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Perrottet Tells The State To Turn Christmas Into A Covid Party

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/12/2021 - 8:03am in

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has encouraged the people of NSW to turn their Christmas celebrations into a Covid party, in an effort to get the whole State used to living with the disease.

”Covid’s here and we need to start treating it like measles, so we can build up an immunity to it in the community,” said the Premier. ”So, get Nanna out of the nursing home and invite your elderly neighbours around for Christmas lunch.”

”Let’s get the great State of NSW moving again, do you know how much we’ll save in the budget on elderly care?”

When asked what health advice he was basing his decisions on, the Premier said: ”We have listened to the health people but we have also listened to the Economists as well.”

”No use having a bunch of healthy people about if there’s no pokies machines for them to gamble on, eh.”

”Now, if you’ll excuse me I need to go and cough on a few school children.”

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

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Barrel Chested Old Coot At Beach Wants You To Guess How Old He Is

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/12/2021 - 7:00am in

old man

That leathery old bloke in speedos who’s always strutting around at the beach wants you to take a shot at guessing how old he is.

“How old do you reckon I am?” asked wrinkly beachgoer Bert Vovo as he puffed out his chest in front of some random sunbathers at Manly Beach yesterday. “Have a go, don’t be shy… how old?”

“He’d engaged me and my friend in some aimless chatter about bluebottles for several minutes before putting his hands on his hips and asking us to have a crack at guessing how old he is,” said Norwegian tourist Elke Slopslap. “I thought I’d be polite and estimate his age and then knock 20 years off because I assumed he was fishing for a compliment on how fit he was.”

Retired boilermaker Vovo was stoked when the pallid skinned backpacker guessed his age as 60ish, well below his actual age of 79.

“I’ve been a member of the surf lifesaving club here for 67 years and do 10 laps of the rock pool every morning,” crowed the septuagenarian sand stroller. “Sure my skin now has the colour and texture of a pair of tan brogues from Payless Shoes but I keep myself supple by rubbing in half a jar of dubbin every morning.”

Satisfied with the response, Vovo shuffled off down the beach in an old man jogging style looking for other sun bathers to have a chinwag with.

Peter Green
http://www.twitter.com/Greeny_Peter

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A Steady State Economy is for the Birds

by Kate McFarland

Wind turbines kill birds.

This is not a fiction devised by the fossil fuel industry. It is an observable fact.

Ask, for instance, the dozens of birders who ventured to Scotland’s Outer Hebrides for a glimpse of a white-throated needletail, the first sighting of the species in Britain in 22 years. Like other swifts, the white-throated needletail is an adroit flier, catching insects on the wing and even mating during flight. The rare visitor, however, met an untimely demise at the blade of a wind turbine.

a flying white-throated needletail

A white-throated needletail met its untimely demise due to the blades of a wind turbine. How many more birds must we lose in our pursuit of “green growth?” (CC BY 2.0, Ron Knight)

The needletail’s death made headlines due to its rarity. Most avian deaths are anonymous, folded into statistics and estimates. Ten years ago, with many fewer wind turbines in operation, researchers estimated that as many as 573,000 birds in the USA alone died each year in turbine collisions. Avian ecologists have predicted that this number will increase to 1.4 million deaths per year by 2030. New wind projects—some situated in important flyways for millions of migratory birds such as offshore facilities planned in New York and Ohio—move forward despite the warnings of bird conservationists.

“Green growth” proponents are keen to point out that wind turbines claim fewer feathered lives than glass-covered buildings or domestic cats. Such comparisons are accurate but beside the point. Heart disease and cancer take far more human lives each year than work-related injuries, but this hardly justifies a disregard for workplace safety. Each bird killed by a turbine’s blades is a bird that might have lived a little longer—completed a migration, raised a new brood of chicks—if humanity had lowered its energy demands enough to make do without that one extra turbine.

Even at the population level, the risk posed by turbines cannot be ignored just because windows or cats are more deadly. It is not as though the construction of wind farms will displace skyscrapers or feral cat colonies; the erection of turbines will just add new fatal threats to the existing ones. And with 29 percent of North American breeding birds lost since 1970, conservationists must take a broad approach to reducing all significant sources of bird mortality.

Collisions are Only the Tip of the Iceberg

The previous estimates of avian mortality are only the beginning. The problem is, in fact, much worse. These estimates account only for birds killed in direct collisions with turbines, but direct collisions are not the only danger incurred with the expansion of wind power (or, as we’ll see, renewable energy in general). Other threats include habitat loss, noise pollution, mining, and the construction of additional infrastructure, such as roads and powerlines.

Some birds will avoid wind turbines. However, the mere displacement of birds from critical habitats due to wind farm installations is also a problem. Recent research reveals, for example, that whooping cranes avoid flying within about three miles of wind turbines. Thus, whooping cranes are unlikely to become victims of turbine collisions. At the same time, however, this endangered bird risks losing critical stopover habitat as more wind farms are constructed along its 2,500-mile migratory pathway from Canada to Texas. Other studies have called attention to other species, such as northern gannets, that face potential habitat loss due to their avoidance of areas in which wind turbines are constructed.

wind turbines

Wind turbines may be a better alternative to burning fossil fuels, but true “green” means reducing our overall energy consumption. (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0, K Ali)

Furthermore, the clearing of land for wind farms can destroy entire ecosystems, taking critical bird habitat with it. For example, a French company has been clearing land for a wind farm in Brazil’s Caatinga region, a biodiversity hotspot and important habitat for the endangered Lear’s macaw. Like the whooping crane, Lear’s macaw was a conservation success story: decades of habitat protection restored the imperiled species’ numbers from only 70 to nearly 2,000. But the striking indigo bird remains vulnerable as it now finds its key habitat under threat again—this time due to so-called green energy.

Unfortunately, the proposed Caatinga wind farm is not a one-off: a global study published in 2020 found over 2,200 renewable energy facilities already operating within Key Biodiversity Areas and other protected natural areas, with an additional 922 under construction. The study accounts only for the land footprint of renewable energy facilities. As immense as this impact is, it constitutes only a portion of renewable energy’s impact on bird and wildlife habitat.

Another oft-discussed negative externality of wind power is the generation of low-frequency noise, which is a known hazard to human health. Low-frequency noise is harmful to birds, too. It can, for example, interfere with songbirds’ communication, including their ability to produce an attractive mating song (an essential task for a songbird’s perpetuating its species!). Noise pollution also impedes young birds’ abilities to learn their songs and, as with us, induces harmful stress responses.

