Queensland Elections 2017 – Little Choice for Working People

Statement of the Workers League

The Queensland Elections, due to be held on November 25, 2017, offer almost nothing to the majority of working people. The economic crisis of the capitalist profit system grinds on, while corporations and the governments that serve them continue to make working people pay. Unemployment, poverty, housing distress, and a skyrocketing cost of living are just some of the obstacles many people face on a daily basis.

The Labor Party (ALP) government of Annastacia Palaszczuk has governed with a slim majority, overcoming the widely despised Liberal National Party (LNP) government of Campbell Newman, who shredded public services, jobs and civil liberties, in 2015. While the ALP has enacted some very minor legislative reforms, the notorious Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment bill, known as the VLAD laws, are still largely in place. These laws give the government effective power to ban any organisation, at any time. The economy is dragging itself along, more or less in recession. And the ALP has openly displayed its arrogance and disdain for people and the environment, not to say the Great Barrier Reef and the possible future of humanity, by strongly backing the Adani coal mine in Central Queensland. This mine will pump out as much carbon as the entire country of New Zealand for the next 60 years – with unlimited ground water, a mining royalties holiday and much more. Palaszczuk’s opportunistic announcement that an ALP government would veto the $1 billion dollar loan from the federal government was a last minute ploy to give the impression that the Adani abomination will not go ahead. In reality, both an ALP and LNP government would barely stand in the way.

Unions have circulated material which points out that the LNP government is proposing $11.6 billion worth of funding cuts – but they are not actually using the word “cuts”. Professor John Quiggin has calculated that this would equate to the elimination of 22 500 jobs from the public service. LNP leader Tim Nicholls claims that he has “learnt his lesson” from the disastrous axing of 14 000 jobs from the public service in 2012, when he was Treasurer. Like all establishment politician promises, such words are hot air. There may also be job cuts with an ALP government, as their budget costings also flagged a hacking into the public service, albeit not as many as would be likely with the LNP in governmental power.

The Greens are hoping that this election will be the first one in Queensland history to elect a Green Member of Parliament, or perhaps several. It is true that the Greens may be the beneficiary of a Labor Party which is giving inexcusable backing to the apocalyptic Adani Carmichael coal mine. The Greens are offering, at least on paper, some benefits that would benefit working people. Such things include the placing of retail, generation and distribution of electricity into public hands, $1 public transport fares, longer leases and a cap on rents for those renting housing, and the retention of public land for schools, public parks and public housing.[1]

The Consumer Rights and No Tolls party are also offering some easing of the cost of living. Although running a handful of candidates, we agree with the abolition of all tolls on roads, and the keeping of power, water and roads publically owned and controlled. The abolition of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and free University education are also worth supporting.[2]

The Socialist Alliance is running a candidate (Kamala Emanuel) in the central Brisbane seat of McConnell. For working people, its policies on paper are largely supportable. The three main demands, if achieved, would be a step forward. The halting of the Adani coal mine, the removal of the medical procedure of abortion from the criminal code, and a vast expansion of public housing are positions that progressive minded people can agree on. The policies of taking back public assets already sold, no to privatisation and sell-offs, and job creation through public works programs would be a much needed counter to relentless cuts and outsourcing.[3]

On the right, there is the potential danger of One Nation. Although One Nation did not achieve a substantial vote in the last Western Australian elections, Queensland is unfortunately the home of One Nation, and of Pauline Hanson. Like all far-right and potentially fascist parties, One Nation combines vicious racism with populist and even left-wing sounding positions. Politically aware workers are not fooled though – One Nation, while at the moment led by backward elements, could open the door to even more right-wing attacks on Unions and working people. One Nation also regularly votes with the Liberal Party in the federal parliament, making a mockery of its claim to be for the battlers.

While One Nation appears to tack left by supporting a “people’s bank”, opposing the raising of the retirement age to 70, and opposition to the privatisation of water, gas and electricity, the undercurrent of ultra-nationalist racist bile is clear. For example, One Nation oppose the wearing of the burqa by women of the Islamic faith in public places, government buildings and schools, opposes the teaching and “infiltration” of Islam, and the building of any more Mosques with the bizarre claim that Australia is a “Christian country”. The stock standard blaming of immigration for “overloading” water, sewerage, housing and roads is laughable, but all too real.[4]

Class struggle desperately needed

The fact that the potentially fascist One Nation is poised not only to win a substantial number of seats, but form government in concert with the LNP speaks volumes about the lack of class struggle in Queensland, and Australia generally. The mere existence of the far-right, buffoonish as they might be in the persona of Pauline Hanson, should sound urgent alarms amongst the left and the workers’ movement. There is a desperate need for a genuine class struggle workers’ movement not only to head off the right wing One Nation, but simply to defend themselves. Yet the leadership of the Union movement is arguably as conservative as it ever has been – barely active, or driving workers and Unions back into the ALP and/or the parliamentary system itself. The problems of vanishing penalty rates, high unemployment, casualization of work –  where it exists – are at crisis levels. This flows on to issues such as the blatant rip-off of electricity and water prices. Yet still there is no attempt by the Queensland Council of Unions, or Union leaderships generally, to even begin to organise any kind of workers’ fightback.

These Queensland elections are a part of the show of parliament – one of the most effective ruses the ruling class uses to portray the illusion of democracy. The capitalist system only goes through the system of parliamentary charades due to the fact that it is easier for them to rule if the masses are convinced that they have some form of representation – or at least that they don’t yet know of an alternative. Parliaments, however, are set up to exclude the working class from the exercise of decision making, or political, power. A revolutionary workers’ party may decide to run in the elections run by the capitalist class, but it would do so with the aim of leading the workers beyond a parliament which does not represent them, to a workers’ government, underpinned by a workers’ state.

This internationalist workers party needs to be forged. In its absence, there is little choice on offer. In any case, there are no real solutions to be found for working people from the sham political system imposed upon them, nor from the elections they provide. Much more can be won for working people by positioning the conservative leaderships of the Unions, and building class struggle movements – culminating in a genuine workers’ party. However, there is a danger of even bigger setbacks if the outcome in these elections is an LNP, or an LNP/One Nation coalition government. Indeed, the left should be ready to organise a serious fightback should this outcome occur.

