Robb Oakeshott’s in the press today talking about how corporate donations to the major parties could well fuel cynicism among the voters. Apparently the laborals raked in over $200 million last year. Another article breaks down the details of the donations a little further. It’s interesting to note a couple of odd coincidences, such as tobacco companies making large donations as well as donating to front organisations who campaign against changes to legislation… Like tobacco advertising. Or the pokie owners donating to political organisations, again, just coincidentally in a year in which changes are to be made to gambling licensing and practises.
I’m not sure whether I agree with Oakeshott or not. I mean, he’s announcing it like it’s a bloody revelation or something. In truth, anyone who’s been watching the creep of corporate money into Australian politics would have grounds to have been pretty cynical for some time.
It’s not as if corporate money in politics is all there is to it either. Media ownership might also be cause for cynicism among those of us predisposed to such afflictions. Not content with refusing to contribute to the community from which they draw employees, nor slagging off at governments, mining magnates are buying up stakes in publishing.
So what we have at present is increasing corporate influence on two flanks, in order to further foster the idea in the minds of Australian voters that regulation of corporations or financial markets is a bad thing, at the same time as Australia’s manufacturing sector is taking an absolute beating. Toyota, Holden, BHP and Don have shed jobs. Others are closing their doors entirely and moving offshore. None of which is news as it’s been going on for decades.
What I’m wondering, here in the midst of all the cynicism Mr. Oakeshott has so insightfully observed, is how far this will go?
It used to be that providing education, housing equity, health care and utilities for people so they all had a fair go was considered democratic. Now it’s often mocked as some kind of socialism. While what passes for democracy has been redefined by proponents of the free-market so that it resembles dark ages feudal society. Lords and peasants. The funny thing is, the peasants have been buying it hook, line and sinker. There are bloggers around who attribute this to “sheeple” who swallow anything. Personally I’m more inclined to lay the blame at the feet of clever marketing and vested interests. The psychology of emotional manipulation in the media is quite sophisticated, pushing your buttons without you even knowing it. Convincing you to vote against your own well-being. Why else would mining be buying into publishing? How better to sell their next “Mining carries this country” propaganda campaign, (even while they’re cutting jobs and dodging taxes) than with a few well placed op-ed’s?
Australia has been dutifully and to all appearances unquestioningly following in the steps of Britain and the US forever, to our detriment. Now that the US is breaking so badly and the Eurozone is in constant crisis, surely it’s time to wake up. It’s not like any of this is secret. It’s not like Scandinavian countries haven’t been pursuing social democracy and making it work, right under our noses. The hassle is giving ourselves permission to read and join the dots behind what’s happening in this country.