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Small government, like communism, might sound like a good idea but they are lambs for slaughter on the altar of greed

Deregulation, self-regulation, red tape, green tape, nanny state, small government, privatisation, asset recycling, compliance costs, free market, one-stop shop – these are some of the phrases religiously chanted by big business, and echoed by conservative think tanks and governments, with a certainty that smacks of zealotry.

We are told that the private sector is more efficient so we outsource service provision to them.  We sell off valuable assets and profitable government-owned enterprises.  We remove regulatory oversight and streamline approval processes.

We sack public servants, urge wage restraint, remove penalty rates, freeze the superannuation guarantee and hobble collective bargaining.

We provide so many concessions for the owners of capital and assets that they end up paying little to no tax.  We encourage exports whilst enduring shortages at home.  We provide a guarantee for the banks to protect them from the financial turmoil afflicting the rest of the world.  We have a whole government department dedicated to making sure the private sector does not face unfair competition from the public sector.

And still, even as companies continue to announce record profits, it’s not enough – they want more.

Now that may all be very well if all players are acting ethically, if profits are shared not only with CEOs and shareholders but with employees through job creation and wage rises and with the government through taxation, if sustainable practice and environmental protection was a non-negotiable aspect of doing business, if businesses could be trusted to tell the truth and to fulfil their part of the social contract.

But that is not the case.

The cases of malfeasance, corruption, fraud, exploitation and environmental damage just keep coming.  Cases are fought by armies of legal and financial teams, dragging them out until plaintiffs give in.  Penalties are seen as just part of doing business.

By their own actions, businesses have destroyed our trust and forfeited the right to dictate the rules.  Self-regulation does not work.  There is no loyalty or morality as the greedy scramble for an ever-increasing share of the pie, doling out crumbs that barely sustain the rest of society.

The government has abrogated their responsibility to defend us against unscrupulous merchants and employers, and the extreme class structure that results from their exploitation.  They have sold off our common wealth for short-term sugar hits for the budget.  They have privatised essential utilities and services which are now run for profit rather than the common good.

And now they are even outsourcing the drafting of legislation to the very legal and accounting firms that advise big business on how to get around the rules.

Small government, like communism, might sound like a good idea but they are lambs for slaughter on the altar of greed.


20 comments

  1. Keith

    You have described neo con ideology 101 exceptionally well, Kaye Lee.

  2. Andrew Smith

    One would find that ‘small government’, low taxes, etc. are nothing new and resonate with the libertarianism favoured by oligarchs (Koch, Rockefeller, Murdoch et al.) and their ‘ownership’ of weaponised think tanks, politicians and influencers to shape policy and society.

  3. stephentardrew

    Brilliant Kaye love your work.

  4. Andreas Bimba

    But the owners of capital control the mainstream mass media, the most influential think tanks, most of the lobbyists, direct most of the political class on both sides of politics, they dictate the education of the elite and the curriculum for the economics and MBA degrees as well as offering well paid jobs for the boys. The owners of capital throw enough crumbs like negative gearing or super contributions concessions at the middle class so that they obediently vote for their own destruction.

    Kaye, what you write is now so obvious but still most of the electorate votes for more poison.

  5. Keitha Granville

    Since the current mob are so keen on small government and self regulation, how about we outsource the police departments and the army to private contractors – let them set their own rules and enforce them as they choose. It would be chaos and anarchy within a very short time frame. And the government would find itself in the gunsights of those to whom they handed all the power.

    How much longer do we have to endure this suffering ? Do we need a popular revolution ?

  6. Kaye Lee

    The thing that really makes me angry is that the solutions to our problems, or at least steps in the right direction, are so easily available to us. We know what we should be doing but big business and governments collude to stop us from doing it.

  7. Diane Larsen

    Trust is gone, anger is mounting but still stupidity is encouraged by the shills in the msm for time poor voters who get their information from 30 second grabs on the 6 o’clock new and the ridiculous stunt headlines of news papers as they rush by until these individuals are clobbered over the head with a personal affront to their living standards they remain oblivious to the slow strangulation of our rights and standards that this current government and all their associated muppets are inflicting on us.

  8. Harry

    Great analysis Kaye.

  9. Terry2

    When some former political leaders started to say last week ‘we got it wrong‘ acknowledging that their resistance to a Royal Commission was based purely on political ideology and not the evidence of wrong-doing that had been staring them in the face. It occurred to me that we are probably not far away from them saying, of negative gearing and concessional capital gains tax, that ‘we got it wrong‘ despite evidence of the distortions caused in the housing market and how this has adversely impacted first home buyers and favoured investors and speculators.

    What brought this to mind was former Treasurer Joe Hockey’s comments as he left parliament for the USA when he said “negative gearing should be skewed towards new housing so that there is an incentive to add to the housing stock rather than an incentive to speculate on existing property.”

    The tragedy is, as with Joyce, these pin-heads can only be honest when they have turned into pumpkins !

  10. Miriam English

    Kaye, so true.

