australia

Pindostan threatens to “disconnect” Australia if it strays from conflict with China
Mike Head, WSWS, May 26 2020

Amid an escalating propaganda barrage by the corporate media and political establishment against China, accusing it of trying to “bully” Australia over trade issues, Pompeo issued a blunt threat on Sunday, declaring that Pindostan would “simply disconnect” Australia from its military intelligence telecoms networks if any Australian government made an agreement with China deemed to endanger Pindo natsec. Pompeo delivered Faschingstein’s warning in an interview on the Murdoch media’s Sky News channel, thus making explicit and public the kind of threats that are usually made behind closed doors. Asked about a vague 2018 MoU signed by the Victorian state government to participate in China’s global BRI infrastructure project, Pompeo said he was not aware of the specific details of the agreement, but he delivered this sweeping ultimatum:

Every nation has its own sovereign right to make decisions for itself, and I suppose Victoria has some rights, but every citizen of Australia should know that every one of those Belt and Road projects needs to be looked at incredibly closely. We will not take any risks to our telecoms infrastructure, any risk to the natsec elements of what we need to do with our Five Eyes vassals.

While Pompeo alleged that BRI projects could do unspecified “harm” in the region, his real preoccupation is with protecting the massive and expanding spying operations conducted by Pindostan and its vassals, as exposed by Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. Pompeo’s intervention is part of an intensifying campaign by the Trump administration, with bipartisan backing from the Demagogs, to confront China economically and militarily, including by seeking to blame China for the worsening world-wide COVID-19 pandemic. This offensive is driven partly by the White House’s desperate efforts to divert from its criminal responsibility for ignoring public health warnings, leading to Pindostan becoming the worst infected country on earth, with its death toll reaching 100k. But its roots lie deeper, in the drive by successive Pindo governments, taken to a new level by the Obama administration, to prevent China from challenging the global economic and military dominance of Pindostan. Pompeo is not just the Trump administration’s foreign policy chief. He also speaks on behalf of the Pindo military intelligence apparatus, having been a Pindo army officer and later DCI in 2017–18. In what some media outlets misleadingly called “damage control” to walk back from Pompeo’s too-public threat, the Pindo ambassador to Australia, Arthur Culvahouse Jr, published a clarification that was equally menacing. Culvahouse said:

We have every confidence that Australia, as an intimate vassal and Five Eyes partner, would take every measure necessary to ensure the security of its telecoms networks.

This was a not-too-subtle warning not to deviate from the commitment to Pindostan military alliance that has been maintained by every Australian government since WW2. Liberal-National PM Scott Morrison also weighed in, saying the Labor Party government in Victoria should never have signed the MoU with China. Morrison accused the state government of undermining “the national interest” and federal “foreign policy.” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was branded “Comrade Dan” on “the Silk Road” by the Murdoch media. He quickly backed away from any suggestion of weakening the Pindo alliance, to which the Labor Party has unconditionally committed for seven decades. Andrews declined to comment on Pompeo’s threat, and his spox said:

Victoria has not, and will not in the future, agree to telecoms projects under the BRI.

Pompeo’s broadside was his second Australia-related intervention in three days. Last Thursday, during a wide-ranging attack on China, delivered at the State Dept in Faschingstein, he declared that Pindostan “stands with Australia” against China’s alleged bullying. Pompeo said:

The CCP chose to threaten Australia with economic retribution for the simple act of asking for an independent inquiry into the origins of the virus. It’s not right.

