Midday to 2:00pm - Wednesday 4th November 2020
Fitzroy Gardens: Old Bandstand – 3002 Clarendon St, East Melbourne VIC 3002
Call for Executive Nominations:
• Secretary / Convenor
• Registered Officer
• Party Agent
THE HUMAN COVID-19 FAMILY
The range of options in Australia about the COVID-19 crisis should not be cause for concern or alarm. In a crisis people respond in different ways. The rise and rise of social media as an instrument of communication and dissemination of ideas and information within the community, has given people with ideas that don't conform to mainstream scientific opinion a platform to find people with similar opinions.
Opinions within the Australian community about the COVID-19 crisis can be divided into 5 main categories:
"It's a hoax" – I've been surprised by the number of supposedly rational thinking people who think it's some type of hoax despite over 600,000 deaths worldwide within a 4 month period. Denial is a common human response to events people have no control over. Unless those members of the community who believe it's all a hoax, all members of their immediate family fall ill with COVID-19, denial will continue to be the way they cope with the unfolding crisis.
The next category is what I describe as the "1+1=3 brigade". This group accepts COVID-19 is real but does not accept the virus has crossed the animal / human barrier. They need to apportion blame in order to make sense of what is happening around them. The bone is usually pointed at various sources ranging from the 5G network, chemical trails and a criminal conspiracy by powerful forces that want to wreck the economy and create a world government that will introduce compulsory vaccination. The more politically sophisticated members of the 1+1=3 brigade blame Mossad, the CIA, the Russian Secret Service or the Chinese Communist Party for infecting the community with COVID-19 to sovereign rights and liberties and destroy Western liberal democracies.
The common feature about those that belong to the 1+1=3 brigade is, although there may be a germ of truth in what they believe, in an attempt to turn on embryonic concept that would normally be reported from the mind of the great majority of rational thinking people, they try to justify 1+1=3 by finding a myriad of unrelated facts and figures to support their original hypothesis.
The third group has been around for thousands of years, they don't need social media to trumpet their message. They accept COVID-19 is real but don't believe it has anything to do with the virus jumping the animal / human barrier. They believe (and belief is the operative word) COVID-19 is God's punishment for humanity turning its back on God. Plagues have always been seen as the way God punishes societies that don't toe a specific religious line.
Although the first three groups can be easily dismissed, the fourth group, "the young and the restless", is a much more significant concern because they make up a sizeable section of the population." COVID-19’s major impact is on the elderly and those with co-morbidities". The current mortality rate rangers from 1-4% of those infected. The majority of deaths occur in people over 70. Those under 30 are sick and tired of being told what to do by people who have created a world that has left them behind, has put their future on hold and has pursued economic policies that could destroy the planet. Although young people now make up a significant proportion of those that catch the virus, most can shake it off without major health consequences. It's important to remember the social economic consequences have largely been born by those under 30. It's not surprising a significant proportion think the sacrifices they have been forced to make are not worth the effort, considering how little the rewards are.
The fifth group, "the silent majority", largely except the science and the restrictions that have been placed on them to bring the virus under control, but are very concerned about personal short term and long-term costs and consequences. Saddled by debt, they are beginning to question the extent of the lockdown that has been imposed by state and federal government.
Why should we be concerned about the current pandemic, is the question more and more people are asking as the personal cost they have been asked to pay, escalates dramatically.
Those people that like to draw a link between influenza, malaria, HIV and a host of other diseases that plague humanity, and COVID-19, have missed a number of important points.
The major difference between COVID-19 and almost every other disease that afflicts humanity, including Ebola is, currently there is no herd immunity (as it's a completely new virus), there is no treatment and no vaccination. This means that even if the mortality rate is between 2-3%, up to 200 million people worldwide will die as a result of the virus within the next 12 months.
Six months into the pandemic the virus has been around long enough for us to be able to evaluate what is the best way to minimise the extent of the human and economic carnage caused by it.
