Neoliberalism and feminism

Beware the arrival of neoliberal feminism … What do feminists have in common with Gina Rinehart? Nothing … Water mining wars erupt in the Tweed Valley … Luke Foley dog whistles again … Euthanasia debate reborn … NSW aborigines crash State of Origin selection barrier … and more

Thanks largely to Donald Trump, recruitment to feminism has become a sweeping global phenomenon. But who are the new feminists, male and female? What do they believe in and what do they want?

Many Trump Republicans are now wearing the feminist badge and joining the upsurge. Ivanka Trump and Meghan Markle are both self-declared feminists as is Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, and author of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.

Using her career-long IT experience she promoted the book into an online social movement, The book sold a million copies and she got richer and richer.

Ms Sandberg’s salary is around $US18 million a year and her net worth is $US1.6 billion. A California Democrat, she is a board member of The Walt Disney Company which this week sacked Trump supporter Roseanne Barr for ugly racist comments on social media, and has been named by the Jerusalem Post as one of world’s 50 most influential Jews.

Other notable feminist recruits are Britain’s Tory Prime Minister Theresa May, France’s anti-Moslem tormentor Marine Le Pen and Myanmar’s bloodstained Rohingya murderer Aung San Suu Kyi.

When feminists celebrate Gina Haspel’s appointment as the first female CIA director, then you know that something is seriously wrong.

In her 30-year career at Langley, Ms Haspel has overseen torture and assassination programmes. She was in charge of the CIA’s rendition and water boarding atrocity in Thailand and destroyed all the records on the orders of her boss (and friend), CIA deputy director for operations, Jose Rodriguez, now retired.

“Do it (protest to Congress) for human rights and for the rule of law,” wrote former CIA analyst John Kiriakou. “Don’t let Bloody Gina wreak any more havoc than she already has.” His passionate plea to Congress, signed by a collection of ex-CIA, Pentagon and State Department chiefs, was ignored.

On principle, Republican Senator John McCain voted “No” and went home to Arizona to die from his brain tumour. But Democrat and Republican feminists provided the necessary numbers to get Ms Haspel into the summit of CIA power.

As men and women claim their feminist credentials, a fair question to ask is “what kind of feminism?”

Previous feminists from the post-war era were committed to pay and employment equality, human rights, justice and peace while some of today’s recruits from conservative parties talk about “empowerment” and “choice” – not equality and human rights.

Birth of neoliberal feminism

London University academic Catherine Rottenberg has studied these developments with unusual care and has traced the rise of what she calls “neoliberal feminism”.

Under this reactionary theory, espoused by Sheryl Sandberg and others, women are “completely atomised, self-optimising and entrepreneurial”.

“Neoliberal feminism ultimately directs its address to the middle and upper middle classes, effectively erasing the vast majority of women from view,” writes Rottenberg. “And, since it is informed by a market calculus, it is uninterested in social justice or mass mobilisation.

“With the rise of neoliberal feminism, which encourages individual women to focus on themselves and their own aspirations, feminism can more easily be popularised, circulated and sold in the market place. This is because it dovetails, almost seamlessly, with neoliberal capitalism.”

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop site is a perfect example: “We are a lifestyle brand with its roots in content across six key pillars: Wellness, Travel, Food, Beauty, Style and Work; within those pillars, we curate and sell a tightly-edited array of products that adhere to our brand values, and we also make our own goods. We have created a luxurious, high-performance skincare line made from organic ingredients; a regimen-based vitamin program to address the acute needs of modern women; a gorgeous line of fragrances, crafted from entirely natural and powerful components; and a limited-edition range of fashion essentials, all made in Italy’s finest fills and factories.”

I don’t know what you think, but “power” women in the millionaire and billionaire bracket giving other women advice about how to be rich and live in luxury is the height of cynicism.

A New York business magazine has a created a special website dedicated to the world’s young female billionaires ranging in age from 19 to 50. Most of them are living on billions inherited from their parents while some made it on their own. “Learn just how these remarkable young women got their billions,” an advertisement advises. I suspect the real answer is “robbery” but the “r” word won’t be mentioned.

