TD;DR, Use of a standard hashtag for tracking ticket inspectors, and specific hashtags for routes and stops, would improve the level of information available to commuters on social media.

Approximately 5.9% of public transport users fare evade. I’m surprised it isn’t higher; there are plenty of good reasons people fare evade.

Consider the rate of poverty; 13.7 of Melbournians live below the Henderson poverty line. All of the current welfare payments fall below the Henderson Poverty line. If you are on any form of welfare payment, you’re likely subsisting on <$20/day after rent. A concession myki daily in zone 1 is $3.76. Everybody need some basic access to transport, and until there is some form of free public transit, a sizable minority of public transport users will be forced to either fare evade or walk.

I am surprised that so many living on so little scrape together the payments demanded by the private operators of our supposedly public transport system. But then, consider the level of policing. As a recent report in The Age highlights:

“More than 13 million tickets have been checked since October 2013, with authorised officers checking around 400,000 more tickets per month than the same time a year ago,” Mr Fedda said.

Fare evasion peaked in 2011, during the transition to the myki smartcard system, when 12.7 per cent of passengers fare evaded. Since then the number of fines handed out has soared 46 per cent, with 158,000 infringement notices issued in 2013-14, Mr Fedda said.

The daily experience of ticket inspection has been one of harassment, intimidation, and more than occasional violence.

Whether it’s disgust at violence by inspectors, a $1.5 billion dollar ticketing system paid for with public money for the gain of private contractors, ongoing boycott in protest at the sacking of Connies, or the simple fact that we all need to travel whilst not all of us can pay – there are many good reasons to fare evade.

There are also many good reasons to want to know where the “chaps” enforcing this farce are at.

* * * * *

Three years ago the Sydney tabloids breathlessly reported on a sinister new mobile app that was going to tell us all where the ticket inspectors were at. The Spector app hasn’t been updated since 2013 and receives little in the way of traffic.

More recently the Herald Sun and others have reported on Facebook pages warning commuters of the location of authorised officers:

THOUSANDS of Melbourne fare evaders are dodging ticket inspectors with the help of social media snitches that track their whereabouts.

More than 4700 people have liked a Facebook page that posts the whereabouts of inspectors and encourages others to do the same.

Two of the larger Facebook groups are Report Ticket Inspectors live and Where are our mates, Melbourne’s PT ticket wardens today?.

Both of these groups are interesting projects, but it’s a bit of a lucky dip as to whether you will find the information you want by trawling these groups when you are traveling. The same is true for information on twitter.

Public transport users interested in tracking, monitoring, or avoiding (for various reasons) Melbourne’s ticket inspectors need a more reliable system. My earth shattering proposal: basically what everyone is already doing but with some standard hashtags.

There should be a general hashtag for tracking authorized officers in Melbourne (as opposed to the generic #ticketinspectors, which whilst intuitive is just as likely to give you information about scum on the tube), and then specific hashtags for every tram, train and bus service.

For want of a better solution, I propose #AuthOffMelb. It’s a bad attempt at a bad pun.

I’d then propose that all reports of ticket inspectors locations include a hashtag for the service. For buses, #bus and then the bus number, eg. #bus903. For trams, #rt and then the route number, eg. #rt19. For trains, #[destination]line, eg. #WerribeeLine. If used consistently, this would give people the ability to check ticket inspector locations on their line.

It would also be useful to use standard hashtags for stops and stations. Stations are easy, #StationnameStation, eg. #FlemingtonStation. Both trams and buses have stop numbers, but I’m not sure how many people pay attention to either. It’s probably easier to encourage people to use the most common name for stops, eg. #MelbourneUniStop.

So the long and short of all that rambling: if people chose to Facebook and tweet reports on the location of ticket inspectors in a standard format with some standard hashtags, more people might be able to make use of that information in various ways.

Examples (entirely fictional):

Chaps at #VicUniStop. #bus550 #bus551 bus#250. #authoffmelb pic.twitter.com/OOs0kba0T4

There are delightful people on #rt57 to city, just passing #ChildrensHospitalStop. #authoffmelb

The #CranbourneLine that just left #SouthernCrossStation is crawling with them. #authoffmelb

* * * * *

Attempting to avoid or track ticket inspectors is not a long term solution. Every person living here needs to be able to move about the city. Public transport is a public good that should be provided for all, yet at present we live in a city where hired goons extort money from public transport users who (where they are fare evading) largely can’t afford it. Public transport built and maintained at public expense has been contracted out for private gain.