    Diane Larsen, you’ve hit the nail squarely on the head. People are kept running on their treadmills so they don’t have the time or energy to learn about what’s really happening, trusting the mainstream media to encapsulate the truth for them. Thankfully more and more people are realising they’re being lied to by TV, radio, and the Murdoch media, and are waking up, but the change is slow.

    The pendulum will swing the other way, but how much damage will be done before it does?

    What scares me is that the great social changes that are beginning with the artificial intelligence (AI) driven next industrial revolution need to be properly planned for, yet we’re wasting time screwing around with goddamn coal (!!!) and victimising the unemployed and immigrants. We could instead have a balanced and sane society ready to benefit from the big changes. Unfortunately, neglect means many will suffer needlessly.

  11. Dennis (Dixie) Lee

    The problem is getting a meaningful number of our 26 million reading the same page at the same time.

  12. Ill fares the land

    Perversely as it turns out, “small government” means small government for the rich. It means developers who get governments to agree to fast track any development without regard for adverse impacts on local residents. It means reduced regulation and regulator scrutiny over the financial sector (who reap billions of profits annually from gouging and exploiting customers). It means large taxpayers generally get more concessional treatment from the ATO.

    What small government doesn’t mean is less regulation of and controls over those on the lower rungs of society – workers and their unions, welfare recipients and pensioners. No, no. It means ever more regulation to reduce the rights of those who are then exploited by the wealthy and big business for their own profits.

    Disenfranchised indigenous people becoming a nuisance – no problem. Throw the bastards in jail when they even look like breaking a law. A corporation that is polluting our water and our earth – no problem, let’s cover that up. Someone steals $100 from a corner store – no problem. Throw them in jail – society has to be rid of this threat. Steal millions if not billions from the defenseless? No problem there either – we know that the more money the rich have the better off we all are. A welfare recipient has a Centrelink debt – easy. Pressure them relentlessly until they cough up, even though they don’t actually owe the alleged amount. A rich person owes a tradesman $20,000 – easy. I’ll see you in court mate!! A crook steals money from a bank – well that’s jail time – but we’re tough on crime aren’t we. A bank steals from hundreds if not thousands of customers – well that’s ASIC’s problem and we can fix that by slashing ASIC’s funding and watering down laws regulating the financial sector. A worker injured or killed because their employer was reckless and ignored workplace safety – here’s a little fine and don’t do it again. A union tries to protect the rights of workers to a safe workplace – well that’s union thuggery and we need a whole new set of rules to suppress the union bullies (after a very expensive royal commission that yielded no material results).

    No. It’s small government for the rich and big government for everybody else.

  13. Matters Not

    KL, there’s one set of pejorative words that might be added to your opening list and it’s lazy capital‘. That label is/was applied by Treasury types when they addressed other public servants as a justification for selling assets. It was not an argument as such – more like a mantra. It didn’t sit well with me – then or now.

    Re Andreas Bimba, thanks for you response on another thread I can’t now find. But Keen, for me, speaks in tongues and I gave up after 10 minutes. Perhaps it’s more my fault than his.

  14. Kaye Lee

    After the Howard Government won the 1996 election, it shed around 30,000 public servants, and sold significant Commonwealth buildings. The job losses depressed the property market, so the sale prices were low. But the market eventually picked up, and by the time Howard left office, the buildings he had sold at fire-sale prices were worth around twice as much.

    https://www.smh.com.au/opinion/treasury-and-finance-buildings-when-governments-sell-out-20150216-13gdfn.html

    The Howard government sold the R. G. Casey building for $217 million in 1998 and, by 2017, it will have paid $310 million rent, according to the Commonwealth’s contract records on Austender.

    The ANAO report said the government paid rent 12 per cent above market value for R. G. Casey at first and it only continued to increase. The rent was increased by 38 per cent two years into the lease agreement.

    But does that stop these guys? Not a chance.

    The Treasury building is one of six buildings Senator Cormann said might be divested, The others were the John Gorton Building, East and West Block and Anzac Park East and West.

    http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/selling-treasury-building-could-cost-taxpayers-hundreds-of-millions-20150217-13h0yp.html

    A West Australian Government plan to sell a number of office buildings it owns and then lease them back has been described as “ridiculous” by the Opposition.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-15/sell-and-lease-back-plan-for-public-buildings-ridiculous-labor/6474416

  15. Matters Not

    Short-termism characterises Australian political life. The next election is the political end game. Tactics dominate. The bureaucracy aligns.

    Treasurers focus on the year ahead with any future, next year’s problem. Strategy is for another time with responsibility and accountability evaporating quickly.

    A better future is ours for the making but the vast majority choose to remain idle spectators – participation being for the other.

  16. Matters Not

    So what is the motivation for what seems illegitimate to the many? Seems to me that the root cause is found more in the camp of ideology rather than greed, but I do accept that there’s a mountain of evidence that the latter is alive and well in many instances. Hello Rupert.

