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6 November 1998. Thought for the Week: "Political language - and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservative to Anarchist - is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."
George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language" 1946

GLOBAL PANTOMIME

by Jeremy Lee
If it were not so serious, current gymnastics in the various global financial institutions and forums would make an excellent end-of-year pantomime. We now have not only a G-7 and a G-10, but a G-22 and a G-26. The Australian Financial Review (October 27th) said: "Australia is fighting to maintain a seat at international negotiations on the creation of a new global financial system. Australia has been caught in the middle of a squabble between the US and the European Union over which international body controls the agenda for the talks…"

Australia, apparently, is pushing for the G-22 to be the operative body, in which it has some say. But the US advocates the G-7, while the European Union prefers the IMF. The Treasury Department's key international adviser, Mr. Neil Hyden, was quoted in the article:
"…We are still talking a bit about the shape of the (negotiating) table, although there is broad agreement about the direction"…

He said it was likely a new agreement would eventually be reached between the IMF and the World Bank over the responsibility for the global financial system. The World Bank is responsible for monitoring the financial framework of developing countries, but it does not extend to industrialised economies. As a result of the global financial crisis, the IMF is keen to take a more direct role in such issues... So the IMF has got to improve its image. A recent Wall Street Journal article (AFR, 26/10) said the IMFs image is now so bad it is hiring a PR firm to improve its looks!

From the US Congress to the starving in Korea and Indonesia the IMF is not loved. A spokesman, Mr. Graham Newman, said: "In some corners of the press we're not exactly winning a lot of plaudits" - which would have to be the understatement of the year!

The truth is the whole globalism, free-trade policy is coming unstuck. Political leaders and economists who staked their reputations on its correctness are having to change direction without appearing to do so. This was well captured by Geoffrey Barker (AFR, 29/10):
"…It is equally the case (as Mr. Howard somewhat reluctantly acknowledged) that 'we confront an unprecedented degree of instability in international financial markets'.

Economic globalisation has combined with social and political factors to produce a crisis that does not seem capable of solution within the framework of the market economic orthodoxy so close to Mr. Howard's heart. Not that this intellectual crisis has shaken leading defenders of the orthodoxy. Despite the failure of most economists to predict the financial crisis or its spread and duration (a failure that destroys their claims to 'scientific' insight) they now freely offer policy prescriptions cast within and designed to protect their demonstrably inadequate theory.

Their essential advice, echoed by Mr. Howard, is to stick with free trade, clean up corruption... advance more micro-economic reforms and strengthen international institutions, and the theory will eventually deliver the goods. The theory, in the words of the distinguished American economist Lester Thurow, has become 'an ideology rather than a set of working hypotheses used to understand the behaviour of the economy found in the real world"'….


MR. STANDFAST

The tragedy of all this was revealed in the speech by Prime Minister Howard to the 10th International Conference of Banking Supervisors on October 22nd in Sydney
"…Recent financial instability and the growth of hedge funds and short-term money flows have revived fears of globalisation. APEC must stand against that view. Open markets provide the opportunity for economic growth and the enormous benefits from it. The worst possible response to the crisis would be to put up the shutters...."

One week after these remarks came yet another trade deficit of over $1 billion, adding further to the foreign debt. Any attempt to check this never-ending and sorry state of affairs would be "an interference with free market economies" - needed to bring "enormous benefits" to the Australian people. Howard did concede, however, that there was a need to "include standfast arrangements to prevent lenders from exiting economies in a destructive stampede, collective action clauses, orderly work-outs involving roll-overs, reschedulings and equity swaps"….which is a convoluted way of saying the actions taken by Mr. Mahathir in Malaysia were right!


PRESSURE FOR PROTECTION

Howard's free-trade ideology notwithstanding, more and more pressure grows for protection. Joanne Gray, writing from Washington (AFR, 27/10) reported: "Facing a record trade deficit, the United States Government is pushing even harder for foreign markets to open to US exports. But the free trade message is being complicated by fresh demands for protection as waves of cheap imports from crisis-hit economies in Asia, Latin America and Russia flood US markets. The US steel, semi-conductor, and lamb-producing industries all sought protection from dumped goods in the past month - In August, the US trade deficit hit a record $US16.5 billion, and some economists predict it may surge to $US250 billion this year…." That's just on $US l,000 for every living US citizen!

