Thursday, December 8, 2016

Betrayal and collaboration as multinationals plunder natural gas reserves Bill F. Multinational companies are making gigantic super-profits from the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG), yet have paid little taxes or royalties to Australian governments. Meanwhile, the people face cut-backs in government services, a virtual wage freeze and ever higher utility bills. By 2020 Australia will become the world’s biggest exporter of LNG, overtaking Qatar. But unlike Qatar, Australia will have little to show for the plunder of its enormous energy reserves. From its production of 100 billion cubic metres of LNG, Qatar currently picks up $26.6 billion in royalties. For a similar amount of gas, the Treasury estimates the Australian government will get a miserable $800 million! This massive betrayal of Australia’s national interests demonstrates the abject collaboration of the local ruling class with the corporate beneficiaries of imperialism. Two recent reports, an investigation by Fairfax Media, and a report by the Auditor-General, have thoroughly exposed the extent of this rip-off.

Bill F.

Multinational companies are making gigantic super-profits from the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG), yet have paid little taxes or royalties to Australian governments. Meanwhile, the people face cut-backs in government services, a virtual wage freeze and ever higher utility bills.

By 2020 Australia will become the world’s biggest exporter of LNG, overtaking Qatar. But unlike Qatar, Australia will have little to show for the plunder of its enormous energy reserves.

From its production of 100 billion cubic metres of LNG, Qatar currently picks up $26.6 billion in royalties. For a similar amount of gas, the Treasury estimates the Australian government will get a miserable $800 million! This massive betrayal of Australia’s national interests demonstrates the abject collaboration of the local ruling class with the corporate beneficiaries of imperialism.

Two recent reports, an investigation by Fairfax Media, and a report by the Auditor-General, have thoroughly exposed the extent of this rip-off.

The Fairfax Media report on the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT)

The Fairfax report investigated the application of the PRRT by the federal government on the oil and gas industry. This sector is dominated by multinational ventures off the Western Australia coast and coal seam gas (fracking) in Queensland and NSW. It uncovered the shameful information that just 8 out of 149 resource projects paid any PRRT in the year 2014-15, in spite of collective revenues in excess of $25 billion!

The PRRT is structured to tax only “super-profits” and is not a royalty based on the amount of oil or gas extracted. Companies can then write off their exploration and construction costs to reduce the amount of tax due and carry forward this credit for years to come. According to the Tax Office figure obtained by Fairfax Media, these tax credits are now worth $187 billion.
Gorgon, off the Western Australia coast, is the largest LNG plant in the world and is owned by US multinational Chevron. Last year the Federal Court of Australia had to chase this profit-bloated company for a piddling $300 million in tax avoidance.

The Auditor-General’s report on royalty payments

The report revealed that the whole structure of the royalty system is a rort which allows the oil and gas monopolies to use slick accounting to claim massive deductions, while the government regulators turn a blind eye.

Auditor-General Grant Hehir investigated the royalty payments from the North West Shelf, jointly owned by Woodside, Shell, Chevron and BHP Billiton. This crew had racked up $5 billion worth of tax deductions in just 18 months! And a few more interesting facts finally came out:

  • The ‘self-assessed’ royalty payments had not been audited for 17 years!
  • A gas meter to measure gas output and the royalties owing was broken five years ago!
  • The Royalty Schedule was 10 years out of date!
  • The Western Australian government hired Ernst & Young to check the royalty deductions in 2014, never mind the inconvenient fact that the same firm is official auditor for North West Shelf!  
Wishy washy governments

Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson, one of the few in parliament with the guts to call out the truth, made a positive statement that reflects the disgust and anger of the working people when these rorts are uncovered. "They have been trying to penny-pinch from backpackers and some of the lowest-paid workers in the country, and yet they have been blind to potentially multi-billion-dollar rorts from massive multinational corporations.

"It looks like Australians might be being fleeced for hundreds of millions in dollars in oil and gas royalties because Liberal and Labor Governments have either been asleep at the wheel for the last two decades, or they don't see tackling their big corporate backers as a priority.

"These aren't your traditional tax avoidance issues that Parliament has been looking at over recent years. This is about successive Australian governments not even checking if billions of dollars in tax deductions were allowable under law. This is about a government department not even testing the meters on the oil and gas wells to see if they were working."

On the home front

While the gigantic gas tankers cart Australian LNG across the world, the domestic market is starved of cheap gas. Working people are told that “we have to” pay ever-increasing international prices for the domestic gas we use for heating and cooking. Why, if the country has such abundant supplies? Answer – to boost the profits of the greedy multinationals who couldn’t give a stuff for people in Australia.

