of 'big insurance,' with health funds squarely in the business of providing financial returns to shareholders ... Private health insurers serve their shareholders, meaning they don't necessarily seek to actively protect or advance models of care that result in the best health outcomes for members," chief executive of St Vincents Health Australia Toby Hall, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health-care organisation, wrote in the October 10 Sydney Morning Herald.

As I watched the slick military-supplied “news” clip of the first Australian Super Hornet mission over Iraq — where the two warplanes dropped not a single bomb on an IS target — I wondered how much that abortive mission cost the supposedly budget-strapped government and certainly budget-slapped Australian public.

The Queensland capital is getting ready to lock down for a two-day meeting of world leaders in mid-November. More than $171 million has been allocated to “city improvement works” in an effort by the government “to help Brisbane shine” in time for the G20 summit.

Homeless people will be offered hotel rooms, bins will be sealed to prevent bomb concealment, public transport will be affected and roads will be closed.

The G20 “red zone” will encompass the central business district and Spring Hill along with much of Kangaroo Point, Fortitude Valley and South Brisbane.

Sarah Hathway, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Geelong, and Sean Brocklehurst, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Pascoe Vale, released this statement on October 16.

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We strongly support the Reclaim the Night marches organised across Victoria and the world. Violence against women is endemic to the sexist culture promoted by our oppressive, exploitative, capitalist society. Vibrant public campaigns protesting such violence can help win better safety and rights for women, and are an important part of the struggle for a better world.

The decision to deny 11-month-old Ferouz Myuddin a protection visa precedes a plan by Tony Abbott’s government to retrospectively deny all babies born to asylum seekers the right to seek refugee status.

An amendment bill containing extensive changes to the Migration Act was tabled by the federal government last month. The bill would remove most references to the refugee convention and legalise boat turnarounds.

The Coalition government also wants all babies born to asylum seekers who arrived by boat after August 13, 2012 to be declared “unauthorised maritime arrivals”.

Although I had met Luis before, I first got the chance to really speak to him at a BBQ he hosted at his house in late 2010. We spoke for hours that day about many things, including his health.

Luis explained to me that his body was riddled with cancers, and that the doctors had told him he probably only had six months to live.

“When did they tell you that?” I asked.

“Six months ago,” he replied with a grin on his face. “Don’t worry, I still have plenty of fight still left in me.”

GLW Issue 1028

Continuous protests in the Nauru refugee detention camp peaked with up to 600 people breaking out of the family compound just after midnight on October 10.

An asylum seeker told Sydney’s Refugee Action Coalition (RAC): “Day to day, night to night, the situation on Nauru is getting more serious for us.”

The protests have been accompanied by self-harm and suicide attempts, including one person hanging themselves, a 15-year-old girl swallowing detergent, others ingesting washing powder, lip-stitching and a hunger strike.

So it turns out the “sword” confiscated during the September 18 terror raids in Sydney's north-west — you know Australia's largest terror raids everwas actually plastic.

That would be the “sword” the cops had placed in a plastic bag that the media made such a big deal out of to terrify us all with the “threat” of a “random beheading”. Plastic. It was a fucking plastic sword.