In the long term we should demand free public transport. As an anarchist, another interesting question is that of direct action. How can public transport users take collective action to demand or create free public transport?

The basic idea that springs to mind is some kind of payment strike. Mass non compliance with ticket inspectors, perhaps backed up by the collective action of commuters to eject ticket inspectors from public transport vehicles, could render public transport fares meaningless. Any such campaign would have to involve both the majority of public transport workers and a sizable proportion of commuters to be successful.

A payment strike is not practical at this point. Until it is, we should continue to raise the demand that everyone has the right to move about this city, whether they have $3.76 or not.


Check out this handy flow chart, “Can I ride the tram?”.

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Six years after the end of the Sri Lankan civil war, an estimated 650 Tamil political prisoners remain imprisoned in Sri Lanka, indefinitely, and without charge:

They are being held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which allows the security forces to detain people for up to 18 months without bringing them before a court.

But some have been jailed since 1997.

The UN’s human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said in a landmark report last month that the government had acknowledged holding 258 men and women under the PTA but only 54 of them had been convicted of anything.

Nearly 30 prisoners of varied ethnicities died in prisons during rioting in 2012. – BBC, 12 Oct 2015.

Expectations that Tamil political prisoners would be either released, or charged and tried, had been raised as a result of recent political changes in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s war time authoritarian leader, Mahinda Rajapaksa, lost to Maithripala Sirisena in January elections in Sri Lanka:

“the country’s numerical minorities voted overwhelmingly for Sirisena during January’s presidential election” – The Diplomat, October 19.

With the war apparently over, it would seem reasonable to demand that war-time powers be repealed:

“A range of people and groups (both on the island and abroad) have been demanding that the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) be repealed for quite some time. The legislation gives the country’s state security personnel wide-ranging authority to search, arrest and detain people; without a doubt, the law has had a disproportionately negative effect on the nation’s Tamil community” – The Diplomat, October 19.

After nine months of political inaction, Tamil prisoners began an indefinite hunger strike in early October. By October 12 President Sirisena had promised to address the status of Tamil prisoners:

Tamil political prisoners who began a fast unto death six days ago demanding their release, suspended their protest temporarily yesterday after receiving a written assurance from President Maithripala Sirisena to solve the issue of their detention prior to 7 November. – Ceylon Today, 18 October

It now appears that the Sirisena government has reneged on it’s commitments to address the status of Tamil prisoners:

The Srisena regime has announced that it will not release most of the Tamil political prisoners who have been languishing in the jails and detention centres in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe announced on Friday only 32 prisoners will be released by 9th November.

Reacting to the announcement from Colombo, Tamil political prisoners said to Ceylon Today:

“We shall launch another ‘fast unto death’ if the President fails to adhere to his promises, as mentioned in the letter, before 7 November. This is the only way we have chosen to find a solution to our burning problem. President Sirisena will be held accountable for our deaths during the hunger strike. President Sirisena will be responsible for our vital organs. He should take responsibility to donate our organs.”

A large number of the Tamil political prisoners have been kept in prison for over two decades without charge or trial by the Sri Lankan state through emergency powers granted to its security forces in the Prevention of Terrorist Act ( PTA) and Emergency Regulation Laws. Majority of the prisoners have experienced torture and been subjected to human rights violations by the Sri Lankan police and intelligence. Some of the prisoners have revealed their stories of sexual torture.

The Tamil Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council, C.V. Vigneswaran, in a press release, emphasized that good governance cannot be implanted from the outside; the government has to prove it by actions. He also said that the release of Tamil political prisoners has proven to involve no risk for the state as those released under the previous regime caused no violence. He also pointed out the discriminatory logic of the government, which provided amnesty to the Sinhalese insurgents of the JVP during the 1970’s and 1990’s while refusing it to Tamil political prisoners:

“In the time of the JVP, everyone was given unconditional general amnesty. To say that there are obstacles and delays is surprising for us. It is only by accommodating such small requests that the rhetoric of good governance can have some use, but to maintain such policies, and chanting ‘good governance’ is obsolete.”

