Report on the Australian political situation to the ICOR Asia Conference 22-23 July 2023
Written by: Nick G. on 20 July 2023
Our Party is affiliated to ICOR through the Asian Continental grouping, along with parties and organizations from India, Sri Lanka, Bangla Desh, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Iran and Nepal.
The ICOR Asia Conference is being held in India on 22-23 July.
The report follows:
We open this report by commenting on the circumstances of the First Peoples of this continent and its islands. The First Peoples claim to have been here “since time immemorial” which, in calendar years, is around 60,000 years of occupation and ownership. The invasion of their lands by British unsettlers, whose history books for years spoke of “peaceful settlement”, was everywhere accomplished by force and violence or the threat of force and violence. Colonial racism justified attempted genocide, and violent occupation and exploitation of the First People’s lands and country. Indeed, one authoritative “history” published as late as 1890, equated the First Peoples with the “beasts of the field” who “sowed not, nor did they reap”, and whose nakedness indicated that they “pre-dated…even Adamic times”. That is, they were not created by the Christian God in his image, and should not therefore be treated as humans, but rather as a lower race of savages destined to be exterminated off the face of this Earth. Their lands were not regarded as populated in the European sense of having privately owned territories, so no attempt was made to “justify” colonial occupation by way of treaties.
The First Peoples resisted and survived and are determined to take back what is theirs. Never having ceded the rights to their lands by way of treaties with the unsettlers, they have since the 1970s, won through their own efforts, recognition in colonial law of land rights and, after the 1992 Mabo Decision, of their continuing occupation and ownership of traditional lands.
However, their battles are far from over. First Peoples are still subjected to daily racism and systemic disadvantage which results in huge gaps between their health, housing, education and employment levels and those of non-Indigenous Australians. They are the most incarcerated people on Earth. First Peoples continue to be displaced from their lands by the multinational mining corporations.
This year there will be a nation-wide referendum to alter the Australian Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the Constitution and create a permanent representative Voice for First Peoples to the Australian Parliament. Although this demand has been driven by conservatives among the First Peoples and is rejected by more militant First Peoples as an attempt to divert their struggles into the quicksand of parliamentary reform through a powerless advisory-only mechanism, it has prompted a racist Vote No campaign led by the conservative Liberal and National Parties. Whatever the outcome of the referendum, the momentum behind First Peoples’ demands for self-determination will continue and grow.
In the Asian region, the Australian working class has had the benefit of living in an advanced industrial nation of imperialist-dominated capitalism. The Australian working class creates enormous surplus value from the exploitation of its labour power and natural resources on the stolen lands of the First Nations people, appropriated by mining monopoly corporations. Since the 1980s, imperialist globalization has destroyed much of the local value-added manufacturing industrial base. No longer does Australia have car manufacturing and tool making industries, shipbuilding, clothing and footwear, pharmaceuticals, steel production. We are often described as a quarry for multinational mining corporations (minerals and gas) exporting natural resources and profits.
Although the Australian working class’s living standards are relatively high, so is the cost of living and many are threatened by insecurity through a combination of a decade-long inability to improve wages, through ongoing threats of unemployment or precarious employment, huge rises in rents and purchase prices for housing, rising medical costs and education expenses. As a result, more and more people are homeless, forced to seek accommodation with friends and family, and failing that, sleeping rough in the streets, or living in the family car. These conditions are exacerbated by some of the most restrictive and punitive industrial laws in the advanced capitalist world: strikes are illegal except when granted by permission of the authorities during enterprise agreement negotiations, which means that employers are given plenty of warning and preparation time, and the strikes are of limited duration and effectiveness. Very little has changed with the election of the social-democratic Australian Labor government, and with Labor governments in 7 of the 8 state and territory jurisdictions. Workers are learning that they must fight for their own independent working class agenda, and not rely on parliament or the authorities.