A critical vote

We therefore advise workers to cast a critical vote for non-LNP/One Nation candidates. We advise a critical vote for the Socialist Alliance where they are standing, followed by other nominally progressive candidates such as the Consumer Rights and No Tolls Party, followed by the Greens, then the ALP, then the LNP with One Nation last. We do so with no overall political endorsement of these parties, but simply as a damage limitation exercise for working people.

This critical stance is important, for on many crucial issues, all of these parties stand on the opposite class side of the barricade. For example, on vital international issues, the Greens, the ALP, the LNP and even the Socialist Alliance stand together. In effect, all of these parties stood for the US imperialist wars on Libya and Syria, whatever their attempted justifications. All of them, to a lesser or greater degree, join with the US deep state in its barely believable verbal and military provocations against Russia – which threatens the termination of Europe, if not the world. Russia’s effective prevention of US led regime change in Syria constitutes a large factor in their irrational Russophobia. All of them are deeply hostile to the overturn of capitalist rule in China, Vietnam and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or “North Korea”). Given that there still remains the imminent danger of a US instigated nuclear war against the DPRK, this is no small oversight. All of them either support or fail to oppose the US led provocations in the South China Sea, for fear of being seen to defend Red China. Foreign policy may officially be within the purview of federal politics, but there is no difference in the personnel of these parties at local, state or federal level.

We also acknowledge working people who feel there is no option at all that is an answer, and thus vote informally, or do not bother to turn up at the polling booths altogether. We understand this sentiment, and in part agree that it is not always apathy, but a reasonably considered option amongst options which offer little or nothing. The fact that the informal vote has been increasing in recent years indicates that more and more people are turned off by the whole parliamentary show.

Ultimately, no substantial problems that working people experience can be solved by voting in elections which are set up to ensure their exclusion. The real source of the unemployment, the poverty, the lack of affordable housing, the lack of public transport, the endless cuts to public services and the ongoing climate collapse is the capitalist system of private production for private profit. This private production nevertheless uses social labour, to accumulate all of the untold wealth in this drastically unequal society. What is required is the overthrow of the rule of capital, and the initiation of a socialist order. A prerequisite to begin this task is a workers’ party which fights for a workers’ government. The Workers League seeks to take the first steps on this path, and invites all those who agree to join us.

Workers League

PO Box 66 NUNDAH QLD 4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

 

 

 

 

[1] https://greens.org.au/qld/initiatives (24-11-17)

[2] https://www.no-tolls.org/ (24-11-17)

[3] https://socialist-alliance.org/news/vote-1-kamala-emanuel-socialist-alliance-mcconnel (24-11-17)

[4] http://www.onenation.com.au/principles (24-11-17)

For Full Citizenship Rights! Defend Refugees by Opposing War!

For Full Citizenship Rights!  Defend Refugees by Opposing War!

24-06-2017 – Imagine living in limbo for four years, only to be told that you have four months to lodge an application for asylum, or face being deported. This is what faces thousands of refugees currently in Australia, following the latest move by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Liberal National Party (LNP) Minister Dutton has now given a deadline of October 1 to fill out a complex and involved application, for people who may be either illiterate, may not have English speaking ability, and may not be able to access any legal representation. This deadline refers to 30 500 people who arrived in Australia by boat between August 13, 2012, when the then Australian Labor Party (ALP) suspended processing of claims from “illegal maritime arrivals”, and January 1, 2014 – when those arriving were either turned back at sea or sent to offshore detention centres.[1]

These people have in some cases been waiting for four years to apply for asylum. Now they face somehow having to complete a 60 page application, full of dense legal definitions, comprising of over 100 questions. Kon Karapanagiotidis, of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, has stated that even experienced lawyers not trained in refugee law are not able to complete the applications. Experienced lawyers who are trained in refugee law can take up to eight hours to complete them. Hiring a private lawyer can cost $5000, a cost that is obviously unaffordable for asylum seekers trying to survive on welfare payments. Mr Karapanagiotidis claims that the government is trying to scare asylum seekers into completing the forms without any legal assistance, as the government is well aware that bodies that assist refugees and asylum seekers do not have the resources to even attempt this task.[2]

“Citizenship Test”

These measures contain a level of racism barely able to be conceived, but official government racism against those predominantly originating from less developed countries, does not stop there. The Federal Liberal government has proposed absurd levels of testing about so-called “Australian Values” for those applying for citizenship here. Instead of a one year waiting period, they are pushing for four years. Those applying will likely undergo strict English language tests, to a level which many Australian born residents would probably fail. On social media, some mocked and ridiculed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, suggesting “Australian values” includes: telling others where speed cameras are, destroying 200 indigenous languages and then imposing your own, English being the 5th or 6th language of some indigenous people, and scoffing a kebab while complaining about Muslim immigrants.[3]

Some of the proposed questions are deliberately targeted to inflame anti-Islam hysteria, as if there wasn’t already enough. For example, questions such as: do you support female genital mutilation? And: Under what circumstances is it permissible for someone to strike their spouse within the confines of their own home?  – are clearly hostile provocations against those whose religious beliefs may be Islamic. For centuries, people holding the Islamic religion have co-existed amongst Australian settlers, and amongst Australia’s indigenous people. All this changed after the misnamed “war on terror” began in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001. The Islamic – real or not – entity was the new bogeyman which the West conjured to replace the decades of Cold War anti-communism. Today, the atrocious wars of regime change in the Middle East by the Western powers and their allies, has once again incited extreme Islamophobia, even while the Western powers themselves arm, fund and train the terrorists they claim to be fighting.

Citizenship rights torn to shreds

While the politicians cynically try to create an “Australian” us and a threatening “them”, basic civil liberties and democratic rights for those already citizens are being incinerated in the “fight against terrorism” – in a security scare which inevitably sweeps up refugees and asylum seekers. No matter how many times these same politicians and other liberals decry “totalitarian” Russia or China, totalitarianism here in Australia is reaching unprecedented levels. The right to free speech, the right to assembly, the right to form political organisations, the right not to be arbitrarily detained, the right to private communication – all of these and more are being ripped up before our very eyes. Edward Snowden and Julian Assange have risked their lives to inform us of the extent to which we can be monitored by “our own” spy agencies. For example, the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2014, allows the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) to collect intelligence on Australian citizens, to enable ASIS to cooperate with the ASIO without ministerial authorisation, and allows ASIO to cooperate with the private sector.[4]

Even data stored on your own personal computer is effectively no longer yours. Laws have been enacted which redefines a “computer” as a network, or one or more systems, or one or more computers.[5] The entire internet connections of everyone in the country could be described as a “network”. And police would then only require one warrant to potentially hack into, or seize, any computer anywhere in the country. All in the name of security against “terrorism”. Almost anything can, and has, been justified by raising the word “terrorism”. This ties into the question of refugee and asylum seeker rights, because it is often directly raised in terms of a refugee being a potential “terrorist”.

