The Social Services Minister, Christian Porter, lives in a fantasy world where jobs grow on trees and where the unemployed are to blame for unemployment.
In a speech to the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) National Conference, Christian Porter claimed there was no shortage of jobs in Australia, and that instead the Centrelink “compliance regime is failing miserably”.
The Social Services Minister believes that “there’s going to be 115,000 jobs created over the next several years” in the care sector, and thus:
“I just don’t put my hands up and say there aren’t enough jobs. I just don’t think that that’s statistically the case.”
Well it is statistically the case and Christian Porter fails at basic maths.
The ABS reports that there are 708,600 people unemployed in Australia as of October 2016.
Official unemployment figures massively underestimate the true scope of the employment problem. The rate of underemployment (where people have some work but need more) sits at around 8.5%, or a further 1 million people.
The most recent report on advertised job vacancies estimates there are 175,300 advertised job vacancies.
Christian Porter reckons there is no shortage of jobs when approximately ten people compete for every advertised vacancy. If Porter’s hypothesized 115,000 new jobs “over the next several years” materialized tomorrow, there would still be approximately 9 people competing for every advertised vacancy.
Bur rather than an employment problem, Christian Porter reckons there is a “compliance” problem. At the ACOSS national conference Porter raged that a reported 3000 people on some form of welfare turned down a job in the past year.
There are 854 665 people currently claiming either Newstart Allowance or Youth Allowance. 1 in 284 people on Newstart or Youth Allowance turned down a job.
A female friend reports being offered a hospitality job at a venue with a less than desirable reputation.
I asked if I would get sexually assaulted. they said: well, it’s not ideal, but it’s not rape.
I wouldn’t take that job. My friend is in dire financial straights, so she submitted an application anyway.
This is what the government means when they talk about “compliance”.
The welfare system is designed to discipline the working class. The payments are at poverty levels and the process of claiming is both punitive and humiliating so that when you are offered a minimum wage job with the likelihood that you will be “groped and fondled a bit”, you will apply.
I don’t actually think that Christian Porter is delusional or bad at basic maths. The government attacks welfare claimants because they want to force unemployed Australians to take any job, in any conditions, at any rate of pay.
The government blames job seekers for being unemployed (calling unemployed workers job snobs, dole bludgers, etc etc) in order to justify worsening poverty payments and increasingly punitive measures, which in turn are intended to drive down the cost of labor for capital.
Despite poverty payments and the punishment regime embedded in the welfare system, 3000 people on welfare refused a job last year. I shudder to think how bad those jobs must have been.
The Grupo Cultural de Estudios Sociales de Melbourne have released a new publication as part of the celebrations to make the 80th anniversary of the Spanish revolution.
A grass root C.N.T. militant Remembers: The oral memoirs of Luis Parés is newly translated into English, and represents an oral account of one militant’s experiences as a militant in the CNT during the Spanish revolution.Tool Online Fast furious legacy Coins
The flame of the Spanish Social Revolution has never stopped burning.
Eighty years since it was lit one can still find anarchist innovations in the folds of its contents. All its political adversaries through the decades have been unable to discard or permanently hide the constructive and positive social achievements implemented by the libertarian movement.
Thousands of printed works describing the events that transpired during those captivating days have traveled around the world, many of them written by renowned authors. Others books have been written by research academic historians giving their individual interpretations of the proceedings. Unfortunately not too many books have been written by the individuals that experienced the events at first hand, that were in actual fact making history with their militancy, with their direct participation, with their contribution in spontaneous actions and decisions be it at meetings, behind the barricades or on the battlefield.
At the beginning of the second half of the 1970’s a small group of compañeros in France, in Spain and where ever there were exiled Spanish anarchists set themselves the task of recording the verbal memoirs of militants whose singular actions contributed to the social changes, the collectivisations as well as the constant struggle against fascism. This is the history of personal experiences.
We now have the pleasure of presenting in the following pages the testimony of Luis Parés Adán who recalls his war. These memoirs were first published in the pages of “Espoir” the weekly publication of the French C.N.T. – A.I.T., number 825, July 1978.
Melbourne based far-right and fascist groups the True Blue Crew and the United Patriots Front have teamed up and announced a joint rally “celebrating” the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency, this Sunday at Parliament House (Melbourne).
This rally is the latest in a series of attempts by far-right groups and politicians in Australia to hitch a ride on the Trump bandwagon.
Last Tuesday, as the US presidential election results began to indicate a possible Trump victory, Pauline Hanson jumped to be the first to “congratulate President Trump”. She cracked a bottle of champagne for the cameras outside Parliament House and announced that if Trump were an Australian, she had no doubt he would join One Nation.
Within the Liberal Party, extremist and Reclaim Australia supporter George Christensen has been parading about with Donald Trump’s books and has declared that he “likes the idea of a wall”.
South Australian bigot and Senator, Cory Bernardi, has gone further, posting pictures of himself on Twitter wearing a Trump-esque peak-cap emblazoned with the slogan “Make Australia Great Again”.
