Swan bashes the billionaires

Like Kevin Rudd before him, Wayne Swan has penned his defining missive in The Monthly magazine.

It is a long essay and much of it is dedicated to establishing a context for Western societies , especially the US, to debate the rise of elite wealth and the decline of the middle class. You can read it here. Having set the scene. Swan then launches into the local mining billionaire’s and their influence on policy:

In the last couple of years, Australia has seen the emergence of our own distributional coalitions willing to use their considerable wealth to oppose good public policy and economic reforms designed to benefit the majority. The combination of industry deep pockets, conservative political support, biased editorial policy and shock-jock ranting has been mobilised in an attempt to protect vested interest. It’s reflected in how the Coalition under Tony Abbott has recently radicalised itself into an Australian version of the Tea Party, more than willing to kneecap Australia’s three-decade reform project for cheap political points.

There are many Australians of great wealth who make important and considered contributions to the national debate. I always welcome that involvement in the discussion of public policy whether I agree with them or not. What characterises the vested interests that I’m concerned about is how they misrepresent their self-interest as the national interest. There has been a perceptible shift in this country in recent years, and it is sadly very much in the American direction of stronger and stronger influence being wielded by a smaller and smaller minority of vested interests. Crucially, much of our media seems more and more inclined to accept that growing influence.

I know that 99% of businesspeople want the best for Australia, and that most people want us to remain the nation of the fair go. I talk to business owners from coast to coast and am constantly impressed by their forward-looking and can-do natures. For every Andrew Forrest who wails about high company taxes and then admits to not paying any, there are a hundred Australian businesspeople who held on to their employees and worked with government to keep the doors of Australian business open during the GFC. Despite the howling of a small minority, the vast bulk of the resources industry is in the cart for more efficient profits-based resource taxation which serves to strengthen our entire economy. The vast majority of our miners accept that they have a social obligation to pay their fair share of tax on the resources Australians own.

But again, it’s that tiny 1%, or even 0.1%, who are trying to drown out the others, who are blind to the national interest, and who pour their considerable personal fortunes into advertising, armies of lobbyists, dodgy modelling and corporate and commercial manoeuvring designed to influence editorial decisions.

The latest example of this is the foray by Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, into Fairfax Media, reportedly in an attempt to wield greater influence on public opinion and further her commercial interests at a time when the overwhelming economic consensus is that it’s critical to use the economic weight of the resources boom to strengthen the entire economy. Without a blush, her friend and fellow media owner John Singleton let the cat out of the bag when he told the Sydney Morning Herald that he and Rinehart had been “able to overtly and covertly attack governments … because we have people employed by us like Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones and Ray Hadley who agree with [our] thinking”.

I fear Australia’s extraordinary success has never been in more jeopardy than right now because of the rising power of vested interests. This poison has infected our politics and is seeping into our economy. Though these vested interests have not yet prevailed, every day their demands get louder.

Politicians have a choice: between exploiting divisions by promoting fear and appealing to the sense of fairness and decency that is the foundation of our middle-class society; between standing up for workers and kneeling down at the feet of the Gina Rineharts and the Clive Palmers.

Australia’s future in the Asian Century will rely on retaining a strong, united, middle-class society. We will need a nation which calls on everyone’s skills; which is tolerant not resentful; which recognises the need for public investment in skills, infrastructure and education; and which continues to extend a social licence to the market so Australia’s flair for entrepreneurship, innovation and free trade can continue to create more wealth for all of us.

Instead of capitulating to the demands of the vested interests, and allowing the benefits to amass disproportionately to them, we have a chance to bend the extraordinary shift in the global economy from West to East to the advantage of all Australians. This is neither the fierce pro-market capitalism that got us into a global financial fix, nor is it anti-market socialist ideology. It’s simply the best way to keep growing Australia’s economic pie so ultimately we all end up better off. Ensuring the social contract does not erode is vital if we want to avoid a hollowed-out capitalism assured of its
own collapse.

Regular readers will know that I agree completely with the spirit of this argument. Vested interest are poisoning the political process. And they should be held accountable for their perversions of public policy. But that is only half of the problem. The other half is flawed public process process, especially that used by Treasurer Swan for the past four years, which has egged on the vested interests that are always waiting in the wings, even if especially so right now.

Swan’s record of public policy process has been one of doing things behind closed doors to the detriment of business and democracy.

Witness, during the 2008 GFC, the entire banking bailout was negotiated with business interests behind closed doors. We still don’t know many details, a phenomenon I call “Invisopower!”.

Then throughout 2009, the Rudd Government negotiated its original Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) behind closed doors. The policy was announced up front, and an endless procession of special exemptions were struck with business interests as they traipsed to Canberra. The carbon tax was implemented in the same way, though less so.

The same approach was adopted with the Resource Super Profits Tax (RSPT). Only the negotiations didn’t proceed fast enough and the business interests publicly attacked the government. The special exemptions were then negotiated with a gun shy new Prime Minister.

All of these episodes have the consequence of encouraging rent-seeking in business. Public policy used to a consultative process, followed by a softening up process of the public to ensure they not vulnerable to vested interest campaigns. Then finally an announcement of the policy shift without further compromise.

To announce policy on the run up front and then make compromises behind closed doors as the interests come knocking is asking for trouble. In an economy dominated by concentrated monopolies, duopolies and oligopolies it’s a red rag to a bull. Why compete when you can simply lobby or pressure the government to prevent competition. Even as both you and the government trumpet your “free market credentials”.

One wonders where the political culture of compromising with interests comes from. It is tempting to see it as the triumph of state political practice over federal. After all, state politics is basically the business of negotiating with interests and Labor has been doing it in the major jurisdictions without much interruption for a long time. Kevin Rudd came from state politics. So did Wayne Swan.

If the vested interest that Swan identifies, and frankly they’re much more widespread than his narrow targets, are to be stopped then at least part of the answer lies in better policy process.

Comments

  1. I see similar traits in the development of government policies as to the way an entrepreneur goes about developing an idea.

    When developing a new idea, in staid of launching it completed and as a surprise to the public you create a prototype and chuck into the market and gauge feedback. From this prototype you build on the feedback and gives you the chance to create something that works for the majority.

    Many people fear using a prototype, due to the fear of rejection, not shipping a polished product or having a poor pick up rate from consumers which looks really bad to investors.

    What I am trying to get at, is that the government fears backlash/rejection. So they create a “polished” product, ship it to the people then have to go back to drawing board as they need to make expensive changes to the already established policy. If the government was a business they would be broke 10 times over as constant changes to a polished product that could have been avoided with using a prototype increases waste.

    Just imagine if the government said to the people:

    We are thinking of introducing a Carbon Tax because of reasons X & Y, we think we have a responsibility to the environment give us your thoughts so we can incorporate them into the policy. If you have any problems speak to your local MP and they will pass the information onto us.

  2. You have noted what is my fundamental concern with Swan’s article: the highly selective nature of his so called ‘vested interests’ and more extraordinarily, the naming of individuals! By a senior Government Minister. Outed, Named and Blamed. Upheld to ridicule, part of a process of turning them into public pariahs.

    Australia is a nation of vested interests and rentseekers. There is barely an industry sector or special interest group that does not influence government policy and ready to put its hand in the taxpayer till.

    This is base Labor spin through and through. The crass politics of class envy.

    And wrong, so very wrong, on so many levels. This is not and should never be the role of any part of an elected government.

    I do hope the independent press investigate Swan’s motivations.

    • Sorry what? Class envy? The rich have been involved in an overt class war for a long time now, but when the fact that they are winning at everyone else’s expense is pointed out they bleat “class war, class war”. What utter tosh. To present current circumstances as a state of nature, as opposed to the active and co-ordinated actions of the “vested interests” you acknowledge exist, is a complete fallacy.

      And why would the press investigate Swan’s actions (not that I am defending him per se, I think he’s an oaf!) when they abjectly fail to ackowledge that these very same vested interests talk their own book at all times!