    I also accept that the line between the two is somewhat blurred. But for me, it’s the thinking – the unthinking acceptance of a common sense – the belief – hence the ideology that needs to be addressed.

    That’s the problem. As for the solution – ?

  17. Miriam English

    Matters Not, well said.

    Many politicians focus entirely on the short term focus — getting elected. Their adherence to simplistic ideology is often not much more than a marketing strategy. They distort things so they can persuade and appeal to their funding base (banks, big business, mining companies, fossil fuel corps) and a large number of voters. If they manufacture fear of refugees then they can use that fear to persuade greater numbers of people to vote for them. If they make people think violent crime is increasing (when it is actually decreasing) then they can use that fear to boost their support. Fear (especially xenophobia) is a powerful motivator when ignorance prevails. (I’m not using “ignorance” as a put-down for ordinary people; I mean it merely as descriptive of people’s knowledge on particular topics. As Diane Larsen mentioned earlier, most people have little time or energy remaining after long work hours to learn about actual crime stats, or that we’re legally required to take in refugees, or that the richest corporations pay zero tax, or that unions protect workers.)

    If, by gaining power politicians find that the rules have loopholes that benefit them, letting them over-claim on allowances or use public-funded luxury jets to carry out personal business, then it’s easy to rationalise the greed away. “Don’t I often work late and deny myself time with my loved ones in working to serve my nation? I deserve this little thing… and besides, everybody else is doing it.”

    How do we fix it? Knowledge. Spread knowledge of what’s really happening. The AIMN helps here. Defuse fear with information.
    ✦ Link to The AIMN articles on facebook or twitter or other social media accounts, if you have them.
    ✦ Casually mention the real facts in conversation. (“Did you know there’s a few species of lizard that naturally exist only as females? Only after lesbian sex are they able to give birth.” “Did you know that Australia signed onto international law requiring us to take in refugees? Those concentration camps in Manus and Nauru are illegal, not the refugees in them.” “Did you know those illegal refugee camps cost us about $5 billion over the past 5 years?” “Did you know that crime rates, especially for violent crime, have been dropping for hundreds of years?” “Did you know that immigrants are net job creators?” and so on.)
    ✦ Point out loudly and clearly the lies in Murdoch media.
    ✦ Ridicule those who would consume Murdoch media. (“Genuine scientific studies show Fox TV actually reduces people’s IQ.” “You believe the Telegraph/Australian? You believe in unicorns too?”)
    ✦ Buy New Scientist magazine and leave it “accidentally” open on a coffee table at pages of public interest.
    ✦ In libraries, leave the computer with the web browser open on an informative page at the Guardian or The AIMN.
    ✦ Perhaps we should take to printing up, and stealth placement around town, of short, informative posters.
    ✦ Gently, politely, but persistently point our the errors of right wing posts on social media. Don’t be rude; that undercuts your message.

    [Hmmm… wordpress creation of lists doesn’t appear to work. I’ll have to fudge it.]

  18. Kaye Lee

    “Tactics dominate”

    The Federal Government will ditch its plan to lift the Medicare levy from 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent.

    Mr Morrison will use a pre-budget speech tomorrow to say the levy increase is no longer necessary because the Government can find the $8 billion elsewhere.

    The Government is expected to announce broad scale income tax cuts in next month’s budget.

    This could have been difficult to explain because it would have conflicted with the Medicare levy — effectively an increase to taxes announced last year.

    It is a strategic decision and a sign the budget will be intensely political, aimed at allowing the Government to attack Mr Shorten as the high taxing alternative.

    The Government intends to paint Labor as the party that would raise taxes on housing, superannuation and energy.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-25/medicare-levy-increase-to-fund-ndis-scrapped/9696746?section=politics

  19. Ricardo29

    KL, once again a fine job of making things accessible. This is a column every federal Labor politician needs to read. And so many good, pertinent comments. At the age of 72, staring down the barrel of my 19th federal election as a voter, I confess to feeling a bit dispirited about the prospects with the choice between a hateful, undeserving rabble and an Opposition which shows some signs of wanting to reduce ( note I didn’t say eliminate) inequality, yet if one looks at the results of the AIMN surveys this is what we, the readers, see as the principal focus required from Labor. There are hopeful straws in the wind, neg gearing, cap gains, etc but in so many attacks on our privacy and personal freedoms they have been in lockstep with the LNP. I will do my bit by forwarding this column to my Labor MP’s.

  20. David Bruce

    Thanks Kaye for a helpful briefing! If the root of all evil is the love of money, it looks like the roots are well established in Australia. The royalties and other revenue streams apart from income tax, are filling the government coffers. So more by good luck than good management, the LyiNg Prats appear to be better money managers? As a voter who looks at the local candidates before deciding whom to vote for, I have learned that I can’t trust the TV, radio or newspapers to help me. The present political environment in Australia is like a malignant cancer, so an ICAC type institute may help to remove some of the tumor. I would support a local candidate who could help make this happen.

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