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A Country under Siege: A Brief History of Neoliberalism in Australia.

During the Nuremberg trials at the end of World War II, crimes for which Nazis were hanged included the “inadequate provision of surgical and other medical services.” I think on this as I consider the billions of dollars stripped from hospital funding in the recent federal budget.

Ideology is a word that seems to get tossed around a lot lately. I was pleased to hear Bill Shorten make use of it in his budget reply speech. But what exactly does it mean? Let’s stop for a moment and see if we can’t put some substance to this rhetoric, starting with a few possible definitions:

1. The body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group.

2. Such a body of doctrine, myth, etc., with reference to some political and social plan, as that of fascism, along with the devices for putting it into operation.

3. Philosophy: The study of the nature and origin of ideas.

4. Theorising of a visionary or impractical nature.

Neoliberalism is the name given to a school of economic thought which emerged between the two great wars of the last century, and is usually attributed to Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and the Austrian and Chicago schools of economics. For the purposes of this inquiry I will refer primarily to the former.

In the 1930s British conservative Harold Macmillan speculated a ‘middle way’ between the perceived threat of Marxist collectivism and the laissez faire economics which had led to the great depression. In contrast to this, Hayek’s capitalism-on-steroids boasts of the virtues and rigour of a global market economy, privatisation, deregulation and free trade, demanding nothing less in return than the systematic destruction of the institutions of the sovereign nation state. With all resources, (labour, minerals, food, water, air, you-name-it) surrendered to private capital, and services (finance, welfare, healthcare, education, etc) supplied by private industry, the problem reduces to an elegant equation.

Forget every conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard. Forget the Zionists, the Illuminati, Rothschilds, Reptilians, UFOs and the aliens who walk among us, forget HAARP and geo-engineering, nothing will prepare you for the nightmare ideology of Neoliberalism and its powerful acolytes, from the early postwar propaganda of the Walter Lippmann Colloquium to the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS), an elite clique of businessmen, bankers, statesmen and academics who’ve done more to overtly influence political thought and shape the foreign policies of governments in the last 75 years than all the great economic theorists of the last two centuries combined.

For a better historical account you could refer to Philip Mirowski’s work, or any of Adam Curtis’ great documentaries; however for the sake of this argument I find myself reaching for a Brodie’s Notes version, so here goes:

Neoliberalism stretches Adam Smith’s idea of rational self-interest and competition about as far as it can be stretched, stating that “only the mechanism by which prices are determined by the free market allows the optimal organisation of the means of production and leads to the maximal satisfaction of human needs”. In a nutshell it places individuals as consumers at the bottom of the food chain with corporations their rightful rulers. Within this paradigm the free market mechanism is sacrosanct, and the sole purpose of government to ensure that whatever money wants, money gets. This is the true blueprint for corporate statehood; a brave new world of milkshake sized lattes and 14 hour work days.

It’s fair to say that Hayek was not a huge fan of democracy, and terrified of socialism. He was similarly unimpressed by notions of altruism and the common good. By all accounts if Hayek was ever confronted by a noble savage he would probably stab him in the back and steal his purse. You might say that his was a rather pessimistic world view, or perhaps he was simply a product of his time. Markets by contrast he perceived to operate with mathematical precision, and when freed from the distortions of state intervention would be impervious to the boom-bust cycle that had plagued generations of economists.

How this ideology played out across the political landscape of the last century is a story deserving of much more thorough investigation, but crucial to its success was the establishment and proliferation of independent neoliberal ‘think tanks’ across the world, including London’s Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) and closer to home the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), of which Gina Rinehart is a member and major financer (the Liberal Party was the brainchild of the IPA, c. 1943.) The MPS agenda found powerful allies in media types like Sir Keith Murdoch, funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and popular support within the old European aristocracy. Clandestine operations like the dismantling of the Bretton Woods monetary system, achieved in 1971 when Richard Nixon floated the US dollar and abandoned the gold standard, subsequent control of the global resource market, and the expansion of Thatcherism throughout the West in the 1970s, provide some idea of the scope of the programme