For the likes of Christensen and Bernardi, the election of Trump offers an opportunity to drive Australian politics further to the right. To their eyes, the election of Trump proves the existence of a more explicitly racist “discontented” mass; a constituency whose “discontent” who can be harnessed to advance the cause of their brand of “conservative” politics.
Yesterday. Bernardi re-tweeted a comment by Rita Panahi that doubtless reflects their point of view:
“There’s never been a better time for disaffected conservatives to take the Liberal Party back from the hopeless bedwetters who are spooked by gallery chatter and Twitter storms.”
The hard-right of the Liberal Party aren’t the only force racing to relate to the potential constituency that is supposedly represented by Trump, One Nation and Brexit abroad.
The Guardian reports that the ALP’s Jim Chalmers will today give a speech calling on his party to do more to relate to people drawn to Hansonism in Australia (which is apparently interchangeable for Trump in the US and Brexit in the UK).
Labor frontbencher Jim Chalmers will launch a plea for Australian politicians to engage with the group of voters “trampled” by the impact of globalisation and technological change – arguing Hillary Clinton may have lost the US election when she branded Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables”.
There is something darkly ironic about this when we consider that since 1983 the ALP has probably done more than any other party to bring about the impacts of “globalisation and technological change” in Australia. The ALP, more than the Liberals, gave us “free trade”, industrial relations deregulation, deindustrialization, and ongoing (and increasingly precipitous) decline in trade union density.
Militant and independent organised labour is the left’s traditional answer to the growth of right-wing populist politics, but organised labour in Australia has been rendered toothless and ineffective because of it’s ongoing and slavish subservience to the political agenda of the ALP.
The ALP is not capable of realizing that it itself is one of the big factors that has precipitated the decline in organised labour, and that it acts a barrier to an effective organised response to the rise of Hansonism.
If the ALP tries to relate to ‘this phenomenon’, it will likely do so by shifting further to the right.
In light of all of this, Left Flank’s article’s on anti-politics are worth a re-read. All manner of political forces are competing to re-incorporate a growing constituency of discontent with “politics as usual”. I see no reason that these efforts should be accommodated or supported. Also worth re-reading is London AFA’s Filling the Vacuum.
Getting back to Melbourne’s far-right, the TBC, UPF and other fascists have also recognized the opportunity that Hanson and Trump offer.
After some initial successes in 2015, these groups have recently been struggling to reach an audience outside their existing networks. A recent anti-refugee rally in Eltham was meant to drew between 70 and 100 people, with few participating from the community that was targeted.
The proposed Donald Trump celebration is already significantly more successful. The Facebook event records 1600 either interested or attending, and a review of the guest list indicates that the participants are not simply the usual fascist suspects.
The longer term challenge for anti-racists is to build an anti-racist movement capable of pushing back against the state and capital as well as specific racist manifestations. In the short term however, there is a fascist rally in Melbourne that needs to be opposed.
Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission has handed down a report into the violent treatment of an off-duty policewoman, Yvonne Berry, who had been arrested for drunkenness by police in Ballarat.
The Ballarat case has provoked public interest both because it involves a white female police officer, and because the incident was extensively captured by CCTV cameras.
It is worth noting, as the IBAC report does, that “presence of CCTV cameras did not appear to deter some officers from questionable conduct”1.
This indicates that the police involved were not concerned about being called to account for their actions. This is how Victoria Police officers treat someone when they think no one will care, no one will report on it, and no one outside the police force will investigate.
Content Warning: Descriptions of Yvonne Berry’s treatment at the hands of police follow. Police violence, assaults, abuse.
On the fourteenth of January last year, Yvonne Berry was arrested by Ballarat police. She was drunk.
Berry should probably have been taken to a hospital, but she declined, so four police officer held her down, handcuffed her, and took her to the Ballarat Police station.
Yvonne Berry was thrown in a cell.
Police cells in Ballarat are standard concrete boxes with, “painted concrete floors and bed shaped blocks, a drinking water fountain and toilet”.2 She wasn’t given a mattress or a blanket “for safety reasons”.3
The drinking fountain was broken.
CCTV footage showed Berry waving a plastic cup at the CCTV camera and pointing at the drinking fountain. The police officer responsible for monitoring people in their cells either did not notice or did not care.
An intoxicated and doubtless parched Yvonne Berry was left with no choice but to drink from the toilet.
At 1am Berry demanded to speak to the officer-in-charge. When her cell door was opened, Berry tried to push her way out. In the scuffle, Berry grabbed an officer’s lanyard and pen.
For reasons that baffle me, the police involved decided that the recovery of a stolen pen and lanyard was the single most important mission confronting Ballarat police in January 2015.
Hyperbole perhaps, but instead of giving their drunk inmate some clean water and a blanket, the officer’s on duty barged back into the cell, wrestled with Berry, sprayed OC spray into her face on two occasions, and still managed to end up sprawling on the ground whilst Berry ran from the cell.
More police responded. They found Berry, dragged her back to the cell on her knees, held her face down and handcuffed her whilst onse officer stood on one of her legs. “A significant amount of OC foam is seen pooling on the cell floor around [Yvonne Berry’s] head”.4
The officer’s involved then proceeded to strip search Yvonne Berry, in her cell, whilst she was covered in OC foam.
