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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Greed & gluttony - the real War on Christmas

Every year people across the globe celebrate Christmas, whether they are Christian or not. They'll decorate their houses, sing carols and give gifts to family and loved ones. For many children, the mythical Santa Claus will visit and leave them a special gift.  'On earth peace, goodwill to all men' is one of the main bible scriptures quoted during this time (Luke 2:14 KJV).

Also every year, we hear of a 'War on Christmas', a war that is apparently attacking the very fabric of the Christmas celebration.

This 'war' is allegedly perpetrated by grinches who want to ban Santa Clause or other aspects of the Christmas celebration. A number of hoax emails that usually blame Muslims, but have no basis in fact, are circulated - check Snopes1 or hoax-slayer2. I'd have to seriously question the mental and moral state of the person who sees fit to compose a hoax email in order to spread hatred in the community. It is a sad indictment on the community, that so many people actually believe these emails without checking them out. After all, Google is but a mouse click away. It is people like this who have lost sight of the meaning of Christmas (remember the 'peace, goodwill to all men' thing?)

The 'War on Christmas' is also being waged by anyone who commits the dastardly act of saying 'happy holidays' instead of the socially acceptable, 'Merry Christmas'.

These events do not signify a 'War'.

The only War on Christmas was waged & lost years ago. It is the one in which the Christmas spirit was usurped by capitalism; by greed and gluttony. The generosity of the real St Nicholas (Nikolaos of Myra - a Greek Bishop who lived in what is now Turkey) who gave to the poor and needy, has been replaced by Santa Claus who brings unnecessary gifts to rich kids while the poor continue to suffer. Sadly, Santa either doesn't visit poorer children or when he does, the toys are not as expensive. Maybe Santa uses cheaper elves for making the presents of the poor.

Santa's gifts are based on whether you're naughty or nice, good or bad - according to one or two Christmas Carols. Yet, this has no basis in scripture. Jesus didn't come for those who 'deserved' His redemption (remember Romans 3:23-24, 'For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus').

We are told that Jesus is the 'reason for the season'.  Yet most families, Christian or not, barely (if at all) acknowledge Jesus in their haste to open their presents before gorging themselves on food and drink. Christmas was lost to greed and gluttony years ago.

Of course, the irony is that Christmas was originally a pagan festival known as Saturnalia, in which people gave themselves over to absolute pleasure and indulged their fleshly desires in unrestrained revelry: not unlike Christmas in first world countries. Greed and gluttony.

People across the globe can't wait for the fat-man to deliver gifts that may or may not be needed, and then guts themselves stupid until they feel sick - while millions of people go hungry. All of this to the accompaniment of Christmas Carols extolling the virtues of peace and goodwill. Christmas spirit or Saturnalian celebration?

This decadence is hardly a celebration of Jesus and contains a shallow concept of peace and goodwill.

The 'War' on Christmas has not come from other religions or from the benign 'happy holidays' greeting, but from capitalist exploitation and marketing. Capitalism isn't just content to sell us rubbish that we don't need, but also to force many people in retail to work over Christmas, keeping them away from their families and friends in order to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the manipulated masses to spend, spend, spend.

Throughout his life, Jesus preached and commanded love of all humanity, to eshew greed and to help the poor. If we are to truly celebrate Christmas, we should be helping the poor and loving everyone (not just other Christians or those with the 'Christmas Spirit' who indulge in the Saturnalian or Bacchanalian decadence of consumerism and over-indulgence).

It is greed and gluttony that waged the War on Christmas, and that war was lost years ago. The bulk of Christendom indulges in the capitalistic and selfish delights of what constitutes the modern Christmas 'Spirit'.

Many of us appreciate that it is our family and friends who are more meaningful than any gifts we receive. Yet, what about those who are lonely or homeless, who are languishing in prisons, detention centres or refugee camps? Again, for those who want to keep 'Christ' in Christmas, it may not hurt to check out the parable of the sheep and the goats (remember the bit about 'for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me' - Matthew 25:31-46).

Here's a thought or two. Why not give a gift to a stranger, someone less fortunate than ourselves. Of course, we shouldn't wait until Christmas to help others, but as Christmas is a time of gift-giving, it is certainly a good time to give useful gifts to the poor and needy. Or why not take the time to spend time with the lonely, the homeless, the prisoner, the refugee. Time and attention are valuable gifts, and maybe for a moment, take the focus off ourselves and our greed.

Peace on earth and goodwill to all.


1. 'Cardwell', Snopes,, 3 December 2013. Last accessed 25 December 2013.

2. 'Hoax - Broadmeadows Shopping Centre Christmas Celebrations Ban', Hoax Slayer,, 10 December 2013. Last accessed 25 December 2013.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

History and heresy - the crucifixion of Christ in the 21st century

Have conservative, fundamentalist Christians learnt nothing from history?

It was the religiously conservative, fundamentalist, legalistic types who:

* crucified Jesus (after all, you can't preach heresy that undermines the religious establishment)

* burnt Joan of Arc (and others) at the stake for witchcraft (after all, you can't have visions of God that give political advice which differs to the religious establishment's politics).

* established the Spanish Inquisition to torture and murder enemies of the church

* undertook the crusades to wage a holy war in order to expel the 'heathen' Muslims from the 'Holy' Land.

* supported Adolf Hitler, who claimed to be a Christian upholding Christian values, because nothing says Christian like imprisoning and killing Jews, Communists, Socialists, gypsies, homosexuals and anyone else who is perceived to be unpatriotic, or a risk to the economy or threatening 'traditional' family and church values.

* waged war in the Middle East and Afghanistan to destroy 'terrorists' and 'fundamentalist Muslims' - essentially anyone who fights back against the American capitalist war-machine as it exploits weaker economies for its own gain (reminiscent of the Crusades, but let's not go there - pardon the paralipsis).

* waged a war on the poor by supporting the rich in the mistaken belief of 'trickle-down' economics, after all, we all know how willing rich people are to give their money to the poor.

* support the apartheid state of Israel through misinterpretation of scripture, which essentially denies the need for Jesus delivering salvation to Judaism, as well as sponsoring the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestine: contrary to what Jesus preached and what's written in the bible.

What did Jesus actually preach? Well, Jesus was a revolutionary who opposed the mainstream religious institution and the hypocrisy that went with it. It wasn't so much the government that he opposed, as it was the religious elite, namely the Pharisees and Sadducees. He spoke up for the poor, the marginalised, the despised. He hung out with the tax collector and the prostitute. Ironically, many Christians today oppose tax and promote smaller government, as if this is biblical. Yet, Jesus said 'render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's'. He never opposed paying tax and didn't come to overthrow the Roman Empire.

Many Christians are happy for tax breaks to go to the rich while criticising welfare for the poor, as if this is biblical. They believe the more money given to the rich, the more money the rich will give the poor. It's refreshing to hear the current pontiff, Pope Francis call trickle-down economics out, when he said:

'The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefiting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger. Nothing ever comes out for the poor'.

The right wing opposes the revolutionaries, the ones who speak up against capitalist exploitation. The Occupy movement for instance, wasn't exactly on the Christmas card list for many fundamentalist Christians. Yet, Jesus also opposed exploitation of the poor by the rich and by the religious establishment.

It's interesting that Pope Francis also pointed out that the church has been focused on the wrong priorities, such as the preoccupation with homosexuality and abortion, while people suffer from poverty. Yet, listening to some Christians, homosexuality is an unforgiveable sin. If it was so serious, then why did Jesus not mention it. Not once! It's the church and the religious fundamentalists who need to apologise for their sins against the poor, the homosexual, the reject.

The right-wing continues with its judgemental vitriol against Communism, Socialism, environmentalism and homosexuality, while standing up for capitalism, exploitation and gun-ownership.

If Mary appeared today, unwed and claiming she'd gotten knocked up by God, there'd be outrage in the church and allegations of an attack on the family unit. Imagine the uproar if Mary's son then went on to preach heresy such as 'for God so loved the world' (and by implication everyone in the world, such as homosexuals, atheists, Muslims, Communists and so on), or giving commands such as 'love your neighbour' (again by implication meaning to love the world and everyone in it, not just the right-wing, capitalist Christian), or something like,  'I tell you the truth, it's hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God ... it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God'.

With such heresy, Jesus would be burnt at the stake or crucified ... well, maybe today it would mean a lethal injection or spending the rest of his life in Guantanamo Bay for being some sort of radical, unpatriotic, terrorist hell-bent on dismantling the capitalist state and undermining Christian values.