One doesn’t have to look far to see the reach of the MPS in Australia. (In the 1930s Murdoch Sr. had used his papers to run a fierce campaign against the Scullin Labor government, sound familiar?) It is not so much a secret society as hidden in plain view, among its many public faces the aforementioned Institute of Public Affairs, the Centre for Independent Studies, the Tasman Institute, H.R. Nicholls Society, and The Sydney Institute. All fairly innocuous sounding names, but the honour rolls of these debating clubs read like a who’s who of Australian political life, and I don’t mean just the usual suspects. They are all there, from academic advisors to financial sponsors to key speakers. Names like Murdoch, Kerr, Howard, Kennett, Costello, Hewson, Bolt, Keating, Reith, Greiner, Kemp, Abbott, Abetz, need I go on?

The Liberal Party of Australia held office for a record 23 years from 1949 to 1972. With Menzies electoral victory secured amid cold war hysteria, media backlash against the Chifley government’s plans to nationalise the banking sector, and widespread public opinion that Labor had become ‘soft on Communism’, a double dissolution election and referendum to outlaw the Communist Party was called in April of 1951, returning Menzies to power with control of both houses of parliament. The Liberal-National Coalition was now unstoppable, and throughout the fifties and sixties Australia moved gradually toward military alliances outside of the British Commonwealth, committing troops to the Korean War and later Vietnam, signing the ANZUS treaty in 1951 and SEATO in 1954, and stepping up trade agreements, particularly with Japan.

By the end of the sixties the post war boom was showing signs of decline. Typical of fashion trends in the pre-internet age, Australia’s sixties revolution happened in the early seventies. With American Pie at the top of the charts and the troops safely home from Vietnam it was an age of optimism. Whitlam’s promise to buy back the farm had captured the mood of the electorate and no doubt caused some minor irritation to the powers that be, but his threat to blow the whistle on Pine Gap, (a secret U.S. intelligence installation in Australia which was most recently used to coordinate drone strikes on civilians in Pakistan), was the final straw. As history tells it, Governor General Sir John Kerr exercised his vice-regal powers, Whitlam, Cairns, and Connor were swiftly removed from office, and it was back to business as usual. (Ironically it was Labor’s own policy think tank, the Central Policy Review Committee, which stymied many of the Whitlam’s government’s reforms, effectively eroding the party from within.)

My argument that the ALP has long pursued a neoliberal agenda should not come as a shock to anyone. Neoliberalism is a perverse and pervasive ideology which has woven itself into the political culture over decades, and the ALP has not been immune. Hawke and Keating were in it up to their eyeballs, beginning with the serious business of labour market deregulation and leading up to the big asset fire sale, with national institutions like Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank (both established under the Chifley Labor government) the first off the lot.

The Howard government continued the trend taking a more direct approach to wages through an open attack on unionism, and liquidated over $100bn worth of public assets. With the mining boom in full swing, so too was Howard’s profligacy as he played to the electorate tipping money back into the private sector through tax relief, sadly too little too late to save his political career.

If one thing is abundantly clear it’s that Australians have short memories come election time. Fast forward to September 2013 and we see another big Murdoch campaign and the Abbott government picking up where Howard left off, with $100m thrown at a Royal Commission into union corruption set to drag out for most of the electoral cycle and hopefully deliver a few Labor heads just in time for the 2016 election, and another one into the pink bats scheme which would seem to have no objective other than to smear Kevin Rudd. Whichever way you call it, the prime ministerial gloves are clearly off, but you can rest assured there won’t be a Royal Commission into Commonwealth Bank fraud, as the Abbott government seeks to further deregulate financial services. Privatisation continues, but in true Orwellian doublespeak it’s now dubbed “asset recycling”, a game where the Commonwealth puts the squeeze on the states by offering a 15% cash bonus for the sale of assets, while taking $80bn out of school and hospital funding with the other hand. Well played I have to say.