Australian women have witnessed this rancid phenomenon at first hand: former AMP chair Catherine Brenner, Senator Michaelia Cash, Business Council of Australia CEO Jennifer Westacott, mining czarina Gina Rinehart, Australia’s richest woman with over $10 billion in cash and assets, and many more.

What have the vast majority of under-paid, over-worked women got in common with high-flyers in the corporate world, politics, the media, government or the justice system?

As Ms Rottenberg clearly states there is nothing about today’s neoliberal feminism that threatens the powers that be. It is a disguise adopted by capitalism to continue exploiting, dividing and impoverishing people and the environment.

The anti-war movement went through the same agonising ideological struggle in the 1960s and 1970s. It was between the “Give peace a chance” crowd who backed Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger’s peace talks in Paris and those of us who adopted the slogan, “Victory to the NLF”.

We wanted the NLF to win a military victory over the US invaders, including their allies from Australia, while others wanted “peace with honour” and kept smoking pot. I think we won that one.

Threat of water mining exposed

Profiteering from “water mining” has become a hot topic of conversation among environmentalists and activists in my neck of the woods – the Tweed Valley in far northern NSW.

On the eastern seaboard of Australia with a mountain range close to the coast, this area receives an unusually high annual rainfall.

Protesters outside Tweed Shire Council

This has led to a race for privately-held water licences by companies and individuals wanting to sell water to soft drinks manufacturers and bottled water corporations.

It’s a remarkably profitable business for those lucky enough to get their hands on licences to allow water extraction from their properties.

These landholders arrange confidential contracts with mega-scale water companies who arrange everything: they supply drilling equipment, pumps, power and facilities to pick up extracted water in massive tankers.

Called “water mining”, it is happening on a grand scale in Australia, Europe and the United States.

A local community group, the Tweed Water Alliance (TWA), is campaigning to have water extraction banned by the NSW government and the local government authority, Tweed Shire Council.

The NSW Greens and some Labor MPs and councillors support the ban, but other elected representatives are firmly in the grip of private water interests.

“We certainly support the ban,” said TWA convenor Jeremy Tager. “Extracting water is a lose-lose prospect. Water is taken away from local users; it creates little or no employment as most of the operators are water transporters; that means trucks come in, get filled up and then take the water away to be bottled elsewhere. They only pay a small road contribution to drive these big trucks on rural roads that were never designed for them.

“The industry comprehensively fails the most basic public interest test.”

Dawn Walker, NSW Greens MP in the Upper House, told MPs on April 10: “In this arid country there is almost nothing that is as precious as our water. Yet in the Tweed Valley and in other areas of the country, communities are forced to fight for their water to stay in the ground.

“Why? Because water has suddenly become big business.”

Ms Walker told the local Tweed Echo: “Water is our most precious resource and gigalitres of water beneath the Tweed Valley are being sucked up for commercial profit, leaving the community high and dry with the impacts. Water mining licences are being handed out by the government without adequate monitoring in many cases; water meters haven’t even been installed.”

Public interest has been aroused by an application for a water mining licence by Jack Hallam, former Agriculture Minister in Premier Neville Wran’s government.

Hallam, who now lives on a rural Tweed Valley property near the village of Uki, wants to sell underground water to a major Sydney water bottler and furnish his retirement nest egg.

In retirement Hallam was suspended by the State ALP conference for handing out NSW Greens “How to Vote” cards at a polling booth, but he has now been welcomed back into Labor’s fold and awarded Life Membership. The motion supporting his party’s highest accolade was moved by local federal MP, Justine Elliot, a former Queensland police officer.

Her husband, Craig Elliot, recently won pre-selection to run as the ALP candidate for the state seat of Tweed in the 2019 election on March 23. Craig Elliot is also a former Queensland copper.

Enter the Karlos family

Larry Karlos and his family interests are the largest and longest-serving water miners in the Tweed Valley.