What has changed since Jesus was crucified by the establishment 2,000 years ago?

If Jesus appeared today; a long-haired, brown-skinned, kaftan-wearing God-freak, preaching the prioritisation of the poor over the rich, love over hate, peace over war; he'd be ridiculed, abused, crucified.

Ironically, it's rebirthed capitalist Christianity that is the heresy, defending greed and hatred. Those who speak up for love and peace are the true fundamentalists, preaching and delivering the fundamental message of Christ.

For more than 2,000 years, however, the message of love and generosity has been overshadowed by those willing to kill to defend power and wealth in the name of God. Throughout the generations this heresy has been rebadged and sold to the masses in one form or another. And it continues to this day, masquerading as a multitude of Christian doctrine, such as prosperity teaching, Christian or family values, conservatism. Meanwhile, wars are waged in the name of it. Wars against the poor, the homosexual, the abortionist, the Muslim, the Communist and so on.

History is a great teacher, but only to those willing to learn. The rest will repeat the tragic mistakes of the past.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

From Nanny State to Police State

For years, the Liberal Party and its supporters have accused the Labor Party of running a nanny state. Every time that legislation was introduced with the aim of protecting people from themselves or others, the 'nanny state, nanny state' squeals from the right-wing were deafening. Whether it was workplace health and safety laws, anti-discrimination laws, anti-vilification laws, even anti-fat laws which now require restaurants to state the calorie content of its food, the right wing accused Labor of wrapping society in cotton-wool.

The extreme right-wing Liberal National Party that now rules Queensland under Premier Campbell Newman, claimed that it was going to reduce red and green tape because Queensland was over-governed, over-regulated, over-legislated.

To de-nannify Queensland, Newman and his side-kick, Attorney-General Jarrid Bleije, introduced new laws:
  • Name and shame juvenile offenders who commit a second offence (1)
  • Sex offender law amendments which removed power of the courts to decide whether a sex offender should be freed, and gave it to the Attorney-General (2), in breach of the Westminster Convention. The Court of Appeal has rejected these amendments as invalid. Bleije is considering challenging the Court of Appeal (3).
  • 'Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment' Act, which outlaws dozens of motorcycle gangs, makes it a crime for three or more people to be gathered together and allows for an additional 15 to 25 years jail on top of the head sentence, for a member of an outlaw gang who is convicted of a violent crime (4). Persons convicted under the VLAD Act may be sentenced to a dedicated prison, spend 23 hours per day in a cell and wear a pink jumpsuit (5). The legislation is very broad and doesn't just apply to bikers (6).
  • There also anti-Union and anti-democracy laws, aimed at weakening the rights of workers, including banning Unions from using membership funds to undertake advertising campaigns without a referendum (7)(8), and banning employers from deducting union membership fees from their wages (9).
Anyone who doubts the danger of Newman's fascist laws or who believe that it only targets the worst of the worst biker gangs, should take a look at what happened in Queensland on 14 December 2013. Every year bikers hold a toy run, in which they deliver toys to needy children. Newman and Bleije unleashed the Queensland Police on the charity toy run which was being conducted by Christian biker group, the Tribe of Judah. Unconfirmed reports on Facebook and Twitter claim that more than 700 bikers were stopped under the VLAD Act. Channel 10 reported that there were 300 charity bikers stopped (10).

Either way, this is an incredible abuse of police power. If the bikers were distributing drugs, weapons or other contraband that would be understandable, but they were distributing toys to the most needy children in Queensland society. Children who likely will have a very bleak Christmas. Children who may well be desperate and destitute. Merry Christmas kids. Your government is just waiting for an excuse to send you to jail, so don't load up on toys or other things that you might enjoy.

Instead of the Newman government attempting to fix social problems, they target the most needy. Even the 'name and shame' laws are not aimed at rehabilitating, but at victimising the victims of poverty.

Labor may have run a Nanny State according to right-wingers, but the LNP is blatantly and boldly operating a fascist Police State; one in which the liberties of all citizens are under threat.

What's next? Ban freedom of speech? Ban the media, or bloggers, or Facebook, Twitter and other social media users from making comment?

Newman and his cohorts are operating a fascist government which is getting more and more extreme.

At risk of invoking Godwin's Law, it isn't too much of a stretch to remember the words of the German Baptist preacher, Martin Niemöller who stated,  'When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent, I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent, I was not a social democrat. When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak up, because I was not a trade unionist. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out'.

All Queenslanders should be concerned and speaking up against these draconian and totalitarian laws. 


1. Marissa Calligeros, Brisbane Times, 'Queensland to name and shame young offenders', 26 September 2013, Last accessed 15 December 2013.

2. Amy Remeikis, Brisbane Times, 'Bleije bypasses courts on state's worst sex offenders', 16 October 2013, Last accessed 15 December 2013.

3. Brisbane Time, 'Jarrid Bleije announces review of dangerous prisoner laws', 8 December 2013, Last accessed 15 December 2013.

4. Queensland Government, Queensland Cabinet and Ministerial Directory, Media Statements, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice The Honourable Jarrid Bleije, Tuesday, October 15, 2013, 'Tough penalties for criminal gang members', Last accessed 15 December 2013.

5. The Guardian, 'Pink for punks: Queensland plan to embarrass bikies in jail', 21 October 2013, Last accessed 15 December 2013.

6. Anna Capellano, Independent Australia, 'Are you a vicious lawless associate?', 8 November 2103,,5876. Last accessed 15 December 2013.

7. Stand for Qld, 'Fact sheet on Newman LNP Government extreme anti-Democracy Bill', Last accessed 15 December 2013.

8. Amy Remeikis, Brisbane Times, 'Newman government rachets up 'war' on unions', 8 August 2013, Last accessed 15 December 2013.

9. Alex Scott, Together Union, 'New industrial legislation by the Newman government', 11 June 2013, Last accessed 15 December 2013.

10. Sarah Greenhalgh, Channel 10, 'Bikies spread Christmas cheer', 14 December 2013, Last accessed 15 December 2013.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Australia v Indonesia - Ego over economics

Give aid, reward with trade.

And the stand-off with Indonesia continues following the revelation that Australia had tapped the phones of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife, Ibu Ani Yudhoyono, and a number of other Indonesian officials in 2009.

Australia claims this was in response to the deaths of a number of Australians from terrorist attacks in Indonesia.  Australia and Indonesia already cooperate with each other in combating terrorism, so it is doubtful that bugging the phones of the President and his wife, would have been of benefit.

Understandably, President Yudhoyono is outraged, as is the rest of Indonesia, and has called for a formal response and an apology from Australia. Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is refusing to apologise and has yet to formally respond to President Yudhoyono.

Whether Abbott should apologise or not is debatable. As has been pointed out numerous times, most countries spy on each other. However, Abbott should at least call Yudhoyono and discuss the matter. This is the basis of international diplomacy.

As a result of this insult, Indonesia has suspended military and people smuggling cooperation with Australia, placing additional pressure on Abbott's hyperbolic and hysterical 'Stop the boats' campaign. Cooperation with Indonesia is essential to the success of any policy regarding asylum seekers.

In opposition, Abbott often ran from the difficult questions. There is the embarrassing footage of Abbott being lost for words when confronted by a journalist over his comment, 'Shit happens' regarding the death of a soldier in Afghanistan. (

Now that Abbott occupies the highest office in the country, he is still running from difficult discussions. In relation to the spying allegations, he has hidden behind Parliament in order to make a few casual statements.

In the meantime, Indonesian anger against Australia grows while Abbott keeps his head firmly planted in the sand, hoping it will blow over.

Conversely, in Australia, there are those who agree with Abbott and angrily claim that we should cancel aid to Indonesia, as though Indonesia needs Australia more than the other way around.

It may be prudent to consider who needs who.

Remember, the crisis that Australia's farmers faced when former Prime Minister Julia Gillard banned live exports to Indonesia? The ban crippled Australia's cattle farmers.

Australia is the largest source of international aid to Indonesia, and will provide an estimated $683 million during 2013/14. In 2012/13, Australia provided approximately $541.6 million in aid. Certainly not small potatoes.

However, mutual trade between Australia and Indonesia accounted for $11.1 billion in 2012. Indonesia is Australia's 12th largest trading partner. Of this, Australian exports accounted for approximately $4.8 billion and Australian imports for 6.3 billion, according to Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (

Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation in the world. Its economy is growing rapidly, with real GDP growth of 6.3% in 2013. It is one of Australia's most important economic trading partners, and has huge potential for increased growth. Particularly, as Australia's aid money is used to raise the economic standards of Indonesia. Aid = better economy = increased trade = better economy etc. It's not rocket science.

