Crisis or no crisis, Australia ought to be occupied

It should come as no surprise that, despite the lack of blogging, I am hugely inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement and the resulting occupations over the US and the rest of the world. And I am definitely going to be part of it when it comes to Melbourne on Saturday when protestors are set to occupy City Square in the city.

Now, the occupations around the world inspired by Occupy Wall Street are partly an act of solidarity with the much larger movements in the US, but it is also about extending out the argument that all over the world there is the divide between the 99% and the 1%. And this applies even if the crisis and the economic conditions aren’t as bad here…yet.

It is true that economic conditions in the US are much more dire, that working class people are being squeezed of everything and being abandoned. It is the sheer extent of the crisis and how badly people have been fucked over that have pushed people to take to the streets, occupy parks and stand together in their thousands.

But there is an argument to occupy Australian cities too. For one, just because the crisis hasn’t hit, doesn’t mean it won’t and we’re immune. This is a world system, with national economies linked by trade, and so when countries like China fall, we can go with them. Australian can’t live in a bubble forever.

But even without crisis, capitalism in Australia is greedy, exploitative, corrupt and unequal at the best of times. One of the main slogans, “We are the 99%” applies under capitalism 24/7. There has always been a small minority who own most of the wealth in Australia and the world. The majority have always had to work to get by and to make them richer. The role of the crisis is to squeeze people even further and it has angered people that whilst the rich have so much, we are the ones being blamed, being forced to pay, especially when it is the rich and their gambling that has caused the crisis.

In Australia, some people have responded to plans to Occupy Melbourne with claims that we’ve avoided the crisis, that our working class are well off, or have even gone as far to imply that class doesn’t exist in Australia, that we’re some egalitarian society unlike the ugly US. Crisis, crisis or no crisis, this could not be further from the truth.

We still have a clique of the mega-rich, getting richer and richer off our hard work. We have mining bosses like ‘Twiggy’ Forest, Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer raking in millions a year to add to their wealth of billions. Australia is home to Macquarie Bank, that millionaire’s factory where the only way you earn more than a CEO is if you take a golden handshake and leave.

Already, the gap between those rich parasites and the average wage earner, or even better paid workers, is too much to bear, and it totally unjustifiable. But crisis or no crisis, there has always been a whole section of the working class that have had it much worse. In Australia, millions are part of the working poor, those that work full-time but still aren’t paid enough to pay rent, feed a family. We are not the ‘lucky’ country as some people make out.

And then there are those forgotten by the system, the unemployed, the disabled, and people unable to work. It is indicative to me in a small way that one of my most visited blog posts is a rant I had a few years ago about being cut off by Centrelink. Everyday people find my blog by Googling poetic search terms such as ‘Fuck Centrelink’ or ‘Centrelink fucking cut my payments.’ There is a whole chunk of people in Australia that have absolutely no economic stability.

Some people look at our unemployment rate, around 5%, and say it’s not that bad. Perhaps – except for that 5% unemployed. And this ignores underemployment, those that can’t find enough work. Then there are students who are racking up thousands in debt for arts degrees that won’t even get them a job at McDonald’s. These people are not living in this ‘lucky’ country that some commenters claim we live in.

Basically capitalism is shit at the best of times, there is still a gap between workers and the majority, the 99% – and the 1%, those that will never worry about being able to find somewhere to live, how they’re going to get by. And to make matters worse, the government blames other minorities, like refugees, for our standard of living instead of facing that the fact the government isn’t willing to take this wealthy minority to task because that’s who they really work for.

Crisis or no crisis, the 99% need to stand up. We need to stand up better conditions now. We need to stand up before the crisis hits.

I will be down there standing with people we are willing to occupy Melbourne. I’ll have my cameras and laptop and will be trying to blog as it happens because I am part of the 99%.

Moving Australia Forward? Why young people are disengaged with politics

Young people feel increasingly disengaged with politics. There was a real push to get them to enrol to vote in time for this election. And with this election coverage being swamped in spin and about nothing of substance, it is not surprising that young people aren’t engaged. But why?