    • This is base Labor spin through and through. The crass politics of class envy.

      It is not, and so it so very typical of someone who holds the miners view of being entitled and deserving of privilege. The same with Abbott’s response is that ‘class envy’ is now supposed to be an ipso-facto slur against ‘anyone opposing what rich people want’, hoping the stigma of the slur will cease dissent and debate.

      This is not class politics, this is a rightful claim that people like Rinehart, along with a cadre of miners, are undermining democracy.

      You are right that there are many other sectors who a rent-seekers, those that want something for nothing. Rinehart is a beneficiary of this right now, but the likes of her who are attacking policy expression to preserve her position of ‘getting something for nothing’ and the most vociferous attacks on democracy ever seen in this country.

      Don’t think this is viewed lightly. This is not just protest in the streets material, this is storm Peppermint Grove at night and leave a trail of blood material.

      The attitudes of petulance and entitlement of miners is reminsicent of French Aristroracy in 1789. They seemed a bit slow in learning in what was going on around them.

        • Fluffing in a rag about the issue raises awareness of it, promoting the electorate to educate itself.

          In an enviroment where the contemporary media is highly comprimised (one only has to look at the motives from the gyus who started this site), someone like Swan has to be careful where he opens his attempt the gain allies.

          Probably better amongst Monthly subscribers than Ray Hadley listeners.

          Jawboning is the path of least resistance if the target can be persuades to change by sentiment than by policy.

          • Yeah spot on wrt communicating on issues, but and a big but is why the Monthly?
            This is the nations treasurer I’m talking about.
            No1: He has to own Question time and generate allies there.
            No2: He has to turn Chris Uhlmann inside out once a week.
            No3: Ditto Kochie.
            No4: He has to do all these things with an enthusiasm that carries his narrative through.
            ie He will not give up until we voters give up.

            This will never happen because he has no narrative for this nation.
            He is atrocious.

          • Yeah spot on wrt communicating on issues, but and a big but is why the Monthly?

            Probably because he recognises his own limitations and hopes someone more talented with pick up the ball and run with it.

            This is the nations treasurer I’m talking about.
            No1: He has to own Question time and generate allies there.
            No2: He has to turn Chris Uhlmann inside out once a week.
            No3: Ditto Kochie.
            No4: He has to do all these things with an enthusiasm that carries his narrative through.
            ie He will not give up until we voters give up.
            This will never happen because he has no narrative for this nation.
            He is atrocious.

            I am not defending Wayne Swan, all I am doing here is defending the message.

            Swan doesn’t have the capability to own Question time, and probably doesn’t have the ability to construct a narrative, and quite simply, only one person has since Chifley, and that has been Keating.

            The outcome of Keating in 96 has been seared into the brain of every politician in Australia since then, conviction can be punishing.

            Back to Swan however, he does seem passionate enough to folow a ‘fair go’ narrative written for him.

      • On this occasion you are wrong.

        Labor well knows that public opinion very divided on the activity of mining companies, particularly on the East Coast. Clive Palmer, regularly the butt of many ‘greedy miner’ jokes, Gina Rinehart ‘Australia’s richest women and a miner to boot’, both of a certain physical appearance and with strongly individualistic views – easy targets for a campaign of ridicule. Forrest, different kettle of fish, undeniably charming and rather humorous (I understand Palmer is not dissimilar), could win over the crowds given half a chance! Personally I would not be surprised Forrest was a personal inclusion of Swan’s. Back to RSPT days…

        Swan has carefully and selectively targetted three individuals, from the one sector, not a diverse group of individuals from a diverse group of sectors. Three from one. What is a government minister doing publicly naming and blaming any individuals in the first place? This is a deliberate attempt to activate the ever latent politics of envy so beloved of Labor of old (until they got into bed with the whole damn shebang). Spooked by the Rinehart’s media interests, Palmer’s talk of similar Swan has gone for the jugular and as I say above, most extraordinarily held three Australian individuals up for public ridicule. For no reason other than their financial status. What next, lifelong welfare recipients because ‘they don’t contribute’, the cost of welfare preventing Swan’s surplus.

        Swan wants a compliant and accommodating media, a sort of ABCifaction of media Australia-wide. One that supportively presents the government line, that does not question policy nor have the temerity to proffer the opinions of those holding views counter to the prevailing government spin. And with this government, time and time again, policy is revealed as little more than spin, always pandering to special interests.

        Swan has attacked selected individuals without cause. He has publicly named them and disparaged their activities. He has vouched it in crass class terms (they have lots of money, you don’t).

        The only surplus Swan is ever likely to have is that of hate: the vindictive, vituperative, eviscerator he is. He should resign.

        • An Oscar winning performance there. Such vicious proletarian class envy and moral outrage as to make a respectable woman faint !

          • No, the Oscar for Best Performance of Feigned Outrage in a Political Battle goes to –

            I can’t believe it – it’s five time Oscar winning, 3d1k !! Come on up here, 3d1k – take a bow !

          • Love your work spleenblatt and RP.

            If there’s a politician’s line that never fails to make my flesh crawl its “the politics of class envy”.

        • Swan wants a compliant and accommodating media, a sort of ABCifaction of media Australia-wide. One that supportively presents the government line, that does not question policy nor have the temerity to proffer the opinions of those holding views counter to the prevailing government spin.

          LOL.. You say that without a total lack of irony.

          IMHO, a couple of episodes of 4Corners (Cattle exports, Julia’s non-answer episode) have done far MORE damage to the government than ALL of Andrew Bolt’s armchair critique series on Ten and articles combined.

          Remove your right-wing blinkers and look at the real world out there.

        • Swan has carefully and selectively targetted three individuals, from the one sector, not a diverse group of individuals from a diverse group of sectors. Three from one.

          So?

          All you have presented is a statement, not an argument.

          And other than the real estate industry pressuring the have Bill marmion removed in WA, and the clusterf*ck of NSW Labor also by real estate, no other industry distorts our democracy.

          Agriculture doesn’t, manufacturing doesn’t, military doesn’t, tourism, retail, hospitality.

          All that says is we should attack real estate along with mining.

          What is a government minister doing publicly naming and blaming any individuals in the first place?

          He is arguing that democracy is being undermined, heaven forbid he attempt to assign blame.

          Should he just carbon copy an email to all citizens saying something vague like ‘certain parties are undermining democracy, please read our constitution, much like government agencies get when a person spends too much time surfing the web?

          Should Gina’s self-esteem be considered as she tears the fabric out of democracy?

          History shows that an economy that has an overt conctration of wealth in non-renewable resource extraction tends to end up a cronyist country. The activities of miners here are following the same path, one small destructive increment at a time.

          This is a deliberate attempt to activate the ever latent politics of envy so beloved of Labor of old (until they got into bed with the whole damn shebang).

          Tosh.

          It is not envy, despite the attempts of you and Abbotts to sell the story as such.

          This is to resist the push by mining to entrench itself as the overarching voice of the direction this country heads.

          I will agree it is a long way from doing that, but it has already taken the first steps of a well worn path trodden in other country’s.

          Spooked by the Rinehart’s media interests, Palmer’s talk of similar Swan has gone for the jugular and as I say above, most extraordinarily held three Australian individuals up for public ridicule.

          Awww.

          Our best and brightest up for a bit of adversity, heaven forbid our business leaders ever condition themselves to overcoming adversity.

          They should be glad they don’t even suffer the same sort of scrutiny that NRL, or even AFL players are exposed to.

          All this says is they, as business leaders, are symptomatic of our pampered business enviroment where oligarchs compete in every sector as part of a duopoly.

          Unable and unwilling to compete, forever screaming that more leeway needs to be given to business and jam-packed with workshy rent seekers.

          It’s telling that whenever they attempt to establish anything abroad they can’t accomplish anything.

          For no reason other than their financial status.

          So hijacking media and spreading misinformation plays no part you reckon?