Moreover, wind farms don’t exactly sprout up from the field. The construction of each turbine requires hundreds of tons of minerals and, hence, massive mining projects that threaten biodiversity and some of the last remaining wild areas.

Consider, for example, copper and aluminum, two essential components of wind turbines as well as other renewables, such as solar panels. Researchers warn that “rushing to bring [new copper mines] into production could unleash unacceptable, catastrophic impacts onto local people and environments.” This, of course, extends to birds. Recently, an open-pit mine was proposed in Jordan’s Dana Biosphere Reserve, a biodiversity hotspot that harbors half of the nation’s bird species. Pebble Mine nearly destroyed an important habitat for 190 bird species in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Meanwhile, proposals for a bauxite mine in Ghana’s Atewa Forest, one of the planet’s most important biodiversity hotspots, showcase how destructive the procurement of aluminum can be. In recent years, bauxite mines have also threatened vulnerable and declining species such as Australia’s largest cockatoo.

Wind is Not the Only Culprit

It is a trope—and a truth—that wind turbines kill birds, but wind energy is not alone in claiming the blood of our feathered friends. Like wind farms, solar farms pose fatal risks to birds directly, in addition to destroying valuable habitat through the huge land footprints of the facilities themselves and the mining necessary for their raw materials.

Perhaps most infamously, California’s Ivanpah plant has been responsible for an estimated 6,000 bird deaths per year, many of them instantly incinerated when chasing insects into the plant’s concentrated beams of sunlight. The first comprehensive assessment of bird deaths at solar facilities estimated between 37,800 and 138,600 fatalities per year in the USA alone. The fact that this is “orders of magnitude lower” than other sources of avian mortality is no excuse. As the authors emphasize, these numbers will increase as more solar facilities are built. Moreover, whatever the tallies, a needless death is a needless death. Picture, say, this small swallow with badly charred flight feathers; we must do what we can to avoid such tragedies.

powerlines

It’s not simply the harvesting of energy that is dangerous to birds, but the supplying and use of energy for economic activity. (CC BY 2.0, Kevin Dooley)

Furthermore, like wind farms, solar farms are land-intensive and pressure bird populations by reducing available habitat. Sociedad Española de Ornitologia (SEO)/BirdLife, Spain’s leading bird conservation organization, has been vocal in its opposition to solar “mega parks” that are being planned in important bird habitat in Andalucía. Such solar “mega parks” would increase the strain on grassland birds, including several threatened species. Another solar facility planned in Aragon will displace a population of little bustards, a once-common grassland bird that has plummeted so rapidly in Spain that SEO now considers it in danger of extinction. In the USA, filmmaker Justin McAffee has been documenting the destruction of desert ecosystems for solar development in his series Desert Apocalypse. Habitat loss could be abated if solar panels were installed on rooftops, say, instead of biologically productive desert and grassland ecosystems. Even rooftop solar, however, requires destructive mining to obtain necessary raw materials and is plagued by a lack of recycling options for solar panels at the end of their usable lifespan.

Hydroelectric dams, too, are disastrous for numerous riparian and wetland ecosystems. While open water may be present, a “fake lake” has little ecological integrity. To give just one example, hydropower has been a major factor in the precipitous decline of the majestic white-bellied heron, one of the world’s most endangered birds.

Finally, we must note that, whatever the power source, it is necessary to transmit the electricity produced to the homes and businesses it will power, and herein lies another major threat to birds. Power lines result in 8 million to 57 million collision deaths each year in the USA alone, in addition to deaths by electrocution. Electrocution is a particular hazard to large birds like the bald eagle: the bird may touch two body parts (such as a wing, beak, or talon) on two wires, sending a voltage shock through the bird’s body. A recent edition of Bird Conservation International documents the fatal threat that the expansion of power lines poses to vultures in Ethiopia and buzzards in Saudi Arabia.

“Green Growth” is No Solution to Climate Change

Some bird conservationists shy away from confronting the numerous threats posed by renewable energy development, averring that it is necessary to tackle the even bigger threat: climate change. Undeniably, climate change is a tremendous threat to birds. A major study conducted by the Audubon Society showed that almost two-thirds of North American birds are vulnerable to climate change. But the choice isn’t limited to either a carbon-based economy or ecologically destructive “green growth.” An alternative is to convert to renewable energy while doing everything in our capacity to reduce energy demands—limiting consumption, shrinking population, localizing supply chains, and perhaps even adopting more good ol’ manual labor. Speaking for the birds, this is the only acceptable choice.

After the death of the rare white-throated needletail, The Guardian ran an article with the headline “Let’s not martyr white-throated needletail to the anti-wind cause.” What I propose is different: We can and should martyr the white-throated needletail to the anti-growth cause. Author Harry Huyton, then head of climate change policy for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, bluntly points out that “the infrastructure that supports the kind of lives we have become accustomed to kills wildlife.” He is less direct in stating that we are thus obliged to lower our material aspirations, or that bird conservationists must therefore take up the mantle of degrowth and the steady state economy as inextricable from our cause.

Even if it’s essential to build some turbines, fewer birds will meet untimely deaths if we build fewer turbines. Even if it’s essential to build some renewable energy facilities, more birds and other wild creatures will survive if we destroy less habitat for mining and infrastructure. Any reduction in demand and consumption means habitat preserved and wild lives saved.

We have here considered only renewable energy infrastructure itself. It would take volumes to expound on the additional harm caused by the activities thereby powered, from the clearing of additional land for agriculture or development to the production of plastics and pesticides to the drowning of the planet in noise and light pollution. Nor have I touched upon electric vehicles, those other darlings of green growth fantasies.

In the span of decades, North America lost more than a quarter of its breeding birds, and Europe has lost nearly a fifth. Meanwhile, 70 percent of all birds on the planet are poultry; the biomass of domesticated birds outweighs that of wild birds by a factor of three to one. To bring back wild birds, we must reduce not only carbon emissions but our entire ecological footprint, regardless of how it is powered.

Headshot of Kate Mcfarland, author of a steady state economy is for the birdsKate McFarland is the associate director of the Center for Ethics and Human Values at The Ohio State University.

The post A Steady State Economy is for the Birds appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

Poverty means millions can’t afford festive cheer

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/12/2021 - 11:09am in

“I have to navigate the household budget like a big monopoly game—taking from one area, getting bills stalled, asking for supports for my children wherever I can …

“I do not know how I will pay the difference in this quarter’s electricity gas and food bills (on credit card), that have increased by well over 30 per cent during lockdown.”