As [Berry] was lying face down on her stomach with her hands cuffed behind her and she was affected by OC spray, positional asphyxia was a real risk. It is noted that police are trained that death in such a position can occur very suddenly and that an attempt should be made as quickly as possible to get the prisoner upright onto their knees or standing.5
But the cops wanted their pen back. Even IBAC notes that “the search for the missing items could have waited” and that the police should have “immediately taken [Berry] to the showers”.6
Instead, “Constable A [removed Yvonne Berry’s] underwear, with Constable McCarty hovering over her upper body area”.7
More police enter the cells, including a Senior Constable Nicole Monro:
Senior Constable Munro swiftly delivered a forceful kick with her right foot into the lower rib or stomach area of [Yvonne Berry]. Leading Senior Constable Munro was wearing her normal patrol outfit including heavy boots.8
Nicole Monro walked into a cell where a badly pepper sprayed women was being held down and strip searched, and booted her in the ribs.
Then a Constable Steven Repac came in:
Senior Constable Repac entered the cell. He turned to face the cell door away from [Yvonne Berry’s] head, placed his left foot on the lower part of the back of her right leg and then forcefully stomped on the same area of her other leg.9
Steven Repac walked into a cell were a badly pepper sprayed woman, naked from the waste down, was being held down and strip searched, and began stomping on her leg.
According to the IBAC report, Repac stomped on Yvonne Berry’s leg on multiple occasions, and kicked her again when leaving the cell.
Eventually, Yvonne Berry was dragged to the showers. Handcuffed. She was dragged along the floor, “including over the raised metal ridge which is likely to have caused unnecessary further discomfort”.10
In the showers Berry was left unattended for twenty minutes, despite the fact she was “was handcuffed, suffering from OC spray and probably still affected by alcohol”.11
The heat was turned up, “which is contrary to police training as warmth exacerbates the painful burning sensation caused by OC spray”.12
Berry, still in her shirt and underwear, was then “wrapped in a towel” and taken to Ballarat Hospital. “A brief medical observation was conducted while she remained in the vehicle”.
She was then returned to the cells, and “left there with her wet upper clothing still on and her underpants. CCTV footage shows person A attempting to sleep on the cell floor in that condition”.13
Why did this happen?
IBAC has recommended assault charges be laid against two police officers for their role in the beating and torture of Yvonne Berry.
However, the IBAC report is at pains to excuse all but the most grievous actions by the police involved.
Dragging Berry across the ground was apparently “reasonable” despite the “discomfort involved”.
The copious use of pepper spray, sprayed so thick that it formed a visible pool on the ground when Berry was held down, is excused away by an IBAC commissioner who clearly has no appreciation for the horrendous pain and injury this chemical weapon causes.
The decision of the police involved to start a brawl over a pen and lanyard (rather than simply collect them when Berry sobered up) is not even questioned by IBAC’s investigation. The use of hot water on OC burns to torture Berry is dismissed as mere oversight.
IBAC has recommended common assault charges for the kickings, the bruising and the stomping. Common assault, not assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The IBAC report is weak, Victoria Police are worse. Earlier this year “Victoria Police internal investigators [found] no evidence of criminal conduct” and the two police officers involved “had their suspensions lifted”.14
Now that the IBAC report has been released, the Police Minister, and the acting police commissioner, have been at pains to defend the “integrity” of the police at Ballarat, and have publicly rejected claims that violence by the police might be in any way systemic.
The Police Association’s response to the IBAC investigation was to fund multiple court challenges to either prevent police from having to testify, prevent their identities from being revealed, or prevent the hearings from being conducted publicly.
In January last year police beat and tortured Yvonne Berry. They did it despite the presence of CCTV. They did it knowing that any internal police investigation would clear them. They did it knowing the Police Association would have their back. They did it knowing the public, media and politicians routinely excuse violence by the police against vulnerable people. Had Yvonne Berry not later been revealed to be a serving police officer, I doubt this issue would have provoked an IBAC investigation and possible charges.
Police abused Yvonne Berry because they have the power, they have the badge, they have the guns, they have the public support, and they have the confidence that impunity provides.
All of the officers involved in the mistreatment of Yvonne Berry remain serving members of Victoria Police. Be careful.
IBAC’s special report into Operation Ross, released on 10 Novermber, misses a vital opportunity to look beyond Ballarat to the Victorian police complaints system itself.
Existing police complaints mechanisms in Victoria have consistently failed to maintain accountability, uphold human rights, or change police behaviour, and public faith in complaints processes is understandably low.
Victoria urgently needs to move to a system of independent police complaints investigation.
I would go even further, and suggest that Victoria Police need to be disarmed as a matter of urgency, and subjected to significant community (rather than political) oversight, direction and accountability.
The government, police and media are pursuing a racist campaign of vilification and persecution against kids from Sudanese migrant backgrounds.
The Herald Sun is today boasting that a Sudanese born “suspected member of the Apex gang” will be “forced to return to Africa next year”. The racists are crowing.
Who exactly are we deporting?
