According to a sauce at the ‘Australian Broadcasting Corporation’, (Pauline Hanson’s) ‘One Nation Party’ (ONP) looks set to disappear, 12 years after it burst into national (and international) prominence (One Nation: from a bang to a whimper, Nicole Butler, October 11, 2009). “The Electoral Commission is again threatening to de-register the party, arguing it does not have the minimum 500 members or a serving representative in Parliament.” The current incarnation of ONP — which has undergone various combinations and permutations since its founding — was registered on June 2, 2004. (‘One Nation Queensland Division’ was deregistered on December 27, 2006; ‘One Nation Western Australia’ on December 27, 2006, and again on June 17, 2009. ‘Pauline Hanson’s One Nation’ was deregistered on February 8, 2005.)
This is good news for the ‘Australia First Party’ (AF), whose founder, Graeme Campbell, had the misfortune to launch it just as Pauline Hanson, David Ettridge and David Oldfield gave birth to the little party that could (and now can’t). Following his expulsion from the ALP, Campbell contested the seat of Kalgoorlie at the October 1998 Federal election as a member of Australia First: he came third, gaining 15,585 votes (22.79%). The seat was won by Liberal Party member Barry Haase (who remains the sitting member). In November 2001, Campbell stood for a seat in the Senate, on this occasion as a member of One Nation and as No.1 on their ticket. ONP gained a total of 77,757 votes (7.03%), but no seats.
The reasons for ONP’s demise are generally understood to revolve around the absorption by the HoWARd Government of some of its major policies; the absence of a coherent ideology; poor leadership; its outsider status as a new, minor political party; and political sabotage by the major parties.
In her (in)famous maiden speech to the Federal Parliament, delivered on September 10, 1996 as the newly-elected Independent for the seat of Oxley in Queensland, Pauline Hanson presented herself as an ‘ordinary’ Australian, a member of a silent (or silenced) majority, whose needs and desires were being ignored by the political establishment.
Hanson voiced her opposition to ‘political correctness’; the ‘Aboriginal industry’ and the privileged status of Aborigines in Australian society; immigration (“I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians”); multiculturalism and the Family Law Act, and expressed concern over high levels of unemployment, a declining standard of living, and foreign ownership of Australian industry. She called for the abolition of ATSIC, foreign aid (“The government should cease all foreign aid immediately and apply the savings to generate employment here at home”) and multiculturalism (“Abolishing the policy of multiculturalism will save billions of dollars and allow those from ethnic backgrounds to join mainstream Australia, paving the way to a strong, united country”). On immigration, she stated that it “must be halted in the short-term so that our dole queues are not added to by, in many cases, unskilled migrants not fluent in the English language”, and also advocated the introduction of national service (military conscription for young adults).
ONP’s support peaked in 1998, when it received one million votes. Since then, it has been on a long, slow decline, punctuated by various schisms and minor scandals.
“We must have one people, one nation, one flag.”
The response of the HoWARd Government to ‘Hansonism’ was two-pronged. On the one hand, it sought to downplay its significance, while doing what it could to undermine Hanson’s support base — largely confined to rural and regional Queensland, and some urban centres, principally Brisbane (the state’s capital). On the other hand, while it engaged in some muted criticism of her policies, its own rhetoric reflected Hanson’s concerns, and the Government even adopted — directly, or indirectly — some of her key policies, notably the abolition of ATSIC, and the strengthening of Australia’s borders. In this respect, HoWARd was simply reinforcing ALP policy. In addition to ‘The Pacific Solution’ (excising territories and constructing prisons on outlying islands), it expanded the use of concentration camps for asylum seekers, camps introduced by the previous ALP Government in 1992, under then Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (turned corporate lobbyist), Gerry Hand:
I believe it is crucial that all persons who come to Australia without prior authorisation not be released into the community. Their release would undermine the Government’s strategy for determining their refugee claims or entry claims. Indeed, I believe it is vital to Australia that this be prevented as far as possible. The Government is determined that a clear signal be sent that migration to Australia may not be achieved by simply arriving in this country and expecting to be allowed into the community.
Thus, Hanson’s remark in September 1996 — “Of course, I will be called racist but, if I can invite whom I want into my home, then I should have the right to have a say in who comes into my country” — was echoed by HoWARd five years later, seeking to capitalise on public fears of being swamped by non-White refugees. “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come” was his boast in October 2001.
Old Skool Stylee
In many respects, ONP was an historical throwback, a return to old skool labourism and the policies progressively abandoned by Labor in its post-1960s incarnation, in particular those emerging from the party’s commitment to white nationalism: support for Australian industry, especially industrial manufacturing, combined with immigration restrictions on non-Whites. (On labourism, see : Transforming Labourism, Eurhythmania, September 26, 2009.) It was also a response, in part, to the ascendancy of ‘neo-liberalism’, enthusiastically embraced by the ALP under first Hawke and then Keating (1983–1996). Damien Cahill notes that “…it is unlikely that the rise of Hansonism as a political force — at the end of the survey period — would have been possible had it not been for the effects that neo-liberal restructuring was having upon many rural and working class communities. Interestingly, it was new class discourse that Hanson turned against the architects of neo-liberalism in order to mobilise opinion against ‘elites’.” (‘The radical neo-liberal movement as a hegemonic force in Australia, 1976-1996’, Damien C. Cahill, University of Wollongong, 2004 [PDF].)
