Doctor and activist

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Tag: Inequality

Apartheid Education Buses

23 November 2023

I live near a turning circle in a good area of Sydney.  There is a Bus Stop there and the government bus there has an ad with a picture of a forlorn looking schoolgirl saying that she cannot have a decent education, so would I donate to The Smith Family so she can.

As the ad displays there, 8 shiny new buses take private school children from the turning circle to 8 different private schools.

It seems that our governments are happy to subsidise ‘choice’ so that they do not have to fund a fair go and we are happy to tolerate an apartheid education system.

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Power in America

11 August 2023

A provocative article argues that the US is abandoning its tradition Blue (Democrat) v. Red (Republican), and instead voting on economic lines, with the Red which were traditionally seen as the party of the rich actually getting the poor vote.

The polling shows that the Republicans are ahead in the poorer states, and the Demicrats in the wealthier and better educated states.  This is against what was assumed to be the normal situation.

Why could this be. The Democrats are in control and supported the status quo, when they rigged their last candidate, making sure that Bernie Sanders lost preselection- twice. He would almost certainly have beaten Hilary Clinton and then probably Trump, as he called for change in the same way that Trump did. He may then have beaten Biden, but the Democrat establishment put up Biden, who was effectively the status quo.

Trump’s policies, if they can be called such, seemed mainly to tell the Establishment to go to hell and promise to send it there. It was populist nonsense in that no serious policies underwrote it in terms of real benefits to poorer people.  But if you think that governments are voted out, rather than oppositions being voted in, Trump’s demagoguery has a certain logic.

Trump is, to many people inside and outside the USA, a proven crook, and many US Democrats hope that the legal process will make him ineligible to stand again, assuming he wins the Republican nomination, which looks likely. One might even wonder if there would be revolutionary forces who might try to rescue him from goal. If they can storm Congress, why not a gaol?

The fact that the Republicans can have a majority in poorer areas, despite having an anti-welfare agenda seems to show the pre-eminence of populism, the Democrats being the Established Order. The fact that Biden is the figurehead, and the Democrats seem unable to find anyone to replace him is a worry. The Republicans will target his health if he stands again. The Democrats will say that he is very healthy, and the rest of us will cross our fingers and hope his cerebral arteries last until the election at least.

The middle class is hollowed out and it is the 1% v the 99%. This is what Marx predicted, but more this is the logic of every Monopoly game- in an unregulated market the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  We have been playing Monopoly since the end of WW2 and small government and deregulation has been the dominant neo-liberal paradigm.

What happens in the US will hugely affect the world, both directly, but also in the way it sets trends. It is not even a new trend. Populist right wing governments are rising in many countries, Poland, Italy, Hungary, India and Turkey. France and Germany have seen a strengthening of the Right. Military dictators have seized power in a number of African states.  There does not seem much evidence that these populist strong men have made much progress in solving the problems that led to their rise to power, but having a real argument about this statement would require a lot of research.

But the US is in real trouble, and the lack of discussion of the rising inequality and what is to be done about it may well be at the core of the problem.

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The Broken Bargain- Australia Institute Webinar

14 July 2021

Sally McManus, ACTU Secretary looked at Australia’s growing wages crisis in a 1 hr webinar at 11am today. 

She told of how the Australian system of award wages had been world-leading with its concept of a ‘fair go’, and it had an outcome similar to the Nordic countries.  This has, however been in retreat since 1975 with the rise of neo-liberalism and trickle-down economics as the dominant political philosophies.

Perhaps the most amazing fact in the webinar was that the workers share of GDP in 1975 was a record high of 54%, but has declined by 10.4%, and this has gone to the corporate sector.  The amount in dollars is $200 billion a year. While wages growth in Australia has been generally below the CPI, wages recently actually overtook the CPI briefly.  However, as McManus points out the CPI is composed of discretionary goods, which tend to be imported and more luxury items, and necessities.  The discretionary component has not risen as fast as wages, but the necessities component has risen faster.  So the lower paid, who mainly spend on necessities have gone backwards relative to the most important component of their spending.  McManus estimates this at $20,000 per waged worker.

She identifies poor bargaining power as the cause of the change in the distribution of Australia’s wealth.  According to the RBA (Reserve Bank) temporary workers have kept wages down.  This is partly, but not wholly, workers on visas who are a group likely to be a whole sector vulnerable to wage theft.  But Labour Hire companies have also lowered wages and conditions as workers can simply not be offered any shifts. 

Visas have also been used to avoid training people. TAFEs have been run down and overseas workers’ skills have been used to save money on training.  This has improved short-term profits but deskilled the country- a bad strategy.  It has relied on foreign training. 

COVID has been used as excuse for the economy not doing well, but it has not led to a revival.  60% of new jobs since the last lockdown have been casual, and 57% are part-time.

Another Australia Institute IR expert, Jim Stanford, commented that Australia’s IR system was unique, but the changes since 2013 had severely limited the ability of workers to bargain.  Only restricted aspects could be discussed, and conditions could easily be traded away.  Even the ILO (International Labour Organisation) has commented on this.  The casualisation of the workforce has been facilitated and most recently this has been a significant factor in the spread of COVID.

The webinar will shortly be available at

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Who Gets to be Smart?

27 June 2021

Author Bri Lee ties it to privilege in education.

We have to bring back the Gonski reforms and stop just giving money to the elite schools.

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