Australia’s political leaders probably do not think of themselves as traitors. They seem to think that by making our country user-friendly to foreign investors they are promoting the interests of Australia in the best possible way. However they ignore the many ways that their unquestioning support for foreign investment is actually destroying the lives and living standards of many people in this country. If foreign investors don’t pay tax in Australia and don’t employ Australians, then who in Australia actually benefits?
The people of Australia have been forced into a period of rapid change. Some of these changes, like the austerity demands coming from the Budget Deficit Fright of 2014, are openly discussed. Others, like the China Free Trade Agreement or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, are negotiated in secret far from prying eyes. As people come to understand the damaging consequences of these policies, they are beginning to think of their leaders as traitors. There are three major areas we can consider as examples.(1)
China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA)
While this is called a "free trade" agreement, it is not primarily concerned trade, and the only "freedom" it involves is the freedom for foreign investors to evade or override Australian laws particularly in the area of industrial relations. According to the recent agreement with China,
"terms and conditions covering occupational classifications and qualifications, experience and language proficiency requirements, as well as remuneration, would be negotiated by the Chinese investor with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and resolved in a Memorandum of Understanding.”(2)
In other words, the agreement removes employment terms and conditions from any input by interested industrial relations stakeholders or Australians generally. Anyone can see the purpose of this agreement is to allow Chinese investors to avoid any of the laws and regulations related to work classification, terms and conditions, pay, etc. which have been developed in Australia since Federation. The treaty simply removes these issues from the spheres of law or political discussion. And this comes at a time when the government is happy to close down major employers like the auto industry even though there are high and growing levels of unemployment. With jobs going even from mining, how can it be good for Australians to facilitate and encourage larger numbers of foreign workers who will almost certainly be paid less than Australians?
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
This agreement is also not about "trade" in the usual sense. If accepted, it will mean that foreign investors can avoid or overturn any and all legislation which they consider hinders their profits in Australia. In both of these cases, our leaders are allowing overseas investors, whether from the West or the East, to evade the force of laws and regulations on Australia's statute books. So, rather than upholding the laws that exist, they are simply devising ways that foreign investors can subvert our laws. With a few signatures they can turn what would be crimes into legal activities. Is this part of their oath of office?
These laws embody a significant part of what we call the Australian way of life, slowly developed over more than 100 years. These laws were enacted to protect workers, provide inexpensive medications and basic health care, and protect our environment from harmful chemicals, etc. By signing these "free trade" agreements our leaders are putting our jobs, our living standards and our health at risk.
Land Rights Only For Mining Companies And Coal Seam Gas
The Commonwealth has complete control what is below the ground on "your" land. Where Aborigines have been granted native title to their land, in the end it is state and federal governments that grant approval for mining and other similar activities on this land. Even though Aborigines have been Australians longer than anyone else, and in spite of the recognition in some quarters that they have been marginalized and driven into incredible poverty since Australia was declared a colony of the British Empire, their interests are in effect completely ignored.
Landholders who operate family farms are really in no better position. In addition to the destruction of their livelihood, the land taken over for mining or extraction of coal seam gas is rendered useless for agriculture for a long time if not permanently. These activities are usually of rather short duration compared to the way agricultural land properly managed can be productive for generations or hundreds of years. For a short term gain by overseas investors large areas of agricultural land are rendered useless for Australians.
Is it any wonder that many Australians are coming to think of their leaders as traitors? With friends like this, who needs enemies?
Australia’s Policy Of Strategic Dependence
This focus on foreign investment and foreign demands goes back to the earliest days of Australia’s existence. The leaders of the movement for an Australian Federation were loyal citizens of the British Empire. Even before Federation they sent troops to aid the Empire in South Africa. As we know, in WW I they died in their thousands fighting against the Germans in Europe and their allies, the Ottoman Empire. Over 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner. Even though the Germans were defeated, the British Empire was mortally wounded by this war. When WW II, started Australia was left on its own to face the Japanese who systematically conquered and occupied most of the European colonies in South East Asia.
Malcolm Fraser calls the Australian military and foreign policy strategy at this time strategic dependence.(3) The creation of the Federation in 1901 was not about independence for Australia, as later India and Vietnam gained independence from their colonial rulers. The real purpose of federation was self-government. Australia was established as a self-governing colony of the British Empire. Considering its size and relatively small population, as well as the personal ties of the non-Aboriginal population, this seemed a reasonable choice at the time. Another part of this dependence was economic dependence. Britain, the US, Europe had much more capital for economic development than was available in Australia.
The rapid advances of the Japanese at the beginning of WW II forced the leaders of Australia to turn to another Great Power, the US, as an ally against the Japanese. While the separation from the British Empire was a significant change. the policy of strategic dependence itself did not change. After the end of WW II, the apparent threat from the Soviet Union and China led Australia to continue and deepen its strategic dependence on the US during the Cold War. As Malcolm Fraser sees it, the end of the Cold War could have been a time when Australia began to chart a more independent foreign policy. This would have meant that Australia would not have been dragged into the fruitless and brutal conflicts in the Middle East. What happens in this part of the world has no direct bearing on the security or other vital interests of Australia.
