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|Previous Names:||Citizens Electoral Council of Australia|
|Slogans:||Citizens taking reponsibility|
|Themes:||Banks are bad unless they’re the ones we want.|
Upper House: New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria
Lower House: Chisholm, Cunningham, Hawke, Lingiari, Mallee, Nicholls, Robertson & Sydney
|Preferences:||Preferences now available here. Short and sweet: second place to Shooters, Farmers and Fishers, third to One Nation, fourth to the Greens, fifth to Reason and sixth to the Australian Values Party. So basically, a vote following this is going to help elect a Green. I would not have predicted that.|
|Previous Reviews:||2019 — 2013 — 2010 (as the Citizens Electoral Council.) — all these are on Cate Speaks|
Policies & Commentary
So. The followers of Lyndon La Rouche. There was a time when it was comforting that there were lunatic cults of personality on the right wing of politics as well as the left, but that time was before 2016. Of course, nowadays, the Larouchites seem almost quaint. Their website has been stripped of most of the more offensive materials (I confess, I couldn’t bring myself to watch any of the videos, nor to read their newsletter, so its possible that the stuff people complain about it with them is in there), and they now appear to be a relatively sober party that I’m not even sure I could describe as right wing in confidence. Politically non-Euclidean, perhaps. (Honestly, the idea that all political differences can be summed up along a single axis is one that belongs in the dustbin of history.) Their press releases show a different face to that the website does – here, you’ll find their climate denialism, although if there’s still anti-semitism, it seems to be at dogwhistle levels, at least officially.
Of course, one only has to look at their policy section to hear that dogwhistle loud and clear. There are 15 policies, nine of which are concerned with the banking and finance sectors in some way.1I’m not saying that everyone who believes in the existence of a global conspiracy of bankers has read The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but it is a Venn diagram that resembles an eclipse shortly before or after totality. That said, most of the actual policies themselves aren’t too bad:
- A public post office “people’s bank”
This one I actually like. Breaking up the Big 4 banks’ near monopoly on Australian banking seems like a very good idea (especially in view of the findings of a certain Royal Commission a few years back). And combining the bank branches with post offices would help to provide both services and jobs in regional Australia. But the emphasis on cash (as opposed to electronic banking) is… odd. Plus, every Australia Post outlet already offers basic banking services with the Commonwealth Bank, so it seems a little redundant, unless this bank is intended to be government run and non-profit – which, if it is, is something not explicitly stated. Still, all in all, this seems fairly sound to me.
- A national infrastructure bank to finance visionary, nation-building infrastructure
This one is a little broader than it at first appears. This bank would, among other things, help to end the privatisation of government assets, liberate state governments from being held hostage over infrastructure funding by the federal government (something which, as a Victorian, I have strong feelings about). The bank would be used to fund transport, power and water infrastructure, which will, apparently “spark a population boom” in regional Australia. Specific examples of projects given include the Bradfield water diversion scheme in North Queensland, the Iron Boomerang railway between Queensland and Western Australia, and high-speed rail between the state capitals. The Bradfield scheme was originally proposed in 1938, comprehensively debunked in 1947, and has gotten less feasible since then, but remain a favourite of the likes of Pauline Hanson, Bob Katter and Barnaby Joyce. The Iron Boomerang railway is being built by and for mining companies, and that fact alone will probably determine where most people stand on it. High-speed rail between capitals (which usually means a line connecting Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney and sometimes Canberra) is another perpetual entry in Australia’s infrastructure wish list that never seems to stack up financially2There is a very funny episode of Utopia about it, so it’s not all bad.. While, in general terms, this bank doesn’t seem like too bad an idea, I would hope it would be more discerning in choosing projects to back.
- A national development bank to expand manufacturing and agricultural industries
Honestly, given the whole global supply chain mess that covid has generated, it’s hard not to think that we should bring a little more manufacturing capacity onshore in Australia. Keeping Australian innovations (and innovators) in Australia by making it a more attractive place to work isn’t a terrible idea either. Finally, there’s the almost thrown away observation that this increased capacity would need to be supported by a concerted upgrade of skills training and technical education services, which means more money for education, albeit only for courses with commercial applications. (The idea that a similar project supporting Australian artists might have similar financial benefits is not one that seems to have occurred to the Citizen’s Party.)
- Massively expand resources for healthcare services
This one I’m going to quote in full, because by and large it’s very good, until it goes off the rails at the end:
Mobilise a dramatic increase in clinical staff (paramedics, nurses and doctors), equipment and technology, and beds and hospitals, to address the crisis besetting every aspect of the public healthcare system—ambulance services, public hospitals, regional health care, mental health, disability services, and aged care. Due to decades of ideologically driven under-resourcing, profiteering, and outsourcing to management consultants, Australia’s public healthcare system was overwhelmed even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but instead of recognising the pandemic as a wake-up call to permanently expand healthcare resources, to both meet the public health challenge and establish a much higher standard of healthcare delivery for all Australians into the future, both Federal and State governments have overseen woefully inadequate responses, defaulting to short-term, band-aid measures and resorting to extreme restrictions and mandates as a substitute for properly resourcing public health care.I’m not convinced that you get through a pandemic without restrictions and mandates, and pandemic response is inherently a short (or at most, medium) term thing. I mean, giving them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they’re trying to say that the restrictions went too far, which is an argument that could be made, but then we’re arguing about where to draw the line rather than whether there should be one at all. At least they seem to be free of anti-vaxxer sentiments (unless that section is a doghwhistle I’m not hearing).
