1. “Try before you buy”

Abbott reckons that unemployed workers are there to “try before you buy”.

In the past, the idea that Work for the Dole only occurs in the non-profit sector key to maintaining the legitimacy of the scheme. Of course, in practice the scheme has been used to displace paid employment in a whole range of settings.

The business lobby wants its cut of any free labour going around, in February the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) announced that Work for the Dole “needs” to be expanded to the private sector:

Australia’s peak business body wants to expand the work for the dole scheme, allowing the private sector to use young unemployed workers who would be paid for from the public purse as a way of addressing youth unemployment.

At the time I wrote that:

Forced charity work is ultimately just the wedge by which the government gets the infrastructure of forced labour ready for wider application … [but] ACCI probably jumped the gun a bit … their friends in the government are probably smart enough to realize that [W4D in the private sector] is not yet palatable”.

Oh what a difference three months can make.

The federal budget includes $18 million funding for a new initiative that would “allow” unemployed workers to do four weeks unpaid work for a prospective employer whilst receiving the dole. Tony Abbott has touted the scheme as an opportunity for employers to “try before you buy”.

Great. A four week trial shift “for the dole”. On an aside, unpaid trial shifts are meant to be illegal, as the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website explains:

Any period beyond what is reasonably required to demonstrate the skills required for the job must be paid at the appropriate minimum rate of pay. If an employer wants to further assess a candidate’s suitability, they could employ the person as a casual employee and/or for a probationary period and pay them accordingly for all hours worked.

Also, there is this thing called the minimum wage. If unemployed workers in Abbott’s “try before you buy” scheme are doing a standard 38 hour week for their dole payment, they’ll be making a grand $6.74 an hour.

2. Centrelink short staffed… duh.

Centrelink is short staffed, who’d have thunk it. The Age reported earlier this week that:

Centrelink has ordered hundreds of public servants around the country to drop everything for two days and answer phones in a desperate bid to make its performance look better.

This comes after a National Audit Office report that found that last year 26 million calls to Centrelink went unanswered. Again from The Age:

Australians spent 143 years waiting in vain to speak to Centrelink in 2013-2014, before simply hanging up, the auditors calculated.

About 13.7 million calls did not even make it to the point of being put on hold, after they were blocked or received a “busy signal”.

Another 13 million of the calls that did manage to get into the system were “abandoned”, with the callers getting tired of waiting to speak to an operator, the Audit of the Department of Human Service’s “Smart Centre” system found.

Centrelink telling their staff to drop everything and get on the phones will merely shuffle the short staffing problem about.

Elsewhere at Centrelink, the processing of Austudy and Youth Allowance claims has taken months:

Most universities close for the mid-year break next month but many students who applied to Centrelink for financial support at the start of the year are yet to receive a payment.

Student advocates say the government welfare agency refuses to provide a timeline for Austudy, Youth Allowance and Abstudy applications …

“It’s across the board,” said Stuart Martin, chairman of the national Student Financial Advisers Network. “This is significantly worse than previous years. I’ve heard cases of [students waiting] even 12 and 14 weeks.”

3. Also on Centrelink…

Centrelink staff held a one hour stop work on Monday (17 May) in response to an ongoing pay dispute affecting 160,000 public servants. Their EBA expired on June 30 last year and the government seems intent on forcing public servants to take a pay cut:

“Workers are being asked to cop a massive cut to rights and conditions, in return for low annual pay offers of between zero per cent and one per cent a year that leave real wages going backwards.

This is just another part of the government’s cuts agenda, for this reason alone welfare claimants should support industrial action by Centrelink staff resisting the governments attacks. Cut backs and understaffing are making life unbearable for Centrelink workers and welfare claimants alike, perhaps it’s time to raise the demand: “Fair pay for Centrelink workers and fair payments for clients!”

New Matilda has good coverage of the industrial dispute.

4. AUU vs Max Employment

The Australian Unemployment Union launched a petition calling on the Employment Minister to take action against Max Employment:

Despite the discovery of damning allegations against Max Employment, the Abbott Government has failed to take any legal action against the US-owned billion dollar multi-national corporation. In fact, the Government recently rewarded Max Employment with an $800 million 5-year contact.

You can watch the 4 Corners episode AUU is referring to here, it’s damning stuff.

Unfortunately it seems corporate profiteers from human misery are quick to reach for the lawyers when criticized:

Message posted on the AUU Facebook page shortly after the Max Employment petition went up.

Message posted on the AUU Facebook page shortly after the Max Employment petition went up.

If that’s not a good enough reason to sign the AUU petition, I don’t know what is!

5. Yet another crackdown

Who’s the bigger crook, a corporate entity that avoids millions of dollars in tax, or a welfare recipient who under reports their income? Corporate tax avoidance is big business:

A third of ASX200 companies have an effective tax rate of less than 10%. … If the largest Australian listed companies paid taxes at the statutory corporate tax rate of 30%, it would produce an additional A$8.4 billion in annual revenues.

There was rhetoric from the treasurer about corporate tax avoidance in the budget, which rings a bit hollow when you learn that the ATO has shed 4000 staff, is shedding more, and:

There are also questions about whether the Tax Office is pursuing big companies as vigorously as it used to. The number of taxpayers The Tax Office views as high risk has diminished, although the Tax Office refuses to tell Fairfax Media how many large corporates are now in the highest-risk category, claiming the numbers have not been finalised.

