Archive for the ‘Australian Labor Party’ Category

by Con Karavias

For more than five years, refugees have been subjected to horror and abuse on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. With the government’s decision to permanently close the detention centre on 31 October, the horror has descended into absolute barbarity.

Water, food and power have been cut off. More than 600 refugees have been reduced to filling bins with rainwater and mixing it with sugar and salt to sustain themselves. Sympathetic members of the local PNG community have been blocked from providing them with food. A protest sign in the centre in early November read, “If the air was in Australia’s hands it would cut it on us”.

Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian refugee on Manus, talks of “a mood of death, climate of (more…)

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 by Daphna Whitmore

Manus. A Nation’s shame. Lives held in limbo. Lives lived in fear & despair. It’s fucking disgraceful. Russell Crowe in one tweet sums it up. 

Six hundred asylum seekers who have been imprisoned on Manus Island for years are refusing to go to East Lorengau transit centre on the island. They say it is not safe as locals have threatened and attacked them. Detention on Nauru is the other hell-hole option the men are refusing. Behrouz Boochani,  a journalist and Kurdish refugee from Iran, has been speaking out from Manus Island where he has been held since August 2014.  “We will never move to another prison. We will never settle for anything less than freedom. Only freedom.”

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Manus Island asylum seekers protesting

Locking up asylum seekers in remote and inhumane detention centres has been a long-standing bipartisan policy of Liberal and Labor governments in Australia. (more…)

"What do we want? A fair deal. When do we want it? Now!" more than 1000 firefighters chanted as they marched through the streets of Melbourne on December 8 last year;

“What do we want? A fair deal. When do we want it? Now!” more than 1000 firefighters chanted as they marched through the streets of Melbourne on December 8 last year

by Susanne Kemp

Given that firefighters risk their lives for not exactly a lot of pay, you’d think that any half-decent government anywhere might be vitally concerned to ensure they have the best conditions possible as workers and their pay reflects both their skills and the danger of their jobs.  Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.

Across the ditch in Victoria, for instance, instead of facilitating the firefighters in doing their job, the state government last year launched a massive assault on pay, conditions and the firefighters’ union itself.  This assault was fronted by ‘socialist-feminist’ Emergency Services minister Jane Garrett.  Garrett used feminist rhetoric – she’s also a member of the phony ‘Socialist Left’ faction in the Victorian ALP (Labor Party) – to attack the firefighters union.  When she got booed by fireifghters, for instance, she accused them of “bullying”.  More seriously, she was utterly backing the CFA (Country Fire Authority) and doing her damnedest to bring the union down.  On June 9, however, the firefighters scored a small victory as she was forced to resign.

On the pay front, the firefighters haven’t had an increase since  (more…)

Working class women protesting for equal pay, Australia, 1969

Working class women protesting for equal pay, Australia, 1969

These days talk of class in NZ is often greeted with groans.  While this is not hard to understand when it comes from the right, it is often found on the left as well as many leftists have shifted attention to other factors as causal in terms of oppression and discrimination.  It has also become more common to talk of things like the struggle for equal pay as feminist-inspired and any gains as being the result of feminism.  In the article below, Australian Marxist Katie Wood reminds us that the struggle for equal pay came much more from within the union movement than the feminist movement.  While she is dealing with a specifically Australian context, her analysis is backed up by what happened in First World countries from New Zealand to Britain, on the other side of the world. 

Working class men demonstrating for equal pay for women in Australia, 1969

Working class men demonstrating for equal pay for women in Australia, 1969

by Katie Wood

The year 2014 marked the forty-fifth anniversary of the first decision in the federal arbitration court supporting equal pay for women, yet today the gender pay gap stands at a staggering high of 18.8 percent, or nearly $300 for full-time weekly earnings.[1] Even more troubling is the fact that the gap has been growing rapidly since a “low” point of 14.9 percent in 2004. This percentage is huge in real terms. It means that full-time female workers are on average over $13,000 a year worse off than men and over the length of a working life; when combined with time out for raising children, it amounts to around $1.4 million.[2] Women also accumulate only 59 percent of the superannuation savings of men on retirement.[3]

In recent years there has been something of a backlash against concern about the gender pay gap. Numerous articles have been written arguing that there is in fact no such thing – that any statistical differences can be explained solely by individual women’s choices to work in lower-paid industries or to leave the workforce for a time to raise children.[4] This argument ignores the connection between such individual decisions and the sexist structures of society. It is total rubbish.