It is clear that by retaining loyalty to the British Empire, and then making an alliance with the US against Japan, the leaders of Australia acted with the best interests of Australia in mind. Many, like Malcolm Fraser, would think that working with the US against the Soviet Union and China was also in our best interest. However, since then, Australia is perhaps the most loyal ally in the West for the US, even though our participation in the wars in the Middle East has made us no friends in Indonesia or Malaysia, two of the largest Muslim countries in the world.
The West is Now Run by Huge Banks and a Few Multinational Corporations
These questions of strategic alliances are really only part of the story when it comes to understand the behaviour of our leaders. In the 18th and 19th centuries countries like Britain and France actually occupied and administered their colonies. At the end of WW II most of these colonies either liberated themselves from their colonial masters, or were given their "independence" by them. However, this did not change the fact that the major countries in the West, particularly the US, managed to gain control over these countries one way or the other. Some were occupied and new rulers installed, some unfriendly rulers were removed by a coup and replaced by leaders who were sympathetic to foreign involvement and control of their countries. Some of these efforts failed, as in Vietnam, but most were successful.
Then in the last 20 years or so we have seen the emergence of giant super-banks which engage in uncontrolled speculation and have been declared to be too big to fail. This shows it is the banks who tell the politicians what to do. For most firms and individuals, if you do not have enough money to pay what you owe, you go bankrupt. All conuntries in the West have laws under which the assets of an individual or firm in debt are liquidated, that is turned into cash to pay off their debts. But the political leaders of the West have declared the mega-banks are "too big to fail". In 2008 they could not pay what they owed, but unlike everyone else, the laws which apply to companies that cannot pay their debts were not applied to them.
Big Banks Get Special Treatment By Politicians In The West
Nothing shows the political power of these banks like the special treatment they were given when their unregulated behaviour created the last financial crisis. It was decided that since these banks are short of money, then countries themselves must "bail them out" with taxpayer's money. Now that taxpayers can pay no more, the next time they fail they will take the money they need from their depositors. This may seem absurd, however it has already happened to banks in Cyprus. In 2013 it was reported by USAToday that depositors of the largest bank in Cyprus lost 47.5% of their savings exceeding 100,000 euros or $132,000, in a process called in a "bail-in".(4)
This approach is really theft or confiscation of private assets. Still it was made official policy for Australia and other countries in the West at the last G20 meeting in Brisbane, during the weekend of the 16th November, 2014. The policy paper was called: "Adequacy of Loss-Absorbing Capacity of Global Systemically Important Banks in Resolution." The analysis given in ZeroHedge is that deposits are now considered part of a commercial banks capital structure. Thus these private assets can be "bailed in" or confiscated to save the megabanks from bankruptcy. Under this policy, the funds of depositors, public and private, and pension funds can be used to cover the debts of the banks.(5)
Did You Notice What Happened To Greece?
The power of these banks can also be seen in the recent problems in Greece. A major US bank, Goldman Sachs, loaned money to Greece so they could enter the Eurozone, knowing full well that this money could never be paid back.(6)
Why would a bank loan money to a country they knew would never be able to pay it back? Because when the Greeks finally realized that repayment was impossible, the banks could make other demands on the country which they could not refuse: cut pensions, cut welfare, cut education and health, sell off prize assets that they would not otherwise sell. While the old colonial powers controlled their colonies by military occupation, the new colonial powers of the West use this kind of financial pressure to force so called "independent" countries to do what they want.
And What About Australia?
Australia is one of the few countries in the world that has not so far fallen into this kind of debt trap. However our leaders do not make up their own policies. They adopt the policies of the banks and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), one of the major intuitions in the Western financial system. Consider this list of policies for countries encouraged by the IMF on behalf of foreign investors:
1. cut spending on education and health,
2. introduce "user fees" for health and education (user pays),
3. increase the price of public services,
4. reduce government borrowing and debt levels,
5. demand higher taxes on ordinary people and lower government spending,
6. cut the government bureaucracy,
7. use private capital for the development of infrastructure like roads, airports,
8. remove trade and investment rules,
9. promote export-orientated and resource extraction industries instead of industries which primarily serve domestic markets,
10. provide tax breaks and subsidies to export industries,
11. remove tariffs and allow failing firms to go bankrupt,
12. deregulate financial intuitions,
13. privatize national assets like electricity, water, transport, telecommunications,
14. freeze or reduce wages.(7)
Do these sound like familiar policies?? All the wise voices of the media and political leaders repeat these goals as if they were the only choice for our future. This leads one to ask: Who benefits?
