Archive for October, 2010

October 29, 2010

The banks are robbers but Joe Hockey is no Chavez!

Liberal-National shadow treasurer Joe Hockey... following Chavez?

Mike Smith, the CEO of the ANZ Bank is fuming about Liberal-National shadow treasurer Joe Hockey’s recent populist rhetoric against the four big banks that increasingly dominate the Australian economy.

“The Liberals’ economic credentials have been hijacked by out-there proposals. Mr Hockey seems to be on some kind of personal vendetta. It would appear he has been taking economics lessons from Hugo Chavez,” Smith was quoted in October 29  Sydney Morning Herald.

Hockey taking lessons from Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez?

Alas not. While Hockey has been rhetorically extravagant on the profit-gouging banks (ANZ Bank announced a 53% rise in cash profit to $5.1 billion, Commonwealth Bank $6.1 billion, NAB $4.5 billion and Westpac has yet to announce its profit) he has been timid in proposals to tackle the profit-gouging banks.

Hockey has retreated from his boldest proposal, which was to regulate bank interest rates, and now proposes a tame nine-point plan which includes a parliamentary inqury into the banking system, more scrutiny powers over the banks for the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and an investigation into whether a system Australia Post deposits could provide more competition to the big four banks.

The Liberal-Nationals are never going to implement these modest proposals but the Gillard Labor government should be condemned for its dishonest response that this is a “return to Hansonite economics”. It was Labor PM Julia Gillard who did a Lazarus for Hansonism during the last federal election campaign with her shameful dog-whistle politics on asylum seekers. Now Gillard Labor defends the greedy banks in an attempt to posture as more economically conservative than the Liberal-National opposition.

The banking system needs to be investigated and the truth about their greedy, exploitative and socially and environmentally destructive behaviour needs to be made public. However, the real record of official inquiries in Australia is that they have functions to sweep things under the carpet.

In March this year, the Australia Institute published a report A licence to print money: bank profits in Australia by David Richardson, which found, before the release of this year’s record profit figures, that “the big four banks alone make underlying profits of around $35 billion before tax, of which some $20 billion per annum is likely to reflect the banks’ exploitation of their monopoly over the Australian payments system”.

“The monopoly profits of the big four banks”, wrote Richardson, “are equal to almost half of the GST and more than the fuel excise and their effect is to act like a large tax burden on everyone who uses the Australian payments system.”

We can see from the the puce-faced imperious outrage of ANZ CEO Mike Smith that he is not used to having his banks right to make fat profits questioned, let alone challenged.

But that is precisely needs to be done. We need to “do a Chavez” on the big four banks.

For a start how about a real, no loopholes, super-profit tax on the banks as well as on the profit-gouging big mining companies?

Then let’s tear away the veil of private property and expose what the bank monopolies are doing in social terms. The banks appropriate society’s collective savings and invest them on all manners of exploitative, environment-destroying, and yes, speculative activities. The big four banks were are guilty as the rest of the world’s banks of joing the orgy of speculative greed that led to the still unresolved Global Financial Crisis.

Richardson reported that the four big Australian banks built up at least $13 billion dollars of bad debt in the process but they did not go to the wall, in part, because at the height of the GFC the Rudd Labor government gave the banks a $700 billion public guarantee on their deposits for three years. This reduced the risk of runs and lowered the price of whole bank borrowings from overseas.

The big four banks used this period to increase their control to more than 90% of all lending by financial institutions in Australia!

We, the public, are paying for this ridiculous and unsustainable concentration of corporate power, so the public should be recognised as the real the owners of the banks and the publlic should democratically make the future transforming investment decisions according to social and environmental need.

If you want to read the truth about the big banks and the other corporate plunderers and really learn about attempts by Venezuela’s socialist Chavez government to challenge corporate dictatorship then you need to support Green Left Weekly. This project stays alive with the help of an annual Fighting Fund drive for $300,000 – (a week and a half’s pay for ANZ CEO Smith, who was paid $10.9 million this year*). Our supporters have raised $179,190 so far this year so we have quite a way to go by the end of the year.

