Coal, Trump, Pell and halal certification

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(Image via @GeorgeBludger)

We may be careering towards war and climate change disaster and 4,444 victims of child sexual abuse may have been revealed, but "clean coal" and halal certification is what our politicians have focussed on this week, writes John Passant.

A CLIMATE CHANGE heatwave has engulfed much of Eastern Australia.

Trump is leading us into potential global conflagration.

We found out last week that the Catholic Church had 4,444 sexual abuse claims before it in the 35 years to 2015.

Yet what were the big issues our politicians concentrated on?

One was halal certification. Has the world gone mad?

On Friday night, Senator Cory Bernardi and Nationals MP George Christensen went to a fundraiser in Melbourne for the extreme right wing and anti-Muslim Q Society to raise funds for anti-halal campaigner Kirralie Smith. The money raised will help defray what may be over $1 million in costs in a defamation action Halal Certification Authority chief Mohammed El-Mouelhy has brought against Smith and other members of the Q Society.

On Thursday in Sydney's equivalent fundraiser, cartoonist Larry Pickering and former Liberal MP and current Sky News commentator Ross Cameron both made homophobic remarks. Cameron railed against the "gay club" that is, according to him, the Liberal Party. He called the Sydney Morning Herald the "Sydney Morning Homosexual". Pickering started with Islamophobia and went immediately to homophobia — a common condition for reactionaries who need someone – anyone – to vilify. It is part of their political condition to appeal to fear — a fear built on and finding some willing adherents in uncertain economic times.

Pickering revealed the Q Society’s true nature, when he said:

"Let's be honest, I can't stand Muslims, right? I just can't stand 'em. If they're in the same street as me, I start shaking. I've gotta go home and do a cartoon on 'em. But they're not all bad, they do chuck pillow-biters off buildings, I 'spose."

It shows you how far off the planet these people are that Bernardi – the man who told us same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy and then bestiality – had to rebut the idea that throwing people off buildings for their sexuality was acceptable. The trouble is that these off the planet people are winning a bigger and bigger audience because the major parties offer little but more of the same — low wages, precarious employment, and rotten public health, transport and education systems.

There can be no doubt reaction is on the rise across the globe as well as in Australia. Othering Muslims, gays, Indigenous Australians, Jews, the unemployed, single mothers and so on, shifts the blame from capitalism, the real causes of the economic problems. It focusses the anger of the white middle class and mainly non-unionised regional and rural workers on others who are oppressed and thus also victims of economic stagnation, war, racism and prejudice. They become defined by the fact they are not the other.

It is not just about the Q Society, the besuited and bejewelled ruling class version of Reclaim (White) Australia. The latest polling shows a 7% surge for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (the PHONys) in Queensland in the last three months. One Nation now has 23% of the vote there, not that far behind Labor on 31% and the Liberals on 33%. The PHONys have picked up 4% of the Labor vote and 4% of the Liberal vote and, on those figures, it would win more than 20 seats. If so, it would hold the balance of power after the next election in Queensland. If the trend continues and it begins picking up support in more metropolitan areas, especially from disaffected workers in the absence of a working class party with working polices, then it is not impossible that by the next election in Queensland, due in early 2018 but which may be called as early as September this year, the PHONys could become the major Opposition party.

Giving them preferences, as the Liberals have done in WA, only gives the PHONys even more credibility and respectability than they already have.

Attacking Muslims will not create one job. It will not increase wages or improve hospitals. The root cause of the dissatisfaction is capitalism. This is the truth that no one dare speak.

While the Q Society is on its anti-Muslim bent – aided, abetted and fuelled by Malcom Turnbull’s offshore concentration camps – it is silent on the abuse of children by the Catholic Church — the cover ups and the failure of the State to protect these children or to even believe them.

The Turnbull Government, rather than making any comment on the Catholic Church’s systemic abuse of children, decided to attack Shorten as a working class traitor. Of course he is, since trade union representatives retail to the bosses the price of workers’ labour power. That means that some union leaders and Labor politicians do want to join the ruling class, eventually. But their role as trade union bureaucrats, or Labor politicians, means they are well rewarded managers of capitalism.

The obverse of this is that Turnbull is a full member of the ruling class; the apocryphal "self-made man", who has ended up with $200 million through exploiting workers and "buying short" and "selling long" — that is, shifting wealth that workers create from other sections of capital into his hands, much like Donald Trump did and does. Some of this comes via the Cayman Islands. Turnbull rules openly for the exploiters.

The other point of the Turnbull "strategy" was talking about reliable energy (that is, in his fantasy, from coal) and lies about clean coal. At the very time Australia is suffering from a prolonged climate change heatwave – and with the certainty they will get worse in years to come – Treasurer Scott Morrison was brandishing a lump of coal in Parliament as the saviour of humanity.

'Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad', wrote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 141 years ago. Unfortunately, the madmen and women are taking the rest of us down with them.

Climate change is an existential threat to life on earth. Through government inaction we, in Australia, are deliberately ill-equipped to do anything to ameliorate its impact let alone stop or slow down its major contributor, fossil fuel use.

Maybe, given the existential threat that is climate change, it is time for workers and environmentalists to radicalise the movement to stop climate change and save the planet.

The cause of the shift to Hanson by workers is, in part, the class collaboration of the trade union bureaucracy for the last 34 years and Labor’s embrace of neoliberalism.

A real industrial fightback by workers would raise class issues and shift the debate to the left, drawing workers back to re-energised and fighting unions. 

Let every union become the CFMEU. Then let’s see a member controlled CFMEU really radicalise and begin the strike campaign to smash the fair work system and establish the democratic right to strike at any time. This could help build the will to strike among other workers and revitalise the slowly dying union movement.

But of course, I am the mad one for suggesting any of this.

John Passant is a former Assistant Commissioner of Taxation. Read more by John on his website En Passant or follow him on Twitter @JohnPassant.

Signed copies of John Passant’s first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformed (Ginninderra Press 2016) are available for purchase from the IA store HERE.

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