The Australian government has some hide accusing refugees and others of being potential “terrorists”. From practical experience over the last six years, it is this gang which has demonstrated not only that it does not “fight” terrorism, but in practice aids, assists, and works alongside actual terrorists. The Australian government politically backed NATO in its destruction of Libya, in which terrorists armed by the US and the UK were proxies using violence to bring down the former Libyan government headed by Colonel Gaddafi. In Syria, the Australian government has sent fighter jets and troops to materially aid the US, the UK, France, Saudi Arabia and Israel in their desperate attempt at regime change. To do so, the Australian military forces, working under US tutelage, cleared the way for the genocidal ISIS and Al Qaeda terrorists to slaughter untold numbers of innocents. These appalling wars caused thousands to flee as refugees, to Europe, Asia and Australia. This is one reason why working people should not accord this Australian state the right to decide who, and who is not, a citizen. We need to fight for full citizenship rights for all those who have made it to these shores. That is, the right to safe haven, as well as the right to work, medical and welfare benefits, housing, and the right to apply for citizenship if that is what is desired.

For independent politics

The atrocious detention of innocent refugees and asylum seekers is linked to the abominable wars for Empire in which the Australian state is enmeshed. This is one reason why the refugee rights movement here must fully break from the domestic and foreign policy of Canberra. Thus far, however, in the main the refugee rights movement has sought a break with the domestic policies of the federal government, but has not attempted to break with the foreign policy of the national politicians, despite their claims. Hence, while groups such as the Refugee Action Collective (RAC), and the left parties which underpin it (such as Solidarity, Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance) correctly make efforts to force the government to close the Manus Island and Nauru detention centres, at the same time they endorse, or at least fall silent, when the Australian state wages refugee-creating wars in the Middle East and North Africa. Nor do they speak out when the US Empire, currently in the persona of Donald Trump, threatens to blow the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or “North Korea”) off the face of the planet, threatening the world with nuclear war – and making potentially millions of refugees.

RAC and their constituent left parties put forward the demand “Sack Peter Dutton”. No doubt the current Immigration Minister displays virulently anti-human capacities. However, the entire ruling and political establishment are a part of the same system. This demand, essentially a demand for the ruling class to shuffle around their personnel, also ties the refugee rights movement ever closer to the Australian state. The persecution of refugees is ultimately aimed at dividing workers against themselves, let alone it being draconian and unjust. It is thus in the interests of working people to strongly oppose these practices. However, by guiding the refugee rights movement politically towards the very politicians who enable this barbarism, RAC and some left parties turn those most abhorred by these practices back into the arms of those we should be campaigning against. In short, the politics becomes dependent on the political arms of the profit system. What is needed for refugee rights, and also for defending basic living and working conditions, is independent working class politics.

This is the polar opposite of the “broad front” politics practiced by RAC and the left parties which drive it. They seek the broadest possible of fronts on the issue of refugee rights – which pushes them into forming alliances with the very forces which produce refugees in the first place. Even though the Australian Greens, for example, speak out against the abuse of refugees from the parliamentary benches, they are not about to do anything to jeopardise these cushioned seats. Rarely, there are some Australian Labor Party (ALP) politicians prepared to (timidly) oppose the detention of asylum seekers – but these are sought after as “broad” allies. NGOs such as GetUp! wage online campaigns for refugees, but their campaigns invariably target only Liberal ministers, giving the game away as to who they really work for. And while many church groups genuinely contribute valuable work towards refugee rights campaigns, in the end the limitations of their politics becomes one more conservative bloc which limits the “broad front” from taking the action which is most needed. Moreover, all of these political forces do not oppose, or actually endorse, the wars engendered by the capitalist West’s economic crisis, be it against Libya, Syria, Ukraine or the DPRK.

Defend refugees by opposing war

We need all hands on deck to win basic rights for refugees, so of course no one should be “kicked out” of actions in defence of refugee rights. At the same time, there does need to be a political split with the current leadership of the refugee rights movement, as their politics can ultimately only prevent, not enable, victory. The politics that can win is one which seeks primarily to mobilise a united front of the working class, which can then draw in students, artists, musicians, churches and even some community groups in behind. It is only the collective workers who have the power to end abuse of refugees due to their strategic class position, which drives the accumulation of wealth. Politicians, NGOs and similar elements cannot do this, as they are tied politically to the profit system.

The key obstacle to mobilising the working class is the conservative Union bureaucracy, tied also by a thousand threads to the system which provides them well-paid careers. From this materially privileged position, Union officials not only refuse to assist the refugee rights struggle, but tie their members and the workers generally into Canberra’s foreign policy – which is in turn tied into the US war machine. This war machine is currently threatening the world with nuclear war. It is not only in Syria and the DPRK where Wall Street seeks regime change – the ultimate targets are Russia and China. Working people cannot allow this catastrophic course to go unchallenged.

It is the decaying capitalist system which delivers permanent war, horrific abuse of refugees, poverty, unemployment, ecological collapse, and much more. These crises nonetheless present an opportunity for workers’ party to point the way forward to an internationally planned economy, where the prosperity of society will leave no one behind, where all will work in common and have sufficient time to develop whichever skills they possess. The Workers League holds these aims and more – join us!

WORKERS LEAGUE

PO  BOX  66   NUNDAH  QLD   4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

www.redfireonline.com

 

[1] https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2017/05/27/peter-duttons-asylum-seeker-deadline/14958072004703 (14-06-2017)

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/02/27/government-threatens-to-cut-off-asylum-seeker-visas-within-30-da_a_21722259/ (14-06-2017)

[3] http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/04/20/social-media-asks-what-australianvalues-are-pms-new-citizenship-test (17-06-17)

[4] https://newmatilda.com/2014/09/23/abbotts-anti-terror-laws-are-real-danger-australia/ (17-06-17)

[5] http://theconversation.com/sweeping-security-law-would-have-computer-users-surrender-privacy-30041 (17-06-17)

The Manus Island detention centre will close, after being ruled illegal by a Papua New Guinea court. Image from http://www.cnn.com

 

Jobs Not Casinos! Housing not Hotels! Public not Private!