Dr James Saleam and Australia First
In July 2009, AF declared that it had a sufficient number of members (525) to register with the Australian Electoral Commission as a political party. Three months later, on October 3, it declared that the relevant documents have been submitted to the AEC to allow it to initiate the formal process enabling its registration. (‘Australia First Party’ was deregistered on August 13, 2004.)
The leader of AF, Dr James Saleam, is not especially ‘charismatic’ and, unlike Hanson when she first reared her head as a Tory, Saleam’s political history is located on the extreme right, from openly neo-Nazi to merely fascist. He is also a convicted criminal, having been found guilty of fraud and violent crime. Thus in 1989… “he provided a shotgun to two boneheads who fired into the home of Eddie Funde, the African National Congress representative in Australia. Funde and his wife were inside and shotgun pellets narrowly missed their sleeping baby. Saleam was sentenced to 3½ years’ jail for his involvement”; he was also involved in an “insurance scam in which he falsely claimed [his] house had been robbed. He was jailed for two years for fraud” (see : Dr James Saleam & ‘The Audacity of Hate’ (‘The Audacity of Hate’, Greg Bearup, Good Weekend, September 26/27, 2009), September 26, 2009).
As an electoral candidate then, Saleam makes an unlikely vote-winner. That said, there are certainly a range of others able and willing to enter into a popularity contest with Labour, Tory and other parties, among them George Atkinson, Greg Bailey, Kevin Baldwin, Nathan Clarke, Terry Cooksley, Richard Hedditch, Ian McBryde, Alex Parker, Tony Pettitt, Jim Smith and Darrell Wallbridge, all of whom have stood in NSW. In Queensland, Peregrine John Beverley Jewell and Peter Schuback have also thrown their hats into the ring on behalf of AF.
Kameradschaft Down Under
On the one hand, AF has experienced little success in the electoral arena thus far, and even as a registered party, is unlikely to at any point in the near future. On the other hand, Saleam’s conception of the role of AF is to act as a catalyst for the formation of a genuine social movement, one capable of engaging in the forms of political and social action that has seen the German neo-Nazi ‘National Democratic Party’ (NPD) carve out a niche in various territories, especially economically-depressed parts of the former East Germany (see: The NPD in Germany (and Australia), August 27, 2009; Huzzah for the NPD! Huzzah for the Sydney Forum!, August 25, 2009). Thus: “The Australia First Party shall take advantage of the benefits of Federal registration and will certainly offer an electoral alternative and intervene in that process. However, the party became aware long ago that if it relied on electoral means alone, it would ultimately fail to build a mass movement and in the shorter term fail to defend Australian workers, farmers, small business and other working people directly against the globalist economic and political order. It was Australia First that advanced the idea of a broad approach, the “three tier method”: electoral activity, community action and cultural defence” (Statement: Australia First Has Applied For Registration As A Federal Party, October 3).
Welf Herfurth, a former member of the NPD who has resided in Sydney for the last 20 years — see : Who’s who in the “national anarchist” zoo? — is one of the key conduits for the transmission of the lessons to be drawn from the German experience to Australia. His analysis finds its most sustained expression in his writings and speechifying on the subject of Kameradschaft: see : www.newrightausnz.com/?p=27 and video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7734684144311567576. Note that Herfurth’s speech was presented at the 2007 Inverell Forum — an event Hanson was scheduled to speak at but cancelled on the basis that Herfurth and another Holocaust denialist, Richard Krege, were also scheduled to speak.
- On Australia First, see also:
2009 Sydney Forum : Redux (September 29, 2009) | The White Baton Passes On To Australia First (September 17, 2009) | The Mad Arab — Dr Jim Saleam (July 23, 2009) | Dreaming of An Aryan Jeannie : Australia First, Australian Protectionist Parties (July 10, 2009) | White With Fear : Flagging A New Hate (June 11, 2009) | Australia First Party : Trouble At Mill! (May 29, 2009) | Rule #1 : NO POOFTAS! (Australia First Expels Hanson / Green Party Supporter: AtTeMpT tO dIsRuPt AuStRaLiA fIrSt StYmIeD) (March 27, 2009) | Australian Protectionist Party, Australia First Party, and the future of White nationalism (January 30, 2009)
Doctor Saleam Jumps the Shark (December 23, 2008) | Go Diane! For petunias, the Queen and clean toilets (November 12, 2008) | Scrutinising the religious and political right (Alan Matheson) (November 8, 2008) | “Nazi rubbish”: James Saleam is unamused (September 15, 2008) | What did you do for your race this week? Australia First launches its election campaign! (August 13, 2008)
australia. first. party. nuts. fish. heads. fish. heads. roly. poly. fish. heads. (September 27, 2007) | Australia First Party makes like a banana… (September 17, 2007) | Australia First and Stormfront Down Under: Fruit and Nuts (August 29, 2007) | Traitors! Boo! (March 10, 2007) | White Australia: AFP says let’s start with Tamworth (February 1, 2007) | Moffat, AFP, and those BLOODY FOREIGNERS! (January 6, 2007)
Cronulla Anniversary: A Kiwi Perspective (December 27, 2006) | Sydney Forum 2006 Redux (October 17, 2006) | Sydney Forum 2006 : Saleam strikes back! (August 25, 2006) | The Sydney Forum // Australia First Party Conference (August 22, 2006) | The Sydney Forum, 2006 : Re-Setting the Agenda (August 16, 2006) | Your invitation to the 2006 Sydney Forum (August 8, 2006) | My name is John Drew! How do you do? (January 4, 2006)
Dr James Saleam, Australia First and the Patriotic Youth League (December 29, 2005)
This just confirms the fact that the progressive left in this country need to stop bitching about each other and focus on the real enemy…the far right. The far left and far right have similar points of views about society, just radically different ideas of who is to blame…unfortunately the right has gained support by picking up on issues that matter to both sides of politics, but because the left hasn’t any organisational unity they poison the minds of voters with their racist, homophobic, sexist rhetoric. The major parties just do as their masters of imperialism tell them. While debates about Stalin, Bakunin, Trotsky are happening, the right are ascending…let’s not play at being Nero, and stop fiddling and create a real alternative to the cancerous bastards!