Without raising any sweat, the Karloses have made a small fortune selling underground water to major bottling corporations, mainly foreign-owned.

Larry’s father was the late Nick Karlos, a Gold Coast identity with close connections to the right wing cabal that used to run the Australian Labor Party, i.e. Bob Hawke and Graham Richardson.

In her outstandingly researched 1996 book, The Fixer: The untold story of Graham Richardson, journalist Marian Richardson (now with 4 Corners) wrote about Hawke’s fund-raising dinner at Sydney’s Regent Hotel in 1983, just months after his election as PM. Guests were mainly multi-millionaires, including Frank Lowy from Westfields, Franco Belgiorno-Nettis from Transfield, stockbroker Rene Rivkin, Arab newspaper owner Eddie Obeid and property developer Warren Anderson.

“It was a couple of small businessmen from the Gold Coast who were perhaps two of the most intriguing guests at the fund-raising dinner,” Ms Wilkinson wrote. “They were seated with the Minister for Corrective Services, Rex Jackson, and their names were Nick Karlos and Bob Burgess, owners of several seafood restaurants on the Gold Coast.

“More than a decade later, Karlos and Burgess would emerge as the key players in the events surrounding Richardson’s hurried resignation from political life.”

Jackson’s demise was even more spectacular. He was convicted and jailed after a prolonged investigation into his role in procuring cash bribes in return for the early release on convicts.

On 10 August 1993 prostitutes from Premiere Companions on the Gold Coast were told to attend to very important clients staying at a nearby five-star hotel.

“The instructions were clear and simple,” Ms Williamson wrote. “The agency had a very important client in town who needed to be treated well.”

Nick Karlos picked up the prostitutes at a Surfers Paradise restaurant and drove them to their celebrity client – who turned out to be federal Cabinet minister, Senator Graham Richardson – staying at the luxury Hyatt at Sanctuary Cove.

Williamson wrote that “Karlos was one of the escort agency’s regular clients” adding: “Quite simply, Nick Karlos frequently procured prostitutes on request for selected friends or patrons who came to his famous seafood restaurants on the coast.”

By this stage, Greek-born Karlos had achieved significant notoriety; he had been named in the NSW Parliament as a long-time friend and associate of Sydney crime boss, Lennie McPherson.

He (McPherson) is “a nice man”, Karlos would tell anyone who asked about his association with the brutal standover man.

When Federal and Queensland police opened an investigation into the prostitute scandal, Karlos lost his memory and went into hospital. His mind was unclear, his recollections fuzzy and his health too dodgy to face a long police interview.

Karlos and his famous client, Richardson, escaped serious investigation or prosecution.

Other members of this seedy Labor cabal were the locally-born Hogan brothers, John “The Planter” Hogan and Tom “The Toiler” Hogan, both deceased. While John Hogan built a career as the American CIA’s point man in the ALP, Tom Hogan became a Tweed Shire councillor until a corruption investigation led to his conviction and weekend detention.

While NSW ministers in Sydney grant water-mining licences, local councils are currently the regulatory authority. In the case of the Karlos family’s water mine, all bases were covered by the Richardson-Hogan network.

Opponents of Larry Karlos’s PR campaign to protect his income stream from water mining should demand all the details of the original licence: who applied for it; who approved it; and all correspondence between Sydney and Murwillumbah on the licence application and any variations that took place.

If the decision is above-board, Larry Karlos has nothing to worry about and I expect him to enthusiastically embrace any such search. So will Greens Tweed mayor Katie Milne and the local ALP.

And why would the Nationals not join in as well? Nationals have no interest in protecting Graham Richardson and the memory of Nick Karlos and Tom Hogan – or do they they?

Luke Foley needs to grow up not down

When a very senior NSW Liberal Party operator told me that his misery-wracked party would be returned at the March 2019 election he cited its secret weapon, “Luke Foley”.

Foley is, of course, leader of the Labor Opposition. At the time, Labor was beginning to claw back electoral popularity and, for the first time in many years, was actually neck-and-neck with the Coalition, both on 50%.

