protest-sign

KICKSTARTING THE REVOLUTION

Extremism is a danger to us all, and it’s rampant in the political and media class.

But let’s be clear, these problems didn’t start with last year’s election. We have been experiencing a corporate government, both Labor and Liberal, for decades. We have politicians happy to do the bidding of their corporate mates while speaking of fairness. It’s the great, unspoken lie, rarely challenged by our docile media.

There has been privatisation and outsourcing by Labor and Liberal and it’s been accelerating for decades in areas of immigration, indigenous affairs, transport, education, health, child-care and defence.

Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have furthered this trend because Labor assisted the groundwork, sharing the same neo-liberal agenda. These politicians mostly go to the same parties, attend the same think-tank events and romance the same reporters. It’s a cosy club that gets a warm reception in the US and Israeli embassies.

Don’t be fooled by Labor leader Bill Shorten’s fighting words; judge what his party did in government under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. Growing privatisation and gifts to their corporate mates was their real agenda, masked behind class rhetoric.

Vulture capitalism is now the ideology of our age, defended and encouraged by vast swathes of the mainstream media.

During last week’s budget coverage, how often did we hear ABC journalists ask Labor politicians and critics about the “budget emergency”, mindlessly repeating Abbott government spin? There is no budget emergency .

We are told that the budget was fair for all but the Abbott government looks to the US  and UK with admiration – two societies with massive inequality and a huge underclass. Privatised education and health-care, along with private universities and hospitals are moving those countries down a path of apartheid. Access is uneven, the poor are suffering and the rich are enjoying the spoils of buying public assets at an ever-increasing rate.

Latest figures from the UK, released last week, find that the top 1% own as much as 55% of the population put together.

We are badly served by a media class that often works and plays in a bubble. They rarely go further than their offices unless on official, government visits to the US, UK or embedded with “our boys” in Afghanistan. They don’t see or hear from average citizens, and don’t want to. They talk to each other and re-publish press releases as “news” and sanctioned leaks as “exclusives”. Very few serious news stories in our press are independently discovered.

The Canberra press gallery should never be in parliament house because it guarantees subservience to an insider political message. ABC TV’s The Insiders personifies this sickness, a weekly showing of journalists happy to be close to power while providing “insights” gleaned from talking to their small coterie of friends and colleagues who are sustained by the same insularity.

marchAlternative voices are needed and all of you need to make yourself heard. Independent media has never been more important, fresh voices, non-white voices, multicultural voices and non-old and male voices.

I’ve spent the last years researching in Australia and globally the privatisation bonanza of public services. The rhetoric is that services will improve and efficiency will increase. The opposite is true.

In immigration detention, both Labor and Liberal have outsourced all our detention centres and services to unaccountable corporations such as G4S, Serco and Transfield. Their sole goal is profit, making money from the misery of asylum seekers.

Resistance works. Take this year’s revolt against the Biennale arts festival taking money from Transfield, a company that won a $1.2 billion contract to run Manus Island and Nauru. Artists, activists, journalists and concerned citizens convinced the Biennale that it wasn’t worth its ongoing association with Transfield. The elite response was furious, from Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to Attorney General George Brandis.

Artists with an opinion who dare oppose repressive policies? That’s what great art has always been.

I stood in solidarity with this campaign. We should all examine where our money is invested, from superannuation to banks, and make sure we aren’t subsiding human rights abuses in Australia or around the world. Demand your super fund or bank tell you if they invest in Transfield or other profiteers.

Let’s build a movement of justice, equality and human rights for all. Labor and Liberal aren’t the answers; we need independent politics free from corporate interests. The Greens and others should capitalise on this public demand for clean politics and policies that will make the wealthiest Australians pay their fair share.

A political revolution is necessary, but equally a compliant media needs major change to its position as supporting the individuals, parties and corporations causing the environmental and social damage in the first place.

Reject corporate politics. Another world is possible.

 

*This is an edited version of a speech delivered to the March in May protest in Sydney’s Belmore Park yesterday. Tens of thousands of people gathered in cities around Australia to protest last week’s budget.

 

Loewestein*Antony Loewenstein is a Sydney-based journalist, author and film-maker. He’s a weekly columnist for the Guardian, has written best-selling books including My Israel Question, The Blogging Revolution and Profits of Doom, edited Left Turn and After Zionism and is currently making a documentary and new book about vulture capitalism. You can follow him on Twitter @antloewenstein

 

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18 Comments

  • Reply May 19, 2014

    Jeremy

    Excellent! well said. I will definitely be buying your book.

  • Reply May 19, 2014

    Diddy

    Hallelujah to all that. I’ve wondered for years why most of the “news” is politics and factories being closed down or sold to overseas bidders.. As an immigrant of 31 years, i have wondered why nobody seems to ‘do anything’ which makes the papers.