A few points.
1. I disagree.
2. While the far right is obviously objectionable, I don’t think it’s ‘the real enemy’. Bob Black once wrote that:
Personally, I think that the syndicalists and the situationists are alright, but the point still stands.
On my reading, one of the functions of the far right is to provide a political and social counter-weight to the far left. Thus fascism triumphed in Italy and then Germany only after smashing its political opposition (a task made considerably easier by the domination of the left by the Communist Party in the case of Germany, and the alliance between Mussolini and the Catholic Church in the case of Italy), and the same is largely true of fascist movements in other times and places.
So, without necessarily subscribing to the idea that fascism may be reduced to being merely one symptom of a capitalist system in crisis, it’s certainly the case that fascist and far right groups have been, are, and will continue to be employed against progressive movements of all sorts — the size and scope of activity allowed such attacks being largely determined by the state and ruling elites. In contemporary Greece, for example, the police operate hand-in-glove with the far right, both determined to crush radical dissent.
As for Australia, it’s not witnessed anything like a fascist movement of the size or scope that many European countries have, and its history — with the exception of the genocide and attempted genocide of indigenous peoples — has been marked by the relative absence of widespread, violent conflict between competing ideologies, movements or peoples. In other words, the exercise of mass violence has been almost exclusively confined to the operations of the liberal, democratic state and its participation in various imperial wars and conflicts, invariably in support of first British and then US imperial interests — Sudan 1885, Second Boer War 1899–1902, Boxer Rebellion 1900–1901, First World War 1914–1918, Russian Civil War 1918–1919, Second World War 1939–1945, Korean War 1950–1953, Malayan Emergency 1950–1960, Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation 1962–1966, Vietnam War 1962–1972, Gulf War 1991, Afghanistan 2001–Present, Iraq 2003–Present.
The Australian Government has also provided training, equipment and other services to the Indonesian military for many years, among other things helping to repress independence struggles in East Timor and West Papua.
In this context, it’s worth noting:
See also : Australia and the Holocaust: A Koori Perspective, Gary Foley, 1997.
3. I don’t believe that the far left and the far right have similar points of view about society, just radically different ideas of who is to blame.
4. I don’t think that the right has gained support by picking up on issues that matter to both sides of politics.
I think what’s happened is that ‘the left’ — and by this I mean the ALP and the trade unions (the labour movement) — has, via the Accord, been responsible, along with ‘the right’, for the implementation of the neoliberal reform of Australian economy and society, and to this extent ‘the left’ has come to be seen as being largely indistinguishable from ‘the right’. However, while united on ‘economic’ issues, ‘the left’ and ‘the right’ diverge on other issues. For example, ‘multiculturalism’. Support for ‘neoliberalism’ — which translates into attacks upon the living and working conditions of workers and the poor, among other things — is fully compatible with liberal niceties about ‘cultural diversity’. Further, to the extent that ‘the left’ has come to be associated with regressive economic policies, ‘multiculturalism’ is damned by association. For its part, the far right exploits this association, thus giving rise to the kind of rhetoric AF employs about “the politics of New World Order liberal-globalist-capitalism”.
5. I don’t believe that the principal problem with the left is the absence of any organisational unity.
Rather, I think The Big Issue is the identification — in fact, domination — of ‘the left’ by ‘social democracy’. ‘The left’ has been highly unified in this country, either by way of the ALP or the CPA. Exceptions to this have been quite rare, and episodic. It is also almost entirely subordinate to the needs and interests of the professional class of technocrats who dominate the ALP. Like Nu Labour in the UK, the effective abandonment of the working class will undoubtedly result in the working class abandonment of Labor.
6. I do agree that the major parties — Labor, Liberal, National — are supportive of US imperialism. I also agree that an alt.politics is needed.
There’s shitloads more that could be said on these subjects, obviously, and the above is overly brief and lacking in detail but like, whatever.
ALP ‘run by bunch of careerists and lawyers’
October 13, 2009
Labor has too many careerists and lawyers in its ranks and has no understanding of the issues in the construction industry, according to a senior leader from a large ALP-affiliated union.
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union national construction secretary Dave Noonan says that in ”days past” a Labor Government would boast labourers, tradespeople, shearers and people who understood the plight of working Australians first hand.
Mr Noonan, in a speech to be made today to the union’s construction division conference, will also call for quotas for older workers on government building projects to drive change in the industry.
”Today I can count only a handful of politicians who have worked in our industry. So it is no surprise that we have a political class that has no understanding of our industry … and people whose idea of career planning is a lifetime parliamentary pension and a gig with a lobbying firm.”
He says Federal Parliament is now two teams of lawyers and careerists. ”Sometimes trying to get decision-makers to engage in our industry is like talking Shakespeare to a bunch of baboons.”