BELATED AWAKENING ON DEFENCE

Defence expert Paul Dibb (AFR, 30/10) made a point which former Kalgoorlie Member Graeme Campbell pioneered over two years ago:
"…The Prime Minister is right to set up a taskforce to deal with the Asian financial crisis. But its proposals to help the Asian economies out of their financial crises may be pointless if the task force overlooks the security dilemma…"

Paul Dibb described one possible view of the region "…would envisage a breakdown of order, stemming from the spread of serious economic problems to Japan and China, a global financial system that is incapable of assisting the region and - in the worst case - a downward spiral of protectionism, competitive devaluations, and such serious economic problems that political and social disintegration will occur in countries such as Indonesia. Such an outcome would have profound implications for our national security…"


THROWING TAX MONEY AROUND

"The Auditor-General, Mr. Pat Barrett, has called for a Parliamentary inquiry into party political advertising after his investigation into the Howard Government's decision to spend more than $14.9 million of taxpayer funds on promoting its tax reform package...." (AFR, 30/10).

It is almost predictable that such an inquiry, staffed by party politicians, would reflect party views. There wouldn't be a Coalition Member who would condemn the expenditure, and there wouldn't be a Labor Member who would support it! So why not let the people who have to pay - the long-suffering public - have a say? Or is that a little too close to democracy?

Meanwhile, the post-election handouts to all candidates who received more than 4% of the primary vote - again, paid by the taxpayer - have been finalised. The handouts were: ALP - $12,822,773.00; Liberals - $10,569,941.00; Nationals - $2,124,605.00, CLP - $111,070.00; Democrats - $2,003,250.00; Australian Greens - $140,470.00; The Greens (WA) - $163,490.00; One Nation - $2,860,405.00, Australia First - $24,016.00; Unity - $46,257.00, Other - $236,938.00, totaling over $31 million. Would the Australian people approve such an expenditure if they were asked?


PITY THE BANKS

Many were shocked to learn that, during 1997/98, the four major trading banks - NAB, ANZ, Commonwealth and Westpac - made over a quarter of all corporate profits in Australia between them. A feature article in The Weekend Australian Financial Review (1/11) made these points:
"Over the next few weeks the chiefs of three of Australia's big four banks will announce the highest profit numbers ever recorded by 'the gang of four'. In aggregate... the big four are expected to have earned a total of $6.1 billion in profits after tax. That staggering figure is confirmation, if any were needed, that the 1990s has been the golden era for big banks in Australia. Over a decade... the four have expanded profits by almost 440 percent. In round numbers, the big-bank profits have grown three-and-a-half times faster than the economy as a whole...

Bank lending over residential mortgages exploded from $63 billion to $189 billion over the 1990s... Over the 1990s the banks have cranked up account fees dramatically. In 1997 the big four earned $3.2 billion more from fees than they did at the start of the decade. . . The one area where banks can boost fee revenues relatively painlessly is in the market for EFTPOS transactions. Each EFTPOS transaction generates a fee (paid by the merchant)' of roughly 20 cents, which is split between the bank that provides the merchant with the EFTPOS terminal and the bank which provides the consumer with the card...

The one fact of life that Australian bankers can take for granted over the next two or three years is that the relentless rounds of staff reductions and branch closures that began in the early 1990s will continue until well after the decade is finished. So far this decade the big four have laid off more than 20,000 employees and closed nearly 1,000 branches. That's exactly the same effect as if one of the big four had shut up shop altogether...."

Almost as an afterthought, The Australian (30/11) had this to say: "The bank boss who was forced to apologise after declaring Australians should be thankful for their banking system yesterday remained defiant in his support for branch closures. Commonwealth Bank chief executive David Murray maintained yesterday closures were needed to keep the bank in a competitive position.... Mr. Murray said he was surprised about the backlash over recent branch closures in Sydney… The Local Government Association of New South Wales and several Councils have threatened to create alternative financial services if the banks continue their branch reductions…"

Every bank branch closure forces customers to use electronic cards for their previously cash expenditure. On every transaction the banks charge a fee, which didn't exist when cash was used. Why wouldn't you close branches if YOU were one of the "gang of four"?