The Srisena Government’s reluctance to release Tamil political prisoners and maintain war-time emergency laws exposes their intent to continue with the genocidal agenda of the successive Sri Lankan Governments, Tamil Refugee Council said today.

“We demand the immediate and unconditional release of all the Tamil political prisoners, unlawfully incarcerated by the occupying Sri Lankan forces and its state in official and undisclosed detention camps and prisons.” Said Tamil Refugee Spokesperson Aran Mylvaganam.

“We demand the Australian government and it’s allies, who proved their influence in the island by instigating a regime change earlier this year, to wield the same power in pressing the Colombo government to immediately grant general amnesty to all Tamil political prisoners. The incarcerated Tamils are not criminals, and cannot be subjected to the criminal jurisdiction of the Sri Lankan state. They are rather political prisoners and Prisoners of War.”

“The western governments cannot conceive or expect a cessation to the refugee crisis, involving Tamils, without solving the political situation in their homeland. It is the Sri Lankan state terror and military occupation of their traditional homelands leads to Tamils fleeing persecution and impoverished lives towards countries like Australia” – Tamil Refugee Council Press Office, 9 November 2015

The campaign for justice for Tamils on the island of Sri Lanka continues. Within Australia I strongly encourage comrades to support the work of the Tamil Refugee Council and Tamil Fightback. You can follow Tamil Fightback on Twitter, Facebook and on 3cr Radio in Melbourne.



Trevor Grant has published a new piece on the ongoing genocide against Tamil people in Sri Lanka:

The Sirisena regime says in one forum they are going to release all prisoners, then, in another, denies there are any political detainees. The end result is preservation of the status quo, except for a few token releases designed to silence continued demands from Amnesty International and other well-informed, respected human rights groups to free these people and investigate the 146,000 reported Tamil disappearances, along with the many mass graves that have been uncovered in recent times.

Check it out.

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It’s a case of “much transparency, such openness” from the Australian Greens.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale has reshuffled the Green’s party room, but you wouldn’t know it from him. There hasn’t been so much as a media release or statement about the reshuffle from Di Natale.

Instead, the Greens have simply updated the portfolio responsibilities list on their website and issued an updated contact list to journalists.

How the Greens see fit to notify people about changes to their Parliamentary team.

How the Greens see fit to notify people about changes to their Parliamentary team.

The only public indication from Greens’ federal parliamentarians has been this brief statement from Lee Rhiannon.

The content of the unadvertised reshuffle further demonstrates that the Greens are a party lurching rightwards.

Lee Rhiannon and Janet Rice have been stripped of key campaign portfolio responsibilities, on the same day Richard di Natale has indicated he will work with the Liberal party on refugees and marriage equality.

Lee Rhiannon’s work in higher education, especially in the critical and much neglected TAFE sector, has consistently won kudos and respect from officials in both of the major education unions. Lee Rhiannon is also publicly identified as the most consistently left wing Greens parliamentarian.

The portfolio reshuffle sees responsibility for higher education go to South Australia’s yet-to-be-appointed replacement for Penny Wright, Robert Simms.

Robert Simms has also picked up responsibility for the LBGTI and Marriage Equality portfolio from Victorian Senator Janet Rice. Within the Greens this is a key campaigning portfolio; its move away from someone associated with the left based in Melbourne to an Adelaide based newcomer is significant.

In a sick twist sure to disappoint Greens supporters in the education sector, new Tasmanian Senator Nick McKim has been given the “Schools” portfolio.

In 2011 McKim served as Minister for Education in a Tasmanian Labor dominated government where he oversaw significant cuts to public education funding in that state. The appointment of McKim to this role is unsurprising given their new leader. Within the Greens Di Natale is said to oppose the Greens’ longstanding commitment to free tertiary education.

The Australian Greens under Richard di Natale are continuing their trajectory to the right. If those who identify as ‘the left’ within the Greens do not successfully fight this trajectory, they will have become little more than window dressing for a right wing party in much the same fashion as the Labor left.

Assuming they have not already.


Nick McKim has now released a presser celebrating his new portfolio responsibilities. It includes the following:

“I will work with my colleagues to champion entrepreneurship and the collaborative economy, which will be real economic drivers into the future.”

