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Federal Government

SWAN DIVE: The World’s Greatest Treasurer indulges in some Chavez cha-cha-cha

SwanchavezTreasurer Wayne Swan is a good bloke. We like him very much and rate him very highly. In Queensland, at least, and we’ve seen this at first-hand, he has a near cult-following of other good blokes who yell out to him “Swanny!”, shake his hand, high-five him and then have earnest chats about the Broncos or whatever else is ailing them.

He’s also presiding over what one of his predecessors would have called a “beautiful set of numbers” earning him the same Finance Minister of the Year award from Euromoney that Keating himself won.

But from what we’ve read so far in his The Monthly essay on fat, rich people throwing their weight around the national debate, we think he’s made a mistake in indulging in some Chavez style attack-the-rich rhetoric.

He opens expressing concern with:

A decade ago, as I waited for my order outside a Maroochydore fish and chip shop, a tall, barefoot young man strolled past wearing a T-shirt that read: ‘Greed is good. Trample the weak. Hurdle the dead.’ Those brutal lines seemed to encapsulate what was then a growing sense of unease in Australia.

Of course, if Swan had a full appreciation of the breadth of Queensland culture, he would be aware that T-shirt bears the lyrics of a now mercifully defunct “death-metal” band Skinless:

Many of the lyrics suggest it is all meant somewhat ironically, in an attention-seeking effort to shock, not as an expression of neo-uber-capitalism. Members of the VEXNEWS Investigations Unit more familiar with death-metal were not awake at time of publication (pre-noon) so we’ll just make that bold assertion and defend it at leisure. Our suspicion is that Wayne’s enthusiasm for metal wouldn’t have gone much beyond the girly offerings of Bon Jovi or Aerosmith.

Swan goes on to semi-endorse the concerns of the Occupy movement that there is rising inequality in Australia and the western world.

Call us Dickensian but even the most obnoxious, avaricious, pro-Beijing, unprincipled corporate warrior troubles us less than those Occupy-ites who wish to (in unspecific ways) smash the system that has brought the vast bulk of people out of feudal poverty into living standards unimaginable centuries ago.

SwannyMarket capitalism needs rules and a balance but politicians making populist attacks on the rich is a worry. It’s just as much of a worry as the flip-side which is politicians making special rules and devising special fixes for the wealthy. Both are to be avoided.

Swan – in his governing – cannot really be faulted on these things. He’s governed wisely and is well-respected as Treasurer because of it. We refer to Swan’s words:

But again, it’s that tiny 1%, or even 0.1%, who are trying to drown out the others, who are blind to the national interest, and who pour their considerable personal fortunes into advertising, armies of lobbyists, dodgy modelling and corporate and commercial manoeuvring designed to influence editorial decisions.

The latest example of this is the foray by Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, into Fairfax Media, reportedly in an attempt to wield greater influence on public opinion and further her commercial interests at a time when the overwhelming economic consensus is that it’s critical to use the economic weight of the resources boom to strengthen the entire economy. Without a blush, her friend and fellow media owner John Singleton let the cat out of the bag when he told the Sydney Morning Herald that he and Rinehart had been “able to overtly and covertly attack governments … because we have people employed by us like Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones and Ray Hadley who agree with [our] thinking”.

I fear Australia’s extraordinary success has never been in more jeopardy than right now because of the rising power of vested interests. This poison has infected our politics and is seeping into our economy. Though these vested interests have not yet prevailed, every day their demands get louder.

Politicians have a choice: between exploiting divisions by promoting fear and appealing to the sense of fairness and decency that is the foundation of our middle-class society; between standing up for workers and kneeling down at the feet of the Gina Rineharts and the Clive Palmers.

We find all of this quite troubling. We’ve body-slammed pro-Beijing Clive Palmer harder than a Russ Hinze belly-flop at times but the Treasurer’s attack on Gina Rinehart and her interest in media stocks seems straight out of the Hugo Chavez playbook.

It is well-known in the investment community that Ms Rinehart has zero interest in owning The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. She and her colourful prospective business partner John Singleton have been trying to purchase Fairfax’s radio assets for many months and have been unable to negotiate a price with that ailing company’s management who want them to pay a huge premium for it. She has bought in the company to turn up the heat on them, with the very real prospect she could takeover the lot to break it up and get the assets she wants for a much lower price than Fairfax management seek.