Countries around the world have tried various ways of combating it. Brazil has ignored it and is paying the human and economic cost. The United States, led by a President who at various times has labelled COVID-19 a hoax and has promoted a 1+1=3 approach, is paying both the human and economic cost for not taking the virus seriously.
Sweden has followed a herd immunity path that has had minimal impact on their economy but has resulted in over 5,000 deaths in a population of a little over 10 million people. In Victoria the introduction of "a state of disaster" has had a profound impact on the economy as well as increasing community concerns regarding the authorities' increasing authoritarian response to the crisis. Significant numbers of people are beginning to ask – is the sacrifice worth the effort and the cost?
Maybe if the Victorian and Federal government had looked at the international response to the virus they would not have needed to embark on the drastic and poorly planned direction Victoria has taken. We don't live in a vacuum, we need to learn from our mistakes and need to learn from the experiences of the rest of the world. There is no shame in admitting mistakes and taking the necessary actions required that both minimise the risk to those most at risk and spare the rest of the community from the economic, social and cultural price that Victoria is currently paying.
Dr. Joseph Toscano – Registered Officer, Public Interests Before Corporate Interests
This week, Dr Joe Toscano focusses on the other pandemic; the one that has been around for about 40 years. We call it the ‘public outsourcing pandemic’.
As the thick fog of the pandemic continues to obscure our ability to plan for the future, one thing is certain; corporations and the top 1% plan to continue increasing their profits. In fact, the larger corporations are taking full advantage of the pandemic and are profiting like never before. As a consequence, the corporate drive for larger and larger profits is fuelling the rise in inequality. Underpinning the wealth gap is the economic muscle and political influence that corporations and their benefactors, the superrich, are able to exercise through the mainstream media and policy makers via political donations and lobbyists. This has enabled them to funnel public funds away from socially beneficial services and into their coffers. The incomprehensible wealth that corporations and individuals have accumulated since the global financial crisis (GFC) in 2008 highlights the renewed greed of the top 1%. However, this greed comes at a cost - one that the majority of us are paying for. The obvious question remains – how long can the public afford the luxury of supporting the superrich?
Who are they and what are they worth?
In 2011, Warren Buffet, who currently is America’s third richest person put it bluntly; “there’s been class warfare going on for the last twenty years, and my class has won. We’re the one’s that have gotten our tax rates reduced.” Buffet is correct, the global 1% are winning, and it literally comes at our expense.
Currently, the world’s 2,095 billionaires, worth approximately $US 8 trillion are winning. Of these, Jeff Bezoz, founder of Amazon is ranked at the top of the list amassing approximately $US 199.7 billion. Between 2019 and 2020, his wealth increased by $US 14.1 billion. To put this into perspective, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) entire operating budget rests at a paltry $US 5 billion. Or, to put it more bluntly, half the world is trying to survive on $US 5.50 or less per day.
As we climb down the dizzying heights of the world’s rich list, the amount of wealth accumulated by our nation’s superrich is nothing to laugh at. They too are winning as they help to entrench inequality in Australia. Gina Rinehart is Australia’s richest person with $US 15.3 billion, followed by Harry Triguboff with $US 9.3 billion. According to Oxfam, “our top 1% have more than double the wealth of the entire bottom 50% - or more than 12.5 million people.” Or to put it another way, “250,000 people owned nearly $US 1.6 trillion – equating to 22.2 per cent of the nation’s wealth.” Clearly, Australia is the lucky country; at least for a very small section of society who earns more in a fortnight than someone in the lowest 5% earns in an entire year.
Australia’s superrich are supported by the nation’s largest and most profitable corporations which include the big four banks, BHP, Telstra, Woolworths Group, and Wesfarmers.
Hoarding wealth: how do they do it?
The superrich would have us believe that through hard work, intelligence and a dash of luck anyone could become a billionaire. However, the reality behind this self-promoted fairy tale is far more complex and morally questionable. Corporations and the top 1% of the superrich have amassed an arsenal of weapons that they regularly deploy across a number of avenues to ensure they continue winning the war against the rest of us. Unfortunately, this comes at a heavy cost in economic, social and political terms.