That’s the reality of life for Nicole, a sole mother of three children, one of whom became critically ill.

She is among millions who will struggle to put food on the table this Christmas, let alone buy presents for loved ones.

Her story is told in a new report by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), titled Faces of Unemployment.

It records that in August there were six unemployed or under-employed people for every job vacancy.

By September, with half the country under lockdown, the effective unemployment rate (which takes into account people stood down or who have left the labour force) was 9.5 per cent or twice the official headline figure.

ACOSS has found that while media headlines talk of worker shortages, long-term unemployed people have found it harder than those who were briefly jobless.

It writes: “Businesses and jobs do not instantly ‘snap back’ when lockdowns are lifted. The jobs created and restored aren’t always suitable for the people who are searching for employment.

“They may not live where the jobs are located; they may not have the skills required; and many will be understandably fearful of taking on public-facing jobs due to COVID-19.”

In June, there were 1,109,000 people receiving unemployment payments, 31 per cent more than before the pandemic.

More than 897,000 of them had been on income support for more than a year, and 547,000 for more than two years.

Many of these people are older, have a disability, come from a culturally diverse background, are caring for young children, in most cases as sole parents, or are Indigenous.

Food banks

Researchers at the Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) have found similar patterns, with no snap-back for people on the lowest incomes during a lull in the pandemic last summer.

“As government supports such as the Coronavirus Supplement were gradually withdrawn, many people were plunged (back) into poverty.

“Workers in affected industries continued to face challenges making ends meet, with employment and work-hours remaining below the pre-COVID level.

“Many who had drawn upon savings or taken on debt to get through the crisis faced a long rebuilding process to get back to their pre-crisis financial position,” the BSL researchers wrote.

Food banks were seeing demand soaring long before the pandemic.

OzHarvest, an organisation that distributes free food, gave out 3 million meals in 2011—this year it distributed 36 million.

“We saw these stats rising pre-COVID,” said CEO Ronni Kahn. “It’s not a problem that’s going away because COVID might come to an end … These are long-term, endemic challenges.”

Meanwhile rising inflation (hitting an annual rate of 3 per cent in the September quarter) means life is getting tougher for all workers—with or without a job.

The rocketing price of petrol leads the way, but there have also been big price increases for beef, pre-school and primary school fees, furniture, public transport fares and much more.

During the initial peak of the pandemic in 2020, the government effectively abolished poverty by doubling JobSeeker.

The money is still there. The government gave at least $13.8 billion in JobKeeper to profitable companies, allowing them to boost profits and executive bonuses.

And corporate profits have boomed, reaching a record high of $123 billion in the September quarter of this year.

Unions and community groups need to step up the campaign for JobSeeker to be raised from $45 to $80 a day, with higher payments for other welfare recipients, such as pensioners.

And workers need to organise and fight in the new year for wage rises that are higher than inflation.

Striking back is the answer to poverty.

By David Glanz

The post Poverty means millions can’t afford festive cheer appeared first on Solidarity Online.

What Are the Submarines Really For?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/12/2021 - 3:24am in

AUKUS and the Australian Way of War

Courgette flowers stuffed with goat cheese and Wagyu beef with polenta were on the menu when Prime Ministers Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson dined at the Australian embassy in Washington, DC.1 Earlier that day, they had joined President Biden to announce a new trilateral security agreement whose centrepiece is the acquisition by Australia of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines. The prime minister described the pact, known as AUKUS, as a ‘forever partnership’—he used that phrase ten times in a press conference. 

Public support for AUKUS

The announcement had an immediate effect: an opinion poll conducted soon after found that 57 per cent of the Australian public approved of the pact. Almost 90 per cent of LNP voters approved, while Labor voters were split: a slim majority of 53 per cent disapproved, compared to 47 per cent in favour.2 The split among ALP voters thus gives the government a national-security wedge against the Opposition. The looming election won’t just be about the government’s response to the pandemic and the bushfires, which had previously dominated press coverage, but about which side can be trusted on national security. The reaction illustrates Bernard Cohen’s observation that the press ‘may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about’.3 Public support for the pact should come as no surprise: for decades, opinion polls have shown strong support for the alliance with the United States. The 2021 Lowy Institute poll saw three out of every four Australians believing that ‘Australians and Americans share many common values and ideals. A strong alliance is a natural extension of this…the United States would come to Australia’s defence if Australia was under threat’.4 

These views cannot be dismissed as aberrations. A valuable study by Caroline Yarnell finds that Australian public opinion on foreign-policy issues is rational in the sense of its being stable over time and responding reasonably to triggers such as international events and statements by political leaders. It is coherent and consistent, showing a degree of structure and discernment.5 A bipartisan elite consensus protects the alliance from too much public scrutiny and debate, ensuring that it does not enter the terrain of political contestation. Since submarines are associated with the alliance, public support for them is in this sense ‘rational’. 

Why submarines

Submarines provide a vital, highly specialised capability for a maritime nation like Australia. They raise the stakes for any adversary contemplating hostile action against us. Anti-submarine warfare, at which Australia is adept, requires a range of costly, cutting-edge capabilities in the air and at sea, and is one of the most complex warfare disciplines to master. Submarines are expensive, but countermeasures against them are much more expensive. Submarines give Australia a strategic weight that no other Australian Defence Force (ADF) asset or combination of assets does. Were calls for an independent Australian foreign policy and an armed but neutral military ever to be taken seriously, possession of such capabilities would be integral for that stance. They would allow government to act at a time of its choosing and under any realistic threat scenario. These capabilities cannot be turned on quickly; they require years of investment in personnel and equipment to achieve proficiency. 

Australia’s proficiency in this area was shown during the East Timor crisis of 1999 when Indonesia deployed two submarines to shadow Australian and New Zealand ships taking troops, fuel and supplies to the territory. The submarines were detected and their locations were signalled to higher-level headquarters in Australia. Australian commanders then contacted their Indonesian counterparts and provided convincing information to show that their actions had been detected. The appropriate Indonesian commander then ‘admitted that his submarines had been deployed forward and agreed to retire them from the area’, according to an account by defence strategist David Dickens.6 

In the future it may become politically feasible to adopt a policy of armed independence rather than the sub-imperialism that has characterised Australian defence strategy since federation. Such a policy would require a posture known as the ‘strategic defensive’—making Australian forces an aggressive, elusive military that avoids detection, seeks battle on very favourable terms, and compels a hostile adversary to abandon its goals. As Australian strategist Albert Palazzo says, the Army is already acquiring a long-range strike missile capability that enables it to create a 2000-kilometre killing zone along the approaches to our north.7 Submarines and anti-submarine warfare assets will complement this capability in all realistic threat scenarios, and this would be especially true under any future policy of armed independence. These capabilities, however, require conventional submarines. Nuclear-powered submarines serve a different purpose. 

