Rundle: Greens are outflanking both sides on foreign ownership
The Greens strategic path is obvious, and half-completed. To outflank Labor, march through the heartland, and connect to rural Australians increasingly disturbed by the conflict between farming and mining.
When the right starts to talk about Bob Brown’s national press club speech as “capital xenophobia”, you know he must be onto something.
Yes, the tragedy of it. All this money wants to come to our country and we is being discriminatory. Overseas money, with its different faces, and strange smells, is getting funny looks.
The smooth and sophisticated euro, denied entry because it eats horse and uses a bidet — denied entry! The respectful and family-oriented yen — denied entry! The … well you get the idea.
It’s nuts of course. It’s an extension of this weird roll-over process that began with the Malaysian solution with the Opposition being shocked that the government would send people to an overcrowded, rough justice country to languish — rather than a barely populated bankrupt desert afterthought like Nauru.
But, stupidity aside, it has much deeper roots. Various people, such as the ever-reliably dopey Chris Kenny, have been tweeting about the contradiction in Brown and the Greens wanting to accept whoever arrives here as a refugee, or a potential refugee, while being circumspect about who buys the country’s land and resources.
Yet of course that is exactly the right split. People should be extended the right to freedom of movement; things — and money is a thing — should be controlled, and subject to collective decisions about what sort of place we want to live in. That is something approaching democracy.
The opposite is the world we live in now, as administered by states and markets working in concert. People are sequestered in their nations, unable to move except when labour market needs require a transfer from one place to the other. Capital, which had been subject to control of a sort until the 1980s, is free to move around at will.
That disjuncture is at the core of neo-liberal neo-conservatism. Enormous effort goes into determining the effect of this or that shift in labour market size, and immigration is calibrated as a result. Almost nothing goes into studying the real effects of capital shift.
The disjuncture lowers the price of labour raises the cost of capital to the highest bidder. Sooner or later that split creates a crisis — as we can see in Greece at the moment, where people are being asked to take wage cuts below subsistence, so that the country can pay up to 20% interest on loans as set by the market.
The idea of “capital freedom” is the ultimate commitment to things rather than people, who are then regarded as merely a certain type of thing, i.e. human capital.
Both parties, especially Labor, are so committed to this that they have responded to Brown’s eminently sensible proposal that we should be getting a larger slice of the money they send offshore, to build something we can live on when they’ve dug everything up.
Amazingly, a country that has spent so much time talking about Nauru hasn’t learnt much from its history. Why do they think the place is so desperate to be our prison camp.
Labor’s rhetorical response is something close to panic. They know that a large section of their electorate is economically nationalist and always has been — and appears to have been so when the dominant foreign investment source was the US rather than China or Japan (remember Japan?), suggesting that it is not first and foremost a racist preoccupation.
But Labor, under the grim tutelage of doctrinaire free-marketeers such as Craig Emerson and Michael Costa has given itself over so full to the markets — and under the command of dimwits such as Karl Bitar, becoming so supine — that it can now be ambushed by the Greens not merely in its inner-urban miority electorate, but in its outer-suburban heartlands.
Faced with the shocking argument that we should have an idea of, and be getting more from, large scale foreign ownership of our basic resources, Labor’s only response is to make that free-market supinity a policy position — if we assert ourselves, capital will take advantage of its freedom (and our lack of such), and leave. Appease them! Shhhhhh Don’t mention the ore!
The Greens strategic path is obvious, and half-completed. To outflank Labor, march through the heartland, and connect to rural Australians increasingly disturbed by the conflict between farming and mining — especially broad deep cut mines which swallow whole towns and areas.
The ultimate goal would be some form of green-rural compact on a mix of economic/land-care issues, ideally with a couple more independents replacing the few remaining nationals. Impossible? Yeah, like the Greens holding the balance of power was. Perhaps that is why the economic Hansonism charge is not being played so wide against Brown — people realise it’s a recruiting call, for a whole new tranche of disaffected Labor voters. 25% primary vote anyone?
Guy Rundle is Crikey's correspondent-at-large. He was co-editor of Arena Magazine for 15 years, and has written four hit stage shows for Max Gillies, two musicals, numerous books and produced TV shows including Comedy Inc and Backberner.