And it is not only the workers who will cop it. Small manufacturing business and commercial bakeries are already feeling the pinch.

For example, Victoria Wool Processors in Melbourne's western suburbs are unable to finalise a new source of natural gas to heat and process their annual 12,000 tonnes of wool.  General Manager David Richie stated, "Australia has just become the biggest exporter of gas in the world. If you believe in manufacturing, this needs to be sorted out quickly... Gas is obviously widely used in industry and it's critical for the plastics and chemicals industry, the paper industry, fertilisers, the production of a host of products." He pointed out that 40 jobs at his plant were immediately at stake unless a more rational system was introduced.

The “Last One” ceremony

Another icon of Australian manufacturing bit the dust on the 29th November when the last Holden car rolled off the production line at Fisherman’s Bend. And the last 175 workers got their reward for loyalty and years of hard work – a free lunch, a polo shirt, a yearbook and a group photograph – and the sack!

Imperialism – expose it, resist it, defeat it!

This is the future imperialist domination has for Australia – grab the resources, grind down the working class, dismantle the skills and industries and drag us into endless dirty wars! The corporate bandits are supported and encouraged by a miserable gang of local politicians, bank and finance bosses, media lackeys and shadowy ‘think-tanks’, all backed up by the armed state apparatus. 

This not a future the Australian people want. They want to control the destiny of their own country, to apply its natural resources in sensible and planned way to benefit the people, to roll back climate change and repair environmental damage, not make it worse. They want viable, stable jobs that produce useful products and services, not just holes in the ground and short-term contracts. This can only happen in an independent Australia republic when the key industries are owned and controlled by the working people.

Nationalise the power industry!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Put More Pork on Your Fork

Pat F. 

The Victorian Government has announced an “unprecedented” increase in police funding, personnel, and resources. The police force will become the largest it has ever been. It will consume the largest budget it has ever had. 

The justification for this extra-ordinary expenditure, and for the required diversion of resources from other areas, is claimed to be the need to improve personal safety for people living in the outer suburbs of Melbourne and nearby areas. There is mention of domestic violence and drugs, which are a problem throughout Victoria, and Australia. So why is the focus on the outer suburbs of Melbourne?

There is no mention of the problem of tax avoidance by international corporations. No allocation of resources to collecting outstanding tax owed by internet companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc. No resources to stop tax avoidance through transfer pricing by companies like Coca Cola. No effort to pull back the subsidies paid to Ford, GMH, Toyota, etc now that they have decided to cease the activities in Australia which attracted the subsidies. No funds allocated to compelling privatised electricity supply companies to pay their court approved tax bills; instead the ATO recently settled with Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing, owner of the SA Power Networks for only $800,000 of a tax debt of $8m, according to Four Corners. And of course no allocation of resources to hit the biggest drug dealers (CUB) and gambling gangs (Packer). And there is no halt to the employment policies which cause the incomes of workers to crash. 

So why is the focus on the outer suburbs of Melbourne?

Because these are the working class areas where unemployment will be highest; where mortgages will be unpayable; where repossessions will become endemic; where working hours will be most reduced; where rising motor fuel prices will have most impact; where the misallocation of education resources away from state owned schools to private schools will be most disastrous; where youth unemployment will become an epidemic. 

These are the areas in which the anger and resistance of workers will be greatest. 

These are the areas in which workers without an articulate working class party will vent their justified anger in ways which will be expensive in casualties, and collateral damage to those who are not the real enemy. 

These are the areas which without a strong working class party will have no voice and no strategy. Without the Party working diligently within the suburbs, in the places where workers can still congregate, there will be opportunity for Judas goats like Trump, Hanson, and especially Shorten, to blame religious and ethnic differences, for the necessary outcomes of imperialism and capitalism. 

The rich in Australia are terrified of working class rebellion. They know that their situation is tenuous as imperialist powers squabble, compete and prepare for war with each other. They know that if the organised working class rebels, the rich cannot win. And that is why the police force is being reinforced, not just in suburban Melbourne, but wherever workers gather throughout Australia. And that is why the Party must urgently re-double its efforts to organise the working class, and those other non-working class elements which can be united against the hard core of US Imperialists in Australia. 

The police forces are the agents of the state. They are the enforcers of the state. They maintain the so-called “law and order” of the state which enables capitalism and imperialism to crush working class revolt, and continue their exploitation and destruction of Australia.