The general thrust of this election campaign so far has been boredom. The election has been about nothing much at all. Both Gillard and Abbott seem to be talking in terms of spin, without any real debates or conflict. The real debates and alternatives seem to be happening outside of the two major parties so it’s not surprising that not even just young people are disengaged from the election at the moment.

Those debates are ones predominantly of concern to the younger demographic.

The issue of same-sex marriage is a prime example. With poll after poll showing that the majority of the population support same-sex marriage, it is polls amongst young people that show a greater majority and the rallies around the country in the past year are made up mostly of young angry high school students.

Old Pic - High School Theatre Protest

By Kables

These people show that the issue is not just about marriage, but about homophobia. They’re not getting married anytime soon but are concerned with rampant homophobia as studies show that school is one of the most unsafe places for gay and lesbian youth. To them, the issue is one of equal choice so that their relationships can be seen as just as legitimate as relationships amongst straight peers.

And yet, the issue has been largely absent from debate between the two major parties because both are in agreement that the ban is going to stay. And Penny Wong’s defence as it being a religious, cultural and historical shows that the Labor party are not interested in moving forward but holding things back.

And then we look at other issues. Education is under attack, underfunded and being turned into just a means to get people into the workforce rather than enriching young people’s minds. We’ve all seen the empty promises of promising more schools and we all know neither Labor and Liberal will actually deliver any noticeable change on this front.

Exploitation in the workplace is much more harsh on young people who have little knowledge of their rights at work, are desperate for employment so are forced to accept worse conditions. No one is talking about this in any real way. Fair Work Australia is barely distinguishable from WorkChoices.

And the debate about climate change is cloaked in mumbo-jumbo about carbon taxes and the market.

The message seems to be that older people are the experts and young people should just leave it to people like Gillard and Abbott to fix.

This is on top of a society that disempowers and controls young people. My own experience of politics and that of friends when we were young was that older family members patronised and belittled our ideas, with things like “When you’re older, you’ll learn.”

Young people aren’t encouraged to think for themselves. What a dangerous idea!

I’m not much interested in discussions about the generational divide as older working class people don’t benefit from this either, but the push toward making younger people disengaged with politics is about holding back change.

This election is full of empty promises to ‘move Australia forward’ but I can’t see it anywhere and neither can young Australians. But if there were movements and alternatives outside of the realms of electoral politics, then young people might feel that they can actually make a difference when they feel like their 3 minutes at the ballot box isn’t much to look forward to.

Mandatory Detention: Waste of Money for Us and Them

The Daily Telegraph is leading the charge now when it comes to whipping up racism and peddling myths about asylum seekers, quoting the Liberals as saying:

“In November last year Senator Evans asked for an [extra] $134 million to cover 1400 arrivals, with each arrival costing $81,900.”

They are going on and on about how asylum seekers are costing tax payers lots of money, creating these false divisions that lead to voters thinking the reason their standard of living is lower is because of asylum seekers.

But the thing News Limited fail to mention is that it is the brutal regime of mandatory detention that makes the costs so high. Put simply, if people wanted to save money, they need to move them out of the desert, pull down the fences, shred the barbed wire, get rid of the security guards and the bullshit legal circus.

If we just let asylum seekers settle into the community whilst their claims are processed like human beings, not animals, you wouldn’t have to worry so much about how costly it was. It’s cheaper to treat people humanely.

The other thing the Liberals fail to mention is the amount the government spends on asylum seekers anyway is a pittance compared to the amounts spent on other wasteful things such as bombing the shit out of Afghanistan and if you want to talk about giving people a free ride, subsidising corporations so that their mates living the high life can maintain their businesses that should’ve gone bust.

But humanity is not the concern here for the Liberals or the Labor party. Human rights come a distant second. They just want to win the fucking election.

In fact, it’s a disgrace that the debate is even had on the terrain of economics. Australia is a wealthy country oppressing the people coming here from poorer and war ravaged countries that we’re responsible for creating. The Australian government owes these people a fair go, no matter how much it costs.

Is Rudd attacking refugees to get votes from racist workers?

