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I live in a kleptocracy

By John Tomlinson - posted Thursday, 1 June 2017


It is generally agreed that a kleptocracy is a system of governance whereby those in leadership positions make themselves rich and powerful by taking from the general wealth and diverting such wealth and power to their own selves. It is often suggested that such an accumulation of wealth and power is theft from the commons, particularly because it is seldom acknowledged.

In Australia, we tend to see banana republics and dictatorial regimes as the blueprint for such forms of governance. We loudly proclaim that ours is a form of Westminster democracy where the rule of law, the separation of powers, regular elections and so forth are the order of the day.

However, I would argue that our system of governance is a far cry from such idealised Westminster forms and is very much closer to the regimes we sneer at: regimes which are corrupt, venal, uncaring, ruthless and even murderous.

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A major difference between here and the stereotypical kleptocracy is that corporate and vested interests rather than individual players proliferate in the Australian context.

The budget

The last time the Australian budget was in surplus was around the time of the time of the Global Financial Crisis. The Labor government of the day under Rudd and Swan engaged in Keynesian pump priming to stop the economy sinking into recession. Since then we have not had the money to do it again - should the need arise.

The current Turnbull conservative government has just brought down a nondescript collection of economic policies in its budget papers which its journalist apologists are wont to describe as a Labor budget. They seem totally oblivious to the tax handouts to companies the removal of the tax levy on millionaires and all the other sweeteners to the big end of town.

The conservatives have left untouched negative gearing and capital gains perks to housing investors, the family trust tax scams and all the paraphernalia which our rich denizens are used to receiving as manna from heaven. This apology of a budget continues with cutbacks for unemployed people forced to rely on government payments and has the added insult of drug testing as part of the governments weaponry against decency.

Billions of dollars continues to be wasted on military equipment and military commitments to wars which the United States wants us to fight in their name. Anyone who read, Karen Middleton's analysisof the hundreds of billions we have wasted in a series of confused military adventures, during the last decade and a half, in our ongoing crusades in the middle east and Afghanistan and who wants to continue such unending wars needs a frontal lobotomy.

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At the time of writing, we have the farce of our two largest warships tied up in docks awaiting some genius to decide how to make the engines go forwards, backwards and sideways. This of course does not deter the Christopher Pyne's ordinance purchase song and dance teams from ordering 12 new French designed submarines, strike fighter aircraft from the United States and any other toys that the boys in military uniforms might want to play with.

Since the beginning of this century, successive Australian governments have cutback foreign aid budgets in order to enhance our military arsenal. Foreign aid has the capacity to feed the malnourished, house the homeless, provide shelter to refugees and asylum seekers and enhance life for those living on the edge. It is a far more effective way to ensure world peace than going around the world meeting lots of desperate people and then killing them.

The budget continues the subsidies to primary producers and to industries to keep producing what they are doing irrespective of the ecological or other costs which might, if properly considered, give cause to halt or at least reflect. Fertiliser subsidies increase pollution runoff on to the Great Barrier Reef, diesel subsidies add to carbon pollution of the atmosphere. But in order to tame the agro/mining/ industrial cartels we hand over in excess of $50 billion a year to keep them quiescent.

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About the Author

Dr John Tomlison is a visiting scholar at QUT.

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