“I will be a fierce advocate for small business, and will continue the great work done by Senator Peter Whish-Wilson to ensure they get a level playing field to compete with the large corporations.

“The Greens will present an alternative vision for the economy that looks to the innovators, small businesses and entrepreneurs to generate sustainable wealth and prosperity in the 21st Century.”

The NSW Young Greens have posted a statement on their Facebook page which includes the following:

The NSW Young Greens object to the decision to remove the Higher Education portfolio from Senator Lee Rhiannon.

This decision will hurt the entire education movement across the country. Activists, students, NAPU and NTEU & AEU members have relied on the support of Senator Rhiannon for many years, and have developed a strong working relationship with her. These close relationships, and the actions Senator Rhiannon has taken, have allowed the Greens to be at the forefront of the campaign against deregulation, and together we have played a key role in defeating it. This decision will, in many ways, alienate thousands of young people and union members from the Greens.

The NSW Young Greens would also like to object more broadly to the manner in which portfolios are chosen in the Australian Greens Party Room.

The Sydney University Education Action Group has posted this:

Chris Pyne losing the Education portfolio is an unsurprising attempt by the Turnbull government to save face in light of failed higher education reform. In the midst of the shambles of Federal politics, we’re devastated to hear that the The Australian Greens have inexplicably replaced Lee Rhiannon as their higher education spokesperson, in what many are interpreting as a rightward lurch.

Further Update:

Sky News posted Greens reshuffle while all eyes on PM late last night:

The Greens have reshuffled their party room in a move overshadowed by of Malcolm Turnbull’s first day as prime minister.

New South Wales Senator Lee Rhiannon lost the higher education portfolio, while Victorian Senator Janet Rice is no longer the spokesperson for same-sex marriage and LGTBI issues.

The move is likely to further anger certain sections of the party’s membership already concerned about the lack of transparency and consultation shown during May’s leadership spill.

Meanwhile others have been wondering what on earth Di Natale was doing at this last week.

Wednesday Updates

New Matilda running with Anger In NSW After Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon Loses Higher Education Portfolio:

Despite playing a prominent role in the push-back against Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s attempts to deregulate the higher education sector, Rhiannon has lost the portfolio to New South Australian Senator-designate Robert Simms, who has also received the high profile LGBTI and Marriage Equality roles.

New Matilda understands the ultimate responsibility for redistributing portfolios lies with Greens leader Richard Di Natale, and that MPs were informed of the final changes at a party room meeting on Tuesday morning.

Green Left Weekly has picked it up with Federal Greens leader sidelines two popular Green MPs.

Thursday / Friday Updates

Crikey ran an article (paywalled) on Thursday entitled Greens’ sneaky portfolio reshuffle upsets NSW branch.

A couple of of commentors in the thread below have pointed to this blog post by Richard di Natale on the Greens magazine website. Apparently it proves the Green’s total openness, transparency and lack of a rightward shift.

See Also

New Matilda, New Greens Boss Richard Di Natale Forced To Clarify Israel Stance.
SBS, Pension Changes to Pass with Greens support.
Kieran’s Review, 5 reasons the Greens aren’t good enough on asylum seekers.

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Police pepper spray photographers at the July 18 counter demonstration. Image credit Wardenclyffe Photography.

A few rough thoughts on Saturday’s counter demonstration against Reclaim Australia and the United Patriots Front.

1. A defeat for the far-right

Shermon Burgess and the United Patriots Front wagered their grouping’s credibility on a successful #July18 rally in Melbourne.

The UPF called for a total mobilization of right wing forces to converge on Melbourne. Their propaganda claimed that the rally in Melbourne was basically a matter of life and death for the far-right (and by extension in their world view, Australia). ‘The left’ had to be defeated on this day or ‘Australia’ would be destroyed.

There was talk of buses and planes bringing in ‘patriot’ support from all over Australia and even the world; every angle that could get racists out from behind their keyboards and onto the streets was pursued. Burgess went to so far as to announce he would quit ‘the movement’ if this one rally did not succeed in defeating Islam and ‘the left’.