The CPSU survey found just under half of those surveyed think budget cuts have affected decisions on whether to litigate. Comments included that “more settlements are occurring”, and “current ATO policy is for staff to look at alternative dispute resolution and settlements rather than litigate”.

Apparently there is no money to chase corporate tax dodgers, but plenty to hound the unemployed, pensioners and students over income reporting:

The Federal Government is set to announce a crackdown on welfare cheats by appointing a senior police officer to lead the attack on welfare fraud.

Human Services Minister Marise Payne said the Government is working with the Australian Federal Police to appoint an officer to lead a special taskforce.

The taskforce will target people who have undeclared income, with pensioners and people who receive the Newstart allowance and disability support to face income audits.

Beating up on the poor, letting rich mates go free. It’s business as usual here in Team Australia.

Bonus!

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Edited 9:34pm: Post was originally put together with 24liveblog, I’ve scraped the content for a static page as I’m not a fan of the ever loading javascript.

20:27 Thank you for tuning in

And this concludes the #budget2015 liveblog!

In brief:

  • Rebates and a minor tax cut for small business are dressed up as if they will provide significant economic stimulus. They wont.
  • Measures to crack down on tax avoidance sound good, but with the treasurer boasting that the public service is the smallest it’s been in years, enforcement will be another matter entirely.
  • The limits on FBT concessions will actually hurt a raft of underpaid workers in the SACS sector. Not that anyone seems to care.
  • The security state grows again. Quell surprise.
  • The funds for northern development are more significant than most will realise. Just as state and federal governments are closing indigenous communities and driving people from their lands, the government will spend significant amounts on infastructure to facilitate the (white) economic exploitation of these same areas.

Time for a beer.

20:20 RET, power prices, and interest rates

Hockey takes credit for power prices and interest rates:

We have helped to bring down the cost of living — Australians today are paying less for their electricity and less on their mortgages.

Yet his government attacks the RET as renewable power prices successfully competes with coal.

When he was out of government, Hockey himself claimed that low interest rates meant economic weakness and government incompetance!

20:15 Jobs growth bullshit…

Hockey claims the government has created jobs:

We have helped create a quarter of a million new jobs and there are more to come … a lot more.

This is a slight of hand by Hockey. Hockey is taking credit for the basic level of jobs growth that occurs as a result of population growth. Employment growth has fallen below population growth and as a result the unemployment rate has significantly increased.

20:12 The dissonance…

Hockey says this:

This is despite the fact that we have lost $90 billion in expected tax revenue over the same period.

And this:

On the economic front, iron ore prices have fallen dramatically and the recovery in the global economy has been weaker than expected.

But then acts like this is a good thing(!):

Since we came to Government, we have abolished job‑destroying taxes like the carbon tax and the mining tax.

Does he think we’re mugs?

20:07 Income management trials extended

Income Management in Playford, and the other current sites, including the NT, Bankstown, Shepparton, Logan, and Rockhampton, will be extended till June 30th 2017. Funding was due to end on June 30th this year.


H/T Stop Income Management in Playford.

20:02 Billions for war, as always

It sure is expensive propping up a weak government’s authority:

This year we will commit a further $1.2 billion to make Australia safe and secure. This builds on the $1 billion of extra funding we committed last year.

19:59 FBT changes an attack on community sector workers

The FBT entitlements were given to the SACS (Social and Community Services) Sector to compensate for the absurdly low rates of pay in that sector. It is a female dominated sector that routinely requires a tertiary qualificaton, for rates of pay comparable to a job at a supermarket.

We are limiting Fringe Benefits Tax entitlements on overly generous meal and entertainment expenses, capping them at $5,000 a year per person, saving $295 million.

If the government is going to attack the FBT provisions, SACS workers must demand some serious pay increases.

19:55 New anti-avoidance laws.. what about enforcement?

As a result of Tax Office investigations we have identified 30 large multinational companies that may have diverted profits away from Australia to avoid paying their fair share of tax in Australia.

Hockey’s rhetoric on tax avoidance is transparent nonsence. This is the man who slashed the enforcement capabilities of the ATO over the last year.

19:53 The ASIO behemoth grows again

ASIO is a bloated carcass that should be deflated; Hockey announces more money for spooks:

Tonight the Government is committing an extra $450 million for our intelligence capabilities, to ensure that we have the very best equipment and skills necessary to keep our communities safe.

ASIO will no doubt justify this by expanding the scope of people and behaviors it deems threats, as it has for a decade and a half

19:50 Pension is a right not a privilege

This is how they dress up an attack on the pension:

The Age Pension is our Budget’s biggest item of expenditure, $44 billion a year. This is more than 10 per cent of all government spending.

The Age Pension is a critically important safety net for many Australians.

Everyone has the right to a retirement with dignity. Want to make it sustainable? End the absurd tax concessions on the super of the wealthy.

19:46 The ‘northern frontier’

He called it a “frontier”, interesting that he chose such blatantly colonial era language.

