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REBLOG: Why Western Sydney?

November 11, 2015

From Communique from Suburbia:


As working class, migrant kids from the Western suburbs of Sydney who ‘made it’ to University we shared an experience of alienation. We carried an organic tendency towards communism as an analysis of our respective everyday experiences and thus gravitated towards ‘the Left’. Participation in the Left required physical debasement from our home suburbs, trekking into the inner city often the only way we could participate. The travel to meetings and events was long, moreover, the composition of the Left as we encountered it featured very few who shared our experience. Before long  – or sometimes sadly after much pain – we grew weary of a  ‘Left’ whose theories of change revolved around working class liberation, yet ironically operated in spaces where participants from the this very same class were alienated.

For working class kids, like us, this alienation resulted in a schizophrenia. Somewhere between derision for fellow Westies’ lack of political understanding and an inevitable internalisation of the middle class sensibilities of the Left. We were often floundering in a state of disorder and confusion. Upon reflection there always was an incongruity between our roots and a continued participation in ‘the Left’ as it stood, and perhaps still stands.

Finding ourselves some years later firmly planted within communities in Western Sydney, we both continue to recover and rehabilitate, learning from those around us. Whilst we still tend towards a shared communist history to make sense of our experience, a clarity has emerged: unequivocally the answers to a way forward to attaining that goal reside in our backyard.

For us that place is Western Sydney. This blog is written by two people communicating from suburbia, attempting to bring analysis to what we are part of and observe around us. We write about people like us, for people like us. We will share stories of resistance and analysis of struggle, and welcome contributions to the same ends. Through circulating and generalising observations we wish to contribute to the pollination of struggles which prefigure a vibrant new world in the shell of the old.

REBLOG: Wanderers Fans ARE a Threat

November 11, 2015

From Communique from Suburbia.

On the recent over-policing of Wanderer’s fans – that is, working class, ethnic people from the Western suburbs – and the recent Senate Inquiry into the over-reach of the state:

In Australia, it has taken a libertarian, elected by a combination of good fortune and brand confusion, to ask questions about the overreach of the state. By chance, the formation of the Senate Committee coincided with the releasing of a set of draconian requests by the Parramatta Local Area Command governing the behaviour of Western Sydney Wanderers fans. This added a pronounced class dimension.

It goes without saying that all state power is experienced most overtly by the working class. With Western Sydney’s intersection of demography and geography, it is no surprise that common in the conciousness of many of its residents is a collective experience of over-policing, profiling and brutality.

An anti-police sentiment borne from such experiences is burnt into the DNA of the Westie.


In typical Wanderers fan fashion,  the label ‘grub’ – just like those before it of ‘scum’, ‘bogan’, ‘povo’, ‘wog’ and ‘reffo’ – has been immediately appropriated, continuing the subversion that has permeated their identity from the outset.

It is clear that the police see the RBB as a threat. Not because they are deadly, nor because they are violent. They fear them because a bunch of organised Westies can make them feel extremely insecure by carving out a space of their own. The RBB pose the possibility that the state is not ubiquitous.

Read the full post here: Wanderers Fans ARE a Threat

A new blog: Communique from Suburbia

November 11, 2015

suburbia_alert_webI have not been blogging here for well over a year. I do plan to pop up from time to time. But I have been working on another site – with a particular focus – with my partner in love, agitation and rage, Andrew.

Communique from Suburbia: It is a humble project that has come after many conversations about what we are involved in and what we are observing around us. That happens to be the suburbs of Western Sydney.

From our blog:

Communique from Suburbia is borne from a desire to stitch together the threads of rebellion that are emerging across Western Sydney. Through applying an interpretation of methodologies associated with workers inquiry, we work to share the stories and observations of struggle in territories that are largely not surveyed.

This blog is written by two people communicating from suburbia, attempting to bring analysis to what we are part of and observe around us. We write about people like us, for people like us. We will share stories of resistance and analysis of struggle, and welcome contributions to the same ends. Through circulating and generalising observations we wish to contribute to the pollination of struggles which prefigure a vibrant new world in the shell of the old.

You can read more here, Please do share, follow, reblog if you like what we are writing about, You can also find us in tweet-sized version @commsuburbia 

Clive’s budget? The rise of anti-establishment politics

June 10, 2014

I’ve been a neglectful, lazy blogger.

But my readers, here for your political commentary pleasure (only one tardy week after it was first published on Overland) is a piece I co-wrote with Joel Pringle (you can find Joel’s blog here). It is our reflection on the aftermath of a disastrous Federal Budget and what this reveals about Clive, the Left and the continuing rise of anti-establishment politics.

Here’s an extract.


