Social Justice

John would ask you to consider whether in any decent society there can ever be an honourable alternative to social justice. Deciding on a socially just course is never straightforward but there are some consistent basic directions to guide us:

  • It is unjust to treat equals unequally.
  • It is similarly unjust to treat unequals equally.
  • There must be procedural justice.
  • A socially just policy is one which advances the interests of the least advantaged the most.
  • A socially just policy attempts to meet everyone’s basic needs in an egalitarian manner.
  • Ideally there would be a general sense of fairness whenever socially just policies are implemented.
  • As in any triage system priority must always be given to those with the greatest or most urgent needs.

“It’s Time” to meet our obligations: Education for what?

Keynote paper given by John Tomlinson at the Australia New Zealand Student Services Association, Canberra 4-7th December 2005. reproduced in the Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association: No 27. April 2006 pp.56-73. In 1972, after Whitlam’s “It’s Time” victory, it seemed to me that a better world was possible. Education, health […]

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A sign that should be put up in government offices

  Please do not ask for JUSTICE as refusal may offend  

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A wise person told me

People will forget what you said …..people will forget what you did …..but people will never forget how you made them feel. Anon

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ACTCOSS

In the early months of 1987 I was appointed Director of ACT Council of Social Services where I remained until March 1993. Just before I started, Margi O’Tarpie, the outgoing COSS Director, had invited me to her place in Narrabundah for lunch. Over a couple of bottles of wine she shared some of the secrets […]

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An academic’s dilemma

Some years ago I realised that giving academic papers at conferences or setting out a logical argument in academic journals was but one (and not a very effective way) of communicating progressive social justice ideas. This is so because even when people are convinced intellectually of the need to adopt an anti-war, pro-poor or non-racist […]

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An overview of the legacy of the Howard governments – Book Review

ON LINE opinion – Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate Posted Wednesday, 7 April 2004 This timely book houses a collection of 12 essays that analyse Howard’s contribution to the Australian body politic. The book has become available at a time when the scales have fallen from the eyes of many Australians. For the […]

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Anti-VSU rally at QUT

We are now entering a period where there is a crisis of language and crisis of meaning. Free trade does not mean freedom but rather the dominance of industrial superpowers over smaller nations. Welfare reform does not mean improvement rather it means abolition of benefits. Work flexibility means bosses screwing workers. The Government is very […]

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Arundhati Roy – excerpt from her speech accepting Sydney Peace Prize

Today, it is not merely justice itself, but the idea of justice that is under attack. The assault on vulnerable, fragile sections of society is at once so complete, so cruel and so clever – all encompassing and yet specifically targeted, blatantly brutal and yet unbelievably insidious – that its sheer audacity has eroded our […]

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Black and White Poverty in Brisbane in the 1970s

published on line in 2007 in Vintage Reds. http://roughreds.com/rrtwo/indexy.html url pdf http://roughreds.com/rrtwo/tomlinson.html originally “Poverty in Black and White: Brisbane in the 1970s.”  Paper given at the Brisbane Labour History Association: Radical Brisbane Conference 7-8 September 2002 University of Queensland Union, St Lucia. Abstract This chapter will describe community work efforts undertaken with Aborigines and Torres Strait […]

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Change: Reform or Reformism

“Have you rehabilitated yourself?” (Arlo Guthrie Alice’s Restaurant) Change – means to alter. Busharama 2002 The White House today announced it has frozen the assets of all Pretzel manufacturing companies in the US and has arrested the managing directors of all Pretzel companies until it can rule out the possibility that they conspired with Bin Laden in […]

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Community management

Paper given at the National Community Legal Centres Conference, Canberra, 2 May 1992 The terms ‘community’ and ‘management’ have the capacity to be contradictory. Perhaps we should start by trying to get some understanding of what is meant by these terms.  For conservatives the community is a naturally evolving arrangement of individuals brought together in […]

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Compelled

The current trend is towards the compelled society. Mutual obligations and breaching  recipients for minor “failures” for those they can’t criminalise. Jail for those they can criminalise. The more detailed the requirements, the more extensive the range of requirements, the greater the likelihood that people may not be able to totally comply with every single […]

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Competing views of the benefits of higher education: who gains the most?

