Tonight’s ABC Four Corners program “A form of madness” looks at the end of the Turnbull government. I very much hope it goes beyond talk of personal vendattas, individual ambition and sheer madness, and deals with the role of corporate power and media players.
Our country now has a pattern that stretches back over a decade of slain political leaders and the associated demise of climate change and energy policies. Considering the fossil fuel lobby has a lot riding on government policy and have shown their hand before as keen protagonists in leadership manoeuvrings the tactics of corporate Australia have to come into any post Turnbull analysis.
Achieving big profits requires a keen eye on political leadership and policy. One of the biggest corporate operators in this country is the coal industry as shown by the millions of dollars it donates to the major parties. Australia is the world’s largest coal exporter and the world’s fourth-largest coal producer with the companies involved in this industry raking in annual profits to the tune of billions of dollars.
In 2010 when former prime minister Kevin Rudd was replaced by Julia Gillard the fossil fuel industry were proud drivers of this coup. Minerals Council of Australia, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto spent a bit over $22 million in six weeks to discredit the Rudd government’s plan for a resource super profit tax. While this tax was a modest form of a sovereign wealth fund the fossil fuel industry saw it as a profit robber.
Just three years later Julia Gillard was deposed as prime minister and while Rudd was unrelenting in his desire to take back the crown of office the Gillard government’s carbon tax meant PM Gillard was marked down as a leader that did not suit the interests of the fossil fuel indusrty.
Now 2018 goes down in history as another year marked by a leadership coup and more climate change and energy policy disarray. While some commentators talk about how the corporate world is dismayed by the lack of stability in government it is worth noting that the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that corporate profitability improved in 2017 above what leading economists expected.
Corporate influence over political leaders and governments is a murky world. It’s hard for the public to understand how companies wield their power to protect their interests and profits. Hopefully tonight’s ABC shines a light in the right places and the puppet masters don’t slip away under the guise it was just a case of “madness”.