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13 November 1998. Thought for the Week: "We promise to remember always that money is not wealth, but an instrument for the exchange of goods and services, and that the proper use of this instrument is a matter of common concern, a function of government, no longer to be left under the control of private individuals or groups of private individuals. We promise to create an Australia in which, so long as inequalities of wealth exist, the rich shall regard their riches as held in trust for the common good, and the poor shall not lack the means of a decent and dignified and self-respecting life, and shall not live in the shadow of economic fear.
Professor Sir Walter Murdoch, STEADFAST, February, 1941
POVERTY IN AUSTRALIA
by Jeremy Lee
Last Christmas, representatives of the Red Cross, Hanover Welfare Services and the Council to Homeless Person reported a big increase in homelessness. Figures showed a 400 percent increase in homeless families looking for accommodation in a six-month period. In June 1998, the Queensland division of ACOSS reported a 100 percent increase in demands from their agencies, leaving them unable to meet the need.
Shortly before this report, Melbourne University Press published its report "Australian Poverty - Then and Now". It said: "On an income measure, the proportion of units in broadly-defined poverty increased by one-third to a total of 30.4 percent in 1996, compared with 20.6 percent in 1973 " The latest report confirms a worsening situation.
Under the heading WELFARE GROUPS SWAMPED,
The Australian, 5/11/98, reported: "Rising numbers
of low income earners are being turned away from welfare organisations
as the community sector struggles to cope with increased levels
of poverty. The disturbing findings form part of Australians
Living On The Edge, a national survey of more than 500
frontline community agencies conducted by the Australian Council
of Social Service and audited by A.C. Nielsen. It shows the
community sector to be under enormous strain, with 65 percent
of agencies reporting increased demand in the past six months.
The growing divide between rich and destitute
is tacitly acknowledged to be one of the outcomes of globalism.
For instance, in a paper given under the auspices of the Australia
Unlimited Roundtable (a project devised by The Australian
newspaper and the Global Foundation), former Federal Department
head Michael Costello said:
Globalism is a project to reshape the world into the exclusive control of a small number of multinational conglomerates and the banks, which finance them. It is not, and never has been, a project aimed at alleviating global poverty and hardship for the majority of people. The most pitiable of people are those who claim - or actually believe - that ordinary people will be better off when the final global outcome is achieved.
At least people such as Michael Costello "tell it like it is". But those like Prime Minister Howard and his party henchmen, who claim that "globalism will make people better off'; that "down-sizing creates more jobs"; that "foreign-ownership and capital will increase the equity of ordinary Australians"; and that "international decision-making does not reduce national sovereignty" must also believe you can get figs from thistles. It is a form of self-deception against which no evidence can prevail.
The Courier Mail, Qld., 4/11/98, reported: "The international boss of Ford has predicted a massive reduction in the motor vehicle industry as part of a global dogfight. Sir Alex Trotman forecast the number of vehicle makers would plunge from about 40 to just six ... The Detroit-based Ford chairman believes two of the six remaining firms will be based in America, two in continental Europe and two in Japan plants throughout the world had 40 percent more production capacity than they needed. They could build at least 19 million more vehicles a year than actually required He did not say who he thought the six survivors would be. But the most likely are Ford and General Motors - which owns Vauxhall in the United States, Volkswagen and Daimler-Chrysler in Europe and Toyota and Honda in Japan "
How many jobs, one wonders, will be lost through reducing the number of car-manufacturers from 40 to six? And what happens to those down sized in this and similar operations in a world, which says you starve if you have no job. Perhaps John Howard and the other leaders who meet round the world can "globalise" the work-for-the-dole scheme!
BREATH OF FRESH AIR!
Compulsory preferential voting ensured a reduction in the number of Independents in the House of Representatives in the recent election. Peter Andren, Independent Member for Calare - now the only Independent in the House of Representatives - offered some refreshingly different views in an article in The Australian (5/11/98): "Australians are tired of party politics and of broken 'core' and 'non-core' promises. They are sick of the rorts and the rhetoric. They are fed up with being left out of the democratic process, of not having a choice. While the parties and the media have largely concentrated on the closeness of the October 3rd Federal election, they have missed the point. The major parties received record low votes and the final 'two-party' result does not reflect the will of a million voters As in 1996, I ran a simple campaign based on back-to-basics, grassroots representation. I promised to work hard, to speak up, and to serve the electorate, not a party The party machines have forgotten that politics is not just about choosing a government. Politics is also about representation and elections are essentially about choosing local members "
Peter Andren explained how he was able to judge each issue in Parliament on its merits, voting accordingly. He did not vote on anything he had not researched in detail. He consulted widely with his electorate. He would not be like ".... party members filing into the House when the division bells ring and asking the nearest Independent what the hell the vote is all about " This, and much more commonsense, was contained in Peter Andren's article. Compared to the usual party hacks, he sounds like a breath of fresh air!