Australia benefits significantly from the relationship with Indonesia. It does no good for Abbott to preference ego over economics and diplomacy.

After winning the 2013 election Prime Minister Abbott claimed that the 'adults are back in charge' of the government.  Well, it's time for Prime Minister Abbott to pull on his big-boy pants, phone or visit President Yudhoyono and resolve this issue as soon as possible.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Kristallnacht - Remembrance and Vigilance

Today marks 75 years since Kristallnacht, the 'night of broken glass', in which Nazi brownshirts and German civilians rampaged through Jewish neighbourhoods in Germany, destroying synagogues, businesses, buildings, houses and apartments. Approximately 100 Jews were killed that night, and around 30,000 were imprisoned in concentration camps.

Kristallnacht was allegedly a response to the assassination of a German diplomat by a German-born Polish Jew. However, it is likely that it would have happened anyway; if not that night, then certainly not long after. Hitler's Mein Kampf foreshadowed what was to come. He blamed the Jews for Germany's loss in World War I and for the economic crisis in Germany, amongst other things. Hitler believed in patriotism, nationalism and racial purity.

Kristallnacht is generally seen as the beginning of the Final Solution that culminated in the Holocaust, which saw the genocide of at least 6 million Jews and other 'undesirables'. However, Hitler began his campaign for the purity of Germany years before this.

In 1933, he incarcerated Communists and Social Democrats. He also targeted dissidents, gypsys, homosexuals, the mentally ill and the physically lame.

Who spoke up?

Some Germans claim that they didn't know of the massacres that were occuring in the concentration camps, however, they did know of the arrests, of the incarcerations because these were reported in newspapers and obvious on the streets as people were arrested and taken away. Few, if any spoke up. In their defence, it would have been a brave and frightening thing to protest the persecution as they would also have been incarcerated.

Hitler's persecution of those he didn't like is a pertinent reminder today that we must speak up against injustice, in all its forms. Across the globe, politics is becoming more and more aggressive with arguments aimed at specific people or groups. We see attacks on other religions and political ideologies, as well as on homosexuality or other 'undesirable' traits.

In Australia, there is the forced incarceration of asylum seekers, victims of persecution in their own land and victims of persecution in the 'civilised' society of Australia. In the USA, we see the rage against Obamacare and the wild accusations of it being Socialism. In the West, there have been numerous groups attacking the 'welfare' state, claiming that it makes people lazy and dependent. Yet, if not for welfare, who would care for those in need? If not, for socialised medicine who would care for the sick?

The polemic vitriol of modern politics sounds a lot like the arguments Hitler used to justify his persecution of Jews, Communists, Socialists, homosexuals, gypsys, the sick and lame, and anyone else who didn't fit his ideal of what a German should be.

On the anniversary of Kristallnacht, we must never forget just how slippery the slope is from 'patriotism' to persecution to pogrom.

Martin Niemöller was a German pastor who opposed Communism and initially supported Hitler. He liked what Hitler had to say. It resonated with his Christian belief and German nationalism. When he was incarcerated in 1937, it became personally clear that he'd been very wrong to not have spoken up earlier.

Niemöller is accredited with a number of quotes. The most famous being:

'When the Nazis came for the communists,
 I remained silent,
 I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,

I remained silent,
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,

I did not speak up,
because I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for me,

there was no one left to speak out'.

This quote has been modified numerous times, but is the one listed on the Martin Niemöller Foundation's website (1):

I'm referencing Niemöller because his quotes are particularly relevant today.

Niemöller wrote (2) about whose fault the Holocaust was. It may well have been orchestrated by Hitler and the Nazis, but it was allowed to happen by the people:

'This should be our starting point, and with this very thing in mind, we have to start in earnest. Nobody wants to take the responsibility of the guilt, no one of our German people is guilty, everybody shoves the guilt over to his neighbor. The local official says: I was only a little man, the whole guilt lies with you, Herr local commander; and he, in turn says: I did not wrong anybody; I only obeyed orders. The whole guilt lies with you, you of the Gestapo. But the latter don't want it either and finally everything lands on Himmler and Hitler. These are the greatest sinners, who cannot throw the guilt on others anymore, even if they did try to do so before their death. Can it disappear into thin air this way? The guilt exists, there is no doubt about it. Even if there were no other guilt than that of the six million clay urns, containing the ashes of burnt Jews from all over Europe. And this guilt weighs heavily on the German people and on the German name and on all Christendom. For these things happened in our world and in our name. Can we of the Confessional Church have nothing to do with it? Can we say that the church triumphed on all the fronts?'

Niemöller was in no doubt about the acquiescent role that the church played in supporting Hitler's genocide and persecutions in this speech he gave on 6 January 1946 and which was published in 'Die deutsche Schuld, Not und Hoffnung' ('The German guilt, misery and hope') (3):

'When Pastor Niemöller was put in a concentration camp we wrote the year 1937; when the concentration camp was opened we wrote the year 1933, and the people who were put in the camps then were Communists. Who cared about them? We knew it, it was printed in the newspapers. Who raised their voice, maybe the Confessing Church? We thought: Communists, those opponents of religion, those enemies of Christians - "should I be my brother's keeper?" Then they got rid of the sick, the so-called incurables. - I remember a conversation I had with a person who claimed to be a Christian. He said: Perhaps it's right, these incurably sick people just cost the state money, they are just a burden to themselves and to others. Isn't it best for all concerned if they are taken out of the middle [of society]? -- Only then did the church as such take note. Then we started talking, until our voices were again silenced in public. Can we say, we aren't guilty/responsible? The persecution of the Jews, the way we treated the occupied countries, or the things in Greece, in Poland, in Czechoslovakia or in Holland, that were written in the newspapers. … I believe, we Confessing-Church-Christians have every reason to say: mea culpa, mea culpa! We can talk ourselves out of it with the excuse that it would have cost me my head if I had spoken out. … We preferred to keep silent. We are certainly not without guilt/fault, and I ask myself again and again, what would have happened, if in the year 1933 or 1934 - there must have been a possibility - 14,000 Protestant pastors and all Protestant communities in Germany had defended the truth until their deaths? If we had said back then, it is not right when Hermann Göring simply puts 100,000 Communists in the concentration camps, in order to let them die. I can imagine that perhaps 30,000 to 40,000 Protestant Christians would have had their heads cut off, but I can also imagine that we would have rescued 30-40,000 million [sic] people, because that is what it is costing us now'.

Kristallnacht and its ramifications must never be forgotten. We must remember the Jews who were murdered that night, the 30,000 who were taken away, most to their deaths in concentration camps.  We must also remember that it was done with the complicity and open support of most Germans, including the church.

Although most countries don't have death camps, in many cases we are complicit in the persecution of others, either because we fail to help or to speak out against injustice. We cannot defend oppression, even if it is our own country that it doing it.

Sinclair Lewis published a novel in 1935 entitled 'It can't happen here', in which he depicted the rise of a Fascist president in the USA on the back of a 'populist platform, promising to restore the country to prosperity and greatness', playing the patriotism and 'traditional values' card. In commenting on this book, journalist Harrison Salisbury (4) wrote:

'Sinclair Lewis aptly predicted in It Can't Happen Here that if fascism came to America it would come wrapped in the flag and whistling 'The Star Spangled Banner'.

We must remain vigilant against the insidious nature of politics that panders to fear, xenophobia and prejudice, for those who condone such politics are guilty of human rights violations through abrogating their moral duty to defend others from injustice, persecution and oppression.


1. Martin Niemöller Foundation, The quote, accessed 9 November 2013.

2. New York: Philosophical Library, 1947 [79 pp. 21 cm.], Of Guilt and Hope, by Martin Niemöller, accessed 9 November 2013.

3. Harold Marcuse, Martin Niemöller's famous quotation: "First they came for the Communists ... ", accessed 9 November 2013.

4. Stephen Wylder, Sinclair Lewis never said it; the rules of misquotation, accessed 9 November 2013.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Dehumanisation, delegitimisation and double-speak

The LNP have become masters of dehumanisation; delegitimising the rights of victims of horrendous human rights abuses, and it starts with the terminology. Asylum seekers are not illegal.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison maintain the line that they don't want to pander to political correctness in relation to asylum seekers. Therefore, asylum seekers arriving by boat will be henceforth be referred to as 'illegal arrivals'.