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.[1] 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.[2] 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![3] 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.

WORKERS LEAGUE

PO BOX 66 NUNDAH QLD 4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

www.redfireonline.com

[1] https://realmoneycasinos.com.au/queensland-approves-crack-cocaine-of-gambling-at-queens-wharf-6502/ (14-04-17)

[2] http://www.smh.com.au/business/echo-consortium-to-build-2000-apartments-for-2b-queens-wharf-complex-20150721-giguyx.html (14-04-17)

[3] http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/industrial-relations/unionists-march-to-back-jobs-for-locals-on-queens-wharf/news-story/f796cc35bd1a52af04d946b712114ff2 (14-04-17)

Demand Public Housing and Public Space! Down with the Profit System!

15-12-16 – The image of media with cameras filming the eviction of homeless people from under the Go-Between Bridge in October tells a damning story. The fact that the Brisbane City Council was proud to broadcast its callousness speaks volumes about an administration which plays its part in creating homelessness, and then punishing those who become homeless. The local councillor for the area, the Greens’ Jonathon Sri, stated that he was not informed of the evictions beforehand.[1]  Brisbane City Council claims that all those “moved on” will be found accommodation to move into is largely suspected to be hot air. Homelessness in Brisbane, and around Australia, in recent years is increasing, and may even be at its highest level ever.

One of the major drivers of homelessness is the privatisation of public housing stock, and the drive towards so-called “social housing”. Using these means, state governments absolve themselves of any responsibility to ensure housing for all, regardless of income and employment status. “Social Housing” invariably is handed to a religious organisation or housing company, which takes it on as a money making business, rather than service provision. As opposed to a set amount of rent collected from a person who required public housing, say 10% of their income, the profit seeking outfits place upward pressure on the amount of rent collected. Tenants’ rights under “social housing” also tend to be undermined, as a church group or NGO does not have the regulated oversight of a public body.

Another key force behind homelessness is chronic unemployment and underemployment, which has been steadily rising since the world capitalist economies entered into a deep recession in 2008. The official unemployment figures are widely regarded to be vast underestimates, if not outright falsifications. While the official unemployment rate is around 5%, combined unemployment and underemployment according to some figures is 19.1%, or around 2.3 million Australians of working age.[2] The decline of manufacturing, such as the closure of the entire industry of car production, only adds to the dilemma. Some laid off waterside workers who know little else are languishing on miniscule unemployment benefits. Regional towns like Townsville, Dirranbandi and Biloela have many of their residents simply leaving because there is no work. They move to the big cities to find work, but often without luck.

Along with the privatisation of public housing comes the privatisation of public space. The Queens Wharf mega-casino monstrosity in the middle of Brisbane is another case of public land being handed to private corporations. The privatisation of public land shrinks the area not only that the public can use, but that homeless people and others can find some temporary respite. A privately owned mega-casino simply becomes another area from which the public and the poor are excluded.

Working people’s right to both housing and public space at a certain point come into collision with the profit system, i.e. the system of generalised commodity production for private profit. As the capitalist economy declines, public space and public housing are seen as more commodities that should be plundered by private capital. Capitalist governments organise for public space to be handed to private corporations, and for public housing to be degraded or handed to the private sector. Working people and the marginalised lose out automatically.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In the Asia-Pacific region, there is a prime example of a state which not only provides huge amounts of public space, but also provides free housing. This state is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – incorrectly referred to by the Western corporate media as “North Korea”. As we have mentioned previously, in our article on the “West Village” development[3], the DPRK’s capital of Pyongyang has a massive 58 square metres of green space per person[4], compared to an almost non-existent 4 square centimetres of green space per person for the city of Brisbane.[5] Pyongyang is also known for its ten metre wide footpaths, which are made for people to meet and congregate on, while allowing a pathway for those who wish to reach their destination.

Moreover, the phenomenon in Australia of housing being virtually unaffordable for many young and working people is simply unknown in the DPRK. Article 25 of the DPRK’s constitution states: “The State shall provide all of the working people with every condition for obtaining food, clothing and housing.”[6] This means that housing is provided at no cost to DPRK citizens. Understandably this means that there is no homelessness. What a contrast to capitalist Australia – with thousands homeless every night, and affordable housing virtually out of reach for vast swathes of the population!

The DPRK can only achieve such things due to the fact that it has, through an immense struggle against the worst excesses of US imperialism, abolished capitalism in the process of establishing a workers state. That is, a state which represents and places in power no class other than that of the working people. This is the first step towards the classless, socialist society which Karl Marx envisioned. Thus here in Australia, while we struggle for decent public housing and a livable amount of public space, we must keep in mind that ultimately, the only permanent guarantee of such rights is the sweeping away of the capitalist system through workers’ revolution. For this task, a workers’ party which fights for a workers’ government is indispensable. DOWN WITH THE PROFIT SYSTEM!

———————————————————————————————

Workers League

PO Box 66   Nundah  QLD  4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

www.redfireonline.com

[1] https://newmatilda.com/2016/10/22/reality-tv-when-you-move-on-the-homeless-make-sure-the-media-is-around/ (10-12-16)

[2] http://propertyupdate.com.au/real-unemployment-in-australia-is-now-9-2/ (11-12-16)

[3] https://redfireonline.com/2016/11/15/for-public-housing-green-space-and-livable-cities/ (11-12-16)

[4] Willoughby, R., 2014, North Korea – The Bradt Travel Guide.

[5] https://prezi.com/ja61waahkmhx/green-space/ (11-12-16)

[6] http://www.naenara.com.kp/en/order/pytimes/?page=Culture&no=21317 (11-12-16)

Public Space, not Privatisation! No to Mega-Casinos!

05-12-2016 – Make no mistake, Brisbane is being privatised before our very eyes. Huge slabs of public land are being sloughed off the public asset register by Labor and Liberal governments alike. The massive Queens Wharf Mega-Casino is just the latest instalment of a drive to enrich pathological corporations, at the expense of working people – the people who built this city. In the middle of Brisbane, public land will be handed to the Orwellian titled “Destination Brisbane Consortium” on a 99 year lease – in effect, permanent privatisation. The entire political establishment, from the Liberal Brisbane City Council to the Labor State Government, remain oblivious to the decimation of the heritage of the city, to the privatisation of public space, to the plight of the homeless, and to the situation of working people whose taxes they funnel to private business.

