May 2015

Far-right agitator Shermon Burgess and his assorted fascist friends have announced their intention to rally at Richmond Town Hall this Sunday. The stated target of this rally is “the left”, in the person of Yarra City Councillor and Socialist Party member Steve Jolly.

The rally in Richmond is intended to build for the far-rights’ planned rally at Flagstaff Gardens on July 18; a rally which is ultimately intended to reverse the failure of the far-right Reclaim Australia rally in Melbourne on April 4. It is a reversal that Burgess and friends blame on the “traitors” known as “the left”.

Richmond Town Hall will be empty on Sunday, council staff have been told to stay home, and Steve Jolly is hosting a public forum on responding to the Reclaim Australia types in Carlton.

Actual promotional material put out by Shermon Burgess and the 'United Patriots Front', describes their intended rally as "Burgess vs Jolly the Commie".

Actual promotional material put out by Shermon Burgess and the ‘United Patriots Front’, describes their intended rally as “Burgess vs Jolly the Commie”.

United Patriots Front?

For those that missed the hilarity on Facebook, the Reclaim Australia grouping recently performed the splits. Shermon Burgess fell out with other Reclaim Australia types in a dispute that seems to have centered on whether “patriots” were doing enough to push Burgess’ ‘Reclaim Australia’ branded clothing. As a result, Burgess and friends are now calling themselves the United Patriots Front.

According to their Facebook page;

The United Patriots Front is a nation wide movement, opposing the spread of Left Wing treason and spread of Islamism.

In practice UPF is a small handful of fascist activists organized online grouped around Shermon Burgess. Slackbastard has a rundown on who these clowns are, but in brief the key players are:

  • Shermon Burgess, reputed Cronulla rioter and former Australian Defense League member, I have previously described Burgess at more length here;
  • Neil Erikson, former Nationalist Alternative, currently calling himself Nationalist Republican Guard online, also described here;
  • Blair Cottrell, neo-Nazi responsible for so-called National Democratic Party of Australia.

How to respond?

The so-called United Patriots Front represents the far-right of the far-right Reclaim Australia milleu; they are the most clearly fascist elements operating in Australia today. It is difficult to know what mobilizing force they retain, but at present point 145 people have clicked “attending” on the UPF Facebook event for the Richmond protest and 3,744 people have ‘liked’ their Facebook page.

When reflecting on April 4 I wrote that “fascism has a public space agenda”:

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 publicly; 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.

It is interesting to note how after holding successful rallies in most Australian cities, the far right activists behind Reclaim Australia have obsessed over the fact they were disrupted and opposed in Melbourne. I wonder if history has anything to do with it.

Fascism in Melbourne has been effectively subterranean since the failure of two rallies called by the ADL in 2011. The same far-right elements that were defeated in 2011 are trying to end their subterranean exile and establish a public movement. When they stick their heads up in public, they need to be opposed, disrupted, and sent packing. For this reason I’ll be joining others from the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism at Richmond Town Hall on Sunday.

I intend to participate in this and further counter-demonstrations, however it is important to note that counter-demonstrating is neither a complete nor sufficient strategy. The UK network Anti-Fascist Action wrote in 1995:

the working class is the natural constituency of socialism, not fascism. Racism and socialism are incompatible. One only exists at the expense of the other. The success of the Far-Right is due to the fact that the Left are not seen as a credible option

While the initial aim must be to root out the organised racists/fascists ­the motive force behind the attacks – and throw down a challenge to those that provide them with facilities, the long-term solution must be to create communities of resistance. By creating some space, perhaps in time a real working class alternative to the lying bullshit that now passes for politics in this country can emerge. The entire Left has failed the working class, black and white alike, though many prefer to believe that the working class has failed the Left.

The leaflet is called Filling the Vacuum and I’d heartily recommend it to anyone who is serious about opposing attempts by the far-right to organize in Australia.

With that in mind, it is also important that the public forum that Steve Jolly and others have called is supported.

Some Useful Resources

Know Your Nazi!, a spotters guide. List names and photos of people worth avoiding/looking out for.

A quick guide to staying safe and being effective: All out against Reclaim Australia, a guide prepared by Anarchist Affinity for the last ‘Reclaim Australia’ counter rally.

Activist Rights Handbook, Fitzroy Legal Service, essential reading for anyone engaged in public protest in Victoria.

Melbourne Street Medics Collective, tons of useful information for staying safe at a public protest.



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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 has been 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 Unemployed Workers 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.


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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.


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


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


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!


“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?


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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