This is great popularism politics, however, it is incorrect under the UN Refugee Convention to which Australia is a signatory. The Convention states that anyone can enter a signatory country and apply for asylum, no matter how they arrive there. That is not illegal and they are not illegal arrivals.

What we are witnessing, is not political correctness, put political incorrectness. Political popularism appealing to the xenophobes that the Liberal Party has carefully cultivated to secure election victory. After all, one method of gaining political success is to create a bogeyman and then show yourself as the way, the truth and the light to overcoming said bogeyman.

The problem is, that it is baloney. Asylum seekers are not illegal. They are victims of human rights abuses, and the LNP is perpetuating the abuse by referring to them as illegals.

Ironically, Abbott is happy to prance around showing how much of a charity-minded individual he is through volunteer fire-fighting and life-saving (at tax-payers expense, mind), yet his charity disappears when it comes to asylum seekers. It would appear that one form of charity leads to votes and one doesn't.

Asylum seekers now live in fear of being rounded up and shipped off to the Gulags that Australia has created on Manus Island, Nauru and so on. For some, this fear has already come true. Recently, even pregnant women were shipped to Nauru, where there is very limited medical care. So much for charity, Tony.

Since John Howard, the Liberal Party has become masters of dehumanisation; delegitimising the rights of victims of horrendous human rights abuses, and it starts with the terminology. This is coupled with censorship and misinformation which we've seen since the Liberal Party banned the release of information regarding boat arrivals; confining it to the release of cherry-picked data in weekly briefings. The pathetic excuse for this is that it is a military operation. The military-led, regally sounding, jingoistic Operation Sovereign Borders was established by Prime Minister Abbott on the pretense of protecting asylum seekers from drowning. A bit of over-kill if that was his true motive. Rather, Operation Sovereign Borders is sold by the Liberal Party, particularly Tony Abbott and the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison as defending Australia from malice-minded refugees hell-bent on overthrowing this great country and establishing their own nation. Wave the flags, stop the boats.

This Orwellian double-speak needs to stop. Asylum seekers are not illegal. They are not a threat. They don't come with malice on their minds. Asylum seekers are people. Victims in their own country. Victims in ours. They have the right for their claims to be heard.

This disgraceful, deceitful dialogue of hatred and jingoism should cease, otherwise we may as well stop the pretense and remove ourselves from the UN Refugee Convention. We can then be just like every other nation that fails to recognise asylum seekers and has no respect for human rights.

Would it be so bad if Australia set an example of how to treat people humanely, rather than acting like despots, fascists, thugs and bullies to those in need?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Debt before Demagogues!

Labor gave us debt. The LNP gave us Demagogues. 

The debt delivered us from the worst of the Global Financial meltdown, leaving Australia with one of the strongest economies in the world, while other OECD nations floundered.

The Demagogues delivered laws that remove and abuse human rights, workers rights and legal rights at federal and state level.

While in opposition Tony Abbott bleated about the 'debt crisis' created by Labor. Now that he is Prime Minister, he is in now hurry to pay down the debt. Why? Because there is no debt crisis, as many of commentators, including Ranting Panda, stated over and over again. Yet the blind believed the lies that Abbott spouted.

Then there was the Slipper and Thompson affairs. Slipper had been accused of misusing Cabcharges and Thompson accused of misusing union funds for his own benefit, including allegedly at brothels. Abbott and his ilk went after both of them relentlessly. And rightly so! IF there was any truth in the accusations, both men should have been held accountable.

Since winning the 2013 election, dozens of LNP politicians, including Abbott himself, have been caught out wrongly claiming expenses. Ironically, Abbott attended Slipper's wedding and claimed the junket on the public purse - not long before he accused Slipper of rorting the public purse. This is unbelievably brazen hypocrisy. What does Abbott want to do about these potentially fraudulent claims that have recently come to light? Nothing. Apparently it is OK if politicians rort the system, as long as the LNP are in power.

Abbott has continued and expanded the human rights abuses of asylum seekers, even sending pregnant women to Nauru where there is limited medical care. He has threatened to 'turn the boats around'. He has there is no compassion for the terrible tragedies that asylum seekers have faced. Yes, Labor was also guilty of this too, with their inhumane PNG solution, but it was the Liberal Party under John Howard that legitimised the racial, xenophobic abuse of asylum seekers. Prior to that, both the Liberal Party and the Labor Party welcomed asylum seekers humanely.

In Queensland, we've seen Premier Campbell Newman sack thousands of public servants, abusing them in the process, stating he was getting the 'pooper scooper' out. These were hard working men and women who proudly served their state, and here their Premier, their boss was essentially saying they were shit. What a great leadership role-model!

In addition to this, one of Newman's first acts was to overturn Labor's civil union legislation as he pandered to religious extremists and the most conservative voters.

Queensland's Attorney-General, Jarrod Bleije in an incredible display of Constitutional ignorance, introduced legislation that takes power from the courts and gives it to himself so that he can indefinitely detain serious sex offenders. Queensland operates under the Westminster system, which holds as its central tenet the separation of powers between executive, legislative and judicial. Bleije is setting himself up as judge, jury and executioner.

Which brings me to his next blatant abuse of human and legal rights. He has presented the Vicious Lawless Disestablishment bill, which has passed in a sad indictment of Queensland parliament. Under the VLAD Act, a person convicted of a violent crime, who is found to be a member of a gang, or an associate of a gang-member, will be automatically sentenced to a further 15 years on their head sentence. If they are also found to be an office-bearer in the gang, an additional 10 years on top of the head sentence and the gang-member sentence . Effectively, a person convicted of a violent assault could be sentenced to five years jail for the assault, but serve up to 30 years if they are a gang member or associate. The time doesn't fit the crime!

Bleije has also introduced a Bill that will prevent injured workers from suing employers whose negligent actions caused the injury. There are no rights for workers in Queensland. Bleije has claimed it is an attack on 'vested interests'. The only 'vested interests' in this are the big businesses that will benefit from this and which Bleije is pandering to.

This follows on from Newman wanting to ban Unions from attending the workplace, cutting unions out of the wage bargaining and forcing them to undertake votes from the membership if spending more than $10,000. He tried to ban Unions from giving money to the Labor Party without express permission of the membership. Yet, given the history of Labor and the Unions, it could have been a condition of membership that members accept the Union will donate to Labor.

Bleije also wants to name and shame juvenile offenders, which will not solve anything.

The reason for Bleije's fascist actions, is not the protection of Queenslanders, but to appear as though the Newman government has achieved something, when it has done nothing but destroy Queensland with asset sales, mass sackings, high unemployment, union bashing, attacking workers rights, and now, a Police State.

Both Newman and Abbott played the 'debt' card during their election campaigns. Neither Queensland, or Australia, were on the brink of the abyss, but both Abbott and Newman ran fear and smear campaigns that impugned the achievements of Labor.

Without the debt, Australia and Queensland would have suffered significantly. When Government stops spending, the economy slows down, causing high unemployment, bankruptcies and loss of sales for business and loss of tax revenue for government.

The LNP has run fear campaigns based on lies which have demonised asylum seekers, unions, debt, the economy and marriage equality. To perpetuate the fear, or more importantly, to make it more difficult to disprove, both Abbott and Newman are suppressing information. Federally, the Government is only providing weekly, and incomplete, briefings regarding asylum seekers, while in Queensland the Government has withheld the publication of the annual statistical review, something the Police were publishing every year under previous governments.

The LNP rules by fear, fascism and censorship.

Labor is not perfect, and could certainly get back to its grass roots, focussing more on workers and human rights. Labor increased the debt, but we did not see the attacks on basic freedoms that we see with the current breed of LNP fascists.

Give us Debt before Demagogues!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Travelling the Road to Damascus - backwards

Most Christians will tell of the moment they realised that serving God was more important than serving mammon. Slap that epiphany in reverse and we have Tony Abbott. While he was studying to be a priest, Abbott had a reverse 'Road to Damascus' moment in which he realised that serving mammon was more important and interesting than serving the church.

On 4 September 2013, Tony Abbott appeared on the ABC TV's Kitchen Cabinet, being interviewed by Annabel Crabb. What struck me about this episode was Abbott's 'moment of clarity', when he realised what he'd rather be doing with his life. This moment didn't come when he was a godless heathen. No. It came while he was at seminary studying to enter the priesthood.