Burgess repeatedly claimed that an awe inspiring coalition of far-right forces had been forged to support this rally. Dissent was not tolerated, when one far-right grouping dared disagree with Burgess the UPF denounced the evil splitters. Monika Evers and Julie Kendell of ‘Reclaim Australia Rally – Melbourne’ were described as “traitors” who Burgess would “kick in the c-nt”. Anyone who attended anything other than the official UPF rally was warned they would likely be bashed by ‘feral lefties’, as only the UPF had the muscle and the preparedness to use violence required for the right to rally in Melbourne.

When measured against their rhetoric and stated aims, the UPF failed on Saturday, and they failed miserably.

Despite an extra month of propaganda and organization, the UPF contingent on Saturday was smaller than their showing on May 31 in Richmond. In May they mustered approximately seventy supporters for an aborted March on Richmond Town Hall, on Saturday they mustered maybe sixty.

Burgess and friends claimed they would bring the muscle required for a fascist rally; “1pm Parliament steps, be there”. In practice, they were forced to skulk in under police escort at midday.

It is doubtful the UPF agitators believed they could smash the left on Saturday. Their real hope would have been to speak to, perform for, and hopefully recruit from the wider layer of racists that attended the April 4 rally in Melbourne. On this count also, the UPF failed miserably.

Due to the opposition of anti-racists, the UPF had to join the Reclaim Australia Rally under police escort and after a significant degree of secrecy. They result was that the few individuals who did turn out from the wider Islamophobic milieu were excluded from the UPF/Reclaim Australia rally.

Saturday’s rally also marked the effective end of the Reclaim Australia grouping’s Melbourne arm. On April 4, Reclaim Australia attracted perhaps a thousand people to its rally (even if only a few hundred made it through anti-racist lines to the rally kettle established by police).

On Saturday less than a hundred people gathered for the 11am rally announced by RAR-M’s Monika Evers. The planned bus of racist supporters from Bendigo simply did not materialize. A significant portion of the rump that did attend the RAR-M gathering were people mobilized by Danny Nalliah’s cult, rather than the Reclaim Australia grouping.

As a mobilizing force, the “Reclaim Australia” brand is utterly spent in Melbourne. Evers could barely muster some Facebook re-posts in the aftermath. The United Patriots Front fair little better in terms of mobilizing ability, but it seems likely their core group of agitators will continue churning out militaristic hate videos for some time yet.

2. Police violence and pepper spray

The Melbourne Street Medics Collection have released a statement about the police pepper spraying generally and the assault on their first aid triage point in particular:

Amongst those affected by the OC Spray was a casualty who began to experience respiratory distress, a not uncommon side-effect of OC spray and other such “less-than-lethal” chemical weapons. In the course of attending to this casualty and decontaminating others who had been affected, members of the Melbourne Street Medic Collective (including one pregnant woman) were attacked by police with OC Spray and kettled in a small space at the top of Little Bourke Street.

Melbourne Activist Legal Support has also released a statement on the police tactics on Saturday:

According to Legal Observers present the OC foam was not directed towards individuals who were threatening police or engaged in violence but instead was directed over and onto the entire crowd of people present. For this reason the MALS Legal Observer Team identifies the use of OC foam in this circumstance as indiscriminate and therefore unlawful.

A comrade from Anarchist Affinity has also written about the issue of police violence on Saturday:

Many people see the police through the traditional liberal lens- that they exist to protect society from crime. For the many people who copped pepper spray, saw the police pepper spray medics, took random punches to the face and received cursory “fuck offs” from the police yesterday, that notion is not going to gel particularly well with their feelings at the moment. Marxist or Anarchist theory will point out to you that the police exist to protect private property and the state, and little else.

There are a couple of remarks I want to add to the above.

It is clear that the police planned for the liberal use of pepper spray against the counter-demonstration; the Public Order Response Team personnel all used far more pressurized OC foam than they would ordinarily carry.

The police tactics were not a response to an unpredictable situation, they were a planned and prepared course of action. Somebody made the decision to have the Public Order Response Team repeatedly attack the counter demonstration, liberally distributing pepper spray in all directions. As the MALS statement points out, this is of course unlawful.

Whilst I was shocked by the brazen use of pepper spray on Saturday, the presence of police violence is never unexpected.

In the lead up to Saturday’s rally, the police made clear that it was their intention to facilitate the fascist demonstration. The UPF and Reclaim Australia were going to engage religious and racial vilification on the steps of Parliament House (the supposed home of democracy in Victoria), and the ‘job’ that he police were ‘just doing’ was ensuring that this could occur.

