by Ross Gwyther
This article came from the “Electrical Worker”, journal of ETU Qld & NT August 2022 Volume 100.
The phrase that has become commonplace in TV thriller series is “follow the money”. In other words, if you want to find what behind the action, look for who has most money in the game, and who benefits most.
That phrase describes exactly the state of the current energy and power bills crisis that has enveloped us all in Australia recently. Gas is being exported like confetti to the rest of the world, yet the gas price in Australia spirals upwards. Thermal coal is being shipped overseas in bucketloads. Yet coal fired private generators push up prices to astronomical levels. That’s what the action is at present.
Yet as the Australia institute has detailed the main fossil fuel companies and energy generators ar largely overseas owned, and send massive profits to their overseas shareholders at the same time as paying virtually no tax. For example foreign ownership is some big energy companies:: BHP (the “big Australian”) – 94%, Rio – 95%, Fortescue – 89%, Woodside – 82%, Glencore – 100%, AGL – 70%, Origin – 60%.
The answer to our energy crisis is pretty simple – as State Secretary of ETU Peter Ong said – bring these energy companies under public ownership. Qld people went some way towards that a few years ago when they refused (under the leadership of electrical workers and their Union) to allow the State Government to privatise the energy generators.
That sitation we face in energy is almost identical to the massive public subsiies our Federal Governments have planned for the arms manufacturers.
Again the big players are all foreign owned – Lockheed Martin (US), Boeing (US), Raytheon (US), BAE Systems (UK), Northrup Grumman (US), General Dynamics (US). Together they will benefit from $270 billion of expenditure on weapons systems – ships, planes, submarines – designed to link our Australian forces even more tightly into fighting American wars – not in any sense defending Australia.
The growing danger we hear about regularly in our media is of a war with China. The big corporations in the United States may well have reason to be worried about the economic growth of China, since it will lessen their chances of extracting surplus dollars from around the globe. The spokespeople for these big corporations, including the US government, have been working overtime to “contain” and limit China’s rise.
Yet everyday Americans are the ones who will suffer from an American war with China.
For everyday Australians, it is in our interests to have friendly dialogue and relations with China, rather than aggressive military posturing against China. Our latest controversy is over spending more that $100 billion of Australian taxpayer money for nuclear submarines designed to attack the Chinese mainland from deep in the South China Sea.
The huge sums of Australian people’s tax money will channel straight into the pockets of these arms manufacturing corporations.
What those dollars could do instead if we used them for socially useful purposes! For building increased public housing in a time of housing crisis. For employing more nurses and aged care workers to address the crisis in our aged care homes. For buying back into public ownership some of the energy generating capacity around Australia.
There is a tide of sentiment, being built by the Murdoch media, encouraging all of us to accept massive spending in preparation for war. Instead workers and our unions can play an important part in turning back that tide.