The police claim to be protecting the people from criminals, but the real criminals are the rich who sack workers, pay no tax, and force the people of the world into wage slavery.

As a draft resister comrade from the 70s once said, “Do not believe them when they say you never had it so good; for if you do, they will be completely in charge, in their marble palaces and granite banks, from which they rule the people of the world.”  

Monday, December 5, 2016

Portland Alcoa – smelter shut-down puts jobs on the line

Bill F.

Alcoa’s Portland aluminium smelter is operating at just over 25% capacity and is unlikely to return to full production for six months, if at all. Up to 2,500 jobs in the Western Victorian town of Portland (population 10,000) are at risk.

While this latest crisis has been caused by an electricity transmission failure, it highlights the fragility of infrastructure and jobs when critical resources are entrusted to profit-hungry multinationals.

The high voltage transmission company, AusNet Services, (previously SP AusNet of Black Saturday bushfires fame) has as major stakeholders, Singapore Power and the State Grid Corporation of China. Alcoa’s aluminium smelter churns out 300,000 tonnes a year and consumes more than 20% of the total electricity generated in Victoria. 

When the electricity supply failed for more than five hours, the main aluminium smelter potline was shut down, leaving the molten metal to solidify. The damage will take months to repair. While the second potline is able to function, it is restricted to half capacity.

This crisis is taking place at a time when there is less demand for aluminium and prices are weak. On top of this, Alcoa has been trying to negotiate cheaper electricity costs with AGL Loy Yang after the Victorian Labor government refused to continue 20 years of outrageously generous power subsidies worth $130 million a year.

Workers worried for their job security can expect little sympathy or loyalty from multinational Alcoa, which has threatened to close the smelting plant before. (See MV Portland crew and MUA fight for all workers )

The company had already closed its other smelter at Point Henry near Geelong because it was “uneconomic” – in other words, they had cheaper labour and newer technology elsewhere in the world.
So maybe the power failure comes at a convenient time for this multinational?

Nor will this Christmas be so merry for the many thousands of Victorian workers facing unemployment with the shutdown of Hazelwood brown coal fired power station, and the closure of the Ford, Holden and Toyota car factories. These are the benefits of imperialist ‘globalisation’ which imposes de-industrialisation on subordinate countries and poverty wages on the workers still exploitable enough to have a job.   

And the New Year will not be so happy for the hundreds of thousands of working families just about to be hit with savage domestic electricity price rises, courtesy of monopoly retailers AGL Energy, Energy Australia and Origin Energy.

This sorry situation can only get worse until the working people decide to take on the foreign monopolies and boardroom fat-cats and their agents and apologists. All they care for is profits, and issues of community safety, clean energy and stopping climate change are all down the list. 

The seizure and nationalisation of key industries and resources such as electricity generation and distribution would be a good start to a revolutionary re-structure of Australian society on socialist lines that would benefit the working people, not just generate wealth for a few.

Nationalise the power industry!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Productivity Commission’s “fresh approach to workplace relations”

Nick G.

Productivity Commission Chair Peter Harris has called for the dismantling of current industrial relations infrastructure in order to further intensify the exploitation of Australian workers.

In a speech on November 4 to the Australian Labour Law Association, he called for “Institutional reform in workplace relations – not the alteration of laws to favour one ideological perspective or another, but the alteration of the institution itself…”

Harris expressed dissatisfaction with what he claimed were “low expectations” of a Workplace Relations Report the Commission produced last year.

He called for “breaking the Fair Work Commission (FWC) up into two bodies”, one to take over the awards modernisation process, and the other to take over the setting of the Minimum Wage.
He said the new bodies should abolish decisions by precedent where “it is always the prior view that must be dislodged, rather than a fresh view taken of the matter.” He added that the new bodies should have their own “independent research capacity” and not be reliant on “expert” opinion commissioned by parties appearing before the commissions.

Thus the new bodies would be freed to more aggressively pursue workplace “reforms” deemed by the bodies to be in the “national interest”.

Who is Peter Harris?

Harris has form in changes to the institutions of workplace relations.  He supported the Accord (it broke “decision-making structures into economically manageable outcomes”) and was senior private secretary, from 1989 to 1991, to Prime Minister Bob Hawke who, together with his successor Keating, was a pioneer of neo-liberal policies embracing deregulation of the economy.
He referred nostalgically to that era as one when “both major parties during their stint in power sought to convince their own supporters to take the medicine…

“And the product of all that work was a flexible economic structure in Australia that persistently lifted productivity and national income, and allowed for redistribution polices that ensured we did not then and still do not today suffer from the languishing incomes for the poorest households and inequality of income distribution that now bedevils the US and the UK; and may be contributing to extremes in political behaviour.”