By counter-demonstrating we were announcing that our aims conflict with those of the police. If we’re serious about denying racists space on our streets we will have to contend with the force and violence of the police.

Yet I did not expect the level of police violence that occurred.

The state and the police have an interest in maintaining the legitimacy of their monopoly on the lawful use of violence. For this reason, I normally expect the police to use the minimum necessary violence to achieve their ends. I doubt the mass use of pepper spray was required to protect a small coterie of fascists, but the police clearly saw it differently. We could consider that a compliment.

Over the past three months counter-demonstrators at far-right rallies have developed confidence and capacity. At Federation Square on April 4 counter-demonstrators maintained a strong picket. In Richmond on May 31, counter-demonstrators pushed aside a police line in order to block a fascist march.

The police may want their violence to appear legitimate, but if it is a choice between appearing legitimate and maintaining control, the police must maintain the appearance of control. On May 31 the actions of counter-demonstrators briefly defied the police with little in the way of repercussions. I suspect that decisions around police tactics were in part informed by a desire to make a point about who runs the show.

The appearance of pepper spray at one demonstration should not dissuade people from attending these kinds of anti-racist actions.

Whilst police violence is distressing to experience, in these contexts it can be mitigated against by those prepared to contend with it, and largely avoided by those who wish to contribute to rejecting racism and fascism without copping a face full of weaponized pepper.

There are all manner of roles that people can and should play in contested street demonstrations that do not carry a risk of pepper spraying. The biggest restraint on the use of violence by police is the size of the demonstration they are contending with, the more outnumbered they are, the more restrained they will be.

3. Masked demonstrators

Blah blah blah, protestors wearing masks were violent hoodlums, blah blah blah.

I expect this kind of garbage in the mainstream press and from the police, but it is disappointing to see these remarks attributed to Socialist Party Councillor Steve Jolly in The Age:

He said this allowed a small group of people, who were wearing masks and balaclavas, to take attention away from the hundreds who were there to peacefully take a stand against racism.

None of the groupings planning Saturday’s rally intended to be passive, and it’s disingenuous of Steve Jolly (assuming the quotation is accurate) to claim that his organization did not intend to defy police and attempt to block access to the far-right demonstration. I applaud them for their organizing work to that end.

There are a whole bunch of reasons people might wear masks in the context of Saturday’s counter-demonstration. The far-right seek to identify their political opponents, there are various websites and Facebook groups dedicated to “exposing” the opponents of racism in Australia.

For other people attending the rally appearing in media coverage was both likely and an unacceptable risk; medical professionals volunteering in the Street Medics Collective, for example, may mask up to avoid flak at their day jobs.

But the most obvious reason to mask up is that sometimes you need to push back. On Saturday we were seeking to picket and prevent a racist demonstration. A good segment of the people seeking to attend that rally were violent fascists, and some of those people had to be frog-marked, pushed and at times more forcibly ejected from space held by the counter demonstration. Individuals who entered the counter-demonstration space looking for a brawl had to be ejected, and many of the people who took it upon themselves to do the ejecting prefer not to be identified.

I think I should make it absolutely clear, the groupings organizing the counter-demonstration on Saturday had no intention of getting involved in individual brawls with individual fascists. The groups who gathered aimed to picket, disrupt and prevent a far-right rally.

Which is what we did.

Other / Updates

Yay! The Puf Gang!

Yay! The Puf Gang!

Comic is by Shermi and the Puf gang, with permission.

I’ve changed which Puf Gang comic appears on the post after receiving some critical feedback from comrades, feedback I accept.

To end, here is an elderly Italian priest waiving a red flag and singing Bella Ciao!

Header image credit Wardenclyffe Photography.

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Super accurate reportage from the Hun.

There has now been extensive media coverage about Saturday’s events, almost all of it rubbish. There was stiff competition, but Andrew Jefferson’s article in the Herald Sun by takes the cake for sheer factual inaccuracy.

Jefferson faithfully reports the police line, even when (as he concedes here), he could see with his own eyes that it was untrue:

In an article full of howlers, Jefferson describes the forces arrayed against Reclaim Australia and the United Patriots Front as simply “Socialist anarchists”, and then he seemingly negotiates some kind of mega merger of the United Patriots Front, the Australian Defense League and the Patriots Defense League Australia to give us this amazing insight:

The Reclaim Australia protest was later boosted by the arrival of about 60 people from splinter group the Patriot Defence League, including many from interstate.

