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Reasons to be cheerful: 2019 edition



December 15 · Issue #22 · View online
Your weekly wrap of national affairs, society, culture and politics, published by UnionsACT.

From the editor
If you feel like you’re stumbling, barely conscious, to 2019’s finishing line, like one of those half-dead marathon runners, you’re not alone. So to give readers a bit of a pre-2020 pick-me-up, we thought we’d go with something different this issue: a whole bunch of reasons to feel positive about things! I hope you get as much of a mood-boost out of reading it as I did writing it.
If you’ve enjoyed reading SundayFocus this year, and would like to keep reading it next year, please consider subscribing. You can also give a Gift Solidarity Subscription or a Yearly Gift Solidarity Subscription to a special someone this Christmas.
Last, we’re taking a week off over Christmas so there’ll be no issue next Sunday. Best rest assured that we will be back on deck the following week, so you can expect issue 23 in your inbox on December 29.
Enjoy the issue and have a great, and uplifting, holiday season.
Guy Mosel, editor
P.S. The Workers Lottery closes tomorrow! Get your tickets now!

We have a world to win
by Guy Mosel
Anthony Quintano | Flickr
Anthony Quintano | Flickr
As the inevitable reality of Corbyn’s election failure began to dawn, my friend Helen took to Facebook.
“Lost an election, comrade?” she wrote. “Take a moment. And in no time at all, you’ll remember that we have a world to win.”
With my mood rapidly plunging southward and inebriation looking like the only solution it was a helpful intervention.
There is, of course, nothing to be gained by moping, and as disheartening as the events in the UK may be, the struggle goes on. Because it must. As journalist and activist Chris Hedges says, “I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists.”
Which is to say that the struggle is the point.
And so with that in mind here are some reasons to keep fighting the good fight.
Actually, Jezza did okay
Viewed through a strictly electoral lens it’s an unmitigated disaster. But although Labour’s total vote fell heavily from its 2017 highs they still got a larger share of the national vote than under Ed Miliband in 2015 and Gordon Brown in 2010, and only a slightly smaller share than Tony Blair’s Labour in 2005. Also, thanks to the popularity of the Corbyn agenda, Labour’s membership has soared to its highest level since the ‘70s.
Corbyn rebuilt the party’s grassroots and established a social-democratic platform that was rightly admired by millions. Nice one, Jezza.
There’s hope abroad
Globally, capital prevails and neoliberalism’s pulse, once perhaps weakening, may have strengthened a little with the Tories romping home. But not all countries are hellscapes of austerity and nativism. Finland, Norway, and Sweden while most undoubtedly capitalist are also socially democratic with strong welfare states and a more equal distribution of wealth and power among its citizens. Elsewhere, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Mexico, Finland and others all have broadly social democratic governments.
Coal’s demise is assured
The price is collapsing. Mining giants are walking away. Banks and insurers won’t back new projects. Super funds and others are divesting.
Meanwhile, all over the world, countries are making huge strides towards 100 per cent renewable energy generation. Earlier this year Britain, for example, experienced its first coal-free week since the Industrial Revolution, while Costa Rica has produced around 95 per cent of its power from hydro, geothermal, solar and wind over the past four years.
And back home, the Australian Energy Market Operator released a draft report during the week showing how Australia can achieve 90 per cent renewables by 2040, while modelling shows that a just transition to a green economy will create jobs.
In other words: coal’s demise will happen, and soon, regardless of whichever stuffed shirt has the keys to the Lodge.
Greta Thunberg
We would all do well to abandon our habit of putting too much faith in the power of charming leaders who do little more than exude charm, but I refuse to feel guilty for feeling buoyed by this 16-year-old’s passion and clear-eyed disdain for the failings of global leaders.
She’s fantastic. Us grown-ups owe it to her and her generation not to screw this up.
Activism is on the rise
The youth are revolting! Thanks in part to the movement inspired by Ms Thunberg, the world’s children are discovering their activist voices. But it’s not just the climate kids: protesting has been on the rise worldwide since after the GFC in 2009 and is now at levels not seen since the 1960s.
Democratically elected governments are, by literal definition, susceptible to public pressure. Exert enough, at the right places, and you can get them to bend to your will, even when they’re a collection of cynical theocrats and anti-worker authoritarians.
President Sanders
See my point above about the perils of putting your faith in charismatic leaders (although Bernie’s appeal arguably stems more from his anti-charisma), but Bernie’s not your average politician. He’s been an activist all his life and is the only US presidential candidate backed by an actual grassroots movement.
Can he win. Hell yes, he can. What’s more, Bernie never wanted to be this close to the White House, which makes him the perfect person for the job.
And although his ability as president to do the things we would love him to – Medicare For All, Green New Deal, ending capitalism – will be constrained by the make-up of Congress, he’ll at the very least have the power to radically reshape the geopolitical landscape.
A Bernie Sanders presidency will be a game-changer. Bring on November.
The week in review
Good news… The ANU released its election survey during the week and boy oh boy did that explode a few myths. First: voters did care about the environment. And second: majorities (albeit slim) approved of Labor’s policies on franking credits and negative gearing. The survey basically found that the Coalition squeaked home because people trust them more on the economy (which they are laughably, provably terrible on), because their guy was more popular than Labor’s guy and because the ALP continued to lose their working class base.
What does this mean? Well if you ask me it means that Labor should keep charging leftward, double-down on their mostly good policy positions (some notable exceptions aside) and be utterly unafraid to speak about, to and on behalf of the material interests of working people.
You can dig into the detail of the survey here, while Emily’s List provides some fascinating analysis on the growing left-right gender divide.
Also good news… Channel Seven has reached a settlement with 15 Aboriginal people following a patently racist Sunrise segment in March 2018. During the segment celebrity bigot Prue MacSween joined host Samantha Armytage and a generic white guy to spout several minutes of bullshit about the adoption of Indigenous kids. The network will air a public apology and pay an undisclosed sum to the group of nine adults and six children from Yirrkala in the Northern Territory, who sued for defamation, breach of privacy, breach of confidence, race discrimination and breach of Australian consumer law.
I won’t link to the actual video but if you want to watch Tom Ballard take the mickey out of them, here you go!
Good news again… The tide may be turning on tax-swerving corporations. A third of Australia’s largest companies paid no tax in 2017-18, with foreign multinationals again the worst offenders. Michael West points out the almost unbelievable fact that gas and oil monster Exxon has paid zero tax in Australia in five years despite extracting $42.3 billion in revenue. While this is quite obviously terrible, it’s an issue that can theoretically unite the right and the left. The government has even signalled that it’s prepared to go after tech companies for offshoring their profits.
You can sign UnionsACT’s petition demanding that corporate tax dodgers pay their fair share here.
Even more good news… Liberal MPs are finally breaking ranks on climate change. NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said during the week that “the scientists have been predicting for decades that climate change will result in more extreme weather events. Hotter days, less rain, more drought, worse air quality, that is what the scientists have told us climate change looks like.” That wasn’t so hard, was it?
The NSW government, generally appalling, will now apparently commit to lowering greenhouse gases by 35 per cent by 2030. Better than nothing, and a reminder, like I was saying above, that even bad governments can be forced into implementing good policy with sustained public pressure.
But then, face to face
How Venezuela defeated Washington's coup attempt at the United Nations
Hong Kong’s protest movement and the fight for the city’s soul
For your bookshelf
How Powerful We Are, by Sally Rugg
Australia Day, by Stan Grant
The Socialist Manifesto, by Bhaskar Sunkara
"Solidarity Forever" t-shirt
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