The Australian Way of War

The decision to acquire nuclear-powered boats reflects what has been the Australian Way of War for more than a century: to operate inside the strategy of a superpower by contributing a well-chosen, niche capability to augment the larger force. Inter-operability is central to the Australian Way of War. Even before the First World War Australia rejected the Canadian Ross Rifle in favour of the British Lee Enfield as the standard weapon for the military. As Lewis Frederickson notes, the Canadian weapon was ‘a superlative hunting and marksman’s rifle. The craftsmanship employed in machining its components was exquisite’.8 But the Lee Enfield was sturdy, ‘accurate enough’ and, most importantly, was ‘the pattern adopted by the Imperial Army’.9 Inter-operability with Britain, the superpower of that era, was crucial. 

Interoperability with an imperial power is perhaps the most important feature of Australia’s military acquisitions. That is what sub-imperialism requires, after all. There is a bipartisan consensus on this matter. The Royal Australian Air Force is optimised to act as a wing of the US Air Force, as Albert Palazzo says.10 US State Department cables released by WikiLeaks show that the Labor government’s review of the status of the Joint Strike Fighter program in 2008 was little more than a public relations effort. Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon told the US defence secretary that the review ‘would likely not result in any decision other than to keep the JSF and continue with the Super Hornet purchase, explaining that the government felt it had to respond to Australian public concerns that the previous government had not based these decisions on capability requirements but rather on political expediency’. The political problem was that ‘aircraft acquisition is now a topic of broad public discussion; every man in every hotel (bar) is talking about F-18 Super Hornets so the Labor government needs to do a public review’.11  

The Royal Australian Navy has consistently preferred submarines far in excess of Australia’s proximate defence needs; it insists on full interoperability with the United States, including the most sophisticated sensors and weapons and the capacity for very long ranges and endurance. Full interoperability means, among other things, compatibility with the US Navy’s underwater surveillance system, which tracks other countries’ submarines at long distances. One defence minister said quite bluntly that, ‘Ideally, we are seeking a comparable capability to a nuclear submarine with diesel-electric motors inside’.12 Nuclear-powered submarines would have been the obvious choice in this context due to their endurance, speed and indefinite submerge time. But Australia has no domestic nuclear power industry—necessary if a country is to operate nuclear-powered submarines in a self-reliant manner. The Navy therefore stuck with diesel-electric boats but imposed on them demands far greater than those imposed by any other non-nuclear navy. The AUKUS announcement implies that Australia has jettisoned any remnant of self-reliance in favour of full interoperability. Indeed the government has decided to host US submarines in Western Australia until Australia’s own boats arrive in the 2040s—meaning, essentially, that Australia has outsourced its submarine capability to the US Navy for the next two decades. 

It’s been suggested that Australia’s focus on interoperability with the United States is not explained by subimperialism but by threats to Australia’s energy security; namely, that Australia is vulnerable because it isn’t self-sufficient in energy and other materials such as fertilizers. While it is true that Australia needs imports and uses the seas rather than land to transport them, fear of being choked off from trade flows has rarely been a realistic concern of policy makers. Energy security carries little weight as an explanation for policy. The Australian government has examined energy flows carefully. A high-level Energy Task Force consisting of officers from the departments of prime minister and cabinet, treasury, environment, transport and industry developed an Energy White Paper in 2004. The task force looked at a wide range of issues including developing Australia’s energy resources, energy security, and climate change.13 It saw no reason to increase Australia’s strategic petroleum reserves. Meanwhile, the government deployed the Royal Australian Navy to the Persian Gulf from 1990 onwards, joining the United States in enforcing sanctions on Iraq, followed by the 2003 invasion of that country. These operations had nothing to do with protecting Australia’s trade routes or other fantasies, as the Official History of Australia’s Peacekeeping Operations confirms:

… the deciding factor for both Labor and Liberal-National political leaders was the need to support the United States as part of Australia’s alliance obligations. In that respect, the missions were part of Australia’s long tradition of deploying forces overseas for alliance reasons that was alive at federation in 1901 and was still going strong almost a century later.14 

Even now, Australia is the only member of the International Energy Agency to hold less than the required 90 days’ worth of fuel. We have 55 days of reserves, only three days of which are in public hands, with the rest held by industry players. Japan by contrast has 183 days’ worth of fuel reserves, the majority of which (110 days) are government held.15 Policy planners aren’t driven by strangulation scenarios, although they might use them to justify a policy that has other motives. 

China is even more vulnerable than Australia to having its energy flows choked off: it relies on the Strait of Malacca, through which most of its energy imports travel, and on the long transit across the Indian Ocean, which is heavily patrolled by increasingly hostile navies. A war in the Western Pacific would disrupt nearly all Chinese trade, whereas for Australia and the United States, only trade with China would be greatly affected. Nor would Australia and the United States need to forcibly blockade China’s sea and air routes: non-Chinese shipping and air transport companies would not enter the combat zone because they would rather lose revenue than ships and planes. China has been a net oil importer since 1993, and the gap between domestic consumption and domestic production has grown steadily since. China had become the largest importer in the world by 2019, relying on imports to meet almost 75% of its consumption. It is also one of the world’s largest natural gas importers, relying on imports to meet more than 40% of its domestic needs.

There is a word for these threat scenarios: projection. If the objective is to join the US in threatening China’s fuel supplies, such a policy cannot be stated quite so brazenly. It must be recast in terms of threat – a Communist government bent on world domination, in which disputes over exclusive economic zones and Taiwan are ultimately the forward elements of an international totalitarian wave. In fact, AUKUS provides evidence for a different conclusion – namely, that it is a conscious application of principles of imperial planning that long pre-date the Biden-Morrison period. 