Mr Noonan will also say that it is ”shameful” that a building worker, South Australian Ark Tribe, could be jailed under a Labor government for ”refusing to act as an informant against his workmates”.
Labor is proposing to water down the Howard government’s building laws but will keep, with greater safeguards, coercive powers that can result in workers being jailed for not answering questions. Those changes are yet to pass the Senate and they could be amended to keep more of the Howard laws.
Mr Noonan will also argue that governments need to do more to keep older workers in the building industry and should back quotas.
The construction industry has a higher level of workers aged between 25 to 44 than all other industries, he says, but fewer aged over 45 than most.
While there are limits on the physical strain older workers can endure, they can share knowledge and skills through other roles.
Many of the jobs that once went to older workers in construction – such as traffic control, gatemen and clean-up work – were now being filled by backpackers.
Jim Barrett, executive director of the Australian Constructors Association – which is starting talks with the CFMEU over industry issues – would not comment directly on the quota plan, but said trying to attract and keep people in the industry were important issues.
You really make it hard for a fellow to give a precise response! I totally negate the Bob Black reference for a start…send me an email and I’d love to debate this further…
“The left’ has been highly unified in this country, either by way of the ALP or the CPA.”
Cannot agree. The ALP is hardly ‘left’ in any real sense? It is staffed by the labour aristocracy, itself tied to the capitalist state and believes that capitalism is the eternal natural order. Vladimir Lenin called it a “liberal-bourgeois” party:
The Anglo Australian working class has no tradition of revolutionary action (even Lawlor was Irish FFS), capitalism was introduced here as a fait accomplis – fully developed. The president of the current CPA is from Guatemala…not Geelong.
The labour aristocracy – a section of the working class which enjoys petty-bourgeois conditions of existence thanks to imperialist superprofits – are of course “unified” because it’s in their material interest!
The labour aristocracy as a whole cannot be won over to the working class perspective. Imperialism is still able to offer this limited stratum quite a bit in the shape of short-term benefits. The banks and the multinationals are still raking in superprofits. There are still plenty of multinational dominated resource projects coming up to keep everything ticking along.
What you write here is important –
“The exercise of mass violence has been almost exclusively confined to the operations of the liberal, democratic state and its participation in various imperial wars and conflicts, invariably in support of first British and then US imperial interests — Sudan 1885, Second Boer War 1899–1902, Boxer Rebellion 1900–1901, First World War 1914–1918, Russian Civil War 1918–1919, Second World War 1939–1945, Korean War 1950–1953, Malayan Emergency 1950–1960, Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation 1962–1966, Vietnam War 1962–1972, Gulf War 1991, Afghanistan 2001–Present, Iraq 2003–Present.”
Visit Borders bookshop and check out the Australia History/Warfare section (it’s easy to find as it’s where all the middle aged fat blokes are), how many of the wars you list will have books about the participation of “our boys”? One hand will suffice.
I sent you an email a while ago but you – you slack bastard — never replied: I’ll try again.
“The ALP is hardly ‘left’ in any real sense?”
In any real sense? That depends on how you define ‘the left’ I guess. Certainly, there is a ‘left’ faction, but it’s left in name only. On the other hand, there are ALP members who do consider themselves to be ‘leftists’, and whose adherence to some notion of ‘the left’ or the ALP as an institution subject to left-wing influence is I think real (or more ‘real’ than factional jockeying for power). There are obviously others, but organisations such as the Fabian Society and individuals such as Bob Gould or Marcus Strom I think may be counted among these. In any case, what I meant to suggest was that, in broad historical terms, there has rarely been a ‘real’ left-wing presence outside of the ALP or CPA, at least insofar as political parties are concerned. The reality is slightly different, I think, in reference to social movements (including, to some extent, the labour movement).
Regarding the ALP’s status as the party of the labour aristocracy — yeah, I think there’s some truth to that. And a quick glance at the Federal Cabinet certainly suggests that the party is indeed a party of “careerists and lawyers” (see also : Social *cough* democracy…).
The story of Labor’s evolution is a long one, of course — something I am also gonna touch on inre Tony Moore’s article in one of Uncle Rupert’s papers.
As for the rest… later.
“There are obviously others, but organisations such as the Fabian Society and individuals such as Bob Gould or Marcus Strom I think may be counted among these.”
Bob and Marcus are practising a bit of “deep entry” Trotskyism, it’s a long standing Trotskyite practise whereby a faction is set up within a liberal/bourgeois/labor party.
They gather a few holy innocents around them and then get expelled. The result – yet another Trotskyite faction.
As for the Fabians –
“The Fabian strategy is a military strategy where pitched battles are avoided in favour of wearing down an opponent through a war of attrition. While avoiding decisive battles, the side employing this strategy harasses its enemy to cause attrition and loss of morale”.
Oh yeah the Fabian strategy was invented in 260 BCE, so while it is a lot older than Anarchism, it is just as Utopian.
I’ve had some direct experience of the ALP left faction within my trade union, it is purely a vehicle for personal promotion to union leadership and has no political substance that could be considered ‘left’.
Of course they consider themselves ‘left’, but to try and get out of them what this actually means in the real everyday world is like the old debate about the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin.
If Uncle Bob is still practicing his entry, it’s a bloody long one. As for Marcus, dunno.
Oh, and Sam Wainwright is standing for the SA in a local council election in Fremantle, WA. After 8 years of trying, could SA be on the verge of a breakthrough? Time will tell.