As the WA and federal governments collude to close indigenous communities and drive aboriginal people from their lands, Hockey announces he is going to open the north for business…

I announce tonight a new $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility which is the first major step in our plan for our great North.

We will partner with the private sector and governments of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland, to provide large concessional loans for the construction of ports, pipelines, electricity and water infrastructure that will open our Northern frontier for business.

19:42 The myth of the start-up

A popular myth, but simply untrue:

Every big company in the world started small.

Every big idea in the world came from just one person, or a handful of people working together.

19:40 The entire budget speach has already leaked

New Matilda has the full text of the Hockey’s speech, online here now.

19:37

If I won the lotto every day I would be really rich too Joe.

19:37

Selling more and more iron ore hey? Chinese demand for iron ore is softening and will continue to soften Joe.

19:35

The “job destroying mining tax” barely collected a cent. The Australian state would be in a stronger position in the face of the revenue collapse you identified, if the state had actually made the mining sector pay a reasonable price for the looting of the countries mineral wealth!

19:31

“Fair share of challenges”. Playing the terrorism card won’t get you out of this.

Now that the mining boom is over, don’t you wish that mining capital had paid it’s fair share?

19:29

Here we go… Prepare for shout-y incoherant postings.

19:19 $330 million unemployment package…

According to the ABC Hockey will announce $212 million in funding “for a new youth transition to work program”, “$14 million … to encourage people leaving school early to enter into work or training”, and “$106 million will go towards helping young people struggling to get work due to their personal circumstances”.

There is a very basic problem with all such programs. Unemployment is not caused by “welfare dependence”, or a lack of encouragement to find a job, or personal circumstances.

First and foremost, people are unemployed because there are simply not enough jobs. 11 people are looking for work for every advertised vacancy. No amount of additional education or additional persecution directed at unemployed workers will change this.

19:07 Cuts to foreign aid

I didn’t realise there was still a foreign aid budget to cut!

It’s worth remembering how little “foreign aid” actually means when it comes to the Australian budget, governments of both stripes have used the aid budget to fund the persecution of asylum seekers in Nauru and PNG.

18:56 Cigar primed and ready…

18:41 That waiting period…

Hockey is expected to back down on last years “Wait for the dole” announcement:

The Abbott government is backing down on its controversial plan to
make younger people seeking the dole wait up to six months before
receiving welfare in a radical departure from its tough “lifter or
leaner”; language seen in last year’s budget.

Instead of asking people under 30 to wait six months before receiving the dole, the Coalition will now seek to extend the existing one-week waiting period to four weeks for people aged under 25.

No waiting period is acceptable, a month without pay can destroy your life as effectively as six months without pay when you are living on the edge of the poverty line.

That said, with the delays in processing new claims that have been engineered by cuts at Centrelink there is already a defacto waiting period in place.

18:18 Tax cuts for small business… groan

This morning Hockey announced the budget will include a tax cut for small business:

The tax cut of at least 1.5 per cent is set to deliver a two-tiered tax system, with big businesses still paying 30 cents on the dollar.

If there is a “budget emergancy”, why the tax cut? There was never, of course, any budget emergancy.

This cut will do little to nothing to support smaller firms in their competition with the behemoths that dominate the Australian economy; the largest firms barely pay tax.

18:06 Welfare attacks

Last year’s budget featured massive attacks on welfare claimaints, in particular unemployed workers. Check out the Dole Action Group for more on the ongoing fight against those attacks.

18:00 Who should pay for childcare?

The big pre-budget announcement was a $3.5 billion dollar childcare package. Abbott has stated that adoption of the package is contingent on senate passing stalled cuts that were proposed in the 2014 budget.

But should the government even be funding childcare? Don’t worry, I’m not about to go full market libertarian!

The real benificiaries of childcare are capital. The state is involving itself in childcare subsidies and alike because capital needs parents back in the workforce sooner. The bosses are the real financial benificiaries of childcare, we should demand they pay for it.

In a world where all workers are expected to work and raise the next generation of workers simultaneously, it is entirely appropriate that workers demand that business provide or pay for adequate childcare.

17:45 Out with PPL and in with Nannys!

The incomparable David Pope on that announcement:

17:42 Good evening

Good evening and welcome to my first attempt at liveblogging. Stay on this page for my scream-y reactions to Joe Hockey’s second budget speach.

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Photo from Perth counter rally, stolen from @zebparkes, zebedeeparkes.com.

I can’t be arsed putting together anything intelligent on “Reclaim Australia”, but there are a couple of brief comments I wanted to make.

1. Islam is not a race – and you are still a racist!

A message to the “reclaimers”: you are a pack of utter racists. You might think you’re being really clever with the whole “Islam is not a race” line, well it’s time for a sixty-five year old news flash: there is no such thing as biological ‘race’.

The category of ‘race’ is socially constructed; it is the product of a system of domination. ‘Race’ is constructed in order to define the out group. The creation and maintenance of a social system of domination and oppression that targets this outgroup is racism.

It doesn’t really matter if you are building a system of oppression that defines the outgroup by religion rather than skin colour, the essential element of racism is the construction of a system of oppression that targets an entire segment of the working class for villification and discrimination. Religion or skin colour, the dynamic is the same; “Reclaim Australia” is a racist project.