Perhaps the biggest winner in the recent federal budget was Clive Palmer. The billionaire seems to be the sole agent able to tap in to the popular opposition to a budget maligned not only by the communities hit by cuts, but also by the technocrats and business lobbies that the Coalition might have relied on for support.

As flawed economically and politically as this budget has been, it would be a mistake to assume that the space Palmer has managed to occupy was created by this government alone. Incompetence has certainly helped but the government’s inability to sell the budget stems from the same pressures that saw a leader as unpopular as Tony Abbott able to lead the Coalition to victory, and, at a state level, two first-term premiers and a chief minister deposed by colleagues over the last year.

The government’s short-term problem is the budget, but longer term it is relevance.

A weak budget from a weak polity

If the point of democracy is to give expression to the will of the people, and the goal of leadership to bring the community along when making unpopular but ultimately wise decisions, then this budget has spectacularly failed on both counts.

The budget represents overreach from a government still coming to terms with its own unpopularity and struggling to assert authority. As other countries struggle in the aftermath of austerity economics, the Abbott government has embarked on dismantling the welfare state but without even a semblance of the technocratic cover provided elsewhere.

You can read the rest of the article here. If you like this, I’ll try to write more in the coming weeks and months.

So you want to go to uni?

January 29, 2014

It’s impossible to unpick all the factors that determine whether a person does or does not make it to university. Yet despite the meritocracy mantras, the biggest determiners of what kind of education you are going to get remain: parent’s educational level and class. A private school education also helps.

For many people, like the students in the Tertiary Preparation Course I teach at Sydney Institute TAFE, that’s not what the lottery of life has served them up. And so, their education does not follow the usual trajectory. The path is filled with obstacles and interruptions. It almost defies reason (or at least the logic of the market) that many of them make it to university. At least the Tertiary Prep Course smooths out the arduous journey.

Meet one of my reason-defying students, Lauren:

And before you think this is a post filled with the usual cliches about the transformative powers of education, watch the video to hear what Lauren has to say about it.

Courses like this one can cost up to $30,000 a year at private colleges that operate nearby. Yes, exactly: who can afford that?? For now, the TPC program at TAFE is offered at a nominal fee for many students (with the fee refunded upon completion). While the reasons that this course and others like it are under threat are complex (more on the dismantling of TAFE and attacks on second chance education here), the course is being offered again this year. In fact, TAFE are enrolling students for first semester today and tomorrow (and will be accepting late enrolments next week once classes kick off). Find out more about that here (Ultimo campus).

And because not all of the funding invested in public education has been siphoned into the expanding marketing sections that are mandatory these days in educational institutions, I’d really appreciate if you shared this post so that my next batch of ‘Laurens’ find their way into my class.

The marketisation of TAFE

January 16, 2014

This article from Leesa Wheelahan is a good introduction to the marketisation of TAFE and the effects of decades of such policies on the entire vocational education sector. It is not only that the assumptions underpinning marketisation are not being adequately questioned or that they are inherently at odds with what education is or should be about. There’s more than ideology driving this in my opinion. Though, Leesa highlights what turning TAFE into just another provider is really about: dismantling an institution. Once it’s gone we won’t easily be able to put it back together:

Associate Professor Leesa Wheelahan on why learning is about more than mere supply and demand.

TAFE is not a ‘provider’ of vocational education and training; it is an educational institution which, like schools and universities, is essential to Australia’s social cohesion, productivity and international economic competitiveness. But TAFE is being wrecked.

Victoria is leading the charge. TAFE’s share of publicly funded students in Victoria declined from 67% in 2008 to 42% in 2012, while private providers’ share increased from 16% to 46% over that time.

Read the rest of the article here.

TAFE: Cuts won’t make us Smart or Skilled

January 15, 2014

Lefties love education. Just look at the panic we have all been in over the past week about the reforms Christopher Pyne and his LNP buddies have in mind for the school curriculum.

There is, however, a vital part of the education sector being dismantled without the requisite debate or attention. TAFE has been providing students with second chance and general education for over a century. Perhaps for the intelligentsia, or at least those who decide daily what to get outraged about on twitter, it is not as sexy as academia. Nor does it come with the obvious and easily targetted mum & dad allies of primary and secondary schooling. What has been happening to vocational and adult education and training is complex and under-reported: a slow but brutal assault started in the days of the Dawkins reforms and culminating in recent years under the National Framework Agreement that is currently being implemented by state governments across the country. This privatisation agenda in vocational education and training is something I will be examining over the next year or so (as the 2014 recipient of the Eric Pearson Study grant). Expect to hear more from me on this. For now – and as a way of introducing some of you to the issues and to what is at stake – here is something I wrote about it just over a year ago (first published in New Matilda here).

