Monthly Archives: November 2007

2007 Federal Election: Bastards voted out

Little Joy for Workers

“In democracies, sometimes the rulers have to change in order to ensure that things remain the same”

— adapted from The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa

Unions were told by the Labor Party that they had to work on a marginal seats campaign to get the ALP in government and thereby change the workplace laws. Unions generally accepted this view.

The Senate

In the book After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet the leftpress collective argues that

this strategy (the electoral solution) demands that the ALP achieves the highly unlikely scenario of winning a majority in both houses, or, more likely, of winning a majority in the House of Representatives and getting compliance from smaller parties in the Senate. However, getting candidates elected is not guaranteed and even if a candidate gets into parliament there are many other issues in the parliamentary system competing for the attention of parliamentarians.

The provisional result in the senate is:

Coalition 37
ALP 32
Greens 5
Family First 1
Nick Xenophon 1

As predicted in After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet the ALP will not control the senate and on many anti-worker, anti-union issues like WorkChoices.
The senate will remain hostile to any legislative changes favourable to workers and their unions. [See Liberal senators in bid to block repeal of IR law]

The Greens

Some workers looked to the Greens as a possible means of easing the workplace laws because the Greens had better Industrial Relations policy than Labor.

However the Greens will not have the balance of power in the Senate. One scenario is that a vote to replace WorkChoices would leave Labor and Greens deadlocked with the coalition 37 votes to 36 votes with Family First and Nick Xenophon (no-poker machine lobby) with the casting votes.

The big gain for the Greens was in Tasmania (two seats in the senate) and South Australia (one senate seat) with some gains in Victoria (falling short winning a senate seat). See http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2007/results/senate/vic.htm for the final tally after preferences.

In Queensland, the Greens, once again, did not do well in the Senate getting only half a quota (7%) before preferences.

However, in the house of Reps, the Greens did well in inner city Brisbane seats where there are now a lot of public servants and other white collar workers who vote Green.

The Greens seem unable to capture the blue collar working class vote, which in this election just went back to Labor.

The Socialist Alliance and the Socialist Equality Party did poorly again polling less than 2% of the vote in seats contested. Of the socialists contesting the senate, Sam Watson in Queensland got the best result for the Socialist Alliance in the senate (he got a meager 1,584 votes or 0.08% of the vote).

Analysis

At the national level, this means the ALP will face a hostile senate when it tries to get its minor reforms to WorkChoices through the parliament.

Yet people worldwide are starting to turn away from privatisation by governments. They wish to return services like health, education, transport and telecommunications to public ownership.

That is, people are moving away from the neo-conservative experiment of the past 20 years. This seems lost on ALP governments throughout Australia, governments that are privatising public resources like electricity industry in NSW. [See Electricity sell-off a surge to the bottom line]

The last major privatisation in Australia was the sale of Telstra, yet what did people get from the sale of Telstra?

A failed company with a hopeless mob running it and taking away $20 million each per annum in salaries.

At the same time, call centre workers at Telstra have been committing suicide because of the bad conditions. See the article in BushTelegraph: No Action on Worker Suicides at Telstra

This trend away from private ownership in the minds of workers (see strikes in opposition to power privatisation in NSW) is still minor but there is some chance it may spread.

Meanwhile rising Labor star, Kevin Rudd (PPP*) once said:

We (the Labor Party) are the genuine inheritors of the [Adam] Smithian tradition [of modern-day capitalism].

We accept price. We accept markets. We accept the legitimate pursuit of self-interest.”

From After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet. @ http://wpos.wordpress.com/

For more in depth discussion of the unions situation post election 07 see After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet.

* Coined termed by veteran SMH journo Alan Ramsey. PPP = ‘prissy, precious, prick’

Gallery

Vale Bryan Law

This gallery contains 3 photos.

