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What mandate?

By Troy Duncan - posted Tuesday, 18 December 2001

Following the Coalition’s election victory earlier this month, PM Howard stated that his victory was a justification of his "mandate". Now, I ask you, what is Howard’s mandate? You can bet that’s its more of the same - more deregulation, more privatisation and more free trade without resistance from like-minded state governments. And within that environment, rising unemployment, less job security, less money spent on health services and public education, continuing inflation and probably some more corporate collapses thrown in for good measure.

Now we all know that what Howard is doing is nothing knew. His policies are part of an economic fashion craze that began during the 1970s and soon intensified to throw us into the predicament we are now in. For over 25 years we have listened to these neo-liberal technocrats who have implemented their version of globalisation and where has it got us? They say that globalisation is inevitable and we’re powerless to stop it. Unfortunately, the alarm bells didn’t ring when they said that. If it’s inevitable, then what’s the use of having a democracy? What’s the use of electing politicians if they are powerless to implement policies that we want?

Since the end of World War II, there have been scores of international treaties put in place ranging from free trade to universal human rights. Unfortunately, the only real binding agreements have been centred on trade and economics. Thus, in this new "global village" the overriding principles are not directed at establishing and maintaining the common good, but instead, foster greed and pure self-interest in a competition that rewards foul play on a playing field that is clearly tilted in the favour of multinationals.


In Australia, we have a strong egalitarian tradition that has been built up over many years - rights of association, minimum wage restrictions, environmental protection policies, to name but a few - yet, these very elements of our democracy that our forefathers fought tooth and nail for are being undermined by superseding international economic treaties. This is why, when we go to the polls, we feel that our vote doesn’t count anymore. In fact, apathy seems to be winning out with 2.26 million people not finding their way to the polling booths. If you do the math, that’s one in every six people that just couldn’t be bothered. And big business is chewing at the bit to fill that massive void of non-participation.

Throughout the developing world, we have seen countries tricked into believing that turning themselves into tax-havens for multinational corporations will increase foreign investment and ultimately bring peace and prosperity. Now, they’ve been saying that for almost three decades and we all know the reality of the situation. It hasn’t worked.

Of course, when multinationals don’t pay taxes, there isn’t any money left over for social infrastructure, which inevitably leads to population explosions, crime waves, rampant disease, rivers of sewage, choking air pollution and civil war. Not too mention the cartels supplying the jobless and disillusioned populations in Australia with an endless and wide array of drugs. And it’s no wonder that the free-trade blitz has led to an explosion in the trade of armaments and illicit drugs - now the most traded goods on earth. Meanwhile, our so-called "experts" within the World Bank and IMF are lending countries money to pay for loans. It defies logic. You can’t solve a problem by creating a new one.

There are currently around 1,000 "export processing zones" (EPZs) throughout nations of the "third world". EPZs are industrial areas within the countries that are tax-free and sealed off from the local government. They are areas where multinational corporations such as Nike, Levi’s, IBM, and General Motors are flocking to have their "dirty work" done at extremely low cost. Then they pour the surplus into the pockets of company executives and marketing crusades to brainwash the public into buying their products that have been marked up 400 per cent from their original production cost.

EPZs are where factory workers earn less than $1 an hour (barely enough to exist), work tireless, marathon shifts that can drag on for 48 hours and where they aren’t allowed to organise unions. Some of you might say, "But, they aren’t being forced to work". That’s right, but the other options are begging, prostitution, hitching a ride with hundreds of others on leaky boats to Australia or even staying on the farms that supply the ingredients for illicit drugs.

So what’s that got to do with us? Working conditions in Australia are far from those seen in the Philippines, Indonesia or the Maquiladoras zone on the Mexico-United States border. The problem is that when a textile, automobile or software factory closes here in Australia, where do you think they are heading? Where are they threatening to go when they invoke economic terrorism, hold us to ransom and ask for a government bail-out or massive tax cuts and wage reductions for those greedy workers? The tax-free zones in the developing world of course. You can’t blame them really.


Subsequently, we are left with either the loss of thousands of jobs (more pressure on the social security system at the tax payer’s expense) or money sponging multinationals that aren’t squeezing any money back into the community.

And those of you sitting comfortably in the service industry thinking that your job is immune from corporate cholera think again. The stock market can’t hide its joy when companies such as Coles-Myer and Optus announce their massive job cuts. It won’t be long before our leaders are no longer able to hide the realities of the global age behind their veil of endless statistics.

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About the Author

Troy Duncan is a freelance journalist.

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