Exclusive economic zones and power projection

US submarines are not necessary for the defence of Australia; conventional submarines could take care of that. Nor are they required to protect merchant shipping en route to China. The nuclear-powered boats have a very different rationale. They enforce the United States’ self-defined right to project power globally under the guise of ‘freedom of navigation’. There is a popular misconception about this matter, recently illustrated in the television comedy Utopia. One episode satirises Australian defence policy by saying that increased military spending is intended to protect our shipping routes. Since China is our major trading partner, and in that scenario we would be protecting trade with China from China, the whole thing is absurd. A clip from the show has been widely circulated and perhaps gives some comedic satisfaction. But it’s utterly misinformed. Australian strategic planners already know that it’s absurd to protect trade with China from China. That isn’t the aim of the policy. In the real world, the military build-up is about whether foreign military and intelligence activities can be conducted inside another country’s exclusive economic zone.

Exclusive economic zones (EEZs) were established as a feature of international law by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982. UNCLOS refers to waters extending up to 200 nautical miles from a country’s shores. It gives coastal states the right to regulate economic activities (such as fishing and oil exploration) within their exclusive economic zones. The United States has not ratified UNCLOS but says it will act ‘in accordance with the balance of interests’ reflected in UNCLOS ‘relating to traditional uses of the oceans, such as navigation and overflight’. It established its own exclusive economic zone within 200 nautical miles of its coast, and recognises the exclusive economic zones of other states as well. China has ratified UNCLOS, established its own exclusive economic zone, and also recognises those of other states.

The United States says further that it has the right to conduct military and intelligence-collection activities within any country’s exclusive economic zone, and can do so as close as 12 nautical miles from the coast, which are territorial waters under the jurisdiction of the coastal state. It accepts the right of other countries to do this inside its own exclusive economic zone; even during the Cold War the United States did not interfere with Soviet ships, bombers or surveillance aircraft that periodically flew close to US airspace. China states that it respects freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea but does not respect the right of foreign governments to conduct military and intelligence-collection activities within its exclusive economic zone. Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of China’s joint staff, has asked, ‘When has freedom of navigation in the South China Sea ever been affected? It has not, whether in the past or now, and in the future there won’t be a problem as long as nobody plays tricks…China consistently opposes so-called military freedom of navigation, which brings with it a military threat and which challenges and disrespects the international law of the sea’.16 

It is the right to conduct military activities inside another country’s exclusive economic zone that is at the centre of incidents between US and Chinese ships and aircraft, and has been since at least 2001. This issue is separate from the question of territorial disputes in the South China and East China Seas. Even if all these demarcation questions were resolved, China would still oppose ‘military freedom of navigation’, which, as a senior diplomat has said, ‘is an excuse to throw America’s weight about wherever it wants. It is a distortion and a downright abuse of international law into (sic) the “freedom to run amok”.17 The United States, for its part, insists on applying its own concept. It fears that if China’s position were to gain greater international acceptance, it would affect the US ability to project naval and air power in other exclusive economic zones such as the Persian Gulf. That would force it to conduct operations from more than 200 miles offshore, significantly reducing the range of its sensors and missiles, and it would be much harder to deploy its marines and their equipment in assaults..

Article 301 of UNCLOS, entitled ‘Peaceful uses of the seas’, says that states shall ‘refrain from any threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations’.18 Chinese scholars often begin criticism of US military uses of the exclusive economic zone with this provision. The United States knows that Indonesia, the Philippines and India also quietly support the Chinese perspective. In April 2021, the United States carried out a freedom-of-navigation operation 130 nautical miles west of the Lakshadweep Islands, an archipelago of thirty-six tiny but strategically important and ecologically sensitive islands belonging to India. A press release by the Commander of the US Seventh Fleet declared that the operation in India’s exclusive economic zone ‘asserted navigational rights and freedoms…without requesting India’s prior consent’.19 India objected, stating that UNCLOS ‘does not authorise other States to carry out in the EEZ and on the continental shelf, military exercises or manoeuvres, in particular those involving the use of weapons or explosives, without the consent of the coastal state’.20 In this global context, and muted contest over the meaning and rights related to exclusive economic zones, Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines are  focused not on defending Australia from hostile powers but on supporting the United States in its determination to project power globally. Meanwhile, China has begun to conduct intelligence gathering and presence operations in other countries’ EEZs, including Australia’s, justifying its behaviour by saying it wouldn’t do so if Australia adopted its own position on sovereignty of EEZs. The situation calls for diplomacy and negotiation, not provocative behaviour. 

Implications for proliferation 

AUKUS sheds light on a loophole in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty: when the nuclear powers signed the treaty, they insisted on exempting fissile materials used in nuclear-powered ships and submarines from inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). They wanted to preserve the secrets of their naval reactor designs. The United States and the United Kingdom operate nuclear submarine reactors that use 93.5-per-cent enriched uranium as fuel. The US Navy’s reactors currently use about 100 nuclear bombs’ worth of highly enriched uranium every year, more than all of the world’s other reactors’ production of such combined.21 Civilian reactors typically use 3- to five-per-cent enriched uranium as fuel. (The French Suffren-class submarine runs on fuel enriched below 6 per cent). Australia will be the first non-nuclear-armed state to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, and these will require the same high-grade uranium as the rest of the US fleet. A further possible consequence is that Iran, Brazil and South Korea could use the Australian precedent to develop or acquire nuclear-powered vessels too, enjoying similar exemptions from IAEA inspection. 

The Morrison government’s submarine purchase is just one part of what will be a much larger US footprint in Australia under AUKUS. Defence Minister Peter Dutton has announced plans to build new facilities for naval, air and ground forces with ‘combined logistics sustainment capabilities for maintenance to support the enhanced activities’, and ‘more bilateral exercises and greater combined exercise engagement with partners in the region’.22 Australian planners aren’t too concerned about France’s anger at having its submarine supply contract cancelled. They know that France cannot operate effectively even in its own imperial area of francophone Africa without US power. On the same day the news of AUKUS broke, President Macron announced that a leader of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara had been killed by ‘French forces’. In reality, French forces relied on US transport planes for logistical support, US aerial refuellers for its fighter aircraft, US surveillance drones for reconnaissance, and US intelligence to track targets. The United States has an overwhelming advantage over any other country in global power projection. AUKUS enhances Australia’s ability to demonstrate its relevance to this. Planners have long feared that some other country in the region might become more powerful and more relevant to the United States, which would select it over Australia as a close military ally. The more vulnerable the United States becomes in Japan, Taiwan and the northern Philippines, the more attractive Australia becomes as a secure location for US forces. From this perspective, the greater the US presence here the better.

1 George Parker et al., ‘AUKUS: How Transatlantic Allies Turned on Each Other over China’s Indo-Pacific Threat’, Financial Times, 25 September 2021.