Behind the façade of the democratic process, political campaigns are regularly
financed by large corporations under the guise of so-called ‘political donations.’ Some large corporations hedge their bets by backing both of the major political parties. Following an election, such ‘donors’ appeal to their successful benefactors for support – I scratch your back, you now scratch mine.
Across the globe, corporations regularly employ lobbyists who actively promote specific legislation that generally benefits the agenda of corporations at the expense of citizens. They also commission research organisations to conduct studies that are specifically designed to facilitate their views and aims. This tactic is also supported by the use of lobbyists to promote their research findings. Ultimately, this helps to undermine the common good and benefit corporate interests.
With four decades of neoliberalism behind us, corporations have become adept in capturing regulatory agencies that normally would come under the auspices of government. The privatisation of government agencies charged to monitor and regulate corporations have effectively been placed in the hands of corporations. This has weakened and helped to dilute the original aim of such agencies in monitoring and/or restricting the excessive activities of corporations.
Given their insatiable appetite for profit, corporations through their sponsored actors aim to directly influence legislation, and ‘tweak’ the scope of regulatory agencies which impacts their capacity to act. Their vast wealth provides corporations with a range of tools to influence how laws are written. This tactic clearly places corporate interests ahead of public interests, that ultimately undermines the common good.
Amongst the range of tools at the disposal of corporations are many federal and state politicians that have retired from serving the public. Such former politicians have seamlessly transitioned from a government ministry onto a corporate payroll. Their years of experience, intimate intel and networks fetch top dollar as they feed information into the boardrooms of large corporations. This is despite the confidential information they may have had access to whilst holding the post of minister. Regardless of what we may deem as a conflict of interest, both major parties at the state and federal level continually evade addressing the concerns the public may have about such career changes of former politicians. What could be more attractive to a corporation than having a former government minister in the organisation’s armoury to deploy at a moment’s notice?
Large companies and their owners have exercised a ‘tax boycott’ by using their wealth to ‘minimise their contribution’ to society via taxation. Elaborate schemes, off-shore banking and a plethora of legal loopholes provide a host of avenues that assist the 1% in keeping their vast sums of wealth tucked away from the public while we dutifully pay our taxes. Globally, the 50 top private banks collectively managed over $US 12 trillion in cross-border invested assets by private individuals. Due to the complex and murky nature of such financial arrangements, we can only speculate what the real figure amounts to.
Media corporations play an active role in promoting and justifying the enormous wealth held by a small minority in society. They also play a central role in peddling the neoliberal ideology onto an unsuspecting public and dress it up as ‘common sense.’ The free market approach is pressed through TV, print and radio outlets on a daily basis in the form of consumerism, private property and affluence. Businesses fund media projects that are popularised on TV in the form of winner takes all game shows, or based on the ultra-individualistic survivor scenario. This ‘economic survival of the fittest’ formula that is drip fed to the public helps to work against those in our community who have not benefitted from the market system.
It is little wonder that people think that the pursuit of profit and self-interest form the purpose of life. This works well for the 1% who already own the lion’s share of society’s wealth. The corporate media has built a platform that proclaims that we don’t need social provisions, as it regularly attacks the welfare state, welfare recipients and promotes a culture of blaming the victims. Often it paints a picture that associates dependency with individual weakness whilst it condones excessive individualism, over consumption, and a winner takes all world view. The network of right-wing thinktanks and the corporate owned media help to promote their views and shut out or exclude alternative perspectives; this is how the corporate owned media influences and alters public opinion. Some media analysts have pointed out that the concentration of corporate owned media outlets has caused the decline in the dissemination of independent, community-based political perspectives. Today, investigative journalism is a shadow of its former self and is constantly on the backfoot as governments and big business rail against journalists who dare to question. This has significant adverse consequences for democratic discourse in our society.
The impact of redistributing wealth upward
Corporations have an obligation to generate profits for their shareholders. However, given the impact their activities have on society, they also need to be reminded of their obligations to the public.