NSW Opposition leader Luke Foley

However, now I am beginning to wonder whether the Liberals have correctly estimated Foley and there maybe some substance to their overtly cynical view that he is an asset in their desperate bid to cling to office.

Just before the March 2015 election, Foley, the newly chosen ALP leader, rubbished the Liberal government for considering the sale of electricity distribution networks to a Chinese buyer.

It was a calculated move by Foley to raise public alarm at the prospect of “Reds” from Beijing controlling the NSW power supply. It was a total furphy and pure One Nation stuff.

Under intense pressure he backed off ever-so-slightly but the mission was accomplished: he was on all the front pages days out from polling and he was appealing for late support from xenophobic and anti-Chinese voters.

People assumed that the left-wing crusader had made a slip of the tongue, regretted it and everyone could move on. Not so.

A couple of years later Foley was supporting Tony Abbott’s call to cut Asian migration. This played directly into the hands of Liberal far rightists, Cory Bernardi’s Conservatives, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and fringe-dwellers from the whites-only brigade.

Last week he broadcast his peculiar views on race again by talking about “white flight” in western Sydney. It came in an arranged “exclusive” interview with Rupert Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph. He promised the paper a headline and he gave them one!

Foley’s supporters were quick to point out that he had “stolen” the news agenda and the media was talking about him and not Gladys Berejiklian. Mission accomplished?

However, these knee-jerk stories, when politicians use “dog whistles” to attract support from retirement homes and RSL clubs, are five-minute wonders. In terms of voting intentions, they don’t last. What does last is contempt for any politician who cynically uses cheap racism and extreme nationalism to gather electoral support. Just ask Pauline Hanson; once the Queen of Queensland who held bizarre ambitions to become premier of NSW or prime minister of Australia, she is a laughing stock whose crackpot ideas aren’t worth a bag of cold fish and chips.

Are we heading for a dead-heat election and a hung parliament?

The “survivor” complex

Have you noticed the huge increase in the number of “survivors” in society?

The other day I heard someone on television saying he was a “survivor” of workplace bullying and the interviewer agreed. The “survivor” had been sworn at and his workmates had made fun of him.

Did he report to his union rep., make a written or verbal complaint to management, contact the media or his local MP? No, he hadn’t.

Other “survivors” who are grabbing media attention are people seeking free drugs for common ailments and patients who have been poorly treated while receiving private treatment for erectile malfunction, obesity and tattoo removal.

I was amazed to hear a retired company director demanding compensation from the banks for giving him bum information about his share purchases which were worth millions of dollars. Tough luck, mate, don’t borrow money to invest in the ASX, aka the “Aussie casino”.

There are certain common characteristics about this new wave of “survivors”; they are mainly white, mainly middle class and on the make.

I regard Rohingya refugees as survivors, as well as refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and many other places which are under Western imperialist occupation or where proxy wars are being fought by unscrupulous vested interests. Palestinians living under Israeli guns on the West Bank and Gaza are all survivors too.

With the world economy falling apart – did you hear what’s happening in Italy, Turkey, Indonesia and Argentina? – it is quite bizarre for “survivors” to come out of the woodwork to demand preferment as well as compensation.

Wouldn’t it be better to form a bipartisan national policy listing those people in society who are “most deserving” right down to those who are “least deserving”?

The Federal Government insists on league tables for schoolchildren, why not for “survivors”?

Oops, Brits got Brexit vote wrong

The movement is growing in Britain for a second referendum on whether to remain in the European Union or leave (Brexit).

Fresh opinion polls show that people are regretting their decision in June 2016 to leave the EU and want a second vote.

Pollster Peter Kellner, former president of political consultancy YouGov, reckons up to one million Labour supporters who voted to abandon European membership two years ago, are having second thoughts.

Kellner, a former Sunday Times journalist who was wildly wrong when he predicted a victory for David Cameron’s “remainers” and another for Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election, is difficult to take seriously. However, some of his recent opinions have been markedly more perceptive.