ON LINE opinion – Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate Posted Tuesday, 20 April 2004 The student sit-in at the Queensland University of Technology and student protests at Griffith University did not deter the councils of those institutions raising the level of Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) by up to 25 per cent. The […]

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Con Census: Tuesday’s farce is just the latest in a long line of outrages

First published in New Matilda. Posted on August 14, 2016 Breaching your privacy is core government business these days. The Turnbull Government with all its usual arrogance dismissed the calls for greater privacy protection for individual data and to postpone or reverse decisions to hold identifying data in excess of four years.  It had intended to […]

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Creating change

“It is from the champions of the impossible rather than the slaves of the possible that evolution draws its creative force.” Barbara Wootton In a World I Never Made. Allen and Unwin, London, 1967: 279

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Creative leadership

Management where I work confuses: activity with productivity, stupidity with ingenuity, compliance with integrity. The rest of us just hang on to the rim in the hope that as the fluid swirls round we won’t get sucked into the vortex of their inanity before disappearing into their brain drain. Written in 1998

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Disabling policies

Published  circa 2000 in New Zealand www.wairaka.net/ubinz/JT/IncomeInsecurity/jDisablingPolicies.htm The current Australian system of targeted income support is supposedly designed to assist those in ‘need’. In 1908 the first Federal income support legislation passed through the parliament made provision for pensions for people with a severe disability and those who were aged. Since that time sickness and […]

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Doris Lessing 1971

“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: “You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. “We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What […]

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Equity and simplicity

ON LINE opinion – Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate Posted Friday, 4 December 2009 I’m not the goose plucker, I’m the goose plucker’s son and I’m only plucking geese till the goose plucker comes. Ken Henry may have been asked by the Rudd Government to carry out a review of Australia’s tax system […]

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Fighting

Dear Comrades the bosses are upset the workers have not yet found the will to down the swill that they’d feed us. You’d think the workers would be grateful but they claim they’ve had a gutful of the bosses’ crap. Now what do you think of that? Peter Reith* would lay a wreath on awards […]

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Greed is (not) good

ON LINE opinion – Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate Posted Tuesday, 10 February 2009 Governments around the world are falling over themselves to engage in a Keynesian-style pump-priming of their economies. Until the mid-1970s Keynesian economics dominated fiscal thinking in Australia and much of the English-speaking world. Then came the neo-conservative economic fundamentalist-drive, […]

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Have I changed or did someone steal my country?

When I was young I rebelled I screamed and hollered and I yelled. Torrents of abuse I let loose at church and state. Authority, I much despised I saw through their tawdry lies. There was nary a judge, priest nor magistrate that I did not profess to hate. Now I’m old, not mature, just old; […]

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Have the economic fundamentalists lost their way?

Australians were influenced by Ronald Reagan’s “less tax is beautiful” and Maggie Thatcher’s “there’s no such thing as society”. Australian economic fundamentalism took shape in response to the Keating / Howard calls for competition policy, lower tariffs, deregulation, greater efficiency, less generous more targeted social security, publicly owned asset sales and less government intervention. Urgent […]

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Howard’s gone to water

ON LINE opinion – Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate Posted Monday, 12 February 2007 The Howard Government will be remembered for progressive gun control in the aftermath of the Port Arthur massacre, helping to liberate East Timor from Indonesia, drawing Australia into the Iraq morass, the expansion of Federal control (particularly in the […]

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In praise of lying rodents

First published in Al-Moharer Vol. 192 18/9/2004 http://www.al-moharer.net/moh192/j-tomlinson.htm The lies are falling from the skies, scales are lifting from our eyes, broken promises from tricky men wanting to be elected, once again. Far too many half-truths told, it’s now starting to unfold, he wanted power, others craved gold, refugees’ lives bought and sold. Workers down […]

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Intellectual disability and political action

Michael Bleasdale and John Tomlinson ASSID Conference Brisbane Convention Centre 23-26/1997 Abstract Ever since people with an intellectual disability have been confined in lunatic asylums there have been those who would speak for them. This article canvasses the struggle between those who advocate on behalf of others and self advocacy. we argue that people with […]

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John Stuart Mill

The best government has no more title to it than the worst. It is as noxious, or more noxious, when exerted in accordance with public opinion, than when in opposition to it. If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more […]

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Jumping at gay shadows

First published  Green Left Weekly, 7th July 2004 p.22 The budget couldn’t fudge it, the war has left our senses dazed; and his welfare policies are dredged from ancient days. Destroying health by stealth, robbing families blind; those who want to vote for him must be out of their tiny mind. The Timorese are struggling, […]

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Labor misses the point and the Liberals just don’t get it