All workers know or sense that “lifting productivity” under capitalism means attacks on their wages and conditions. And “national income” is a different animal altogether from what a family has to live on.

What Harris left out of his rosy view of the past was the decline in unit labour costs.  These were revealed in a graph that he supplied.

Unit labour costs (ULC) measure the average cost of labour per unit of output and are calculated as the ratio of total labour costs to real output. The average cost of labour is calculated on the basis of factors such as wages and salaries, paid leave, superannuation, taxes on employment, training and recruitment costs, and fringe benefits (included in wages and salaries in the national accounts). Average labour costs divided by average labour productivity constitute unit labour costs. A decline in an economy’s unit labour costs, as is clearly the case in Harris’s graph below, represents a decreased reward for labour’s contribution to output.

To put it in simple maths, if average labour costs are set at a value of 2, and average labour productivity increases over time from 6 to 8, then unit labour costs decline from 2÷6=1/3 to 2÷8=1/4.  The outcome is worse for workers if average labour costs decline during that increase of average labour productivity.  If average labour costs halve (an extreme example, but it keeps the maths simple), then the equation becomes 1÷8=1/8. 

The graph shows a decline in the workers’ share of their own increased productivity.  Capitalism continually seeks just such a decline.  The blue line showing rising labour productivity is fairly obvious, but what about average household income?  How can workers’ wages increase while their share of their increased productivity declines?

Average household income or “languishing incomes for the poorest”?

Average household income is a misleading statistic used to paint a rosy picture of life under capitalism. As the footnote to the graph says, it is a measure of gross national income per capita expressed in terms of the average number of people above 15 years of age per household.

Gross national income (GNI) is basically gross domestic product (GDP) plus any income from overseas sources.  GNI is therefore better if there is a healthy Terms of Trade and worse if there is a deficit.  Terms of Trade is directly affected by payments made by multinational companies to their headquarters overseas, so in Australia, with so many US, British and other multinationals dominating our economy, there is always a trend towards a negative Terms of Trade where money paid out as profits exceeds any money coming in. Australia’s terms of trade have declined over the last decade, resulting in the slight downward curve at the end of the average household income line above.

To have had such a marked overall increase in average household income at a time when wages have been held down in both the government and private sectors simply means that there has been a massive increase in wealth enjoyed by the rich and super-rich, that their share of our labour productivity has gone through the roof. For the unemployed, the precariously employed and those on low wages, trying to cope with today’s cost of living is nearly impossible on the “languishing incomes for the poorest households”, the existence of which is denied by Harris. 

When Marx wrote prior to the age of monopoly capitalism, that is, prior to the era of imperialism, that capitalism sought to degrade workers to “one level mass of broken wretches past salvation", he was describing a tendency arising from the drive for capital accumulation. 

That drive has been resisted by organised labour and in developed capitalist countries workers have fought for and won a social and cultural expectation of a minimum standard of living. The setting of a minimum wage is an expression of this.  

If one combines the agenda of the Productivity Commission for a “fresh approach” to the minimum wage and to awards with the present Government’s attacks on unions through the Registered Organisations legislation and the revived ABCC then we see capitalism forcing the issue of just what it can get away with in degrading the working class in the direction of one level mass of broken wretches.

The best elements of our comrades in trade unions and within the precariously employed workforce must dig in for the long fight and be prepared for the sacrifices inevitable in class struggle.

Fidel will live forever in the hearts of the poor!

Nick G.

The Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) joins with progressive and revolutionary peoples the world over to mourn the passing of Comrade Fidel Castro.

Castro led the guerilla movement that overthrew the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959. He served as Prime Minister of Cuba for the next 47 years and as President of Cuba from 1976 to 2006.  He was First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party from 1961 to 2011.

Castro led the Cuban Party and government through periods of great difficulty including the period of ideological confusion engendered by Soviet leader Khrushchev’s revisionist attacks on Marxism-Leninism, and the entire period of US imperialist hostility towards the Cuban revolution.

The US imperialists brazenly invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 and made one attempt after another to assassinate Cuba’s leader.  The blockade of Cuba imposed by US imperialism created economic hardship.  With the support of the Cuban people, Fidel Castro frustrated every evil scheme to subvert and destroy Cuba’s independence, sovereignty and socialist economy.