1939 Tory poster

Writing in the Blairite magazine Prospect, Kellner said YouGov had carried out 14 polls this year asking members of the public whether the UK was right or wrong to leave Europe.

“Thirteen of 14 polls this year show slightly more people saying ‘wrong’ than ‘right’. This indicates a small but consistent net move away from Brexit.

“Bluntly, older, mainly Leave, voters are dying – and younger, mainly Remain, voters are joining the electorate.” [The voting age in Britain is 18.]

The Independent newspaper survey conducted last December showed 51% now backed remaining in the EU while the “leavers” had dropped to 41%.

A Reuters news agency survey conducted in May 2018 showed up to 5,000 bank jobs would be lost as banks moved their operations to Germany, France, Spain or Ireland.

Tory Prime Minister Theresa May’s only response has been to seize the words of the 1939 eve-of-war propaganda poster, “Keep Calm and Carry On”, and recycle them. When people’s simmering anger turns to outright revolt television coverage from the UK will be compulsive viewing.

Aboriginal players recognised – at last

First-time NSW State of Origin coach Brad Fittler has chosen three indigenous stars for his line-up against Queensland in the first game of the 2018 series next Wednesday.

Josh Addo-Carr of Melbourne Storm, previously with West Tigers

They are Josh Addo-Carr, aka “The Fox”, from Melbourne Storm, James Roberts, aka “Jimmy the Jet”, from the Brisbane Broncos via South Sydney, and Taree-born Latrelle Mitchell from the Sydney Roosters.

When I returned to Australia in 1986, State of Origin was just getting started and NSW selectors flatly refused to pick Aboriginal players. As a result we never got to see such remarkable athletes as Chicka Ferguson, Anthony Mundine, Preston Campbell and Nathan Blacklock. Only when the league club bosses were ousted from selection panels and Laurie Daley became coach did blackfellas get a chance to wear Blues shirts.

Addo-Carr’s grandfather is former champion boxer Wally Carr, aka “Wait-a-While Wal”, who is regarded as one of Australia’s greatest boxers winning titles in 13 divisions from super bantamweight to heavyweight.

Wally Carr as a young man

Born in Wellington, western NSW, Carr fought 100 bouts for 53 wins, 27 of them by knock out. After boxing, his life fell apart. He suffered from homelessness, alcoholism and drug addiction before finding his feet again.

He will be watching his estranged grandson in Wednesday night’s game at the MCG. For his part, Josh Addo-Carr is keen to dedicate his game to his relatives behind bars in NSW jails. “I told my family in prison I’d do something for them if I scored, and I was showing them I hadn’t forgotten about them, and how they had played a big part in my life.”

Go Josh, his Sydney roommate, Latrell Mitchell and Jimmy Roberts.

Me? I’ll be cheering home the Queensland Maroons as I always do.

Advert of the Week

“Stumpy is an outdoor gathering to farewell a loved one in a less formal manner. A cardboard coffin with hemp handles rests on a tree stump at Tweed Valley Cemetery, Eviron. Coloured textas allow all to leave their mark on the coffin and a PA/microphone are handy for music or getting your own BYO story heard. Booking secures exclusive use of the Chapel for poor weather conditions. $3,300 includes GST. All enquiries welcome. Ben & Emma, Dolphin Funerals.”

PS: Which reminds me, I must renew my membership of the Voluntary Euthanasia Party (VEP) which has just arrived by email.

Timing is perfect. David Goodall, the 104-year-old Australian ecological scientist, last week travelled to Switzerland to end his own life. “One should be free to choose the death, when death is at an appropriate time,” he said in his last interview. “I don’t feel that anyone else’s choice is involved.” He was wearing a jumper bearing the words, “Aging Disgracefully”.

FOOTNOTE to my loyal readers

I’ve decided to take some time off. But please keep sending your messages.

I’ll resume hostilities if I learn something of notable importance which is being ignored elsewhere. – A.M.



  1. Hi Alex
    June 8th and I miss your well researched, hard hitting comments already. To-day they are not on my screen, take only a small break. We must catch up for coffee now we both live around Tweed

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