Issac Gatkuoth came to Australia as a nine-year old child refugee. He “endured a hellish, parentless upbringing in Sudan”1. He hasn’t seen his mother since he was five years old, his two brothers were killed when his village was “wiped out”, and he spent time as an unaccompanied child in a Kenyan refugee camp.
“Until recently he believed his father was living somewhere in Australia, but was devastated when he learned his dad died when he was just two”.2
Unsurprisingly, Issac suffers from PTSD, has recurring nightmares, and developed an ‘ice’ addiction. Issac “was on ice and had not slept for two weeks” when he committed a violent carjacking.
Issac was sentenced, imprisoned, and next year will complete the prison term that is meant to ‘repay his debt to society’. And then he will be deported to a country which he fled when he was five, where the people he knew are long dead, and which is stricken by ongoing civil war.
Issac denies being a member of the amorphous and ill-defined ‘Apex gang’, but because of the colour of his skin, and the racist beat-up surrounding anyone tarred with these two words, the right-wing media, the shock-jocks and Liberal MP Jason Wood are jubilant because this Australian youth faces deportation.
Issac is as Australian as I am3. He went to an Australian school, grew up in an Australian community, was marginalized by good old Australian racism and neglect, and took popular Australian drugs to blot out the pain.
Issac is as much one of ‘our’ kids as anyone. He needs support, not racism, vilification and deportation.
When is a gang not a gang? The police, media and politicians report on Apex gang as if it were a structured criminal organisation engaged in systematic car-jackings, burglaries, and armed robberies. The truth is a little less impressive.
When the ‘Apex gang’ first burst across media front pages in March it was little more than an extended friendship group.
The Age reported earlier this year, the supposed gang “has no clubhouse, no colours and no real structure”. An ABC interview with a ‘gang member’ offered further details:
“I wouldn’t say it’s a really big thing, you know. The media always speculates and tries to make things sound big, bigger than they are. … (It’s) just a group of youths. … Everyone’s got to have friends, you know.”
A bunch of kids growing up in a Melbourne suburb with a “lack of school, no jobs, lack of employment” hang out with their friends and get into fights with other groups of kids. Sounds familiar:
Sharpies, or sharps, are the darlings of Australian gang fashion. They started out in the 1960s when groups of working-class teenagers in Melbourne, and to a lesser extent, Sydney, came together over cars, tattoos, fights, and “dressing sharp.”
In March, some kids were involved in a punch-on at Federation Square during the Moomba festival. Melbourne’s largest street gang, Victoria Police, responded with copious amounts of pepper spray.
If the kids involved hadn’t been black, and if their little spat hadn’t pissed all over a City of Melbourne tourism draw card, the fight might have gone unremarked.
Brawls involving a couple of dozen people are common enough in any suburb with the right combination of unemployment, alcohol and machismo:
VICTORIA Police say they are not investigating an all-in-brawl at a suburban Aussie rules football match despite reports a pregnant woman was assaulted.
When the police and media reported that a “gang war” had taken place in the city, the Apex gang exploded. As the ABC’s ‘Apex gang member’ pointed out back in March, “Some people just want a reputation”.
Notoriety is a hell of a currency, and when the media, police and political establishment started condemning the ‘Apex gang’, every disaffected kid in the outer suburbs had something infamous to scrawl on the wall.
It is little wonder that the apparent composition of the ‘gang’ has changed and the crimes associated with it are expanding. Hundreds of people from all manner of backgrounds are now using the words ‘Apex gang’ in Melbourne’s south eastern suburbs.
There is no ‘Apex gang’, but there is a hell of a brand, and who wants to let the truth get in the way of a good story? Both the police and media outlets profit by stoking racist hysteria around the ‘Apex gang’. The gang narrative sells papers, drives website clicks, and justifies police budgets.
Anyone interested in how the police and media can invent a ‘gang’ out of whole cloth should read up on Adelaide “Gang of 49“.
In 2007 SA Police announced they were “monitoring a group of 49 primarily Aboriginal offenders held responsible for hundreds of crimes”. The media dubbed it the “Gang of 49” and dozens of articles followed.
The Advertiser and local talk back radio reported on the crimes, members and supposed rituals of this terrifying gang menace. One expert compared it’s lack of structure to the ‘cells’ of a terrorist movement! Before long there were indigenous kids running around calling themselves the “Gang of 49”, where no such gang had existed before.
Victoria goes to the polls in two years, and both major political parties will once again engage in the traditional ‘law and order’ bidding war for the support of the Police Association and the Herald Sun.
You can bet that the Police Associaton will demand more officers and greater powers, and both major parties will announce ‘new measures’ to ‘combat gang crime’.
Aside: Whenever you see the words “police sources” in a Victorian publication, the journalist actually means “Police Association gossip”.
Victoria Police cannot be taken seriously when they talk about the ‘Apex gang’, ‘gang crime’, or anything supposedly connected to the Sudanese community.
Victorian Police LEAP data analysed by eminent statistician, Professor Ian Gordon from the Univeristy of Melbourne in Haile-Michael & Ors v Konstantinidis & Ors revealed that between 2006-2009, Africans in the Flemington and North Melbourne area were 2.5 times more likely to be stopped by police than other groups despite having a lower crime rate.