Our view is that the editorial talent on Fairfax’s stations would be much more comfortable being owned by right-wing billionaires (even if they make pro-Beijing speeches of the most cringing and nauseating kind as Palmer does) than be part of an occasionally stridently leftist newspaper publishing group. Rinehart is clearly the more natural owner of conservative talk-back stations than Fairfax has ever been, which is itself a bizarrely unnatural fit, pursued by the company’s then management in an effort to grow beyond a size where they could be comfortably taken over. Their ever-declining share price has made all marvellous things possible.

But if Rinehart had the money to buy and transform The Age into a journal for patriots then that’s her right in the free-market system we let Wayne Swan preside over. The Age’s business model has failed, its expensive brand of left-wing journalism, complete with rancid Israel-bashing and political vendettas funded by rivers-of-gold classifieds is over.

NewspaperadsThis chart amply demonstrates the problem, it’s not unique to Australia. Print ads are not dead but they are certainly looking skinnier than the average mining billionaire on his fourteenth course of a Chinese banquet.

Journalism of the agenda-pushing niche kind seen at The Age, if it is to survive, will need to rely on patrons. This is a reversion to how newspapers were at the beginning. It wasn’t so bad really.

We hope to be prosperous enough ourselves to maintain, sustain and grow our own, for the edification of a grateful nation. We are – indeed – the future of news.

It’s interesting to us that Rinehart buying into Fairfax (with a mere 15% shareholding) causes such mass hysteria (even though her fortune might in theory be enough to sustain Fairfax’s loss-making newspapers going forward) while no-one seems to worry at all that the Global Mail news site is exclusively funded by the biggest political donor in Australian history, Graeme Wood, who is a close mate and beneficiary of the works of Senator Bob Brown of the Greens political party.

There seems a big double-standard there.

It has always been the case that “vested interests” will seek to win things for themselves at the expense of others. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Swan’s right that government needs to govern in the interests of all. But it’s not apparent how the Treasurer of the country attacking some of our most successful – if occasionally deeply annoying – people helps the Australian interest. It’s petty populism, in our book, and doesn’t reflect much credit on him at all.

The true Labor moderate position on all of this has always been, as famously quoted by former anti-communist trade union leader turned Evil-Empire-crushing President Ronald Reagan (also disparaged in Swan’s piece):

You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatreds.
You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man’s initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.

We’d like to see that on a T-shirt.

Discussion

Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. His basic argument is as follows: People with accumulation of wealth way beyond that of virtually every Australian do not have the right to influence public policy (or to use their wealth to do so) way beyond that which the average citizen can do so. And he’s right. Wealth should not equal greater influence on policy. Our democracy is not for sale.

    Posted by Brenton Eccles | March 2, 2012, 10:12
  2. ***our democracy is not for sale***

    LOL, what pompous twaddle.

    Rinehart, Palmer, you, me, have every right to buy media shares or start up a new paper. And it’s that right which Swan is attacking. remember Labor using the UK media hacking affair to attack News Ltd here? There is nothing they won’t do to protect their ABC and Fairfax media whores. But it won’t work Wayne, because your brand is toxic.

    Posted by Byron in Wahroonga | March 2, 2012, 10:54
  3. Mrs Rudd is rich so she should shut her mouth

    Posted by Harry | March 2, 2012, 11:59
  4. The problem with Swan and his dud political party is that they only have 99% of the media on their side,they would like the whole 100%.Whats wrong with rich Aussies Swan? maybe they should change their nationality,like Rupert and then its ok to be filthy rich if your not an aussie.

    Posted by cona | March 2, 2012, 12:58
  5. Money bag Laborites Pollies take on the rich…LOL

    Posted by rise up | March 2, 2012, 13:10
  6. Ideology of the Hegemony. Vex you are the GATEKEEPER!!!!!!!!!

    Posted by Mysterious and wise | March 2, 2012, 16:16
  7. Memo: Treasurer Swan & PM Gillard

    It may play well with your base, it may play well in the marginals but it will mightily annoy the people you depend on to keep the economy ticking over.

    You need to pray that they really don’t get upset enough to do what you suggest and get the heck out of the Australian economy and move their influence and wealth somewhere else.

    Posted by Giuseppe De Simone | March 2, 2012, 16:29
  8. Wayne Swan forgets that unions often involve themselves in campaigns, not associated with pay and conditions from their members, and the ALP has wealthy backers like Evan Thornley that donate funds or offer support in the media.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | March 2, 2012, 16:31
  9. Ronald Reagan was inspirational.

    Wayne Swan is the antithesis of inspirational.

    The Treasurer is always resentful of being number two and it shows. At school, he was #2 to Rudd, now he’s #2 to PM Gillard.