          If it was just financial status, then Frank Lowy, Kerry Stokes, Wal King, Lindsay Fox and James Packer would have suffered the same politics of envy for 15+ years.

          They just happen to keep a lower key in their attempts to gain privilege, rather than going to full hog and trying to capture everything in the next 3 years ike these 3.

          What next, lifelong welfare recipients because ‘they don’t contribute’, the cost of welfare preventing Swan’s surplus.

          😀

          Well do we envy the plight of welfare recipients?

          Swan wants a compliant and accommodating media, a sort of ABCifaction of media Australia-wide. One that supportively presents the government line, that does not question policy nor have the temerity to proffer the opinions of those holding views counter to the prevailing government spin.

          Ridiculous, bordering on paranoic.

          The sort expression that all over-entitled classes think. Again, very French aristrocracy-like here.

          And with this government, time and time again, policy is revealed as little more than spin, always pandering to special interests.

          It occurs on both sides and is symptomatic of compromised government.

          THIS is the message here however, mining is seeking to entrench itself where it can compromise government even more.

          It’s telling than someone even as compromised as Wayne Swan is saying that even this is a step too far.

          Swan has attacked selected individuals without cause. He has publicly named them and disparaged their activities. He has vouched it in crass class terms (they have lots of money, you don’t).

          Again, you’re probably unable to see clearly whilst ratning in such a delusional fashion.

          If this was the case, he’d pursue a broader source of money.

          They aren’t, and they are not even trying to capture wealth, they are trying to resist the further incursion into the control of the fourth estate by vested interests.

          The only surplus Swan is ever likely to have is that of hate: the vindictive, vituperative, eviscerator he is. He should resign.

          If he is successful in pushing Australian sentiment that purges the mining industry’s vile presence in media, he should be given a knighthood.

          • Gosh. Hyperbowl much. Nothing more there than an overload of anti-resources rhetoric.

            It does continue to surprise me that a business and economics blog attracts so many readers that are opposed to business in general, profits in particular and eagerly await collapse in its various forms. (From memory RP you are waiting for the housing crash?)

            Epiphany. I see your problem RP – without the resources boom we’d be just like Ireland (HnH reference) and housing would have collapsed…yet another vested interest!

          • It does continue to surprise me that a business and economics blog attracts so many readers that are opposed to business in general,

            Rubbish.

            I am a devout capitalist, and seek to reward enterprise.

            I also wish that rents are minimised.

            This provides for an outstanding business environment.

            Privilege is the antithesis of capitalism.

            profits in particular and eagerly await collapse in its various forms. (From memory RP you are waiting for the housing crash?)

            I eagerly await a restoration of a more sound economic environment, a marked difference.

            Epiphany. I see your problem RP – without the resources boom we’d be just like Ireland (HnH reference) and housing would have collapsed…yet another vested interest!

            Nothing like crediting yourself with all that we need huh?

            Privilege does seem to entrench the view that an elite are incredibly important to the existence of the proles, so much so we should be paying a premium for it.

          • Sorry 3d1k, usually I agree with some of your points, but RP is by far the more measured and rational in this debate. Saying he’s being hyperbolic is pot calling kettle black.

            It’s telling than someone even as compromised as Wayne Swan is saying that even this is a step too far.

            I thought the same. Considering how many vested interest vultures there are hovering around Canberra, they must be really getting under Swannies nose with this media business stuff.

            Although I also thought this might be a dummy spit from Swanny now that the big miners are focusing on controlling public opinion rather than political contributions…

          • I agree with the general thrust of your argument re the ideal parameters for business operation.

            So apologies in that regard – I had failed to recognise your position as such from previous postings. I suspect we may agree on many of the ‘ideals’.

            It remains my view that business/government/vested interests are inextricably intertwined and likely to remain so. I think this almost a universal phenomenon. Calls to bring about its end are admirably optimistic. I may be cynical but I think that even if some mechanism could be put in place to bring about an end to this relationship it would be a matter of time before it was replaced with some ‘other’. Remember when you were a kid and had an ant farm, thousands of ants scurrying about their business, individually, collectively, generally harmoniously, occasionally not. This is how I see the business/government/special interest group nexus. I have even wondered if it is a natural evolution of economies. Everyone has an interest.

            It also remains that I consider it both inappropriate and disingenuous for Swan to target three individuals from one sector for public castigation. Particularly coming from a federal minister who has been an active participant in oiling the wheels of ‘accommodation’.

            Methinks he has written what he does not believe.

          • No worries Jason.

            FWIW RP entire argument collapsed when he revealed:

            “If he is successful in pushing Australian sentiment that purges the mining industry’s vile presence in media, he should be given a knighthood.”

            Hyperbowl. Bias. Anti-resources.

          • RP, missed this first time round, thrown by your final revelation!

            On media control:

            ‘Ridiculous, bordering on paranoic.’

            Lol. This was exactly the reaction when Rinehart’s Fairfax play occurred. And very much part of the reason for Swan’s unprecedented attack now.

            Re welfare recipients – you ask do we envy. I was simply illustrating the base ‘wrongness’ of Swan’s attack on private individuals. It was not fair play and if meekly accepted can at any future time be directed to any other ‘out of favor’ group.

          • drsmithyMEMBER

            Hyperbowl much.

            Sorry, I can’t take it anymore and I’ve noticed multiple people posting here making this same error.

            The word is ‘hyperbole’ and is pronounced high-per-bow-lee, NOT high-per-bowl.

            (This is an educational message, not a spelling flame.)

        • drsmithyMEMBER

          Swan wants a compliant and accommodating media, a sort of ABCifaction of media Australia-wide.

          I can only _dream_ of the day commercial media becoming “ABCified” and produce real, valuable content rather than collations of celebrity gossip and rent-seeker rhetoric.

          • Amen.. we don’t even have a TV in our house connected to the antenna anymore, free-to-air TV is that trashy. And if we want to watch ABC, just chuck the laptop on iView and plug it into the TV..

          • By default, not design, when we bought our house last year, the antenna doesn’t work, so I’ve had no TV….

            and haven’t missed it. I plug laptop in and watch ABC from time to time, or just DVD’s. No need to watch commercial TV, just like no need to get newspaper anymore.

          • wasn’t going to comment here cause I couldn’t give a fuck about Swan but as for TV 🙂

            …I watch very little other than live sport since it is either rubbish or old (i.e been screened overseas and available for download and viewing ad free). Most of what I watch I download. The Daily Show and Colbert Report are my staples for “news and current affairs”

          • Hey Hugo

            How do you get those? As far as I can tell they aren’t on ABC2 any more.

    • I do hope the independent press investigate Swan’s motivations.

      By independent press, I guess you mean the Murdoch Press or the one part-owned by Gina? Would an investigation by the ABC be acceptable to you? I guess not.

      See, there is your problem right there. We are supposed to simply accept YOUR definition of “independent press”.

        • Yes, the press is independent of political interference. But it is NOT independent of corporate interference.

          Hence it is convenient for 3d1k to appeal to the “independent” press when it suits him.

      • Mav, I don’t care which arm of the press. But I do expect someone in the position to do so to press Swan on his motivation and the highly selective nature of his choices. To press him on just how appropriate it is for a government minister to publicly ridicule private individuals.

        For the record, yesterday Swan praised the resources sector for outstanding capex investment, the shining light of the Australian economy, if you will. He is hypocritical in the extreme.

        • Not much point demonising Swan here, either. His motivations are obvious, just as are those of interests.

          The point is we need to prevent interests influencing policy.

          You’re letting your outrage distract you from the real debate, which is offered up by Swan despite his politics.

          • Problem is HnH, his motivations will not be exposed unless the media takes it up. They should be.

            As for preventing interests influencing policy – that horse has long bolted. The entire Australian economy; government, business and special interest groups are inexorably intertwined.

            Swan, up to his eyeballs in the entire mire of vested interest group interactions with government has jumped on the 1% bandwagon, reeling out the usual concerns and occasional platitudes re inequity and influence in modern economies. I guess he should know, having been an active participant in it all for decades.