“Can’t add my name into the fight while I’m gone So I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here And I won’t be laughing at the lies when I’m gone And I can’t question how or when or … Continue reading

Workers’ political organisations

After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet has discussed the broad trends in the Australian labour movement within a context of dwindling socialist ideas and organisations. We have argued that the historic mission of the Australian Labor Party has been the modernising of capitalism in moments of crisis, and subsumed workers’ interests into the so-called national interest, thus thwarting attempts to achieve socialism, specifically worker control of production.

We have shown how the ALP-style approach has been used by the union leadership to manage class conflict. The net outcome, we argue is a gradual slide in workers’ conditions and a retreat from the socialist aspirations once held as a fundamental tenet by workers’ organisations. Alternative approaches to workers’ struggle were also discussed, with historic examples provided, showing that on occasions when alternative approaches were adopted, far from being utopian, they delivered better outcomes for workers and contributed to the developing strength of the trade union movement in the early and middle years of the twentieth century. Yet the organisations of that period carried their own weaknesses, which were later exploited by a class determined to roll back any advance that the working class had made, in order to maintain their wealth and power.

So, where to from here?

For those who maintain their socialist aspirations the challenge seems daunting. The demise of the Communist Party of Australia, and the shift of those who had been active in the New Left into ‘issue politics’ meant that there are no organised formations of the political left that have any significant leverage within the organised workers’ movement. Those with an uncompromising class perspective have been pushed to the extreme margins of workers’ struggle.

A generational shift has compounded the problem. Many of those militant unionists who cut their teeth in struggles of a previous epoch retired, and became increasingly out of touch with the day-to-day state of the working class. Younger militants joined environmental organisations and fought for peace and the rights of refugees, but strangely kept their distance from union organisation. There was no counterweight to those individuals from Labor families who sought personal gain and advancement through the union movement, convinced of their own working class credentials; they mistakenly viewed their advancement as a legitimate substitute for the advancement of the class as a whole.

With the failure of the radical left to engage seriously with Australian workers and their organisations the Australian union movement, the gap between socialist ideas and unions engaged in day-to-day struggle widened. Unions became part of a romantic narrative that increasingly had taken hold in the left. They took on a distant and elusive character, idealised into a static mythical past, but in their current state seen as a corrupted shadow of their former selves. Yet we have shown that the dynamic within the union movement, between leaders and members, between progressives and conservative elements has characterised the whole history of the movement and that the present is a particular moment in this dynamic relationship. That is to say, the debate to which we have contributed has been going on for well over a century, and will continue to inform working class struggle, with all its ups and downs for some time to come.

In the early years of the twenty-first century the conservative trend within the labour movement has been ameliorated by some militants within the workforce who have taken up the challenge of becoming active within their unions. However they face many hurdles including:

  • the mistrust of fellow unionists who are ALP members, particularly those in the union hierarchy who are deeply involved in ALP machinations, preselections and electioneering, (and intent on containing their members aspirations to a Labor victory);

  • the indifference of fellow workers who are not interested in their politics;

  • the bemusement of other active unionists who try and ignore them (except when they offer useful left cover); and,

  • the lack of rank-and-file structures which allow them to engage directly with workers on the job.

While the prospect for worker organisation is limited, however, out of the contradiction of master and servant (boss/worker) comes conflict. When workers take action to advance their own interests, there is an opportunity to link with other workers engaged in similar industrial disputes. We argue that as the political nature of workers struggle emerges there is a need for new structures or organisation to take workers out of the bureaucratic framework that confines unions today. A new possibility may be realised — workers’ political organisation.

Workers’ political organisations (WPOs) have significant historical precedents in Queensland, inasmuch as they successfully laid the foundation of labour organisation in the early part of the 20th century. For example workers’ political organisations in Rockhampton, Fitzroy and Ipswich were the vehicle for taking workers into the ALP. Similarly the women workers’ political organisation, under the leadership of Emma Miller sought political representation in state and federal parliaments, and the promotion of the interests of women in the body politic. Grass roots organisation leading up to the federal election of December 1903 were aimed at achieving these aims. Their activities included three mock elections, public meetings distribution of leaflets and door-to-door canvassing, and visits to women in factories and workshops.