2 Roy Morgan Snap SMS Survey, Finding No. 8797, 16 September 2021, https://www.roymorgan.com/findings/8797-roy-morgan-survey-on-nuclear-powered-submarines-september-16-2021-202109160833 

3 Bernard C. Cohen, The Press and Foreign Policy, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963, p. 13. 

4Natasha Kassam, ‘Understanding Australian Attitudes to the World’, Lowy Institute Poll 2021, p. 10,  https://poll.lowyinstitute.org/files/lowyinsitutepoll-2021.pdf 

5 Caroline Yarnell, ‘Is the Australian Public “Rational” on Foreign Policy Issues?’, PhD thesis, University of Sydney, 2015, https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/handle/2123/14427?show=full  

6 David Dickens, ‘The United Nations in East Timor: Intervention at the Military Operational Level’, Contemporary Southeast Asia 23(2), August 2001, p. 224. 

7 Albert Palazzo, ‘Planning to Not Lose: The Australian Army’s New Philosophy of War’, Australian Army Occasional Paper No. 3, 2021. 

8 Lewis Frederickson, The Development of Australian Infantry on the Western Front 1916–1918: An Imperial Model of Training, Tactics and Technology, PhD thesis, UNSW Canberra, 2015.   

9 Frederickson, The Development of Australian Infantry.   

10 Albert Palazzo, ‘When You’re in a Hole, Stop Digging’, Lowy Institute, 20 September 2021. 

11 08CANBERRA180_a, AUSMIN 2008: Session IV: Alliance and Defence Partnership, 25 February 2008. 

12 David Johnston, The Importance of the Future Submarine for Australia: The Submarine Choice, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 2014.

13 Kathleen Mackie, Department of Environment and Heritage, Committee Hansard, 4 August 2004, p. 1. Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee. Lurching Forward, Looking Back: Budgetary and Environmental Implications of the Government’s Energy White Paper.

14 David Horner and John Connor, The Good International Citizen: Australian Peacekeeping in Asia, Africa and Europe 1991–1993, Port Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2014, p. 533.  

15 Lisa Murray, ‘Could Australia Run out of Fuel?’, Australian Financial Review, 14 June 2021. 

16 Erik Slavin, ‘Chinese Admiral Contests Freedom of Navigation in South China Sea’, Stars and Stripes, 19 July 2016.

17 Liu Xiaoming, ‘China Will Not Tolerate US Military Muscle-Flexing Off Our Shores’, Guardian (UK), 27 June 2018.

18 https://www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/part16.htm 

19 https://www.c7f.navy.mil/Media/News/Display/Article/2563538/7th-fleet-conducts-freedom-of-navigation-operation/ 

20 https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/us-navy-conducts-freedom-of-navigation-patrol-within-indias-exclusive-economic-zone/articleshow/81983624.cms?from=mdr  

21 Alan J. Kuperman, ‘The US Navy’s Nuclear Proliferation Problem’, Breaking Defense, 15 September 2021, https://breakingdefense.com/2021/09/the-us-navys-nuclear-proliferation-problem/  

22 Peter Dutton, joint press conference, 16 September 2021, Joint press conference: Washington DC, United States of America | Department of Defence Ministers 

Tenants Asked To Consider Giving Their Landlords A BJ This Christmas

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/12/2021 - 8:04am in

Real estate agents around Australia are ”encouraging” their tenants to think about giving their landlords a BJ this Christmas as a way to say thank you for providing” them with an expensive place to live.

”It’s been a tough year for landlords this year what with some of them having to evict long term tenants and find new ones,” said Eastern suburbs realtor Irwin R Schyster. ”Not to mention, do you know how hard it is to fill in the negative gearing paperwork?”

”You’d think it would be easier when doing it for your 4th or 5th home, but not so.”

When asked if he seriously believes that tenants should fellate their landlords, Mr Schyster said: ”Of course I do.”

”For too long the poor landlord has been victimised, well that should end now.”

”Besides we’re not asking too much of the tenants, it’s not like we expect them to swallow.”

”Though it would be nice if they did.”

”Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a viewing for a sewer drain in Ashfield in an hour. It’s a real steal at $900 per week.”

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter @TheUnOz or like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/theunoz.

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Workers’ Mail.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 13/12/2021 - 3:40am in

Tags 

Asia, Australia

Sam, from the Megaphone Team (Victoria Trades Hall Council), writes that

(source)

GPI just acquired “AR Packaging in the EU for over $1.4 billion”, Sam adds. But now they claim they cannot afford to increase their workers’ wages, forcing their workers to strike. This is particular cruel as Christmas approaches.


Those workers are not asking for a fortune: an increase of $0.90 cents per hour. To give overseas readers an idea:

  • Today (Dec 12th) one Aussie dollar buys US$0.72 or €0.63 or £0.54, according to Google;
  • After an eight-hour shift that increase roughly pays for – drum roll, please – a cup of coffee and a doughnut.

The AMWU started a strike fund on behalf of these workers. You can donate by going by going here.

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Portions of the collapsed Savar building. [A]
Kat, writing on behalf of the ActionAid Australia, writes to remind us of the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster (Dhaka, Bangladesh), when some 1,100 garment workers, largely female, died and 2,600 were injured. To help prevent a repetition of that man-made tragedy, the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry was created.

Board with photos of missing workers, posted by relatives.[B]
A number of large Australian retailers have signed, but Best&Less, Just Jeans, Jay Jays and Dotti have not.

If you are on Facebook, you can help our comrades by putting pressure on those firms. Kat suggests you:

  1. Read the text below. If you agree, copy it;
  2. [insert brand name], this holiday season stand with the women who make our clothes and who help make your profits. Because you have not signed onto the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry, I am concerned that women garment workers continue to work in unsafe conditions. Will you join over 150 brands like Kmart, Big W, and Country Road by signing onto the Accord? #SheWearstheCost
  3. Go to the Facebooks of Best&Less, Dotti, Jay Jays and Just Jeans. They are announcing their latest fashions for the Christmas season. Comment on their latest post using the text above.

Image Credits:
[A] Author: Sharat Chowdhury. Source: WikiMedia. File licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license. Nobody endorses me or my use of this file.
[B] Source: WikiMedia. File licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license. Nobody endorses me or my use of this file.