          • It’s a fair point. I just don’t think we should let the debate get lost in a tit for tat mud slinging match. But as Opinion8 points out below, if you want to make an example of mining, where are the names Xstrata, BHP and Rio Tinto who occupied the Cabinet room at the invitation of Mr Swan?

          • Because the individuals concerned are in some sense ‘caricatures’ of ‘big miners’ (as I alluded to above). Forrest I suspect is on a more personal note.

            CEOs of Xtrata, BHP, Rio, Westpac, NAB, ANZ, GM, Ford, Bluescope, NBN, et al not named, not targeted…he is playing an unsavoury and unfair game.

          • You’re letting your outrage distract you from the real debate, which is offered up by Swan despite his politics.

            That is by design, not accident. That is a feature, not a bug.

            CEOs of Xtrata, BHP, Rio, Westpac, NAB, ANZ, GM, Ford, Bluescope, NBN, et al not named, not targeted…he is playing an unsavoury and unfair game.

            NBN?? WTF? Anyway, leaving that blooper aside, you are right in that respect. However, publicly attacking a corporation is like attacking the faceless men and it can be dissipated easily – In their defence, the CEOs will merely point out they are doing it on behalf of their shareholders.

            Tit for tat is a better strategy to handle the faceless men – the government should have an unlimited ad budget to tackle the corporate smear campaign from the MCAs, BCAs and the ABAs of the world.

          • Mav, you think the machinations of NBN require no special accommodations…

            It would be naive in the extreme to think that politicians in the their post political life do not seek (and covet) seats on boards, consultancies and various other privileged positions within corporations. Politicians of all political persuasions. This further refines and removes corporate targets when in political life.

          • “The point is we need to prevent interests influencing policy.”

            How do you have policy without interests? Democracy is a balancing of interests based on a contest of ideas over time, but like all systems it is imperfect, and evolves and changes direction slowly based on a feedback loop.

            Political compass website claims that the Current Labor government is to the “right” (or was it a combination of more authoritarian and more unfettered market oriented?) of the 80’s Liberals

        • drsmithyMEMBER

          For the record, yesterday Swan praised the resources sector for outstanding capex investment, the shining light of the Australian economy, if you will. He is hypocritical in the extreme.

          I’m struggling to see how this is hypocritical.

          Mining capex investment is good. Rich individuals trying to pervert the political process for their own personal gain (and everyone else’s loss) is bad.

          • He wants the resources boom, simultaneously castigating Australian resources companies people.

            The rest of your statement is imaginary.

    • This isn’t spin, this is politics. The class envy epithet is a predictable and disingenous defense against criticism. And this is a battle the named and shamed rent-seekers (poor pets, imagine their ridicule !) instigated with their own crass progaganda and base self-interest. Surprising to see such delicate sensibilities offended by the cut and thrust of political manoeuvers.

      • You miss the main point. What is Swan doing naming any individuals at all in the first place. Why individuals from one sector only. Why wealthy individuals only.

        There is another motivation here, conveniently cloaked in crass class-envy terms.

        A nation of rent-seekers and special interest groups, yet Swan, when he decides to name names can only come up with three….FFS

        • Are you seriously being this disingenous ? Do you really expect people here to buy the idea that you are shocked by how sausages are made ?

          If you’re on the other side of the political divide, then so be it, but please stop this pretense that this represents some extraordinary, unprecedented political action. Politicians are selectively ‘named and shamed’ and slandered by business interests on a daily basis, who deliberately pander to the same public biases.

        • I agree with the main thrust of your argument 3d1k.

          And that coming from someone who believes the RSPT / MRRT debate itself is superficial and little more than a bandaid (at best), and that the entire mineral and petroleum sector should be nationalised a la Norway.

          As I’ve commented elsewhere in this thread, the key insight that I take from Swan’s essay is his failure to mention the *multinational* “vested interests” with whom he exclusively did the MRRT deal behind closed doors, while publicly singling out and vilifying 3 (tall poppy?) local miners who were shut out of the “negotiations”.

        • But those three where front and centre wrt the arethra tax. They are now public property by there own actions.
          I have no problem with Swan having a crack back at them.
          Thats politics

          • McPaddyMEMBER

            You said it Jelmech. They were the ones who decided to take the appeal directly to the people (bullhorns on trucks, TV ads). That’s a political (demagogue) line of approach. Once you’ve done that, you are fair game for blowback in the style of politics, which has always involved attention on the individual as well as the policy.

        • “Why wealthy individuals only.”

          Because they are the ones that can buy rent seeking and are doing so, perhaps?

        • “Why individuals from one sector only. Why wealthy individuals only.”

          Because those are the ones who have been putting themselves on TV, in the papers and making deliberate and obvious attempts to influence policy … perhaps that is why …

    • This is not about class envy. This is about class warfare between the ultra-rich and the rest of us schmucks (BTW its not a close contest) which is resulting in greater income disparity and the destruction of the middle class over time. Warren Buffett had it right, when he said in 2006 to the NY times:

      “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

      And how are they winning? Well we have some more uncommon honesty:

      ““The interesting thing is that the tax code, I wouldn’t call it a war, but it is a struggle. Groups try to keep their own taxes down. People lobby to keep their estate taxes down. They lobby to keep their capital gains taxes down. So, if this is a war – I wouldn’t call it a war, I’d call it a struggle – but, if this is a war, my side has had the nuclear bomb. We’ve got K-Street, we’ve got lobbyists, we’ve got money on our side in terms of lobbyists. Deb does not have a lobbyist. She doesn’t have anybody remotely that’s representing her. But, believe me, plenty of rich families have lobbyists that are working like crazy to get rid of estate taxes, lower capital gain taxes, whatever it may be. So, if there has been a war going on, the war has been waged by the people who are very well to do who are trying to shift the burden onto people like that and away from themselves.”

      Hmm.. sounds like Australia. Unless we want to end up like America and destroy the middle class, we need reduce the disproportionate influence on public policy that the ultra rich have.

      • “Unless we want to end up like America and destroy the middle class, we need reduce the disproportionate influence on public policy that the ultra rich have.”

        That is one thing that concerns me, heading in the direction they are where people like Corzine and Dimon can just steal over a billion dollars blatantly and get away with it.

    • Love your work 3d1k.

      Vested interests are everywhere in our economy and Swan is being ridiculously hypocritical (and unprofessional) by naming and shaming those ‘rich’ people he see’s as an easy target. It is pure politics of envy.

      Swan seems to be blind to all the subsidies and rent seeking that goes on in so many union dominated industries.

      If Swan was truly about free-markets and keeping vested interests out of the political process he would be moving to get ALL interests out of it. But that’s not what he wants, what he actually supports is removing the ‘vested interests’ that support the other side. The ones that support the ALP are a-OK in his eyes.

      Pure hypocrisy, pure nonsense from a man elevated well above his own ability.

      Anyway mate, thanks for reminding me why I try avoid commenting here. Not because I don’t enjoy debate, but whenever I do I end up spending all day here and don’t get anything done. Lol!

    • I’m ill and I cannot sit at a computer for any long period. So I apologise if this gets a little disjointed and I cannot return to the discussion.
      However I need to say a couple of things.
      H&H you have just jumped right in here on Swan’s side (and RP and others) There has been a very dangerous thread in MB for some time. It is the public demonising of people to whom you are politically opposed. Swan dressed his disgraceful attack in the cloak of seeking a fair go for all middle calss Australians…no criticism of this???? Why not????????? What a load of cobblers.

      A week or so ago I left a thread in total disgust at the sort of unnecessary, extremist, demonising and just plain stupid comments that were made as personal attacks on the three people Swan has now sought to publicly demonise. As 3d1k points out it was just these three! Now we see that stupid dangerous disgusting thread escalated and given the cloak of serious debate
      Macrobusiness, in the form of you H&H, has supported this dangerous trend jumping in to support written trash that is ill-considered and, in the final analysis, untrue.
      My long term prediction for our society is for dictatorship, war and bloodshed. The sort of comments that have been made here just raise the probability of the occurrence and bring its timetable forward.