DESTRUCTION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN VICTORIA

by Phillip D. Butler
The suspension of the Shire of Nillumbik elected Councillors by Victorian Local Government Minister Rob Maclellan came as no surprise to those of us who live in the municipality. Just that it was delayed - could have impacted on at least two Liberal Federal seats - until the time it has. Like in many of the newly created municipalities through forced amalgamation - 210 to 78 - there were some real problems in Nillumbik. Nillumbik, for the most part, is the amalgamation of a very well run municipality of the Shire of Diamond Valley and the Shire of Eltham, which was in a shambles.

Prior to the sacking of all Councils in Victoria, those of us fortunate to live in Diamond Valley had had no rate increases for nearly three years; all capital works and services were being paid out of existing income and, even better, the debt load was due to be totally retired in two years. Not the same case over in Eltham.

Diamond Valley also had three elected Councillors per riding, as did Eltham, with each one elected for a three-year term - one up for election every year so there would be continuity. Then, with the great drive for rationalisation (centralisation), both shires were amalgamated - we ended up with only five Councillors for the whole municipality. Three of them had been involved in Eltham - including Robert Marshall, a long-time Labor/Green supporter and admitted centralist. This all in the name of ''efficiency''. This all without any referendum.

In 1978 Premier Kennett, then Opposition Leader, had used his numbers in the Upper House to block Labor from doing exactly what he has now done. At that time he stated that so long as he was leader of the Liberal Party there would be no amalgamation of any municipality without a majority in each municipality voting in a referendum agreeing to be amalgamated. Sounds like John Howard on the GST that he would "never, never" impose such a tax!

Local government is the closest structure to the people where ratepayers, through their elected representatives, can get the desired results. Most men and women who serve on local councils did so as a service to their community. There were no perks or lurks, no salary - President of Nillumbik was on $50,000 per year, fully funded automobile, mobile phone and expenses. Councillors $12,000 plus mobile phone and expenses.

However, Premier Kennett in his ruthless drive for his so-called "efficiency" at the municipal level is fast destroying community-based government as can be seen right around Victoria. There is no effective opposition as the Coalition controls both houses, and certainly Labor are only complaining about methods, not the end result of further centralisation.

In 1978 Mr. Kennett was a great believer in referendum - he again is for Nillumbik! At a meeting in Diamond Creek he offered the ratepayers (Diamond Valley News, 28/10/98) "A referendum on to either keep the commissioners, re-elect the Council or carve up the Shire among its neighbours". How cynical! The words of a man who would prefer to either have a council, which was answerable to the State Government - and big business, or even better get rid of a troublesome council and further centralise power. This is Mr. Kennett's selective democracy in action!

I would suggest the Liberals, and in particular the Nationals who have sold out the smaller rural communities, will at the next State elections feel the full impact from disgruntled Victorian electors.


THE BALANCE IN THE SENATE

The announcement that the Prime Minister is now prepared to "accept" Senator Colston's vote in favour of Coalition legislation, like the GST, improves Mr. Howard's chances of forcing the GST through the Senate. If Mr. Howard really believes he has a "mandate" for the GST (and other issues, like the full sale of Telstra), why not consult the electorate directly, through referendum? A referendum on the republic is proposed, and there is no reason why a number of other critical questions could not be asked at that time. Mr. Howard's backbenchers should be asked why genuine freedom of choice is not offered to voters - one issue at a time?

WHAT HAVE THE NATIONALS LEARNED?

The Queensland State Conference of the National Party, just held in Toowoomba, did not fill us with the conviction they had learned much. The Weekend Australian (31/10-1/11) reported:
"…Deputy Prime Minister and National Party leader Tim Fischer also told the Party's State Conference in Toowoomba yesterday that One Nation's claim to legitimacy on the basis of one million Federal election votes was insupportable... 'We won the election. In the lower house the score is National Party 16 seats, One Nation zero, and I'm very proud'…"

Even more depressing were the statements attributed to Minister for the bush John Anderson, during a tour of outback Queensland (Weekend Australian, same issue): "'…There are times when my approach has not made me the most popular man in town, but I believe it is a false kindness to promise people they have got a future when maybe they haven't,' Mr. Anderson told The Weekend Australian."