Corporations employ vast numbers of people, generate work and income for our communities. They are key to assisting our communities’ material progress. However, corporations heavily focus on one single goal – generating vast amounts of profit. If this goal is not met, corporations shed labour, close down operations, move interstate or overseas. The economic impact on our communities can be swift and devastating. Across the globe, large corporations are also involved in the exploitation of the natural environment, and a by-product of this is toxic pollution.
The hoarding of wealth by the 1% has life-changing consequences for the rest of us. As corporations and the superrich work on new and more sophisticated ways of protecting their obscene levels of wealth, the rest of society suffers. The inequality that they eagerly help to generate goes beyond economics and reaches into the social realm. Most notably is the impact on each individual to reach their full potential. As vast amounts of wealth are diverted into the pockets of the rich, our health systems remain limited in capacity. This translates into reducing people’s quality of life and life expectancy. The paltry taxes paid by large corporations limit government expenditure on our public school system thereby negatively impacting the potential of our children. As funding limitations constrain the quality and capacity of our education institutions, educational prospects for our young people are severely restrained. This translates into poor work prospects, lack of fulfilment in life and can even affect mental health.
The growth in wealth by the superrich continues to reach dizzying heights while wealth at the bottom half decreases in an environment where workers’ wages have stagnated. As big business continually calls for a reduction in corporate tax, they vehemently ridicule worker’s calls for wage rises despite increases in their profit margins.
The threat to society posed by the 1% cannot be underestimated, as the division in society reaches historic levels. What is underreported is the fact that the gap within the 1% is also widening. The consequences of which continually fall on deaf ears.
Merely four years following the GFC, the Wealth Report 2012 detailed the possessions of the 0.01% of the global top 1%. They found:
• 16% owned a ski chalet
• 40% owned a beachfront property
• 20% invested in sports teams
• The US and UK were the most popular locations for a second home
• 27% believe ‘availability of luxury housing’ is a necessary attribute.
As our world faces famines, diseases, conflicts, and lack of clean water and basic sanitation, the superrich continue to hoard wealth and purchase property assets. Today, we face a global pandemic of which the impact is yet to be realised. Meanwhile Jeff Bezoz, the world’s richest man donated $US 100 million to battling Covid-19 which equated to approximately 0.01% of his immense wealth at the time of his donation.
One simple question remains: can we afford the superrich and large corporations?
Our task is to redress the balance
The economic cost to the public is merely one important aspect of how large corporations and the top 1% divert wealth into their pockets. The social costs have a devastating effect ranging from limiting education and work prospects through to negatively impacting mental health and life expectancy. However, the political impact cannot be underestimated. Large corporations employ lobbyists and former politicians to influence policy makers. Through privitisation, they have captured regulatory agencies which can only be viewed as the ultimate commercial accomplishment. Such influence has enabled them to groom the political class, which ultimately leads to the hollowing-out of our institutions and the democratic process. This leaves a thin outer shell to protect the public from the excesses of corporations and the excessive greed exercised by Australia’s richest individuals.
Only an engaged citizenry, motivated to redress the colossal imbalance between the 1% and the 99% can make a difference.
Public Interests Before Corporate Interests (PIBCI) offers a real alternative that aims to put the public first. We recognise that economic measures must be driven by public needs, and not the greed that motivates corporations and the 1%.
Join PIBCI and support us by promoting widespread public opposition to corporations that counter the common good. We encourage you to engage with your friends, family and neighbours and actively work to put public interests where they belong – front and centre of the political, cultural and economic debate.
We recognise that history is made by the people. Hence, it is important to start taking immediate action, before decisions are made for us. Placing the focus on the 1% is key to understanding why there is growing inequality, and that it cannot continue.
Join PIBCI today so we are to reach our individual potential, and for society to prosper based on a fair distribution of wealth. We simply need to reverse the growing division between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. Join PIBCI and help us start that change, and reclaim our future.
Anthony B – Website Editor
Keep informed by catching up on previous Monthly Perspective articles at our archive