While it seems Rudd has copped a fair amount if criticism in the media over his latest attack on refugees, I’ve noticed a worrying trend in the way writers have tackled the issue, claiming Rudd is just capitulating to racist voters.

It is undeniable that Rudd’s timing is everything to do with the election. The comparison between now and Howard’s stand against the Tampa in 2001 is appropriate. But to say Rudd is caving in to the ignorant and xenophobic outer suburbs really lacks any critical analysis of where the racism toward refugees comes from.

The first thing to point out is the sparse number of previous examples where governments have changed policy according to the will of the people. There are plenty of thing voters want and don’t get.

Same-sex marriage is one of them, as well as a whole range of economic benefits that working-class people in the suburbs want. Rudd is all happy to attack refugees though because it fits in with his own agenda, chiefly to distract voters from other issues.

But the main point to make is that the Rudd government, the previous government under Howard and the media have all contributed to a one-sided, right-wing, mythical hysteria that passes for commentary and facts about boat people, immigration and the rights of refugees.

Bernard Keane in Crikey on Monday said, “There is constant talk from asylum seeker advocates about “educating” and leading the electorate on the issue. That ignores that a lot of voters have no interest in being educated or led about asylum seekers coming here in boats.”

I think this is incorrect. Toward the end of Howard’s reign as Prime Minster, the Liberals had to make concessions to their racist and inhumane refugee policy precisely because the terrain had been shifted by refugee activists and protests that I was involved in.

In this latest episode, until recently, the Liberals and The Herald Scum were the main parties crowing on about boat people, shifting terrain to the right and Rudd was only too willing to follow along instead of taking a lead.

I think part of the problem has been sections of the Left that were all too willing to attack Howard, have been until now unwilling to criticise Rudd, arguing to give him more time but whilst the Left has been silent, we’ve left the field to the right to shift the terrain unopposed.

The fact that there is only a very small group of people willing to confidently defend refugee rights compared to the noise we made in the Howard era points to the need for return to that era, to cohere more people to confidently defend refugees and swim against the tide of racism.

To borrow a chant from the old refugee rights protests, “Say it loud; say it proud; refugees are welcome here!”

Labor beats Liberals to the Right but where are The Greens?

Christmas Island Detention CentreLabor has undeniably lurched to the Right regarding their policy on asylum seekers in a racist race with the Liberals toward the election this year. Part of the problem is there’s no credible voice to the Left wanting to pull them the other way.

The suspension of all asylum claims from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka is an outrageous attack on the human rights of refugees and leaves me with a sick feeling in the stomach about the terrain this year’s federal election will be fought on. Instead of letting the Liberals drift out to sea on their boat of craziness, Labor are only too willing to beat them out there.

Let’s look at some facts. Afghanistan and Sri Lanka are the origin of the vast majority of asylum seekers entering this country. They’re the ones talked about when the Herald Scum whip up hysteria around the ‘swarms’ of boats coming to our shore.

But the Australian government are the whole reason they’re coming here. Rudd’s move denies the he’s creating the refugees, denies there’s a reason for them coming here.

In Afghanistan, Australia are part of sending troops to fight a war that’s killing people daily, displacing people from their homes, turning the country into rubble and propping up clones of the people they’ve removed from the government.

If you buy the whole ‘bringing freedom and democracy’ thing about the war in Afghanistan, you’ll see no reason for Afghans fleeing the country, but it’s simply a load of crap.

In Sri Lanka, Australia is part of funding the government that is responsible for waging a policy of genocide on the Tamil minority. The Tamils are fleeing the constant repression that Rudd has partly bankrolled. Denying Tamils the right to asylum is part of saying that the government he funds isn’t doing any of these things.

There is no one in the mainstream parties saying this loudly enough, or at all. This includes The Greens. I blogged last week about The Green’s own move to the right, their awful position in the whole ‘population debate,’ and this move has repercussions for how they approach this new move.

They’ve said nothing as far as I can see. Whilst still officially for an increased intake of immigrants on humanitarian grounds, the fact that they’ve made the most noise about reducing ordinary immigration means they’ve lost credibility as party I used to see as the party that always opposed the racist scapegoating of immigrants.

