Archive for the ‘Australian politics’ Category

by Daphna Whitmore

When Winston Peters praises your immigration policy you know you have hit a new low. This week Labour announced it will slash immigration numbers and Peters teased they were being a bit xenophobic, and then praised them for putting New Zealand First.dog whistle

Andrew Little explained Labour’s new policy with claims that migrants are clogging up the roads, filling the houses and taking jobs. It’s time for a breather on immigration the Labour Party website announced. They will cut immigration by tens of thousands. (more…)

s-l1000The following review of the book REBEL WOMEN in Australian working class history, eds Sandra Bloodworth and Tom O’Lincoln, appeared in issue #14 (Xmas 2000-March 2001) of the Christchurch-based magazine revolution, one of the predecessors of this blog.

by Linda Kearns

Women’s oppression, its relation to capitalism, and how to fight it have been matters of controversy both on the far left and between the far left and feminists.

Feminists have long criticised the far left for trying to subsume women’s oppression into class.  But a cursory glance at feminist studies and recent feminist theory tends to indicate that the vast majority of women – working class women – receive short shrift from the ‘sisterhood’.

In fact, there has also been a certain amount of nicking going on, as feminist historians have joined the fad for disaggregating the working class.  So where working class women are dealt with, it is gender rather than class which have been of interest.  Moreover, gender has been seen as counterposed to, even oppressed by, men of the working class.

Even socialist women, women who consciously chose to identify as, and fight as, socialist women – and not as feminists – have been appropriated – or expropriated by feminists: Rosa Luxemburg and Alexandra Kollontai are two Marxists who spring to mind as victims of this fad.

Sandra Bloodworth notes, for instance, the way the (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…)

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Impetus for struggles for equal pay came from within the working class

There’s a quite widespread prejudice among the liberal left that male workers, especially blue-collar male workers, are socially reactionary.  That they are sexist, anti-gay, anti-immigrant and generally backward.  The liberal left, however, never examines its own class viewpoint – the liberal wing of the middle class – and its own prejudices against workers, especially blue-collar workers.  In the past few decades, as class has been rather shunted aside as the key force for social transformation, there has also been a certain type of feminist rewriting of history.  

A good example of this r811881_72605121 (1)was the film Made in Dagenham, where the producers decided it would be more acceptable – and more profitable – to view the 1968 struggle of women workers at Dagenham for equal pay through a feminist lens than through class.  They even created a fake character to introduce cross-class female solidarity that never existed in that struggle.  

There has also been a tendency to see struggles for equal pay through a feminist lens, even though second-wave feminism had very little to do with battling for the rights of working class women in the workplace – in New Zealand, for instance, the dominant feminist magazine (Broadsheet) was far more well-disposed towards fur-coated middle class women agitating against militant unions and strikes than they were to working class women’s struggles and movements like the Housewives Boycott Movement.  But here, as in most countries, the impetus for campaigns for equal pay come from within the working class movement, not the feminist movement.  These campaigns were certainly affected by the new political breeze of the 1960s and early 1970s, of which the women’s liberation movement was an important part, however the campaigning drive still came predominantly from within the working class not from within the women’s movement.  The article below deals with the case of the Australian metal industry nearly half-a-century ago.  Its author is a longtime Australian Marxist activist.

by Diane Fieldes (1999)

Introduction

This article is a case study of the actions undertaken by the major union in the Australian metal industry (the Amalgamated Engineering Union — AEU) to campaign for equal pay for women. It deals with the years 1969 to 1972, a period bounded by two important decisions by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission granting forms of equal pay to women workers.

A substantial literature now exists dealing with the content and the effects of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission’s 1969 and 1972 equal pay decisions. Before looking at the specifics of each decision it is worth spelling out their common features. Most importantly, both were hedged about with qualifications. Both decisions retained the concept of the “family wage”. Wage-setting continued to be underpinned by the notion of the male breadwinner and dependant female. In order to lessen the impact on employers, the increases that were granted were to come into effect in instalments over a number of years. Both claims were initiatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), both were opposed by the employers and the Liberal-Country Party government, and both failed to address the fact that there was no minimum wage set for women. The effect of this last factor meant the lowest-paid male in 1973 got $60.80, while employers could still pay women as little as $34.50.