The practice of racial profiling extends beyond police “rank and file”. “Overt operational orders by Victoria Police have been known to target African youth” despite 2006 legislation that “makes it unlawful for a person to be treated differently from others on the basis of their race”.
Victoria Police, and in particular the Victoria Police Association, maintain very close relationships with the newspapers who might otherwise report on police misdeeds. The law-and-order campaigns of the Herald Sun (in particular) mirror the stated position of the Victoria Police Association, and crime reporting rarely deviates from the narrative pushed by Victoria Police’s media unit.
The confluence of interest between Melbourne’s largest tabloid newspaper and the Victoria Police Association deserves closer examination than I am able to provide in this post.
Issac Gatkuoth is being sacrificed to the myth of the ‘Apex gang’, and racist narratives around “Sudanese crime”.
The vilification of the Sudanese community continues unchecked in the pages of tabloid newspapers, on talk back radio, at MPs’ press conferences, and in the actions of the Victoria Police.
The reality is that Melbourne’s outer suburbs register unemployment rates approaching 30%, alienated teenagers hang out in ‘gangs’, and kids who’ve experienced war and deprivation need love and support.
We must push back against the vilification of the Sudanese community, public rhetoric about the ‘Apex gang’, and the victimization of troubled kids like Issac Gatkuoth.
Refugee supporters, Eltham residents and anti-racist activists rallied to oppose a far-right demonstration in Eltham today.
The Sydney based Party for Freedom called for a “Battle of Eltham” today, ostensibly in response to plans by the Victorian state government and St Vincent’s Care Services to house Syrian and Iraqi refugees in disused section of an Eltham aged care village.
These units are stand-alone and separate from the residential aged care and independent living facilities on site.
The 60 units have been vacant for a number of years and have been refurbished by St Vincent’s Care Services to make them liveable.
The refugee housing project will run for two years and then the accommodation will be transitioned to be used as affordable housing for seniors.
There will be no impact on the residential aged care or independent living residents who live at the Eltham site.
The Party for Freedom have been using this announcement to stoke fears about the “safety” of residents in the facility, who are presumably so old and frail they would have a heart attack and die if they saw little brown kids playing in the park across the street.
In reality, what the Party for Freedom want is a chance to stoke racism and expand the reach of their paltry organization into Victoria. Their previous attempts at holding an event in Victoria (a picket at a Halal food expo) flopped when some people jumped off a tram.
The counter-rally gathered at the Eltham Cenotaph where there were speeches from DYVRS organizers, local Eltham residents, as well as anti-racist activists, union members, and a member of the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism.
DYVRS then led the rally on a march through Eltham, past the far-right rally and St Vincents Aged Care, before returning to the centre of town.
It is worth noting that whilst this rally in support of refugees was taking place in Eltham, a further two thousand people gathered as part of the Refugee Action Collective rally at the State Library in central Melbourne:
The Fascist Rally
Party for Freedom “chairman” Nick Folkes announced that his Eltham rally would be a “battle” in a crude attempt to drum up media attention.
Folkes specializes in buffoonish media stunts; in the past year he has invaded church services, held a BBQ to celebrate the Cronulla riots, attempted to enter Parliament dressed as a member of the KKK, and held some seriously strange protests targeting the queer community. He is a very strange man.
Unfortunately for Nick, no “battle” eventuated. There were no fights, arrests or scuffles that I am aware of.
The bulk of the far-right rally were associated with the True Blue Crew, with a smaller contingent from the Soldiers of Odin.
Media reports of the turn-out at the fascist rally vary between 70 and 100, our spotters estimated “maybe 100”. The True Blue Crew and others have published photos showing a small rally amply endowed with flags and branded merchandise.
Blair Cottrell and Thomas Sewell of the United Patriots Front (UPF) were spotted without their usual UPF merch, as was valour-thief Ralph Ceminara.
The True Blue Crew organised a bus from Bendigo, through Melton, to Eltham. Tickets were reportedly $40 a head, and our spotters counted 20-25 assorted fascists disembarking at midday.
Apparently, the TBC were struggling to cover the hire costs, but Danny Nahliah and Rise Up Australia Party came through with a $200 contribution at the last minute. The charter bus was provided by the Bendigo Bus Company.
We should call the racist rally what it was, a flop.
A Melbourne neo-Nazi Facebook page (that I won’t promote by naming) complained that they found themselves “standing in the corner of an unused playing field; in an out of the way suburb; listening to speakers drone on…”.
After a dismal time standing in an “unused playing field” the TBC went to the Eltham Hotel for drinks, and they were reportedly still there getting sloshed at approximately 4pm.
Some people are slow learners…
In the lead up to the Eltham rally, super-brain Chris Shortis decided the best thing he could do was… stage a mock beheading.
Chris Shortis is the former UPF “lead Senate candidate” (they never obtained the signatures required to register) who has since split from the UPF and teamed up with the Australia First Party and a certain local neo-Nazi outfit.
The far-right were outnumbered in Eltham today but they were not substantially disrupted.