I expect bias, distortion, lies and propaganda from the Herald Sun, but Jefferson’s article just smacks of sheer laziness.

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A participant in the UPF rally on May 31 in Richmond, wearing a CFMEU cap, clashes with anti-racist demonstrators.

Two months after the most significant far-right mobilization in recent Australian history, the Victorian Trades Hall Council executive has adopted the following motion (emphasis added):

“That the VTHC celebrates the contribution to our community from Victorians of many cultures and faiths. There is no place in Victoria for discrimination or racism and we deplore those who would demonise any group by reason of their faith, race or culture. Affiliates pledge to work alongside groups and organisations representing our many faiths and communities to counter those that oppose multiculturalism and in particular those individuals and groups that are currently fostering anti-Muslim sentiment“.

– Victorian Trades Hall Council Executive minutes for 12 June 2015

Far-right agitator Shermon Burgess has responded to this development by calling upon his supporters to protest to their unions, and by threatening a mass walk out of racists from the trade union movement:

So I urge everyone from Reclaim and UPF, all the tradies and stuff who support us, all the hard workers who are union members – contact your union and let them know not to rally against us. Because we are for our unions, we are not against our unions.

But if we are going to have the unions start attacking us, then, you are going to have a whole lot of Aussies who support Reclaim Australia and UPF tearing up their union membership, and it’s going to cost the unions money.

Burgess and the far-right Reclaim Australia milieu have struggled to work out the best position to take in relation to the union movement.

The United Patriots Front are committed anti-leftists; their Facebook page proclaims that they are “a nation wide movement, opposing the spread of Left Wing treason and … Islamism”. This stance would appear to place them at odds with the values of the modern trade union movement.

Yet at the same time as they rail against “left wing traitors”, Burgess and other elements on the far-right harbor dreams of building a political base amongst ‘blue collar’ segments of the white working class.

The far-right do not know whether they want to attack, or enter, the existing trade union movement, and so they often end up attempting to do both at once.

At the same time as Shermon Burgess published his call for ‘patriots’ to contact their unions and agitate for racism, his fellow UPF agitator Neil Erikson was announcing he would never again have anything to do with the union movement:

When I was younger I used to have a lot of respect for the union. I liked to be protected at work, from the evil bosses that are gonna sack ya for f-cking nothing.

I joined the union many years ago, but guess what – NUW? [crumples his membership card] Not anymore.

It’s a sad day in Australia when I gotta worry about my own union workmates. Youse are there to protect me at work from bosses and fucked up shit, not outside when I want to protest something I believe in.

So that’s it, no more union for me. Ok, the Marxists, Communists have taken over your unions. They’ve got you in so much fucking trouble and you keep doing it.

Me personally, I’m not paying another dollar to any union. Ok. I’ve had it.

I’m not going to be fucking be manhandled and bullied to keep my mouth shut whilst my brothers and sisters die all across Australia all across the world. Christians being murdered for fucking nothing. You gu- [Video ends suddenly]

Erikson’s rant was clearly off message and was quickly removed from the UPF Facebook page, although not quickly enough.

The far-right dream of building a base amongst segments of the labour movement. They share the same offensive assumptions about blue-collar workers held by so many middle class social-democratic snobs; that white male blue-collar workers are naturally racist and are thus susceptible to the appeals of fascism.

The politics of the far right are anti-union, in that they attempt to mobilize one segment of the Australian working class against those workers who happen to be Muslim. The racism, bigotry and Islamophobia of the far-right are an attack on the basis of the union movement, they are an attack on the very idea of working class solidarity.

For these reasons, the far-right must be publicly, forcefully and unequivocally rejected by the entire labour movement.


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In a recent post, Far Right Attempting Regroupment, I noted that fascist agitator Shermon Burgess had changed his tune about Reclaim Australia.

A month after his public and acrimonious split from Reclaim, Burgess is now desperately preaching a message of “patriot unity” in an attempt to build support for planned rallies on July 18 (in Melbourne) and July 19 (elsewhere).