BANK THREATENS TO LEAVE AUSTRALIA
The National Australia Bank, with a net profit of some $2.5 billion this year, is Australia's biggest company. It is closely followed by Westpac, ANZ and Commonwealth Banks. However, only about half the Bank's profits were made in Australia. The National-Australia Bank is not a national Australian bank at all - it is an international bank in the full sense of the word. It owns four regional banks in Britain and Ireland, plus an extensive US operation.
Australian rules of the moment won't allow any mergers between "the gang of four", in what is generally called the "Four Pillars" policy. But that's not good enough for the National Australia Bank, which would like to take over the ANZ. Managing Director Don Argus - who will head the ailing BHP next year - has impatiently demanded the rules are changed to allow mergers between the four. If not, he says, NAB may be forced to relocate its headquarters offshore.
The Australian (6/11/98) reported: " Argus also points out that NAB is Australia's biggest single taxpayer, passing $1.2 billion to the Treasury last year. If it has to relocate to either the UK or the US, then Treasury will lose around $300 million of that revenue. There would also be balance of payments implications, if NAB began repatriating dividends to its new domicile. New Zealand is an extreme example of this phenomenon. It does not have one domestically owned bank. Its most profitable sector adds around $1 billion in capital outflows to its current account deficit While Howard and Costello believe there are no votes in removing four pillars, they had better believe there will be plenty of angry voters around once the consequences of a shift offshore of some of our remaining global companies hit home "
If ever there was a case of political blackmail by a multinational, here it is. Have we really reached the stage where we measure our survival in terms of the sweeteners and inducements we are prepared to offer to keep multinational corporations on Australian soil? Can it really be said that the statesmanship of yesteryear, which was determined to keep Australia for Australians, and devised constitutional and financial policies for this purpose, no longer exists?
An Australian leader really worth his salt would bluntly tell National Australia Bank to go wherever it wants. A "peoples' bank" will be resurrected to compete with the global transnationals, providing cheaper and better services for Australians, and winning back the share of bank services which the globalists are threatening to take with them.
Ms. Charlene Barshevsky, US Trade Representative, threatened Japan on the eve of the APEC talks in Malaysia. The Courier Mail (QLD, 4/11/98) said: " Japan needed to stimulate domestic demand, clean up its banking crisis, open its markets to imports and deregulate its economy in order to recover from recession, she said Japanese officials say the fishing and forestry sectors of their own economy are facing hardships that rule out any tariff cuts that would increase Japan's imports of such goods "
This is unheard-of stuff. Fancy Japan refusing to cut tariffs in the interests of its own producers! One can hardly imagine Australian leaders suggesting we should cut, for instance, imports of Canadian and Danish pork products in the interests of Australian pork producers.
Almost on cue and two days later, Australia
issued its own warning to Japan, in identical terms.
Poor Japan! Whenever Australia threatens anyone on world trade, it pulls out its most savage Samurai warriors! It used to be Dr. Neil Bluett, who once threatened Europe, no doubt causing fear and trepidation. Now it's Alexander Downer. Personally, we believe Japan has every right - and a lot of commonsense - to put its own producers first. If only Australia would do the same.
COLLAPSE OF THE MAI
News last week of the complete collapse of negotiations for the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) is a significant concession that national sovereignty still matters. The treaty would have removed most controls on foreign investment, giving "open slather" to multinational corporations to dominate entire nations. The powerful objection to the MAI in Australia even had an effect on Mr. Tim Fischer, Deputy Prime Minister. "The concerns (about the MAI) relate to the ability of the Australian Government of the day to ensure it had the capability of executing a proper level of control." Exactly. Thousands of Australians said so, in very clear terms.
The defeat of the MAI in its present form shows what can be done when many groups are united on an issue. If the submissions on the MAI are examined, it quickly becomes clear that people and groups of the political "left" are just as prominent as those from the so-called "right". The reasons for rejecting the MAI are the same: it's our country and we want control over what happens here, not some multinational corporation. This exercise is an example of non-party political action achieving something constructive.