The following is a quote from Tony Abbott during that episode, about the moment he realised that serving mammon was more important than dedicating his life to God or the church:
'Well, there was, as a matter of fact. I was 29 years old, I'd been the president of the SRC at Sydney University, I had degrees in economics and law, I'd been a Rhode Scholar in Oxford, I was at the beginning of my fourth year as a seminarian and I was writing an essay on the desert fathers, a 500-word essay on the desert fathers. And I was falling asleep in the middle of the afternoon and I rang a mate of mine, and this particular mate of mine, who I had played rugby with at Sydney University, said to me when I called, he said, "Oh, Abbo, I can't actually make those drinks we're going to have next week." I said, "Oh", and I was shattered because you really look forward to those sorts of things when your life is as regular and at times dull as my life was then. And I said, "How come?" And he said, "You know that contract that Ansett are doing with British Aerospace." "I've got to go to London to sign the contract.” It was a £1.5 billion contract. I thought if he's doing something like that I am wasting my time writing 500-word essays on the desert fathers and I thought at that moment I've got to do something that's a better use of the rest of my life and that was it'.

Abbott thought that serving mammon was a better use of his time than serving God? Apparently, £1.5 billion is quite the eye-opener.

Well, I guess this is scriptural. After all, Matthew 6:24 states:
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
By his own words, Abbott stated he was wasting his time in the seminary. This wasn't a revelation early in his time there. He was in his fourth year ... and falling asleep.

Abbott obviously despised one master and loved the other.

When Christians wax lyrical about voting for Abbott because he is a 'decent, God-fearing man', it makes me cringe. They didn't say that about Kevin Rudd, even though he is also a God-fearing, church-going Christian. Had Rudd left seminary to pursue a life of power and wealth, I'm pretty certain most of the right-wing Christian groups would ... well ... crucify him ... to coin a phrase.

Abbott has shown over and again, that his service is to power, to popularity, and not to God or the bible. After all, he was a minister in the Howard government and didn't speak up once against the lies and abuses of that administration. Now, Howard was also apparently a 'decent, God-fearing' man if right-wing Christians are to be believed. Yet, Howard took Australia to war based on a lie, he victimised and persecuted the victims of persecution and war crimes, he covered-up his knowledge and involvement in tragedies such as Siev-X (which cost 353 lives), he fabricated the 'children overboard' affair and he lied about tax (remember 'no new taxes, tax increases or indirect taxes in my first term of Government' promise ... oh, but that was a 'non-core' promise ... my bad).

Christianity these days is so far removed from what Christ preached, that some Christians glorify demagogues such as Abbott and Howard. But then, some churches have embraced 'prosperity' doctrine, in which the tithe shall set you free.

Abbott does like to turn boats around ... so I guess in his own metaphorical Sea of Galilee, Abbott turned the boat around, away from the stormy service of dedicated Christianity, and headed back to shore where he could wallow in a world of power, wealth and travel rorts.

Vote for Abbott if that floats your boat ... or tows it ... or turns it around ... whatever your poison. But don't vote for him on the grounds of his version of Christianity being far superior to anyone else's.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

'Naming and shaming' laws - what could possibly go wrong?

Queensland's Attorney-General, Jarrod Bleijie, has announced new 'name and shame' laws in which children as young as 10 years old will be publicly 'named and shamed' if convicted of crimes.

Naming is one thing. But shaming? Shaming is rather subjective. It's personal. What happens if the young criminal isn't shamed by being named? What happens if the young criminal is actually proud of being named? Will they be charged with contempt of court? Will they charged with something like 'failure to be shamed', or at the very least 'failure to appear shamed'.

It's just a thought.

These laws don't just name and shame young offenders, they also result in rejection from the community.

Considering that children are impulsive and rarely, if ever, consider the consequences of their actions. Does Bleijie really think a 10 year old will think of him before doing something that seems like a fun idea at the time. Children do not have the same ability as adults to rationalise good from bad, let alone contemplate consequences.

According to Bleijie, the purpose in naming juvenile criminals is to shame them. Why? Because negative reinforcement and rejection works so well with children. We all know how children love being told that they are bad. They thrive on it. It's the kids who are pampered with love, kindness and positive reinforcement that turn to crime to prove they aren't goody-two-shoes. Don't they? Isn't that how it works?

Children are very impressionable. So driving home how bad they are through 'shaming' them, is only going to reinforce the very behaviour the Government is attempting to counter.

And then there is the issue of litigation. Mr Bleijie has publicly stated that the laws are to 'shame' children. Shame is a negative feeling that can cause emotional and mental distress. Admitting that the laws are designed to shame, Bleiji is admitting to deliberately attempting to cause emotional and mental distress. Surely at some point, one of the targets of the 'name and shame' laws is going to lawyer up and sue the State for deliberately causing harm to children.

In fact, 'naming and shaming' could be a form of child abuse, leading to rejection, teasing, bullying and criticism. All activities that are named as emotional abuse in the Queensland Government's own booklet called 'Child Abuse - What you need to know'. This book points out that responses to abuse include 'delinquency and criminal behaviour, drug and alcohol abuse, low self-esteem, increased fear, guilt and self-blame, distrust of adults, suicidal thoughts and self-harming, aggressive behaviour'.

Yep. Government-sanctioned public shaming of children. What could possibly go wrong?

Here's a thought. Tell a child over and over again that they are a criminal and what sort of life do you think they will grow up to have? When they picture their future, I'm tipping that they won't be picturing a life of university studies and working on saving the world. No. I'm tipping they will be seeing themselves as never having a job and instead, having to resort to crime to survive.

These are lazy laws. Lazy because they will achieve nothing while appearing as though the Government is tough on crime. These laws are useless. In fact, they are worse than useless. they are dangerous, because if anything they will reinforce bad behaviour and set the foundation for a life of crime. Nothing like drumming home to a 10 year old that they are rejected and reviled; a criminal with no future.

There are enough laws in place to punish children who commit crimes. For children, detention should always be a last resort because of the possibility of institutionalising them to a life crime, rather than rehabilitating them.

The Government that Bleijie is a senior member of has significantly cut front-line child safety services and slashed funding to government and non-government child welfare agencies.

Instead of compounding the effects of criminal behaviour by publicly naming and shaming children, the Government should be investing money in child safety agencies, facilitating better school attendance, positive counselling for children and parents, and communicating inspirational messages of a great future for children who behave well and commit to being nice to others.

I guess it's easier to criminalise and marginalise, than protect, nurture and inspire.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Life under Abbott - a prophecy

And so, as predicted, the Liberal Party wins the 2013 Australian federal election.

The inarticulate Tony Abbott is now Prime Minister. A man who stutters and stammers and gets lost for words when under pressure. How can we forget the disturbing and excruciating 24 seconds of head-bobbing incommunicado when he was confronted over saying 'shit happens' when commenting on the death of Australian soldier, Corporal Jared MacKinney:

Abbott's Treasurer will be Joe Hockey. A man who sweats profusely under pressure.

Stammering and sweating. What truly great statesmen we now have leading and representing the country.

This is going to be an interesting parliament.

For the last few years, Abbott has filled the heads of the electorate with the idea that the minority Labor government was incompetent and that parliament was dysfunctional. Yet, under Prime Minister Gillard, the minority government passed a record amount of legislation with bipartisan support, making her the most productive Prime Minister in Australian history as reported by the Guardian:

Some of the great policies of the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments include the National Broadband Network, the Gonski educational reforms, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, an increase in the tax free threshold from $6,000 to $18,000 and record increases in the old age pension.

Abbott has promised to repeal or cancel most of these.

Much of Abbott's rhetoric has mirrored Campbell Newman's promises before he was elected as Queensland's Premier in 2012. Newman promised to deliver within 100 days of election, commission of audit, a four pillar economy (Abbott has a five pillar model), promised that public servants would be more efficient and have nothing to fear, praised Sir Joh (Abbott praised Jeff Kennett who then went on to sack thousands of public servants and slash, burn and sell-off government assets, as he has also praised Newman).

I predict the following during the term of the Abbott government:

  • Undertake an 'independent' commission of audit into Australia's financial position, similar to what Queensland's Premier Campbell Newman did. The commission of audit will claim that Australia's debt position is more dire than thought, and therefore Abbott has to make deeper cuts than he stated before the election. He will be unable to fund a number of his promises and will blame this on Labor.

