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5 February 1999. Thought for the Week: "In its primary spiritual sense, liberty is the god in man, or, if you like the word, the artist. In its secondary political sense liberty is the living influence of the citizen of the State in the direction of moulding or deflecting it. Men are the only creatures that evidently possess it. On the one hand the eagle has no liberty; he only has loneliness. On the other hand, ants, bees and beavers exhibit the highest miracle of the State influencing the citizen, but no perceptible trace of the citizen influencing the State."
POWER WITHOUT RESPONSIBILITY
by David Thompson
The suggestion that there has been corruption involved with decisions on where Olympic and Commonwealth Games meetings might be held is met with horror and outrage. The best available symbol of the corrupting nature of power in both sport and politics is the fact that in Sydney the Olympic "mayor" is former Senator Graeme Richardson. It was Richardson who produced the autobiography, which summed up his approach to political power: "whatever it takes". This attitude has obviously been carried over into the efforts made to secure the Olympic Games for Sydney in the year 2000.
It has been amply confirmed by the appalling admission by Australian Olympic Committee chairman John Coates, who virtually admitted that the votes of some members of the international committee had been "bought". "We didn't win it on the beauty of the city and the sporting facilities we had to offer," he said in a rather surly press exchange. It is clear from Coates' attitude that he thought everyone understood that some form of 'incentives' had been offered IOC delegates, and that a 'blind eye' would be turned. That is, the end justifies the means, or, in Richardson parlance, "whatever it takes"!
The example of the Olympic decision-making process simply confirms Lord Acton's dictum that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". The field in which power is wielded is secondary to the nature of power itself. Whether wielded in politics - national or local - sport or the school tuck-shop committee, power tends to corrupt. The only answer to this law of life is to organise the affairs of man to minimise the power in single hands, thus minimising the corruption. In the case of the Olympic committee and the Sydney bid, the only answer is to open up the books, and force those who spent taxpayers' money to account for it.
Power without responsibility inevitably produces corruption. The question of making politicians accountable has exercised the minds of constituents in representative democracies throughout time. Election promises are cheap, and we now almost expect them to be "pie-crust" promises - broken as a matter of course.
The South Australian (Liberal) Government is still searching for a way of justifying breaking Mr. John Olsen's election campaign promise not to sell the State's electricity assets. Having been elected on a "no sale" platform, Mr. Olsen is now attempting to push legislation through the Parliament to sell the power system! The resentment is mounting, particularly since it is generally conceded that if the power system is sold, it will become foreign-owned. South Australians are fully aware that the Victorian Coalition Government has now nearly hocked off everything saleable. Last week part of the gas system was (hastily) sold off to an American company, and the final bids were also received for V-Line, the State's rail-freight business.
Both the Victorian and South Australian Governments claim that the proceeds from the sale of the assets would go to retiring state debt. It is clear that this amounts to a new form of "debt-for-equity swap". The debt might be reduced, but so is Australian ownership of our essential utilities.
Perhaps we have something to learn from the Chinese when it comes to accountability. In order to ensure public confidence that the Chinese airline has beaten the 'millennium bug', all airline executives will be required to be on flights at midnight on December 31st, 1999. British Airways have followed the Chinese lead. If only a similar method of accountability could be applied to politicians!
TRADE WARS HOTTING UP
by Jeremy Lee
Latest figures show the US having a
trade deficit with Asia of $US 153 billion. US exports to
the Pacific fell by $30 billion during the year. Now Charlene
Barshevsky is outraged by the fact that cheap Japanese steel
is arriving in the US. Either Japan must stop this, or the
US will impose trade sanctions.
A FAIR COW? OR AN UNFAIR PIG?A protracted campaign has been waged against enormous odds by Australian pork producers against the import of pork from Canada and Denmark. They have a strong case. Pork producers in Australia have declined in numbers from 45,000 to 3,000 in the last decade. "That's free trade," said leader-like Tim Fischer. "In the long run it's the way to go".