ON LINE opinion – Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate Posted Thursday, 4 May 2006 The 2006-7 budget could have been an opportunity for bi-partisan agreement on real welfare reform, but, as Treasurer Peter Costello and Opposition Leader Kim Beazley will reveal, both major parties were distracted by other issues. The signs were clear […]

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Leadership is the art of the impossible

ON LINE opinion – Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate Posted Thursday, 3 November 2011 In 1967 Barbara Wootton in her autobiography In a World I Never Made wrote: “The limits of the possible constantly shift, and those who ignore them are apt to win in the end. Again and again I have had […]

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Letter to my friends of the New Community

Published in New Community Quarterly, vol 11, no 4. 2013 I have just been talking to Julie Bishop who assures me that David Hicks volunteered to go to Guantanamo Bay Cuba in the mistaken belief it was a Caribbean Holiday Resort. Furthermore she told me that whilst the naughty Labor Party might have spied on […]

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Little man

He’s such a little maggot yet claims that he stands tall little Johnny Howard the greatest con of all. He purports to be a human being, he claims to be a man without a heart or feeling he’s just a bloody sham. Says he supports the battler and those in utmost need yet he lies […]

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My mother told me

ON LINE opinion – Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate Posted Thursday, 16 July 2015 My mother told me, when I was growing up in Gympie, that if I could not say anything nice then I shouldn’t say anything at all. She also told me I should always tell the truth. This presents me […]

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Narcissism as far as the eye can see

ON LINE opinion – Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate Posted Wednesday, 6 April 2016 Tony Abbott is the Liberal Party’s Mark Latham. Having lived through the Latham train wreck of plagiarised policies and unnecessarily aggressive shirt fronting of Prime Minister Howard I did not think I’d see his like again in Australian politics. […]

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Nightmare 

Did you scream “I have a dream” that: one day miners will again be able to collectively bargain police ‘exercising restraint’ won’t use batons decent income support will be paid as a right of citizenship people escaping oppression will not be incarcerated in prisons and we will call them refugees not illegal immigrants Grozny will […]

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Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, 1950

“Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience therefore [individual citizens] have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.”

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Politics in the (Full Moon) Pub, Shorncliffe

in 2007. We might all laugh at the anarchist slogans “Don’t vote for them it only encourages them” “Guy Fawkes was the only man to enter parliament with honest intentions” But if you care about what happens to your family, your street, your neighbourhood, your community and are prepared to do things which might assist […]

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Preserving “Work Choices”

First published 30/4/2007 Jenny’s Red News http://jennysrednews.blogspot.com also published Al-Moharer 2/5/2007 http://www.al-moharer.net/mohhtm/tomlinson256.htm John Howard wants his worst choices preserved. So I’m sending him – a bottle of formalin. John Howard wants his place in history observed. So I’m sending him – a bottle of formalin. We will keep him in a museum of the past […]

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Protecting workers’ rights

First published in Union Songs 9/8/2006 http://unionsong.com/u378.html Workplace rights are not for sale Howard and Co are going to fail worst choice jobs – beyond the pale. We are workers, not crims on bail. Profits first and people last is an idea whose time has passed. We’ll fight for workers’ dignity with a quiet serenity, […]

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Reith is Right

Green Left Weekly 18/3/1998. p.13 Peter Reith the Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives is correct when he says there is an alternative to a unionised workforce in Australia.  He is on more dangerous ground with his claim that a non-unionised workforce will make Australia a more internationally competitive and productive. Reith’s […]

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Review of Will Hutton’s “The World We’re In”

Published in Australian Journal of Social Issues 37.4 (2002): 467 Will Hutton is best known for his text The State We’re In. His latest book is a polemic designed to convince British Euro sceptics that Britain is culturally and socially part of Europe. Integral to his analysis is the proposition that Britain’s 25 year flirtation […]

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Rights and obligations

When people assert their right to do something it is often demanded they provide evidence of the international instrument, national legislation, or other basis for their claim to have a ‘right’ to act. The Howard Government simply asserted the poor who received welfare payments had an obligation to ‘work for the dole’ or meet some […]

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Santo Santoro*

First published in Australian Socialist Vol.16, No. 1 page 23 The editors noted that Santo Santoro Minister for Aging in the Howard ministry was forced to resign over a share scandal. also published in New Community Quarterly Vol. 5, No.2 page 72, 2007 The Liberals are crazy, they scuttle back and forth, while Iraq is […]