Meanwhile the real protagonists of our story are still hard at play. The IPA’s policy wish list is being delivered one item at a time, with the imminent repeal of the carbon and mining taxes, the abolition of the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, and delegation of major environmental impact decisions to the states and territories. Health services are on the chopping block with pending changes to Medicare and a bill before parliament to remove the National Preventive Health Agency (cigarettes and alcohol are bad for you, but good for business; so apparently is gambling, and no prizes for guessing which son of a media mogul has his finger in that pie.) Other items which can be checked off the list either now or in the near future include removing subsidies to the car industry, removing family tax benefits, cutting funding to the Human Rights Commission, downgrading the NBN and cross-media ownership laws to allow the News Ltd an even greater stake in Australia’s media, and of course negotiating new regional free trade agreements including the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Attorney General George Brandis remains steadfast in his determination to repeal section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act in spite of substantial public outcry and a raft of submissions to government which won’t be made public due to privacy laws. (How many is a raft? I wrote one, did you?) This move should not be mistaken as a defence of freedom of speech, nor excused as just another downsizing of state power, rather it should be seen for what it is; a direct attack on one of the true freedoms afforded by civil society, the freedom from persecution. (Also conveniently getting Andrew Bolt out of a lawsuit.) How sad, how thinly veiled, and how hard to swallow, when at the same time we see Queensland and Victorian state Liberal governments removing our rights to public assembly and peaceful protest.

You see, the first principle of Neoliberalism is freedom, but probably not freedom in the sense that you or I know it. Rather it is the freedom to take what you want, from who you want, when you want. The appointment of Tim Wilson, cherry picked from the ranks of the IPA to the newly created, high salaried position of Freedom Commissioner has scarcely raised an eyebrow, meanwhile Graeme Innes has been unceremoniously dropped from the role of Disability Discrimination Commissioner, and will not be succeeded.

A brief look at coalition attitudes toward the fledgling clean energy industry serves to further highlight the divergence between classical and neo-classical economics. In our neo-classical world view the value of a tonne of coal, nickel or iron ore is what a company in China, India or Japan is willing to pay for it. (In real world terms, a tonne of iron ore costs $50 to produce while its price has fallen from a height of $150 per tonne and is predicted to bottom at $75.) Hence it is undervalued, as the Greens rightly argue, not just in terms of environmental cost, but in opportunity cost. Renewables is the next boom industry. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation which the Abbott government is currently seeking to abolish has been an absolute bonanza for the private sector. The carbon tax itself has returned some $7bn in the last financial year, well ahead of expectations, and as a result of global investment solar PV and wind alternatives are now cheaper than coal.

Last year the future seemed bright for Australia. How do we find ourselves suddenly chained to a resource economy certain to be left behind as the rest of the world embraces renewables and prepares to cap and trade emissions? Rather than confront the problem of adjusting to inevitable change, (How long before India is able to source its thermal coal from one of its northern neighbours ending in ‘stan’?) the men in blue ties are hell bent on expanding mining, logging, roads and ports. With the carbon tax certain to be scrapped when the new Senate sits, and direct action likely to be blocked by the Greens, Australia will soon find itself without a climate policy. How many extreme weather events does it take to change a conservative’s mindset? When will they get it through their heads? Genocide is no doubt a policy outcome deserving of more than cursory investigation, but even for a conservative, the false economy here is simply mind boggling. The resource boom is over, already!

Once again the body politic has proven its incapacity to address long term problems, and shown its complete ineptitude in the face of certain and catastrophic risk. The coming collapse of the mining economy is as plain as the shit on Abbott’s nose, and mother nature will most assuredly have her day. Whist Howard’s battlers, weak at the knees but with staunch backs go on dutifully digging their own graves, we can only hope the former comes sooner.

Now let’s take a peek at the proposed $7 GP co-payment. Forget the fact that none of that $7 will be used to address Labor’s so-called debt and deficit disaster; would anyone care to guess the administration cost of collecting that $7 per patient, per visit? Will employing 10,000 extra public servants make up for some of those they’ve recently laid off? Seriously, let’s take a modest guesstimate that $4 out of every $7 will go in administration costs alone. That leaves $2 to go to the GP and $5 to a medical research future fund that doesn’t exist yet. Who do they think they are fooling? It doesn’t take a degree in applied math to show you that this policy will lose money. The Coalition have already blown this one out of the water by leaking the words ‘price signal’. The policy is so plainly vindictive that I refuse to even argue the case against it, but suffice it to say, if it is implemented, people will die.