@ndy, your history of ‘the Left’ as overwhelmingly centred around the CPA and ALP leaves out the obviously at least partial exception: the IWW (the early 20th century one). Which was reasonably substantial at least in Australian terms at one point. Though I guess that exception might count as ‘rare’.
Also, I’m not sure that Australia’s military adventures have really been “invariably in support of first British and then US imperial interests”, both because of counter-examples (Australia’s involvement in trying to crush the movements in Bougainville is an obvious one) and more broadly because of the sense in which such claims tend to collapse the interests of the Australian state, capital and elites into subordination to a foreign imperial power – which seems a little reductive and implausible at least to me.
Paul – unless things have changed, I don’t think Marcus would call himself a trotskyist.
I agree — kinda. I was responding to dean’s remark that “the left hasn’t any organisational unity”. To the best of my knowledge, and assuming that both could be described as ‘left’, the ALP (1891–) and the CPA (1920–1990), are two counter-examples of long-running and very influential organisations. Thus the IWW was indeed an exception, but while it has undergone a number of revivals (1970s, ’80s and ’90s), and while I do not wish to disparage these or current efforts, it’s period of most significant influence was almost 100 years ago.
(I was also attempting to suggest that (ideological or political or organisational) ‘unity’ is, in and of itself, an insufficient condition for the establishment of an effective ‘left’ — or at least of the sort dean and I might possibly support.)
Much more could be written on the IWW — and again, to the best of my knowledge, the best sources are Burgmann and Cain — but, as I also suggested, “the above is overly brief and lacking in detail”. In any case, I think that the emergence of the CPA in Australia, and Communist parties elsewhere in the world following the Bolshevik (counter-)revolution in Russia in 1917, more or less — and with some exceptions — spelled the end of radical, ‘leftist’ organisations such as the IWW, and a turn to orthodox Bolshevism/Communism on the part of the ostensibly revolutionary ‘left’.
With regards ‘Australians @ War’, again, I agree — partly. That is, I was being overly-simplistic. I also do not wish to simply collapse “the interests of the Australian state, capital and elites into subordination to a foreign imperial power”. However, I do think it reasonable to describe Australian foreign policy as being dominated, for much of its history, by the concerns of first British and then US empire. The way I see it, as these ‘Australian’ interests have accumulated over time, so the possibility of relatively ‘independent’ action on their part has increased. But to fully understand these interests, it’s still necessary to locate them within a broader framework of ‘global’, especially US-centred, networks of power and (military) domination.
OK, you’re right: the comments on unity in the Australian left actually do seem reasonable even in the absence of any IWW discussion, especially given the specificity of context.
And I actually took it for granted that you thought something along the lines noted above regarding ‘Australians @ War’ – I was just responding to the word ‘invariably’ from a position of not wanting anyone to even accidentally give aid and comfort to Australian Left nationalism.
On a related tangent, I notice the CFMEU and officials thereof have been busy demanding reductions in overall immigration, more active enforcement of visa conditions relating to work, and much more restrictive conditions on the ‘right to work’ of anyone in Australia who is not officially a ‘permanent resident’/citizen – a defense of laborist nationalism as particular forms of management of national divisions as divisions of labour. In recent decades it has often been ‘the Left’ in the ALP and the unions which has more aggressively asserted the nationalist constitution of Australia’s version of residual social democracy.
At the risk of putting myself in the shit by kinda defending the CFMEU, I don’t think you can assume the CFMEU’s position is purely Left nationalist. The increased issuing of 457 visas were explicitly (I recall Vanstone saying so on the news) about the suppression of wages in the industries covered by the CFMEU. I don’t doubt there’s a mixture of the dodgy politics espoused by the union and genuine attempts at improving wage conditions for their workers in opposing them. This article is a good example of these tensions.
I’ve been to a rally or two where members of the CFMEU have explained their position and they were at pains to point out that the problem with 457s (and 456s) were the conditions of precarity associated with them, not the workers themselves. I believe the CFMEU did some pretty amazing work at unionising these workers too, to the chagrin of the bosses who thought they could simply outsource cheaper, compliant labour. It would be a mistake to isolate the union’s position on skilled migration visas (particularly 457s) from their attempts at addressing working conditions. See this for example.
Of course, the solution is to make the movement of labour as transnational as capital and to increase better working conditions everywhere. The best mechanism to do this that I know of is syndicalism. And I agree that it is the ALP who have contributed mostly to nationalism amongst the labour movement (and the CFMEU have been part of that) to its detriment.
As it stands, all things considered, the CFMEUs position doesn’t seem too outrageous to me. However, describing the CFMEU’s position as “demanding reductions in overall migration” doesn’t seem to gel with what I’ve seen and read. My understanding is they advocate permanent visas over temporary ones, as the latter are a tool for the suppression of wages and conditions.
Is that bad?
A blast from the past…
When the Patriotic Youth League and Australia First Party gathered to protest the CFMEU’s support for migrant workers, they encountered an overwhelming counterprotest.