It is worth noting that without a relationship of power and domination, someone using a racial slur is not being racist, merely rude. The indigenous teenager who calls you a white c-nt is not creating or maintaining a hierachy of which you are the victim, she’s just being coarse (and in view of history, understandably so).

Related: Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race”, a presentation by Jeffrey Perry.

The sad fact is that the vast majority of Australians still think biological race exists. The majority now think it is bad to discriminate on the basis of race, but if race really does exist (in the world of “commonsense”) and “religion is not a race”, then the likes of Pauline Hanson and Shermon Burgess can continue claiming they’ve escaped being racists on a technicality.

Islamophobic racism is hardly the exclusive preserve of working class fascists like Shermon Burgess. The real work in constructing Islam as the “other” has been done by the state. The raft of “anti-terror” legislation, public propaganda, and fear mongering rhetoric that has emmanated from the top of the political hierachy has created the space in which fascists like Shermon Burgess are now operating.

See also: First Dog on the Moon, ‘A racist carrot reclaims Australia’, The Guardian.

2. If you equate abusing racists with racism you are a f-cking muppet

In the aftermath of the “Reclaim Australia” rallies it’s been pretty clear that the “I’m not racist but…” crowd aren’t the only ones who haven’t got the faintest idea of what actually constitutes racism. Take this choice quote is from Brad Chilcott, director of Welcome to Australia, in The Guardian yesterday:

Fighting hatred with hatred at Reclaim Australia rallies is a failure of progressive politics

What’s less obvious is what “progressives” were hoping to achieve this Easter by opposing naked hatred and foul abuse with public expressions of the same hatred and abuse.

If the counter demonstrations in Melbourne were nothing more than “public expressions of the same hatred and abuse”1 as “Reclaim Australia”, then racism is little more than foul language and a bad attitude.

To the likes of Chilcott racism is simply a vulgar attitude held in sections of the working class. His is the kind of analysis that assumes public policy in Australia is so racist because the Australian working class is so racist, our political leaders have not created racism, merely pandered to it and failed to “show leadership”. His role as a liberal anti-racist is to promote “diversity, compassion, generosity”2 amongst those unenlightened working class types. When that is your analysis, of course getting in the streets and shouting at racists is as bad as racism itself.

Chilcott is utterly wrong, he confuses the symptoms of racism with racism itself. “Hatred” and “foul abuse” are not racism itself, they are public expressions of racism. The public expression of racism creates, re-creates and reinforces the system of racism, but the system itself is more than this. Racism is a social structure of domination: one part of the working class is segmented off from the whole and subjected to greater oppression; the remainder of the class are co-opted into the process of racist oppression and are bought off with a position of relative privilege.

If you cannot criticise the structure of racism, and the system that creates and re-creates it, how can you attack racism? Obviously you can’t; if you cannot see the problem you cannot be effective in combatting it (except by pure chance). Chilcott is worse than ineffective, in failing to see what racism is he reacts against forces that actually have the potential to combat racism.

3. “Reclaim Australia” is fascist

Let’s call a spade a spade. “Reclaim Australia” is fascist, and I am not saying that simply because it has drawn the participation of an array of far right and overtly neo-Nazi supporters.

Fascism “is as a particular form of mass movement, possessing a core set of ideas, and in which the ideology and movement interact. … [It is] a specific form of reactionary mass movement” which is “racist, nationalist, and militarist”3. “Reclaim Australia” fits the fascist bill on all counts:

  • racist, in it’s demonisation and attacks on muslims and Islam, and its attempts to construct muslims as an other counterposed to “Australia” and “Australians”;
  • nationalist, with it’s overt flag-draped appeals to “Aussie pride”, continual talk of ‘patriotism’, and the casting of its campaign as ‘Islam vs Australia';
  • militarist, in its continual appeals to the ANZAC myth, valorisation of the ADF, etc. It was telling at Melbourne rally just how many of the assembled bigots claimed they had “fought them” (meaning Muslims) “over there” (meaning in the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afganistan).

The organisers of the “Reclaim Australia” rallies certainly intended them to be the launching point for a far right movement. The anti-Islam conspiracy theories of “Reclaim Australia” are its core set of ideas, and I think we are seeing an interaction between the people gathering around the “Reclaim Australia” banner and these ideas.

Further Reading: Dave Renton, Fascism: Theory and Practice.

4. Racism and fascism have a public space agenda

Public space matters, and a heck of a lot of societal control and power is bound up in who is allowed in public space, how they are legally or societally required to act, dress, and so on. Fascism seeks to dominate public spaces and to drive opponents, targetted groups, and rival politics out of public space.

This is a half developed thought on my part, but a sizeable chunk of the historical experience of racism seems bound up in public space. Segregation for example, whether in Australia or the United States, had a heck of a lot to do with who was allowed where in public, and how they were required to act.

A good deal of a lot of the “Reclaim Australia” rhetoric is also basically about public space. Outlawing “the Burqa or any variant thereof”4 is essentially an attempt to control how people look in public. The conspiratorial rubbish around halal certification boils down to an attempt to determine what can or can’t appear on the packaging of goods sold in public.