Despite our strong political disagreements with the Australian Greens on other issues, we applaud the work of Greens Councillor Jonathon Sri, who is seeking to organise a much- needed campaign against the Queens Wharf Casino. Councillor Sri’s website points out just a few of the many reasons why the Queens Wharf Casino is an affront to the working people of Brisbane, and indeed the world. For one thing, 66 000 square metres of office space formerly owned by the state government for public service staff, will be demolished to make way for the Casino development.[1] It was the former Liberal National Party (LNP) Premier Campbell Newman which began the privatisation of CBD buildings formerly owned by the state government, but this has continued under the ALP Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk.

Public servants, formerly working in a number of buildings in the CBD, will be crammed like sardines into the “Tower of Power”, the cosy deal Campbell Newman signed for a 45 storey tower at 1 William Street. Above them, will sit the Cabinet and the Ministers in much more spaciously accounted floors at the top. For the first time in Queensland’s history, the Premier and Cabinet will “work” from offices owned by the private sector!  Several government departments will be located there, while paying rent to the private sector – to the tune of $10.5 million dollars per year.[2] That is, 10 million odd dollars from the taxpayer, will be going directly into the bank accounts of the private sector – each year. None of that money will ever be spent on public amenities, public housing, schools or hospitals.

The 2 billion dollar contract handed to Echo Entertainment to build the Queens Wharf monstrosity will fill the troughs of corporate developers, and the politicians and councillors who “approve” it, but will privatise 7.8 hectares of the Brisbane CBD, which will be welcoming for those high rollers who can afford to gamble, but will likely lock out poor and working class people who cannot afford gambling and stays in 5 star resorts. Some architects have severely criticised the proposal. Richard Kirk, the President of the Australian Institute of Architects Queensland, has berated the plan which will build gaming floors over the top of public streets, plunging them into darkness.[3] The one piece of the proposal which may be genuinely accessible to the non-paying public is an alleged bridge to South Bank. But this has not been budgeted for, and so will probably not happen.

There has been no public consultation whatsoever, on anything to do with the mega-casino development. This is probably because where casinos have been built, dramatic social problems like poverty and mental illness increase. Not only that, the Queens Wharf  “development” will not even go through the already corporate developer friendly laws that usually apply to such developments. It will not be assessed against the Sustainable Planning Act of 2009, nor the Brisbane City Plan of 2014.[4] It’s a virtual green light before any nominations have even been received.

“Developments” such as these should be enough to shake, if not shatter, any faith that working people hold in governments which are beholden to the corporate elite. The cardinal lesson for working people is that capitalist governments, at whatever level, are not, and never will be, “our” governments, no matter how much we lobby them, or indeed protest against them. All capitalist governments are governments imposed on working people against their will, and are set up to prevent working people from taking part in any decision which seriously affects their living conditions. Behind capitalist governments lie the capitalist state – the police, the courts, the prisons and the armed forces – whose job it is to force working people to accept the further accumulation of private capital at their expense. The capitalist state enforces nothing less than private wealth built on public squalor.

All efforts should be extended to stop the Queens Wharf casino, the privatisation of public land, public housing and indeed public services themselves. At the same time, we need to be aware that it is only a workers’ government, at the head of a socialist state, which can truly act in the interests of the public. A socialist state begins with the seizure of state power by the organised working class, led by a workers’ party. Such a party urgently needs to be formed, and we can begin to build such a party by replacing class-collaborationist Union officials with a class struggle leadership. Then the potential to unleash the real social power of the working class can be breached. As we struggle for decent social living conditions, the socialist objective must remain foremost in our minds. Down with Queens Wharf !

Workers League

PO Box  66  Nundah  QLD  4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

www.redfireonline.com

Ph: 0421 408 692

[1] http://jonathansri.com/casino/ (26-11-2016)

[2] http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/1-william-street-to-be-entirely-filled-by-public-servants-20150615-ghof5p.html (26-11-2016)

[3] http://www.afr.com/real-estate/commercial/architects-slam-queens-wharf-casino-site-warn-of-irreparable-damage-to-brisbane-20150805-gis5l9 (26-11-2016)

[4] http://jonathansri.com/casino/ (26-11-2016)

Shut down Don Dale! Release the Aboriginal, Youth and Refugee Detainees!

29-03-2016 – In scenes reminiscent of the notorious Abu Graib prison during the US/UK/AUST imperialist war on Iraq from 2003, the ABC’s 4 Corners program last Monday night broadcast horrific images of Northern Territory “correctional” guards torturing youth detainees at the equally notorious Don Dale Youth Detention Centre. Although one of the detainees shown being shackled and hooded to a chair was white (Dylon Voller), the overwhelming majority of inmates are indigenous. Aboriginal people represent but 3% of the national population, but fill out 28% of the prison population.[1] Pushing the bounds of reality, a staggering 97% of youth detainees in the Northern Territory are of Aboriginal heritage.[2]

The images shown by the 4 Corners report show detainees being tear gassed, beaten, stripped naked, hog tied and hooded, causing untold psychological and physical trauma, in actions which are clearly criminal, according to any definition of the term. Some indigenous leaders are now calling for the Northern Territory government to be sacked or dissolved, saying the gross mistreatment of youth in detention should result in a forfeit of a right to govern.[3] The Federal Government’s response has been to call a Royal Commission, in a well-worn path of attempting to divert mounting anger into long drawn-out and ultimately fruitless channels. The last Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in custody in 1987, as is widely known, handed down 330 recommendations – virtually all of which have never been implemented. It was a classic whitewash, as will be the latest one. Ultimately, there will be no change when the capitalist state investigates itself – in the same way that police cannot independently investigate police.

Both the Federal Government and the Northern Territory government cannot now claim to be shocked as to the latest events to be revealed. For at least 5 years, the abuse of detainees at Don Dale has been known to all levels of government, regardless of which parliamentary party sat on the benches of government. In fact, repeated incidents of abuse at Don Dale were reported between 2010 and 2012, when it was not a Liberal National Coalition government, but one formed by the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens. All parties, both Federal and Northern Territory governments, the police and the “corrective services” management knew of gross maltreatment of those supposedly in their care, yet did nothing.

