Former ALP Minister, the Hon Clyde Cameron AO, delivered the following reflection on Australia’s current economic situation on Adelaide radio station 5UV last month.
World globalisation represents a triumph of economic rationalism to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. It has succeeded in persuading Governments to privatise State-owned essential services such as water, electricity, gas, rail, road and air transport, health services, insurance, banking and even jails.
The real power, under globalisation of the world’s corporate sector, is no longer Government elected by the people, but the transnational corporations of America, the UK, Germany, France and Japan.
Japanese transnational corporations failed to capture ownership of our country with bombs, bullets and bayonets in the Second World War, but are now achieving their aim with dollars.
The influential News Weekly, a paper founded by Bob Santamaria more than 50 years ago, on 11 September 1999, published telling comments against globalisation when it endorsed the following observations:
“No one has reaped more benefits from globalisation than the US and corporate America … The pressure exerted on nation states to open their gates to foreign capital, especially American managed capital, has given an enormous boost to the US economy … Deregulation, privatisation and open capital markets have undermined the economic prospects of millions of the world’s poorest people … The unregulated market is blind to equity and need”.
A global corporation will always go to the country which has the lowest wages and will therefore eventually erode wages everywhere. And, as wages fall, the demand for products will drop and lead to an eventual crash of the system.
Currently, $1,500 billion is flowing across international borders every day. It is vital that the Federal Government re-impose control over the inflow and outflow of foreign capital in the same way as was done by the Whitlam Government during its term of office.
However, during the thirteen years Labor governed under Hawke and Keating, it deregulated the financial system thus allowing an uncontrolled inflow and outflow of foreign capital. It foolishly floated the Australian dollar, allowing foreigners to manipulate its rate of exchange. It sold the Commonwealth Bank, Qantas, Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and at least another six publicly owned enterprises, portions of which finished up in the hands of foreigners.
A one per cent levy on all international transfers of money in and out of our country would raise billions of dollars in revenue. This is a proposal that has been strongly pressed by Professor James Tobin, the famous American economist and Nobel Prize Winner.
Another weapon that can be used to alleviate the damage caused by our present tariff policy is the imposition of a primage duty of one per cent on the value of all imports. It is a plan now being strongly advocated by William C. Wentworth. He points out that such an impost falls within the rules of the World Trade Organisation.
That would yield millions of dollars in revenue each year and at the same time, help to remedy the damage now being inflicted upon Australian industries by the reduction, and in some cases the total abolition of tariff protection. We need fair trade. Not free trade!
Global corporations are no longer answerable to the people of the countries in which they operate. Of the 100 largest economies of the world, 51 are multinational corporations – not countries! This is because under globalisation, transnational corporations are now allowed to locate their capital offshore.
The world’s population has now reached 5.8 billion; and is estimated to reach 7 billion in the year 2012 and 8 billion in 2028. Already one billion of the world’s people are unable to find work.
Failure to reduce air and water pollution, the erosion of the Ozone layer and a population explosion, will see millions of people die of starvation and disease every year, unless Governments act to plant trees, upgrade sewerage systems, end soil erosion, phase-out petrol power and introduce sensible family policies.
In the past 10 years, the percentage of wealth enjoyed by the top fifth of the world’s population has increased by 17 per cent, while the share available to the bottom half has nearly halved.
Governments are now allowing bank profits and the salaries of Chief Executives to increase at an alarming rate and have closed their eyes to the increased poverty of the poor.
The increasing stress caused by globalisation will lead to revolutionary bloodshed and the ultimate collapse of globalised corporate power. John Deutsch, the former head of the American CIA, has warned that unless the present misdistribution of wealth is addressed, there will be a deadly uprising of the masses.
We can take no pleasure from the fact that since the collapse of the Soviet Union, under the so-called free enterprise system now operating in Russia, its people are plagued by widespread poverty, unemployment, cutbacks in education, abolition of free health care and a shocking level of death from starvation and disease that did not exist under Communism.
It is no use people saying that since globalisation has overtaken the world, Australia has no option but to fall in line with it. The Government of Malaysia has proved that it had the power to control the evil of foreign corporate greed.
I was one of the first in Australia to expose the multinational threat to Australia when on 14 March 1998, I addressed a public meeting in the Pilgrim Church Hall in Adelaide against the Australian Government becoming a party to a Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) designed to allow globalised corporations to override the authority of a Government that is elected by the people for the people.
In my opening remarks I said:
“The proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment will do for investment what GATT did for trade; i.e. increase the powers of the transnational corporations to destroy the influence of democracy.
“Under the MAI, foreign corporations must never be ‘discriminated against’ by any Government at any level or on any account, and Governments that fail to observe their obligations may be sued for damages. The MAI gives unrestricted rights for transnational corporations to:
(1) export their commodities or services without conditions;
(2) purchase and own land and installations;
(3) own any saleable oil, forest, mineral or other resources without obligations;
(4) accumulate profits without responsibility for investment;
(5) create credit without restriction or consideration for inflation;
(6) bid for and own any privatised infrastructure;
(7) access government grants, loans, tax incentives, etc, like domestic firms;
(8) be free of requirements for job creation, import/export reciprocation, and technology transfer; and
(9) ignore national standards of human rights, labour rights or environmental protection on goods produced in and imported from other regions or nations.
“The MAI will join with previous Agreements our Government has signed, to increase still further, the power of the world’s transnational corporations to make the rich, richer; and the poor, poorer.”