Does Mr. Anderson mean the 70 percent of primary producers regarded as technically bankrupt, and the 40 percent who survive by off-farm incomes will have to leave the land? Has any attempt been made by the Nationals to assess the result on what remains of rural infrastructure if they do? Does the National Party consider it impossible to come up with a policy to re-populate rural Australia? If so, what is the reason for the Party's existence? It will take more than a leader whose comprehension cannot get past the mantra that increased exports solve all problems to give the Nationals a long-term future.


THE 'EXPORT OR PERISH' MYTH

US economist Lester Thurow, addressing a conference in Sydney on October 26th, made a telling point: "No Asian country was going to recover from the crisis by exporting, he warned: every country wanting to export its way out of the recession would need net exports of more than $US300 billion ($485 billion) and there was no-one to take in all those exports. The US would run a trade deficit of around $US400 billion at the end of 1999…"(AFR, 27/10/98).

ONE NATION AND THE LEAGUE

by David Thompson
It appears that Pauline Hanson's One Nation is presently undergoing organisational changes, which may involve a new Party Constitution, and a change in organisational structure. In the past, the League has been critical of One Nation's structure, which could be described as a dictatorship of a triumvirate. The party structure is very unusual, and many who believed that they were members of the party in the traditional way have found that they can have no hand in the decision-making process. This has led to unfortunate perceptions about Pauline Hanson and her group.

Those perceptions have not been helped by the party's arrangements with its candidates. For example, following the Queensland State election, a number of candidates were dismayed to discover that the Electoral Commission funding would not be distributed among the candidates as anticipated, but controlled by the party hierarchy. This led to a court case, and our understanding is that the funds have been frozen until the situation is properly investigated.

In the recent Federal election, it is understood that One Nation required Senate candidates to contribute $10,000 to their campaigns before being nominated. We know that such organisational rigidity has led to strong criticism from the grassroots of One Nation, even among those who supported Pauline Hanson fully, but found the party bureaucracy impossible to penetrate. In South Australia, the friction resulted in divisions among supporters, and changes in the State executive, which alienated some loyal supporters. In NSW, another group around Newcastle rebelled against the administration, and although fully supporting Ms. Hanson, abandoned her party machinery.

It is undoubtedly due to the above difficulties that a number of the party's leading NSW candidates have set out to draft a new constitution for One Nation. This has received considerable press attention, with one of One Nation's NSW Senate candidates, Mr. Bevan O'Regan being named as one of those drafting the new constitution. The allegation has also been raised that, since Mr. O'Regan has been associated with the League in the past, the League is therefore involved in drafting a new One Nation constitution.

The suggestion that the League is involved in any way with the One Nation constitution is not true. If we had been invited to advise on such matters by One Nation, we would have offered whatever advice we could contribute, but no such request has been made. We have no intention whatever of offering unsolicited advice, and have not been involved with Mr. O'Regan's activities with One Nation. In short, it's none of our business.

In the past, the League has associated with Mr. O'Regan in his work on Local Government. This work has been outstanding, and we have recommended his newsletter, "From the Parish Pump", to those with an interest in this field. We have also distributed his videos on the amalgamation of local councils, because of their excellent content on a vital issue.

Mr. O'Regan, a Councillor for the Narrabri Shire, has become an authority on local government in Australia, and a strong campaigner. In keeping with the role of the League, we have sought to assist in promoting the best campaign material available in this field. We would have no hesitation in continuing to associate with Mr. O'Regan on this basis.

The League's position on One Nation remains unchanged. We have the greatest admiration for Pauline Hanson, and what she stands for, even if we have sometimes expressed reservations concerning her strategy and tactics. Here is a woman of courage and commitment, a genuine nationalist, who has given leadership in challenging disastrous policies that erode Australian sovereignty. We did not support the formation of One Nation, but identify with most of One Nation's policies. We do not wish to become involved with party politics, but observe that the administration of One Nation has often detracted from what Ms. Hanson set out to achieve. We have already expressed reservations about some of those who have become involved in the administration of the party.