If one three word slogan could perfectly capture the current political mood, it would be inequality for all. However Neoliberalism never promised us equality, instead we are offered equality of opportunity and the freedom to screw whoever gets in our way. To me this speaks less of Hayek’s promised free market utopia and more of Thomas Hobbes “war of all against all” in which men’s lives are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. Austerity is not the way forward, but to a neo-feudalist dystopia.

While it’s tempting to believe that electing a Labor government tomorrow might somehow slow the rate of decay, the truth is, whether you’re a Liberal or a Labor voter, our successive elected governments have been committing treason against the people of Australia for generations. Maybe we still have a chance to put some things to rights, (if for example, Labor would let go of the boats issue and show some moral leadership,) but industry and wages are almost certainly a lost cause. Sometimes I think if we could go back a couple of centuries to when modern economics began, when price bore a fixed relation to labour rather than marginal utility, we might go some way toward a fairer society, but then I suppose the global economy is probably too far gone to be saved by fair trade coffee and free range eggs.

As long as our politics is based on a cruel and arcane ideology of paranoia and greed, with government-by-proxy and a world class conservative wingnut steering the ship, we the people are little more than spectators, powerless to do anything more than grumble in dissent. Any greater undertaking would require that a million or so Australians get off their backsides and take to the streets in outright defiance of this pathetic excuse for leadership, which is unlikely to happen, especially during footy season.

Given to flights of fancy I sometimes find myself thinking about possible worlds. More specifically, a world where our puppet democracy is finally exposed for what it is, Gina and Rupert are stripped of their wealth and power, and Abbott, Morrison and the rest of their scumbag cronies are tried and convicted of their crimes against humanity.

53 comments

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  1. corvus boreus

    Sean S, I will read on but you should always consider Godwin’s Law.

  2. Nick Kenny

    Poor. Very poor. You start out with a rant against “ideology” and dive straight into a longer rant based on a purely anti-market ideology. Dragging the good names of Keating and Hawke through the foul stench of Howard-ism… Shame.

  3. John Armour

    One small typo I spotted Sean: inequality for y’all.

    For one brief period, the 25 or so years following following the end of WW2, things were on the up, and Keynes was dominant.

    I wonder if things would’ve turned out differently if he’d lived. It’s more than just a shame that he wasn’t around to ridicule Friedman’s free market and monetarist theories, and defend the bastardisation of his own.

    Thanks Sean. A great ‘wrap’.

    PS Hayek sucks.

  4. mark delmege

    Nick Kenny at least sounds like a neo liberal. As for Hawke and Keating they sold our bank – didn’t they? I reckon the first policy item for any progressive party is to reinstate a Government bank or two. No need to nationalise – just create new entities – how about a Peoples Bank of Australia)

    I quite like Paul Craig Roberts – even though he was centre stage during Reaganomics he has been a great critic of more recent developments – particularly of offshoring in America – something we should play closer attention.

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38931.htm

    (BTW its a good thing that we are allowed to be bigoted – isn’t it – otherwise we couldn’t say half the things we do say)

  5. Möbius Ecko

    The head of Nestle has recently stated that water isn’t a human right and should be privatised. Of course air will follow.

  6. John Armour

    Of course air will follow.

    After being being dehumidified of course.

    Air and water will be separate businesses.

    But what about fire and ice ?

  7. corvus boreus

    Dunno, mark d, but Nick K sure do write real simple, for an active member of Mensa, “distinguished” public speaker and critic.
    Maybe he’s another talented tertiary scholar dumbing it down; that’s apparently nationally trending ATM.

  8. corvus boreus

    John A,
    Air and water are up for sale to the highest bidder, earth is already owned and apportioned(although open up for reactionary re-sale), fire is an act of God for which no blame accountability can be assigned(except to those National Parks bludgers and leaners), and as for wind, if you try to catch that invisible shit, you’ll only create disgusting eyesores.
    As for the life, that’s external.

  9. corvus boreus

    Damn, didn’t address the ice.
    Naturally occurring deposits of this are diminishing, but it can be purchased, artificially manufactured,at your local petro-chemical retailer.