  • Significant restructure of the public service, including removal of key executive and senior department staff, in parallel with the 'offer' of redundancies which will essentially be a choice of 'jump or drown'. There will be a number of appointments of senior bureacrats who are 'trusted' by the government. Some would call this nepotism. 

  • Increased unemployment through public service job cuts and decreased public expenditure, directly impacting on businesses contracted to the government who will be forced to lay-off staff or face bankruptcy. Similarly, the retail sector will suffer through the loss of government wages and expenditure that would usually flow through.

  • Abbott's NBN will cost as much, if not more, than Labor's once the whole of life costs are factored in, including the costs of maintaining the existing copper network, the cost of consumers paying $5,000 for optic to run from their home to the node, and the cost of rolling out fibre to the node across the country.

  • Abbott and his government will blame Labor every time they address parliament or the media. As Newman does.

  • Abbott has listed a number of low hanging fruit to achieve in his first 100 days. He will make a big deal about these 'achievements' which will distract from the more dire policies he introduces, such as job and funding cuts.

  • An attempt to repeal the carbon price, which will be defeated by the current Senate. Abbott will then attempt to gain mileage by again blaming Labor for supporting increased costs of living.

  • There will be a new industrial relations policy (let's call it WorkChoices Mark II), which will remove or significantly reduce job security and the payment or accessibility to weekend and overtime penalty rates.

  • There will be an attack on unions to significantly weaken their influence and power, as well as the accessibility to union representation. Like Newman, Abbott will attempt to ban unions from donating to the Labor Party without approval of its members. Of course, the simple answer to this is that it is a condition of membership that members accept that part of their fees is paid to the ALP. After all, the ALP was formed out of the unions. Besides this, if Abbott and Newman go down this path, then it should also be compulsory for companies to seek the approval through vote of their membership before making any payments to political parties, such as the Liberal Party.

  • Abbott will ramp up the xenophobic attack on asylum seekers instead of truly implementing processes that help out these most vulnerable of people. He has stated that his government will decrease Australia's already meagre commitment to Foreign Aid. It is a sad indictment on Australia, that a portion of our foreign aid budget was used to fund the xenophobic Pacific Solution and all of Labor's iterations of it, essentially making Australia the largest recipient of its own Foreign Aid budget. He will give credence to the extreme right-wing and racial intolerance will increase. Oh, and the 'Buy the Boats' promise: won't happen. If it does, we'll see an increase in asylum seekers as people smugglers profit from Abbott's idiotic plan to make them rich.

  • Privatisation of the public media, namely the ABC and SBS to fulfil the Murdochracy's desire to control Australia's news networks.

  • Indigenous affairs will suffer, with reduced funding and lack of recognition of the issues affecting indigenous communities.

  • Reduced funding to education and hospitals, followed by privatisation of public schools and hospitals.

  • Increased cost of living as spending cuts and reduction in penalty rates flow through the market, customers will have less money to spend, impacting on business profitability, forcing businesses to increase prices to cover costs.

  • an increase in religious conservatism as fundamentalists find voice to continue attacks on marriage equality, multi-culturalism, Islam, Palestine and anything else that doesn't fit their version of Christianity. 

  • Recession. Abbott has since back-tracked on his promise to return to surplus quickly, stating that the return will be sensible and based on economic conditions: something which Labor had been doing anyway. Nonetheless, if Abbott proceeds with cutting government expenditure and jobs, we could very well see a slow down in growth with the possibility of the country falling into recession. Rudd steered Australia through the GFC while maintaining positive growth, one of the only countries in the OECD to do so. Similarly, Gillard kept the country on course during a minority government and maintained positive growth. This was no small feat given the negative rhetoric of Abbott during this time. With growth at only a couple of per cent, the economy is finely poised. Dramatic cuts will directly impact on growth, plunging the country into recession.

Abbott was a very negative, deceitful and divisive presence in opposition. There is no reason to believe that he will be any different in government.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Socialism versus Capitalism

The difference between Socialism and Capitalism is that socialism is for the benefit of all in society, while Capitalism is for the benefit of a few individuals at the expense of everyone else.

For many in the West, Socialism invokes images of repression, censorship, massacres, KGB, torture, arrests and disappearances in the night, Gulags and salt-mines. Recurring themes from critics of Socialism are that it will make us all the same, that everybody will be paid the same and that it shares poverty rather than wealth. These critics then wax lyrical about how Capitalism makes us all rich.

Certainly, under Stalin there was a brutal repression, which had less to do with ideology than it did with power and paranoia. The same held true for many despots, regardless of creed, including Hitler, Pol Pot, Suharto, Amin, Hussein, Pinochet, Milosevic and so on. In the Soviet Union, certainly from Kruschev onwards, the majority of the population lived normal lives, not the 'Big Brother'-KGB-is-coming-to-get-you lifestyle that was portrayed by Hollywood and sold by western governments.

These images distract from what Socialism truly is. The obvious difference which most people believe between Socialism and Capitalism, is that capitalism will let them keep their earnings and make them rich while socialism will take all their earnings and make them poor.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Capitalism is not about sharing wealth, it is about accumulating wealth. And it is only the few who accumulate it. The rest of us are just commodities, resources, to be used to create wealth for others. Socialism is about sharing of wealth. It requires wealth and requires dedicated work to create wealth. If there is no wealth, then there is nothing to share. The main difference is that Capitalism will leave people to die from poverty in order to defend the rich, while Socialism will share the wealth to alleviate poverty.

Socialism is about equality of opportunity, not about 'making us all the same'. In fact, Marx was opposed to uniformity. Rather than Socialism making everyone the same, it meets the needs of individuals in society so that no-one is left homeless, unemployed or with some other unmet need. Socialism recognises that we all have different levels of skill and ability ('from each according to his ability'). These needs may differ from one person to the next. For instance, someone who is more resourceful or healthy may have fewer needs than someone who is less resourceful, less educated or less healthy, hence 'to each according to his need').

The belief that Socialism shares poverty, not wealth, is incorrect. Socialism is not about making the rich poor. It is about sharing wealth so that all benefit. There will always be those who are more adept at making money than others. Those people are of benefit to any economy, however, left to their own devices many of them will accumulate wealth for their own benefit and not for the benefit of society. Socialism, like Capitalism, requires wealth to be successful. The difference being that Socialist  wealth is not accumulated through exploitation and it is not hoarded to the detriment of the community.

The wealth sharing of socialism is based on abilities and needs. Some people have greater abilities to help than others and some have greater needs than others. This simple graphic illustrates it very well:

One form of Socialism is anarchism, which empowers people to govern for the benefit of society. Laissez-faire capitalism is Capitalist anarchism, but only for the benefit of businesses at the expense of society. It gives businesses free reign in the market-place and rather than government regulation, there is 'self-regulation', which facilitates exploitation of workers through the banning of unions and workers rights and weakened industrial and corporate relations.

Critics of Socialism have the misplaced belief that it is incompatible with democracy. Yet Socialism is more compatible with democracy than capitalism is. Capitalism focuses on the individual at the expense of society, and the richer or more influential that individual is, the more 'representation' they have within the Capitalist illusion of democratic government. Socialism focuses on society's needs as can be met through collective achievement, cooperation and participation. Marx believed that 'democracy was the road to Socialism' because Socialism could only succeed if 'the people' were involved in socialist practice. Socialism can only be truly successful in a democracy. There have been a number of successful socialist nations, including Chile under President Allende, Venezuela under Simon Bolivar, Indonesia under President Sukarno, and then there are the successful socialist democracies such as Sweden and Australia.

Socialism gives sovereignty to the people, which is consistent with democracy and liberty.

In most capitalist countries, so-called democracy allows the people to vote every three or four years. This is not democracy as it is rare for citizens to contribute to the decisions made by government, and instead the rich have more influence over political decisions through lobbying, than the average individual. In a capitalist 'democracy', money has more power than people. In Socialism however, the Government may be comprised of workers collectives, which are made up of workers elected from workplaces and who best represent the needs of the community. They are accountable, not every three or four years, but every day. Representatives can be removed from these collectives at any time. People, not money, have the power.

Socialism is not about 'class'. In fact, the capitalist focus on individual achievement reinforces class structure as people strive to be better than others. Rather than segregating classes, socialism ensures that the needs of all are met and that we treat each other the same rather than favouring some over others. In the United States, only the rich can be elected to the office of President. The amount of money that presidential candidates spend contesting an election, is obscene. This perpetuates the myth that the USA is democratic. It isn't. It is plutocratic; the rich rule.

