Democratic Socialism in Australia: reverse privatisation, embrace neutrality

Dec 31, 2022
Privatisation of state-owned factories and plants.

Capitalism and “liberal democracy” are failing and destroying our world. In this, the second in a three-part series, we explore how Australia can halt the decline by reversing privatisation of public utilities and embracing a foreign policy based on neutrality.

Reverse privatisation – manage energy pricing and reserves

Australian Federal and State governments should buy back and manage public utilities, energy companies and other essential social/public infrastructure – possibly even social media. Privatisation struggles to show even one example where consumers/society are better off after a government-owned utility, company or piece of infrastructure was sold off to finance government current expenditure.

Daniel Andrews has bravely started the process with his announced intention to re-nationalise the Victorian electricity utility SECV, which was split up and sold in the mid to late 90s. Other targets include road and rail infrastructure, airlines, energy production and distribution, tertiary education (TAFE) and health/medical and social security services.

Apart”, from “buying back the farm” Australian Governments should intervene in markets to regulate energy pricing and maintain

appropriate domestic reserves. Western Australia is clearly leading the way – in stark contrast to the eastern states of Australia.

March Quarter. FOB – Free on board; CIF – Cost, Insurance, Freight. SOURCE: ENERGYQUEST

Internationally, Norway provides a classic example of how best to manage energy resources on behalf of society. Revenue from this initiative has created for the people of Norway the world’s largest sovereign fund.

Covid demonstrated how vulnerable were the supply chains of many imported goods. Australia’s strategic petrol, diesel and jet fuel reserve requirements have been recently increased from 20-24 days to 27-32 days. This is equivalent to about 53 days of net imports, compared to the IEA requirement for Members to hold at least 90 days of net imports.

Australia also holds reserves in the US (and for which we pay storage fees). Other countries (eg NZ) have international agreements for their fuel reserves to be held in other countries on their behalf (Japan for NZ). This remote storage is hardly assurance of supply in the event of an “emergency”. It is an example of the subservience Australia has progressively developed towards the US. These US-held fuel stocks should be immediately repatriated and our other reserves increased to meet at least the IEA recommended requirements.

Reduce militarisation – pacify foreign policy

Military expenditure in Australia increased to 31.7 million USD in 2021 from 27.3 million USD in 2022.

To begin regaining Australian sovereignty, we should slow down militarisation – especially the offensive weapons foreshadowed by AUKUS. Let us not overly alarm our “allies” by repudiating existing military treaties. By gradually reducing real military expenditure however, the militarisation embodied in these treaties will eventually diminish – hopefully without much political fallout.

The current Strategic Defence Review can play an integral role by clearly identifying the “enemies” faced by Australia (if any) and honestly defining what defence capabilities are in Australia’s (not just the US) best interests. There is a plethora of evidence that “China is not the enemy” but has been mischievously depicted as such by the US to justify expansion of its military bases and aggressive naval and air-force exercises in the near vicinity of China (and over 800 military bases worldwide).

Australia should progressively pacify its foreign policy. Joint armed military exercises with the US and our Indo-pacific and SE Asia neighbours should be reduced over time. These exercises should be directed more towards humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

No new military alliances should be established and existing treaties should be allowed to stagnate and atrophy (or at least diminish) over time – except where they are clearly in Australia’s best domestic security interest (and not just part of the US Rules-Based World Order).

The Australian public needs to be re-assured that the government is fully addressing Australia’s real security and defence needs in an efficient and competent manner. The savings from reduced weapons funding should be transparently diverted to major social programs to gain public support for reduced militarisation.

Neutrality – human rights – foreign aid – climate change

As most of our Indo-pacific and SE Asia neighbours are doing, Australia should avoid “picking sides” between China and the US. We should be extremely wary of being drawn into a proxy combatant role (eg over Taiwan) on behalf of the US.

We should try not to interfere with the internal business of other countries. We could take the lead from the government of Vietnam:

  • No country will be allowed military bases in Vietnam
  • Vietnam does not participate in any military alliance
  • Vietnam does not use force against any country
  • Vietnam does not unite one country against another

We repeatedly identify Australia’s need/right to speak up about the human rights violations of other countries. This position is seen as being highly hypocritical by many of those countries. Australia has its own serious human rights issues that should be given priority (eg indigenous, refugees and migrants, LGBTI, children, climate change).

Government failure to address climate change is now also seen a human rights issue. Climate change efforts need continual review and enhancement to achieve internationally agreed targets.

Australia’s sycophantic echoing US criticisms of human rights violations around the world is seen as highly duplicitous (especially by China) when the US itself has such a woefully poor human rights record.

Australian foreign aid expenditure has become less generous and should be increased. Much of the delivery of Australian foreign aid has been privatised, thereby diluting the funds available by as much as 20%. In some cases, a high proportion of aid to the South Pacific countries has ended up in the hands of Australian contractors. Aid needs to be more meaningfully directed.

In the third and final part of this series, I explore how Australia must embrace a new future by emphasising trade and cultural relationships in foreign policy, managing mass media concentration and the military/industrial complex, and addressing social inequality.

 

Read Part 1 and Part 3 of this three part series.

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