The US-Australia Stranglehold
The major parliamentary parties are dyed-in-the- wool supporters of US imperialism. Australia is part of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network, is part of the Quad (with India, Japan and the US) and of AUKUS (with the US and UK). Its history post-WW2 is one of willing subservience to the US imperialist global order, and it has joined imperialist wars in Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. At the present time, attempts are made to prepare the Australian people psychologically and politically for a US-led war with its main rival, Chinese social-imperialism. However, there is growing momentum behind opposition to AUKUS and the decision to equip the Australian Navy with US and British nuclear-powered submarines. The Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) and the Australian Anti-AUKUS Coalition (AAAC) are the driving forces behind this public grass roots campaign which has been supported by a growing number of unions and by many rank-and-file members of the Labor Party.
There is evidence of small divisions within sections of Australia’s ruling class some of whom are aligning themselves closer to China.
Successive Australian governments, both Liberal and Labor, slavishly uphold and promote U.S. global imperialist policies, turning Australia into a major U.S. military base, a launching pad for U.S war with China. At the same time as ICOR Asia Conference is taking place major military exercises on land, air and sea are being held in North Queensland (North Australia). Talisman Sabre is the largest US-Australia military training exercises in the region, held biannually in Australia. This year more than 30,000 military personnel from 13 countries are taking part in these war preparations, most from the U.S. Nuclear weapons carrying US B51 and B 52 bombers, US warships and US and UK nuclear powered submarines will be regularly based in Australia.
However, recent polls show more than 50% of Australia’s people want Australia to be neutral if war breaks out between US and China. Support for neutrality is strongest amongst women and young people.
Opposition to Australia’s involvement in U.S. wars and calls for sovereignty and independence are growing.
A movement for peace and nuclear free Australia is being re-built.
Australia does not have a Bill of Rights, and the Australian people’s rights and liberties are subject to continual attack by the ruling class. In addition to the repressive industrial laws, anti-terrorism provided the bourgeoisie with the pretext for increased surveillance, for new crimes and for increased penalties for old ones. Most states have massively increased fines and created or strengthened provisions to jail protesters who cause obstruction in a public place. The newly-elected Labor government dropped charges against a high-profile defendant involved in the exposure of Australia’s bugging of East Timorese negotiators on behalf of Woodside, an oil giant, after a widespread mass campaign in his favour. However, they proceed with court action against other whistleblowers such as David McBride, a former British Army Major and Australian Army lawyer who exposed Australian war crimes in Afghanistan leading to a civil court ruling that one Victoria Cross winner was a “bully, a liar and a war criminal” responsible for the murder of Afghan civilians. The government has proven powerless to date to secure the freedom from extradition to the US of Australian journalist Julian Assange, who shattered the imperialists’ monopoly on information with the publication of Wikileaks, and is preparing to extradite to the vindictive and criminal US authorities yet another Australian citizen, Daniel Duggan, whose “crime” was to have trained pilots in China. At the time of writing, he has been held in solitary confinement in an Australian maximum security prison for 260 days whilst his extradition is arranged.
80% of the Australian people want the government to stand up to the U.S. to stop the extradition of Julian Assange and bring him home to Australia.
Comrades, although we are far from a revolutionary situation in our country, a revolutionary movement exists and grows. Feeding into it are related movements against fossil fuel corporations and for action to stop global warming, and the #metoo women’s movement which rallied around a young Tasmanian woman who had been groomed and repeatedly sexually abused by a teacher, and around a political staffer who was alleged to have been raped in a Ministerial office at Parliament House by another staffer. Both of these women’s stories added to the campaign to stop domestic violence and discrimination and abuse of women in the workplace. On average, working women receive $255 less than men per week in wages. Young people are prominent within the climate and women’s movements.
We continue to analyse the political situation in our region where the small nations of the Pacific are asserting their independence and demanding effective action on climate change, and where people across the Indo-Pacific are struggling to prevent war between the US and Chinese imperialists. Our country is a second world, or sub-imperial power, playing a disgraceful role in aligning with the US imperialists who have the Australian bourgeoisie thoroughly enmeshed in a net of economical, political, cultural, diplomatic and military control. We the people are fighting for genuine anti-imperialist independence and for socialism.
We look forward to contributing, in a spirit of proletarian internationalism, to the advance of the peoples’ movements in our region.
Chairperson, CPA (M-L)
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