Public rallies by racists and fascists are attempts to control or change who feels safe and comfortable in public space. At present (thankfully) it is socially unacceptable (mostly) to make overt statements of outright racism publically; the public expression of racism often results in some form of social sanction. The far right is attempting to reverse this situation. By rallying in public they are seeking to embolden racists, and bring racism directly into public space. The results of this will be reaped in a increased harvest of racist abuse and attacks directed at muslims.

More than anything else, the public space agenda of racism and fascism is the reason racism must be fought directly and in public, not behind closed doors on some farm in the hills.

A vocal and determined counter-rally is both a general rejection of racism, and a direct action to disrupt a specific attempt by racists to build an overtly racist movement in the public sphere.

Final thoughts

Bringing all this crap together… The last time the so-called “Australian Defense League” tried to have a rally in Melbourne thirty people attended. Four years later and with four months of preparation (and a significant rebranding), the far right managed to assemble a few hundred in Melbourne and Sydney, and concerningly large numbers in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Perth. They are seeking to build a far right movement on a base of anti-Muslim racism, and their rallies are clear attempts to embolden racists, intimidate Muslims, and build a milleu in which the far right can recruit and propagandize. The qualms of liberal anti-racists and social democrats should be dismissed, because when fascists rally on the streets they need to be smashed back into the sewers they rose out of.

Earlier Post: #Reclaimwhat and being stalked online, 28 March 2015.

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I have had a strange couple of days. Apparently some loon is going to “find out exactly who” I am and why I’ve apparently been “exposing union members’ mothers’ addresses to violent criminals”.

It’s just one of a string of bizarre messages I have received since a Cooma based garbage collector and a Melbourne based neo-Nazi posted claims that I was behind the website Reclaim What.

The neo-Nazi is a bloke named Neil Luke Erikson, he calls himself “Nationalist Republican Guard” online. The Cooma based garbage collector is Shermon Burgess, a flag wrapped Islamophobe who has been promoting a series of anti-islamic rallies due to be held on April 4.

Reclaim Australia

On its Facebook page Reclaim Australia is described as a “grass roots movement” to “stand together to stop halal tax, sharia law & islamisation”. It is the initiative of Shermon Burgess, the self-described “Great Aussie Patriot”, a man with form on the Australian far-right.

Burgess has now tried to conceal and distance himself from his previous record of promoting crude racism and racial vilification, but the remnants of his politics remain online for all to see. Some of the classier examples of his racism are the tunes he released as the lead singer in far-right band Eureka Brigade. Perhaps you have heard hits such as “Shit on a Mosque”, “Clockwork and the Shermonator” and “ADL Killing Machine”?

This is Shermon in “Shit on a Mosque (It’s what we do)”:

“We’ll shit on a mosque, she’ll be right,
punch some muslims and have a good time,
Ralph Cerminara will show you his might”

And these are some of lyrics from “ADL killing machine”:

“No sharia or halal,
time to get the .50 cal,
We’ll fight you fuckers to the end!
We like Buddhists Sikhs and Jews,
and the Christians too,
but there’s no fucking room for you!”

The rest are similarly awful, both in their racism and in their absence of any musical talent.

As you can probably guess from the lyrics, Shermon Burgess is a member of the Australian Defence League (ADL). The ADL is an attempt by the far-right in Australia to replicate the success of the UK based street gang the English Defence League.

Shermon’s music makes multiple glowing references to the antics of Sydney based military imposter Ralph Cerminara. Cerminara was the supposed president of the Australian Defence League who came to public attention last year when he led a comic attempt to attack the Islamic community in Lakemba. Cerminara and an accomplice went to the mosque in Lakemba, taunted locals, started a brawl, and were quickly arrested. By all accounts Cerminara and his accomplice copped a beating.

On an aside, Burgess is also on the record expressing delightful opinions about indigenous Australians:

“I have met some nice aboriginal people, right, but they are few and far between. Really, so many of them are just dickheads, you see them passed out on metho and bludging cigarettes, and still blaming the modern generation for what happened two hundred years ago”

Burgess has tried to bury his politics and reinvent himself as the supposedly mainstream ‘Great Aussie Patriot’, but his ongoing association with neo-Nazis gives lie to this supposed transformation.

Neil Erikson and the NRG

I must confess I had no idea who Melbourne based neo-Nazi Neil Erikson was until he decided I was behind Reclaim What (I’m not).

Erikson made the news last year after being arrested for making threatening phone calls to a Melbourne Rabbi:

Neil Luke Erikson, 29, phoned Rabbi Dovid Gutnick of Melbourne City Synagogue on three occasions, telling him “Give me the money Jew or else I will get you” and abusing him for his faith.

He also spoke of circumcisions, blood money and Jewish sidelocks and told Rabbi Gutnick he knew his location and was coming to get him.

Neil Erikson was a key part of the Melbourne neo-Fascist grouplet Nationalist Alternative before it imploded late last year; he has since gone on to establish the oddly named Nationalist Republican Guard.

Neil Erikson (left) and members of Nationalist Alternative at a neo-Nazi rally in 2012.

Neil Erikson (left) and members of Nationalist Alternative at a neo-Nazi rally in 2012. Photo and info h/t slackbastard.

