An opinion piece by Van Rudd and Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan, 26th January, 2013

I have put my contribution in italics to Wayne’s original piece that was the featured in Fairfax media on the 25th Jan 2013.



As we celebrate this Invasion Day, it is worth reflecting on the origins and nature of Australia’s national chauvinism.


IT HAS been another eventful Australian summer, marked by conflicts that have once again cultivated some of our nation’s most racist values: our incapacity to stick together in a crisis; keep out those who need help; and display indifference, incompetence and fear under pressure.

In a time of a global economic crisis, with the country on the cusp of the so-called ‘Asian Century’, our labour value is the most valuable commodity we possess, that which will always place a tidy profit into the hands of the rich. So as we critically evaluate this Invasion Day, it is worth reflecting on the origins and nature of Australia’s racist values.

There’s no one source of our national bigotry. It comes from our denial of indigenous history, a denial of the Aborigines’ brave struggles against wealthy landowners, the Federation period resulting from conflicts between the rich and poor, and, of course, how the rich sent working people to the battlefields of the first major imperialist war.

And perhaps for the Australian government as much as the Sri Lankan government, so much of their racism is manufactured through sport. It just so happens this summer marks what could be another of the most significant anti-racism campaign events in Australia’s sporting history: the Boycott Sri Lanka Cricket campaign. Countless journalists and human rights activists all over the world have been devoted to retelling the torrid saga of the Sri Lankan government’s genocidal campaigns against Tamils, but it is worth recounting because of the role the Australian government has played in supporting the Sri Lankan government’s blatantly racist activities.

At its core, the Australian government is calculated, when, by use of the Australian cricketing establishment whitewashes any criticism of the Sri Lankan government’s brutal, intimidatory, even life-threatening tactics.

So, that while there were two teams on the field, none are playing cricket. They are playing politics. One Australian Board of Control for Cricket’s cable went as far to say that: ”Unless stopped at once it [Boycott] is likely to upset the friendly relations existing between Australia and Sri Lanka.”

That may not sound as fearsome as what continues to happen in Sri Lanka, but in the world of diplomacy, words rarely come as truth. The enduring impact of the Boycott Sri Lanka series will be deeply rooted in Australian sporting folklore, but it is about an awful lot more than just cricket or sport. As esteemed cricket historian and former Age writer,Trevor Grant concluded in his chronicle Sri Lankan protesters find the cricket world gets spooky, cricket is principally about laundering “the blood-stained image of the Rajapaksa regime in Sri Lanka.”

As we reflect on this sustained campaign, an obvious question is how the Boycott series defines the way the Australian government views its place in the world, and its relationship with Sri Lanka, as a result. And, perhaps even more importantly, what mark it may have left on us as a people in the decades that follow. I think the answer to that throws up some unsurprising insights into the Australian national character – unsurprising because it explains some of the cliched myths that surround Australian sporting behaviour, and by extension, Australian national chauvinism more generally.

The most disturbing fact about this episode is that it was we are told through means such as the mainstream media that we are defenders of the supposedly English and “gentlemanly” ideal of ”fair play” upon which the spirit of the game of cricket is supposedly based.

Yes, we unleashed foreign affairs minister Bob Carr. And yes, the Sri Lankan government is still breaking hands and bruising rib cages today. They play hard. But at Australia’s worst, Carr plays within both the letter and the spirit of their rules. What the Boycott shows is that while the Australian Government refuses to openly accept Tamil refugees escaping persecution, we the people are not inherently a ruthless, racist ”whatever it takes” people. Rather, we have the potential to fight injustice when we see it and expect no less from others. Racism is a product of and developed through social relations and not an inherent, biological characteristic of humans.


By any measure, Bob Carr had no interest in honouring any such code in Australia this summer. By allowing the Sri Lankan Military to consistently target the chest and head of Tamils, and not placing his fieldsmen to defend the Tamil body, life and limb was not only threatened, the spirit of a whole Tamil population was deeply contravened. The fact that the rules were not changed shortly after the 2009 massacre is the unarguable proof of that.

Now, obviously, both the Sri Lankan Government and Australian Government say all that is at stake is a sporting trophy. But this is war. It isn’t a matter of national sovereignty, but life and death – certain death and/or persecution for those who are forcibly sent back to face the Sri Lankan Government and co without anything resembling today’s claims of democracy and diplomacy.