Socialism is not about equality of earnings, but protection of workers' rights, removal of exploitation and ensuring workers are paid fairly based on the type of work being performed. Socialism is not about giving everyone the same wage, but ensuring that no-one is disadvantaged. Marx acknowledged that workers need to be valued higher than they are. Why should a manager for instance, be earning ludicrously more than those who are actually doing the work and taking the risks at the cold face?

The capitalist accumulation of wealth by the few essentially means that capitalism shares poverty, not wealth.

Wages for instance, should be more equitable than they are. Over the last two decades there has been an explosion in CEO salary packages compared to the average salary. In 2011, CEO salary packages (which include stock options) in the United States were 231 times the average salary in 2011, whereas in 1965, they were 20 times the average salary. Capitalists will argue that this is necessary to attract the best of the best, an argument that assumes that the company is nothing without a CEO exploiting its earnings. What about attracting the best of the best workers? It is the workers who do the hands-on work. It is the workers that produce the company's deliverables. The CEO will usually push for higher productivity through lowering costs, which often is achieved through downsizing its workforce, leaving workers to 'do more with less'. Workers are under-valued while CEOs are over-valued.

Ratio of CEO to worker compensation (USA)1

The above chart merely shows the average of CEO compensation to worker earnings. Companies such as Wal-Mart see an even bigger difference, with the CEO being remunerated 1034 times the average worker and McDonald's CEO remunerated 434 times the average worker. 2

Why should CEOs receive such exorbitant salary packages? The President of the United States of America, arguably the most powerful man in the world, earns around $400,000 per year. Perhaps there is a greater motivator than money that drives politicians. Rather than motivating CEOs by financial gain and therefore feeding the greed, it would be better to motivate them by other means. Wouldn't it be better to hire a CEO who genuinely had the company's interest at heart? This is where worker controlled production has its advantages. Workers have an inherent interest in ensuring the company stays profitable and productive. While they obviously should be financially recompensed for their performance as well, it should not be at a level that exploits others. There should be no-one accumulating wealth from the company at a rate far greater than others employed by the company.

Rather than arguing about capping the minimum wage, it would be more beneficial to restrict maximum wages, particularly for executives ensuring the wealth is more equitably shared among the workers, the ones whose labour makes the company profitable. Raising the minimum wage is not the issue for many large businesses, it is the effect of exorbitant executive remuneration packages.

Large corporations should not be owned and controlled by a few wealthy people, they should be owned and controlled by the workers. The wealthy operate for their own benefit. It is better that workers run the company for the benefit of all with the interests of society at heart. 

Private ownership is a hallmark of Capitalism, however under Communism and Socialism, individuals can own property and small businesses, the main difference being that the sources of production (such as factories), infrastructure and services (e.g. banking, education, health) should be owned by the State and operated by workers' collectives.

And then there is argument about welfare, that those who draw welfare from the government are parasites on the system. Yet, little is said about corporate welfare. Many companies receive some form of government assistance in the form of subsidies and tax breaks. The GFC highlighted the dependence of big business on government when many companies were bailed out. Yet there was no bail-out for the ordinary citizen. Ironically, many of these same companies are paying very little tax as they take advantage of foreign tax-havens. It is the workers who are left paying full tax while companies exploit the government. It isn't welfare recipients who are the parasites, it is those companies who avoid their tax obligations. They are ones who benefit from the government, from the markets, from the consumers in their nation, while avoiding their obligations to contribute to society through tax. In 2012, large US companies had accumulated $1.5 trillion in tax havens 3. This is enough to clear the US deficit, which is around a trillion dollars 4, and put the economy back into surplus.

The belief that taxing the wealthy will destroy the economy is false. From the 1940s to 1960s, the top marginal tax rate in the USA was above 90%, and from then until 1981, the top rate was 70%; now the top rate is 35%. Yet the USA flourished during the time of higher taxes on the rich and economic inequality, the gap between rich and poor, was nowhere near as significant as it is now.

'People are naturally inclined to be selfish, so forcing them to share is useless and against nature', so goes one argument against Socialism. Certainly people are selfish, but is it against human nature? How often do we see people rally to the help of others following disasters, or giving to charities? Selfishness is only one aspect of human nature, the 'bad' side, but it is the one that capitalism indulges and encourages.  It is also human nature to help others and to not hurt others. That is part of the 'good' side of human nature. It is this selflessness that Socialism encourages.

The argument that states that individuals are naturally selfish, is self-defeating. If anything, this argument adds credence for why a Socialist government is necessary for ensuring that all members of society both contribute to and provide for each others needs. 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need'. However, it is human nature to care and share with others.

Christians often oppose Socialism because they claim it is opposed to God. Certainly Marx did say that 'religion was the opiate of the masses'. Marx was not a theist. However, Marxism is Christianity without Christ. A lot of what Marx espoused is also espoused in the bible. The commands to love each other as yourself, to share your wealth with the poor, the widow, the refugee. These are concepts that are found in Marxism. Marx was against exploitation and greed, just as Christ was. Besides, where is God in capitalism? Capitalism is the opiate of the masses. It feeds greed and selfishness. It deadens our compassion for others as we strive to better ourselves at the expense of society. Capitalism is not Christianity and is certainly not the economics of the Bible. Jesus was a Socialist, in fact, Acts 4:35 talks about distributing wealth 'to each as anyone has need'.

The great financial crises of the 20th century were caused by capitalist greed and they were only rectified by socialist ideals, in particular those of John Maynard Keynes. Some capitalist governments, such as those in Spain, Greece and England decided to embark on austerity programs in which they slashed government expenditure. The effect was that demand dropped as people had less money to spend, factories closed down due to the lack of demand and unemployment rose.

A true Socialist government would be run by the people for the people. Unfortunately, some of the examples we saw during the 20th century were focused on shoring up individual power rather than benefiting society. If anything, governments such as Stalin's Soviet Union, or Mao Tse Tung's China empowered a few of the 'privileged' and disempowered the multitude. How was this different to a capitalist nation? Stalin and Mao removed individual freedoms, limited movement and criminalised criticism. In a true Socialist state, freedom is crucial. How else can improvements be made without freedom to criticise. Marx understood this and encouraged criticism and comment. Rather than a closed state, Marxism requires open borders, a global effort, an internationalist effort.

Although the 20th century was dominated by numerous wars that were funded by both the Soviet Union and the U.S. and her allies, Socialism is in fact not about war. It promotes peace. Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, one of the first things the Bolsheviks did was to withdraw Russian troops from involvement in World War I. It was the European Imperialists, driven particularly by Britain, who took the war to Russia, backing the pro-Tsarist White Army as it waged war against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War. The Red Army, fighting for survival, was eventually successful. But did the civil war need to be fought? The Russian Revolution itself was relatively peaceful. It was the civil war, driven by pro-Tsarist and Imperialist forces, that caused the loss of millions of lives.

Without the backing of International Socialists, the establishment of socialism in the Soviet Union was always going to struggle. In addition to the millions of lives lost following World War I and the Russian Civil War, the nation was racked by drought and poverty so there was no internal wealth to redistribute. The success of Socialism in the Soviet Union required the assistance of international socialists as described by Marx years earlier. Unfortunately, the West sees the Soviet Union as exemplar of Socialism. It is not. Socialism can be successful but requires the input of all to make it work.

The world as we know it, is racked by poverty, famine, disease, war and injustice. The most powerful capitalist countries, the United States and United Kingdom have high levels of poverty and unemployment, and have been unable and unwilling to truly help either their own poor or the poor of other nations. Instead, they have sponsored the building up of the rich at the expense of others, through the exploitation of others. The richest 300 people in the world own as much wealth as the poorest three billion(5)! The richest nations were built on a history of genocidal imperialism and slavery, destroying cultures and exploiting native populations in order to steal their natural resources. The West is horrified by the crimes of Stalin or Mao Tse Tung, but fail to acknowledge their own horrendous crimes against humanity.

Capitalism encourages the 'Gollum' attitude of 'my precioussss ...', in which people are so willing to accumulate wealth and power, whether it belongs to them or not, that they will kill, lie and steal. This focus on individual gain at the expense of others results in people fearing the loss of their 'precious', the loss of what they hold dear, which is material possession. This fear and greed is what has led to wars and injustices across the global.

Socialism requires commitment from all to each other, it requires democracy and the free expression of ideas.