The fact that Aboriginal and non-indigenous youth have carried out petty crimes and crimes against property and end up in detention, is ultimately an end result of the vicious cycle of poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment. There literally is little future in a society which offers them no or low-paying jobs, an unaffordable cost of living, disintegrating public services and crumbling public infrastructure. Amongst this dire outlook, the marginalisation of Aboriginal people and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds is yet another damning indictment of a society which subordinates almost all human endeavour to the accumulation of capital into the hands of a numerically insignificant but obscenely wealthy minority.

There are striking parallels between the torture meted out to the detainees at Don Dale and that imposed on innocent human beings seeking asylum and a safe place to live in Australia. Australia has the ignominious distinction to now be known worldwide for clearly illegal and inhumane treatment of refugees who are more often than not fleeing the very wars which Canberra has waged alongside Washington in the Middle East and elsewhere. In both cases, at Don Dale and refugee detention centres either on the mainland or off-shore in Nauru and Manus Island, the unfortunate people are treated as less than human, as something to be denied humanity, dignity and physical and mental health. The further the system of private profit declines, the worse the treatment of its victims.

The repression is creeping into society as a whole. Catch a train or walk down a city centre, and you are likely to cross the path or be accosted by heavily armed police, or public transport guards who have the power to detain, beat and/or prosecute you. It is in public, not just behind the walls of detention centres, that indigenous people, youth, people of colour, Muslims or anyone deemed to be an “other”, can be targeted for state sponsored repression. The increase of repression and the falling rate of profit are directly linked. The ruling classes are aware that their system is on the ropes, and are preparing to prevent a large scale fight back. This is precisely what working people and their supporters need to organise.

Despite the horrors we see almost on a daily basis, there is no need for despair. The crisis presents an opportunity to fight, push through, and win the deep changes for which working people are crying out. Political strategy is crucial. While indigenous people suffer the worst effects of oppression in capitalist Australia, their oppression is linked to the oppression of working people. Thus it is imperative that Indigenous activists and their supporters look towards efforts to win over people as workers and draw them in to political action which engages in a class struggle against the source of both Aboriginal and worker misfortune – the ruling class and its state apparatus.

The main block to mobilising people as workers is the ideologically pro-capitalist Union bureaucracy, which seeks to restrict industrial action to that which is acceptable to the corporate magnates. The battle to replace the conservative careerists at the head of almost all Unions with a leadership committed to the needs of workers and the oppressed is bound up with the struggle to forge a multi-racial revolutionary workers’ party. Such a party would seek to assist all efforts to end indigenous disadvantage with the same vigour as it would defend the interests of working people.

While every effort should be made to end the horror of Don Dale, those struggling for justice would do well to recognise that indigenous oppression is common only to those countries where capital rules. Countries which have established workers’ rule – China, the DPRK, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba – do not and cannot oppress their own indigenous people. Indeed, through the mechanism of their respective workers’ states, often the indigenous people are heading up and leading these countries’ path towards socialism. Release the Aboriginal, youth and refugee detainees!

Workers League
PO Box 66 NUNDAH QLD 4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/law/aboriginal-prison-rates (27-07-2016)

[2] http://www.sbs.com.au/news/thefeed/article/2016/07/26/facts-about-indigenous-youth-detention-australia (27-07-2016)

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-26/indigenous-leaders-call-for-nt-government-to-be-sacked/7662150 (27-07-2016)

For Public Housing, Green Space and Livable Cities!

21-08-2016 – Concrete jungles, unaffordable housing, expensive public transport, the privatisation and commercialisation of more and more public space, traffic congestion – all this has unfortunately become the norm for Brisbane for some years now. The imposing “West Village” development in West End is scarcely different. Seven 15 storey high-density luxury apartments are proposed by development corporations with no other agenda other than to pocket themselves millions of dollars, and damn the consequences, for they do not live anywhere near the monstrosity built.

Local State Member of Parliament, the Australian Labor Party’s ALP Jackie Trad, has, after objections, initiated the process of “calling in” the West Village development.[1] But this does not at all mean that the project will be stopped – it could be merely a mechanism by which an ALP politician can claim that they have carried out “public consultation”. The ALP, along with the Liberal National Party (LNP) are bought and paid operatives for the system which creates unsustainable development in the first place. In fact, the entire parliamentary system, from the local council right up to the Federal Government, is not a system of “representation”, but a system of suppressing the right of working people to make political decisions.

The parliamentary apparatus is the sham political arm of the capitalist system – the system of private production for private profit. At the same time, privately organised production uses the social labour of the working class to amass all the monetary gain, returning only enough to working people the means to reproduce themselves – or not even that. This system has been in recession for years in Australia, with no current signs of any kind of recovery. Capital seeks an ever greater return on its rate of profit, and thus will undertake projects which glean the highest rate of return – irrespective of what working people and the communities in which they live actually need. Affordable public housing, cheap or free public housing, green space and public parks and amenities – capital pockets no profit from building or maintaining such needs for working people.

Developments such as West Village are an example of the contradiction between private property and social property. As long as the Absoe Furniture site remains private property, the capitalist system will allow, and is set up to enable, the private owners to do as they see fit – short of a huge intervention by working people. Private property in land underpins capitalism. Opposing this system is social property owned in common – socialism. The struggle for rational social planning, for green space, for public housing and public amenities, therefore, is ultimately a struggle against private property. Such a struggle ultimately can only successfully be waged as a working class struggle. A “community” campaign, due to the fact that it appeals to all “locals” regardless of class, just won’t cut it.

Historically, where the working class has waged such a successful struggle which has resulted in victory, working people have reaped the benefits. While in Australia we have governments of all stripes which have privatised public housing, in the People’s Republic of China, their government has embarked on an immense public housing program. By the end of 2014, the Chinese government had supplied 40 million families with low-rent public housing.[2] Housing in China is seen as a responsibility of the government. Or take the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK – referred to by the Western media as “North Korea”). Its capital Pyongyang has a whopping 58 square metres of green space per person[3], and is known for its 10 metre wide footpaths. Compare this to Brisbane, with a maximum of 4 square centimetres of green space per person.[4]

The crucial difference is that, with all its imperfections, socialism rules in China and the DPRK, whereas capitalism remains unchallenged in Australia. Local struggles, such as the one against the rapacious property developers, backed by the Brisbane City Council, seeking to bury West End under an avalanche of luxury units, are important way before the struggle advances to the stage of posing questions of the entire system. The efforts of all those struggling to make Brisbane a livable city are welcome. Yet even here class differences will become apparent. Residents and working people will have a totally different conception of “livable” compared to Councillors, developers, real estate agents and even small shopkeepers. They all see dollars in their pockets, whereas as working residents desire a pleasant and amenable place to reside for themselves and their families. In fact, the struggle for livable cities is inseparable from the struggle for decent working conditions, a lower cost of living, decent public transport and basic public services. With the right strategy, a win in one area can mean a win in others. Down with “West Village”! 