Lumpen, there are a couple of issues I guess, one crudely empirical (what is the CFMEU doing) and one more obviously about political interpretation. But on the former, I don’t think your account is really accurate. Very concretely, recent CFMEU proposals haven’t been about increasing the power or unionisation of those on visas who are working in Australia, or about moving them from temporary to permanent status (a shift which of course not everyone on a non-permanent visa would actually desire). Recent CFMEU proposals have been about (a) reducing the number of such people (b) reducing the legal right to work of people on visas, not limited to people on 457 visas but extended to the many tens of thousands of other people whose visas currently contain some legal right to work (c) increasing and extending enforcement of visa conditions over workers ie over foreign workers. In addition, John Sutton has recently and very publicly come out in favour of reductions to immigration as a whole, “on labour market grounds” – a position also more-or-less that of people like the ALP Left MP Kelvin Thompson, and on slightly different grounds of the Australian Conservation Foundation ie too many foreigners coming in.
On (c), the calls for greater regulation and surveillance of foreign workers bring to mind not-so-much internationalist campaigns to unionise such workers, but rather the actions of the CFMEU’s NSW branch not all that long ago when it was involved in calling in the immigration department to deal with illegal immigrant workers.
And I think attempts to defend “Australian workers” (the favoured CFMEU terminology when calling for restrictions on foreigners either entering the country or entering labour markets in Australia) by pushing other people out of labour markets emerge from a political logic of economic nationalism, which defends the interests of Australia/Australians/Australian workers within the reproduction of a division of labour at the point of its intersection with the borders of the nation-state and of citizenship/permanence.
Taking seriously the CFMEU submissions and speeches of officials of the last two months in particular, I think the role and position of the CFMEU is different and more horrible than your description would suggest, though not exactly shocking given the role of economic and other nationalisms in Left unions in particular.
Check this out:
Read the CFMEU submission for yourself, and then let me know if you think it is unfair to suggest that the CFMEU want less migration. As for advocating permanent over temporary migration – well actually their detailed proposals are to cut the permanent migration pathway for those who are already on track for it: international students. They propose to cut off all sorts of avenues for this group of workers to become permanent, not to make it easier for them.
The CFMEU submission and its suggestions are absolutely removed from any attempt to organise international student workers. 457s are easy, yeah? The AMWU and CFMEU (tho’ more AMWU) have organised some of these workers, but mostly they do that to access the horror stories – I have had exactly that discussion with AMWU people in the organising team for 457 workers. That is their strategy.
International students on the other hand: John Sutton is explicit that he wants them gone, and that he wants his industries to be free of them. At an anti-trafficking conference in July in Sydney this year, John Sutton proudly proclaimed that he had already gone as part of a union delegation to the Immigration Minister to insist on more vigorous enforcement of the 20-hour work restriction, and in no way a relaxation of it. John Sutton wants Immigration to police the borders of the labour market for the defence of his existing members and their conditions. The message so far from organised labour to internationals is that they are in the too hard basket and that is where they will stay until Immigration can make the problem go away for us.
When the leadership submit a policy, or Sutton shoots his mouth, it isn’t reflective of all opinion within the union. Like I said, I’ve heard other people in the CFMEU say different (a total of two) and you can get a sense of the discord in official documents and articles. I also think there are more positions than continuation of 456-7s and reduction in migrant labour. But the “horror story” aspect is something I hadn’t considered before. If you’d like me to state that Sutton is an arsehole lapdog of the capitalists, then consider it done.
I don’t have a problem with saying this or that union are fucked, but I do think the point of these assessments is to look for points of leverage to effect change. Simply describing the union as Left nationalist is meaningless to me. If I joined the CFMEU, would that make me a nationalist?
Joining a shitty union is a decision I’m currently grappling with. If I get more work in my field next year, I decided I will join – even though the union I’d join seems crap (and no, it isn’t the SDA). If I were to take on the logic of reducing the union to its leadership positions, then I wouldn’t bother. That said, I’m open to the arguments.
It’s totally theoretical for me, in any case, as actually doing something about 457s would detract from my Fallout 3 work.
Lumpen, my view of the specifics of the CFMEU’s current role is largely based upon public statements and actions, transcripts of speeches by officials, submissions to government, joint statements with other unions etcetera. Other sources of information, from people in and around the CFMEU (and AMWU) are much more fragmentary and less systematic. So maybe I am indeed missing some deep fractures in the practice of the union, with entirely different actions being taken that are invisible to me. But the sense of discord to which you refer simply is not visible to me, certainly not as contestation of the overall political basis we have been discussing. So if you know more than me, I would be genuinely happy to hear about struggles around, in essence, the role of the union in the reproduction of the existing divisions of labour as they relate to borders and citizenship status. There are obviously limitations to the sources I’ve been using, but I’m not sure what you are invoking as evidence of this discord, or for the ‘more positions’.
Also I am talking largely about international students subject to the 20 hour work restriction. According to Chris Nyland’s research, there about about 50,000 457 visa holders, but close to 500,000 international students here. You seem reluctant to address this. Can you point to any evidence of ‘solidarity’ between CFMEU members and international students, in relation to workplace struggle, racist attacks, anything? In any case, I certainly haven’t seen anything which contradicts the general thrust of the attempts of a number of Left unions – or of their leaderships, if you like – to increase policing of the border of labour markets at their points of intersection with the borders of nation and citizenship status.
Certainly, I have no doubt, there are CFMEU members who oppose, are critical of or just don’t like what the union (leadership/hierarchy/-as-an-institution) is doing. Capitalist social relations persist not just because people are confused or racist or even nationalist, but because interests are materially constituted in opposition within the proletariat, but it still likely that there are people within the CFMEU who are not going to be thrilled at the explicit assertion of interests, understood broadly as defense of the price of labour power in particular markets, not against capital or the state, however understood, but against foreigners. In defence of “young Australians”.