A common question asked of the League, is what do we think of the future of One Nation since the Federal elections? In our view, the defeat of Ms. Hanson in Blair was not unexpected, but a great blow to the morale of those who had faith in her and One Nation. The election of a Queensland One Nation Senator confirmed our view that if Ms. Hanson had decided to contest a Senate seat, she would have easily been elected, and would still be an effective voice in the Parliament.

It appears that One Nation will continue to contest elections, and has every chance of success in the coming NSW State elections. The One Nation presence in the Queensland Parliament ensures that resources are available to the party to campaign strongly on issues. We doubt that these resources will be used effectively, and can see few signs that One Nation intends, for example, to press hard for the introduction of initiative and referendum (CIR) in Queensland. Unless such opportunities are taken and pursued hard, One Nation will disappear from the Queensland Parliament.

The effectiveness of One Nation depends upon their strategy. If the objective is to force changes in policy, and the election of Members of Parliament is the sole strategy for achieving it, One Nation will fail, because it remains simply another political party, in competition with other groups for votes and party funding. However, if other strategies can be developed to achieve that objective, involving the membership, morale can be sustained, innovative ideas can be generated, and it becomes possible to associate with other groups to campaign on issues. This is the key to success.


GRAEME CAMPBELL AND AUSTRALIA FIRST

The defeat of Graeme Campbell in the seat of Kalgoorlie is potentially an even greater reverse for Australian nationalists. It is clear that Campbell is feared by the internationalists even more than is Pauline Hanson. Everything possible was done to deprive Campbell and Australia First of press coverage - the essential "political oxygen" for parliamentary campaigning. We now know that this was a conscious strategy by those in decision-making positions in the media. The good news concerning Mr. Campbell is that he will continue to campaign on issues, and possibly seek re-election to Parliament in some capacity. He issued a letter of thanks to his supporters, setting out his views. As a service to readers, we reproduce Campbell's letter, slightly edited, noting that the League may not necessarily agree with all his comments.

"The Seat of Kalgoorlie and the resources provided to the member was a very good base for the promotion of the policies that Australia First stands for. Losing the election is a great inconvenience.
"I increased my primary vote quite substantially in the Goldfields and Esperance, but I lost badly in the Pilbara. The Pilbara constitutes about 30% of the people, but provides over half of our office workload. With the exception of ABC Regional it was always difficult to get publicity in this area and I was foolishly hoping that word of mouth and past record would carry the day. It did not and for this I take full responsibility.
"I think that there was a greater degree of polarisation in this area between the pro and anti GST viewpoints and a consequent feeling that Independents were not germane to the argument. One Nation was an unnecessary distraction and gaining over 8% of the vote it certainly cost me vital primary votes. Why they chose to run a candidate against me in an election that was very heavily contested, with eight other candidates, is hard to fathom, especially as I made sure that we did not run a candidate against Pauline in Blair.
"The danger for Australia is that the Parliament is now totally dominated by the internationalist point of view. I can see no nationalist sentiment that will not be constrained by party machine politics. At a time of our greatest national need the voice of the nationalists is absent. This is a matter for great concern.
"I told Pauline Hanson very early that in my view Oldfield and Ettridge would destroy her - the latest results vindicate this view. Whether nationalist, patriotic, politics can survive this setback remains to be seen. For the sake of future generations we have a responsibility to try. I have had approaches with some minor parties seeking to join us and amalgamate in the nationalist cause and this makes a lot of sense. I believe that because of the structure of Australia First, which makes us very much a coalition of independents, we are the best vehicle for such a joining of forces. That is up to the membership to consider.
"I do not think the new Parliament is very stable and I would not be surprised to see another Federal election next year - probably a double dissolution. For my part I need a break and after tidying up a few loose ends in the electorate I intend to take a holiday and recharge the batteries. I would expect to be back in action at the end of January. Whether we continue a party organisation will depend on the level of support and enthusiasm that is forthcoming.
"Along with Michele and all my very good staff I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the best for Christmas and the coming year. I would also like to thank our entire executive for the effort and sacrifices that they have made, not only during the various elections that we have contested but since the inception of Australia First. GRAEME CAMPBELL, National President"

© Published by the Australian League of Rights, P.O. Box 27 Happy Valley, SA 5159