The connection between Neil Erikson and Shermon Burgess has come to the fore in recent weeks as they seek to battle the (real or perceived) enemies of Reclaim Australia.

Unsurprisingly, as a racist organising a series of racist rallies, Burgess has received a variety of attention from anti-racists of all sorts. He appears to have been particularly irritated by the website Reclaim What who posted contact details for his employers at Cooma Shire and requested supporters phone and complain about the racist politics of one of their garbage collectors.

Neil Erikson is assisting Burgess in responding to his critics; under the name NRG Prop he has produced a series of videos attacking individuals he believes are responsible for the criticism of Shermon Burgess. Burgess is in turn quick to post and promote the various theories advanced by Erikson, in some cases beating him to the punch.

And how I fit into this…

It seems Neil Erikson has decided that I publish Reclaim What. Two days ago Shermon Burgess posted some screen shots from my Facebook profile, twitter account and personal website on his Facebook page with the caption:

Everyone we have been busy with our Hacker department working flat out but we have traced the Left Wing owner of the webpage and facebook page reclaimwhat.net and this is the man who gives out patriots personal addresses, writes up fake blogs. Here you can see who he is and…

(I’m working from a screen shot published by Reclaim What, the original message has since been removed).

In the days since Burgess put the above message on his Facebook page, Erikson has released a couple of videos poking fun at some old (and admittedly awful!) videos on my youtube account and vaguely threatening to find out who I ‘really’ am. I’ve also received a few weird text messages, and Facebook friends have contacted me in concern after receiving messages like this:

The kind of message weirdos are sending to my Facebook friends.

The kind of message weirdos are sending to my Facebook friends. If you receive anything like this, screen shot it for posterity and block the weirdo in question.

Which brings us to…

Union Member’s Mother’s Addresses!

Earlier tonight Erikson released a video claiming I had published his mother’s (???) address online. As best I can work out someone using the handle Death Sec has published a mobile phone number and a street address they claim belong to Erikson. The Facebook page Reclaim What then shared this info, and Erikson is livid. These are his remarks from that video:

Boy do we have more news on this Kieran Bennett fellow. It seems going from online he’s a supporter and organiser for NUW union. I am sorry to say mate, the person you exposed, Neil Erikson, you put his mothers address online, to incite violence against his mothers house. The funny thing is Neil Erikson is a member of the NUW union. He’s gonna find out exactly who you are Kieran Bennett and why you are exposing union members mothers addresses to violent criminals.

It’s a laugh a minute from these guys.

For the Record

Time to get a few things straight. I doubt the increasingly unhinged Shermon Burgess and his neo-Nazi friend will pay much attention to this, but for everyone else:

First: I don’t publish, write for, or contribute to Reclaim What. It’s nice to see people are sticking it to the racists though, even if I disagree with their tactical approach.

Second: Contacting Shermon’s boss to whinge about his political activity is silly at best and dangerous at worst. I am no fan of asking employers to police the political opinions of workers, primarily because the first target for such repression has long been the left. “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the…” anyone?

Third: I’m not in the habit of posting political opponents’ home addresses or private phone numbers online. Not even the racist ones. Petty online harassment will not defeat the political agenda of racism and fascism. Victory over the far right requires organizing in our workplaces, communities and streets.

Post Script

If you are in one of the major cities on April 4 there are rallies opposing Reclaim Australia planned in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, the Gold Coast, Canberra, Brisbane, and Adelaide.

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The dole is a poverty payment. People who rely on the Newstart allowance from Centrelink are living in poverty.

The Poverty Line

A poverty line is a tool for calculating whether a person is or is not living in poverty. Broadly, the two most common ways are to calculate a percentage of average income (a relative measure), or the amount of money required to buy a basket of goods (an absolute measure)1.

A relative measure of poverty assumes that poverty is tied to income inequality, and that having much less than everyone else is poverty. With this understanding of poverty, the amount of material resources that a person ‘in poverty’ might have access to varies according to the level of wealth in a given society. This can seem counter intuitive to people operating with a ‘common sense’ understanding of poverty, an understanding that sees poverty as a state of absolute material deprivation. The alternative is an ‘absolute’ measure, the most common of these used in Australia is the so-called Henderson poverty line.

The [Henderson] poverty lines are based on a benchmark income of $62.70 for the December quarter 1973 established by the Henderson poverty inquiry. The benchmark income was the disposable income required to support the basic needs of a family of two adults and two dependant children.

Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic Research, 2014, Poverty Lines Australia, September 2014.

There are several weaknesses with an ‘absolute’ approach such as the Henderson poverty line. First, it assumes the level of material goods required to sustain a person or family unit is unchanging and constant. In reality, our material existence under capitalism is constantly being transformed. What would Professor Ronald Henderson have made of ‘one laptop per child’ or the internet as a human right in 1973?

This points to the second major problem, an absolute measure of poverty is grounded in the values and ideas of the person or institution that decides on the associated basket of goods. Is a person ‘in poverty’ if they cannot afford healthcare, education, contraception, and so on? I suspect most Australians would say yes, but I doubt it is a view shared by our government.

I’ve gone off on a tangent.

Whether we calculate an absolute poverty line like Henderson, or a relative poverty line such as ‘less than 50% of median income’, the dole falls well short.

