Contributed by Joe Montero
There is an urgent need for a cleanup in the relationship between the energy industry, government and the bureaucracy. Mounting evidence points towards an improper association that is feeding corruption, as the industry offers inducements to open the way the benefit of the major shareholders.
To an extent, it is already clear that there exists a network of payments mainly going into the Coalition parties. Payments that often arrive by circuit, designed to prevent disclosure under Australia’s existing and inadequate disclosure laws and there is good reason to believe that donations to political parties and other types of payments are significant enough to ensure that policy is effectively written in the boardrooms and then rubber stamped in parliament by willing politicians.
Nothing shows this more clearly than Australia’s energy policy and the containment of the debate over where to go from here. In the face of overwhelming scientific evidence and the experience of changing weather patterns, it remains that government keeps on refusing to act decisively to reduce carbon emissions.
One suggestion that is often made is that there is an ideological block, keeping the politicians locked into the religion of free market. After all, we have constantly been reminded that only the forces of demand and supply, unhindered by government interference, will provide the answers.
The truth is that they don’t believe this any more than anyone else does. The best proof is that they have put into place a truckload of measures that bring government into the centre of regulation and control, not for the purpose of ensuring the needs of society are met, when these do not coincide with the corporations bottom line, but to assist them to expand their activities and guarantee a certain level of profitability. Their opposition is not to government intervention. It’s just to certain kinds on intervention.
From the corporate viewpoint, paying for service makes good business sense, when the opportunity exists.
A good reason to suspect why the industry is currently enjoying so much support is that is has been paying for the service.
Two controversies have begun to untangle the web more than anything else and they are the Adani project in Queensland and events around fracking industry.
How is this help being given? By establishing generous funds to help with new projects, blocking the need for and belittling proper environmental impact studies, before approvals are given, providing genrous tax breaks and allowing large scale tax evasion for the rest, using taxpayers’ money to launch pro-industry advertising campaigns and employing industry representatives to strategic public bodies. There is also a formidable list of former politicians now employed by these same companies.
The bonus is that we all get to further subsidise mining and energy company profits by paying through the nose for energy, via prices set by a monopoly cartel.
So much for relying on market forces.
When the ABC’s Four Corners program exposed exposed former NSW Department of Primary Industries bureaucrat, Gavin Hanlon, offering irrigation lobbyists information for a consideration in July, it opened a window on a culture that is increasingly permeating the landscape of government and the bureaucracy and extending past just the one industry. Even the Tax Office has been caught up in this.
The case was referred to the to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the existence of which, is the result of community pressure for something to be done about the perceived extent of corruption. Scanlon has resigned. In practice, none of this has made little difference on how much money is transferred.
Months later, there is still no investigation over this or the allegation that Hanlon’s action led to the illegal dumping of millions of litres of water.
It may be that connections like this are not new to Australia’s political landscape. What is new, is that the dominance of one industry has not been so pervasive since the nation industrialised. This is not unconnected with what looks like an emerging picture of money changing hands on a scale that it never has been before. Exactly how far this goes, remains for the present somewhat hazy, because of the existing level secrecy and commercial in confidence arrangements. There is little transparency here.
Should the allegation prove to be suggested close to the mark, it conjures up the prospect of a slide into increasingly authoritarian government, as the real controllers of policy find themselves increasingly challenged by a population, increasingly frustrated by the faceless power of an invisible elite unanswerable to anyone but themselves.
Australia’s future depends on uncovering the truth. Our individual and collective rights in society are already diminishing. Only by breaking corporate control over the government will make a difference.
Turnbull’s public lashing out against AGL’s Liddell coal-fired power station closure, does not change the essence of the cozy relationship. While he mouths off in the search of a headline, his government is busy moving to phase out all remaining support for renewable alternatives.
The final twist is the connection to the banks. They loan out the money. But more insidious than this, is that they are the decisive owners of the industry. Together, they form the biggest block of shareholders in the companies. This involves the big four, but more importantly, the senior r role is taken by much larger American and British banks. Prominent players are Citibank, Chase Manhattan. Barclays and HSBC.
No major decision is possible without their participation. They are the ultimate cartel. The extent to which to which there is corruption the dealings between the government and bureaucracy and resources and energy companies, is the extent to which the banks are implicated.
They are the real power behind the scenes. Taking control over resources and energy, eliminating corruption and improving the service to Australians means taking control of the banks.