Under Castro’s leadership, Cuba won great prestige among the poor and oppressed nations and peoples by guaranteeing its own people’s health care, education and literacy, and housing.  In an extraordinary gesture of proletarian internationalism and solidarity with the global poor, Cuba trained health professionals from Third World countries at no cost and made literacy programs and teachers available to those in need.

In the decade after his resignation as leader of the Cuban state, Castro provided exemplary political leadership through a series of letters, notes and interviews.  He was unrelenting in his exposure of the crimes of the imperialists and in his encouragement of socialist sentiment and the science of Marxism.

His final major speech was delivered at the Cuban Communist Party’s 7th Congress on April 16, 2016 which was both the anniversary of the Party’s founding and the 55th anniversary of the Declaration of the Socialist Nature of the Revolution. 

In the speech, Castro solemnly addressed his own mortality, not with fear of the inevitable, but with confidence in the ideas of Communism, saying, “Soon I will be 90 years old. I would never have thought of such an idea and it was never the result of an effort, it was a whim of chance. Soon I will be like all the others. We all will have our turn, but the ideas of the Cuban communists will remain as proof that on this planet, if we work with fervour and dignity, we can produce the material and cultural goods that human beings need, and we must fight without ceasing to obtain them. To our brothers in Latin America and in the world we must convey to them that the Cuban people will win. Maybe this is one of the last times that I speak in this room….”

The time will come when every one of us speaks last words.  Few will have the privilege of their words outliving them and of their life resonating through the ages in those words.

Fidel Castro will join the great revolutionary leaders of the modern era who will continue to live long after death.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Will Australian Built Submarines Be Obsolete Before They Are Built?

Ned K.

Defence manufacturing workers in Australia campaigned strongly for Australia's naval submarines to be built in Australia. The federal government awarded the principal contract to a French corporation whom we are told will build the submarines in Australia. We are told by the government and the successful tenderer that they will be suitable for Australia's needs which in reality means suitable also for the needs of a US build-up of military presence in the Asia Pacific region. 

It is better for workers in Australia that the submarines are built here at a time when manufacturing generally is in decline in Australia. However it is possible the submarines will be obsolete before they are completed. The US Pentagon is spending up to $3 billion on robotic Unmanned Underwater Vessels (UUVs). The corporations to benefit from this expenditure are the usual suspects including Boeing, General Dynamics and Raytheon. Boeing has already developed UUVs that can cruise the ocean depths for weeks at a time. These corporations are designing UUVs that do not rely on an external signal for navigation so they can avoid detection from China and Russia in particular who are behind on this technological front. They are autonomous.

"The US Defence Advanced Research Project has a plan to plant 4.5 metre pods on the ocean floor that could stay there for years waiting to be awakened. When they received a signal they would float to the surface and release aerial drones, which could perform surveillance over shorelines" (AFR 26 November).

Raytheon is working on torpedoes that roam the seas detecting and collecting information.
With UUV technology well advanced and about to take a qualitative leap forward at American taxpayer's expense, the submarines expected to be built in Australia but not completed for quite a few years yet, may be useless.

Is Australia being taken for a ride by bigger powers yet again?

In an independent, socialist Australia, money would be spent on an Australian owned Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) to research and design defence systems for Australia's needs as an island continent in the 21st Century. 

This would revive manufacturing jobs in producing what research and design projects show is in our best interests in maintaining an anti-imperialist peace-oriented Australia.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Workers’ wages on a slippery slide as foreign investors take profits overseas

Ned K.

The daily news cycle of the giant media corporations has attacked the construction workers for winning 5% wage increases each year for the next 4 years in new Enterprise Agreements.

They use these wins to give the impression that that any group of workers who significantly increase their incomes through struggle are "against the national interest" or placing jobs in jeopardy.

What is actually happening though is that the income of workers as a whole is on a downhill slide and arguably has been this way over the last 40 years, including for construction workers as a whole.

Last week the Reserve Bank released a report by economist James Bishop which concluded that there is currently a "reduction in size and frequency of pay rises" and "historically-low growth in wage rates."

The decline in the average size of wage increases since 2012 has been greater than during the imperialist financial crisis of 2008.

Bishop says the average size of "wage changes" has dropped from 3.6% in 2012 to 2.3% in the year ending June 2016. The share of 4%-plus wage increases fell from 29% in 2012 to just 7% in 2016.

Frequency of wage increases for all workers has dropped to a 16 year low and the average length of time between wage increases has risen from once every four quarters in 2012 to once every 4.75 quarters in 2016.