It is a reminder of other landmark campaigns of the past, and there are important lessons to be learned. We draw attention, for example, to the "Australia Card" campaign, in which another alliance of groups from across the political spectrum objected to the introduction of an identity card. The fury of ordinary people was directed to the Democrats in the Senate, who eventually voted the Bill down, under sheer pressure of public opinion.
However, there is more to be learned from the ID card campaign. In particular, it should be noted that while the measure was defeated in the Senate, many elements of the ID card proposal were later introduced "by the back door". Tax file numbers, for example, have achieved part of what "big brother" intended with the ID card. There is every chance that the effective elements of the MAI can be introduced to the Parliament in another way, under a different label. In fact, we already have unconfirmed suggestions that this is what is proposed.
Those who campaigned against the MAI should be congratulated on this result. But regrettably it is still true that "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance". We suggest writing to MPs, noting that the MAI has been rejected and stressing that it was the principles behind the treaty, which were rejected. We don't want them re-appearing in a different form.
IMMIGRATION FOR "THE MARKET"
The business chiefs have increasingly acknowledged Mammon as their master, with "the bottom line" becoming the only factor to be considered in decision-making. There was once a time when the interests of the nation were considered as well. The chief executive of Boral has called for increased immigration, as an alternative to a "flat" housing industry for the next 15 years. He wants the immigrant intake doubled to stimulate housing demand.
One of his colleagues in the industry, John White, chief executive of Visy, said he believed Australia could support up to 50 MILLION people within 50 years. Something seems a little out of order here. Surely industry is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself? Surely we build houses for people to live in? Or do we now produce people in order to fill up all the houses the "market" can provide?
While the Market's minions are calling for more people, the Australian Institute for Family Studies has found that the number of couples with dependent children is slowly declining. If Australia needs more people for some reason, the best source is the children of existing Australians. It is an obscenity that the Market prevents Australians from having children, but insists that we should import people instead.
RUSSIAN PRINTING PRESSES ROLLING?
When a new Australian political party rather naively suggested we "print more money" to address particular economic problems, the Australian "establishment" laughed itself sick. Leading the laughter was Federal Treasurer Peter Costello. This was a mad League of Rights idea, he said. The League must be driving their economic policy, he said.
Well, perhaps the League has more clout than Mr. Costello thought. Perhaps we are also "driving" the International Monetary Fund's policy too? Recent reports indicate that the IMF is supporting the Russians in the printing of more roubles! The IMF is approving the use of central bank credit for funding a part of the budget. This, however, was to be "a limited printing of roubles in the context of a broader accord on fiscal policies". That is, under proper orthodox guidelines, which is what monetary reformers have been calling for for decades.
If the IMF concedes it can be done in a crisis in Russia, it can also be done in Australia under strictly supervised conditions. There was never a technical problem with "printing money". It was always a political problem. When people become independent of the money power, how do you control them?
EUROPEAN FARMING CRISIS
A veteran South Australian reader, just back from a quick visit to Britain and Ireland, sent us a selection of cuttings and recent issues of the Irish Farmers' Journal. Since the collapse of Communism, Russia has become a huge importer of European agricultural products. But with the collapse of the rouble, and the Russian default on debts, the impact on European and British farmers has been enormous.
We simply give some extracts: Under the
headline A SHEEP NOW COSTS LESS THAN A PACKET OF CRISPS:
This week a farmer in Somerset received a cheque from the auctioneers for 18p for the calf he had sent to market. It had cost ... more than 25 pounds to rear the calf, which three years ago would have sold for at least 100 pounds ... For those who cannot find a market for their sheep, calves or ponies, there is no point in turning to pigs ... Farmers are slaughtering pregnant sows in their thousands because they will not be able to feed the piglets when they are born. Some claim that piglets in the north of England are now being gassed and buried, rather than sold....
Farm incomes ... fell by 5O percent last year and will fall by another two-thirds this year. This could mean that farm incomes have fallen by 89 percent over the past two years. Within the same period the price paid to farmers for pigs has fallen by nearly 60 percent, eggs by 36 percent, beef by 35 percent, wheat by 31 percent, chickens by 23 percent and milk by 22 percent....
The price reductions have not been reflected in prices charged to consumers. In the past year, the price of lamb in supermarkets has barely changed, while the auction price has been in freefall. You can buy a sheep for less than a fifth of the price of a lamb chop, and a pig for less than the supermarket packet of 16 bacon rashers...."(The Times 7/10/98).
The situation is no better in Ireland,
which until recently has done well out of the European Union's
Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The Irish Farmers' Journal
(10/10/98) reported in its front page article:
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