Public First Program


Shane Elson


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May 2007 # 2

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Back to Editorials 2007

When Generals Talk

Before Peter Garrett lost his way and joined the alternative capitalist party, he sang a song with the line “when the generals talk, you better listen to them”. At the time he was singing about both the military and economic generals and it is the economic generals who, to this day, continue to rule the world. 

A little earlier this week the private, for profit Macquarie Bank announced its record profit of almost one and half billion dollars, a fantastic sum by any account but only slightly more than a third of the recently announced 4.4 billion dollar profit of the NAB and on par with the Commonwealth and Westpac bank’s profits. 

The media focus over the last few days has been on the “millionaire factory” boss, Alan Moss’, salary and bonus package of $33 million dollars. How does this compare to the salary and bonus packages of the heads of the other banks? 

The head of the NAB, John Stewart, ‘earned’ a tidy $8 million for his efforts as did David Morgan of Westpac while David Murray from the Commonwealth languished at the bottom of the salary and bonus pile with a measly $7 million meaning that he is the poorest of the mega rich. 

These men, between them ‘earned’ the equivalent of 1120 times the average amount earned in Australia. That is for every dollar we earn, these guys are “compensated” $1120. Put another way these obscene amounts mean that for every one of us who earn a dollar we have helped put another $1120 dollars into the pocket of one of these thieves. We don’t have a Robin Hood to get it back so where do we turn? 

Well, let’s not try and turn to the governments. After all they are the ones who pass the laws that allow these situations to arise. Howard said, on the ABC radio “PM” program that while the amount paid to Alan Moss was “a lot of money” he went on to make the most astute observation I think I have ever heard come from the mouth of a politician. 

Howard remarked that the $33 million dollar package was “a lot more than most people listening to this program make.” Wow! This guy is so in touch with the “battlers” he claims to represent that he knows, in the core of his being, that MOST people don’t make that money. But that is not all. Howard then reveals which side of the battle for a fair and decent wage he is on. 

“… I mean I am in favour of the capitalist system. I really am, and I don't think it's the business of government to put caps on people's salaries.” Wow! Two revelations in the one interview. Howard offers us nothing new. Nor does his opposite number Kevin Rudd. Sorry but I to have to let all the welded on Labor voters in on the worst kept secret of the year but Kevin agrees with John on both comments. 

So while the politicians continue to wine and dine with the uber rich, while the real generals in the battle for the dollar slug it out in negotiations over their salaries, what about the real battlers out here in “average Australia” land? 

Well spare a thought for the bonus’s announced in the federal budget a couple of weeks ago. I think the pensioners should be jumping up and down in their Zimmer frames with glee at getting $500 (again) just for being old. No work or effort required there. Those who are forced to give full time support to a disabled loved one should also be jumping up and down for joy. For simply loving their son, daughter, husband, wife, father, mother, sister or brother, they will get a $600 bonus. 

I mean, come on. How much better can it get? Unlike the hard working the bank bosses who have to put up with all the inconvenience of having a bevy of helpers and minions at your beg and call, having to put up with travelling first class and staying in ratty 6 star hotels, never having to think about where your next meal might be coming from, these generals of the economy do it really tough compared to the rest of us. 

Think of the carers. They get to stay at home everyday. They spend 24 hours every day with the ones they love and they get the opportunity to meet in well appointed offices with some of the most influential bureaucrats they will ever encounter. What have they got to complain about? Think of the money they save. They never have to pay departure taxes when travelling internationally nor do they have to face the inconvenience of the Qantas lounge running out of those sweet little French pastries. 

But seriously. How did we allow things to get this bad? 

The last ten years have seen the most fantastic transfers of wealth from the poor to the rich in history. Beginning over 20 years ago the capitalist class, to whom Howard and Rudd cleave so closely, began to implement their strategies. What their real strategies were will probably never be known. What we do know is that they have included the full purchase of our means of government, the colonisation of our academies and the destruction of most means of resistance to their strategies. 

John Howard summed it up quite well when he said that he was in favour of the capitalist system. It has served him and his class interests well. The noises being made by Kevin Rudd and his offsider, Julia Gillard, indicate that they too have no allegiance with the working class and the poor. They also have fallen in to the thrall of the system that has no other purpose than to concentrate wealth upwards. 

The only thing left for us to do is to resist the imposition of any more of this evil and divisive system. The problem is that there are still too many of us who believe that our little contribution is meaningless. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, what is really missing is strong leadership – something we won’t find in the major political parties whose main criteria for leadership is being able to be led by the nose. 

Ultimately the capitalist system will fail. It is not an evolving system. Sure, the economy ‘grows’ but this is artificial. The growth is not real and material. It is theoretical and therefore can be manipulated. The capitalist system’s material outcomes, those things we can truly measure, are, ultimately, disenfranchisement, suffering and eventually, uncontrollable violence. 

The generals do currently control vast armies but neither they nor their troops can comprehend the battles that are looming. I suggest the ones who are truly prepared are those who already know how to face adversity, deprivation and poverty. Unlike the handfed, personally groomed and manicured generals, those who struggle know how to survive and when push comes to shove, I want to be on the side of those who already have the survival skills necessary to cope with a post capitalist society.

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