Biden’s Black Swan: New Oil Leasing is Bound to End in Disaster

by Taylor Lange

The USA is well acquainted with disastrous crude oil accidents. Eleven years ago an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform killed 11 workers, injured 17 more, and discharged roughly 4.6 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The incident cost BP more than $65 billion to clean up, destroyed thousands of acres of ocean reefs, and killed thousands of marine animals. Just over two decades prior, the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil into an ecologically sensitive area of Prince William Sound, Alaska, effectively killing a quarter of a million sea birds and several thousand sea mammals. Most recently, a crack in an underwater pipeline caused by a rogue anchor released close to 25 thousand gallons of oil off the coast of Orange County, California.

Despite this, President Biden’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has followed through with a Trump-administration leasing plan that will open up 80.9 million acres of deep-sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling. Apparently, this is what leading on climate action by example looks like in the Biden Administration. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

In 2010 we published a Daly News article about the BP oil spill, explaining that a spill of that magnitude was literally, statistically bound to happen because of the scope of oil production at the time. As we consider the implications of the new leasing plan, it’s worth revisiting why unlikely events like massive oil spills occur in the first place. The answer lies in the laws of probability, which we disregard at our own peril.

Observing Black Swans

For millennia, Europeans regarded black-feathered swans with incredulity because Europe’s swans are exclusively white. Because of this, many Europeans used the term “black swan” to describe something impossibly rare. For example, in “The Ways of Women,” the Roman poet Juvenal mocks his friend for being too preoccupied with finding the perfect wife, describing her as “a prodigy as rare upon the earth as a black swan!” That all changed in 1697, when Dutch Explorer Willem de Vlamingh stumbled upon black swans while exploring present day Western Australia. From that point on, the “black swan” idiom evolved to refer to something assumed to be impossible but could be later discovered possible. The mathematical statistician and philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb then adopted the term to describe events with minute probability and substantial impact.

deepwater horizon oil spill

Deepwater Horizon is just one example of many catastrophic oil spills, with many more to come. (Image: CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0, Credit: Kris Krug)

Taleb argued that many influential events in human history had such a low likelihood of occurring that they were nearly unpredictable. But black swan events are only unpredictable from a certain point of view. One such black swan event is the September 11th terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. From the perspective of the average U.S. citizen, the attack was completely unexpected; nobody knew of plot against the USA by Al-Qaeda, and most citizens comfortably assumed that our national security apparatus and law enforcement agencies would detect and squash any potential threat. Despite American surprise, however, the attack was inevitable from the lens of the perpetrators.

The Deepwater Horizon event could also be categorized as a black swan event. Though minor oil spills are relatively common, a disastrous explosion resulting in over 4 million barrels of spilled oil was almost inconceivable to most people. But for experts in the industry, it was not only conceivable, but foreseeable. After all, BP experienced an eerily similar well failure 18 months prior in the oil fields of Azerbaijan due to similarly shoddy cement work. Not only that, Deepwater Horizon was overdue for 16 inspections at the time of the spill, with the most recent inspection completed by someone still in training. Even further, the U.S. Department of the Interior was rife with corruption, and inspections across the region were far below standard. In other words, some insiders were aware a Deepwater event was sure to happen soon, while the rest of us were left completely unprepared.

Odds of an Oil Spill

To put Deepwater Horizon into perspective, consider the empirical probability of an oil spill. In 2012, BOEM conducted an historical analysis of spill rates for platforms, pipelines, and tankers, measuring the spill rate as the number of spills per billion gallons of oil transported. Using this method, we combined data on oil spills from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and oil production from the Energy Information Administration to extrapolate the probability of oil spills in the future contingent on the amount of oil produced.


Figure 1. Spills were categorized into different severities according to the number of barrels released and counted from 2001-2020 (Bbbl = Billion barrels of oil produced)


From 2001 to 2020, the USA produced approximately 52.54 billion barrels of crude oil across all production facilities, including offshore platforms and land wells. During the same period, 1,964 spills of crude oil or an oil derived product (like gasoline or diesel) occurred, including Deepwater Horizon. Though most of these spills were minor, there was at least one substantial oil spill of more than 100,000 barrels (but less than a million) each year, and a little less than nine times that number of moderate spills (Figure 1).

Assuming these rates continue, we can calculate the probability of each severity of spill occurring over the next 20 years[i] (Figure 2). To nobody’s surprise, minor and moderate spills are all but guaranteed, even at very low amounts of production. Furthermore, the probability of substantial and even catastrophic spills is very high, given the levels of production called for by Trump-like or Bidenesque GDP goals.

Figure 2. Probability of at least one spill of each severity occurring by the potential number of barrels produced in the USA, logarithmically scaled.

Figure 2. Probability of at least one spill of each severity occurring by the potential number of barrels produced in the USA, logarithmically scaled.


Biggie was Right: More Money, More Problems

The more we produce, the more opportunities we create for things to go wrong, resulting in a higher likelihood that they will. As oil production increases, more individuals must be employed to handle the oil, more pipelines constructed to transport it, and more tanker trips to ship it. At every point along the supply chain, growth creates more opportunities for malfunction and calamity.

It is worth mentioning that Taleb advises against trying to predict black swans, as the amount of information required to predict them is almost impossible to collect. Instead, he advocates for the creation of what he calls “antifragile systems,” which develop with the acknowledgement that black swans will happen and have appropriate coordinated responses in place. These systems have compensation mechanisms based on past mistakes that allow them to accommodate and grow from future shocks.

Biden’s decision to follow through with his predecessor’s plan to lease half of the Gulf of Mexico is perhaps the most fragile decision the leader of our country could make. It perpetuates the use of fossil fuels and contributes to additional greenhouse-gas loading of the atmosphere. Ironically but unsurprisingly, then, the decision exacerbates climate change and increases the likelihood of catastrophic weather events that further increase the risk of oil spills.

The increasing certainty of these accidents was a more than acceptable cost of pursuing GDP growth for the previous administration. Disappointingly, it appears that the sentiment is shared by Biden. As such, our commitment to the behemoth of economic growth will continue to expose us to an ever-looming and ever-growing probability of disaster.

Footnotes

[i] For those interested in our calculations, the code and data used in this blog are available on CASSE’s GitHub account.

Taylor Lange, CASSE's Ecological EconomistTaylor Lange is Ecological Economist at CASSE.