But Boycott Sri Lanka Cricket leaves a mark on our consciousness nonetheless. This is because it symbolises wider and important social and political issues.

To understand that we have to put ourselves back in that summer of 1932-33. Australia was in the middle of the Great Depression, with the mass unemployment, homelessness, deprivation and betrayal of hope that it brought. Working people didn’t cause that depression and to a very great extent we were powerless to tackle it: because we lacked economic sovereignty. The 1 percent’s adherence to the forces of the market made it impossible to increase the living standards of the working majority. Even worse, austerity was forced upon us from on high and from overseas – largely by English capitalists, whose idiotic rules had little interest in the welfare of ordinary people. The result? Catastrophic unemployment, hardship and loss.

Working people all over the world were mad as hell about it. So when the English ruling class bent the system to win at all costs, people joined the dots. It was typical. And it symbolised the need for a new assertion that contravenes national sovereignty – one underpinned by the democratic rather than the divisive values of protectionism – to play hard, but to look after each other, no matter what country you come from.

Put simply, we believe that the Boycott campaign causes many people to wake up to the urgent need to make Australia’s national chauvinism never our No. 1 priority.

The events of 1788, in Australia played a big role in embedding a sense of racism in the general population and a desire for the denial of Aboriginal sovereignty since. These ideas have surfaced at various points in Australia’s past, such as the Federation of 1901, and more recently the Northern Territory Interventionthe latter has amplified institutionalised racism and taken it in new and unexpected directions.

Wartime Labor prime ministers John Curtin and Ben Chifley were heavily influenced by the racist rhetoric of national sentiment that followed the Great Depression, and it informed their determination to support the country’s imperialist interests in 1942.

Today, Australia stands almost alone among the developed nations in having stayed aggressive towards refugees during the most significant global economic downturn since that same Great Depression. This in no small part speaks to an unfortunate determination of this country to again be at the whim of those in power who claim an inherent right to make the rules and break them at our expense. The events on the cricket field during this summer, coinciding as they do with the events of the current global economic crisis, won’t awaken a democratic and egalitarian assertion of action against racist injustice until people know that so-called ‘Australian national sovereignty’ is an outright fabrication.

We believe that reflecting on those events will eventually have another legacy, too, in hastening the approach of a truly equal society in Australia, even if it has fallen from the agenda over the past four decades.

While the English can be a respected cricketing foe, and among our very closest friends when it comes to a comprehensive history of ordinary people fighting a corrupt system, we think racism in Australia has much to do with a history of successive Australian governments’ support of English imperialism.

So let’s use Australia Day to ridicule, and critically examine, the abhorrent things Australia stands for: denying Aboriginal history, imprisoning refugees, propping up mining industry billionaires over an increasingly overworked and underpaid population, and for supporting the United States in the war in Afghanistan. Nationalism in rich countries like Australia is an ugly and divisive burden, not a source of liberation and democracy.

Wayne Swan is federal Treasurer. Van Rudd is an artist and social justice activist.

Both Van and Wayne went to the same high school in Nambour, Qld.


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January 25, 2013 · 11:47 pm

Free Gaza street art, in Footscray, Australia

Free Gaza

by Van thanh Rudd, in footscray, Australia, in solidarity with the people of Gaza in the face of massive aggression coming from Israel – the Occupying State


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….On joining Socialist Alternative.

By Van Thanh Rudd

Last Monday I joined Socialist Alternative. I wanted to write this statement then, but didn’t have much time to sit down in front of a computer til now!

I am a visual artist and Left wing activist based in Melbourne. Activism slowly grew on me since witnessing the S11 anti-globalization protest in Melbourne in 2000. But I didn’t engage more fully until around 2004 when I was embracing anarchist tendencies especially in relation to my artistic practice. Realizing over time, the limits of this approach, I joined the anti-capitalist Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP)in 2008. Being a member of the RSP, I took part in Palestine solidarity, anti-racism and anti-war campaigns. I also took part in the 2010 Federal Election against Julia Gillard with the slogan ‘Capitalism is in Crisis’. Many forums and discussions held by the RSP have given me inspiration to continue as an revolutionary socialist, some of which are the valuable lessons derived from Cuba, Venezuela and Vietnam – each unique in their approach to socialism especially given their own historical conditions, and fight against the injustices of imperialism. Also, among various cultural interventions, the RSP initiated Under the Hammer Artists Activists Hub and has been going strong since as a Left wing alternative to the many other ‘neutral’ cultural spaces.
Early this year I resigned from the RSP, not for their lack of a correct perspective regarding revolutionary socialism, but more because of the fragmentary forces on the Left generally that didn’t allow the group the space it deserved. There was another Left wing force that was already taking up this important ground, especially in relation to the Australian political context……