This turns reality on its head. China co-sponsored last week’s WHA vote for an inquiry into the pandemic, to be organised by the WHO. The resolution was very different from the anti-China and anti-WHO call issued by the Australian government. Moreover, the Morrison government was obviously acting as the spearhead for an “Pindo call,” as Pompeo has now admitted. Elements within Australia’s ruling class, especially those most heavily reliant on Chinese markets, have voiced alarm at the nakedness of Canberra’s frontman role for Pindostan and its discredited “Wuhan lab” accusations against Beijing. But the dominant financial elite and its parliamentary servants are closely tied to Pindostan, on which they depend for investment and military backing. Pompeo’s comments come as Trump continually ramps up his demonisation of China, last week accusing Beijing of “mass worldwide killings” via the coronavirus. At last week’s State Dept event, Pompeo pointed to the calculations behind such inflammatory allegations. He declared a further hostile shift in Pindo policy, saying that Pindostan had wrongly assumed that as China grew economically it would become more like the “free nations,” that is the corporate-controlled Western powers. Pentagon strategists already declared in Jan 2018 that the post-2001 “war on terror” had been replaced as the primary focus of Pindo military interventions by “great power conflict,” especially against China and Russia. American imperialism is hell-bent on militarily re-asserting its hegemony over the Indo-Pacific region and the entire planet. This is putting Pindostan and its closest vassals, notably Australia, on course for a potentially cataclysmic nuclear war with China. But workers in Australia, Pindostan and China would be the first casualties. To halt the drive to war, they must reject all efforts to divide them along racial, ethnic and national lines. They have a common interest in unifying their struggles against the capitalist profit system, which is lurching toward another world war, and for socialism.

Australian governments rush to end lockdowns in line with business demands
Oscar Grenfell, WSWS, May 26 2020

Australia’s federal, state and territory governments are rapidly overturning lockdown measures introduced for the coronavirus pandemic. This is in line with the demands of big business for a “reopening of the economy” aimed at ensuring corporate profit-making activities and stepped-up exploitation of the working class. Hundreds of thousands of students and teachers are returning to schools, crowded public transport services are operating and millions of workers are being herded back onto the job. In a number of states and territories, large gatherings, which pose a particular risk of mass COVID-19 infections, will resume over coming days. The campaign is accelerating despite ongoing community transmission of the coronavirus, especially in New South Wales and Victoria. These are the two most populous states and also have had the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and fatalities. Nationally, 7,116 cases and 102 deaths have been reported officially since the crisis began in March. These official figures, which likely understate the true rates, indicate that there are still more than 500 active infections. The federal Liberal-National Coalition government and state and territory leaders have openly acknowledged that the reopening will result in increased infections, meaning that growing numbers could become seriously-ill and possibly die.

Yesterday, federal health minister Greg Hunt stated that once restrictions were overturned, they were “unlikely” to be reinstated, regardless of the progress of the health crisis. Instead, he declared, authorities would seek to impose “localised rings of containment” in response to “suburban, facility-based, or regional outbreak.” Hunt said the reimposition of lockdowns would be considered only after “systemic, statewide” transmission, after tens or hundreds of thousands had been exposed to the virus. Governments have previously flagged the possibility of military-enforced shutdowns of suburbs and neighbourhoods where large numbers of infections occur. In an indication of the immense dangers, Hunt referenced last month’s mass outbreak in northwest Tasmania as an example of the “containment” strategy. More than 100 people were infected within days, before 1,000 health workers were placed in isolation and two hospitals were closed in an operation involving military personnel.

Demands for the full resumption of face-to-face teaching in the schools have spearheaded the back-to-work campaign. Government ministers, Labor and Liberal alike, have acknowledged that the return of classroom teaching is aimed at creating the conditions for parents to go back into their places of employment. Public schools were fully reopened yesterday by the state Liberal government in NSW and the Labor administration in Queensland. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian dispensed with a previous plan for a “staged return” without even a pretence of consultation with teachers or parents. Labor governments in the Northern Territory and Western Australia had already overseen the resumption of most classes. In Victoria, Labor Premier Daniel Andrews ordered a return to classrooms of years 1, 2, 11 and 12 from today, to be followed by the remaining students on Jun 9. The risks were underscored this morning, when parents at Sydney’s Waverley College received a text message instructing them to immediately pick their children up from school after a year seven student had tested positive and the campus had been “evacuated.” Then, this afternoon, a primary school student at nearby Moriah College was also confirmed as having the virus, prompting that school to shut. Last week, a private school student also tested positive.

The cases further expose the claims of the authorities that students are unlikely to contract and transmit COVID-19. These politically-motivated assertions have relied on cherry-picked “evidence,” which has not been peer-reviewed. They have ignored studies in France and Germany indicating that school pupils are as likely to be inflicted with the virus as any other cohort, and have made virtually no reference to the emergence internationally of a new illness among school-aged children linked to COVID-19, with symptoms similar to Kawasaki Disease. The hasty return to the schools has provoked widespread opposition. Last week, Ash Parmar, a worker in the Sydney suburb of Toongabbie, initiated an online petition, demanding that parents be permitted to decide whether or not to send their children to school. In the space of several days, it has received over 8k signatures. Speaking to the SMH, Parmar said:

This is just a bullying act to get everybody in, just to open up schools for political mileage or different pressures other than health. I don’t think that I want to make my kids guinea pigs to that kind of behaviour from the government.