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Social Justice

It’s the armless and the harmless the senseless and the lame who always pay the social cost who always get the blame. It’s the snivellers and the chisellers the swindlers and the vain ripping off the profits, and it’s always been the same. When I speak of social justice you ask “What will it cost […]

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Star Chamber style Work Choices tribunals set to make a return

ON LINE opinion – Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate Posted Wednesday, 6 January 2016 In the few days before the New Year Prime Minister Turnbull convinced Jamie Briggs, then Minister for improving Cities for rich people, to resign. The story went something like this “A Briggs walked into a nightclub in Hong Kong […]

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Stop the Reithkrieg

The bosses delighted shouldn’t get excited. They’ll always be defeated by the workers united. Peter Reith be assured we’re not bored, we’ll fight for the award till judgement day. We are here to stay We’ll fight you all the way. We’ll fight for decent pay come what may. You can try your best we’ll put […]

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Talking Policy: How social policy is made

Talking Policy: How social policy is made. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin. 2006 ISBN 174114518X Book review published in Australian Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 40, No. 4, Summer 2005: 569-570.Judith Bessant and Rob Watts are academic colleagues and friends with whom I have discussed social policy issues over many years. Talking Policy is an […]

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The art of taxation

ON LINE opinion – Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate Posted Friday, 1 April 2005 According to the Macquarie Dictionary the word “re-form” is a verb meaning “to form again”. Whereas the word “reform” is a noun meaning: The improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, etc: social reform … to restore to […]

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The bell tolls for us

First published Green Left Weekly  29/10/2003 and on the same day under the title “We must do something” in Al-Moharer www.al-moharer.net/moh149/john_tomlinson149.htm It was published in the Sri Lankan newspaper The Island on 19/1/2004, p.2. The rise of economic fundamentalist ideas has created a sordid situation for poor people here and overseas. I will trace some […]

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The Howard Government’s response to asylum seekers, refugees, Aborigines and welfare recipients.

Paper given at The Social Change in the 21st Century Conference, Brisbane 22nd November 2002 This paper will trace the continuity and discontinuities in policies affecting refugees, asylum seekers, Aborigines and welfare recipients from the invasion of this continent to the present day. It will draw heavily on research conducted by my students and myself […]

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The Howard Government’s disabling policies

Social Change in the 21st Century Conference, 28 October 2005, Queensland University of Technology Since 1996, the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has twice condemned Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and Aborigines. In 1998, the Coalition Government stopped paying benefits to unemployed 16-18 year olds adversely affecting 46,000 people (Horin 1998). […]

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The News

First Published in Al-Moharer 19/4/2005 Vol. 221 http://al-moharer.net/mohhtm/j-tomlinson221.htm We start tonight with live coverage of a dead pope. Victorian police shoot another civilian. A military helicopter on a mercy mission crashes – medals all round. Another 42 thousand poor people died of starvation today. Janjaweed militias continue to kill in Darfur – we continue to ignore it. […]

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The on-going struggle

Mourn not the dead… But rather mourn the apathetic throng The cowed and meek Who see the world’s great anguish and its wrong And dare not speak! Ralph Chaplin (a US workers’ rights advocate and conscientious objector World War I) cited by Robert Green, A thorn in their side: The Hilda Murrell Murder. Rata Books […]

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The real class war

ON LINE opinion – Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate Posted Monday, 9 May 2016 The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has accused the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, of engaging in class warfare. The basis of his accusation relates to comments Shorten made about tax breaks given to those earning above $80,000 a […]

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The right-wing Christian voter

First published in Al Moharer Vol. 203 No. 213 1/12/204 http://www.al-moharer.net/moh203/j-tomlinson203.htm also by the Synaptic Graffiti Collective. 20/4/2005 http://scart69.net/synapticgraffiti/Pages/therightwingchristain.html Born again, praise the Lord, Jesus is my friend. When I die I’ll go to heaven, my life will never end. If it’s true it’s in the Bible Mathew, Mark, Luke and John for the answers […]

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The rise of the ‘precariat’ and the decline of living standards

ON LINE opinion – Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate Posted Wednesday, 20 August 2014 Guy Standing is Professor of Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. As well, he is a co-president of the Basic Income Earth Network. He was for many years a senior researcher with […]

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The twin issues of need and control

Written circa mid 1980s A recurrent theme in discussions about the welfare system in Western democracies which requires discussion is that of the relationship between need and control. Marxists and feminists express considerable concern about the amount of control which is exerted on beneficiaries; this issue is also raised when dealing with the role of […]