I seriously want to change the world for the better. I mean, who wouldn’t? The USA keeps the definition of Imperialism crisp and as relevant as ever by disemboweling collective resistance to its gargantuan territorial reach, tweaking and churning objects/people, however destructive and chaotic to suit its interests in the profit drive! When it doesn’t do this militarily, then it will sell you ideas and a lifestyle to boot: “Democracy is best just as long as you think of no alternative to capitalism!!”

Because thinking of an alternative requires action to produce that alternative – as a collective claim over the abundance of materials and ideas that we produce day-in, day-out. Wouldn’t that, for instance, give us the ability to adequately feed the entire world? – no doubt one step in a logical direction!?
But as history has shown, when we attempt to do this, somebody stops us. Very quickly we find out this somebody will do this cunningly and/or violently – whatever their tactic, they have a distinct advantage – they have money, and lots of it. Very quickly we find out they are a small group of extremely rich who dictate the terms of ‘democracy’ under capitalism. But they say, “Just wait there a second. Don’t get angry. We give you jobs through investment – you are nothing without us…..Then we say, “No, you hang on. Where did you get that wealth in the first place? You have to take it from somewhere? It certainly doesn’t simply appear out of nothing!
Somebody produces that wealth. And that’s us! Labour!” Therefore you can’t exist without us – the working masses.”
…..And so continues the historic battle between the minority capitalist class and majority of workers. No doubt the character of this conflict is different in various parts of the globe. But to see it pretty clearly, one need look no further than present day Europe.

As this is a global battle, who/what can I turn to in Australia?

The Australian Labor Party (ALP)? Don’t they stand for democracy and freedom for the oppressed? Don’t think so. Last time I checked, they’re still helping the USA invade Afghanistan. Last time I checked, they’re still continuing the Liberal Party’s racist Northern Territory Intervention. And they’re still locking up refugees in onshore/offshore prisons……And among many other crimes, they define democracy by accommodating billionaires’ appetites for digging massive holes and calling it ‘correct economic fundamentals’, while attacking workers for standing up for better conditions. In a nutshell, they have an unwavering support for the capitalist system. No great amount of radical change there!

Well, what about joining the Liberal Party? Don’t go there! (see above reasons for not joining ALP and add salt into the wound)

The Greens? Haven’t they made inroads into parliament? Isn’t reform better than revolution? Can’t you keep capitalism in check, or at least make it more humane? I really would like to believe in this perspective – I was looking to the Greens years ago when I woke up to the ALP facade. Unfortunately, as history has shown, trying to make capitalism more humane, environmentally conscious etc through the parliamentary arena is kind of like telling the capitalists that they have the ultimate say to the world’s ills – that they hold the power to change the world in the last instance – it is only the capitalists’ attitude we have to change. This tactic comes in many forms, including the Greens’ various alliances with the Liberal Party and ALP in order to achieve certain parliamentary/electoral aims. This immediately compromises the Greens’ often progressive, leftist ideals. More importantly the contradiction between the ruling class (exploiters) and the labouring class (exploited) is not the Greens’ overall explanation of the dynamics of capitalism. It is regarding this main point that I choose not to join the Greens.

The question of class entering a phase of increasing importance on the broad Left. I think the battle we have against the ruling elites of the world is no doubt more acute than it was before the 2008 capitalist crisis. People have a clearer mental picture of this type class that holds us captive. They run financial institutions, industry and of course, are more or less running the state (ie police, military). Many more people in the developed world are more aware of what this system needs in order to keep itself running, ie to keep profits up, to keep people buying, to keep people working. And that is a system that ultimately tries to deny the possibility of the world’s workers uniting for a common goal beyond capitalism.

