Public First Program


Shane Elson


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+61-3-5134 8556

+61-4-1349 7828

July 2007 # 2

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Back to Editorials 2007

Oceans of Money

In a world awash with money, fame and fortune, it isn’t surprising that politicians have been recruited to ensure that the oceans of cash are kept flowing ever upwards. 

A few weeks ago the Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks, became a star. The vehicle that propelled him into the world of stardom was a multi million dollar advertising campaign designed with one thing in mind; to convince a certain set within the ruling classes that his government was on their side. 

Just a couple of weeks ago Tasmania’s Premier, Paul Lennon, also became a star. Again, the vehicle that propelled him into the world of celebrity was a tax payer funded advertising campaign. This too was aimed at a certain section of the ruling class in Tasmania and was designed to demonstrate to them how much on side Lennon’s government is. 

In both these cases, we are paying for what amounts to corporate propaganda. As Danny DeVito’s character, “Larry the Liquidator” said in the movie, “Other People’s Money”, its all “other people’s money”. In the case of the celebrity politicians spruiking for their real bosses, this “other people’s money” is really our money. Money that could have been used to protect our environment rather than degrading and destroying it. 

In the case of the Gunns’ pulp mil,l that the Lennon government has literally bent over backwards to facilitate, any real process of assessment of the suitability of the project was abandoned when Gunns decided to pull out of the assessment process. Rather than support any form of just, fair and transparent process, the Lennon government supported Gunns and in effect, turned its back on the people of Tasmania. In short, the Lennon government, and I would argue the Bracks’ government, are not ruling for us. They are ruling for those who pay them to pipe. 

While the Howard government has been accused openly and often as being one of the most environmentally retrograde governments we have had, I don’t see too many mainstream commentators coming out and slamming Bracks and Lennon. This task is left up to the committed few who our mainstream media allows to be dismissed as the ‘lunatic’ fringe. 

Rather than portraying those who are attempting to get some truth and clarity in the matters of Lennon and Bracks as mainstream, informed and passionate, the mainstream media deliberately allows individuals and organisations who raise concerns about the way our governments are selling off our collective wealth to be spoken over and marginalised. 

While the Gunns pulp mill plan is being fought over in the courts, who is calling to account the elected governments? Certainly not the most powerful union in Tasmania, the CFMEU. The leaders of this union, in my home state, are up to their armpits in the trough with Lennon and his mates. As the Lennon government turns its back on the destruction of native old growth forests, the CFMEU leadership does nothing to reign in its members who must be taking part in illegal logging activities. 

So, rather than lead for the people, our government and our union representatives allow themselves to be bought by the highest bidder and deployed in the service of capital. Rather than serve the people, these politicians and union leaders would rather serve those whose interests are not with the people but with their own self importance and power. 

These politicians have sold out and reinforce the hyper reality that is perpetrated by a narrowly focused media and public discourse. In this world of hyper reality, our so called “political leaders” assist in the creation of a non existent ‘now’. A ‘now’ that is neither real nor possible because the ‘now’ is predicated on a future that is not sustainable, reasonable, just or fair. The ‘now’ being portrayed is one in which a helicopter travelling Steve Bracks tells us to blindly accept his version of the truth. In Tasmania Lennon appears smiling and telling Tasmanians how much of a ‘to good to be true’ opportunity the Gunns mill is.

The ‘now’ these politicians have entered into is a fantasy created to stroke their egos as they are deployed by the faceless bureaucrats and money men whose own fantasies do not include the majority. These images of the ‘now’ in turn create a simulacra in which any pretence of reality is replaced by a single message. That message is, “Trust us. We know what is best for you”. 

This attitude is not new. It has been the attitude of most of the ruling classes down through the millennia. We, the ‘great unwashed’ cannot be trusted to help shape our own destinies. This must be undertaken by those who are ‘qualified’, ‘authorised’ and ‘prominent’. Very rarely do the real rulers of the world step out into the lime light. They would rather use others to ‘sell’ their aims. Again, as “Larry the Liquidator” said, “You wanna make money!” and the only way to do that in the modern economy is to skim off the top. The trick is to set up the conditions under which this skimming can take place while we are supposed to say “Wow! This is even better than before”. That is the way it’s supposed to play out. 

However, the old style ‘behind closed doors’ deals are not too secure any longer. To many vested interests are ready to stab you in the back. So rather than stay in quiet, far removed places, the politicians are being pushed into the limelight to become the celebrities in the simulacra that has replaced ‘rule by the people for the people’ in a representative democracy. In this simulacra the high flying, super smooth helicoptered and the sweet talking politician have replaced real debate and discussion.

Perhaps though, all is not lost. Many are seeing through the thin veneer of political celebrity. Many are not buying into the hyper reality that is being portrayed. Nor are they buying into the fallacy that is the simulacra. Rather, as Paul Lennon’s popularity ratings show, being seen to be to close to the ruling class can damage your rising star long before it has reached its zenith. 

While it is easy to want to give in, to find a nice rock and hide under it, be assured, you are not alone. Look around and you will see, floating not to far away on the rising tide of discontent and anger, others who share the same concerns, hopes and aspirations as you. 

In a world awash with money, fame and fortune, it isn’t surprising that politicians have been recruited to ensure that the oceans of cash are kept flowing ever upwards. The only real question we have to ask is, “when are our feet going to touch the sand as the ocean is sucked dry for the satisfaction of the few?” Perhaps the best response is, that when our feet hit the sand, we will be able to walk ashore and build a better world than the one currently being offered.

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