    I’m glad PM Gillard has shown her fake socialist colours by supporting these stupid stupid comments that pander to the most populist and envious instincts of the electorate.

    It is hard to argue that rich people should have so much more influence and power than poor people. However, governments the world over seek to have them invest in their economy or seek their counsel on important issues. It’s not the rich that peddle their influence, it’s the government that panders to their whims.

    Posted by Giuseppe De Simone | March 2, 2012, 16:33
  10. If Malcolm hadn’t hooked up with that looney Grech and gone all-out to get Rudd he would’ve run over Swan with his own borrowed ute.
    Thanks Malcolm you idiot.

    Posted by Toad of Toad Hall | March 2, 2012, 16:55
  11. Rudd and Swan went to the same high school. Rudd studied and Swan played rugby.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | March 2, 2012, 18:41
  12. “Rudd studied and Swan played rugby”

    But I hear they both got fondled by the Geography teacher

    Posted by Toad of Toad Hall | March 2, 2012, 20:01
  13. All very interesting Wayne, but I am more interested in what you think of pimply union officials who can’t get a root under their own auspices and use Union dues to pay to get their pin-dicks wet?

    Posted by Toad of Toad Hall | March 2, 2012, 20:42
  14. I’ll have you know Toad, it’s quite a bit bigger than a pin.

    Posted by Craig the Mute of Dobell | March 2, 2012, 20:46
  15. Nah …. Right first time Toad

    Posted by Craig's First Missus | March 2, 2012, 21:15
  16. Too right!
    The most painless $500 I ever made.

    Posted by Candy | March 2, 2012, 21:19
  17. Sayne WWAN ak Wayne Swine is a member of an insitution that belongs in an Insitution!

    Posted by Institution | March 2, 2012, 22:06
  18. It’s ironic that Swan wants to take on the rich, considering that very fat pay packet he gets makes him..well one of the rich!!!

    Posted by Futureproof | March 2, 2012, 22:25
  19. Not a fan of Chris Pyne but he is smashing Emma Alberichi for six off every ball on Lateline.

    Posted by Anon | March 2, 2012, 22:43
  20. Regarding dud former NSW Premier Carr as an asset shows that Bob and Juliar have both lost their marbles. Marbles are in short supply in Canberra these days. It has become a black hole for taxpayers dollars – hundreds of staff, a bloated platinum superannuation scheme and silver service perks for talkative loafers.

    Worst of all it has become a sheltered workshop for so-called ‘honourable’ people you wouldn’t sit next to in a bus in case they picked your pockets.

    Andrew stop propagating these idiots.

    Posted by Thanks for nuthin Andy | March 2, 2012, 23:03
  21. Please don’t publish my details Mr Landeryou as a wealthy attractive lady like me, could get raped by some beast.

    Posted by Miss Piggy Rinehart | March 2, 2012, 23:50
  22. The person with the most influence on a political party because of wealth is the guy who slipped the Greens a few million from money made on the Internet.

    Posted by Giuseppe De Simone | March 3, 2012, 7:05
  23. Jeff Kennett sold Victoria’s public assets for a song, and now we are paying the price.

    Posted by Build far bigger jails | March 3, 2012, 13:19
  24. You just wait and see what the ALP and Liberal scum have in store for us;
    “Revealed: government plans for police privatisation”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/mar/02/police-privatisation-security-firms-crime?commentpage=all#start-of-comments

    Posted by chris | March 3, 2012, 15:13
  25. Build for bigger gaols (not jails that the Yankee way of spelling it) – Jeff Kennett sold the old and dirty electric power plant for a good price but the value has dropped for shareholders since then. This was a good decision for Victoria’s taxpayers. Why keep an old power plant built by General Sir John Monash in the 1930’s that is now outdated and environmentally unfriendly.

    As far the natural gas plant on the coast is concerned I think it has always been a private company. It replaced the stinky coal produced town gas, with the huge gasometers in every suburb, in the early 1980’s which was state owned. Hence the name Gas Work Park in Albert Park.

    Of cause the Commonwealth Bank was privatised by Hawke/Keating, the Stste Savings Bank (SSB) in Victoria and a similar one SA were wrecked by Cain/Kirner in Vic and a SA Labour Government.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | March 3, 2012, 16:31
  26. GDS, Swanny is simply #2. Of the smelly variety.

    Posted by evil bastard | March 5, 2012, 16:18
  27. Every time Wayne Swan opens his mouth he’s slightly less full of shit.

    Posted by Jim Wiggs | March 7, 2012, 1:34

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