  10. Lawrence Winder

    Good stuff. And I’ve appropriated, if you don’t mind, your “inequality for all’ and linked it to the Liarbril Party logo as a banner.

  11. paul walter

    A long depressing and accurate piece, the real flaw with neoliberalism as its employ by the oligarchy as means to return civilisation to feudalism; a long dark age looming before us.

    There is no doubt the ALP has become a part of it, most obviously the well-funded right-faction, the cuckoo in the nest that threw anyone within cooee of real laborism out, to the point that it has become almost a fascist party, judging by the ignorant and fear laden comments it directs toward left groupings like the green-left and the Greens.

    How it really works was demonstrated most recently in the the stand out 4 Corners examination of the antics uncovered by the NSW ICAC, which revealed a frantic, frenzied and animalistic grubbing for what remains of community assets, as those in both big parties behaved at the same level as the greedy, consciousness-devoid peasants who killed the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg. They then rolled about in the gore of their filthy deeds in the mistaken assumption that more gold would be found in the butchery than by nurturing a civilisation.

    The next antic?

    Well, hasn’t the censored media and press gone quiet over new NSW Premier Baird’s attempt to repeat the Sydney water and other vaudeville re electricity, despite all that was uncovered by the ICAC?

  12. Michael Taylor

    It got caught up in spam, Paul. Sorry about that. 😳

  13. paul walter

    My stuff.. SPAM!!

    How DARE it ( blusters, waving fist.)

  14. Michael Taylor

    Blame WordPress. 🙁

  15. M.G.

    I don’t think most people fully understand how much society has fundamentally changed since the introduction of neoliberal/laissez-faire/race to the bottom/Washington consensus/free market economic reforms.
    Statistically, the data shows that the only definitive result achieved over the past 30 years of economic restructuring is the resumption of a class system that existed prior to the ensuing drama between WW1 and the Great Depression. Removed from the obvious improvements in social rights, health, technology and scientific innovation – all of which were put in motion in spite of the economy – we’re basically reverting back to a system that existed prior to the invention of electricity.
    Meanwhile, most people are so distracted with the shiny things they’ve purchased with debt/interest/debt/interest/debt/interest, that their egos will not allow them to see they’re helping to construct and perpetuate the very mechanism that will ultimately corrode the health, happiness and integrity of future Australians.
    It has become so rotten that even discussing the topic brings the condemnation of apparent paranoia and left-wing hysteria. Yet, when the stock market/venture capitalists/corporations systematically destroy entire countries /economies/cultures, tumbleweed floats by.
    Perhaps it is a natural extension of the Industrial Revolution and Democracy, but surely it doesn’t need to be as repulsive and toxic as its current manifestation.

  16. mark delmege

    ‘you beaut’ mg

  17. mark delmege

    we need an edit function on here

  18. paul walter

    Ooohhhhhhhhh…Wordpus. Should have KNOWN!!

    Also, sympathise with M.G.

    Trinkets for the natives has always been a favorite ploy of colonisers.. think about before you laugh, some of you.

  19. John Armour

    Meanwhile, most people are so distracted with the shiny things they’ve purchased …

    Bread and circuses, M.G.

    Unlike Rome, our daily bread flirts with the Poisons Act and the circus (in Canberra) no longer has any lions.

    If it wasn’t for cheap Chinese beads and mirrors to keep the masses diverted there’d be rumblings I’m sure.

  20. Kaye Lee

    Rupert Murdoch faces trouble on both sides of the Atlantic today following claims the FBI has 80,000 News Corp emails in their possession while a corporate probe into the company continues to gather pace.

    According to reports, the FBI has copies of at least 80,000 emails – all of which are said to have been taken from the servers at News Corp, Mr Murdoch’s parent company, in New York.