Workers League

PO Box 66 Nundah QLD 4012

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/jackie-trad-considers-calling-in-west-end’s-west-village-development-20160727-gqelwv.html (14-08-16)

[2] http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2015-02/14/content_19590172.htm (15-08-16)

[3] Willoughby, R., 2014, North Korea – The Bradt Travel Guide.

[4] https://prezi.com/ja61waahkmhx/green-space/ (15-08-16)

Mobilise Unions to demand: Free Healthcare for All Citizens!

20-02-2016 – Step by step, cut by cut, Australia’s health care system is being ripped from the hands of working people. Federal “Health” Minister Susan Ley announced a $650 million cut to Medicare incentive payments as a “Merry Christmas” gift at the end of last year. It will likely lead to up-front costs for pathology tests, blood and urine tests, pap smears, imaging and ultrasound services.[1] This comes on top of 23 medical procedures slated for “review” – read: cut – from Medicare. But these 23 are just the first of a projected 5700 items in the line of the razor.[2] Make no mistake; the aim is not just the abolition of bulk billing, but the complete dismantling of Medicare, or anything resembling public health care in this country. To say that the end result will be a user-pays US style “health” system is no understatement.

Working people should be under no illusions – the real cause of the savage attacks on basic public services such as healthcare is not the ideological predilections of the Liberal Party, for the Labor Party (ALP) and the Greens are offering scant resistance. The real cause is the deep and ongoing economic crisis of the capitalist system, which has ravaged the US and Europe since 2008. If Australia has avoided a Greece or Spain type economic catastrophe, it is due in no small part to extensive trade links with the still growing socialist led Chinese economy. Red China’s enormous economy props up, and feeds, sparks of growth in the faltering “free enterprise” of the West. Yet even China’s vast resources will not be enough to significantly re-start production on these shores. Consequently, Australia’s capitalist class and their political servants deem it natural that ANY social spending which is not directly related to assistance for the accumulation of private profit for the corporate elite shall be cut, and cut mercilessly. As has been the case with previous cuts, the latest health care cuts will disproportionately affect women, pensioners, all those on lower incomes and their children. It is no less than economic warfare.

There needs to be an immediate, robust and unrelenting offensive movement, not just to “defend Medicare”, but for an entirely free and universal health care system. Such a system must come primarily at the expense of the profits of the banks, mining companies and other corporate conglomerates, many of which currently escape paying any tax at all. This movement needs to be led by those with the social power and class interest to do so – the Trade Unions, which can then draw in unorganised labour, pro-working class students, pensioners and others. Yet sitting atop the Unions we find an overpaid and self-satisfied labour bureaucracy – officials who build their careers and handy superannuation nest eggs by suppressing, not enabling, workers’ struggle. As ever, the crisis of the labour movement is the crisis of its leadership – with barely one official even raising a murmur against the rapidly deteriorating health care system. For example, take the Queensland Nurses Union Secretary Beth Mohle. Speaking in relation to a report about the poor performance of Queensland hospitals in relation to waiting times, Mohle stated that she believed the Australian public “would be prepared to pay higher taxes to continue with the high quality health and education services that we have now.”[3] Like hell !! With the amount of tax working people already pay, free health care and education is already justified. This complete lack of perspective of class struggle gels with a wealthy Union official’s complete distance from the hardships of the life of working people.

The indifference of the Union officials, however, only exists as far as working people allow it – inside and outside the respective Unions. Unions, unlike the governments and parliaments of the rich, are based on the working class – the funds and organisation of workers themselves. This is why Union leaderships can be “pressured” into taking action, given sufficient organisation. The federal, state and local governments, on the other hand, are but committees for managing the affairs of the ruling class, to quote a famous figure. They are not accountable to working people, no matter how many demands are laid at their feet. Focusing on lobbying them can only lead to paralysis before the campaign has even begun.

A huge danger for the campaign against the cuts is that is that it will be railroaded into an effort to elect an ALP/Greens Federal government, with elections due this year. In fact, indications are that this perspective has already become dominant. National rallies against the Medicare cuts have been called for February 20 – a Saturday. Make no mistake, rallies and demonstrations are necessary. However, a rally on a Saturday or Sunday means there can be virtually no workplaces that take industrial action and walk out to join the demonstration. It is the weight of the workers which will be decisive in this struggle – as in many others. The ruling class can sustain any number of rallies on a weekend, which involve no industrial action, in which any number of people attend. Even a rally of millions on a weekend has no discernible impact on the financial aristocracy, because such an action is aimed at pleading, even begging, with the government. What is urgently required is a national campaign of industrial action, up to and including general strikes. If this was to occur, it would be the workers who would be bargaining from a position of strength. Plaintive appeals of “stop the cuts” – to those who are already carrying them out – is profoundly disempowering.

In practice, unfortunately, the latter strategy is the one often imposed on actions by representatives of the ALP, the Greens and Union officialdom. They are supported in this perspective by some left parties who help organise “These cuts are killing us” actions. Such left groups would argue that it is necessary to build a “broad”, “inclusive” movement which can mobilise the most numbers. They would claim – the more numbers, the more “broad” the political forces, the more “unity”, the more likelihood of success. Yet this is profoundly mistaken. Politics does not work by numbers alone, and positively malfunctions where there is “unity” between progressive and conservative elements. What is decisive are the two basic classes of capitalist society – labour and capital. If working people are mobilised alongside, and march side by side with political forces which do not share their aims – in this case, the ALP, the Greens and the Union bureaucracy – the movement can only bolster the fortunes of those pushing to privatise health care. In this case, such a movement will be used by the more conservative political forces for their aims – the election of an ALP/Greens government.

Needless to say, an ALP/Greens government will NOT deliver free health care, or anything approaching it. Therefore, the campaign for free health care must not be politically subordinated to those parties, or its allies in the Union bureaucracy. Working people need to demand free health care without qualification. They need to demand their Unions mobilise workers independently of all parliamentary parties and those that serve them. Such a campaign would link up with the already overstretched nurses and doctors who are still in what remains of public healthcare. Based on the mobilisation of labour, it could draw in supporters who rely on, and would politically support a universal healthcare system – students, pensioners, retirees and others. Such a movement would then also be in a position to demand public spending on other vital services such as education and public transport.