      I don’t personally know Clive Palmer. However a close personal friend of mine spent many years as part of his household. She found him always to be a wonderful and very generous man. He has been a generous supporter of good causes all over the world for decades. He is recognised in other countries for his generosity dating back a long time. He has created employment buying bankrupt companies, creating jobs, and turning them around by giving his employees a good say in the running and development of the business. He is recognised for being generous to them for their great efforts.
      Yet you lot here, with your petty selfish stupidity, can only choose to vilify this decent man from your self-appointed ivory towers. The fact that Swan, our Federal Treasurer, can get away with doing so is a real measure of how far how democracy has already failed…not in ways generated by Palmer et al but in ways generated by the extremists who are now coming to dominate MB discussion.

      As far as policy goes it has been corrupted for many a long year. The Labor Party is corrupted by powerful trade unions. There is a term of universal vilification here first used by Hudson if I recall and it is ‘rent-seeker’ It is a term used with such malice that anyone even just accused of it will be put to death on the first night of your revolution. Does anyone in the Labor Party attack any so-called ‘rent-seeker- other than the miners who actually negotiated formal legal contracts with out Government for everything they have done. Yet they are the only ones Swan and MB are attacking attacking and the only ones we are asking to pay an industry, even personally directed, special tax. This is not a tax…this is confiscation of private property. For some years the tendency for wealth confiscation has become more and more prevalent as the only solution to problems. John Howard knowingly and actively went about it when he found that, in conjunction with State Labor he could confiscate the private property of farmers just to redistribute the proceeds to gave more in political donations….yes and it was the miners! Strangely though not to the three people who have been chosen for the tumbrils in the macrobusiness court.

      The Labor Party is following his example except on a grander scale.

      The Labor Party is beholden to its own rent-seekers. The powerful trade unions are NEVER attacked in any way by the Labor Party. Yet they are a substantial cause of inequality in our society. Before you lot jump all over me, don’t do so without explaining to me the equity of a Waterside worker, with less resonsibility, less work and monstrous privileges being paid at a rate some ten times the award that storemen in my warehouse are supposed to work for.
      This type of inequality is everywhere.

      Lawyers would have to be the greatest ‘rent seekers’ of all. They dominate political parties, they dominate government, they have a monopolistic organisation proscribing fees in a way that if my business did it I would be in gaol. Yet Lawyers can actually do this quite openly!!! Why???? Show me a thread anywhere in MB where the Law and its structure in this country have been attacked.
      Law, as it is now practised in this country, has torn our society to shreds.
      Don’t even try to suggest RP that Law as a body has not corrupted policy!!!! They ARE the corrupt policy!
      Do the Lowy family get thus attacked by Swan or Macrobusiness…again don’t tell me that Lowy, and the big chains have not been central to the distortion of economic and public policy in this country for decades!
      Do we attack Bankers who have so corrupted the financial and economic policy of the country for their own interests? Do we single out any of them for personal vilification…no we don’t!!!!!
      Do you ever once anywhere attack the recipients of compulsory superannuation for the waste, self-aggrandisement, and policy distortion that they push? If you ever did it was a long time ago!

      So we just pick out three people! Just Clive Palmer, Gina Reinhart and Forrest!

      Unfortunately I am unable to go over this to improve its presentation so I post it as is.

      • That is quite a fevered fit of indignant paranoia, even for you flawse.

        A statement like “My long term prediction for our society is for dictatorship, war and bloodshed”, and the continual ranting about tax as theft, and lawyers as the root of all evil, doesn’t really do much for your cause. I’m sorry, big fella, but you are starting to sound like one of those crazy homeless people standing on the sidewalk foaming at the mouth about the dangers of socialism.

        • You attack me personally spleenblatt with the typical demonising language that is so typical of the champions of this breed of debate. That is exactly how democracy begins to fail. Effectively QED!
          You did not answer one single question raised by me nor did you address a single issue. Just personal viciousness!

          “A statement like “My long term prediction for our society is for dictatorship, war and bloodshed”, and the continual ranting about tax as theft,”

          The prediction that, in the long term, what we are headed for is DWB is not mine alone. Logical thought of exactly where we are headed and the sort of society we are creating takes one to such a conclusion. You want to argue about it? Sure let’s do so. But let’s have some argument! Not the attempt to liken me to someone frothing at the mouth…that was a damned disgusting thing to do!

          I have never said ‘taxation is theft’! NEVER!. Not once! Please point out any place, anywhere, any time, when I have done so!!!!!! Come on spleenblatt…just ONCE!!!!! Do that much in response. Get HnH to do a word search of all my posts on macrobusiness!
          Do something other than just slag off at me!

          If you cannot present any such evidence why have you attacked me by lying and saying that I have? In fact you use the dismissive term ‘continual ranting’ to reinforce your claim. Again this is how extremism creeps in to a society.
          What I do argue is that a specific tax, aimed at a specific small group, who have legally followed all the laws of the country, is effectively the confiscation of private property. Such a tax will not fix what ails this society and will, in fact, only make the situation worse.

          I will say that I DO think you need to be damned careful how you spend money that you are taxing ordinary people with families who are struggling to live but, again, that is a totally different argument.

          “’m sorry, big fella, but you are starting to sound like one of those crazy homeless people standing on the sidewalk foaming at the mouth about the dangers of socialism.”

          Again I don’t decry socialism. I never have. That would be to abandon one’s own humanity. I am and have always been doubtful that Government would ever effectively be able to provide a ‘socialist’ environment. It cannot be ordained by decree. History seems to have amply demonstrated that!
          Again there is a debate to be had about what sort of society we want and how to get it. That debate is not enhanced by the sort of cheap labeling you have just indulged in.

          The situation of lawyers in our society is a very serious question. As far as rent seekers go lawyers are a very powerful monopoly predominantly interested in pushing the monetary rewards of its members.
          My only point in mentioning them, as I have before, is to remind everyone that we single out only these ‘billionaire’ miners. As I’ve pointed out there are many ‘rent seekers’ of different degrees and brands including some of us in these pages. Public Servants are, in their own way, ‘rent seekers’. However what we are getting is personal viciousness directed at the likes of Clive Palmer et al.

          • The ‘confiscation’ of private property, as you have described the imposition of new taxes many times on this site, is also common usage among many of those who also hold the particular ideological view that ALL taxation is theft. Given your clarification above and given I have caused offence, my sincere apologies for joining the dots between ‘confiscation’ and ‘theft’. I would beseech his Honour to kindly please have this term struck from the record. That said, I strongly disagree with both of those characterisations of taxation. As I disagree with your characterisation the legal profession, the nature of government, and the inevitability of social decay and war in western societies. And as an aside I utterly reject this notion that the answers always lie back in time – if you follow that logic back far enough you end up intersecting with religious precepts of of Original Sin and the Fall of Man. But in my experience I fear we could argue for days and weeks on all of these issues and move no closer to the other’s position.

            With that said, let’s have a go anyway.

            If you are describing war and bloodshed in the sense that it is a common, almost quotidian property or effect of human social activity and appetites, that may manifest itself in armed conflict at any given point in time in any particular geographical location that might happen to be fuelled by an unhappy congruence of economic scarcity, ideology, power or otherwise, then yes, I don’t think many with any grasp of history would disagree this is probable.

            If however, you perceive a scenario whereby Australia has passed a crucial juncture which inevitably threatens to morph into an explicit form of dictatorship, with democratic institutions dismantled and elected officials usurped by means of force, with the citizenry rising against its autocratic leaders or against each other in an act of civil war, then I think that so highly fanciful as to be borderline ridiculous.

            But if would be better for you to more precisely expand on your conception of dictatorship, war and bloodshed as it relates to the future of our society.