Finally, the Productivity Commission, to the Government's shock, produced a report that there was a case for tariff protection for Australia's pork producers. The Government's response? No protection - that would never do. Instead, as The Weekend Financial Review (23-24/1/99) reported: "The pork industry will receive a $6 million funding package to encourage struggling producers to leave the sector, the Federal Government announced on Friday... Those whom the gods wish to destroy....
HELPING THE DESTITUTEThe Prime Minister of Thailand, Mr. Chum Leekpai, told a World Bank Conference in Bangkok last week a few home truths: " It has become increasingly apparent that the social problems facing crisis-hit countries are too big for one country to address alone due to the scale and gravity of the issue," said Mr. Chuan. International bodies have been too busy setting fiscal policy to take into account social issues such as unemployment, mounting suicides and the growing number of school dropouts throughout Asia in the wake of the meltdown. A report released by the World Bank shows that there are now more than 23 million jobless in Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia - the countries worst hit by Asia's slowdown (The Australian Financial Review, 25/1/99).
WHO RUNS AUSTRALIA'S FINANCIAL SYSTEM?
Last year we quoted a number of statements by Australian Tax Office officials that the multinationals were not paying their fair share of tax. Now comes news of the most incredible situation. The Australian, under Freedom of Information legislation, has obtained a "heavily edited" report by the Australian Taxation Office, which has yet to be officially released. The Australian (27/1/99) claimed that Big Business, or "the top end of town", had successfully gained control of the tax system from the Government and the Australian Taxation Office, thereby creating a situation where payments on deals worth billions of dollars could be evaded.
The Australian quoted the report
Ordinary, middle and lower income Australian families, faced with the gamut of requirements for their tax payments, are increasingly angry with politicians who, if they know what is going on, have failed to do anything about it. It confirms the point made long ago by C.H. Douglas, that there is only one real government - the Money power.
The publicity surrounding the Millennium Bug Y2K is increasing daily, with claims and counter claims about the implications. Police leave in Victoria over the period at the end of 1999 has been completely cancelled well in advance. Some are predicting no more than severe social disruption, others a much more drastic social collapse. The truth is that no one really knows. It is clear, however, that many companies and corporations have left it far too late to be certain they have eliminated potential faults in their systems.
Canberra bureaucrats are taking no chances. The Australian (29/1/99) said: "Two weeks salary, a month's social security payments and five days supply of food, fuel and medicines should be set aside in case of failures caused by the millennium bug, says a guide to parliamentary staff issued yesterday. "As part of the planning on Capital Hill for dealing with computer chaos when 2000 ticks over, the Department of the Senate yesterday issued its guide for survival. Under the head of 'the millennium bug and you' the guide offers suggestions for up to 4,000 people who work in the building...."
While, obviously, we hope our fellow Australians in the Department of the Senate survive with the rest of us, we couldn't help wondering what 4,000 public servants do in this department. After all, that's over 50 bureaucrats for every Senator!
SEA OF DEBT
We gave details last year of what must be the biggest "money-printing" exercise of all time - the attempt to recapitalise Japan's stricken banks and persuade citizens to start spending again. Something in the region of $A800 billion was being pumped into the Japanese economy - some of it actually in the form of cash handouts to consumers. All of it debt-money, of course. No thought of writing off debt.
The following brief appeared in The Australian (29/1/99): "Japan's huge public debt will soon surge to an unprecedented level as Tokyo props up its banks and insurers, an official at US ratings agency Moodys has warned. By March Japan's public sector debt will be worth 110 percent of gross domestic product and will soon reach 140 percent."
POPE JOHN PAUL II SPEAKS OUT
The Pope's mission for the Roman Catholic Church for the Americas, announced on January 23rd before the papal visit, continued the following remarks: "... If globalisation is ruled merely by the laws of the market applied to suit the powerful, the consequence cannot but be negative. The consequences are, for example, the absolutising of the economy, unemployment, the reduction and deterioration of public services, the destruction of the environment and natural resources, the growing distance between rich and poor, unfair competition which puts the poor nations in a situation of ever-increasing inferiority.... And what should we say about the cultural globalisation produced by the power of the media? Everywhere the media impose new scales of values, which are often arbitrary, and basically materialistic, in the face of which it is difficult to maintain a lively commitment to the values of the Gospel."
