In these, the last days, the world’s richest woman has moved to import cheap labour to pull more rocks out of the ground in WA; the world’s most well-known pinhead has pushed the boundaries in Syria; Tony Blair rocks London; FIFA navel gazes and; someone in London celebrates a special day.
Gina Rinehart’s (cue crows squawking) War on the Proles ran its latest charge of the Australian working class battlements with her attempts to bring in 1700 foreign workers to grunt away at her $19.5 billion Roy Hill mine in W.A. Ms Rinehart’s deep pockets – deeper than one of her open cut coal mines – were likely been opened as part of the mining sector’s $22 million spend in the lead up to the Rudd election win and probably looked like an abyss under the nose of Ms Gillard when she over-turned the Resources Super Profit Tax as her first decision post-coup.
The Labor caucus is up-in-arms about and some are calling just a tad more openly for Gillard’s head. It certainly seems to flip Swan’s “battler’s budget” on its hard-hatted head. With some 130,000 manufacturing jobs alone lost since 2008, and with this extraordinary extension of the Fly-In-Fly-Out culture breaking remote and regional communities apart (which this decision seems to extend), it makes little political sense in terms of the kind of populism that flavoured the 2012 Budget. How ironic it may be that caving in the mining sector, which is mainly foreign-based, may bring the end of a government that came to power by, that’s right, caving in to the mining sector.
But, this is all just bells and whistles. There seems little doubt the government is selling the country’s fast dwindling resources too cheap and that the mining sector is very willing to pay what it takes. Our resource taxes are low even by third world standards and the much-awaited Mineral Resources Rent Tax only taxes coal and iron ore projects (ie not uranium, not CSG, not oil, not gold etc…) and the 30% rate only kicks in after $75 million in annual profits. Much is being written in by those in the know about how the government is running a garage sale on our resources. Many of these issues look set to come to a head as a fast-tracked approval investigation was launched for Queensland’s Galilee coal mine, west of Rockhampton, also on Gina Rinehart’s whiteboard.
This issue just gets bigger and 1700 foreign workers can dig all they want, but they’ll hardly even scratch the surface of the issues surrounding our relationship with foreign miners.
PR is also in the air in Syria, along with the smell of mass death in Houla The identities of those who have perpetrated a massacre of civilians – no-one denies the act – is caught in a malevolent swirl of claim and counter-claim. Are they freedom fighter agentes-provocateur? Are they government goons? Or are they Islamic nutters?
PR is part of the landscape in the Arab Spring. In Egypt, multinational PR advisors likely advised the crumbling Mubarak regime in some of its kookier counter-revolutionary schemes – like sending in thugs on camels and horse to run rampage among peaceful protestors in Tahrir Square – and the Bahraini monarchy has engaged the big PR firm Qorvis at a reported $US40,000/month to spin its spurious claims that the uprising there is just Shia factionalism fostered by troublesome Iran. I have seen a project outline for the re-emergence of Gaddafi as a friendly dictator run up by another large US-based PR operator to doll up the ex-madman of Tripoli, for $12 million no less.
A significant aspect of the PR spin is the apparent schism between Shia and Sunni versions of Islam. I’ll make a bold call here and suggest that most Shia or Sunni Muslims don’t really harbour the kind of ill-will that seems apparent and is manipulated at every turn by their religious and political leaders. Basically, it comes down to Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shia) who play proxy in various disputes around the region in an effort to gain dominance of the Middle East. Into that mix throw the US, China and Russia playing their vested interests and geopolitics and there you have it: dead bodies in Houla…
Tony Blair knows about PR. He knows when to dispense it and when not to. It has emerged that when he was supposedly the most powerful man in the UK, he thought saying nasty things about big media operators was a no-no. Among plenty of inexplicable full tosses from the inquiry interlocutors, Blair was forced account for his kid-glove approach to the Murdoch press after his election in 1997. His response: “If we’d come into power and done a huge thing about who owned what in the media, it would have been a huge distraction for the Labour Party.”
It’s odd to consider that the first thought of the new PM is to do what’s best for his party. Was he elected to protect New Labor? This is especially odd, as it is those very ownership issues which festered for another 15 years since Blair’s victory and have undermined the very foundations of the venerable institution of the British press. That is to say that his meekness in taking on big media then has led to the crash in moral and ethical values that the Levenson Inquiry is commissioned to investigate. With the PM so snugly in their pocket, why wouldn’t media barons like King Rupert take more and more liberties? “Here’s the sheep Mr Wolf, er Murdoch, I’ll just be over here, looking the other way…”
FIFA has hired the head honcho at the international Criminal Court to investigate a range of corruption claims over the years. Chief among them is the alleged bribes offered to win the 2022 World Cup Finals bid for Qatar over bids from, among other places, Australia. The absurdity of giving the world’s biggest sporting event to a tiny desert nation is clearly reeks of something unsavoury (air-conditioned stadiums and demountable stadia for an event supposedly on the sustainability cutting edge, for instance).
But, the man is question, Luis Moreno Ocampo is a bureaucrat, a global institutionalist and, therefore, someone who knows the game. While his work at the ICC, as its first Chief Prosecutor has been credible, it has taken 10 years for the first case to be finalised with a verdict and only a handful of trials are currently in session. Not a lot of prosecuting, then. Less Ocampo’s fault is more due to the snail pace of international justice, he is not someone who has shown he can break through any ceilings.
Moving slowly is something FIFA respects and favours. Don’t expect any headlines on this front in this decade, or at least until Sepp Blatter has retired to a well-appointed villa on the shores of Lake Como(‘ver).
Meanwhile, in London, someone is having a celebration. This BBC doco has an interview with someone – didnt catch the name – who says that the Queen’s Jubilee is evidence the British system is better than the US system. Why? Because the presidential system doesn’t offer the sense of continuity that something like the reign of ERII does. Keeps the proles in thrall. Gina would love it…
Such was the news as it appears in these, the last days.