22-04-2017 – The Queens Wharf Mega Casino and luxury hotel “development”, in the middle of Brisbane city, has begun its seven year construction period. Nine hectares of previously public land is fenced off, with the demolition of previously state owned buildings set to begin. All of this is to make way for not only 2500 poker machines, but an unlimited number of traditional and electronic gaming machines, which has recently been approved by the Queensland government. The Echo business consortium will also build 2000 apartments and 1100 luxury hotel rooms with four, five and six star ratings, from the Ritz-Carlton and Rosewood brand names. The plans include a bridge, which may not happen as it has not yet been funded, from South Bank across the river into the casino floor. Family entertainment indeed!
Working people generally should not attempt to take a moral position of opposition to gambling per se – as we know that billionaire developers represent an alien class and so have an alien perspective of what is and what is not moral. However, working people do have a right to demand decent working and living conditions, and fight for them in opposition to the government which, in this case, clearly represents the billionaires. The fact that these governments are approving the building of a casino and luxury apartments entirely reveals the depth of the economic crisis of the system of private production for private profit. There is a severe recession, because virtually no new value is being created. Whole industries, for example the auto industry, are closing down. Little or no manufacturing is occurring. Unemployment is rife, especially amongst youth. Wage growth for those still in work is the lowest it has ever been in history. What government public spending exists is more and more geared towards providing business opportunities for the private sector – such as the Queens Wharf Casino.
The Right To The City organisation is correct to frame the discussion as “Instead of a Casino”. Instead of luxury apartments and exclusive motel rooms which few working people can afford, what is desperately needed is a state run program of building ample public housing. The building of quality but affordable public housing could not only house the homeless, but will help exert downward pressure on the astronomically high cost of housing. Instead of a casino, there could be a state run program of public works, to upgrade and expand an affordable public transport system – given that Brisbane’s public transport is one of the most expensive in the world, and the passenger rail problems are legion. Instead of a casino, public money could be spent on replacing the millions of dollars of funding ripped out from under schools and hospitals by successive Labor and Liberal federal governments.
Union leadership is key
The only Union action that we know of on the issue of the casino was a rally led by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) on November 30 last year. The rally was not against the casino, but was calling for construction related jobs for the casino to be given to local workers, rather than 457 visa workers! There are two points to be made here. One, Union leaderships should not be encouraging competition against “foreign” workers by lining up with “local” employers. This nationalism encourages racism and xenophobia, which is poison for a workers movement. Two, rather than going cap-in-hand to the employers and pleading for jobs, Union leaderships should be demanding jobs through such demands as: a shorter working week with no loss in pay. A national campaign for a 30 hour week, or a six-hour day, has the potential to turn around the widespread demoralisation amongst working people. Workers can see society going backwards, and are prepared to fight, but they see no one leading a fightback. Nationalist and conservative Union leaders need to be pushed aside if they will not even organise a struggle to prevent workers from falling into an abyss.
Working people must be aware, if they are not already, that the huge number of problems in society, domestically and internationally, are all linked to the crisis of the capitalist mode of production. The construction of a casino is linked to the thousands of homeless people sleeping on the streets each night. Public space being privatised is linked to increasing harassment on public transport by security services. Banks raking in record profits is linked to schools and hospitals being starved of funds. Youth being offered a future of joblessness, poverty and stress is linked to the ever increasing salaries of politicians who sleep on parliamentary benches. The wholesale destruction of the Great Barrier Reef is linked to the threat of nuclear war launched by the Western powers against anyone who dares to stand up to them.
Unfortunately, a “community” campaign against the Queens Wharf casino is unlikely to stall the ceaseless operations of capital. Everyone, all in together, means power is ceded to those currently holding it. What is required is the intervention of the working class. The obstacle to mobilising this class is the careerist leadership of most Unions, who collaborate with the government, its state, and the corporations it serves. The struggle for class leadership of the Unions is bound up with the struggle for a workers party. To be worthy of the name, a workers party must fight for a workers government, the first step towards the overthrow of the rule of capital, and the initiation of the socialist order.
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