Extremism is a danger to us all, and it’s rampant in the political and media class.
But let’s be clear, these problems didn’t start with last year’s election. We have been experiencing a corporate government, both Labor and Liberal, for decades. We have politicians happy to do the bidding of their corporate mates while speaking of fairness. It’s the great, unspoken lie, rarely challenged by our docile media.
There has been privatisation and outsourcing by Labor and Liberal and it’s been accelerating for decades in areas of immigration, indigenous affairs, transport, education, health, child-care and defence.
Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have furthered this trend because Labor assisted the groundwork, sharing the same neo-liberal agenda. These politicians mostly go to the same parties, attend the same think-tank events and romance the same reporters. It’s a cosy club that gets a warm reception in the US and Israeli embassies.
Don’t be fooled by Labor leader Bill Shorten’s fighting words; judge what his party did in government under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. Growing privatisation and gifts to their corporate mates was their real agenda, masked behind class rhetoric.
Vulture capitalism is now the ideology of our age, defended and encouraged by vast swathes of the mainstream media.
During last week’s budget coverage, how often did we hear ABC journalists ask Labor politicians and critics about the “budget emergency”, mindlessly repeating Abbott government spin? There is no budget emergency .
We are told that the budget was fair for all but the Abbott government looks to the US and UK with admiration – two societies with massive inequality and a huge underclass. Privatised education and health-care, along with private universities and hospitals are moving those countries down a path of apartheid. Access is uneven, the poor are suffering and the rich are enjoying the spoils of buying public assets at an ever-increasing rate.
Latest figures from the UK, released last week, find that the top 1% own as much as 55% of the population put together.
We are badly served by a media class that often works and plays in a bubble. They rarely go further than their offices unless on official, government visits to the US, UK or embedded with “our boys” in Afghanistan. They don’t see or hear from average citizens, and don’t want to. They talk to each other and re-publish press releases as “news” and sanctioned leaks as “exclusives”. Very few serious news stories in our press are independently discovered.
The Canberra press gallery should never be in parliament house because it guarantees subservience to an insider political message. ABC TV’s The Insiders personifies this sickness, a weekly showing of journalists happy to be close to power while providing “insights” gleaned from talking to their small coterie of friends and colleagues who are sustained by the same insularity.
Alternative voices are needed and all of you need to make yourself heard. Independent media has never been more important, fresh voices, non-white voices, multicultural voices and non-old and male voices.
I’ve spent the last years researching in Australia and globally the privatisation bonanza of public services. The rhetoric is that services will improve and efficiency will increase. The opposite is true.
In immigration detention, both Labor and Liberal have outsourced all our detention centres and services to unaccountable corporations such as G4S, Serco and Transfield. Their sole goal is profit, making money from the misery of asylum seekers.
Resistance works. Take this year’s revolt against the Biennale arts festival taking money from Transfield, a company that won a $1.2 billion contract to run Manus Island and Nauru. Artists, activists, journalists and concerned citizens convinced the Biennale that it wasn’t worth its ongoing association with Transfield. The elite response was furious, from Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to Attorney General George Brandis.
Artists with an opinion who dare oppose repressive policies? That’s what great art has always been.
I stood in solidarity with this campaign. We should all examine where our money is invested, from superannuation to banks, and make sure we aren’t subsiding human rights abuses in Australia or around the world. Demand your super fund or bank tell you if they invest in Transfield or other profiteers.
Let’s build a movement of justice, equality and human rights for all. Labor and Liberal aren’t the answers; we need independent politics free from corporate interests. The Greens and others should capitalise on this public demand for clean politics and policies that will make the wealthiest Australians pay their fair share.
A political revolution is necessary, but equally a compliant media needs major change to its position as supporting the individuals, parties and corporations causing the environmental and social damage in the first place.
Reject corporate politics. Another world is possible.
*This is an edited version of a speech delivered to the March in May protest in Sydney’s Belmore Park yesterday. Tens of thousands of people gathered in cities around Australia to protest last week’s budget.
*Antony Loewenstein is a Sydney-based journalist, author and film-maker. He’s a weekly columnist for the Guardian, has written best-selling books including My Israel Question, The Blogging Revolution and Profits of Doom, edited Left Turn and After Zionism and is currently making a documentary and new book about vulture capitalism. You can follow him on Twitter @antloewenstein