Another negative aspect of globalisation is massive external debt. Among the causes, which have helped to create this debt, are high interest rates, caused by speculative financial policies. But among other causes are the irresponsibility of people in government who, in incurring debt, have given too little thought to the real possibility to repaying it....
Thinking people of all denominations and faiths would have to agree.
INQUIRY INTO 1998 FEDERAL ELECTION
The Weekend Australian (23-24/1/99) carried an advertisement from the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters in the Federal Parliament, asking for submissions on the 1998 Federal Election. We know what one commentator felt, and believe his sentiments would be shared by tens of thousands of others.
John Carter, writing a column "Counterpoint"
in The Land (5/1l/98), included these remarks: · In
1996 a Queensland woman was elected to Federal Parliament
as an Independent. She made a maiden speech that included
nine bipartisan issues not meant to be discussed in front
of the people... The establishment decided to remove the irritant.
As a former head of multi-national communications company
wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald (5/97): 'Don't agree
with any of the plausible things she says - just shout racism'
- and it was so.
The polls still showed trouble. Then,
silently, the masterstroke was played. On July 17 the Electoral
Act was quietly altered to bring in compulsory preferential
voting. The major parties had to be voted for - whether one
liked it or not - and they all had One Nation at the bottom
of their ticket. The media said, and still says, nothing.
Preferential voting was originally introduced as a means for a voter to indicate whether there was more than one of the listed candidates whom he or she would opt for. For the principle to work it HAS to be voluntary. To compel voters to list preferences they DON'T LIKE is a violent attack on freedom of choice. To make the hundreds of thousands of voters looking for a way to express their disapproval of the major parties ultimately vote for the object of their disapproval is a cynical attack on the democratic process.
Those who would like to express their
disapproval can obtain information on how to make a submission
by ringing the Committee Secretariat on (02) 6277 2374, or
faxing (02) 62774710.
GIVING "LAND RIGHTS" TO THE WRONG PEOPLE
In 1996 the Carr Government in NSW badly needed a 'success story' to validate its land claims legislation, under which not one square inch of land had been restored to its aboriginal owners. Fortunately, there was a case in the legal pipeline, which could fill the need. The Crescent Head case on the NSW central coast had been before the courts for months, and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, representing Mary-Lou Buck of the Dunghutti people, had established its native title credentials. When the Crescent Head ruling was handed down, the first ever case of aboriginal land being restored to its "rightful owners" was touted as establishing the native title credentials of the Carr Labor administration. The land was 'handed over' with great fanfare, and the new aboriginal owners promptly sold their title. Perhaps they knew something Carr didn't?
Now, however, according to columnist Piers Ackerman (Sunday Telegraph, 31/1/99) there is doubt that the Dunghutti people really were the traditional owners of the Crescent Head land. The allegation has been raised by another Dunghutti, Anthony Carter, who points out that there is a very strong case of traditional ownership by the Biripai people. The NSW Land Council has refused to acknowledge these doubts as valid, because its own credibility is at stake. It was the Land Council that validated the Dunghutti claim, and provided the 'experts' to verify their validation. Last November, a meeting of a number of representatives of different tribal groups confirmed that the traditional owners, who had been removed from the area a century ago, had been completely ignored.
This is not the first case in which "land rights" have been allocated to the wrong people. The most famous case, covered up at the time, was that of Ayers Rock, now known by the trendy as "Uluru". In November 1983 the new Hawke Government announced that it was handing the Uluru National Park to an Aboriginal Land Trust. The Minister at the time was Mr. Clyde Holding, and although experts like Peter English warned that the Land Trust did not represent the (dispersed) traditional owners, the transfer went ahead. Peter English went on to document the betrayal in a book published in 1986, Storm Over Uluru. Rev Cedric Jacobs, drawing from Peter English's material, confirms what he has to say in (Jacobs') book Healing a Divided Nation (1986).
