March 25, 2014
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiry is exposing business-as-usual insider politics.
This is a world of consummate insiders, the greased-palm, cronyist insider politics, the welcoming of lobbyists mostly working for corporations and corrupt conduct. Basically, corruption is an extralegal institution used by interest groups to gain influence over the actions of the bureaucracy to an extent that would not otherwise be possible. An example is the murky world of Wollongong City Council which was open for business.
Business-as-usual politics is structured around a “cutthroat” system in which campaign contributions were a prerequisite for both access to ministers, funding for pet projects, and government contracts. It is a world of greased palms, shady business practices, dirty tricks, insider information and the big spend. The result is one of protected markets, regulatory capture and crony capitalism. Australian politicians tangle with the mighty national mining industry at their peril.
Sometimes the shaping of policy outcomes depends on political influence as in the mainstream media. For instance, Australia's cross-media ownership laws, which at present prohibit a proprietor from owning more than two of three kinds of outlet — print, television and radio — in the same local market, are all that prevents yet further concentration of media ownership.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has indicated that the Abbott Government favours lifting these restrictions, citing the usual argument that the merging of delivery platforms in the digital age makes distinctions between print and broadcast media obsolete. Future media acquisitions, he says, should be regulated only by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, just like any other corporate merger or takeover.
The result, as we all know, is that the media corporation would be most interested in acquiring the assets that would be up for grabs if the cross-media laws are repealed would be News Ltd, not the proprietors of the newer, digital-only sites. News Ltd would move to buy Channel Ten. Many commentators see the foreshadowed law change as a pay-off for News Corp's support of the Coalition in the 2013 election. There are many ways to grease the palms of politicians.
News Corp is not alone. The mining and gas industries, big pharma, the liquor and gambling industries, the insurance companies, banks, the media and big retailers represent a formidable set of vested interests and they have shown how they can bend parliamentary decision-making to their liking—and even remove politicians who stand in their way.
In this world personal welfare is bad, but corporate welfare is good.