    Its because the papers only report on industry and politics because that can all be done in the CBD by phone. What is really funny is that a lot of news stories begin, “So-and-so” has ACCUSED “so-and-so” of… How is something that sounds like a bit of hot air “news”?

  • Reply May 19, 2014

    Brendan Jones

    Don’t leave corruption out of the mix: There’s abundant corruption in the federal government: http://www.smh.com.au/national/public-service-keeps-fraud-cases-private-20110923-1kpdr.html + http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/our-costly-complacency-on-corruption-20130303-2fe2f.html

    The Abbott and Labor governments were both aware and did nothing. http://victimsofdsto.com/royal/ Yet neither federal party wants a federal ICAC. http://greensmps.org.au/content/media-releases/liberals-labor-dodge-vote-national-icac + http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/greens-call-for-national-icac-vote-20140506-zr5k0.html + http://www.smh.com.au/comment/why-dont-we-have-a-federal-icac-20140418-zqsrd.html

    That corruption costs the taxpayer a whopping $19B per year: http://www.smh.com.au/national/public-service/pay-the-piper-and-we-may-end-public-fraud-20130503-2iz0o.html

    $19B is enough to build 72 new hospitals EVERY YEAR, yet the Liberals refuse to tackle it in the budget, slashing health and social spending instead. What do the Liberals and Labor have to hide? http://victimsofdsto.com/hrc/#_edn81 + http://www.smh.com.au/comment/even-i-am-shocked-by-icac-revelations-20140516-zreh2.html

    The ALP like the LNP have been resisting a federal ICAC for years. So long as they do, don’t trust them.

  • Reply May 19, 2014

    Iris

    Iam a pensioner my self we have to watch evetythinv we spend but I worry now there will be many more people depending on the socitys for a hand out they will not be able to cope thry are putting us back in the dark ages also I would like to ask mr abbott and joe hockey to live on the pension for a forthnight and psy bills rent get the medicationd thats needef for this time o and mr hockey dont forget to alloe for your cigars

  • Reply May 19, 2014

    Victoria T

    The Guardian called him “politically incorrect to the point of dementia”. For the New Statesmen, Abbott represents “politics at it’s most crass, exploitative and disturbing”. UK Labour MP Paul Flynn said he’s: “a bigoted airhead”. The LA Times was “scandalised” by his prejudices. The SMH wrote that Abbott had plumbed “new lows in government decency”. Le Monde Abbott is “sexist and vulgar”. And the Huffington Post, “he’s an idiot”.

  • Reply May 19, 2014

    Nick AA

    Great article, I’m glad to see that someones noticing. Too bad the vast majority of Australians still don’t realise they are being held ransom by the Labor and Liberal. This country has jumped the shark.

  • Reply May 19, 2014

    Lis

    Thank you for a breath of fresh air – even if it is about fetid politics. Remember the Howard years. We of a social conscience thought that it was Purgatory. Those politicians were beginners. This lot are 5 star fascists. I still want to know who voted for them – or was it only about punishing Labor (after achieving 85% of their promises in media silence)? And I still want to know who was on the panel when the mad monk won Rhodes? Let’s hope that they push ahead with their antisocial plans. The the only way that passive Australians will embrace revolution is through more pain.

  • Reply May 19, 2014

    Miranda

    Agree with your sentiments Antony and that Labor is culpable for its stand on asylum seekers, privatisation, support for single mothers, indigenous affairs amongst other issues.

    But I do hope Labor is reassessing it’s “me too” attitude to policy and would say its continued support for Medicare and Whitlam’s abolition of university fees have made a huge difference to the lives of more than a generation of Australians. At least Bill Shorten had the guts to take a stand – which plenty of recent Labor leaders have not.

    Also agree about limitations of the media and need for us all to speak out. Online and social media make that easier and perhaps that will create a greater diversity of opinion and have a greater effect on politics than in the past where a coterie of old, white men generally controlled which stories saw the light of day.

  • Reply May 19, 2014

    CathieW

    Well said, Anthony. It warms my little revolutionary heart to know I’m not alone. I despair of change ever happening, but thanks to the bare-faced arrogance of the Abbott government (serioulsy, just how much do they think they can dish out before we bite back?), hopefully people will realise that they are the ones with the real power. All forms of government depend on popular consent for their legitimacy. Viva la revolucion.

  • Reply May 19, 2014

    Francesca Agosti

    I cannot agree with some assertions in this article. “Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have furthered this trend [privatisation and outsourcing] because Labor assisted the groundwork, sharing the same neo-liberal agenda. These politicians mostly go to the same parties, attend the same think-tank events and romance the same reporters. It’s a cosy club that gets a warm reception in the US and Israeli embassies.” —- Cannot agree with the thrust of this article where it seeks to malign Labor and place it in the same box as the Abbott gov. To label the former Gillard Gov as sharing Abbott’s neo-Liberal agenda is absolutely wrong in the extreme in my view. This article is one reason I have stopped reading The Hoopla, which might be renamed The Hyperbole in my view.