            I find attempts to defend the Infamous Three so named and shamed by Mr Swan, by resorting to depictions of them as helpless, well-intentioned, ordinary citizens of good standing just so completely disingenuous as to be laughable. In the first instance, I don’t believe they were demonised, nor do I think Swan’s comments were extreme in any way. I’m sure you have not failed to notice the degree of unambiguous demonising and extremes of language that politicians are subjected to on this site and in the mainstream media by people who disagree with their political position. I don’t doubt that the Infamous Three have positive personal qualities, and are capable of generosity – but that misses the point of what Wayne Swan is attempting to achieve, and what those Three themselves are engaged in. I really fail to believe that either you or 31dk or anyone else on this site are surprised by the history of the Union movement and the Labor Party and their ongoing strong links and tensions, the links between major resource companies and former politicians, the propensity of private capital to perpetuate both its wealth and power, the history of Australian governments attempting to balance this private power against their own power and objective of pursuing social equity, and ultimately the nature of what is a complex and substantial political battle. To rail against the hypocrisy of it is like crying for the moon.

            I don’t quite comprehend the depth of your antipathy towards the Law and the legal profession, public servants, or compulsory superannuation for that matter. You will have to more specifically describe how you think lawyers have corrupted policy, and what you see as its remedies, before we could even begin to have a reasoned debate on such a complex issue. Surely you jest when you say Bankers have been spared attacks and personal vilification ?, but maybe you haven’t been reading the blogs and posts that I have been reading.

            Also interested to see how you have offered Frank Lowy up for attack having railed against Palmer’s own perceived vilification.

  3. ceteris paribus

    Poor old Swannie. The vested interests won’t let him doing anything.

    Well, I am sorry. Labor was elected on the platform of delivering a “fair go”. And if he and his colleagues can’t stand the heat against the miners, the Murdoch press and other buccaneers, without whingeing and compromising and worrying about their job tenure, then they should leave the job to someone who can- like Bob Brown.

    A Treasurer’s life wan’t meant to be easy, Swannie.

    • Poor old Swannie. The vested interests won’t let him doing anything.

      Well, I am sorry. Labor was elected on the platform of delivering a “fair go”. And if he and his colleagues can’t stand the heat against the miners,

      That is a naive assertion.

      The parlous state of our media means that even genuine attempts to deliver ‘fair go’ policies will rarely be scrutinised properly under the guise of the fourth estate.

      A captured media, which is what we have with our MSM, is to promote vested interests, not general interests.

      See how Hewson was treated with the GST for example.

      And the point is, the finest minds are employed to divert sentiment in these directions. The U.S shows us Joe mainstream defends the privilege of the elites, because he is under the belief that with enough hard work, he too can become an elite, completely disregarding all the impediments put in his way and the unfair burden he is carrying.

      That is happening here, that is ‘our story’.

      • It isn’t naive. The power of the media and “vested interests” is vastly overstated.

        The problem is the current crop of politicians are weak, poll-driven and ignorant of economic questions. They never tackle difficult long-term problems because they aren’t up to the job.

        I honestly have no idea why somebody like Swan is Treasurer. Politics is tough. Its up to them to present the public with policy they believe is in the public interest, and then explain and implement it.

        These sort of essays from Swan are a distraction designed for an audience who would rather read personal attacks and mud slinging instead of a considered outline of challenges and possible policy responses.

        Swan has full discretion over fiscal policy. He is also able to change the remit of the RBA. Yet not once has he questioned the viability of a floating currency/inflation targeting system for an economy whose cycle moves with its ToT. Why? Because its to hard. Because its easier to pretend that the two speed economy is due to greedy miners and “vested interests” rather than political inaction.

        • “Because its easier to pretend that the two speed economy is due to greedy miners and “vested interests” rather than political inaction.”

          So true. Plus for the government a two speed economy is preferable to a no-speed economy. They know that. They need it.

          Just yesterday Swan was swanning on about the glorious mining capex…and how wonderful it is.

          Time for some here to take a reality check.

          • Alright boys, I’m sure you’re not so concerned about the source of our economic issues that you might seriously question the viability of our entire economic construct. Easier for us all to pretend our constant cycles of boom and bust and consumerism and constant growth can be mended by tinkering this way or that with fiscal and monetary policy tools or with a superior brand of ideology. If you truly believe that politicians do not work to solve long-term problems then you have probably not been paying close enough attention, or just disagree with their solutions. So be it, such is politics and economics.

            But do you seriously believe this government or any subsequent one are in a position to fix the dollar, take back the independence of the RBA, to re-instate fortress Australia, to pressure the global community to dismantle the remit of the WTO, to put the genie of globalization back in its bottle ?

            You should be smart enough to recognize any government pursuing objectives of social equity (which is the remit, implicit or otherwise, of both Labor and Liberal), has little choice in the short-medium term but to re-distribute from the pool of wealth in those other prosperous sectors of the economy, which at this point in history just so happens to be resources. This has nothing to do with anyone being anti-mining.

            It is no surprise of course that some investors in the resource sector do not like this. No more than some Germans like the idea of supporting Greeks. Does it really surprise you that winning what is a substantial political battle will involve taking off the gloves and indulging in populism ? Why tie yourselves up in knots about the hypocrisy of this ? – our system is riddled with paradox and fraught with hypocrisy. It is naive to pretend it has ever been different.

  4. Wayne Swan is very much a part of the problem that he describes – the stealth bank bailouts during GFC Phase I, $20billion AOFM bailout of private RMBS market, the covered bond legislation that put bond holders before depositors.

    However, that does not invalidate what he has described.

    So people, don’t be distracted by the faux (or is it Fox) outrage about ‘class warfare’ displayed above.

    • Of course he is. But he can’t see it, or won’t. Or it does not suit his current motivations.

  5. The Palmers etc are only doing what invisiopower has been doing for years, its just that they haven’t learnt to be invisible.

  6. Excellent, thanks for writing about this. I also agree with you one hundred percent about the “Invisopower” analogy – there was no disclosure about the amount of taxpayer help the banks got through the GFC and nor will there ever be. I think some other people here have written about the fact that we have a quasi-nationalised banking system and I’d have to agree with that given the amount of taxpayer support (both overt with regulatory assistance and covered bonds as well as covert backdoor assistance we aren’t allowed to know about) is huge. Ben Chifley was right on the money – why should we be allowing this huge gouge to limited taxpayer resources without at least sharing in some of the profits?

    As other posters have already observed, the list of private rent seekers goes on and on… my latest gripe is about how Julia folded like a house of cards on pokie reforms under pressure from big pokies owners like Woolworths/AHL as well as the State Governments that are dependent on problem gamblers for a large slice of revenues… talk about gutless. Personally I’ve witnessed many lives totally destroyed by problem gambling (almost always pokies) and the argument that these machines aren’t addictive is rubbish – such a sad indictment on Federal Labor that they wouldn’t step in to stop this ruthless explotation of vulnerable people.

  7. One cannot help but notice Swan’s choice to publicly attack those (locally-owned) “vested interests” who were left outside the closed doors of policy deliberation and design … while failing to mention the *multinational* vested interests who were exclusively invited behind said closed doors, and whose “commercial-in-confidence” industry data underpinning the design of said policy is (naturally) protected from public disclosure.

    • McPaddyMEMBER

      Per my reply to Jelmech above, I think this is more about the process that has been adopted by Reinhart et al. They have taken a guerilla political tack, rather than negotiate/coerce in the usual corporate style and so this is inevitably the form that the political negotiation will take. In the open, ad hominem and bare knuckle.

      • See my post about Glaxenberg, Australian citzen owned of a swiss domiciled company and now that it has purchased Xstrata, is now the worlds largest commodity trader, for both minerals and agriculture as well as being one of the major foreign land owners in NSW. Swannie didn’t have a go at him, although arguably he is probably more responsible for money flowing to offshore low taxed domiciled entities

        • Swannie didn’t have a go at him, although arguably he is probably more responsible for money flowing to offshore low taxed domiciled entities

          And if Swannie’s tirade was actually about wealth you might have a point.