The most recent calculation of the Henderson poverty line estimates that a single person requires at least $342.14 a week 2, or $17,791.28 a year, to get by. Assuming they don’t need to pay for housing. It’s crazy, but most calculations of a poverty line bracket out housing3.

The most common relative measure of the poverty line is ‘50% of median income’4. The Australian Council of Social Services’ (ACOSS) regular report on Poverty in Australia calculates a poverty line as 50% of median disposable income (that is income after tax, after bracketing out housing)5. Using this methodology ACOSS’ 2014 report calculates a poverty line of $400.30 a week for a single adult.

To get an idea of how conservative these measures of poverty are, it’s worth comparing the various poverty line figures to crude average earnings. In November 2014 the average adult weekly full time wage was $1,476.30 a week (before tax), or $76,767.60 a year6. Half this amount would be $738.15 a week.

So how does the dole stack up? The current full rate of the Newstart Allowance pays unemployed workers a miserly $257.30 a week, or $13,40.60 a year.

The dole is $84.84 a week below the Henderson poverty line, $143.00 a week below the ACOSS relative measure of poverty and $477.85 a week below 50% average wage. No matter which way you slice the numbers, the dole is well below the poverty line.

The extent to which the dole in Australia is below the poverty line has been progressively increasing in Australia. Superficial increases in the dole are tied to the Consumer Price Index:

“Unemployment payments fell from 46 per cent of median household income in 1996 – a little below a conventional relative poverty line – to 36 per cent in 2009-10, a long way below such a poverty line,”

Whereas Newstart and the age, disability and carers pensions were once roughly similar, different methods of indexation adopted in 1997 mean the gap is now more than $200 a fortnight

Newstart increases in line with the consumer price index while pension payments increase with average male wages. The Centrelink website says this means Newstart grows “in line with increases to the cost of living” but the cost of living for beneficiaries has been climbing faster than the CPI.

“Since 1998, the special analytical price index for beneficiaries has risen by about 5 per cent more than the CPI, meaning using this measure their real incomes have fallen,” Professor Whiteford says in the report.

The dole is configured to continue sliding deeper and deeper into poverty territory.

Unemployment

The dominant ideas around the dole and unemployment justify welfare poverty on the basis that those on poverty payments have only themselves to blame. The unemployed worker is being punished for failing to “get a job”, something we’re told they could readily achieve if only they tried hard enough.

It is of course, bullshit.

There are at least 11 people seeking every advertised job vacancy in Australia. 782,000 people are officially recognized as unemployed, but the real rate of unemployment is much higher. A further 875,000 people are underemployed, they work at least one hour a week but need more. At least 1.8 million people are applying for the estimated 150,000 job vacancies in Australia at present.

This unemployment and under-employment is no accident. It is created by capitalism, and serves it’s ends:

It is the absolute interest of every capitalist to press a given quantity of labour out of a smaller, rather than a greater number of labourers, if the cost is about the same. … a surplus labouring population is a necessary product of accumulation or of the development of wealth on a capitalist basis, this surplus population becomes … a condition of existence of the capitalist mode of production. It forms a disposable industrial reserve army, that belongs to capital … it creates, for the changing needs of the self-expansion of capital, a mass of human material always ready for exploitation …

The industrial reserve army, during the periods of stagnation and average prosperity, weighs down the active labour-army; during the periods of over-production and paroxysm, it holds its pretensions in check.

Marx, 1867, ‘Progressive Production of a Relative surplus population or Industrial Reserve Army‘, Capital Vol 1.

Capitalism makes use of unemployment to drive down wages and discipline employed workers. You better not play up because there are eleven more where you came from… The dole is necessary in this situation to maintain unemployment, the crude fact is that the ‘reserve army of labour’ would quickly starve to death if there were no form of social support available.

By keeping levels of social support at miserably low levels, capital and the state maintain the coercive power of unemployment. By keeping the unemployed in poverty, unemployed workers can be forced back into whatever work is offered, whenever capital needs it, at whatever wages are on offer.

Even the most ambitious plans to end welfare poverty that are discussed publicly in Australia do not undermine this basic logic. The Greens’ Sarah Hanson-Young is arguing for a $50 per week increase in the dole, a figure that would still leave the dole below the Henderson poverty line, and which would do nothing to solve the indexation trap. To give The Greens some credit, their position is at least significantly better than the government’s plans to drive pensioners into the same CPI trap as dole claimants.

Why I say ‘Double the Dole!’

The Australian Unemployment Union has adopted a demand to increase all welfare payments to the Henderson poverty line, that is to $400 per week. It is one thing to make an argument that no one should live below the poverty line, but there are real reasons we should argue and fight for welfare payments well above poverty levels.

Earlier this month the union movement called a national day of action against the government’s attacks on “our living standards”. I and some friends went along around a banner that read “Double the Dole”, unfortunately many at that rally did not see defending the welfare system as defending “our living standards”. It is unfortunate, because doubling the dole (and indexing welfare payments to wages) would benefit every worker in Australia.