These overall figures include both public and private sectors. In the private sector the situation is worse with the growth in rates of pay excluding bonuses now firmly below 2% per year for the first time since the ABS began compiling the Wage Price Index over twenty years ago.

In the year ending June 2016, wages in the private sector grew by just 1.9%. This was a year in which workers on the minimum award rate had a wage increase of 2.4%. So wage increases in collective agreements have been on average lower than even the safety net award increase for the year ending June 2016.

Looking at even longer term trends, ABS data shows that since the mid-1960s to the present day, the gap between the median average wage and the minimum wage in Australia has widened.
In the 1960s the minimum wage was 60% of the median wage. Now it is about 40% of the median wage! 

This gap between the haves and have nots within the working class was accelerated from the 1990s with the introduction of the ALP federal government approved Enterprise Bargaining system.

Prior to that system being introduced in about 1993, the pay levels in awards of semi-skilled workers in all industries were equivalent to a percentage of the Metal Trades rate. For example a cleaner's rate of pay was struck at 87.4 % of the Trade rate. 

Since 1993 the Trade rate in construction, mining and manufacturing increased through workers winning wage increases through enterprise agreements so that today the average Metal Trades rate is $28 per hour or more. However the minimum wage now is about $18 per hour or 60% of the Trade rate instead of the 87.4 % of the Trade rate in the case of a cleaner in 1993.

Wages down –profits up

These short and long term trends in wage movements are contrasted with an increase in profits as a share of GDP. It cannot be otherwise. Workers produce the wealth and value in all sectors of the economy. That wealth either goes to workers directly in the form of wages or to the capitalists as profit in one form or another with what's left going to the state as tax for the government to administer the affairs of the capitalists as a whole.

Within the capitalist class in Australia, imperialist investment and return on investment plays a dominant role. The Australian newspaper printed figures from DEFAT recently showing that US investment in Australia was $860 billion, almost double its nearest rivals from the UK and Japan followed by Singapore and Belgium. In the last year US investment in Australia at $55 billion was still the dominant investment from countries in Australia. The corporations from the US and other countries invest for primarily one reason - to take profit back to their headquarters.

So, given the continued large scale investment by multinational corporations in Australia and the steady decline of income of workers in Australia, is this investment and the control over industry and governments that come with it, in the interests of workers? 

Why the decline in real wages?

There are many reasons given by the mainstream media, politicians and economists for the decline in wages. Terms such as "globalisation", "international competitiveness" and  "low inflation" are given. However it is no accident that it is in areas of the economy where workers are strong and united, such as the large construction sites, state public sectors, maritime industry and manufacturing, that workers have been able to withstand the attack on wages and conditions by the capitalist class as a whole.

During the period from the 1960s to now there is another very significant percentage figure that has declined - union membership as a percentage of the workforce. From a high of plus 60% of the workers in Australia having a collective union voice to about 11% (private sector) now tells the story. 

While minimum wages are usually sufficient to enable the worker to crawl back to work the next day having paid the bills and enough to eat to slave for the boss for another day, the actual share of wages/profits is determined by the outcome of the on-going class struggle.

Imperialism in Australia, led by the US, mounted a sustained attack on the living standards of Australian workers during the period from the mid-1960s to the present day. They have been helped in their endeavours to shackle the workers by one government after another and by the top of the official trade union leadership who swallowed hook line and sinker the imperialist plans to "restructure" Australia and divide the working class through one measure after another - from ending closed shops to enterprise bargaining to labour hire and so on.

Where has all this got workers? ABS statistics show that if you count workers on ABNs, casuals, part time contract workers, fixed term contract workers across both blue and white collar jobs, that there is a staggering 40% of the total workforce that can be classified "precariously employed".

This trend is worsening every day as too many union leaderships put scarce organising resources in to the shrinking areas of what they see as their core membership rather than the challenge of organising where it most needed.

At the moment there is a disconnect between millions of workers and unions at a time when unions as organisations are under attack as registered associations under the restrictive Fair Work laws and trade practices legislation which impose heavy fines and even loss of homes on workers who take collective action in their own interests or in support of others such as CUB maintenance workers in Melbourne. 

There is also opportunity for union leaders to take a risk and show leadership and plan collective actions which assist workers to break through the shackles imposed on them by imperialism. Rather than telling workers all the time what they cannot do because of this or that law. 

As P.B Shelley, the British poet said of the working people, "we are many, they are few".