Teachers have taken to social media denouncing the endangerment of their health and safety, pointing to the impossibility of social distancing in schools and exposing the failure of the authorities to provide them with protective and hygiene equipment. Many have condemned the education trade unions, which have either actively promoted the resumption of face-to-face teaching or prevented any struggle against it. Governments have claimed that schools and workplaces where infections occur will receive “deep cleaning.” Experts, however, have described the concept as “totally made up.” A recent national survey of cleaners by the United Workers Union found that nine in ten were compelled to rush essential jobs, while eight in ten lacked adequate equipment, including appropriate disinfectant. One anonymous cleaner who works at schools in Melbourne told the New Daily:

We don’t have enough equipment like proper cloths, and dusters, things like that. We don’t have enough to make sure it’s safe. We often run out of disinfectant. We only have one box of gloves to share between four cleaners. The supervisor said to try to wear only one glove.

The comments highlight the dangers facing the millions of workers who will be compelled to return to their places of employment over the coming weeks. Already, hundreds of thousands of workers in manufacturing and construction have been forced by the trade unions and employers to remain on the job throughout the pandemic. The risks will be compounded by the reopening of bars and restaurants. From Jun 1, a raft of restrictions will be lifted on the hospitality sector, along with competitive sports and other large gatherings. In South Australia, pubs, gyms, cinemas, places of worship, beauty salons and other sites will be allowed to accommodate 80 people at any given time, rendering contact-tracing almost impossible if infections occur.

The back-to-work campaign shows that the same criminal indifference to the plight of ordinary people, demonstrated throughout the pandemic in Pindostan and internationally, dominates in the Australian ruling elite and the political establishment that represents it. As in every other country, the crisis response by Australian governments has been aimed solely at ensuring the fortunes of the corporate and financial elite. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been handed to the largest businesses, while only a pittance of official relief has been provided to the millions of workers who have been thrown out of their jobs or whose earnings have been slashed, since March. Today, PM Scott Morrison delivered an address to the National Press Club, outlining the economic “road out of the crisis.” He signalled sweeping cuts to public spending and a further pro-business overhaul of industrial relations, to be enforced by the unions. This is aimed at returning workers to conditions not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Online meeting reveals union complicity in attacks on Australia Post workers
Jim Franklin, WSWS, May 26 2020

An online “briefing” called by unions covering Australia Post (AP) last Thursday night underlined their indifference to the dangers facing workers at the publicly-owned mail service amid the pandemic. It signalled the willingness of the unions to enforce the sweeping cuts to jobs, wages and conditions being demanded by management on the pretext of the coronavirus. The national event, which was attended by several thousand workers, was the first held by the Communication Electrical and Plumbers Union and the Communications Workers Union since the COVID-19 crisis began. Opening the meeting, Shane Murphy, CWU national president and CEPU vice-president, declared it would discuss “very important issues.” There was no report on the number of workers infected with the virus, where they were employed and whether they had made a full recovery. Only after at least one member asked in the chat field how many workers had tested positive, CWU national secretary Greg Rayner said there had been no new infections since April. He revealed, however, that 24 AP workers remained in isolation. Rayner did not indicate whether the workers had been tested and were awaiting results, or how they were potentially exposed to the virus. He claimed that those previously infected had fully recovered.

In an Apr 4 email to members, Murphy had reported that 11 postal workers in Sydney alone had contracted COVID-19, at least four of them while they were on the job. No further information has been provided to workers since then. AP was designated an essential service by the federal Liberal-National government, meaning that employees were forced to continue working throughout the lockdown measures imposed to combat the spread of the virus. As infections were recorded, the unions ensured there was no disruption to operations, despite the absence of mass testing among workers and the fact that they were initially not provided with hand sanitiser and personal protective equipment. The lack of information on the pandemic set the tone for the meeting. The union boxtops prevented workers from speaking and from putting motions. Comments made in the chat field could not be seen by all participants. As a result, statements and inquiries from members were vetted. Most of the 260 questions raised were not answered. A motion by some members calling for the meeting to allow all workers the right to speak was not reported to participants or voted upon. Questions about the pandemic, including the absence of on-site testing, were ignored.

