By Joe Montero
Crony capitalism is alive and well in Australia. You can say crony capitalism exists when those who are administrating political power are for sale and hand out political favours in exchange.
Australia has always had an element of this, ever since the first Governors were sent out to the New South Wales colony. But under Scott Morrison, modern day cronyism has been elevated to a new level.
This is what underlines the government’s current false and dishonest gas recovery policy, rolled out under the cover of Covid-19. The ugly truth behind it is, industry corporations have been filling the LNP coffers with dollars, and this is payback time.
A policy that pushes the renewal of land and water destructive coal seam gas, the expansion of drilling in Australia’s vulnerable coastal regions, like the Great Australian Bite, and of course, champions the coal industry as well, fails to safeguard the environment and cut Australia’s carbon footprint.
Even the Morrison government now admits that global warming is real. So why does it persist with a dirty industry when it doesn’t make environmental sense? Why does it insist on a direction, which locks the Australian economy into old technology and compromises future economic propserity? Why doesn’t this government embrace energy alternatives that are cleaner and now cheaper than fossil fuel?
Because none of this, suits the donors. It’s as simple as this.
It doesn’t even make economic sense. The claim that it is a means to revitalise Australia’s manufacturing industry is a furphy, designed to hoodwink worried communities traditionally dependent on fossil fuel extraction and looking for future security, such as the Hunter Valley.
Energy companies have been allowed to over price the Australian market and charge 25 percent more than the global price, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACC).
Gas use is declining. Despite this, new gas fired power stations are to be financed with public money and privately operated. Public money will be used to build the pipes to transport gas around the country.
Although it is claimed that government money will only come, if the private sector does not provide the investment, the private sector has good reason to hold back let the government foot the bill. Profit can then be made from from milking the public coffers, rather than delivering a service.
Anyone who still doubts this is crony capitalism, ought to consider this. The National COVID-19 Commission, which was supposed to be an advisory board on the stimulus package. It turned out to be stacked with representatives of the gas and coal industry.
In practice, they got a big voice on how the money supposed to be allocated for Covid-19 relief was going to be spent. About $60 billion of it was not spent. At least a good part of this is now earmarked for the gas industry.
This is a monumental conflict of interest and seriously corrupt.
One of its worst side effects of this policy, is the suppression of alternatives to provide a better and sustainable future.
Pressure is to be applied to resurrect land and water damaging coal seam gas extraction, and to drill in our vulnerable coast, such as the Great Australian Bite. An immediate handout of $56 million has already been announced, and there is more on the way.
Unfortunately, Australia’s crony capitalism doesn’t stop with fossil fuels. It extends to other industries. An especially important one is media. The cosy relationship between Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and the National Liberal Party government is hardly a secret. This relationship has been used to strip away cross media ownership law.
Morrison has been quick to oblige Murdoch. The gate was opened to take Channel Nine and Fairfax. News Corp is now closer to realising the dream, of becoming the sole private media monopoly operating across print, television, and radio. It now seeks to extend into the Internet.
News Corp has virtually written the new proposed law to force Google and Facebook to hand over money for news content. Anyone seriously following this issue must be aware, that the real goal is to impose a user fee system, for people who access information online.
If the change fails to come about by administrative means, an attempt will be made to push it through with legislation. Scott Morrison is Murdoch’s man in Canberra.
A further note to this legislation, is that it expressly forbids the ABC and SBS from imposing the same charges on internet news.
It would be remiss not to mention the banks. They too, have a long history of political donations, although in the light of the recent bank scandal, this has had to be pulled back.
The wrongdoing of the banks, detailed in the Royal Commission report, was made possible by government providing the green light and terrain enabling exploitative, dishonest, and sometimes even illegal acts.
What has happened since? The report has been buried and a cosmetic makeover applied. Nothing has really changed. It has certainly paid the banks to have mates in the right places, who can be used to bat for them
Although most Australians know that this type of corruption is rife in Australia, not everyone is convinced that this can be changed. But the longer this goes on unchecked, the greater the economic and social cost, and in the case of fossil fuel, greater the damage to the environment.
Most people still feel that they don’t have the power to change anything and cop it on the chin. This is starting to change, slowly but surely. Acceptance must eventually turn anger, and from this, a growing determination in the population, that the scourge of crony capitalism must be put to an end.