The counter-rally organized by DYVRS was a solid demonstration of opposition to the far-right and support for refugees, however more has to be done to build the kind of movement that will be able to stop far-right groups projecting a presence in public.
The True Blue Crew, Soldiers of Odin, and Nick Folkes came to Eltham looking for a fight. They were unable to get one primarily because counter-rally organizers decided not to accommodate them.
The far-right may have had a boring day, but they are continuing to organize. The Soldiers of Odin have announced an “Eastern Suburbs Meet and Greet” in Ringwood tomorrow, no doubt intending to build on any contacts or interest they may have garnered from their outing in Eltham today.
Today the far-right had to bus in the numbers, but anti-racists and anti-fascists in the eastern suburbs must be prepared to disrupt them in future, lest these fascist groups build a permanent presence in their suburbs.
A ‘final’ crackdown on the ongoing Bendigo Street protest-occupation seems likely as Victoria Police execute heavy-handed evictions and government rhetoric against occupiers gets increasingly extreme.
Melbourne is in the midst of a housing crisis, yet an estimated 82,700 properties sit vacant across the city. A significant number of these are owned by the government.
There are 34,700 waiting for public housing in Victoria. The public housing waiting list is over ten years long. This is why an estimated 22,000 people are homeless in Melbourne, and this is why increasing numbers of people sleep rough in the CBD, unable to find even the most basic shelter.
At the same time, the Victorian government owns a large portfolio of vacant properties in Collingwood and Parkville which were compulsorily acquired for the failed East-West Link project.
The East-West Link project was cancelled after the 2014 Victorian state election, and the state government had announced plans to sell-off houses acquired for the project. Two years after the East West Link project was scrapped the bulk of these houses remain in government hands, and many sit vacant.
The solution seems obvious. People need houses. The government owns hundred of vacant houses. Developers and property speculators sit on tens of thousands more. There is enough space to house everyone, right?
It was in this context that homeless people, activists and supporters initiated a protest-occupation of the swath of vacant housing on Bendigo Street in Collingwood in March this year. The actions of the Bendigo Street occupiers have put housing, housing vacancies, and the wash-up from the East West Link project in the public spotlight.
The occupiers of the properties have made the following demands and refuse to leave until they are met … All unoccupied properties acquired for the East-West Link that are still in the government’s possession to be added to the public housing register … [and] the Andrews government to say how they intend to provide housing for 25,000 homeless people
After six months of occupation, the Andrews government appears to be readying for a crackdown.
The Minister for Housing, Martin Foley, has stepped up attacks on occupiers, with the significant support of the Herald Sun.
The end-game for the Victorian government is the sale of as many of the acquired East-West link homes on the private market as possible.
The state government is attempting to recoup any money it can after spending $1.1 billion dollars to cancel the East-West Link project contracts. The state government was open about this objective prior to the Bendigo Street occupation.
However, in the face of criticism raised by the occupation and others, the state government has periodically announced that this or that house held by the state government will be converted into “social housing”. What this means in practice is that one or two houses are leased by the government to the Salvation Army.
Occupiers and others are rightly critical of the role played by the Salvation Army. Aside from being a religious organization with a history of homophobia, the Salvation Army does not provide the kind of secure housing that the public housing system does. “Social housing” leases are often conditional and rents are often significantly higher than the means assessed rents of the public system.
Nonetheless, the idea that the Salvation Army “do good” remains commonplace, and the state government have used this to create the political basis for attacking the occupation. The government simply announces that this or that house under occupation is now leased to the Salvation Army, and occupiers are all that stands in the way of the religious creepers doing their “good work”!
In recent weeks the campaign against the occupation has gone further. Martin Foley has claimed that occupiers are “armed” “muggers” “sex offenders” and more. The Herald Sun and others are actively canvassing for “terrified residents” desperate for the state to save them from “selfish squatters”.
The rhetoric is utterly disconnected from the reality that actually exists on Bendigo Street in Collingwood; the reality is that hundreds of people have come together over six months to raise a demand for a right to housing.
The importance of this action
The government hates the Bendigo Street occupation. The Herald Sun bemoans the $1.1 billion squat. For this reason alone it deserves your support!
Bendigo Street has shown that the direct action of homeless people occupying vacant property can be a politically powerful act. The act of occupying creates a situation that the government cannot readily ignore, it forces the government to act, either with concession or repression, in order to end this affront to property.
The Bendigo Street occupation demonstrates the rank hypocrisy of the state government, bemoaning homelessness whilst sitting on a portfolio of vacant homes.
The state government is desperate to undermine the inherent political legitimacy of this action, so that they can more freely utilize police violence to shut it down. They have not been successful so far because of the strong support for the action by activists, neighbors and the wider community.
But the state is preparing to act, and repression of the protest-occupation is imminent. Two things are required to deter the government, and hopefully force them towards concession.
The first is strong support to resist any eviction. The success of the police is not a foregone conclusion, a couple of hundred people willing to get in the way can transform an eviction situation.
The second is a willingness by activists to continue breaking the law, and to continue re-opening and re-occupying vacant government owned houses. For as long as this continues to happen, the state government will not be able to achieve its objectives: an end to the situation and the sale of these properties on the private market.