  • Reply May 19, 2014

    Francesca Agosti

    The writer goes on to state the following: “Don’t be fooled by Labor leader Bill Shorten’s fighting words; judge what his party did in government under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. Growing privatisation and gifts to their corporate mates was their real agenda, masked behind class rhetoric.” ——- Well, Antony Lowenstein, here is an actual list of achievements by the former Gillard Government, the Government that you go on to vehemently discredit as sharing a neo-conservative agenda: ———————————————————-• NBN (the real one) – total cost $37.4b (Government contribution: $30.4b);
    • BER 7,920 schools: 10,475 projects. (completed at less than 3% dissatisfaction rate);
    • Gonski education funding reform;
    • NDIS – DisabilityCare;
    • MRRT & aligned PRRT;
    • Won seat at the UN;
    • Signed Kyoto;
    • Signatory to Bali Process & Regional Framework;
    • Eradicated WorkChoices;
    • Established Fair Work Australia;
    • Established Carbon Pricing/ETS (7% reduction in emissions since July last year);
    • Established National Network of Reserves and Parks;
    • Created world’s largest Marine Park Network;
    • Introduced Reef Rescue Program;
    • National Apology;
    • Sorry to the Stolen Generation;
    • Increased Superannuation from 9 to 12%;
    • Changed 85 laws to remove discrimination against same sex couples;
    • Introduced National Plan to reduce violence against women and children;
    • Improvements to Sex Discrimination Act;
    • Introduced plain packaging of cigarettes;
    • Legislated Equal pay (social & community workers up to 45% pay increases);
    • Legislated Australia’s first Paid Parental Leave scheme;
    • Achieved 1:1 ratio of computers for year 9-12 students;
    • Established $10b Clean Energy Bank;
    • Legislated Murray/Darling Basin plan (the first in a hundred years of trying);
    • Increased Education funding by 50%;
    • Established direct electoral enrollment;
    • Created 190,000 more University places;
    • Established My School;
    • Established National Curriculum;
    • Established NAPLAN;
    • Increased Health funding by 50%;
    • Legislated Aged care package;
    • Legislated Mental health package;
    • Legislated Dental Care package;
    • Created 90 Headspace sites;
    • Created Medicare Locals Program;
    • Created Aussie Jobs package;
    • Created Kick-Start Initiative (apprentices);
    • Funded New Car Plan (industry support);
    • Created Infrastructure Australia;
    • Established Nation Building Program (350 major projects);
    • Doubled Federal Roads budget ($36b) (7,000kms of roads);
    • Rebuilding 1/3 of interstate rail freight network;
    • Committed more to urban passenger rail than any government since Federation;
    • Developed National Ports Strategy;
    • Developed National Land Freight Strategy;
    • Created the nations first ever Aviation White Paper;
    • Revitalized Australian Shipping;
    • Reduced transport regulators from 23 to 3 (saving $30b over 20years);
    • Introduced NICS – infrastructure schedule;
    • Australia moved from 20th in 2007 to 2nd on OECD infrastructure ranking;
    • International Infrastructure Minister of the Year (2012) awarded to Mr Anthony Albanese;
    • International Treasurer of the Year (2011) awarded to Mr Wayne Swan;
    • Introduced anti-dumping and countervailing system reforms;
    • Legislated Household Assistance Package;
    • Introduced School Kids Bonus;
    • Increased Childcare rebate (to 50%);
    • Allocated $6b to Social Housing (20,000 homes);
    • Provided $5b to Support for Homelessness;
    • Established National Rental Affordability Scheme ($4.5b);
    • Introduced Closing the Gap;
    • Supports Act of Recognition for constitutional change;
    • Provided the highest pension increase in 100 years;
    • Created 900,000 new jobs;
    • Established National Jobs Board;
    • Allocated $9b for skills and training over 5 years;
    • Established Enterprise Connect (small business);
    • Appointed Australia’s first Small Business Commissioner;
    • Introduced immediate write-off of assets costing less than $6,500 for Small Business;
    • Introduced $5,000 immediate write-off for Small Business vehicles over $6,500;
    • Introduced a national levy to assist Queensland with reconstruction;
    • Standardized national definition of flood for Insurance purposes;
    • Created Tourism 2020;
    • Completed Australia’s first feasibility study on high speed rail;
    • Established ESCAS (traceability and accountability in live animal exports);
    • Established Royal Commission into Institutional Sexual Abuse;
    • Established National Crime Prevention Fund;
    • Lowered personal income taxes (average family now pays $3,500 less pa than 2007)
    • Raised the tax-free threshold from $6,000 to $18,200;
    • Raised Australia to the richest per capita nation on earth;
    • First time ever Australia has three triple A credit ratings from all three credit agencies;
    • Low inflation;
    • Lowest interest rates in 60 years (average mortgagee paying $5,000 less p.a. than 2007);
    • Low unemployment;
    • Lowest debt to GDP in OECD;
    • Australian dollar is now fifth most traded in the world and IMF Reserve Currency;
    • One of the world’s best performing economies during and since the GFC;
    • AAA+ Credit Rating;
    • Australia now highest ranked for low Sovereign Risk;
    • Overseen the largest fiscal tightening in nations history (4.4%);
    • 21 years of continuous economic growth (trend running at around 3% pa);
    • 11 years of continuous wages growth exceeding CPI;
    • Increasing Productivity;
    • Increasing Consumer Confidence;
    • Record foreign investment;
    • Historic levels of Chinese/Australian bilateral relations;
    • First female Prime Minister;
    • First female Governor General;
    • First female Attorney General;
    • Introduced Small business $1m loss carryback for tax rebate from previous year;
    • Legislated Australian Consumer law. ———– To Antony Lowenstein I say what evidence do you have to support your hyperbolic assertions that Labor have been “doing the bidding of their corporate mates while speaking of fairness”? While I agree with some of the points raised in this article, to put Labor in the same category as this current utterly dismal government is simply sensationalist, and throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  • Reply May 19, 2014