Who Benefits from IMF Policies?
These policies do not come out of thin air. It is important to realize that these policies come from institutions working for overseas investors like the IMF, investors who do not live in the countries which are expected to adopt these policies. These investors want to pay as little in taxes as they can.
Does the health and education of the population in a country asking for a loan matter to them? Do they want these governments to borrow heavily and resort to higher taxes to pay back these loans? Do they want to pay for large government bureaucracies with higher tax rates? Do they want rules which limit their trade and investment plans? Since they want to invest in infrastructure projects and basic services like water, telecommunications, etc. won't they want these privatized for themselves? Do they really want higher living standards which come with higher wages?
It is clear that these policies are not in the interests of ordinary people in Australia or any other country. Just as our leaders work behind closed doors to develop ways to undermine our wage system, our health system, our agriculture and manufacturing using "free trade" agreements, they also work to shape our country into a perfect blank slate for other foreign investors, with no regard at all for the interests of the majority of the population. We may pay their "wages" and perks, but in reality what we need counts for nothing.
How Can This Be Happening In Our Democracy?
Why do our leaders consider the demands of the IMF and foreign investors to be more important than the 10 Commandments? This is not easy to answer, but there are several related areas to consider. Political parties need money to exist. Do they get much money from age pensioners, the unemployed, single mothers, or people earning $30,000 per year? Probably not. Obviously the more money you have, the more you can donate to political parties. Notice that the wealthier part of the population and large companies tend to give money to both parties. This even-handed approach no doubt contributes to the fact that the parties have so few differences when it comes to major policy questions.
Further, political parties are now rather tight knit organizations in which promotion is based largely on being seen to be "useful" to those in power. If you don't think or say the right kind of things, you will not advance to the level where you can actually influence policy decisions. When you add to this the power wielded by the IMF, the major banks, and the little known interference in our domestic politics by the US and the UK, you can see that there is tremendous pressure to force political parties to adopt more or less identical policies and keep out people with ideas that do not sit well with investors. And don't forget that the media in Australia has only a few owners, and one who is much more important than all the rest. So where are we to hear of other ideas?
Strategic Dependence And Australia's Colonial Mentality
In addition to the factors discussed above, there is something which has been a central feature of political life in Australia since before Federation. Malcolm Fraser understands the military and foreign policy side of this as strategic dependence. But this is only a part of a bigger pattern, a colonial mentality. The rulers of Australia have always considered themselves as administering something which is a colony, something which is seen to belong to someone else. First it was the British Empire, then it was the place for investors from the US and Western Europe to "develop" Australia in different ways. Now investors from China, Japan, India, Saudi Arabia, etc. are also welcome.
There were a few brave souls in the days of Prime Minister Whitlam who wished to adopt a different policy, but they were completely discredited and now such ideas are definitely not on anyone's agenda. People do take pride in Australian sport, cinema, music, literature, etc. However the colonial mentality is so strong that workers who oppose the China Free Trade Agreement are accused of being xenophobic, that is people who are fearful or contemptuous of that which is foreign, especially of strangers or of people from different countries or cultures. Of course, this is a total distortion. They are not fearful of Chinese people or even Chinese investment. They are afraid that the Australian government is going to allow underqualified and underpaid people to come to Australia to take jobs which could be done by Australians.
So Why Is Australia Run By Traitors?
It is run by traitors because the political and intellectual elite of Australia has for generations considered that their place in Australia is to administer Australia for the wise and wealthy investors beyond our shores. At first Australia was allowed a level of self-government at Federation, but now even this is being taken away. When our laws and practices mean that foreign investors cannot make as much money as they could with different rules, then our "self-government" can be overturned by "free trade" agreements.
If anyone dares to oppose these policies, they are quietly escorted from the corridors of power and ignored by all established media outlets. Still as living standards fall and jobs disappear, there will be more and more people who realize that the only way these and other problems can be solved is to take back our sovereignty and make political decisions which benefit the people of Australia. This does not necessarily mean the end of foreign investment. But it does mean accepting foreign investment on our terms, not terms that undermine wages and living conditions which are dictated by others.
1. Another area is the bogus demand for Austerity, which is discussed here: ABBOTT'S AUSTERITY IS A SCAM! (http://australianvoice.livejournal.com/3088.html)
3. Malcolm Fraser, Dangerous Allies, Carlton, Victoria: Melbourne University Press, 2014.
6. http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/greek-debt-crisis-how-goldman-sachs-helped-greece-to-mask-its-true-debt-a-676634.html; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/14/business/global/14debt.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0: http://www.globalresearch.ca/goldman-sachs-doesnt-have-clean-hands-in-greece-crisis/5459498.
7. Some sources on problems with the IMF are: http://www.economicshelp.org/blog/glossary/imf-criticism/, http://www.globalexchange.org/resources/wbimf/oppose, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/crash/imf/.