Subsequently we have seen the formation of many organisations that might be characterised as workers’ political organisations, including strike committees, union support groups and rank-and-file committees. Their role has been critical at times, and less successful at others due to circumstance and their own organisational capacity. While not necessarily consciously related they have had as a common element their focus on grass roots activity, and especially shop-floor organisation.

What would workers’ political organisations look like today? We would not presume to offer formulaic prescriptions but for what it is worth, offer some general guiding principles, which are open to interpretation within a specific context. We would argue that workers’ political organisations:

  • are founded in workplace organisation;

  • are focused on workers themselves achieving their goals without appeals to members of the ruling elite;

  • seek to extend democratic principles throughout their workplace and unions,

  • aim to advance workers interests as a whole, not on a sectional or even national basis;

  • cast aside the dogmatism and narrow discipline of the sect and seek an engagement with workers as human beings, not on a one-dimensional ideological basis.

  • should ignore zealots, and be wary of agent provocateurs and adventurists;

  • strive for unity between workers, organisers and officials of their unions. Their argument is with the boss and their lackeys;

  • are based upon the aspirations of workers to socialism, the abolition of private property and worker control of production.

There may be other options to tackle the entrenched dominance by the captains of industry, the global moghuls and their business empires, who have for centuries inflicted misery, wars and mind-numbing propaganda on the working class. We are hopeful that this book will move the debate into a space from where can examine all options that will help build organisations that effectively challenge the capitalist might, and usher in a truly human age.

They are cutting down our trees

In Camp Hill, inner city Brisbane, on 12 November 2007, they are cutting down our trees.

I

asked if I could take this photo. The tree lopper told me to make sure I took the photo on his best side. He said that the trees make a mess in this neighbour’s yard and that both trees that stand over 40 feet high are to come down.

One neighbour said that she felt sick.

One of the Kookaburras (pictured watching the destruction) lives in the trees and comes and visits her back verandah.

The neighbour said: “I suppose there is nothing we can do about it, pardon me I think I can hear my phone ringing.”

I asked her later if she knew.

She said: “No, I am sorry but I have to go to work”

Another neighbour said that many years ago there were no trees and that they could see the kids walking home from nearby Coorparoo State school.milne-lane.jpgfryar-st-backyards.jpg

Our backyards do not have to be destroyed. Just look here at the beautiful vegetable garden of one of my neighbours.

Saving Mary

SAVE THE MARY RIVER

What are the real costs of the proposed Traveston Crossing dam?

Two information evenings are scheduled to make common cause between the people of Brisbane and the residents of the Mary Valley. Come along and find out the reasons why the proposed Traveston Crossing Dam on the Mary River is not in the best interests of the people of Brisbane or those of the Mary Valley.

SAVING MARY EVENINGS

1. Brisbane Workers Community Centre – 2 LaTrobe Tce, Paddington (enter from Given Tce) Thursday December 6. Meet at 6.30pm for a 7pm start.

2. Ahimsa House – 26 Horan Street West End on

Tuesday December 11. Meet 6.30pm for a 7pm start.

  • Come along and see footage of the scenery and location.
  • Meet affected residents from the Mary Valley.

Find out

  • Why the Traveston Crossing Dam Project on the Mary River will not solve Brisbane’s water shortage.
  • Why the construction of a dam at Traveston Crossing could jeopardize Brisbane’s future food security.
  • Why the long-term financial consequences could be extremely costly to Queensland’s tax-payers
  • How the project would lead to the irreparable damage to an area of outstanding biodiversity value.

Watch a PowerPoint presentation and have the opportunity for discussion.

Find out how you can help. Please tell your friends!!! Gold coin donation entry. Details: Zela 54829831

*******

 

Dear friends and sisters of Mary,For some time I have believed that we should resist the kinds of stereotypes which are often bandied about by government and media which portray city people as careless consumers while the people of the Mary Valley as too small-minded to make a sacrifice for the greater good. Both rural and urban dwellers must act together to save the Mary Valley, because the sad fact is that any sacrifice made by the people of the Mary Valley would not be for the greater good, as is illustrated by the following considerations.