Who says they can even be trusted to defend refugee rights now? They’ve sold out on other things; they we’re even willing to give up their position on the Gunns pulp mill if they could get into bed with the Liberals in Tasmania.

Their position even against mandatory detention is in question. In last year’s debate around refugees, they reserved their strongest criticism for Indonesia for not being a signatory to the UN charter on the rights of refugees as if Australia being a signatory has meant that Australia has such a great record.

Now their main call is to close down Christmas Island and process them on the mainland, not to shut down the detention regime completely which was their previous policy under Howard.

The Greens can’t be trusted anymore. They’ve proven this themselves and let the debate run unchecked to the right. So whilst an election being fought over immigration rather than interest rates might’ve seemed like a good thing, there is no mainstream figure or party arguing anything to the Left that will keep this election from being a battle between one racist party and another racist party.

Police Racism: It's systemic, not just a few bad eggs

It really should come as no surprise that allegations have come out accusing Victorian Police of racism toward African youth.

From News.com.au:

Police officers are accused of labelling young African men “monkey” and “black c..t”, taking photographs of them gathered on the streets for intelligence purposes and, in one case, taking off their uniforms to bash black men in a public park

Victorian Police RacistThis is just yet another example of racism within the force. In Sydney, Lebanese youth have made repeated claims about being targeted by police, all over Australia there are problems with police targeting indigenous people and the recent increase in violence toward Indian youth was repeatedly met with denials that it was racially motivated until it became bleedingly obvious.

The police force reflects the dominant ideas of our rulers and in Australia, this means racism. Simon Overland denies that this has anything to do with the police force, just that there are about as many racist cops as there are racists in the rest of society.

But I would argue that racism within the police is systemic and driven from the top echelons of the force hell bent on maintaining the status quot and sewing division in society.

The fact that an Indigenous person is numerous times more likely to be incarcerated than a white person makes it so general that it cannot be said to just be confined to a couple of ‘bad eggs.’ The fact that there has been case after case of black deaths in custody, and yet not one had been convicted of anything points to the problems constantly being covered up.

Add to this reports of non-white officers being abused and hounded out of the force, you wonder how any non-white person could remain a cop at all.

The police are there to protect the state and their ideas. They can try to cover it up with propaganda about serving the community but most crime goes unsolved and people’s perception of crime is far higher than what actually occurs.

From The Age:

”Many community policing activities assume that the problem is young people ‘misunderstanding’ police. We have found that, on the contrary, young people are very familiar with what the police do, and they’re not happy with it. These programs simply do not address the real issues,” it said.

Abbott: Virginity, Gays and Babies

Tony Abbott seems to bathe in the blood of controversy and headlines. In recent months he made comments about virginity, specifically women’s. And now in recent days has caused a stir around comments made about homosexuality.

AbbottThen there’s the thing that really caught people off guard, his paid parental leave scheme that’s to the left of Labor’s. I was surprised too, but I’d argue that they’re all part of the same rotten agenda and the maternity leave scheme isn’t because Abbott cares about the needs of women.

Compared to Rudd, who seems to avoid discussions about social issues, Abbott seems desperate to reignite the old culture wars that riled up the left under Howard and solidify the hard Liberal support base. It seems to be working because anything Abbott says seems to elicit a flurry of commentary.

Rudd on the other hand is forgotten. He’s not seen as mad as the ‘mad monk.’

Attacking homosexuality and sex out of marriage coupled with some ‘thought-bubble’ around paid maternity leave is all about reinforcing his reactionary social agenda. Homosexuals threaten the ‘natural order of things,’ according to Abbott because they don’t spit out babies, or if they do, not in the institution he’s so obsessed with, the traditional nuclear family.

The economic details of the scheme aren’t guaranteed. You’d be fool for trusting a Liberal. But it’s clear to everyone that the Liberals want women to have babies – but not out of marriage or with other women.

Same-sex Marriage Rally – Saturday 13th March, 1pm – State Library of Victoria – equallove.info