Phillip Galea, a fascist arrested in ‘anti-terror’ raids back in August, planned to bomb two “left wing premises” and cause “loss of life to persons possessing leftwing ideologies” according to statements made by Victoria Police in the Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday.
The Guardian is reporting that Phillip Galea conducted surveillance on two targets, obtained bomb making material, conducted research on improvised explosive devises, and sought to “recruit at least five other capable persons to assist with his plan”.
Galea has history. Galea is linked to a variety of far-right groups, and has been active in far-right and neo-Nazi politics since at least 2010. In the past eighteen months, Galea has been stopped with a knife at a rally in Richmond, stopped with tasers and mercury the day before a rally in Melton, and arrested with a flare at a rally in Bendigo. Andy Fleming has published an article detailing Galea’s links with Reclaim Australia, the True Blue Crew, the United Patriots Front, and possibly local Combat 18 boneheads.
As Andrew Zammit explains, Galea is hardly the first far-right figure to engage in political violence in Australia.
The alleged plot, if proven, would not be the first case of far-right violent extremism in Australia. To choose some recent examples, in 2010 self-described Combat 18 members fired shots at a mosque in Perth. In 2012 two Melbourne neo-Nazi skinheads were sentenced to jail for brutally assaulting a Vietnamese student. In 2013 a former soldier and self-described neo-Nazi was jailed for weapons and explosives offences.
Police have not disclosed which “left wing premises” were targeted by Galea in this alleged plot, but I suspect this might be relevant.
In November last year a group of United Patriots Front goons led by Blair Cottrell shot a bizarre video of themselves harassing staff and volunteers at 3CR community radio, and then again at the Melbourne Anarchist Club. As Jeff Sparrow pointed out, the footage was “clearly intended to be intimidating”.
But it did more than intimidate. These little video excursions by Blair Cottrell and others were a way of signalling to the UPF’s supporters who their enemies were. They were identifying targets. It seems likely that Phillip Galea took the hint.
Another matter that remains unclear is how the case against Phillip Galea might yet impact Blair Cottrell’s own legal troubles. In September three former members of the UPF were charged with religious vilification offenses for their involvement in a “mock beheading video”. Yesterday Blair Cottrell confirmed he has also received charges related to “racial vilification I think”.
A small fascist group are trying to make their presence felt on the streets of Melbourne’s CBD, today they got a free-kick in The Age.
Today’s Age reports that “a vigilante-style group is running ‘safety patrols’ in Melbourne’s CBD”. The article reads like it could have been scraped from a Soldiers of Odin (SOO) press release, the video that accompanies the article is worse.
The Age happily compares Soldiers of Odin to New York’s ‘Guardian Angels’; a multi-racial group of who ‘patrolled’ the New York subway system in the 1980s. A more apt comparison for the Soldiers of Odin would be Greece’s Golden Dawn.
The Soldiers of Odin are not simply some confused vigilante group concerned with amorphous ‘crime’ in the CBD. Rather, they are implementing a strategy of intimidation with the aim of building a far-right street gang in the heart of the Melbourne.
Their politics are racist, nationalist, and fascist.
For the Soldiers of Odin, ‘crime’ is a euphemism. Their agenda is to target Muslims, and non-white immigrants from the Middle East and Africa. They talk about crime in terms of the minority groups they seek to target. ‘Crime’ provides the Soldiers of Odin with the cover they are seeking to demonize religious and cultural minorities.
If you have any doubt about the racist agenda of the Soldiers of Odin, check out their repulsive public Facebook presence. The racist material directed at Muslims and other groups of perceived non-white immigrants is there for anyone with eyes to see.
The Soldiers of Odin are implementing a tried and tested racist strategy; and if Chris Vedelago and Cameron Houston of The Age wanted to compare it to anything they should have compared it to the strategy adopted by Golden Dawn in Greece.
The Soldiers of Odin are conducting “street patrols” in the city, and purport to run a soup kitchen. They do both of these things with deliberate political objectives in mind.
Fascist rhetoric centres around the idea that the state has failed the ‘nation’ in some way. The Soldiers of Odin are asserting that the state has failed to provide for “our homeless”, or that the state has failed to provide “safety” from “crime”, and they are purporting to react to this failure. But at a deeper level they are reacting to what they see as the state’s failure to maintain white supremacy. The state has failed to stop “Islamisation”, “left-wing treason”, immigration and so on.
The soup kitchen is about legitimacy and political cover. Our society gives all sorts of leeway to cranks if they purport to undertake charity work. It is politically difficult for anti-racist activists or any other force to go out and bust up a supposed soup kitchen.
The street patrols fit into this rhetoric as well, but their purpose is far more sinister. The Soldiers of Odin are actively hostile towards non-white immigrants, refugees, Muslims and “the left”. Their presence in the CBD is about projecting intimidation.
I have written before about the fact that fascists have a public space agenda. They are making a claim about who can feel safe in public space and who is not allowed to feel safe in public space. They are making the claim that racism is acceptable in public space, and that all people who disagree with them should feel unsafe in public space.