          But seeing as Swannie is talking about the capture of mainstream policy direction by vested interests, it may not seem worthy to mention him.

      • Perhaps one can empathise somewhat with the motivations of Rinehart et al – even if not agreeing with their modus operandi – when considering that they were locked out of discussion on the design of the MRRT, whilst their much larger multinational competitors were invited behind closed doors.

        It should not be forgotten that the entire mining industry vigorously fought the original RSPT – multinationals included.

        The “closed door” design of the MRRT, *exclusively* with/by the Big 3 multinationals, has resulted in a scheme that said Big 3 are now “happy with” (hmmm, wonder why?), and one that has been widely questioned by the local miners, numerous commentators, and industry “experts” as inherently favouring the multinationals (quelle surprise!) at the expense of the smaller locals, while potentially generating little if any revenue for the government for years, due to the plethora of exemptions, deductions, and allowances included in the final design:

        “It remains unclear how the government will raise $11.1bn in the first three years of the MRRT.

        Billionaire miner Andrew Forrest added to the confusion last week when he estimated that his iron ore company, Fortescue Metals Group, would largely avoid paying the tax for at least five years thanks to the substantial writeoffs available to all big producers.

        Many in the industry also doubt whether BHP, Rio and Xstrata will face big MRRT liabilities, particularly in the early years of the mining tax.

        This is because the design of the tax allows iron ore and coalminers with existing operations to price their assets using today’s inflated market values and claim potentially massive deductions…

        Glyn Lawcock, a top-rated mining analyst at UBS, said it was impossible to predict with accuracy how much MRRT companies would pay from next financial year because it was difficult to calculate a company’s market value, which was used to determine MRRT liability.

        When asked whether he believed the government could raise $11.1bn over three years, he said: “I scratch my head a little bit at that.””

        “The broader point here is that there is just not a whole lot in the sustaining rhetoric of the MRRT that stands a cold hard reality check. Yet the government continues to represent the tax as a great leap forward in the commonwealth’s chase for a fairer share of the resources boom.

        It isn’t.

        As colleague David Uren made clear in his insightful dismantling of a tax “so compromised by its bastard birth that it puts the commonwealth budget at risk and cannot be considered an economic reform”.

        Uren observed that a 20 per cent fall in commodities prices would wipe out the government’s MRRT revenue and leave it stumping up for the $4.5bn of recurrent spending commitments that were supposed to be funded from the fairer share.

        And folks I am here to tell you that this is exactly the scenario that the government is facing.”

        http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/opinion/treasurers-tax-idea-rendered-implausible/story-e6frg9lx-1226204098876

  8. Actually the fellow who I would like to know a bit more about is No2 Glaxenberg. He owns Glencore a Swiss domiciled company, that derives 33% of its revenue from Australia. He is certainly invisible.

    • General Disarray

      yeah, that would be a good MacroBusiness piece.

      I only heard of him this year.

  9. General Disarray

    These accusations of “class-warfare/politics of envy” are really starting to get on my nerves. It’s the mark of someone that has no argument and has to fall back on failed ideology.

    Just look at the statistics – if there is a class war going on it’s pretty clear who’s winning.

    Enough of this BS FFS.

    • Who?

      No matter what else, that is exactly what Swan is trying to reignite as subterfuge for an attack on one specific group.

      Swan must have been sitting next to Cameron for to long.

      • DelraiserMEMBER

        I didn’t see you jumping in for poor ole hard-done-by Gerry Harvey when Swannie layed the slipper into him? His attempt to influence policy was just as silly as your heros efforts, but all he got was ridicule. You are entitled to whatever view you like, but at least try to be consistent and transparent

        • A fair point. I guess being human (despite some claims to the contrary) and inconsistent, together with the fact that Gerry Harvey is of little interest to me, I confess I did not decry Swan’s action. (I think I also must have missed that particular tirade in The Monthly – or perhaps it a 30 second sound bite for telly? Gosh, really learning a lot about Swan antipathies in recent times…)

          I like to think that had I seen the piece in The Monthly eviscerating Gerry Harvey I would have reacted in similar fashion. I confess my heart is in resources. As I have said ‘consistently’ throughout this thread, vested interests abound!

          I will be on the alert in the future.

  10. The comments seem to be of two kinds: those that consider what is said, and those who are focused on who says it (pace Thomas Aquinas). I am more interested in what is said. The usual suspects will of course attack anything any Labor politician says, partly at least because the dominant social and economic culture in Australia these days has moved to the right.

    That said, I am not a Labor voter – but I agree that someone needed to open the discussion outside the bear pit of parliament, where real debate is virtually non-existent, and the media coverage of it is abysmally petty. Noise gets attention. Swan writing in a non-MSM journal that is read by some opinion leaders is not a bad way to stir the pot, in my opinion.

    It is said that Australia follows America in major trends. If we follow the trend over there, where around 40% of those who support the Republican policy of destroying government social welfare are themselves dependent on that welfare (duh!), we will see a vastly different Australia within ten years or so.

    It seems to me (I have been here about thirty years) that the fair go has been in decline for about half that time – I trace it to the nineties when the word ‘elite’ became a weapon in some of the media to attack and deride anyone who didn’t actively support that media’s favoured position. The fair go might now be said to be in free fall, and there are very few public platforms where true debate of any breadth can take place. MB is becoming one such, perhaps?

    I think I am not being partisan here. But I think this is brave of Swan, who knew well that derision and sneering would be a major response from many powerful quarters. To me it is sad that the business community itself doesn’t seem to have any articulate leader who could raise this topic in the same journal. While I ponder why not, let me remind you of a favourite quatrain by Hilaire Belloc from a hundred years ago:

    The accursed power that stands on privilege –
    (And goes with women and champagne and bridge)
    Broke – and democracy resumed its reign –
    (Which goes with bridge and women and champagne.)

    • I don’t think this is brave of Swan. Personal attacks always go hand in hand with weak policy (thinks of Swan on the banks independent rate hikes or Obama and Wall Street reforms). Why? Because a weak politician needs a scapegoat.

      It doesn’t open the discussion either. People in Labor seats are not suffering because certain miners are getting rich. On the contrary, the mining boom continues to support incomes. Those who are suffering are suffering because the government is using the wrong tools to manage aggregate demand.

    • 40% of Republicans support destroying social welfare of which they are dependent… say this is true (appears just to be a throw away line without much to back it up)… dont you see that as an indication of how dire the situation the welfare state has become, even the recipients who are meant to be ‘bought off’ are also reacting to this tomfoolery that is the modern day liberal state where scarcity does not exist and consequences often scapegoated and avoided..

      a brave new world indeed, with a heaped teaspoon of the useful idiots to go along

    • Some good points here, but to be honest H&H nailed it with the last paragraph:

      “If the vested interest that Swan identifies, and frankly they’re much more widespread than his narrow targets, are to be stopped then at least part of the answer lies in better policy process.”

      Your comment “It is said that Australia follows America in major trends” … I left Australia in 1996, and returned in 2010, and I was dismayed at how Australia has become the US (only a much more expensive version). Bob Carr is pushing for US style politics here as well. We lease the US drones in foreign wars, and we’re likely to have US nuclear subs and more.

  11. Swan is just a sniper on the hill. Political bullets flying every where. He’s setting some up for cheap target practice. Start with private billionaires. Then malign the Coalition with the ridiculous use of the term “The Tea Party”. He should be careful he doesn’t blow his foot off. Of course there are no vested interests on his Labor Green side of politics? In any case he should go back & develop decent policies & try & articulate what they are. He needs to get a wriggle on, time for him is running out! Maybe then he could deal with the vested interests a little better. Swan has only done this as a distraction from all their own crap of the last week. He has no longer got Rudd to vent his spleen at so he has to keep on at someone, thats what he does best.

