CURRENT POLITICS - CAPITALISM: A CROCK OF CROOKS
a crock of crooks
months, the bosses, their stenographers in the mass media and their
political agents have been publicising corruption in the East Branch of
the Health Services Union to tar the whole of the labour movement.
responses from the Killard government and the ACTU have been as tardy as
they have been lame. The best their leaders can mouth is that the HSU is
the one rotten apple. This apologetic line is the latest instance of how
organised labour is on the back foot.
most obvious example of this retreat has been in regard to the
Australian Building and Construction Commission where the Construction
Division of the CFMEU has never taken the fight up to the bosses by
focusing on their ‘ingrained culture’ of criminality. Too often the
union pleads: ‘we’re not as thuggish as they say we are’.
union is vigorous in attacking OH&S violations and detailing
non-payment of wages, Super and taxes, But these offences are confined
to the workplace and don’t help the populace to see the nature of
is not theft
exchange is the core of capitalism. Once that surplus value has been
produced, sections of capital battle to get their hands on as much of it
is where the most of the swindling comes in. In some cases, the original
capitalist can be left with no profit. No commentator on the
accumulation of capital has paid as much attention to swindling as did
Marx who nonetheless kept it in its place.
NSW Gyles Royal Commission in 1990 forced the resignation of the
executive of the NSW MBA which had been a clearing house for collusive
tenders. This unanticipated outcome was similar to that from the Royal
Commission into the Ship Painters and Dockers which had exposed
bottom-of-the harbor schemes across the big end of town.
did not make that mistake in setting the terms of reference for the Cole
inquisition into the building and construction unions. Killard followed
suit when she excluded health and safety from the review of the ABCC,
which thereby had an easy time in finding that her ‘tough cop on the
beat’ was necessary.
gravest matter in building and construction is the Hardie Asbestos case.
The High Court endorsed the disbarring of its directors for seven years
for rigging the books about the compensation fund. There is no chance of
their being charged with complicity in the mass murder of workers since,
under capitalism, killing is not murder when done for profit.
April, Lend Lease was made to pay fines and restitution of $54USm. for
ten years of ‘a systematic pattern of audacious fraud’ in the US of
A. Yet again, the
company’s defence was ‘everyone does it’. Yet again, Lend Lease is
allowed to tender for government contracts.
the same week as Gay faced court on 14 May, the Securities Commission (ASIC)
reported a boom in insider-trading, with as many as 200 alerts received
every day, that is, some 50,000 a year. The authorities managed to get
eleven convictions in the three years to December, a slight improvement
over their ten successes in the decade before 2008. The financialisation
of the economy has inserted multiple levels of intermediaries with
access to advance information about company accounts. The disproportion
of alerts to convictions is a measure of how light is the hand of the
law on corporate crooks.
shopping center giant Centro lost track of more than $3 billion and
thereby misled shareholders in 2007. A judge fined its Chief Financial
Officer $30,000 and disqualified him for two years. In delivering his
findings, his honour warned off ASIC by ruling that the Centro board had
not been personally dishonest. Indeed, they had been ‘intelligent,
conscientious and well-advised’. Perhaps if they had been stupid, lazy
and ignorant they would not have lost anything? We might compare the
court’s kid-glove treatment of Centro’s bosses with what its
managers would have done to an honest, intelligent, conscientious and
well-advised shopkeeper who happened to lose track of even $3,000 in
smaller in one sense yet also far larger in its implication is the
plundering of Super fund Trio by its executives. Alongside the
Wollongong battlers whose losses were covered by government guarantees
were several hundred leafy North Shore investors who went for Trio’s
self-managed funds because they promised higher returns. Where did those
‘victims’ think the extra spondoolicks were going to come from if
not from shonky deals such as Trio’s transferring $124m. to a tax
haven? The problem is not the individual rip-off merchant or a few
greedy Pymble millionaires, but the institutionalisation of tax havens
with the connivance of governments across the globe.
recently fined Leightons $300,000 for non-disclosure of information to
the stock exchange. That is a hanging offence because they were ripping
off other capitalists. A fine for killing for profit can be as little as
$35,000. Bourgeois justice values a worker’s life at one-eighth of a
share-holder’s monetary loss.
ex-Minister Gordon Nuttall is in jail for taking bribes from mining
magnate Ken Talbot. Talbot was due to stand trial on thirty-five charges
of corruption but died in a plane crash between Cameroon and the Congo,
two of the most corrupt countries on that continent. You can bet your
bottom dollar that Talbot had been as generous to the thugs ruling over
those mines as he was to Nuttall. Perhaps his plane crashed because it
was overloaded with gifts.
the wake of the Wheat Board’s bribery in Iraq, the Reserve Bank of
Australia got around to cleaning up its act. Between 2001 and 2009, two
subsidiaries, Note Printing Australia and Securency, paid $50m. to
agents to win contracts to supply plasticised bank notes. How much of
this payout ended up bribing officials in places like Nepal? How much
did the RBA oard know, and when did they know it?
4 April this year, thirty Victorian building inspectors were charged
with ‘alleged corruption, serious misconduct and harassment’; they
allegedly took kickbacks to block formal investigations. On the same
day, the State government announced the formation of its own
Construction Stasi to ban the flying of the Eureka flag on sites. There
will be no special police to investigate who bribed the inspectors.
Pratt made a name for himself as a philanthropist before the Competition
Commission fined him $36m. for price-fixing. By colluding on the price
of cardboard cartons, Pratt’s Visy and rival Amcor stole money from
every pensioner who bought a packet of corn-flakes. Out of that rip-off
of the most vulnerable, Pratt made a big fellow of himself. It is
typical of the ingrained culture of capitalism that his associates said
that the head of the Competition Commission, Gordon Samuel, had behaved
badly in pursuing the case because he had been a guest at Pratt’s
house. Prime Minister Rudd knew about the scam yet flew to the funeral
to pay homage to one of the biggest crooks yet to be exposed in
co-founder, Franco Belgiorno-Nettis, subsidised the visual arts out of
the profits he made from exploiting workers while swindling customers
and governments. He confessed to his corporation’s official historian
that he had engaged in corruption and strong-arm tactics: ‘We cover
this with a veneer of civilization.’ In a class society, each act of
civilisation is met by a piece of barbarism exacted from workers whose
creativity and suffering pay for the benefactor’s noble gestures.
must voice class bitterness and class contempt. We lose by cringing
before bad behaviour in one union. Instead, we must go straight for the
corporate jugular to publicise organised robbers and serial killers.
got it half wrong in Bleak House
when he has detective Bucket observe that, while murder could be done by
amateurs, thieving needed professionals. Dickens was right to foresee
that Pratt did not wake up one morning after a blameless career in
business and decide to steal tens of millions of dollars. He was a
professional thief. Moreover, killing for profit is no work for amateurs
as asbestos makes clear. An International Class-War Crimes Tribunal
would charge the Hardie executives with ‘prole-cide’.