It is time for a Socialist revolution. It is time for the exploitation by the richest few to cease and to be replaced by a fairer system of equality that meets the needs of all.

There is more than enough wealth in the world to permanently remove poverty which is why we need a new system that equitably shares this wealth.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, 'Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed'.


1. The Economist, 'Are they worth it?',, accessed 6 April 2013

2. 'CEO Pay Comparisons',, accessed 6 April 2013.

3. Alternet, 'Tax dodging by the rich cost you $1,026',, accessed 6 April 2013.

4. US Government Spending, 'US Federal Deficit by year 2008 - 2017 - Chart analysys',, accessed 6 April 2013.

5., 'There's Around $223 Trillion In The World. Here's Who Owns Most of It',, accessed 12 April 2013.

Stimulus: The best of times during the worst of times

Australia's government debt has been demonised and criticised, but, there is a time for debt and deficit and a time for savings and surplus. It's basic economics: don't slam the brakes on a sluggish economy.

According to the polls, the biggest issue for most voters in Australia's 2013 federal election is the economy. Press the voters for why and it seems they are specifically concerned with the level of debt.

As a percentage of GDP, Australia's government debt is around 21% (1).

GDP doesn't represent direct Government earnings, but it does represent a source of government revenue. Put this into perspective. That is the equivalent of someone earning $100,000 per annum and holding a $21,000 mortgage. Would you panic if you were in this position?

Following the election of the Labor Party in 2007, Australia embarked on a program of spending, which obviously increased debt. But this should be kept in context. A large portion of the spending was the stimulus program during the Global Financial Crisis in order to avoid recession. It was basic Keynesian economics: increase spending during economic downturns to avoid recession, conversely, reduce spending during upturns.

So here's a few questions.

What did you do in the GFC?

Did you curb your spending? A lot of people did.

The impact of this was a nation-wide economic slow-down. When people reduced spending, business revenue fell, leading some businesses to down-size or collapse, increasing unemployment. This also meant a reduction in government revenue from a reduction in the taxable earnings.

During economic downturns, businesses and individuals have the 'luxury' of being able to curb expenditure. Government doesn't.

During the GFC, the Australian economy had slowed and jobs were cut. The Government could have done nothing and revelled in the surplus left by Howard, however, the economy was on the brink of recession and as John Maynard Keynes had identified, this was the time for stimulus not austerity.

The Rudd government responded correctly and the stimulus ensured that money continued flowing through the economy, avoiding recession and unemployment. The OECD estimated that the stimulus saved around 200,000 jobs (2). Australia was one of the few OECD nations that did not go into recession. The stimulus included cash payments, which fortified the retail sector. It also included funding for building projects across the country, which assisted the building sector.

Coupled with the GFC, was the reduction in mining investment from China as it attempted to slow-down its over-heated economy. This hit Australia's mining industry hard, costing jobs.

The Reserve Bank of Australia recognised the need for stimulating the economy and reduced interest rates, which also assisted in protecting Australia's economy from the worst of the GFC. But this would not have been enough on its own.

The Australian economy needed direct government intervention and Rudd's stimulus plan gave Australia the best of times during the worst of times.

So my question to the Liberal Party is: what would you have done to avoid recession?

If they were good economic managers, a Liberal government would also have increased spending and implemented a stimulus program.


1. 'Australia government debt to GDP', Trading Economics. Accessed 31 August 2013.

2. 'Rudd stimulus protected jobs: OECD', Sydney Morning Herald. Accessed 31 August 2013.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Rudd Solution: Capitulating to Australia's xenophobic miasma

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has capitulated to the miasma of racist rhetoric that has dominated Australia's media and political landscape for over a decade. Today he announced that people arriving without visas will not be allowed to settle in Australia. Instead, they will be relocated to and settled in Papua New Guinea, itself a developing nation beset with its own issues of violence and corruption.

The Rudd Solution is treating Papua New Guinea like a colony. Not unlike when Britain would ship its criminals, many of whom were merely victims of poverty, to the convict colony of Australia. Of course, asylum seekers are not criminals, they are victims. Many are genuine refugees who are fleeing persecution and war. Obtaining a visa is generally not something they can apply for while their families are being raped, imprisoned, tortured or murdered.

PNG already hosts around 9,000 refugees who've crossed the border from Indonesian West Papua. To throw thousands more into a small, developing nation could very well prove disastrous. Australia is a large country with the capacity for a larger population. We should not be exporting our 'problem' to any other nation, and in particular to one that doesn't have the capacity to cope with it.

The announcement is aimed at stopping asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat. But it's for political point-scoring, not because of compassion. If it was based on compassion, Papua New Guinea wouldn't be the destination, as it is rife with crime, corruption and poverty, with many of its residents living behind security fences. Additionally, the question has to be asked if it will only facilitate smuggling through the Torres Strait to the Australian mainland. Australia's northern-most island, Boigu, is only 6km from PNG.

Australia's national anthem welcomes people who've come boat and opens its arms to the world. The lyrics of the second verse of Advance Australia Fair now ring hollow:

'Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We'll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
renowned of all the lands;
For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share;
With courage let us combine 
to Advance Australia Fair 

With this policy Australia will be renowned for all the wrong reasons. Rudd has made a mockery of Australia having boundless plains to share with those who've come across the seas. There is no courage in this policy. It is cowardly. Australia is shirking it's international and human rights obligations.

It effectively removes Australia from operating under the auspices of the Refugee Convention to which it is a signatory. It is not ethical, humane or right.

Around 90% of asylum seekers in Australia are found to be genuine refugees under the UN Convention on Refugees. The government claims that Australia takes the highest percentage per capita of asylum seekers in the world. This is misleading as it refers to those found to be genuine refugees after applying for asylum. It doesn't allow for displaced persons who have entered countries but not yet applied for asylum. In this case, Australia ranks 69th in the world. Refer to the Refugee Council of Australia's publication, 'Australia's Refugee and Humanitarian Program 2012-13', Table 22,

By having Australians believe that we are the highest ranked country in refugee resettlement contributes to the misbelief that Australia is being swamped by asylum seekers and adds to the fear-mongering and xenophobic hysteria.

If this policy proceeds, then in parallel, Australia should at least increase its refugee intake significantly, and include those who are languishing in Indonesia, Malaysia and other parts of Asia. Nonetheless, Rudd has abandoned Australia's commitment to human rights.

Prior to Rudd's announcement, there was speculation of Australia either withdrawing from the Refugee Convention or attempting to amend it.

Firstly, withdrawing would open a whole can of worms and would unlikely stop asylum seekers. After all, it hasn't stopped millions of refugees flooding into countries which are not signatories to the convention.

In terms of modifying the convention, well, it doesn't need it. The Convention is not the problem, the problem is persecution and war. Asylum seekers are desperate people who will do anything to live in safety and provide a life of hope, education and opportunity for their families; something that every person is entitled to.

There are over 42.5 million displaced persons worldwide. The solution has to be an international one. It isn't as simple as Abbott's inane claim of turning the boats back. It was the Howard administration, in which Abbott was a Minister, that began using asylum seekers as political footballs and demonising them as a threat to Australia. They were treated as criminals and terrorists: a disgraceful dehumanisation of a persecuted people. Unfortunately, this demonisation has continued under the Labor party during the Gillard and Rudd administrations.

Australia's approach to human rights is misanthropic, not philanthropic.

The Howard government took a hard-line based on the popularity of One Nation's white pride policies. Howard introduced the Pacific Solution, then excluded hundreds of islands from the migration zone. The Gillard government took that further, and bizarrely excluded Australia itself from its own migration zone. Now the Rudd policy.

Such unsympathetic, parochial policies of appeasement have been implemented for political popularity. Instead, humane solutions should be established in conjunction with our neighbours, particularly Indonesia, and on a global level with the UN: not to incarcerate refugees but to assist them.

Rudd claims the new policy will stop the boats, effectively saving lives. It is a tragedy whenever any asylum seeker perishes in the treacherous journey to Australia. However, banning refugees from entering Australia goes against everything that the UN Refugee Convention stands for. It goes against basic humanity.

It would be better to encourage other nations to sign up to the Refugee Convention, assisting in the proper processing and settlement of asylum seekers. Australia is setting a terrible example of how to treat people.

Asylum seekers ARE people. They are the victims of persecution. We don't need 'border security' to protect us from asylum seekers. They are not a threat to Australia. The ongoing demonisation of desperate people who have no defence, must stop and genuine, humane solutions implemented.

Rudd's latest advertising campaign.