You know things are pretty grim in the Coalition bunker when
even their corporate sponsors start coming down from their ivory towers
to soil their silky smooth hands spruiking unpopular policies.
But so it came to pass last night, when the grey, owlish features of softly spoken banker Michael Chaney appeared on ABC Lateline to, ostensibly, discuss Treasurer Joe Hockey's latest whine that big business should be doing more to sell his unfair and unloved Budget.
Chaney, of course, doesn't need to speak loud to be heard. The chair of the National Australia Bank and Woodside Petroleum has
the quiet, condescending air of a man accustomed to being instantly
deferred to and obeyed. And he was not to be disappointed in this regard
by interviewer Emma Alberici, who handled Chaney with the kid gloves
she seems to reserve for VIPs and plutocrats.
Chaney duly sold Hockey's budget using the typical conservative
tactics of distortion, deflection, oversight and, of course, egregious
As she did in her interview with Roger Corbett days before the
September election, Alberici neglected to ask Chaney to declare
any relevant affiliations. At that time, Fairfax chair and RBA board
member Corbett attacked the previous Labor Government mercilessly during
a soft interview by Alberici, only to be photographed the following
night at a $500 a head Liberal Party fundraiser hosted by Tony Abbott — his close personal friend and, as it turned out, fellow Liberal Party member.
Is Chaney a Liberal Party member? Apparently not, according to his
NAB personal assistant. However, it's quite clear that blue flows
through Chaney's veins. Chaney's father was Menzies minister Sir Fred Chaney, and his brother is former Liberal Party deputy leader, minister, MP and senator, Fred Chaney Jr.
In any case, why be a member when you hold a mortgage over the party?
Woodside is one of the Liberal Party's biggest donors,
with NAB not far behind. Both companies often appear to be almost
corporate arms of the tories — such as when former Foreign Minister
Alexander Downer was slipped into a cushy job with Woodside just months after he had allegedly arranged for ASIS to bug East Timor on behalf of Woodside during sensitive gas field negotiations.
Chaney's inside connections don't end there. He is also a director of BHP Billiton and a member of U.S. mega-bank JP Morgan's 'International Council'.
But wait, there's more! According to the Power Index, Chaney is also directly involved in setting government policy:
Chaney chaired the Business Council of Australia between 2005 and 2007 and continues to serve on the board of the Centre for Independent Studies,
a BHP-funded think tank that believes in, among other things, slashing
company tax to 25% and ending “wasteful” social welfare. During the
Howard years its scorched earth policies provided the ideological
underpinning for WorkChoices.
The “independent” think tank, Chaney concurs, is “very
influential behind the scenes in shaping policy in economics, indigenous
affairs, in religion … the list goes on”.
In summary, Chaney is a sad-eyed symbol of the crony capitalism hijacking our democracy, described in the Saturday Paper earlier this month by former Independent MP Rob Oakeshott:
Whether it’s tax or carbon or gaming, this is the policy inertia
of Australia today. Money is beating our long-term standard of living to
death. It has sent many necessary policy reforms to the doghouse, and
it keeps many others on the short chain.
Our key decisions for the future of Australia are now being
outsourced at a level never before seen. Parliamentary democracy is
going through its own sort of privatisation. Bigger dollars come into
the party coffers at exactly the same time as less and less of the
necessary work gets done. We are trapping ourselves.
There is no heavy lifting in the Budget for business because, as Hockey clearly says:
"We work for the corporate sector."
Indeed, Hockey's North Sydney Forum explicitly provides paid access to the Treasurer
for business leaders and industry lobbyists, presumably so they can
provide him with direction — something that places Hockey's plaintive
cry to big business for assistance into stark relief.
Thus, Chaney's attempt to sell the Budget in his interview with
Alberici last night (12/8/14) was instructive as to the moral depths
corporatists will sink to try to promote their self-serving attacks upon
the poor and underprivileged.
Firstly, in the interview, Chaney complained about the media, the
intelligence and understanding of ordinary Australians, and even
One of the challenges is making your voice heard. You know,
there's a lot of noise in our society and it's very difficult to get a
rational argument out in the public domain....
....there's a tendency, I think, today not to, amongst
the population, to engage in serious policy debate. A lot of people
don't read newspapers.
.... often you find that the
reportage of it is not accurate and it's not thorough and, of course,
there are always contrary voices as well....
For Chaney, it seems, there are too many people speaking up and not enough reading The Australian.
Chaney then tried to redefine the meanings of "crisis" and
"emergency" to remove these words' usual connotation of imminent danger:
"... one of the things that's really concerned me in all the
discussion of the budget is the complaint that I've heard some people
make that there is "no crisis": that there was no need for these sort of
cuts in the budget, that it's the sign of a cruel government and so on.
... there is a crisis. It's not an immediate crisis, it's a medium-term crisis..."
Or, in other words, a medium term structural issue that could be
dealt with incrementally rather than through immediate swingeing cuts
aimed at those least able to afford them.
Chaney must have been furious, then, when Hockey belled the cat in New Zealand recently, saying there was
"... no crisis in the Australian economy."
Chaney next suggested the poor should bear the brunt of any cuts
because they pay the least tax and are, according to him, the
predominant recipients of government largesse.
"... if you're going to do anything on the expenditure side you
end up making changes which disadvantage lower-income parts of the
population because it's those parts that are getting all the benefits
through the system."
All the benefits? Really?
Curiously, Chaney chose to ignore the billions in subsidies each year
doled out to mining companies, such as the one he chairs. He also
overlooked superannuation concessions and negative gearing, but when
asked about these benefits later in the interview, emphatically declared
them to be no-go areas for government.
Another cause of great misery for Chaney is Australia's "extreme" progressive tax system — where the fabulously rich, like himself, end up paying more per capita than the poor and destitute:
"Australia has a very progressive tax transfer system and it's
much more progressive than most nations. And, as I say, the OECD
described it as an extreme in the spectrum."
Putting aside the fact that this analysis ignores tax avoidance measures
operated by multinational companies like those he runs, which often see
these organisations paying virtually no tax, what Chaney said about
Australia's progressive tax transfer system compared to other nations
was simply an outright lie:
And people living on the breadline may not have been much comforted
by this corporate fat cat's analysis of the affordability of the GP
"Frankly, I think that a $7 payment to go to the doctor is a reasonable amount."
Yes, things must be looking pretty desperate for the Libs when filthy
rich banker-miners are trotted out to defend their despised Budget.
And if Chaney's dismal efforts yesterday demonstrate the best the
plutocrats can offer in selling this deplorable plan for Australia, then
it surely won't be long before they outsource this job to paid
professionals — after all, they've done it before.
Get ready for the same sort of big business funded advertising blitz
that killed the mining tax. If it's not in production yet, you can bet
your bottom dollar, it's coming.
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