    The messages were not included in evidence submitted during the British phone hacking trial – and so could not be reported until the jury reached its verdicts, it is claimed.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2670735/Rupert-Murdoch-facing-fresh-hacking-questions-sides-Atlantic-FBI-reveal-80-000-News-Corp-emails-corporate-investigation-gathers-pace-UK.html

  21. Bridget Cameron

    Have you not heard about the crowd ‘booing’ Tony Abbott at the Week-end footy game? It appears also, that you have not heard about the March in March protests, March in May, and the next one March in July, where tens of thousands of Australians across the broad-spectrum of society in every State and Territory are standing up against the Abbott junta and demanding change to our current governmental ilk. This pathetic excuse of a party leading our nation is the wake- up call that Australia needed. Give Tony Abbott credit, as he has done what no other PM has done, pissed everyone off simultaneously, given the people dozens of reason to protest!

  22. Pingback: Crosseyed from Marking | First World Problems

  23. Sean Stinson

    Thanks all for your feedback. CB, yes, Godwin’s Law, of course, silly of me to invoke this so early in the piece. Would this dictum still apply if I were to compare Abbott to, say, Franco?

    I do enjoy reading all your thoughtful (and sometimes not so thoughtful) comments. In a few short months of posting here I have been accused of ‘sloppy social analysis’, labelled ‘intellectually lazy’ and ‘cowardly’, and most bizarrely a ‘closet monotheist’. But my favourite of all has to be this, “If the ALP wasn’t a religion I might be a member… if Keating is Mohammed, then you are Salman Rushdie.”

    🙂

  24. EmmittBrownBTTF1

    corvus boreus, Godwin’s law is a rule of thumb. And mainly applies to conversations become so heated, that one participant make a bad analogue.
    Still in any case any analogue still needs to be judge on its merits.
    It is indesputable that when costs are moved on the patients, people have worse health outcomes, this is because healthcare and medication nither sought nor purchased due to financial constraints and competition with rent and food, has zero clinical value.

  25. John Lord

    One of the best articles I have read on this site.

  26. corvus boreus

    Sean S,
    I went on to read and enjoy the article, in the main agreeing with your points and conclusions.
    I mentioned(didn’t invoke) Godwin’s law purely as a pretentious armchair critic’s unsolicited advice with regard to widening the audience.
    I know enough history to appreciate current parallels with the inter-war period, but some people immediately roll their eyes at any Nazi comparisons.
    You may, of course, say phuq ’em I’m not doing a lowest denominator piece.
    Thanks for the article.
    EmmittB,
    When I mentioned Godwin’s law, it was based in the Law of Exceptions, which states;”For every law there is always an exception, except in exception to the Law of Exceptions”.

  27. Janet Burstall

    Plenty of rallies around the country on 6 July to #bustthebudget – eg in Sydney http://www.unionsnsw.org.au/bustthebudgetrally/
    Sean, I hope you and all your readers will be there. This is the best known possibility that “that a million or so Australians … take to the streets in outright defiance”. And Bridget is right too, about March in July – and I think also August.

  28. leighton8

    @mark delmege
    “Nick Kenny at least sounds like a neo liberal. As for Hawke and Keating they sold our bank – didn’t they? I reckon the first policy item for any progressive party is to reinstate a Government bank or two. No need to nationalise – just create new entities – how about a Peoples Bank of Australia)”.

    I have been studying the history of what was formerly “Australia’s Government Bank” (i.e. the original Commonwealth Bank) and agree that it was a great shame that it was sold by the government at all … and most particularly that it was sold by a Labor government. King O’Malley, Dr. L.C. Jauncey and Dr. Earle Page (among many others) would still be spinning in their graves. It’s basic idea for being brought into existence was sound, and it would have (if supported fully) acted as both a brake on the private banks and an alternative source of funds for both the Australian people and their Government. But, fought against from the beginning (1912) by the private banks, it was brought down almost 80 years later.

    In its current “privatized” condition (the CBA) is certainly no better … and is perhaps worse than the other banks (as per the recent call for a Royal Commission to look into it).

  29. mark delmege

    leighton8 Yes and selling our banks in the ’80’s and failing to control the rise of Au Dollar more recently is a certain kind of treachery and foolishness that has cost Australia dearly.