However, I don’t think that the actually-existing positions, as manifest in efforts to force foreigners out of particular labour markets, are simply contingent matters of policy easily separable from the interests which inform the actions of contemporary Australia trade unions – i.e. as institutions, as brokers of the collective labor-power of members to sections of capital, as forms of mediation and representation, even as organisations of immediate defense of particular workers. (Obviously, very technically, trade unions have decision-making processes which could be used to determine policy in any direction – those voting could vote to adopt positions directly opposed to what I see in current practice. If everyone was on acid, for example. The same is true of parliament – technically, if they all turned up drunker than usual or suddenly went insane in new ways, our parliamentarians could vote for anything at all. But there are reason why they don’t, and simply attributing actions of bad leaders(hip) doesn’t tell us very much about what those reasons might be.)
And yes, we have recently seen the phenomenon of unions working with people – workers still treated as essentially external to however the union is defined, despite industry or profession or territory – in order to get evidence of ill-treatment/exploitation/etcetera, not to fight such exploitation etc but to justify exclusion from labour markets of those concerned. To generate a social justice basis of economic nationalism, for one. At the very least, this tendency is one to be aware of.
If you joined the CFMEU, it wouldn’t mean you are a nationalist, in some accusatory way – don’t be silly. This isn’t about the essence of the members as nationalist or not, but for me it is about how we understand trade unions, how we understand their relationship to the reproduction of divisions of labour, to segmentation and hierarchies in capital understood as a global social relation rather than as an aggregate of national economies, how we understand the nationally-based forms of political and union mediation which give form to the belonging of a section of the proletariat to the capitalist mode of production, and not just in relation to Australia.
In general assessment of unions relate to desire to bring about change, or for change to happen anyway, but if you mean that thinking about such matters should all be about bringing about change in the unions themselves then I’m not sure I agree. Certainly when international students confront Australian unions pushing for their further exclusion from particular labour markets, or from all labour markets in Australia, or from Australia per se, I’m not sure that the central criteria which should determine their actions should relate to bringing about change in those trade unions. Maybe that should be a focus, maybe not so much, but either way I’d suggest only as part of a rather different set of imperatives.
Racial backlash against union aid
November 13, 2009
THE decision by Australian sailors to raise money for the 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers aboard the Oceanic Viking has triggered a rush of hate mail to the maritime union.
The Maritime Union of Australia and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union said this month that it had raised $10,000 for the Sri Lankans.
The maritime union’s national secretary, Paddy Crumlin, said yesterday that the gesture had revealed a startling level of xenophobia.
He had received some supportive emails but most were critical of the asylum seekers and unsympathetic to their plight. Some were hostile.
When the union made such a gesture, follow-up messages from Australians were usually supportive, he said.
”But the polarisation of this issue is most striking. People are strongly for or strongly against.”
He had received 30 or 40 personal emails and more had come to the union’s offices across Australia. Some were highly emotional, with lots of explanation marks and sections highlighted in bold type. ”They shout at you by email,” he said.
Others referred to the union members as ”commo bastards”.
”They said the Rudd Government was hopeless on the issue and the sooner we returned to Howard’s approach the better.”
Many wanted asylum seekers denied access to Australia. ”They dealt with them in the most abrupt terms and wanted them scared off,” Mr Crumlin said.
Some wanted them roughly treated to discourage others from coming.
Mr Crumlin said the unions would not hand over the money until the present situation was resolved because it did not want it used for political purposes.
He said union members were concerned about asylum seekers generally, not only those on the Oceanic Viking.
”Our guys are often in the front line fishing them out of the water – sometimes dead, sometimes badly injured but mostly in a highly distressed state.”
Andy, you are everywhere spreading your “Far Leftie Poison”. Who pulls Andy’s strings? May be a one way ticket to Afghanistan and that would be a real treat, for someone like you! You won’t win, the Catholic Nazis always get found out, don’t they?
Nz nd, wht ggntc nsl psssg y hv. Y lwys gt fnd t, nd hv t xt vr qckl. Y hv nt lrnt frm pst mstks, nd th wrld wtchs nd cnnt blv th dcptn tht y wv. Y hv nt lrnt frm hstr. bttr b qt, y mght t m! Th gm s p!
Can we please have a photo of Andy and his personal details?
He seems to be so in love with himself.
DaveBrown / Jasmine Reading / John Smith / Jasmine / Smithy / Jazzy:
Perf must be a pretty boring place.
I`d like to know where your getting your facts from. Take a look at all the ONE NATION websites across Australia and you`ll soon see that with new branches starting up all over the country is completely different to your facts. Here in the Northern Territory we are in the grip of a ONE NATION Stampede and Protectionism and Patriotic Nationalism is at full steam ahead and our numbers are gaining by the day.
If you think that this Australia first party, which is an offshoot of the bloody labor party has anything then show me, and then I`ll show you what I`ve gained since I ran for the seat of Solomon.
Mate. . I`m Australian First and Foremost, Born and Bred, even got the colors to prove it which makes me a ONE NATION Man.
I dont believe the greens(inner city gay party) are the answer to this Nation – Same sex Legal adoption condones pedophilia(rockspiders). I dont believe muslem ragheads belong here in this country – Terrorists and criminal organizations. I dont believe this labor government is for the people – factions, socialists agenda thats bordering on comminism.