At it’s present poverty levels, the dole systematically undermines the pay and conditions of all workers. When a person can’t make ends meet on a poverty payment, they are left with little option but to take whatever is on offer, even if that is a dangerous cash-in-hand job for $3 an hour. A liveable dole, a dole payment that did not result in a precarious miserable existence, would act as a floor on wages and would limit the ability of bosses to engage in this kind of hyper-exploitation.

A liveable dole would rob bosses of one of their key forms of power. The power to hire and fire is terrifying to workers because unemployment can mean homelessness, hunger, relationship breakdown, and all manner of humiliation and misery. If we fight to remove the misery and humiliation associated with the dole the threat of being fired would be less potent and we would improve the position of every worker.

Demanding an end to poverty level welfare payments should not simply be a moral argument about children in poverty or “the unfortunate”, it should be a passionate argument for justice and solidarity. Unemployment is created by capitalism and benefits the bosses. We can and should demand that capitalism pay, and pay reasonably, for the labour it has caused to stand idle.

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This is a disgusting and self evidently racist attack on Aboriginal peoples in remote communities.

From the ABC:

Job seekers in remote communities will face tougher rules than those in the city under a new work-for-the-dole program, as the Government tries to end “sit-down welfare”.

The Federal Government’s new scheme will force job seekers aged 18 to 49 to do work-for-the-dole activities for up 25 hours a week.

Nearly 30,000 people living in remote communities will have to work five days a week, 12 months a year under the program, to start in July next year.

The scheme already running in selected city and regional areas requires job seekers to take part for only six months a year.

The idea of “job seeking” in remote communities is absurd. This is a policy that will either lock indigenous people in remote areas into permanent service to the government, or force them out of their communities and off their lands.

Forced labour, or be driven from your lands. I imagine our government would be reasonably happy with either outcome.

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December 1985 issue of Unemployement Action, paper of the Unemployment Workers Union in Launceston. Click to download PDF.

December 1985 issue of Unemployement Action, paper of the Unemployment Workers Union in Launceston. Click to download PDF.

This weeks document is the December 1985 issue of Unemployment Action, the newspaper of the Unemployed Workers Union in Launceston, Tasmania.

This document was located in the archives of the Melbourne Anarchist Club, along with a variety of material from the Unemployed Workers Union in Victoria, which I hope to share more of later.

The document highlights struggles around changes in the way the dole was paid, job search requirements, and interactions with a HR representative at local chain store. Of particular interest today is it’s focus on the first iteration of Work for the Dole in Australia and criticism of the now ubiquitous traineeship scheme.

Download a pdf of Unemployment Action, Dec 1985, here.

I’ve typed up one article from the issue below:

75,000 Unemployed to be Conscripted into Contract Labour ‘Work for Dole’ Scheme

The Launceston U.W.U. will continue to campaign against youth ‘Traineeships’, in their present form, until we are assured that they are not going to be used as a cheap labour scheme to reduce unemployment statistics without creating any jobs.

The campaign to date has consisted of gathering information and informing the community & trade unions of th reality behind the federal government’s public relations hype. We have campaigned publically through radio, T.V. and the newspapers, as well as attending conferences and meetings. As the truth has sunk in, the oppositions to traineeships has steadily mounted.

When the State A.L.P. announced their support for traineeships, we met with Wriedt and Michael Field (Emploument spokesperson) to outline our concerns. It was not a pleasant meeting as we found outselves being abused and lavelled as bludgers. We were shocked at the lack of information and forethought that had gone into adopting traineeships as part of their employment policy.

Attendance at the national youth workers conference in Orford in October also proved to be frustrating. The Dep’t of Employment & Industrial Relations had sent a top level bureaucrat, Chris O’Conner, to defuse any opposition from youth workers to traineeships. O’Conner visible related and moved out of prominence when these welfaries, unable to gain any consensus for or against traineeships, moved onto ‘safe’ ground of aiming to get themselves onto traineeship committees. As well he would, their representation on such committees merely adds credibility to traineeships and defuses opposition. Unemployed workers were sold out by the welfare sector yet again. They refused to even discuss what demands their representatives should make.

However, much has been achieved in the last 3 months. The welfaries are now running to maintain their credibility and a number of trade unions are taking up their responsibilities to safeguard their members and act with unemployed workers to counter this current attack

Concerned community groups and Unions, including the Liquour Trades, Miscellaneous workers, A.C.O.A. and the T.T.L.C. have published a leaflet about traineeships which has been distributed through CES offices and schools. Aimed at school-leavers, it gives some of the information that the Government left out of it’s glossy 6 page brochure.

A.C.O.A. members also voted to place bans on traineeships in nearly all C.E.S. offices in Tasmania until the Government agreed to;
* 100% additionality
* payment of full award wages.

Bans were also placed in C.E.S. offices in Sth Aust. and Q’land, until the national executive of the union ordered that the bans be removed.

The State Council of the metalworkers union has supported the U.W.U.’s objections to the traineeships and expressed it’s opposition to the Fed. Gov’t. And one of the key unions, the Shop Distributive & Allied Industries Employees Union has refused to have anything to do with traineeships, saying they are inappropriate for their industry.

BY Killer Buckley.

From the Archives is an irregular series of posts where I share primary source material I have located whilst researching the history of anarchism and related politics in Melbourne and Australia.

Bonus!

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