If you can help us get there please donate online today at , or direct deposits can be made to Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, account no. 00901992. Otherwise, you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or phone in a donation on the toll-free line on 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

* Commonwealth Bank CEO Ralph Norris had a total remuneration of $16.2 million this year (a 75% pay rise), Westpac CEO Gail Kelly ($10.6 million) and NAB has yet to announce how much its CEO Cameron Clyne is paid this year (he got a modest, by bank CEO standrads, $5.2 million last year).

October 11, 2010

Photostory: Thai Red Shirts mass around Democracy Monument

Click to go to full photo set on Flickr.

On Sunday October 10 (10-10-10, an auspicious date in Thailand and many other Asian countries) at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok there another semi-spontaneous Red Shirt mass mobilisation built largely by word of mouth. An eyewitness estimated that up to 8,000 participated in this action to make the victims of the April 10 military shooting of unarmed Red Shirt protesters in Bangkok.

The Democracy Monument has been the site of a number of mass democracy protests, notably one of the giant 1973 protests which brought down the military dictatorship of Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn.

According to “Klaus”, the person who took these pictures, news of the protest was communicated through social networks over the internet and through word of mouth “on the street”.

“Even on Saturday it was quite confusing and there were many contradictory rumours about what was going on the following day.

“Many Red Shirts had attended the concert organized by the United Front for Democracy (UDD – popularly known as the Red Shirts) in Imperial Lardphrao on Saturday evening and there I guess some coordinated their actions for the next day.”

Click to go to full photo set on Flickr.

Click to go to full photo set on Flickr.

Click to go to full photo set on Flickr.

Click to go to full photo set on Flickr.

“Gunn”, a person who works with the Red Sunday group led by Sombat Boonngamanong, confirmed that the Red Sunday group was one of several which cooperated in Sunday’s events but, as at the 12,000-strong September 19 at Ratchaprasong Intersection, the big turnout was spontaneous.

“It is very difficult to estimate the real number of protestors”, Klaus explained.

“The masses were moving and they occupied a large area around Democracy Monument. There were not as many as at Ratchaprasong on September 19 and my cautious estimate would be around 8,000 maybe at its peak even 10,000.

Click to go to full photo set on Flickr.

Click to go to full photo set on Flickr.

“There was not one leader. I saw more than a handful of different groups and leaders apart from Khun Sombat and Khun Khattiyaa (the late Maj Gen Khattiya’s daughter). The UDD didn’t seem to be involved at all. It proved the trend that the movement is gaining strong dynamics independently from the influence of the big players and people are playing more and more by the motto ‘every Red Shirt is his own leader’.

“The most obvious message was the remembrance of the victims of the violence on April 10 and the following weeks and the frustration over the reluctance of the elitist government to take any form of responsibility for the massacres.

“Some groups concentrated on the demand for the release of the Red Shirts who are still in prison and who they regard as political prisoners.

Click to go to full photo set on Flickr.

Click to go to full photo set on Flickr.

Click to go to full photo set on Flickr.

Click to go to full photo set on Flickr.

“The mood was jubilant most of the time with many groups dancing and cheering but at the same time there were some tense moments. During mid-afternoon the shouting against the highest authority [insulting the monarchy is a jail offence in Thailand] was becoming more frequent and louder and people started to write graffiti onto the street. Some graffiti was again critical to this institution.

“Later the police presence increased and several rings of riot police occupied the area with the graffiti and they started to build two rings around the Democracy Monument. Some Red Shirts started to tie red ribbons around groups of riot police and posted red stickers onto their shields.

Click to go to full photo set on Flickr.

Click to go to full photo set on Flickr.

Click to go to full photo set on Flickr.

“Shortly before 5pm tensions were rising as the police still expected the crowd to disperse by then and Khun Sombat was seen to negotiate with the police forces. They finally agreed on an extension until 6.30 to 7pm. Around 6pm the Red Shirts started to light candles around and on the monument and some red lanterns were left rising.

“By 6.30 the people started to go home peacefully.”

October 8, 2010

Sydney anti-war rally marks 9th anniversary of invasion of Iraq


Click on image to see slideshow.


The Stop The War Coalition organised a rally at Sydney Town Hall Square on Friday October 8 which demanded that the Australian government withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan. Click on pic above to play slideshow.