Friday, February 8, 2008

Time's up for the bankers' friend

Breakfast has been a bit quiet at my place for the past week or so. The once deafening crowing of the neocons from the opinion pages of the papers has become the odd cluck here and there.

Minnie Devine, for instance, was reduced to writing about house renovations a day or so ago. Albrechtson and Henderson churned out some ho-hum stuff about the federal government's proposed apology to indigenous Australians. (Yes, we know it's symbolism that doesn't mean much without real policies to back it up, but on Australia Day some at least of the neocons seemed to think symbolism was quite important. Have they really lost interest in symbolism since then or is it just this particular piece of symbolism that sticks in their throats?)

Of the other neocons, Sheridan seems to be missing in inaction (perhaps on leave) and a politically sobered up Shanahan is off to greener pastures in New York, apparently.

Things brightened up this morning with NSW Labor Party president Bernie Riordan's call for Treasurer Mick Costa to resign now, rather than next year, when Costa's fat lifetime parliamentary pension falls due after eight years in Bullshit Castle (sometimes called the NSW Parliament).

Riordan, also secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, said Costa had told him he would retire from the gas house next year and offered him his parliamentary seat. That shows pretty much what the bankers' mate thinks about consulting the ranks of the Labor Party on such matters. Costa apparently thinks he owns the seat and it's his to dispose of.

Riordan was a touch annoyed that Costa had said the NSW Labor government would go ahead with the privatisation of the state electricity system regardless of Labor policy, which already opposes such a sale, and of a proposed Labor Party state conference specifically called to consider the matter. Costa went further and he didn't care if the Labor Party expelled him, the sale would go ahead.

You can see Riordan's point. Parties have policies. In the Labor Party those policies are developed by the ranks of the party, including affiliated unions. Politicians elected to represent the Labor Party are expected to carry out those policies. The process is a bit different in the Liberal Party, which doesn't have many members or affiliates, but which listens very carefully to business-funded think tanks, chambers of commerce, big banks, and the like. Costa appears to have become confused about which party he's in.

Riordan's point seems straightforward enough: parties have policies and elected politicians of those parties work to make those policies law, but a lot of politicians over the years seem to have had a lot of difficulty with it.

Once they've got their bums on the leather benches plenty of MPs seem to think they can do whatever they like. Just to name a couple of famous examples, Billy Hughes, a Labor prime minister, thought he could support conscription for World War I even though the Labor Party opposed it, so Labor expelled him. William Holman, Labor premier of NSW at the time, also supported conscription, was expelled and went over to form a right-wing government with the Nationalists. He survived one election but lost his seat in 1920. Hughes and Holman were known forever after in the labour movement as Labor rats.

Apparently Riordan has ruffled a few feathers at cowards' corner, as the Sydney Morning Herald reports a “senior government source” saying: “there was outrage within Government that the party president is acting that way”. How come it's an anonymous source? Riordan is prepared to speak up for his views, and in support of Labor policy, why is the government source not named? Ashamed would probably be hoping for too much, as moral fibre is not a highly valued quality on Macquarie Street. Keeping options open is more likely.

And just in case the point is lost, let's hear it again: Riordan is speaking up in support of Labor policy and some brave soul high up in the Labor government says the government is outraged.

Costa says he doesn't care if Labor expels him, the privatisation will go ahead. No doubt that's causing the odd bit of outrage among Labor Party members and others who helped to put Costa in parliament thinking he would represent them. If they had thought the big end of town needed more representation, they would have voted Liberal.

Off you go, Mick. You don't represent the labour movement and you shouldn't be in the Labor Party. Your merchant banker mates will look after you, so you don't need the pension. Go now!

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

Mick Costa is sounding eerily like an Australian editorial circa September 2007. Hasn't he heard the Liberals lost the federal election largely because of their inflexible, reckless ideological stance, particularly in relation to industrial relations and their ideologically motivated attacks on the important role of trade unions in a democracy?

Surely the NSW Labor government realises, like the rest of Australia, the majority of people simply thought the Libs IR policies were unfair, exploitative, and would deepen inequality?

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, since Costa mentioned it, anyone interested knows very well that nearly two decades of privatisation policies supported by governments across the political spectrum are clearly mechanisms designed to retain the advantages of national and global capital. In a nutshell.

Considerations of efficiency, equity, service delivery, environmental impact, are secondary, if that, despite half-hearted arguments to the contrary.

Privatisation policies are ideologically driven: the ideology of neo-liberalism and market free-for-all. So, puhleeze, don't tell us you don't deal in ideology, mate.

You're a near-perfect macho embodiment of the machine-like instrumentalism of a ruthless capitalism. And you parrot its underlying ideology, involuntarily, it now seems.