Australia has a problem, well it has many problems (racists, idiots and the just plain confused) but we are focusing on the financial here. We are in debt, our government is in debt (though that is not necessarily a bad place to be) and our banks own us and most of the nation. Who are we to look to, for any assistance in this matter? The current government has given up on a clean, innovative future, and big businesses in Australia either avoid tax, don’t pay their workers correctly, coerce their suppliers so they don’t have to pay them correctly, or most likely a combination of all three. Big business also struggles with innovation and often relies on government handouts or they’ll leave. The mining boom is over, we have an ageing population that is soon to cost us a large amount of money in pensions and care, there is no backing for innovation or technology and our agriculture sector is undergoing all sorts of problems with global warming set to hit us hard. So what are we left with to rebuild? Well very little, the largest area of economic growth right now is in property but this is dwarfed by the figures the mining boom produced. It seems our current plan is to sit in our houses (too bad if you are one of the many shut out of ever owning your own home), work our illegally underpaying jobs and wait for the property to be worth more. Hopefully you are negatively gearing something but more likely you are underemployed, or unemployed, or quite likely you are in gaol, with the national average of those in gaol increasing by 8% since last year and a 20% increase over the last decade. We need a huge culture shift away from our current thinking if we are to get out of this cycle of debt, given that this cycle benefits the most rich and they get extra votes in elections, plus can afford lobbyists, it is going to be an extremely hard task. It is time to let the big end of town be responsible for its own failures.
Big business is anti-competition, in fact it’s so anti-competition that we have to have entire government organisations to keep them inline, ASIC and the ACCC. I don’t know if you visit the ACCC’s website often but you’ll find they are quite busy recalling products and fining companies for dodgy practices. One example can be found in the tiny Northcote Plaza Shopping Centre, there are two Coles. The reason there are two Coles, is not because they are each generating huge profits but rather to stop Woolworths from buying up the space. This is a common practice for the supermarket giants and they are certainly not the only ones to use such tactics. Another common tactic is to buy up smaller competitors, why compete when you can squash? It is seen as a reasonable tactic for the large players to do this but it doesn’t benefit our society as a whole. Big business takeovers often end with terminations for the staff of the newly purchased business and the only people that benefit, are the former owner of the company and the big business that devoured them. In fact it can even be quite detrimental to a community, as all the other companies that were tied to that small business are left out as the big business uses its already established network. Russell Brand explored this quite well in his documentary, The Emperor’s New Clothes.
Yes gaol is spelt with a g (and spelt isn’t necessarily a grain) but not only has modern day Australia forgot how to spell gaol we’ve also forgot what it’s purpose is for. Privatised prisons have become a thing and if you checked out the linked article there you will see them described as a, “growth industry.” Now we all know how well that system turned out in the US, with judges imprisoning people with ridiculous sentences for kickbacks from these very same private prisons. Neither our government nor private prisons are doing anything to reduce crime, in fact a whopping 42.1% of prisoners were back in gaol within two years. If we want to be an innovative nation, if we want to get out of debt, we can’t have a growing percentage of our people in prison. Our economy is based solely on people now, we don’t have a gold standard anymore, all we have is the amount of money a given number of people can produce. We rightly believe that capital punishment is plain wrong, so we look to gaol to rehabilitate. Except for now we don’t, with minimal sentences being enforced for most crimes (white collar crimes and human rights violations seem to be exempt) and the idea of profiting off the labour of prisoners becoming a part of it, we are in a race to the bottom. Make Australia great again by turning us back into a penal colony! You expect to hear someone shout. Why is this so dangerous? I hear you ask. Aren’t we benefitting from making money off gaol and the gaol system? No, we are structuring our society to have a need for imprisonment. Private prisons will demand more prisoners which will see judges and magistrates paid of to supply them. Paying prisoners peanuts will close small businesses that are legally obliged to pay their workers a liveable wage out of the market. Private prisons have to fail in order for them to be good for our society. Private enterprise is bound by the idea of continually striving for more income for their stakeholders but if things are going well in this country we should be seeing less people in gaol. We also need to be reviewing our legal system to see if there are any outdated laws that can be stricken from the record, not only will this benefit us economically because keeping someone in prison costs us nearly $300 a day but we may also open up new areas of our economy.
Though we are currently in a swing away from paying a decent amount for individual welfare, big business expects big welfare. We paid our big four banks 120 billion dollars to keep them afloat and they now believe that this is necessary whenever they get into trouble. Basically they don’t have to do their job of securing our money, planning for the hard times with a well rounded portfolio of investments. No, they can break laws, throw people and communities under the bus with their dodgy loan schemes and expect the country to bail them out every time. You don’t need to look far for all kinds of government bailouts and tax breaks for big business. The mining industry expects large tax breaks, the removal of the carbon tax was basically a tax break for the mining sector, energy producers and anyone who is using huge amounts of energy. Though I do think it is reasonable to help get industries and innovations started, when they are huge organisations they should be able to stand on their own feet. Yet we seem to do things exactly the opposite, it is hard for new businesses to start and established big businesses get the run of the country. None of this should come across as particularly shocking or new, it comes from a simple idea that is meant to be the crux of any social organisation, reward good behaviour and punish the bad, it’s just that we are so far lost from what is good and bad we have started to reward the most greedy and punish the rest. What we need is for the bad old practices to come tumbling right down to the ground so they can be cleared for the new, not propped up by government money.