  12. McPaddyMEMBER

    Is it not the duty of the media to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”? I think that gets forgotten in all this talk about “balanced” coverage. The whole point of a free media is to level the playing field so that the “faceless men” and the billionaires don’t completely capture society. Without a media that uncovers the activities of the powerful and presents an alternative to spin and – let’s call it for what it is – trickery, how does the majority (ie. the sheep) stand a chance against the powerful (the wolves). This isn’t a critique of the powerful. They don’t become powerful by shirking a fight or playing hardball. It’s basically the defining quality of a powerful person (in addition to work ethic and intelligence). Good for them. But please, let’s not pretend that there’s no need for society to put some kind of bridle on the horse. A media controlled by Murdoch and Reinhart would be devastating for Australian democracy. I’m not saying it’s perfect as it is, of course.

    • let media be owned by whoever they want, people will vote whether they like it or not with their subscriptions and dollars…

      the whole internet is out there now, its in macrobusiness’ interest for the media to become heavily biased one way or the other..

      • McPaddyMEMBER

        I agree with that in theory TS, and if diversified internet news/comment ever starts to hold anything like the sway of the SMAGE, Daily Terror and Today Tonight, we will not have a problem. But the reality is that there are huge parts of the population (in any country) who do not question established authority in any real sense. They are empty vessels, passively sitting there in front of their plasma TVs waiting to have ideas put into their heads and generally living quietly on bread and circuses. This is a hugely powerful cohort that is usually passive but can be exploited and played to huge effect by unscrupulous demagogues – witness the mining tax debacle. MacroBusiness and its ilk can never reach these people. It requires too much thought. (Oops, I guess I’m an elitist.) That’s why we need voices of “authority” that are not captives of the power elite – political or business.

        • Based on your analysis these ‘voices of authority’ [authority as judged by?] are unlikely to influence these unfortunate ’empty vessels’…

          • You just need to look at the way the GOP (and their backers) have captured the blue collar vote in the US by cynically tacking on social conservatism to economic liberalism to see what I’m talking about. (Howard and Abbott have been studying the playbook.) When I say authority I mean those whose position gives them some form of legitimacy over and above the average Joe. This can be, for example: a TV newsreader, a celebrity, a very rich person, an elected representative. I’m not saying it makes sense, but you must admit that such people are by default accorded more airtime and respect than your average citizen.

  13. Am i the only one seeing the irony in Wayne Swann writing an essay on the dangers of vested interests in society…

    what is the current political landscape on both sides (though mainly Labor) than special interests…

    we do have a class society in Australia, those with political sway (‘the elite’) working for their share of the taxpayer pie, and those of us paying for the largesse..

    I am not happy with the rent seeking that the nation has become but to on one hand attacking the mining industry for theirs and not touching the union groups, govt ‘research’ orgs, and all other forms of subisdised pseudo capitalism is highly hypocritical and fundamentally flawed.

  14. Alex Heyworth

    Swan writes “What characterises the vested interests that I’m concerned about is how they misrepresent their self-interest as the national interest. ” What he fails to mention is that the vested interests he’s not concerned about (like the unions) play exactly the same game.

    My reaction to this essay is that it is largely a smokescreen to distract our attention away from the government’s failings. What is the government doing to address these concerns of Swan’s? Approximately 2/5 of 5/8 of FA, as far as I can see. He’s the guy with the power – control of both Houses of Parliament. He should be sorting the problems, not bleating about them in The Monthly.

    • Exactly. This is the only guy, arguably in the country who can actually control the overall effect of the mining boom. Yet everything is the fault of a few high profile miners.

      The fact that he regards these miners as the greatest threat to the future economy, instead of say the overvalued currency (which he doesn’t mention once) speaks volumes.

  15. JacksonMEMBER

    “Australia’s flair for …. free trade” Exactly how do you have a flair for free trade?

    What a strange article, particularly given the parachuting of Carr into the Foreign Minister’s job. Unbelievable, I bet every New South Welshman is stoked at the legacy he left, and can’t wait to see what he can do for the whole country.

    That said, I bet the Salvation Army would be pretty happy to get just 1% of the royalties going to Rinehart this year. The social problems on the ground here in WA are escalating alarmingly.

  16. Ok, for anyone who think 3d1k is not a robot, I give you Exhibit A above.

    Seriously, who has time to do this much posting?!

      • It is a long running bug in Mining Bot’s algorithm. Please be patient, Gina is flying in the Siri designer from Apple to fix it.

  17. “If the vested interest that Swan identifies, and frankly they’re much more widespread than his narrow targets, are to be stopped then at least part of the answer lies in better policy process.”

    +1

    Something this government seems incapable of doing. They could have kicked so many winners, but constantly get it wrong. I’ll be shocked if they can reverse their fate. Now Bob Carr parachuted into the FM and that is sure to make it harder as I understand it.

    • atleast Bob Brown will have a like-minded politician to come with him to after work parties now..

    • Booboo Bingbang

      Agreed, I am on of the many NSWers referred to earlier – I am simply horrified that Carr is given any accountability in this country again. sigh

  18. Booboo Bingbang

    ggrrrrr don’t post for weeks and then I fuck it up –
    – “one of” not “on of” – edit needed

  19. Looking at the destruction of the middle class in the US and the potentially dangerous effects of the recent liquidity tsunami, I respect him for saying this
    “Australia’s future in the Asian Century will rely on retaining a strong, united, middle-class society. We will need a nation which calls on everyone’s skills; which is tolerant not resentful; which recognises the need for public investment in skills, infrastructure and education; and which continues to extend a social licence to the market so Australia’s flair for entrepreneurship, innovation and free trade can continue to create more wealth for all of us.”
    Expect the 1% to be critisized across the civilised world in the coming years.

    • I’d give this statement some weight if he’d actually put some money into skills, infrastructure and education.

  20. “JULIA Gillard was “given the nod” by the big three mining companies – Xstrata, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton—to challenge Kevin Rudd’s prime ministership, knowing the advertising campaign against the mining tax “would be pulled”… The revelations come from an article written by Mr Rudd’s friend and actor Rhys Muldoon, published in the latest issue of The Monthly magazine.”

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/miners-okayed-move-on-rudd/story-fnb56a2t-1226286668919

    Per my previous comments in this thread, it would seem there are serious questions to be asked concerning who are the real “vested interests” that represent a “threat to democracy”, and that Wayne conveniently neglects to mention in his essay, instead preferring to single out and attack 3 locals-made-good who (one could argue) may be rightly provoked to activism given the reality that Swan and Gillard sidelined them in favour of doing a deal behind closed doors with their multinational competitors.

    Indeed, if the above report is true, it would appear the Big 3 – along with Wayne and Julia – are directly implicated in possibly the most dramatic political coup in Australia’s history.

  21. To offer up a slightly different spin on this… pardon the pun. Has anyone considered just maybe poor old Swan is on the road to redemption?

    It would be hard to say he hasn’t learnt a thing or two over the past few years with Labor being dragged through the mud. Remember most pollies enter parliament with a good heart but soon realise it’s a lot more difficult to stay true to their values.

    At the start they had large visions for a great Australia, but failed dismally on implementing any such reforms. Large in part due to the vested interest groups and scathing attacks by the media.

    So just maybe old Swannie is starting to grow a spine?

    I am the eternal optimist after all…. 🙂

    • Only problem with this theory, Byron, is that Labor effectively has control of both Houses of Parliament. There is nothing stopping them from legislating anything to take on the vested interests Swan is talking about. I’m sure they could get the Greens and sufficient Independents to agree.

    • Its just not good enough, Byron, for a national Treasurer to be flailing about on this issue in the Monthly.
      That is not effective and a waste of this newly found spine you have mooted.
      And again the approach is unbalanced and divisive. DUMB DUMB DUMB.
      This politics of envy is so easy to counter, as we all hold our hands on our hearts, to remember the demise of one Prime Minister, why revisit it in this fashion? God, all of us here know how parliament works, start building the vision there.