Storm Over Uluru, by Peter B.
English; $10.00 posted from all League bookservices.
AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR HITS THE SPOT
Perhaps for the first time in years, the selection of the ubiquitous "Australian of the Year" has done something to unify the nation, rather than either bore or divide it. The captain of the Australian cricket team, Mark Taylor, is clearly a man of courage and character, a loyal Australian, and an honourable man. Apart from his on-field habit of chewing gum in a rather unattractive way, Taylor provides an excellent role model for Australian kids.
In an era when sport has become big business, Taylor's sportsmanship is a credit to him. Although he obviously makes his (generous) living from the game, he has demonstrated that he places the team before himself. When having equalled Sir Donald Bradman's highest test score at the end of a day's play in Pakistan last year, Taylor closed the Australian innings, rather than bat on to claim the record.
It has been noted that Taylor's selection as Australian of the Year has not drawn raving support from the press. Why would this be? Perhaps Mr. Taylor is not the fawning republican they require? Taylor's views concerning the rather more important matter of Australia's constitutional future are not as clear as his cricketing prowess. However, as a man of action, he takes the eminently practical approach that the monarchy has served us well. Asked about the republic, Taylor replied 'The only real thing I know is that all of a sudden, we will have a lesser tie to the monarchy - and we don't know how it will affect Australian on a day-to-day basis. . . . If I'm going to vote to change that, I'd like to know why we should....
TEAR UP THE TENTS
The suggestion that the "Aboriginal Embassy" near the Australian Federal Parliament should be demolished has been condemned by all the usual suspects. But in many ways the tatty tent camp is symbolic of much that is a problem with the aboriginal industry. It symbolises a "victim" mentality, in which the environment for increasing demands are made. This "victim" mentality begins with demands for an apology for the 'stolen generation'. Although few living Australians took part in a genuine attempt to save the lives of countless thousands of aboriginal and part aboriginal children, this is now regarded as a 'genocidal' act. If the realities were observed, and a positive approach taken, the attempt to save these lives could be the basis of genuine reconciliation. Many of the "stolen" are today living prosperously.
The "Aboriginal Embassy" should be torn down, and every effort should be made to find positive symbols in aboriginal Australia as role models for this generation. There is no doubt that successful aborigines could contribute a lot. Dependency on welfare as a way of life has been rejected by many aborigines or part aboriginal people. Successful families and successful businesses are not necessarily rare at all. One example of a part aboriginal Australian who thinks for himself seems to be Mr. Ron Holten, from the NSW central coast. Holten, whose mother was Scottish, proposes to stand for the State seat of Wyong on March 27th for One Nation. The direct descendent of aboriginal elders, and a Vietnam veteran, Holten is a member of the local land council. But he urges others to follow his example of helping himself, rather than expecting handouts. Having bought his own property, he takes a dim view of "land rights". He calls for an end to special benefits for aboriginal people simply because of their racial background.
MISS AUSTRALIA OPPOSES GST
The last Miss Australia award ceremony, held last week, was marked by a public dispute between Community Services Minister Jocelyn Newman and the outgoing Miss Australia, Suellen Fuller. Miss Fuller had earlier opposed the proposed GST, because she believed it would be bad for charities. Fuller had used a National Press Club address earlier to oppose the GST, and Newman publicly opposed that view at the presentation of the new Miss Australia title. However, the new Miss Australia, described as an aborigine, Kathryn Hay, from Tasmania, also opposed the introduction of the GST. "I do not believe the current tax reforms would be any good for our charities, not only for cerebral palsy, but charities all over Australia" she said.
The Miss Australia quest is a charity that raises funds for victims of cerebral palsy. Perhaps the new Miss Australia is not entirely as politically correct as was expected. As a part aborigine, she also offered the view that "I believe we are all Australians and we should all be proud to be Australians, black or white".
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