1. Food security is looming large for Queensland at the moment, with a string of news items concerned with reduced grain forecasts, Murray-Darling irrigators received little or no water and drought claiming vegetable production in the Lockyer Valley appearing in the press. It seems short-sighted in the extreme for the State government to be inundating close to 9000 hectares of good quality agricultural land just 2 hours north of Brisbane..

2. The University of Sydney’s report into water options for South East Queensland, commissioned by a council of 10 mayors from affected shires, found that the water needs could be supplied by an array of options, including recycling, demand management strategies, waste reduction etc. Productive farmland cannot be produced by other measures.

3. Financial costs are spiraling.

The most useful description of cost is one that takes into account capital and running costs, and equates them to the amount of water produced. The most detailed study to do this is Stuart White’s study, which costs Mary Valley water from the Traveston Crossing proposal at more than $3 per kilolitre delivered to Brisbane. This is very expensive water. Desalinated water costed in the same way comes out to less than $2.50 per kilolitre.

4. The amounts of money being spent on the Murray-Darling River System in the last decade are staggering. Malcolm Turnbull has been throwing around figures of another $10 billion. And still we hear that farmers are being allowed only a small fraction of their former water quota. This tells us that damage done to catchments is not just costly to repair, but may be impossible. The cost of building Traveston with all its technical problems, would impoverish us: the cost of undoing it may ruin us. And the downstream loss of production and likely salinisation has not even been factored into the equation. Downstream from Traveston is 200 km more river and 5 more towns whose farmers and citizens depend on the Mary.

5. At the recent 10th International River Symposium, Dr Stuart Blanch displayed a map which revealed that the Mary is the only Queensland river left flowing east to the sea which has not been reduced to a series of stepped lakes by impoundments. And it is no co-incidence that the Sandy Straits are a fisherman’s paradise compared with previous fishing spots which have been destroyed by the damming of the rivers which formerly flowed out, with their stream of nutrients, to the sea. A great deal of tourist income (estimated at $120 million per year), will be lost if Hervey Bay is degraded.

6. The Mary River is the only habitat of two endemic endangered species, the Mary River turtle and Mary River Cod, and also contains the vulnerable lungfish and southern snapping turtle which although also found in the Burnett river have been seriously impacted upon by massive impoundments on that river. According to the precautionary principle of scientific conservation, we cannot risk a possible disaster to this last refuge for the unique wildlife of SE Qld. At some point, the carrying capacity of the country has to be questioned. We can’t allow unchecked population growth in the South East corner then take the water which nourishes this last free river. Another way must be found.

7. The way the people of the Mary Valley have been treated is just plain wrong. The announcement of the Traveston Crossing Dam proposal was done with no consultation, in contradiction to a recently-completed local area water agreement, and with no pre-feasibility or feasibility studies. The great local knowledge of rural-dwellers with up to 3 generations of occupation was disregarded. Two indigenous groups have been intimidated into signing Land Use Agreements, (one person reported being told that if he did not sign, his group would be excluded from further inclusion in negotiations) with a third group still refusing to sign. The Butchulla people, whose country is downstream (Hervey Bay and Fraser Island) have been excluded from negotiations, on the pretext that no part of the construction will be on their land. However the Butchulla country will suffer the most downstream impacts.

8. It is in the interests of all Queenslanders to ensure that the productive fertile and biodiverse Mary Valley is not inundated for a highly questionable water scheme. Let’s learn the lessons of the Murray-Darling and preserve the Mary Valley as a foodbowl, eco-tourism destination and wildlife haven only two hours from Brisbane. If we don’t stand up for the farmers and voiceless creatures of the Mary Valley, we also fail to protect our own best interests.