- No “bail-in” of bank deposits
Now, this one I very much lack the necessary expertise to parse. I’m not sure what a bail-in is or why it’s a bad thing. The policy reads, in full:
Immediately amend the Banking Act 1959 to remove the 2018 “conversion and write-off” provision applying to “any other instruments” that could be used to seize the savings deposits of Australians to prop up failing banks. While the Australian government denies this power could be used to bail in savings deposits, it is committed to implementing the bail-in policy of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) at the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel, Switzerland, which explicitly does include deposits; the proposed amendment would remove all doubt.
If any of you can shed more light on this, I’d be happy to update this section.
- Glass-Steagall banking separation
I’m on firmer ground with this one. The Glass-Steagall act was a 1933 legal act in the USA that required a separation between savings banks and investment banks. Its repeal in 1999 has been widely seen as a major cause of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, and instituting such a division shouldn’t be even slightly a controversial idea. It safeguards the economy and reduces potential conflicts of interest for banks. But banks don’t seem to be worried about any of that stuff in Australia (you can count on no hands how many people were prosecuted for clearly criminal activities after the Banking Royal Commission a few years back, after all), which leads us neatly to the next item on the list:
- Overhaul corporate regulator ASIC into a feared law-enforcement agency
Yes. Just yes. It’s ludicrous that we don’t already have this.
- Full compensation for financial victims
Again, this is just simple logic. Require the banks to repay what they’ve stolen, swindled and defrauded, and they’ll soon lose their taste for theft, swindling and fraud.
- No war with China
This one sounds reasonable on the face of it, but some of the codicils deserve more attention. While we should prioritise diplomacy to resolve tensions respectfully, I’m not sure that reiterating the One China policy that Australia has held since 1972 necessarily follows from that, or is a good idea. On the other hand, we absolutely should reform the war powers to replace the prime minister’s power to unilaterally declare war with a vote by Parliament.
- Independent foreign policy
Independence, in this case, refers only to the US and the UK. Which, given that over a century of Australian foreign policy seems to consist of finding someone with a London or Washington address and following their instructions blindly, is not a thing I much object to. Greater engagement with our regional neighbours isn’t a bad thing either. Even getting involved in the Belt and Road program isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as we’re appropriately cautious. Withdrawing from the Five Eyes program is probably morally correct, but I’m not sure it’s good realpolitik. At very least, it would probably piss off the other four eyes.
- Justice for refugees
Again: yes, just yes. I do like that the specifically call for the return of Murugappan family to Biloela, too.
- A moratorium on home and farm foreclosures
The phrasing of this one seems to imply that it’s part of a larger policy group concerning the current speculative real estate bubble in this country, but this seems to be the only part of it above water, and again, it’s a hard one to argue with, particularly after seeing the success of a partial application of it in 2020.
- Invest in national food security
Again, this seem reasonable on the face of it, but feels just a little off in places. The return of tariff protection isn’t good policy, and sensible land clearing and fuel reduction burning for fire protection (emphasis mine) feels just a little dogwhistly, in line with the climate denialism that dots their website. Speaking of which:
- Repeal the prohibition on nuclear power
Uh, no, just no. Nuclear power is only emissions-free for carbon emissions. And no matter how much science has advanced in terms of storing nuclear waste safely, it’s still a problem for literally thousands of years after it’s created. Besides which, as “green” energy solutions go, nuclear power is both expensive and slow to build, which means it’s less useful than basically any other form of energy generation we’re currently using in terms of addressing our current energy needs.
- A 0.1 per cent tax on financial speculation
Finally, something simple and to the point: Tax $1 in every $1,000 of turnover in stocks, bonds, currency exchange transactions, and both exchange-traded and over-the-counter derivatives. This would be a tiny charge on retirees selling long-term share investments, but a heavy burden on high-frequency traders and derivatives gamblers. We can argue over what the actual percentage should be, but the tax itself seems a pretty sound idea to me.
So there we go. A thoroughly mixed bag: good answers arrived at by bad logic and vice versa, and some batshit crazy stuff thrown in for good measure. As always, the Larouchites will be low, low down on my list or preferences.
Just a reminder that Maz and I lack the necessary Eurovision knowledge to choose the songs that Catherine liked to include, but we’d love to see what you suggest in the comments below 🙂
Citizen’s Party have indicated their preferences:
Thank you for that, I’ve updated the section
I think ‘bail in” is interpreted as the banks taking Jo Average’s money without warning and no recourse when they are in financial difficulty. I don’t know enough about it to say if this is the case, but I found this ABC article.