  30. leighton8

    @Sean Stinson …. finding your column very interesting …. however your statement ” with national institutions like Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank (both established under the Chifley Labor government)” is incorrect ….. the Commonwealth Bank “commenced operations in 1912 without any privately subscribed capital, relying solely upon an overdraft of 10,000 [pounds] from the Commonwealth Treasury” as per the flyleaf of AUSTRALIA’S GOVERNMENT BANK by Leslie C. Jauncey published in 1933. Both Jauncey and King O’Malley had high hopes that it would be turned into a full-blown “people’s bank” …. as the last paragraph of the book had it: “With conditions in Australia improving, [in 1933] the Commonwealth Bank will continue its progress towards becomina a people’s bank. Australia should cease borrowing abroad and ought to live within its income. The Commonwealth Bank can provide the finance for all legitimate requirements of governments as well as those of individuals. Australians should always remember that every time they transact business with their national bank they are helping to wipe out the national debt and so reduce taxation. The continued success of the Commonwealth Bank will lead to the extension of the benefits of national banking throughout the world.” p. 279.

    Ah, many will say that was too simplistic a dream … but how wonderful it would have been IF it had been allowed to succeed!

  31. Sean Stinson

    Pedant!

    You are right of course. Chifley established the already existing Commonwealth Bank as Australia’s national bank through the Commonwealth Banking Acts of 1945.

    I stand corrected.

    🙂

  32. leighton8

    Ah, yes, at times pedantic … but the devil is in the details … and both the Jauncey Boys and O’Malley are becoming rather fixations of mine ……

  33. corvus boreus

    Leighton8,
    Not pedantic, but picky with precision(slight difference).
    Impressed, humans. I observe and learn.

  34. Dan Rowden

    Not pedantic, but picky with precision(slight difference).

    What’s the different, exactly?

  35. Sean Stinson

    nuance.

  36. Dan Rowden

    Being a smartarse doesn’t work so well without an edit function. Damn.

  37. corvus boreus

    Dan R,
    I feel your pain over the impossibility of self-proofing, I myself have viewed, with horrified hindsight, a posted haiku, structured 5, 7, 6!
    Regarding your linguistic query, the way my cartoon birdbrain sees it is in corn.
    I like to line up my kernels.
    If I feel picky and precise I will remove any with the slightest blemish.
    If I feel pedantic I will arrange them smallest to largest, left to right.
    Or you could go with nuance.

  38. Dan Rowden

    Or you can just stop drinking – whatever works …… 🙂

  39. Jason

    @Sean Stinson

    Great article.

    I thought I was the only one using the expression neo-feudalist, it’s good to see somebody else fighting the good fight.

    There is so much in this article it is a bit difficult to know where to comment first.

    You’re probably already aware of this, but Karl Polyani ‘The Great Transformation’ puts Laissez faire in its place and is wary in his warnings on von Mises.

    That was 70 years ago. Looks like we’re back fighting the same battles!

    Polyani also comments on the connection between laissez faire and fascism.

    Sticking with the fascist theme (and after all fascism was nothing more than a kick-back against liberalism and a yearning for feudalism) – have you ever considered the language that accompanies Neoliberalism, such as ‘efficiency’?

    Research Auschwitz. It was a user pays set up. The Jews were forced to pay for their train ticket to the death camp. The rest of it is too horrible to speak of.

    Auschwitz slave-labour profited many German corporations and American interests http://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/sep/25/usa.secondworldwar

  40. Jason

    Wow!

    They’ve added a click to edit function. So cool! Well done.

  41. Carol Taylor

    Jason, all the congratulations goes to blogmaster Michael.. 😀

  42. Florence nee Fedup

    I miss it on this site. Thanks

    Love that

  43. Anon E Mouse

    Neo-liberalism has infiltrated the Labor party as the right wing faction has proven.

    Gillard was allegedly from the ‘left’ but was neoliberal. A conversation I had with her in 2002 (I think it was) when she was shadow minister for immigration and Indigenous affairs under the Beazley leadership, convinced me that she was hard right neolib.

    When I had a dig at her saying that I could see little difference between Lib and Labor, in a temper Gillard told me then that she admired Howard and his refugee stance, that the polls were most important. She continued and totally convinced me that she was not from the ‘left’ but a neolib who would do whatever it takes to get what she wanted. I was shocked and dismayed.

