Who Owns Australia?

It has been a hoary old truism that former Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen sold most of the pretty and profitable parts of the state Queensland to foreign investors. Even the Great Barrier Reef itself was on the 80's equivalent of eBay at one stage, thanks to his scheming. Bob Hawke had to rush legislation to make it a World Heritage before they started bulldozing the coral to make car-parks for the Isetan shopping centres. The Queensland tourism authority's tag line was quickly altered by the wags:

Queensland: beautiful one day, Japanese the next.

The Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast of Queensland certainly got snaffled up in those heady days. I'm not sure how much of those tourist area are still owned by the Japanese. Recall that in the late 80's as the Cold War thawed and Reagan drifted into la-la land with his finger still on the button and Russia slowly awoke in the guise of a big friendly bear, Japan's bubble was still dilating and threatening (somehow) the US and its economy. Japan magically was the enemy again. Lacking a focus for the Military-Industrial Complex that (along with drugs) drives the US economy, an enemy was needled - Japan would do. (Now it's Al-Queda - no terrorist act however terrible is actually evil unless it can be connected somehow to Al-Queda.)

So if push came to shove between these superpowers, would the squeaky white sandy beaches of Queensland become a battleground? Would the battle for supremacy of the world be decided at Sanctuary Cove? These things kept us Victorians awake at night in those days.


But in the spirit of Reagan and Thatcher, under the malign influence of Milton Friedman (wasn't he part of Al-Queda?), Australian governments, State and Federal having been built strong on a mixed economy with a touch of socialism's 'fair go for the poor', started to divest themselves of Utilities such as power, water and telecommunications. Setting free these Government owned monopolies in the name of "competition" to the invidious private sector ways of cost-cutting, profit focus, price-fixing, cartels and collusion failed to create better prices and better services for consumers - why the fuck would it? as they essentially stayed as regional monopolies. Only the telecoms truly compete in Australia, confusing and harassing customers with cold-call salesmen spinning new deals out the air. It is not unusual now for a person to change providers three or four times a year, merely to shut the fuckers up and get them off your doorstep.

Drum-roll please, foreign ownership.

The level of foreign ownership of Australian companies has doubled in the past decade to 21% of gross domestic product (GDP) and foreign debt hovers at 40% of GDP. The money leaving Australia to foreign owners doubled in the decade to $12 billion last year.

Tax expert and Electronic International Trade Service director Martin Feil said multinationals use a tax trick called transfer pricing to escape paying tax in Australia. An Australian Taxation Office review of 207 companies, which generated $30 billion in annual revenue, showed they paid less than $40 million in company tax.

'Despite having operated in Australia for decades, over half of the foreign companies paid no tax at all,' Mr. Feil said. Herald-Sun, 17 Sep, 2000 - quoted here.


What about Singapore's role in all this? Everyone knows that Perth is being aggressively marketed here in Singapore for Real Estate investment. The rush to buy has pushed prices up certainly to beyond what I can afford (should I decide to retire to a house in the bush of Margaret River overlooking the surf as I sip the local wine... and complain.) . Much of the Australian property boom is fueled by Asian - Hong Kong and Singapore - buyers.

What about all those utilities that the Australians sold off? What sort of grip does Singapore have on all that?

In the on-line news-commentary and shit-stirring site, Crikey, Stephen Mayne highlights some rather one shocking facts, lah.


Here’s a list of the residual operating assets held by the Australian Government:

* 17% stake in Telstra: $9.6 billion
* Australia Post: $5 billion
* Medibank Private: $1 billion
* Australian Submarine Corp: $200 million
* Total: $15.8 billion

Here's a list of Australian commercial assets controlled by the Singapore Government:

* Optus: $10 billion
* Alinta energy assets: $4.3 billion
* Victorian electricity transmission monopoly: $2 billion
* Old Texas Utilities Australian portfolio: $5.5 billion
* Property: $2 billion
* Australand stake: $1 billion
* Total: $22.8 billion



So what to do? Cry, as your beloved country sells itself to the fascistic proto-dictatorship in which you reside?

When Al-Friedman told world leaders that Governments should get out of the way of the business, sell up any stake they had in service delivery and allow the money market to sort it all out, I doubt that he meant for the Governments of OTHER COUNTRIES to step in and buy those very same services!



Posted by: expat@large on May 05, 07 | 11:56 am | Profile


watch "network" again


Posted by: savannah on May 05, 07 | 9:43 pm

Sav: I am not going to take it anymore!

Posted by: expat@large on May 06, 07 | 1:53 am


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