Thursday, November 24, 2011

Business Council set to continue reactionary agenda

The Business Council of Australia is the representative of the biggest local and overseas companies.

In early November, it elected a new President, Transfield Services Chairman Tony Shepherd.

Transfield is an Australian company but Shepherd will speak as BCA President for the interests of imperialist capital – just over half of BCA’s members are foreign companies or their subsidiaries, and more are local companies in which foreign private and institutional investors have a controlling influence.

In any case, Transfield’s business and investment practices place it at the centre of the infrastructure development required by the multinationals to enable them to squeeze more and more profit out of the Australian people.

It has contracts with coal seam gas operators in the Surat Basin south-west of Gladstone, has major defence industry contracts for "garrison support services" at military facilities throughout the country, runs some of the biggest Public Private Partnerships projects in Australia, and was a major player in 1999 in the privatization of Australian Defence Industries which opened the war supplies sector to the US, French and British companies which now operate in Australia.

Shepherd is no shrinking violet.

He has spoken out strongly against the carbon tax ("We are a carbon-intense economy…we should do everything in our power to protect that"), and strongly supported Rudd’s "Big Australia" proposal for a population of 36 million. "Our domestic consumption base is too narrow to support the industries we need," he told the Australian Financial Review on 25 November. It was a fairly blunt statement that the basis for determining the size of our population is the need for capital to continuously accumulate. More people, more infrastructure, more Transfield profit.
What else does Shepherd have in his sights?

The big ticket item is industrial relations. He hankers for the days of WorkChoices and says that Fair Work Australia is flawed. Actually, FWA works pretty well for the ruling class as the Qantas and Victorian Nurses’ disputes have shown. But having the power to fine and jail unionists who dare go beyond "protected" industrial action is not enough for Shepherd - he wants individual work contracts back!

"I certainly have no problems if companies want individual contracts and employees want to do that," he told the AFR.

He also wants the Federal budget back in surplus "as quickly as possible", even if it means "cutting the cloth" to decrease government expenditure.

Education comes in for a big serve from Shepherd who complains of its "abysmal failure" to provide industry with a skilled workforce.

But what about a social vision for the country, for something that goes beyond the greedy demands of big business?

With more and more people outraged at sky-rocketing CEO salaries, Shepherd is simply dismissive. "Who cares? It’s irrelevant," he told the AFR.

That’s small consolation for the "overwhelming majority of the Australian community (that) is sensible, frugal and hardworking". Noses down, bums in the air and keep slaving folks while those who wallow in wealth praise you for your "frugality"!

But at least the social democrats can be pleased with the praise Shepherd heaps on Hawke, Keating and Kelty. They knew how to use class collaborationist policy to achieve an "integrated" populace without division "into a political class, a business class, and a working class".

Shepherd is not going to go away, but neither are the Australian people.

There are very good signs of an increasing awareness of the injustices of mega-wealth on one side for a tiny handful, and of "frugality" and "cloth-cutting" for the "overwhelming majority of the Australian community".

And that is leading to a rising tide of struggle, and to a willingness to defy rulings and injunctions against the very actions that are needed to address the yawning gaps between rich and poor in the country.

Let the Business Council be warned - the people are on the move!

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