Under this current systemic crisis, your wages will drop, you will lose your jobs, you will lose your shelter and food and live in dumpsters, and the ruling elites say it’s our fault! “You must blame the worker next to you! You must blame other workers from overseas. You must blame the environmental crisis on yourself and other workers for not saving electricity at home. Just don’t blame the system itself. Just don’t build a mass social and political revolution, let alone a future society that shares its wealth equally. It will always end in disaster! And for God’s sake, don’t mention Lenin!”

Challenging this capitalist propaganda is no doubt a difficult task. What group in Australia is up to the task? What group out there sees the logic and potential of a revolutionary class in Australia (and the world) – one that sees the working class as the motor for changing a system that glorifies private property, into one that collectivizes property? And what is the group will fight for justice and achieve victories along the way in the ongoing struggle against war, greed, sexism, racism and inequality?

I believe it is Socialist Alternative.


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New Street Art – “Refugee”

Street Art by Van Thanh Rudd, footscray, Australia

Street Art by Van Thanh Rudd, footscray, Australia

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Artwork in Flames

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To EVERYBODY and the more than 100 artists involved in the Biennale hailing from Australia, New Zealand, Asia Pacific, the Americas, Europe, South Africa and the Middle East,
See this link for a list of the artists:

It has come to our attention that two major partners of the 18TH BIENNALE OF SYDNEY, 2012 is logistics company Transfield (since 1973) and the Australian Government. As you may already know, the Australian government has awarded Transfield a $24.5 million contract to provide cleaning, catering and security for an inhumane refugee detention facility on the island of Nauru. This south pacific island is once again the Australian government’s offshore detention centre for refugees who attempt to enter Australia by boat. Over 2000 refugees have arrived since the Labor government announced it would re-introduce detention on Nauru in mid-August, 2012. So who knows how many refugees are destined to be imprisoned on this island, and for how long? The previous Howard government’s racist policies had already shown us the terrible physical and psychological effects this unnecessary detainment had upon fellow humans. We must try stop it immediately.

The title of this year’s Biennale is: “All Our Relations”. It may fast lose its positive connotation of connectivity and creativity between people of the world when these two major partners are deciding the brutal fate of thousands of refugees. The 18th Biennale of Sydney’s website says that one of the benefits of corporate sponsorship of the event is to showcase “community and corporate responsibility”. It is clear that Transfield and the Australian Government see refugees who arrive by boat as not part of this “community”.

With your help, by OCCUPYING OR BOYCOTTING the 18th Biennale of Sydney, we hope to send a message to the Australian Government and Transfield, that we won’t tolerate the re-opening of Nauru as an offshore detention facility for refugees. We also won’t tolerate the way in which arts and culture is abused by government and corporations to deceive the public and achieve ends that are not at all in the interests of the well-being of humanity.

We hope you consider the OCCUPY / BOYCOTT action. We only have until Sunday the 16th of September to make an impact!

From concerned fellow artists and refugee activists.

For further information call Occupy Sydney – ph Lanz 0410722000 email
Or call Van Thanh Rudd on mob. 0430 397 074

in Melbourne, Australia

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Street Art in Santiago, Chile

Also See Van Thanh Rudd’s Website:

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Street Art in Support of Free Education

Street Art in Support of Free Education.

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Street Art in Support of Free Education

footscray, Australia

Footscray, Australia

my website

Neo-Liberal attacks on education are escalating in many places around the world including Chile, the USA, Canada and Australia. Students and people in general are protesting against these attacks in large numbers in some of these places too. For more information click on the links:
Article by Jorge Jorquera – regarding Australian education system
Article by Jorge Jorquera – regarding Latin America
Student Protests in Quebec, Canada
Australian education system – Massive Cuts to Tafe in Victoria

(above photos) These were placed in Footscray, Melbourne. Thanks to the freely accessable street sculpture techniques of Mark Jenkins (USA), I’m keen to produce more of this type of work. I aim to be much more directly political with my work, than Jenkins, as I feel that he commented successfully upon the alienated individual under capitalism.

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The above painting on board was donated to the RMIT University Refugee Action Collective, Victoria, Australia. It is currently being exhibited with Azlan McLennan’s “Occupy Mandatory Detention” at First Site Gallery.


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