A 2009 study of the variables associated with the gender pay gap found that the predominant reason for the gap was the indirect factor of “simply being a woman”, by which the authors meant the experience of direct or indirect sexist discrimination. This factor far outweighed others such as industry segregation, labour force history and qualifications; a finding that the authors maintain is consistent with other Australian studies in the field.[5]

Sexism in the workforce plays out in many different ways, sometimes complex and sometimes seemingly contradictory. For instance, it is well documented that women who ask for pay rises or promotions are seen in a more negative light than men who do the same, and that the socialisation of women to be more self-effacing and passive means that they are less likely to ask for pay rises or promotions in the first place. Sexism shapes the assumptions that bosses make about their workers and it pervades the daily interactions in the workplace. It is a key factor in the endurance of the pay gap and cannot be ignored just because those daily interactions may be harder to quantify or seem to be individual and personal rather than systemic.

Industry segregation along gender lines is of course an important factor in the continuing pay gap. Women are poorly represented in the highest-paid industries, such as mining, but over-represented in the lowest-paid, such as retail.[6] Again, all the complex elements of women’s oppression come into play here. Women are less likely to enrol in engineering, geology and related courses, more likely to take up “caring” professions such as childcare, nursing and teaching. And these industries, because they are historically feminised, are lower paid; a fact that was acknowledged by Fair Work Australia in the 2012 Australian Services Union equal pay claim decision.

Women are also more likely to take time off work to undertake unpaid care of children, the elderly and the sick. Again, if this is presented simply as a “choice” it ignores the fact that it is stereotypically a woman’s role to take on caring responsibilities. Also material factors may affect the decision, as women are likely to earn less than their partner in a heterosexual relationship and such a “choice” makes clear financial sense.

So women’s oppression operates in myriad ways to reinforce the gender pay gap. It is really just one of the more obvious signs of the ongoing problem of women’s oppression. The pay gap, just like women’s place in society more generally, is not subject to some gradual, linear improvement as society develops, presumably for the better. Changes in government policy and the strength of working class organisation, in short various aspects of the class struggle, impact on the gender pay gap. The assault on union rights and collective bargaining under WorkChoices (and its offspring FairWork) undoubtedly contributed to the recent increase in the pay gap, as the gap is wider for women on individual contracts than for those on collective agreements (20.2 percent compared to 15.8 percent).[7]

Equal pay is a class and a union issue, and always (more…)

The detention centre on Christmnas Island is really a concentration camp

The detention centre on Christmnas Island is really a concentration camp

 

 Press release earlier today by Refugee Action Coalition in Australia:

 

Around 50 people have spent the night on the oval (green zone) of Christmas Island detention centre, as more police and Serco guards gather on the perimeter of the centre.

As of 2.30am Christmas Island time, no attempt had been made by police or guards to re-enter the detention centre. Late yesterday, television had been cut off to the centre. Some food had been left at the gate of the centre and detainees told to collect it. Armed police and others in full riot gear can be seen outside the detention fences. Detainees report that drones have been circulating over the centre and the Federal police have been issuing instructions through a megaphone to ‘dump any weapons and return to your rooms.’

Most detainees have remained in the accommodation blocks in any case. “The government talks about ‘restoring order’ in the centre, but restoring order to the riot police and Serco’s Emergency Response Team will only mean a return of the brutal rule of force inside the detention centre, that led to the explosion on Christmas Island.

“The ‘behavioural management’ regime inside Christmas Island is reminiscent of the behaviour familiar in (more…)

downloadby Louise O’Shea

To a casual observer, it might seem incongruous that a campaign to prevent a prominent second wave feminist speaking on a university campus would be led by the women’s officer of the student union. But this is typical of the world we live in, and of student politics in the English-speaking world in particular.

The second wave feminist concerned is Germaine Greer, who was invited by the University of Cardiff in the UK to speak on the topic of “Women and power: the lessons of the 20th century”.

The campus women’s officer, Rachael Melhuish, initiated a petition calling for the university to cancel the event on the basis of Greer’s “misogynistic views towards trans women”. The petition attracted more than 2,900 signatures. While the university has resisted cancelling the 18 November event, it is unclear whether it will go ahead.

There is nothing to celebrate here.

The episode reflects a widespread tendency towards knee-jerk appeals to authority by student union officials as the preferred method of righting wrongs. Calling on a neoliberal university administration to use authoritarian measures to protect students from unpalatable ideas does nothing to strengthen the collective organisations of staff and students. Nor does it help develop the (more…)

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by Allen Myers

Presenting his new ministry on 20 September, Malcolm Turnbull said, “If we want to remain a prosperous, first world economy with a generous social welfare safety net, we must be more competitive, we must be more productive, above all we must be more innovative”.

It’s become quite common for politicians to bang on about the “need to be competitive”, but Turnbull evidently intends this idea to be a hallmark of his prime ministership; it was the theme on which he concluded his announcement that he was challenging Abbott.

But consider what it means.

If Turnbull is right, and the only way to prosperity and social welfare for a country is to be more competitive than other countries, then it follows that there are always going to be (more…)