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Tag Archives: George Monbiot

March in March: Enough of the Deception and Manipulation

A guest post by Matthew Mitchell. This article was first published on Matthew’s blog (We) can do better.

Abbott took government by playing on the fears of Australians, supported by the Murdoch press. Fears that have been built up and sustained through systems of secrecy, lies and deception. This is the emerging pattern of westernised governments and corporations across the globe. And these techniques depend upon violence, fear and coercion. All of which were evident in the Manus Island riots and killing, despite attempts to demonise the victims (Howard pulled a similar trick with Tampa).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaI6YJi7pnQ&w=560&h=315]

The truth is that refugees, particularly those arriving by boat, form a tiny percentage of immigration into Australia, and could not come close to the “legal” immigration figures (see here for Asylum Seeker Myths). Not to mention that we are bound by law to accept them, under our international agreements. The vast majority of immigration is officially encouraged specialist migration, done not out of any grand vision for Australian society, but solely to feed the industrial growth model which is destroying the planet and leading not to higher prosperity for Australians, but significantly lower in terms of: levels of debt; less choices of jobs; less educational opportunities; crowded transport systems; hideous urban living developments and ongoing destruction of the natural environment.

In fact, it is this failing growth model that is mostly causing the refugee problem in the first place. Our dependence on fossil fuels, Australia’s collaboration and support of the U.S in global manipulations to establish regimes that serve the interests of a wealthy elite; the general extraction of the resources of less developed nations; manipulations of markets by multi-nationals which ensure that those nations at the bottom of the global food chain can never climb up, the list goes on. The WTO has never delivered the necessary agreements on agriculture that would eliminate subsidies by the U.S and other wealthy nations so as to allow developing nations to compete fairly. In the WTO’s own words: “developing countries […] say developed countries have failed to implement the agreements in a way that would benefit developing countries’ trade.”

George Monbiot – a respected journalist for The Guardian newspaper – is exactly right when he states:The real threat to the national interest comes from the rich and powerful“.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riAiP1HzlpQ&w=560&h=315]

In fact the failure of the multi-nationals to achieve what they wanted through the WTO has lead to the Trans-pacific Partnership (TPP) , an “agreement” being negotiated in secret and described as a “corporate coup”.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBpXlI4Oxkw&w=560&h=315]

The manipulation of corporations is well captured in the following video parody of the Coal Industry – coal which is now polluting Gippsland as it has been polluting Chinese cities for years – to the sure detriment of their children’s long-term health. Not to mention 8 million acres of Chinese land so polluted that food cannot be grown on it. It is in such nations that the dark underside of our growth based consumerism is hidden from view, and the less said about it in the corporate controlled media, the better:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqXzAUaTUSc&w=560&h=315]

The underlying fact is the whole destructive system is based on force. Even the most passive resistance cannot be tolerated and must be removed by force, as Occupiers around the world found out in 2012 (including in Melbourne). This is confirmed by Oxford Professor Avner Offer who says this model is: “a warrant for inflicting pain.” Offer also says: “Economics tells us that everything anyone says should be motivated by strategic self-interest. And when economists use the word ‘strategic’ they mean cheating” and he concludes: “one of the consequences of this is that economists are not in a strong position to tell society what to do.”

It is this coercive, cheats based system that the Abbott government firmly believes in and supports, and it is because of the faults and failures of this system that we must march in March.

In Melbourne: State Library at midday, Sunday March 16. Click here for other locations, including country towns

march-in-march

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Welfare is a right for those who need it

This post is by @KayRollison

This has been a black week for those on welfare in Britain. We can’t let the same thing happen in Australia.

The British Conservative government is demolishing the welfare state, brick by brick. A series of changes, scarcely reported here, make it even harder for people who are poor, unemployed or have a disability. They include a bedroom tax – I kid you not – that public housing tenants have to pay if they have a spare room. Many will be forced out of houses they have lived in for years. There’s an arbitrary cap on benefits, reduction of the Council tax benefit and a host of other cuts like no legal aid for civil cases – you can read more of the details here. And by the way, there’s a tax cut for the rich. As far as I know, none of these specific changes figured in the Conservative’s election campaign. The policies are accompanied by flagrant attacks in the mainstream media on people living on welfare; apparently welfare is to blame for the horrific death of six children at the hands of their father. Welfare is a ‘lifestyle choice’, according to the Daily Mail.