    Dorothy

    Francesca – thank you for highlighting the Labor reforms whilst they were in government, especially Julia Gillard as PM – there were some issues I felt extremely uncomfortable with, especially, sending refugees to Manus Island etc, however, many of the other initiatives stated in your piece above were incredible. I still find it incredulous that so few acknowledged they voted for Liberal, but wow, are people from all walks beginning to stir from the Murdoch induced slumber. It’s a WTF slippery fish slap on both sides of the cheeks for many!

  • Reply May 19, 2014

    Frya Duck

    Antony, the revolution you want will not be the revolution you will get. Especially, if the youth of Australia are cut off from unemployment benefits every six months as stated in the budget, they will riot.

    Can our gaols hold an additional 250,000 people?

    Because that will be what is left for them. Much better to pay the benefit rather than overflow our gaols. Much cheaper too.

  • Reply May 19, 2014

    ro.watson

    Corporate identities are about limiting legal liability in governance in public and private life. There are always people responsible beyond this veil in public and private life as this organ of governance is a legal fiction made to limit liability?

  • Reply May 19, 2014

    pops

    I have screamed and thrown things around the room as I have endured the blatant bias and censorship surrounding the media. All public broadcasters have gone into hibernation. There is no questioning of politicians except for the same slogans and benign statements repeating what the politicians say. This is even more evident with almost complete ignorance of anything to do with the labor party. It is a pandering to the coalition side of politics and the Murdoch owned media that obviously has an agenda. Just read the headlines over the last few days.

    Thank you for highlighting what is happening. We should all rise up and demand fair and independent media that is not afraid to tell the truth.

  • Reply May 19, 2014

    Rhoda

    Thing is that Hockey thinks $21 is nothing – 3 beers? But what he doesn’t take into account is that those 3 beers are the only treat a man might claim for himself. What is Hockey going without. Certainly not cigars. I don’t see him pulling his weight like he’s asking those at the bottom to do. What 3 less cigars? Three less bottles of Grange. That’s if the $21 is for alcohol. What’s if it’s for food. So $21 less for meat. Mince and sausages again. Does Hockey’s wife even buy mince. And he might say well that’s tough titties – the way it goes. But hey, it doesn’t have to go that way. It’s only his management that anyone in a country as rich as ours has to buy mince at all. Very poor management. He can take his lecture elsewhere. Tell him to patronize someone else.

  • Reply May 20, 2014

    Dhugal Fletcher

    A large part of the problem with assembling a consistent resistance is the inability to consistently define what the fundamental problem with western governments is.

    You use four different phrases to describe faulty governments. This makes for lively prose, but also leads to confusion in the mind of most readers.

    There is only one philosophy that has infected Liberal and Labor along with corporations and that is Neoliberalism. It has been around a long time, but became an orthodoxy in the 80s under Thatcher and Raegan. This is the source of ‘trickle down economics’. This is the source of the incredible wealth inequality in the US and UK.. And the trend in Australia too.. This is the justification given to spend big on military and police and cut all social services. This is the justification for selling off national infrastructure to private interests.

    There is one dangerous, extreme philosophy and Neoliberalism is its name. It is this set of twisted beliefs that must be undone and denied. Not political parties or individuals who currently believe it.

  • Reply May 20, 2014

    Sleuthcity

    I wish politics was so simple. We do not have a fair system of Government or a benevolent social security system. Single issue parties are not the answer to the big two parties.

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