Contribution of CP of Australia [En]
On behalf of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia we thank the Communist Party of Vietnam as hosts of this important gathering and extend our greetings to the Communist and Workers Parties gathered at this meeting.
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is no stranger to the aggression of imperialist forces and have experienced the link that Australian capitalists have with the US aggressors through US-Australia military Alliance. This Alliance has brought untold tragedy to the people of Vietnam and in no way benefits the Australian people. We acknowledge the war crimes committed by US imperialism against the Vietnamese people and support the position taken against those attempting to turn that tragedy and those crimes into an occasion for celebration. Much like the lie that led to the attack on Iraq, the attack on Vietnam was based on a lie; that the peace-loving Vietnamese were somehow on the march south to conquer Australia. The people of Vietnam today still live with the legacy of Agent Orange used by the US and its allies, including Australia as third and fourth generations are afflicted by birth defects.
Preparations for war
Australia is currently involved openly in war in Iraq Afghanistan and Syria. Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper leaves no doubt that the Australian government and military are preparing for war. It is the view of the Communist Party of Australia that the principal target is the People’s Republic of China. US imperialism also has the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in its sights.
Militarism is being promoted, including through the appointment of General Cosgrove as Governor General.. huge celebrations of anniversaries of military battles such as at Gallipoli during World War One or Long Tan in Vietnam. Both of the major political parties in the Australia’s two-party system are calling for “budget repair” . The federal government’s budget is presently running a deficit of around $40 billion (2.5% of GDP). The conservative Liberal Party and Labor Party are in agreement on the US Alliance, military expenditures on the military, and the involvement of Australia in the US’s wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Australia also has forces in the Solomon Islands, East Timor and Sudan.
As part of the US Pivot to the Asia-Pacific region, Australia is investing billions of dollars with the aim of boosting the capacity of its navy and air force. The government has budgeted for military spending of one trillion Australian dollars over the next 20 years! The aim is to lift military expenditure to two percent of Gross Domestic Product. This includes a $50 billion building program for submarines, $18-24 billion on warships in the Canberra class and a further $22 billion on F35 Lockheed fighter jets. All of this is claimed to be “to counter the rise of China”. US troops have been stationed in Darwin along with fly-ins of military aircraft, ship visits and military exercises across the north of the country in which Australia’s forces are integrated with those of the US under US command.
Australia’s budget deficit (4% of GDP) and net government debt (18% GDP) are low by international standards but that does not stop the government using them as an excuse to slash social spending while at the same time planning to cut the taxation of company profits!
To fund these tax cuts and the military build-up, the government has embarked on a program of highly unpopular austerity measures, what it calls “Budget repair”. The public sector is increasingly under attack with a massive program of sackings, privatisation, deregulation, user-pays and closure of programs. There is strong resistance to the government’s attempts to cut funding to public education and privatise the public health system. Around 300,000 Australians face losing their age pension or see it reduced in January 2017. Already many others have had other social security payments cut and some face being cut off completely. The unemployment benefit has been allowed to slide well below the poverty line and homelessness has increased alongside cuts to public housing programs. Fortunately strong opposition thwarted government attempts to make youth wait six months before being eligible for unemployment payments. “Budget repair” also involves gradually increasing the age at which the age pension is paid from 65 to 70 years.
As the “safety net” shrinks, poverty and homelessness rise. Women and the most disadvantaged, including Indigenous Australians, have been deliberately targeted by a government that serves the ruling class’s interests. Science and measures to address climate change have also suffered in the hands of a government that is under the control of the resources sector and Christian Right.
The government’s program of deregulation and privatisation is paving the way for a complete corporate takeover, a direct corporate dictatorship, if the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is ratified by Australia. The conservative government has worked hard to see an agreement reached. It still has to go before the Australian Parliament before Australia can ratify it. In Australia, the movement against the TPP is not very strong. The Communist Party of Australia has done what it can to build opposition and to inform people of its contents and likely impact on Australia’s sovereignty, on their democratic rights, working conditions, employment, the environment, cost of pharmaceuticals and other outcomes.
The future of the TPP, the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) remains uncertain. It is the US, Japanese, European and Canadian monopolies that stand to benefit from them and the peoples of those countries, in particular, those of the South who will suffer the most. These agreements give corporations the power to sue governments for doing nothing more than protecting the health and safety and other interests of the people and the environment.
They also have an important strategic as well as economic aim in that they would exclude the BRICS countries. The coup in Brazil and the shift to the right in India’s national politics including the signing of a military agreement with the US, raise questions about the operation and possibly the future of BRICS.
“War against terrorism”
Imperialism is no stranger to lies, to fostering racism and xenophobia, using this to create a climate of fear and hatred and divisions within the working class. The Australian government and mass media are fostering and using anti-Muslim sentiments as a distraction from economic conditions and hardships caused by capitalism and as an excuse to introduce repressive, so-called “anti-terrorist” laws that curb basic democratic rights.
Asylum seekers who reach the shores of Australia are branded as “illegal”, treated worse than convicted murderers and arbitrarily incarcerated in offshore detention centres. The UNCHR has repeated called for their removal from these centres to humane conditions with adequate support and services.
Following a visit to the island of Nauru in May the UNHCR said: “There is no doubt that the current policy of offshore processing and prolonged detention is immensely harmful. There are approximately 2000 very vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. These people have already been through a great deal, many have fled war and persecution, some have already suffered trauma.”