I noted that the “allied groups” Burgess has been name-checking are largely ephemeral, and that in reality he was probably drawing support (for things like his bus trip) from the likes of the Australia First Party:

The people on such a bus will not be coming from some MySpace group, instead they are almost certainly going to be drawn from the milieu around Jim Saleam’s Australia First Party, and their more obviously swastika licking friends in the Hammerskins and Squadron 88.

Burgess’ public position has been moving further toward the extreme edge of the far-right, but even so it is still surprising to see something as brazen as this go up on the United Patriots Front facebook page:

Jim Saleam and Neil Erikson appear together in a video posted on the United Patriots Front's Facebook page today.

Jim Saleam and Neil Erikson appear together in a video posted on the United Patriots Front’s Facebook page today.

Jim Saleam has a forty year career on the far right in Australia dotted with numerous criminal convictions. He started as a swastika wearing “National Socialist”, spent time in prison for arranging shotgun attacks and arson directed at political opponents, and now attempts to propagate an Australian fascism grounded in the history of the White Australia Policy.

Despite his attempts to distance himself from his swastika licking past, Saleam maintains an ongoing connection to the neo-Nazi scene, evidenced in particular by his continued work with longtime neo-Nazi and Squadron 88 mascot, Ross “the Skull” May.

From top left: 1. Jim Saleam (right) and Ross May in their National Socialist Party of Australia days. 2. Media coverage from one of Jim Saleam's many encounters with the law. 3. Ross May, Jim Saleam and others at a war memorial. 4. Jim Saleam's mug shot, taken after his arrest in connection with a shotgun attack on the house of Eddie Funde (ANC representative in Australia). 5. Jim Saleam, Ross May and other boneheads attempting to drum up support at Cronulla beach, approx. a year after the Cronulla riot. 6. Jim Saleam and Golden Dawn's Australia spokesperson Iggy Gavrilidis at a 2014 rally. 7. Ross May and Jim Saleam together at a rally. 8. Jim Saleam and Ross May at an Australia First meeting in 2014.

From top left:
1. Jim Saleam (right) and Ross May in their National Socialist Party of Australia days.
2. Media coverage from one of Jim Saleam’s many encounters with the law.
3. Ross May, Jim Saleam and others at a war memorial.
4. Jim Saleam’s mug shot, taken after his arrest in connection with a shotgun attack on the house of Eddie Funde (ANC representative in Australia).
5. Jim Saleam, Ross May and other boneheads attempting to drum up support at Cronulla beach, a year after the Cronulla riot.
6. Jim Saleam and Golden Dawn’s Australia spokesperson Iggy Gavrilidis at a 2014 rally.
7. Ross May and Jim Saleam together at a rally.
8. Jim Saleam and Ross May at an Australia First meeting in 2014.

In the video, Saleam expounds on a couple of his pet conspiracy theories, in particular his claim that the government funds anarchists in Australia. He is then joined in front of the camera by Neil Erikson to announce that:

On July 18 and July 19 Australia First Party throughout the country will be supporting the Reclaim Australia rallies. We want to see all patriotically minded Australians there to stop the intimidation at street level of the extreme left against patriotic freedom of expression.

For those unfamiliar with the career of Jim Saleam, I recommend checking out The Audacity of Hate by Greg Bearup, a 2009 profile originally published in SMH’s Good Weekend magazine.

Shermon Burgess and the United Patriots Front are now publicly and overtly aligned with a man who:

spent three and a half years in the 1990s in prison, for supplying a gun to two skinheads who shot up the home of an African National Congress representative while his young family was inside. He was jailed for a further two years for insurance fraud. In the 1970s, he was involved with Australia’s Nazi Party – the Nationalist Socialist Party of Australia – and has been photographed on several occasions wearing swastika armbands. He also had links to the Patriotic Youth League at the time of the 2005 Cronulla riots.

So what does this mean?

It is simply inconceivable that Shermon Burgess, Neil Erikson and the others grouped in the so-called United Patriots Front could be unaware of Jim Saleam’s status as Australia’s premier fascist ideologue. Neil Erikson’s appearance in this video with Jim Saleam was not some kind of mistake or misunderstanding.

This video is yet more evidence that Burgess and the UPF do not simply hate Muslims; they are embarked on a deliberate project to build a fascist political formation.

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