Zela Bissett Convenor, (Sisters of Mary)

Ph 54829831

Mob 0439 130 537

 

Philistines no longer at the gates: final word from QUT lecturer

Video: Laughing at Aborigines? – Tough Questions for QUT…

Dear Friends

This is to notify you that John Hookham and I have reached a settlement with the university. The details of the settlement are confidential but the upshot is that I have resigned from QUT. I had intended to accept the university’s first offer which we had reached as a settlement of the Federal Court proceedings. That settlement awarded me $100,000 dollars in damages plus costs. The findings of the misconduct tribunal conducted by Barry Nutter were also set aside and my suspension was lifted.

I wished in those circumstances to fulfill my promise to my students to return to work. However on Friday afternoon when John Hookham and I went back to Kelvin Grove Campus to get some personal belongings, we were refused entry. In what was the ugliest scene of my professional career a young post graduate student slammed the door against me. Fortunately I was not injured. I am 65 years old. I have a bad back and am being treated for a serious heart condition. The young man who endeavored to ram the door against me was not alive when I began to teach at Kelvin Grove Campus. I wish to say that my career at QUT spans four decades. I have worked for principals and directors who never agreed with my politics and who no doubt regarded me as a nuisance. But to be fair to them they respected my right to dissent. Moreover they would never have tolerated the kind of vigilantism that I was subjected to on Friday.

I hold no enmity against the post graduate student who attacked me, but his actions brought home very forcibly to me that I was not safe at QUT and accordingly I yielded to the urgings of my doctors and my lawyers and I resigned.

I wish now to thank you for your support. I and my family have endured dark hours in this struggle. At times it looked like John and I would be crushed and driven into penury. But thanks to your help and the courage and tenacity of my wonderful and brilliant lawyers Stephen Kerin and Susan Moriarty, I and John have survived. I thank you all again from my heart.

It is a terrible thing to pick out a few from the many people who have walked with me through these dark hours. I wish first to name those former colleagues Hugh Childers, Noel Preston, John Bisset, Merv Welch, Graham Bruce and Nea Stewart-Dore. The warmth of their support was a bitter sweet reminder to me of what teaching at QUT used to be like. In this context I wish to mention my personal and professional debt to the late Basil Shaw, Ken Leask and Clem Young. They were great educators, whose example and spirit were always with me in the decades that I have worked at QUT. From them I learned that any leadership in education which is not based on ethics and morality will be as nothing.

I cannot name all those current staff and students at QUT who have given me support for obvious reasons. But I can and will express my deepest thanks to Alan Jones from 2GB. He and I are from different ends of the political spectrum, yet when I sought his help he did not hesitate to put my case to his audience. For that decency I can never thank him enough. He will always have my prayers. I also wish to mention my old and honoured friend Mildred Grant whom fate and the powers have given to me as a gift and an inspiration. For over 12 years we have met every Sunday to read our Shakespeare and, when I can prevail upon her, my beloved Dickens. She is now in her tenth decade and is very frail but she has been with me always in the worst times. I wish also to speak of the brave Adrian Strong whose videos on < youtube.com/globaldawning > have documented our struggles and agonies.

I must say a special thanks to those members of the disability community who expressed to me and John their support and thanks. I offer as well a special thanks to my good comrades- Lou Proyect whose Marxism list is a bright light in a dark world; Sam Watson -Indigenous Activist extraordinaire; Ciaron O’Reilly of the Catholic Workers, and Jim McIlroy of the Socialist Alliance.

In addition I give thanks to Brian Laver who has endeavored over the years to explain to me the necessity of speaking truth to power as well as to domination and who did not betray those ideals as he stood by my side in person, with spirit and at court against the might of QUT. I must make mention too of the fearless historian Ross Fitzgerald who spoke out for me and John, though I have been critical to the point of cruelty of him in the past. But he is a good man whose commitment to free speech is non-negotiable and he has acted accordingly, although he appears to have paid a great price for speaking out in support of John and me. To my family in Ireland, America and here in Australia I return fully the love you have given me in such abundance.

I ask you all now to know that I have survived and am well.

Gary MacLennan
Brisbane
1st November 2007