The effect of the 1969 decision was to grant “equal pay for equal work”, i.e. that where women did “equal work” alongside men they should receive equal pay, but that otherwise equality did not

(more…)

warehouse 4 aprilby Ryan Stanton

I work at a large distribution warehouse in Melbourne’s west. Every day a tug of war plays out over how we spend our time. The bosses want everything done at breakneck speed, with little regard for our health or well-being. They make work – especially the physical, repetitive work of modern warehouses – into a monotonous, alienating experience.

But, like many other workplaces, in the last hour before knock-off, the shop floor is notably less frenetic than the rest of the time. By then, it is the bathrooms that are a hotbed of activity. We congregate to exchange gossip, compare plans for the weekend and discuss the footy.

It’s our way of getting some of that time back and ensuring we get a little rest. We’ve all been there: sneaking in that extra toilet break, checking Facebook in some secret corner and slowing right down for the last hour or two of work.

Just as the bosses hate it, we see every second that we aren’t working as a small win.

Of course, all of this is completely unacceptable to management. In a warehouse, advanced voice-picking technology tracks our (more…)

imagesIn New Zealand, the left (in the broadest sense of the term) is dominated by ‘kiwi nationalism’.  The latest example of this is the campaign against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.  Even though the NZ capitalist class is one of the original group of six and is pushing the TPPA because it is in its class interest, campaigners frequently speak and act as if it is something being forced on this country by foreign capitalists.  Against it, they invoke a range of nationalist slogans and political positions.

Economic nationalism, via protectionist measures and tariffs, is a key part of left politics in this country in the face of job losses too.  Most of the union movement is wedded to it.  Even chunks of the far-left promote it.  In this country we essentially have a nationalist left rather than an internationalist and anti-capitalist left.

The following article by two leading Australian Marxists provides a good antidote, especially since ‘Aussie nationalism’ and ‘kiwi nationalism’ are very similar.

by Ben Hillier and Diane Fieldes

It is rare to meet anyone whose world view is not framed by nationalism in one way or another. This is hardly surprising. The world is constructed on national lines: nation states, national languages, national education systems and national laws.

We have national parliaments and therefore national political parties, national industries and therefore national unions – the Maritime Union of Australia, the Australian Workers’ Union, the National Union of Workers.

And from a very early age, we are taught about our shared national culture and encouraged to embrace “national identity”. We reflexively support “our” country, “our” military, “our” national sporting teams. And when an Australian does well on the world stage, there often is a sense of national excitement. Take the buzz around NRL player Jarryd Hayne playing for the San Francisco 49ers, or when Nicole Kidman (“Our Nic”) first made it big in Hollywood.

Exactly what it is to “be Australian”, however, is exceedingly hard to pin down.

The “fair go” and “mateship” are the backbones, we’re told, of what it means to be Australian. Also important is the Aussie larrikin spirit – if you read theNorthern Territory News, you understand that this is expressed in getting drunk and setting off a firecracker in your pants or taunting some native wildlife until it finally bites you in the groin.

Yet we encounter two serious problems as soon as we interrogate any of the things that allegedly are quintessentially “Australian”. First is that (more…)

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Walter Nash, Labour’s immigration minister, helped keep doors largely barred to Jewish refugees from Nazis

by Phil Duncan

While the Labour Party showed its knee-jerk racism in relation to the Chinese yet again last year – a modern-day equivalent to the early party’s keen support for the White New Zealand policy – few people are aware of the first Labour government’s shoddy record in relation to refugees, particularly Jewish refugees, from Nazism in Europe in the late 1930s and early 1940s.  Below is essentially a summary of chapter 13 of Oliver Sutherland’s Paikea, a book about his father (I.L.G. Sutherland), which throws an interesting light on this.

Michael Joseph Savage: first Labour prime minister wanted white British immigrants, not Jewish refugees from the Nazis

Michael Joseph Savage: first Labour prime minister wanted white British immigrants, not Jewish refugees from the Nazis

I only became aware of this hidden part of Labour Party history when, by chance, I saw Paikea in a display in a public library.  I knew of Oliver as a prominent figure in the Auckland Committee on Racial Discrimination (ACORD) way back in the 1970s, so I picked up the book and had a look at it.  I was interested to see that Ivan Sutherland had been very involved in campaigning for European refugees in the late 1930s and into the 1940s and had been up against it as the first Labour government wasn’t keen on (more…)