While everyone else suffers through this pandemic, the billionaires and big corporations are making out like bandits. In this excerpt from his remarks to the Australian Greens National Conference this month, Adam Bandt explains why the mere existence of billionaires is bad for all of us, and shares our plan to make things fairer.
By Adam Bandt
Everyone is assuming 2021 will be an election year and the Greens are no different. Working closely with the party, our team is raring and ready to go. Your work on policy in previous conferences and again this weekend is making a great contribution to getting the party fit for a campaign.
The next election will be incredibly close. After the redistributions in Western Australia and Victoria, which are predicted to disadvantage the Coalition, the election campaign will effectively begin with a minority Parliament. With the prospect of increasing our Senate seats to become the biggest third party in the Senate ever, a very likely outcome is that the Greens will end up in shared balance of power in both houses of Parliament, like we were in 2010.
So I want to start sharing our strategy with you. Later in the year we’ll be sharing our target seats and our electoral plan to fulfil the goals I set out when I became leader, namely to turf the government out, put the Greens in balance of power and implement a Green New Deal.
Today, I want to talk about the issues we’ll be fighting on, the issues that will grow our representation in Parliament and the kind of issues that we’ll be putting on the table in what will almost certainly be a power-sharing parliament.
We won’t be a small target this election.
We will fight to get the Morrison government out, but with a plan that tackles the long-term issues facing us.
People don’t just want someone who's on their side, they want someone who will fight for their future.
As they snap back to trickle-down economics and boast about their fiscal conservatism, Liberal and Labor have both decided not to offer big, detailed visions for Australia’s future. We will happily step into the space they have vacated.
We are in a climate emergency and we want to make the next election a referendum on climate change. Because this election is critical to the future of Australia and the world. And because time is running out. We will go to this election as the only party with a plan to phase out coal and gas in the time the science requires. In any shared power parliament, this will be on the table, as you would expect.
But we also want to make the next election a referendum on inequality by taking on the billionaires and big corporations.
Just before the pandemic, Liberal and Labor passed the horrendous ‘tax cuts for millionaires’ package that will cost the budget $325bn over the next decade, delivering $189 billion into the pockets of the wealthiest 20% and just 0.1% for the poorest 20%.
Before the pandemic, workers’ share of income in Australia had sunk to the lowest level in history, while corporate profits reached record highs.
Since then, the pandemic hasn’t just hit our health and our freedom of movement. The pandemic has made inequality worse.
Now, two million people either have no job or not enough work, and it will get worse when JobKeeper is cut in March. Workers who do have a job aren’t expecting a pay rise for years.
But while everyone else suffers, the billionaires and big corporations are making out like bandits.
The billionaires and the big corporations
The AFR’s rich list, an annual celebration of Australia’s wealthiest 200 people and families, shows the wealth of billionaires grew an eye-watering 25% during the pandemic to a record high $357 billion. The poor things only had $267 billion of wealth between them before the pandemic.
According to our analysis of the Australian Financial Review list, there were 48 more billionaires in 2020 than there were just three years earlier – just shy of a doubling of billionaires in the last three years. Not only is their wealth growing rapidly, but like cane toads they are multiplying out of control too.
This is not just a problem in Australia. Worldwide, the wealth of billionaires increased by US$3.9 trillion during the pandemic. Relatively speaking, according to Bloomberg, Australia’s own billionaires Gina Reinhart and Twiggy Forrest grew their wealth by even more than the richest of the rich: Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. A depressing achievement for Australia.
Many of these billionaires are also the same people profiting off the destruction of our planet from coal. Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer and Ivan Glasenberg. Then there’s billionaires from overseas, Czech billionaire like Pavel Tykac who owns two of Queensland’s coal stations, Hong Kong Billionaire Michael Kadoorie who owns Australia’s dirtiest power station Yallourn and another in NSW and another Hong Kong Billionaire Henry Cheng who owns Loy Yang B and Alinta, another company that doesn’t pay any tax.
While we were locked down, the billionaires got rich off us. While we try to stop the climate crisis, the billionaires make it worse. While we pay tax, the billionaires get handouts.
Meanwhile, one in three big corporations pay no tax, including many in the fossil fuel industry with the Australian Tax Office singling out the oil and gas industry as – and I quote the ATO here – “systemic non-payers of tax”.
While everyone else deals with rising public school fees and the high costs of going to the dentist, big corporations pay no tax and send their profits offshore.
But not only are they tax dodgers, the government is now giving them extra public funds!
We moved amendments in Parliament to stop the JobMaker hiring credits going to profitable big corporations that were paying dividends, but Labor - for all their bluster on this issue - joined with the Liberals to vote it down, keeping the money flowing to the big corporations.
Scott Morrison has outsourced the recovery and the last Budget contained $99b a year in subsidies to big corporations and the very wealthy, public money which Labor waved through.
And just this week, the government is seeking to give Energy Minister Angus Taylor the power to raid the funds of the Clean Energy Finance and divert billions of dollars - billions - to big gas corporations.
There are big corporations making super-profits and it's time they gave something back.
Politics is working for billionaires and big corporations. It isn’t working for everyday people.
The government should recover from the pandemic by tackling the long-term problems our country faces and investing in nation-building, planet-saving projects.
But it’s not happening, because Labor and Liberal take money from the billionaires and big corporations that are causing the very same problems.
These companies make super profits amplifying the climate crisis, ship the bulk of their profits offshore tax-free and keep the major parties on a drip feed of donations.
The formula is the same for the companies that have benefited from Labor and Liberals’ privatisation program. These companies like Transurban, Sydney Airport Ltd and Energy Australia have been giving more in donations to bribe political parties than they pay in tax.
It is state-sanctioned corruption.
We want to make the next election a referendum on climate change and inequality, but also on the fact that Liberal and Labor won’t act on the big issues because they take money from the billionaires and the big corporations.
We will seek to highlight at every opportunity that the establishment parties take political donations from the big corporations and the billionaires and that is why they are unwilling to end the corporate handouts, tackle the climate crisis, and invest in public services.
This week we called on the Liberal and Labor parties to reject future donations from Crown Casinos and instead to provide the almost $2 million in donations they have received from Crown to a gambling charity. They said no, they’d rather keep the money.
This will be our template for action between now and the election. Any time a scandal erupts regarding a billionaire or big corporation we will put their donations to the establishment parties up in lights. And any time Liberal and Labor say they have to be ‘financially conservative’ and can’t get dental into Medicare, lift Jobseeker or guarantee everyone a job, we’ll demand the billionaires and big corporations pay their fair share of tax.
Voters aren’t stupid.
They can connect the dots between donations and the political benefits that follow.
So our election proposition for people is simple.
It is time for the billionaires and big corporations to pay their fair share.
Put the Greens into balance of power, and we’ll make the billionaires and big corporations pay a bit more so that you pay a lot less.
And the Greens are the only ones who can fix the problem, because we’re the only ones who don’t take money from the big corporations and billionaires causing the problem.
Hero image: Pixabay.