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The way back: ‘moving forward’ in a progressive direction

ON LINE opinion – Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate Posted Wednesday, 13 November 2013 Shortly after the dismissal of the Whitlam Labor Government on the 11/11/1975 a colleague of mine, Alec Pemberton, suggested we should write a book alerting our fellow Australians of the danger to social solidarity that the new right economic […]

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There’s a change

First published New Community Quarterly, Vol.3 , No.2 Winter 2005, p.55. There’s a change. There’s a change. There’s a change on the way. People are troubled they’re starting to say: There’s a change. There’s a change. There’s a change on the way. Evolving times, the options vast for the rich the die is cast. Profits […]

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Union

First published in National Indigenous Times. 2005 http://www.nit.com.au/secure/story.aspx?storyid=5483 also in The Woodstock Journal CMFEU Tasmania, No. 34 September We’ll build a mighty union throughout the Commonwealth to stand up for the workers against those who rob by stealth. Black and white will gather men and women too old and young together will build this world anew. Fighting for […]

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Union is strength

I’ve seen my brothers standing with my sisters hand in hand. Together we will make the government understand that they can’t control the people, we have a will of our own, we’ll build a mighty nation – ’cause this land is our home. We’re not just cannon fodder for their satanic mills, we’ve humanity and […]

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Universities: Factory or Varsity?

ON LINE opinion – Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate Posted Monday, 8 November 2004 My father, who described himself as a “language master”, frequently regaled me with tales of his life at the varsity. In 1960, after an exceedingly mediocre year 12 undertaken at night school, I went to orientation day at the […]

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Up the long ladder

Chorus: Up the long ladder and down the short rope to hell with John Howard, he’s stolen our hope. We’ll tear them in two, with the Liberals we’re through let them hang from the ladder and swing on the rope. The workers united will never be defeated All the pollies and bosses can get overheated. […]

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Up-rising

Rise up. Rise up my brothers, my sisters and my lovers and what about you others. Rise up! The corridors are humming, the revolution’s coming Rise up! Written 2002

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Vacating Kirribilli

John’s gone, he’s gone and I’m forlorn. The unemployed must cope without his scorn. Workers smile and bosses frown, why did the voters let them down. Eleven long years of blood, sweat and tears have given way to workers’ cheers. Bennelong voters so it seems exceeded all my wildest dreams. Published in Green Left 30 […]

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Was there ever – will there be?  

Written 2002 Was there once a time when, we knew and understood what was right and what was wrong, what was true and good? When the answers were simple and everyone played fair, and politics was decent, here, and everywhere? When the rich and powerful worried about the poor, and none would turn a stranger […]

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Watching John Howard set the record straight on Sir Robert Menzies.

Ex-Prime Minster, Howard made much of Menzies’ anti-Communism and his clever tactics in encouraging the split in Labour ranks in 1955. Howard said that at the 1961 election Sir Robert had had to rely on Democratic Labor Party preferences to win the election. It is true that Menzies could not have retained government had Labor […]

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We should be turning back, not turning our backs

Written in 2007 not published. We’ve turned our back on justice and wonder why none trust us. We’ve ignored the wisdom we were taught, And the rights for which our forbears fought, to live in a world with danger fraught, where peoples lives and souls are bought. When it comes to Indigenes, asylum seekers and […]

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Which Australia?

Australia I love you for what you could be land of the fair and the free we could stand for justice and democracy as we inspire hope, truth and decency. From Queensland’s rainforests to Tassie’s windswept coast through the Centre’s red heart over deserts and mountains to Ningaloo’s coral reefs you have unsurpassed beauty. From […]

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Who do you trust?

ON LINE opinion – Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate Posted Thursday, 8 November 2007 In February this year I wrote: The Howard Government will be remembered for progressive gun control in the aftermath of the Port Arthur massacre, helping to liberate East Timor from Indonesia, drawing Australia into the Iraq morass, the expansion […]

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Y R we here

Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of humankind. Did you think you were put here for something less? — Chief Arvol Looking Horse from White BuffaloTeachings     or as Karl Marx said  we’re in this world to change it.

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Yellow Brick Road

Not for me the yellow brick road, it’s not the path my feet have trod, no rose-coloured lenses glaze my sight, I’ve neither love nor fear of god. Peering into the cauldron of our history I see shame, intolerance and evasion, exploitation, genocide and misery. From the convict-laden ships of Sydney Cove, through to Korea, […]

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