Testing the thesis . . . Power of corporations protected (continued)
The Labor strategy began in a whirlwind of hyperbole which talked of corruption and government impropriety, and led the media to focus on the existence or otherwise of a ‘smoking gun’, unwittingly making anything less to seem acceptable. Labor Opposition was unable to meet the required standards of proof, and everybody got away scot free. No one from A.W.B. went to gaol. No minister resigned over the scandal. Mr. Vale is currently a non-executive director of a number of public listed corporations: aviation, coal, investments, hotels, superannuation, services and IT, land (listed in Singapore), and education provision in China. Mr. Downer is now His Excellency The Honourable Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, and Mr. Howard signed with a prominent speaking agency called the Washington Speakers Bureau, in the illustrious company of Tony Blair, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, and others. He indicated his particular interest in Leadership in the New Century and The Global Economic Future.
There is a third example of the failure of ‘parliamentary democracy’ in the Australian system.
In June 2010 Prime Minister Rudd, who had been commissioned on 3 December 2007, was ousted, through a series of backroom manoeuvres by a cabal of apparatchiks and trade union functionaries of his own party, the Labor Party. Discontent had been brooding within and outside the government for some time, at least from the beginning of 2009. During that year the government had faced the so-called Global Financial Crisis by providing a stimulus to the economy at the tune of AU$ 42 billion. The government would since take credit for ‘saving’ the country from the crisis. In reality if there was a saviour for Australia it was China, which continued to buy – certainly not the United States, where the fraudsters had caused the crisis. Incidentally, in eight years since the G.F.C., which – it is guesstimated – might have cost the world US$40 trillion, no Wall Street executives have been gaoled.
Essentially, in Australia, too, the government had acted to support the financial and corporate élite. Not all government initiatives connected with the stimulus were a success. A proposed Emission Trading Scheme had been moribund since December 2009, but had collapsed after the failure of the U.N. Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen and the collapse of the agreement on the E.T.S. with the Opposition due to the replacement of the leader Malcolm Turnbull by a more aggressive Tony Abbott after a harsh campaign led by the Murdoch press. There were also other causes for the decline in popularity of the Rudd/Gillard Government.
By mid-April 2010 the government had decided to shelve the E.T.S. in order to remove provisions for compensation of major corporations from the budget and so assist in returning it to surplus faster than previously planned. Similar considerations suggested the introduction of a Resource Super Profit Tax on the mines “which are owned by all Australians” – the government emphasised, as part of a Future Tax System review. Announced ‘without consultation’ as the miners claimed so unjustly, and with the support of the trade unions, the proposal soon became the target of a ferocious media propaganda by the miners – mainly the three gigantic corporations: BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata. BHP Billiton is a global mining and oil and gas company headquartered in Melbourne, Australia and with a major management office in London, United Kingdom. It is the world’s largest mining company measured by revenues and, as of February 2011, the world’s third-largest company measured by market capitalisation. Rio Tinto plc is a transnational corporation registered in London and there with subterranean connection with, and benefits to, The Firm with headquarters at Buckingham Palace. Xstrata is a global diversified mining group based in Zug, Switzerland. To these transnational corporations Australia is but another quarry. The three behemoths were determined to show the government ‘who really owns’ the mines – and much else in Australia. For the purpose, the Minerals Council of Australia announced that it was amassing an AU$ 100 million war-chest to defeat the proposed tax and began an aggressive media propaganda. All told ‘the miners’ spent $22,100,000 million + $ 1.9 million to the ‘Coalition’, according to figures released by the Australian Electoral Commission.
The government attempted to react and planned to spend a lot of money in the process. By this time even some Labor members of Caucus were publicly questioning Prime Minister Rudd’s wisdom. In that they were aided by the powerful media – particularly the Murdoch’s outlets.
By early June 2010 opinion polls began to turn out unfavourable to the government. At this point a Right-wing clique of Labor bureaucrats pressed the Deputy Prime Minister, Ms. Julia Gillard – once a ‘campus radical’, to challenge the leadership. At first she appeared reluctant, but on the evening of 23 June she was ‘persuaded’ of her mission and indispensability, met Prime Minister Rudd, failed to persuade him that the government ‘had lost its way’, and then ‘made herself available’. On 24 June a tamed Caucus, fearful of losing office, concocted a unanimity and elected Ms. Gillard uncontested.
Transnational capital had won. What followed was a progressive retreat by the Australian Government, continuously under pressure from the press, ‘public opinion’, and above all the relentless pursuit of mining foreign as well as domestic interests.
The Resource Super Profit Tax was turned into a Mineral Resource Rent Tax, the details of which were left to a committee under a former BHP Billiton chairman. Big business returned to what it does best: making money, with the connivance of the government if possible. The Murdoch press ‘glamourised’ the new Prime Minister as the first woman in that post. The electorate went back to concluding that ‘politicians are all crooks’ and – in the process – to the customary indifference to its own very interest.
Towards the end of 2010 WikiLeaks cables confirmed that the removal of Prime Minister Rudd had been orchestrated by formerly ‘faceless number men’ who had been secretly informing officials at the United States Embassy in Canberra. Australia’s foreign policy under the Gillard ‘Labor’ Government was not at risk of departing from the unquestionably subservient neo-colonial stance it had held for so long under the Howard ‘Liberal’ Government. Australia’s vassalage state was confirmed in a March 2011 address to the American Congress by Prime Minister Gillard. It was a sycophantic performance. It was repeated in November 2011 in Canberra for President Obama’s visit. This is the almost-natural way of ‘downstairs’ people.
As Susan George of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam observed, “The ruling élite have chosen to serve the narrowest possible private minority interests of transnational financial and industrial corporations.” The merger of corporate and government powers in Australia, very much like in America, is no different from the Italian Fascist experience.
Tomorrow: Testing the thesis (continued) . . . Power of labour suppressed or eliminated
* In memory of my friends, Professor Bertram Gross and Justice Lionel Murphy.
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975 he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra. He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.