The government has tried to gag medical and other staff who visit the centres with legislation providing for two-year jail sentences if they disclose information about conditions at the centres. Desperate children and adults are self-harming, there have been deaths, children are sexually assaulted and health and other services are woefully inadequate or completely lacking, living conditions are primitive and sanitation is also a serious problem. The government is taking a cruel, punitive approach with a domestic political agenda of “stopping the boats”.
Like many other industrialised economies, Australia’s manufacturing sector has taken a huge hit. The auto industry, once a major employer and user of other manufactures, is in its death throes, with only months before it closes its doors. The steel industry is all but gone. Foreign-based monopolies control most sectors of the economy which was heavily reliant on the resources sector but less so since the recent crash in commodity prices.
A duopoly exists in the food distribution industry. A parasitic gambling industry has mushroomed with the same two food retailers being the largest owners poker machines. Gambling revenue has become a major source of income for state governments.
The economy was and is heavily dependent on exports to China and increasingly the rest of Asia. Australia is heavily integrated in the imperialist chain with the largest foreign direct investors being US corporations with an estimated USA $860 billion in accumulated investments, Britain $450 billion followed by Belgium at $238 billion and Japan at $200 billion in 2015 (source Australian Government: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “Which countries invest in Australia?”). Chinese companies are investing heavily in Australia. The principal areas being mining, agribusiness, real estate and more recently in health.
Australian corporations investing abroad have mainly focused on the USA, New Zealand, UK, Canada and Papua New Guinea. Some considerable sums of Australian capital have found their way to tax havens in the Caymans, Singapore, and Hong Kong. The source of capital around the world is sometimes hidden by the complexities of tax havens and third party arrangements.
With a total of $3 trillion in accumulated FDI, Australia has an extremely high level of foreign ownership. Corporate decisions affecting workers in Australia are made in board rooms in Tokyo, New York, London and elsewhere. It still has many features of its colonialist origins and operates as an outpost for Anglo-American capital.
Over the last 30 years, Australia’s employment arrangements have changed from a predominantly full-time, permanent workforce to a mix of contract, part-time and casual employment. Youth unemployment is high, in some areas as much as 30 percent.
Australia has a high rate of casualisation of work with less than 60 percent of employees working full-time. An increasing use of automation threatens thousands of jobs in the transport and other industries. Intensification of labour has increased productivity and resulted in thousands of job losses. For example, on the waterfront, which has historically suffered heavy job losses as a result of containerisation and mechanisation workers face the prospect of robotics replacing their labour. The globalisation of manufacturing and the building of massive plants in fewer centres has reduced the socially necessary labour time and created overcapacities in some industries. Calls centres and financial institutions have moved many of their operations to countries such as India and the Philippines in pursuit of cheaper labour.
Shift to the right
There is an attempt to prey on the fear and apprehension that are caused by these developments and the manipulation of terrorism to create an environment for the strengthening of the far right. The two-party system that has served capital so well is breaking down in a number of ways. This includes the emergence of the Greens on the relatively progressive side of politics and neo-fascist forces such as One Nation on the right.
Our Party sees the fracturing of the two party political system as necessary to build a left and progressive political alternative, that this alternative can and must lead to a government of a new type, a pro-people, anti-imperialist, anti-monopoly government. It appears at the moment that this the cracks in the two-party system are emerging faster than our ability to build a united front of working people and a people’s movement.
The trade union movement has been under tremendous attack with legislation designed to cripple and bankrupt it. The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), in particular, is under a most ferocious attack where it is standing up for workers’ rights in the building and construction industry. The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) is also under increased pressure and is currently amalgamating with the construction union.
The focus of unions has been to elect Labor governments as a defensive measure. The actual outcome has been legislation that relieves a little of the pressure but continues to hit the CFMEU with millions of dollars in fines and restrictions on trade union rights. It is in this complex environment that our comrades are struggling to support and build class consciousness and militancy in the trade union movement.
Both the CFMEU and the MUA have been saddled with multi-million dollar fines. Despite this, they have led actions against Hutchinson Ports in which the dismissal of dock workers was successfully opposed and against building groups such as AbiGroup reducing wages and conditions.
A new feature is emerging of using existing laws to reduce wages and conditions for workers. The company ends a contract with a contractor who has an enterprise agreement with its employees. The workers are sacked as there is no work with that contractor. The company then signs on a new contractor who offers to rehire the same workers on inferior wages and conditions. In one recent case the company offered wage rates at 60 percent lower. There is massive public support for the workers and the union is continuing with its determined resistance to the attack. The Party sees a need to develop solidarity activity in support of the workers in this and when we see other attacks on working people in future.
Tremendous losses occurred in our movement at the breakdown of the Soviet Union but we have maintained our activity in the working class movement and have led struggles against privatisations and attacks on working people.
Our efforts are limited by the, as yet, too small contingents of Communists. We have fresh growth amongst young people and are working on educating these young comrades in the enormous tasks that lie ahead. We remain convinced that the Communist movement is the hope of humanity and that, as the political crisis develops in Australia, we will prove up to the task.
Finally, we welcome the recently signed Peace deal by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC-EP and the Colombian government. This wouldn’t be possible without Socialist Cuba and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The People of Colombia deserve Peace with Social Justice.
We call for the ending of the US blockade on Cuba and the return of Guantánamo Bay to the people of Cuba. We reiterate our solidarity with the Communist Party of Cuba and Socialist Cuba. President Obama can do more before he leaves office.
Comrades, we would like to express our appreciation of the Vietnamese people in asserting their dignity and sovereignty over their land and thank the Communist Party of Vietnam for its warm hospitality for which the Vietnamese people are renowned.