What we see here is the almost inevitable result of neo-liberal ideology at work. You can’t tax the rich – indeed they need tax cuts – because they are supposed to be creating the wealth which pays for the safety net for the poor whom the system (inevitably) disadvantages. Only they aren’t creating wealth – there’s a recession. So there’s a vicious circle, with less revenue to pay for the safety net, which is increasingly expensive, and less and less affordable … unless you tax the rich, which is ruled out by definition.

One of the saddest features of this debacle is that the British Labour Party doesn’t seem willing or able to oppose these cruel changes. Guardian journalist George Monbiot describes the Labour Party’s position as ‘low-alcohol conservatism’, a hangover from the ineffective ‘third way’ policies of Tony Blair, who also wanted to relieve the state of its duty to minimise inequality, and promoted ‘personal responsibility’. The economy is in recession, but it’s still your fault if you can’t find a job.

Monbiot suggests that too many people in Britain still suffer from feelings of deference. He says:

‘They lived in great and justified fear of authority, and the fear has persisted, passed down across the five or six generations that separate us and reinforced now by renewed insecurity, snowballing inequality, partisan policing.’

The only antidote he sees is hope, engendered by ‘the power of a transformative idea’ that can change the way people think about equality and inequality. He suggests a ‘basic income’, paid for by a ‘land value tax’.

These ideas may have merit. But here in Australia, we don’t need them. I don’t want to get into a debate about national character, but I don’t think Monbiot’s characterisation of the British as still somehow accepting the rightness of inequality or feeling powerless to oppose it, applies here. We have a strong belief that more equality of opportunity is better than less, though this belief shouldn’t be taken for granted. Certainly the anti-welfare messages all too frequently espoused by the mainstream media probably do have an effect – welfare cheats, lazy unemployed, and shirkers claiming disability are core business for programs like A Current Affair. But while trust in governments’ ability to improve people’s circumstances has declined, people still look to them for assistance when things go wrong. The conservative ‘big government is the problem’ mantra doesn’t work terribly well here.

And surely our Labor Party is not the spineless body that British Labour seems to have become. Yes, it did undertake a massive retreat from government ownership of public enterprises. Yes, there are – and should be – debates about how to avoid welfare traps. But it has never retreated from the associated need to provide a proper safety net. You can read a discussion of what the Prime Minister says and does about equality (admittedly not always the same thing) here.

So at least in theory, we have a culture that approves of a society with greater rather than less equality, and a party in government that still espouses more equal sharing of wealth. Polls continue to show the voters want the ALP to represent workers and traditional Labour values. Essential Polling concludes that

‘Labor’s woes aren’t due to pitting the classes against each other, but rather a failure to fulfil their mandate to represent working people’.

What better narrative does the ALP need? It’s time to be bold. No more nonsense about struggling on $250,000. You can look at the real situation here. Forget about the accusations of ‘class war’. The only class war in Australia is of the rich vested interests versus the poor and weak. Welfare is a right for those who need it. The measure of their need is the level of their inequality. This is the simple message the ALP needs to shout from the rooftops. (After all, the mainstream media won’t publish it.)

And I fear they are going to need to shout it. Should the LNP win the election in September, they will be faced with a version of what the Conservatives have in Britain – declining revenue and growing welfare costs as the population ages. And their solution will be the same. Australia may not be in recession, but the Liberal mantra of balancing the budget, alongside their many expensive commitments to middle class welfare will mean they will cut spending in other welfare areas, no doubt playing the dole bludger card as they have in the past. But don’t expect to see any of this before the election; this is what we can expect from the post budget audit commission. ‘Labor’s budget black hole’. It’s all so predictable.

Where Monbiot is certainly right is in calling on hope as a motive force to oppose such attacks on the poorest and most vulnerable. Labor in Australia must never be ‘Liberal Lite’. It must reassert its traditional left of centre values.

By Kay Rollison

 

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