In the course of this struggle, we would do well to recognise the two countries which have the best free and universal health care systems in the world – the Republic of Cuba, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Cuba’s free healthcare system has long been recognised the world over, and Cuba is renowned for sending doctors and medical teams overseas to aid impoverished countries. Less well known, but just as effective, is the universal and free health care system in the DPRK. Yet these universal healthcare systems come courtesy of their respective socialist revolutions which overthrew capitalism and consigned it to the dustbin of history. The victory of socialism will be the ultimate guarantee of free healthcare.

FOR UNIVERSAL AND FREE HEALTHCARE FOR ALL CITIZENS!

 

Workers League

PO BOX 66   NUNDAH   QLD   4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.mamamia.com.au/health-minister-pap-smear/ (28-01-2016)

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/dec/28/sussan-ley-lists-23-medicare-items-for-review-as-funding-overhaul-begins (28-01-2016)

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-28/queensland-public-hospitals-fail-national-targes-ama-report-card/7119684 (ibid)

No to Cashless Welfare! For a living wage for all citizens!

21-11-2015 – In yet another attack of the living standards and dignity of those reliant on welfare benefits, the Federal Government is planning to introduce “trials” of a “cashless welfare debit card”. Such a card will contain up to 80% of a person’s welfare payments, which can be used only for prescribed items, and only at prescribed stores. The government’s stated intention is to prevent welfare recipients spending on alcohol and drugs, and guide them towards consuming “basics” such as food. Far from it. This is yet another assault on the most vulnerable people, who deserve the most amounts of assistance and protection, instead of being blamed for the economic and political failure of a system designed to enrich the elite at the expense of the overwhelming majority.

Despite Australia having one of the highest per capita incomes, unemployment benefits are notoriously low, at around $167 below the recognised poverty line.[1] In economic circumstances where housing is extremely expensive even for those with full time work, and where the cost of living continues to climb, it is amazing that those on welfare can sustain themselves. The fact that the cashless welfare card is the brainchild of billionaire mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forest,[2] shows just how craven to big business the Liberal and Labor parties have become while attempting to administer the for profit system. While the Greens have criticised the cashless welfare card, it was the Greens who helped pass cuts to the aged pension, and they were partners with the ALP when it drastically cut the single parent payment, driving mostly single mothers further into poverty.

The Workers League (WL) applauds the work of the Australian Unemployment Union (AUU) in organising today’s national rallies against cashless welfare and further cuts to welfare benefits. The WL pledges to work alongside the AUU in all campaigns to protect and extend the rights and entitlements of those who for whatever reason cannot work, as well as those who are without work due to the economic recession, now into its seventh year. We maintain, however, that groups such as the AUU should not be left to fight alone. In particular, the AUU and its work should have the full organisational and political backing of the entire Trade Union movement, from the Australian Council of Trade Unions, to the respective state based Union peak bodies, to the individual Unions themselves. It is in the direct interests of the Union movement to actually fight against unemployment and to fight for a living wage for those unable to work. For unemployment is the key whip which the capitalist class holds against the workers, constantly threatening them with the sack if they do not accept whatever harsh or unsafe working conditions they supply. The potential of losing one’s income in economic circumstances where jobs are difficult to find, is a huge barrier both to workers joining Unions and also encouraging them to organise on the job. In the main, it is this type of workplace organisation, officially backed by the Union leaderships, which can assist in ensuring livable wages and decent working conditions. A strengthened Union movement should then also be in a position to take up the cause of ensuring decent welfare and living conditions for those unable to work. In this scenario, it is much more difficult for employers to keep winning what has been a one-sided class war for the last thirty-five years in this country.

Yet, here lies the rub. With a few exceptions, pro-capitalist Union bureaucrats around Australia have actively collaborated with the employers at the expense of their own members, to ensure the profitability of the big business class. Three examples will illustrate this. In Queensland in 2012, the Liberal National Party moved to sack 20 000 public servants, the largest attack on the right to work in Queensland history. The Together (formerly QPSU) Union leadership, in response, did not call for, or organise, one minute of industrial action! In South Australia, the SDA (Shop, Distributive and Allied Services Union) leadership agreed to a plan with Business SA to abolish Saturday penalty rates and halve Sunday penalty rates! Further, recently waterfront workers at Hutchison Ports in Sydney and Brisbane were sacked by text message and email overnight, in a planned move towards both de-Unionising and automating their workforce. The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) leadership did move straight into action in setting up picket lines. However, they also set about undermining this action by pushing the dispute into the courts, when what was needed was a fight for the right not to be terminated. In the end, the MUA leadership obtained “voluntary” separation packages for its members, and claimed this was a win because they hadn’t been sacked! Combine these dire sell-outs with the fact that the Union movement has not seriously campaigned against unemployment for decades, and we can see the effect this has on the rights of those who need welfare benefits to survive. If organised workers can be pushed around by employers, in cahoots with unscrupulous Union officials, unemployed workers and those on welfare can and will be open prey for pro-corporate governments.

While the WL will contribute to whatever current campaigns for the rights of unemployed and welfare recipients ensue, we have no illusions in any capitalist state, especially “our own”. Currently, Australia, the US, Europe and Japan are all devastated by the ongoing recession, which shows little or no sign of abating. Contrast this with China, whose powerhouse socialist economy is still producing economic growth despite the dim conditions elsewhere. Similarly, permanent rights to a job, a house, healthcare, education and culture can only be secured with the overthrow of capitalism via the seizure of state power by the working class, and the founding of a socialist republic. In such conditions, unemployment will be avoided at all costs, as all available hands will be needed to build a socialist economy so as to ease the workload of all, and allow time to pursue arts, science, music, sport or whatever workers’ personality is suited to. Also, those unable to work through disability or illness will be relatively easily catered for, and will be seen as equal partners in the socialist project. In the meantime, it is necessary to mobilise workers and Unions to demand decent treatment of those without work or unable to work. No to cashless welfare! For a living wage for all citizens!

Workers League

PO BOX 66   NUNDAH   QLD   4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.crikey.com.au/2013/01/16/dole-around-the-world-how-does-australia-stack-up/?wpmp_switcher=mobile

[2] http://theaimn.com/cashless-welfare-card-an-insult-to-all-australians/