The uniformed march of bone-heads is deliberately calculated to make non-white immigrants, and people who are identifiably Muslim, feel unsafe in our city.
Should they be stopped?
The Soldiers of Odin are presently a tiny far-right grouplet, however, unopposed, the knowledge that even a small group of thugs is roaming the streets can have a disproportionate impact. There is also no guarantee that this group will stay small.
Australia has not yet experienced the scale of economic shocks that facilitated the rise of these kinds of groups in different European contexts, however there are other factors that could support the growth of this model of far-right group.
In Victoria we are in the middle of a racist “law-and-order” scare. The Herald Sun and various tabloid current affairs outfits have been pushing garbage about “Sudanese crime” and the supposed threat of “Islamic” terrorism, and the state opposition is talking up a law-and-order election.
Whilst unemployment is officially down, there is still meaningful economic discontent in the disadvantaged outer suburban communities that far-right groups have been targeting over the past two years (Melton, Bendigo, Narre Warren). There is also simmering resentment, encouraged by racism from the media and various political leaders, at the apparent decline of white supremacy in Australia.
The Soldiers of Odin are unlikely to experience rapid organizational growth; they are not likely to become a major extra-parliamentary political force in the near future. That said, in the current context there is the political opportunity for a group of street thugs to build and organise. A couple of dozen roaming fascists can make a city centre feel decidedly unsafe; a couple of hundred could pose a significant threat.
Fascist street thugs, like the Soldiers of Odin, need to be opposed. Their presence in the CBD has to be rejected, and their activities ejected. Fortunately they are still a small group of political opportunists.
Anti-racists need to get together and debate tactics in their organisations and campaign groups, but I’d suggest one possible tactic that might be worth exploring is a counter presence.
Any anti-racist counter-presence would need to be bigger, have better food, and be prepared to go and dish out the grub and friendship whenever and wherever the Scum of Odin seek to set up shop. It would have to be an ongoing project, and to work it would need to draw in the participation of the people that these fascists seek to target.
The Soldiers of Odin seek to convey a sense of semi-anonymous menace. The images and video included in The Age article merely contribute to this, in particular by using their “from behind” style photos (a style also popular with the fascist groups they descend from).
It’s utterly laughable that Age reporters Chris Vedelago and Cameron Houston did not challenge SOO on their neo-Nazi origins. They’ve adopted the name and branding (apparently with endorsement) of a Finnish fascist group. That name and logo draws from the post-WWII neo-Nazi embrace of “Odinist” and other forms of “Norse” symbolism.
And it’s not like fascists in Australia are unaware of the neo-Nazi connotations of the use of norse iconography by far-right groups!
For more on this topic, check out Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. Or just browse any gallery of common neo-nazi symbols or tattoos!
SOO was founded by a neo-Nazi, Mika Ranta, with a criminal conviction for racially-motivated assault;
SOO branches around the world have attracted the participation of neo-Nazis and White supremacists;
the President of SOO in Melbourne was previously a member/supporter of the Patriots Defence League of Australia;
SOO member Cam Moody McCann particpated in the April 2015 Reclaim Australia rally in the company of neo-Nazis;
the great majority if not all of the SOO Melbourne boys are drawn from the (White) nationalist milieu.
Anti-Racist Canada has a ton of info documenting links between the Soldiers of Odin and neo-Nazism.
Ethical consumerism is worse than useless. The false choice of “ethical consumption” gives those firms most exposed to the risks of consumer backlash a ready source of green wash, and it provides new opportunities to sell “ethical” products at higher prices. Whilst doing this, “ethical consumerism” diverts attention away from the dynamic that is destroying our environment, exploiting workers, and wasting resources.
Annoying fascist slime ball Neil Erikson is apparently facing some kind of legal action. The Facebook page ‘Australian Settlers Rebellion’ (operated by Erikson and Shermon Burgess) has put up a post calling on fascists to support Erikson at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 6 March 2017, and states that Erikson has been “charged under the Communist Racial Discrimination Laws for depicting a Religious Act”.
If Erikson has been charged, then it could well relate to last year’s beheading stunt in Bendigo. Erikson was accompanied on that jaunt by Blair Cottrell, Chris Shortis, Lyndon Watson, and John Wilkinson.
Apparently some 49% of Australians support a ban on Muslim immigration. The Essential research poll is based on an ‘online panel’ of a thousand people who receive incentives to complete surveys…
None the less, the poll’s other questions about the return of Pauline Hanson to federal parliament pose a significant problem for anti-racists. 42% of respondents agreed with the statement “I agree with a lot of what Pauline Hanson says and it’s good to see her back in Parliament”. 62% of respondents agreed that “I might not personally agree with everything she says but she is speaking for a lot of ordinary Australians” and 65% agreed that “Pauline Hanson talks about issues other politicians too scared to tackle”.
Unorthodox monetary policy is like a vast anti-gravity machine that has been able to delay the day of reckoning. The cost however is that it postpones crisis today by accumulating even greater and greater sources of risk. Unorthodox monetary policy today seems to necessitate unorthodox monetary policy tomorrow. It does seem unlikely that this can go on forever…