    Recent history has shown us that Gillard’s backers like Arbib, Bitar, Martin Fergeson and Howse, all scuttled to their mega-wealthy masters after leaving politics. It is no wonder Rudd got shafted because he was not playing the faction games, and not for turning to the neolib cause. It was no accident that Rudd was so popular amongst the general public, because he offered a different path to that demanded by the neolibs.

  44. mark delmege

    to be fair they both did some good things and some not so good things – I would have thought they represented more a variation on a theme.

  45. Jason

    @blogmaster Michael

    Thanx!

  46. mark delmege

    so now we have a count down to death – i like it.

  47. Sean Stinson

    @Anon E Mouse

    Thanks for the enlightenment. Makes sense. I deliberately avoided making reference to Fraser or Rudd, partly because Fraser has surprised us all in recent times and earned my respect, partly because Rudd deserves his own chapter – great ideas and great PM, but apparently not the easiest human being to get along with. Gillard schmillard.

  48. Diannaart

    Excellent analysis – apologies for not reading sooner.

    Admiration for including awful truth of:

    My argument that the ALP has long pursued a neoliberal agenda should not come as a shock to anyone. Neoliberalism is a perverse and pervasive ideology which has woven itself into the political culture over decades, and the ALP has not been immune. Hawke and Keating were in it up to their eyeballs, beginning with the serious business of labour market deregulation and leading up to the big asset fire sale, with national institutions like Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank (both established under the Chifley Labor government) the first off the lot.

    I was at uni when the LABOR government introduced the mutant HECS – look how it has grown. They said it was only temporary but they lied.

  49. jimhaz

    [I reckon the first policy item for any progressive party is to reinstate a Government bank or two.]

    Absolutely – the only way to have any chance of “keeping the bastards a teeny bit less dishonest”.

  50. jimhaz

    “Forget every conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard. Forget the Zionists, the Illuminati, Rothschilds, Reptilians, UFOs and the aliens who walk among us, forget HAARP and geo-engineering, nothing will prepare you for the nightmare ideology of Neoliberalism and its powerful acolytes…”

    This is a key point. No central conspiracy centre is required for these things – all it takes is people of the like mind and they will begin to act in concert, and once acting in concert mob behaviour will ensue – this is what we are seeing now from the LNP.

    Also with economics one can cherry pick theories or partial theories and twist them to ones own vested interests. For a start government interference in financial markets to protect those who hold existing wealth, is massive, which is totally against Hayek’s premise.

  51. Anon E Mouse

    @Sean Stinson I can recall how hard life was under Frazer, with Howard as treasurer, and how callous Frazer was.

    The dirty deals that toppled Whitlam, inflation running in the double digits, interest rates the highest ever, and Frazer’s smug statement that ‘Life wasn’t meant to be easy’ is hard to forgive. Why did Frazer wait till his old age to grow a conscience because he needed one when he was young and in a position to do something about it.

    Wikileaks told how Rudd’s toppling was being plotted 6 months before it occurred. The negative reaction of many in Labor and the public service against Rudd’s apology to the stolen generations … You are right, it needs more than a post to cover Rudd. It would be interesting to read your analysis of Rudd’s era.

  52. Anon E Mouse

    As for Rudd not being easy to work with, I wouldn’t be very easy to work with either if I had to negotiate with neolibs and those who were so busy (unknown to Rudd at the time) plotting to overthrow me. Gillard et al talked Rudd out of going to a DD after the Greens voted with the LNP against Rudd’s ETS.

  53. Rob

    Nice work Sean Stinson!
    For someone that went through four debilitating years of corporate workplace harassment, intimidation and alienation, at the behest and political protection of the Howard regime’s WorkChoices; to say nothing of the then Shodow Minister for Industrial Relations -Julia Gillard’s willingness to turn a blind eye and deathly silence to my repeated appeals for her in her capacity to intervene, at a time when she and her Australian Labor Party was putting on a so-called rhetoric of a populist ‘repeal WorkChoices’ campaign. Your notion of both the Australian Liberal and Labor Party are up to their necks in this cartel behaviour of neoliberalism/neocapitalism

    Rob

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