A mass demonstration in November 2012 calling on Premier Barry O'Farrell to reverse $1.7 billion in cuts to NSW education - most of it in TAFE.

A mass demonstration in November 2012 calling on Premier Barry O’Farrell to reverse $1.7 billion in cuts to NSW education, most of it targeting TAFE funding.

The O’Farrell Government’s plans to cut funding from TAFE will gut the sector. TAFE is designed to provide access and equity in education, not to compete with private providers.
When Barry O’Farrell revealed his Smart and Skilled reform agenda in September, announcing massive cuts to education of $1.7 billion, many pointed to Victoria as a warning of what happens when “contestable” funding is introduced and the sector is left wide open to the full force of the market.O’Farrell has repeatedly said competition will make TAFE the sector more responsive to industry or employer needs. Contrary to his rhetoric, TAFE in Victoria has been destroyed, and in its place fly-by-night private providers, backed with government money, have taken its place — some enticing students with iPads or cash incentives to enrol in a narrow range of courses. Read more…

Every Single Article Ever Written About Being Gay in Beirut in One Convenient Article

November 19, 2013

For White People™ curious about what it is like to be gay in Beirut, start here. Everything you need to know – or at least have a chuckle, at yourself.


It’s a dark night in Beirut, the San Francisco of the Middle East. This darkness is powerful. It represents Beirut’s past, its present, and its bleak future. But tonight, it also represents the state of gay people in this Middle Eastern city by the sea.

Hassan, whose name I have changed to protect his privacy even though there are thousands of Ahmeds in Lebanon, is sipping on a gin and tonic, and in doing so, powerfully defies his religion. For him, having grown up in a Muslim household, religion has turned its back on him, because you see, Hassan is gay. A gay Muslim. In Beirut. Shocking.

Hassan tells me how hard it is to come out in Beirut. This story is very specific to the Arab world, because everywhere else on this planet, it’s so easy to come out. We are sitting in Bardo, a gay bar in Hamra…

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The Futility of Culture Wars Mark II

November 6, 2013

This follow up to my previous post on smugness has similarly taken its time to move from my draft folder to published posts. It may now seem that the culture wars that marked the start of the Coalition government have spluttered and stalled behind a veil of controlled silence. Yet we can expect the culture wars to return on many fronts: in the tussle for the accepted version of history on Remembrance Days; the overhaul of school curricula to replace it with Christopher Pyne’s values; questions of ‘taste’ in art; women’s bodies etc. Largely, I suspect the soldiers readying for these battles will be supporters outside of government, egging on the government to implement a far more militant agenda.

But before hastily sending more troops over the trenches and into battle, the Left need to ask some questions: Why are the Culture Wars back? How do they work? How, if at all, should the Left respond?


Welcome to the futile battleground of the Culture Wars.

Only days old and this government has already acquired a ‘here we go again’ quality. Those who recall how it played out under Howard are sounding the warnings, calling on the Left to disengage from combat immediately. Others are anticipating attack on every front from an outwardly confident Right. Instead they are dusting off their talking points from the last round as they prepare again to defend history against brazen attacks from a resurrected Keith Windschuttle or whoever will stand in as his equivalent. This time around we have established that there will be much fighting about Anzac biscuits.

Why are the Culture Wars back?

Read more…

Why so smug?

November 4, 2013

I wrote this post in the days following Abbott’s election and a little embarrassingly am posting it now that we have had two months to adjust to that reality. Here are my still relevant observations about the smugness I often observe on the Left – essentially what derives from a lack of class and race analysis. And from a poor understanding of anti-politics. This is my attempt to unpack it as a political and emotional response so we might move past it. So we might avoid continually marginalising ourselves and transformative politics in the process.

“Of all the horrid, hideous notes of woe, Sadder than owl-songs or the midnight blast, Is that portentous phrase, “I told you so,” Uttered by friends, those prophets of the past.” – Lord Byron, 1819

‘Don’t Blame Me. I didn’t vote for Abbott’ – all over my Facebook news feed on 8 September, 2013


Sunday September 8, on that day after that horrible night before, I logged into social media to nurse my breaking heart. I joined with those in my twitter feed and on Facebook searching for consolation. The dawn of a government with its leader declaring the country ‘open for business’, while closing it to compassion and in the process trashing the environment was always going to trigger a collective mourning on the Left.

In the now ritual unleashing of ‘feelpinions’ into the social media stratosphere I noticed something disturbing emerge. Along with the despair at the horrors this country will likely face from a PM elected to rule for the Super Rich, a few memes quickly formed.

Read more…

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