If you had any sense of being Australian, you`d get out of your inner city jibe and get up here in the top end of the Territory and come and see for yourself, Mate I`ll even drive you around myself and show you how ONE NATION is going up here.
Top Enders are dead set sick and tired of this stupid labor governments and there idiotic offshoots that become minor parties only to join the mainstay cause they get roped in by the bigger brother or bashed come election day. We arn`t fooled up here or in QLD or WA by these radical left wing communist little faction parties that run around calling themselves Australia First.
I assure you people can already see the light and are awake to this bunch of left wing lunitics and if they ever come to the Territory they will be squashed.
So get on the ONE NATION website and see for yourself and it goes like this :- Theres a movement at the station for the word had passed around, The other parties are getting jittery cause ONE NATION is back in Town. Patriotism was shown at the cronulla riots, If you think that was just a one off, your kidding yourself arn`t you. I assure you, I will personally drive Patriotism through the veins of every young blue blooded Australian through every channel possible and we`ll soon see how this left wing lunitic australia first party reacts ! !
Thanks for the kind offer of a tour of the NT.
As for the rest…
Australia First is an offshoot of the ALP only to the extent that it was founded by ex-Labor MP Graeme Campbell in 1996. He’s no longer a member of the party and left it many years ago. AF’s current leader is Dr James Saleam. Saleam has never been an ALP member but instead a string of different radical, right-wing organisations dating back to the Australian Nazi Party in the early 1970s. He’s certainly not a communist, but does admit to being influenced by the ideology of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) of the 1970s and ’80s.
My facts come from the sources I cite. I dunno about new branches springing up everywhere: the only new One Nation branch I’m aware of is your own. Otherwise, it seems to me that One Nation is in terminal decline. The party lost its last sitting member last year, and doesn’t appear likely to gain any new ones any time soon, if ever. The Victorian state election, for example, is this coming weekend. The number of candidates for One Nation is zero. In the seat you contested at the 2010 Federal election, the Greens candidate got four times as many votes as you did (1,505 versus 6,772). Finally, I think what was shown at Cronulla was racist xenophobia: a small group of brown-skinned strangers got attacked. Is that what you mean by patriotic? Really? I thought patriotism was about loving your country.
You say Brown Skinned strangers, do you think they might have been the relatives of the pricks that raped the Aussie girl 30 times and completely ruined her life or do you think they might have been the assholes that bashed the lifesavers up. Well its like this mate, I`m a 3 tour veteran of the middle east (5years), I`ve been wounded 3 times and survived, I`m not a hero and never claim to be. This country gives me nothing for my dedicated patriotism but yet I`d die for it.
Pauline Hanson was one of the founding members of the One Nation Party, she is no longer with it or will the party have her back. VIC, NSW and QLD have struggled with loose cannons for years. This year is the first time that the party has finally be rid of the last of the loose cannons. Tasmania has just joined the fray and are heading in the right direction. Western Australia has new executive members and is kicking goals. The Northern Territory, which is me, had arrived 3weeks before the federal election. I was the only standing member and candidate for Solomon. If you look closely I scored more second preference votes than any other party. I now have 38members and another 40 odd volunteers which in time I shall gain half as members. The list of business interest in One Nation is gaining every week. I`m opening a brand new office in Darwin City in early January, Alice Springs is our next venture sometime round June July 2011. One Nation intends to have all 25 candidates picked and ready to contest the upcoming Territory Elections in 18 months August 2012. To govern we need 13 seats, very achievable indeed. Most candidates we pick will be well known business owners and respected indentities throughout the community.
One Nation Northern Territory has a short term vision which is this . . Win the Territory elections.
Our Medium term vision . . establish candidates Australia wide for the House. We intend to run an Ad Campaign funded by Business and Fundraising efforts across Australia for the next federal election.
Our Long term vision . . To be a genuine 3rd party preference and establish a worldwide conservative movement. The plans for that are well on the way. One Nation has made contact with other conservative bodies worldwide and we are now in the processes of establishing a formidable movement with very long term goals and ambitions.
What you saw before with One Nation is nothing too compare to what is going to happen in the future with One Nation. For those non believers, One Nation has a simple message . . Bigger, Stronger, Better.
So, according to you, it’s perfectly acceptable to assault others on the basis of their skin colour because they might be related to others who are guilty of terrible crimes?
You can’t be serious, surely.
By “the relatives of the pricks that raped the Aussie girl 30 times” I assume you mean the group of Lebanese-Australian men led by Bilal Skaf? (A group which was convicted of the rape of six women?) If so, I’m not aware of any members of this group being victims of assault at Cronulla on December 11, 2005. Nor am I aware of any of the men who allegedly assaulted lifesavers on December 4 being attacked.
So… what on Earth are you talking about?
Australians made a statement at cronulla, your either with us or you leave . . . very simple. To have our lifestyle and people threatened by radicals who take it upon themselves to endanger Australians calls for our Nation and its People to unite. Those Lebanese were very lucky it happened in Sydney and not up here in the Top End. Payback style up here goes back 40,000 years. You only have to be a relative. Thats the Australian way Mate.
I must say with all the big talk, One Nation performed in a particularly dismal fashion in every electorate where it managed to scratch up a candidate – “scratch up” being the operative word.
Being out-polled by the Sex Party, who didn’t even campaign seriously, must hurt badly.
Word of advice John. You don’t speak for all Australians. Not even for a majority. Just you and your bigoted mates.
So never ever say you do.