The post Biden’s Black Swan: New Oil Leasing is Bound to End in Disaster appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

Brexit Trade Deals Failing to Deliver a Dividend, Report Says

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/12/2021 - 11:03am in

Brexit Trade DealsFailing to Deliver a DividendReport Says

The reality of ‘Global Britain’ is failing to match the rhetoric, reports David Hencke

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The UK’s much-vaunted post-Brexit trade deals will only increase the country’s GDP by a minuscule amount over the next 15 years, a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) reveals today.

The report, by the independent spending watchdog, examines all the deals agreed by the Government – largely by former International Trade Secretary Liz Truss – including the deals that replicate the agreements negotiated by the EU and three of the largest new deals covering Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

The new trade deal with Australia will only add between 0.01 and 0.02% to GDP and increase British exports by up to 0.03% by 2036, the report says. The deal is likely to increase GDP by between £200 million and £500 million.

The New Zealand deal is expected to have no impact on GDP at all, while increasing exports by just 0.1%. The Japanese deal is anticipated to have the greatest impact – increasing GDP by 0.07% – £1.5 billion – and exports by 0.6%.

The NAO also does not expect such a significant GDP boost from any prospective trade agreement with the United States, or by joining the 11-member Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.

A deal with the US would likely boost GDP by between 0.07% and 0.16% – between £1.6 and £3.4 billion – and could increase UK exports by up to 1.3%.


£515 Million-a-WeekHit in UK Exports toTop European Partners
Sam Bright

This contrasts with Truss’s speech to the right-wing Policy Exchange think-tank on 21 September, when she compared her new trade deals to the decision of Conservative Prime Minister Robert Peel to repeal the protectionist Corn Laws in 1846, which she claimed resulted in the UK trebling its GDP during the 19th Century.

The NAO adds that the Government will miss its target, set for the end of this month, of bringing 80% of all UK trade within free trade agreements. The figure currently stands at 64%.

Moreover, the NAO says that the Government should spend more time helping businesses to exploit current agreements, rather than chasing new ones. It found that nearly a-third of all eligible businesses had been unable to exploit the reduced tariffs offered by the deal with Japan because they were not aware of the changes.

“The UK needs to ensure that the deals it is pursuing deliver real benefits to businesses, consumers and the UK economy,” says Gareth Davies, head of the NAO. “It should provide greater transparency of objectives, make best use of stakeholder views, and ensure there is enough focus on implementing the deals already secured.”

A detailed analysis of the deal also reveals that the areas of the UK earmarked for Boris Johnson’s ‘levelling up’ agenda are expected to benefit the least. The growth benefits from the Japan trade deal are likely to be three times greater in London and the east midlands than in the north-east of England, the north west and the west midlands.

Meanwhile, Byline Times has recently shown that the UK has seen a reduction in exports to our top European trading partners equivalent to £515 million a-week, from July 2020 to July 2021.

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The post Brexit Trade Deals Failing to Deliver a Dividend, Report Says appeared first on Byline Times.

Workers of the World …

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/12/2021 - 6:00pm in

Boring intellectuals may recite their inane “ideas make reality” mantra until they are blue in the face. For a while it may – indeed probably will – fool some, but it won’t change much in the long run. It’s reality that drives action, which leads in turn to ideas.

(source)

And so, while a few Aussie hens are still fooled into making common cause with the foxes, workers are re-learning the painful lessons their elders knew well: there is no way around, they need to act. So organise yourselves, and, as the chant says, stand up and fight back.

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After two years of their bosses calling them essential workers and politicians waxing lyrical about their heroism, in NSW train and bus workers (see photo opening) and teachers are forced to go on strike today. The reward they were offered was privatisation, wage freezes/unequal pay, increased workload. Weren’t we supposed to be all in this together?

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet will now learn there is much more than PR and cheap flattery in the “essential worker” label: this absurdly sprawled town cannot run without those workers. Show them your might, guys and gals. Hit them hard, where it hurts, Rail, Tram and Bus Workers NSW Branch.

(source)

The NSW teachers are striking against mutually reinforcing huge workloads and poor pay. Resignations and labour shortages are the consequence, increasing workload in turn.

But the teachers make me proud for an additional reason. The not particularly gung-ho NSW Teachers’ Federation is striking – for the first time in a decade! – against an order from the Industrial Relations Commission

(source)

Then Sarah Mitchell appears before ABC reporters. In an spectacular display of self-contradiction and hypocrisy, the deplorable NSW Minister for Education first attempts to paint a business as usual picture:

“It's really fantastic to be here at a great local public school in Western Sydney, seeing the amazing teaching and learning taking place in our younger students in the classroom, a real privilege. Can I thank the thousands of teachers who work so hard each and every day to support our students, but particularly today?”

Yes, you can thank them with words, but a more concrete form of gratitude is much better: give those teachers stability, remove the excess workload, spend money on the schools, pay them well.

Instead, after thanking them, Mitchell accuses the NSWTF of “pitting teachers, families, and students against each other”. Let’s get things straight. The strike is against you, Mitchell, not against families and students. It’s a last resort measure against your intransigence.

By representing yourself as spokeswoman of parents and students (“I am disappointed and I am frustrated on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of parents”) it’s you who you are attempting to pit community and teachers and unions against each other. You speak on behalf of the Perrottet regime, Mitchell, not of the community. Literally minutes earlier everything was going fine, it was business as usual. How come now there are hundreds of thousands of people affected?

Incidentally, if one believes the pretty ABC reporter, the community seem fairly supportive of the far more disruptive train and buses strike.

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Mitchell may be right on something though. That seems to be an illegal strike. Industrial relations laws in Oz consecrate much anti-worker injustice. You see, in this pseudo liberal democratic country workers have no right to strike. What they – or rather their unions – have is “protected industrial action”, which the IRC can stop arbitrarily. This has got to change, whether Peter Hartcher and those on whose behalf he writes like it or not.

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(source)
And the thing is, workers are doing that at the same time, spontaneously, not only in Oz, but in Europe (the photo above is from Cádiz, Spain metalworkers) and the US. Bill Clinton’s crude “it’s the economy, stupid!” may have been a gross simplification of a materialist view, but it’s way closer to truth than the slogans as pretentious as they are vapid “cultural change!”, “free marketplace of ideas!”,  “ideology!”.

(source)

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Join your union. There is strength in union.

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“The proletarians have nothing to lose but
their chains. They have a world to win.
Working men of all countries, unite!” [A]

Image Credits:
[A] Karl Marx tombstone at Highgate cemetery. Author: Lars Larsen. Source: WikiMedia. File licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Although I love Larsen’s excellent photo, my use of it must not be taken to suggest he endorses me or said use of the photo.

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