Most of the meeting focused on a vast pro-business restructure announced by AP management last month and associated discussions about a new workplace enterprise agreement. The management overhaul includes abolishing priority mail deliveries, reducing letter delivery in metropolitan areas from daily to once every two days, and extending delivery times for intrastate letters to five days. The changes are aimed at slashing costs and transforming the company into a profitable parcel delivery service to hasten long-standing plans for privatisation. Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate described them as the largest overhaul of work practices in over two decades, raising the spectre of mass sackings and the further casualisation of the workforce. Management and the unions already have enforced attacks on conditions over the past three months, changing rostered start times on the pretext of allowing social distancing in mail sorting facilities. This means later start times of 6:30 am rather than 6am for some workers, and 9 am for others. This has increased workloads, giving employees less time to finish their beats despite a higher volume of parcel deliveries, and reduced overtime and penalty rate wage payments, which must be paid before 6:30 am. Postal workers are still having to deliver junk advertising mail, which is highly time-consuming, but lucrative for AP.

The union boxtops who spoke at the meeting primarily complained that they had not been consulted prior to the announcement of the restructure. These claims are a transparent sham. AP’s plans for a sweeping overhaul have been on the public record for years. Moves to slash letter delivery and transform AP into a parcel-delivery service were revealed in a 2018 review, details of which were published by the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year. The unions are seeking to divert anger behind appeals to the Labor Party opposition to block legislative changes required for the restructure, even though Labor has played a central role in the corporatisation of AP and mass sackings at the company. The unions have initiated a toothless online petition, appealing to the government and management. At the same time, the union is working with Communications Minister Paul Fletcher. Murphy revealed that officials have held backroom meetings with him, supposedly to ask which changes would be permanent and whether they are in preparation for privatisation. Murphy complained that despite verbal assurances that the changes were temporary, the unions had not been given any written guarantees. In reality, the unions are fully prepared to enforce the dictates of the company and the government, as they have for decades. The primary concern of the union bureaucrats is that they are adequately “consulted,” that their role as an industrial police for management, from which their privileges derive, is maintained. This was highlighted in an answer to a question during the meeting. A worker wrote:

Restructuring in the past led to the destruction of hundreds, if not thousands of jobs. Any new round of restructuring will lead to further cuts in jobs/conditions. This is what the letter from AP to members prior to this meeting is threatening. What does the union propose to do about this?

Phil Kessey, a CEPU official, replied in a “private answer,” ensuring no one else in the chat could see. He said the union would:

Campaign and fight reforms that are not agreed. We are not averse to sensible changes to save jobs but we will fight blind cost-cutting!

Kessey’s response, and previous statements from Rayner and Murphy, demonstrate that the unions will present management attacks as measures necessary to combat the pandemic, and will seek to bully workers into accepting them. This is a continuation of the unions’ decades-long collaboration with management in the gutting of workers’ conditions. This included the enforcement of 900 sackings announced in 2014, and another 1,900 job cuts the following year, along with other measures, such as the increased use of contractors. The conduct of the briefing and the suppression of the democratic right of workers to speak is a warning of what is being prepared. The unions are seeking to prevent any discussion among workers, because their aim is to prevent a genuine fight against the attacks of management, the government and the entire political establishment. The meeting underscored the need for AP workers to form independent organisations of struggle, including rank and file committees, to defend their interests. These would be tasked with fighting to ensure that all workers are provided with protective equipment and that mass testing is immediately rolled out among AP employees. Rank-and-file committees could organise broad industrial and political action, mobilising the strength of AP’s workforce against the restructure. They could break the isolation imposed by the unions, by uniting with other workers who are being propelled into struggle, including health employees, teachers and construction workers. Above all, postal workers need a new political perspective that rejects the subordination of their jobs and safety to profit interests. A socialist program is required, aimed at establishing a workers’ state that would place necessary services, including AP, along with the banks and major corporations, under public ownership and democratic workers’ control. This is the only means of ensuring a full-time job with decent conditions for all employees and a safe working environment.

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