Saturday, May 30, 2020

Agribusinesses Still Dominate Australia's Agriculture

Written by: Ned K. on 31 May 2020

Ownership and control of agricultural land in Australia is an important part of the people's struggle for independence and socialism, especially with climate change likely to contract the total amount of agricultural land in Australia and indeed the whole planet.

In the 1960s and early 1970s the First Peoples won a great victory regarding ownership and control of agricultural land with the seven-year Walk Off at Wave Hill against British cattle baron Lord Vestey. Vestey and another cattle baron, McAlpine, had seized control of about half the Northern Territory's agricultural land.
In 2020, corporate ownership of agricultural land has expanded across all States and Territories with the modern day Vesteys called 'agribusinesses’. Many of these are controlled by the finance capital centers of world capitalism.
According to the May 2020 edition of AgJournal, the agribusinesses in Australia have continued to prosper during the Corona Virus period while other sectors of the capitalism in Australia have shut up shop.
Old money, family-owned agricultural empires in Australia are fast disappearing. A symbol of this trend was the sale of Kidman family's 12 cattle stations to the Outback Beef/Hancock Prospecting conglomerate. This agribusiness is 65% owned by Gina Rinehart and 35% owned by Shanghai CRED which trades in Australia in the name of Zenith Investment Holdings.
Gina Rinehart's track record as a "respectable corporate citizen" is well known. Less known is that Shanghai CRED breached an Indigenous Land Agreement on a cattle station in northern Western Australia. Shanghai CRED is WA's biggest landholder, with extensive cattle stations in the Kimberley and the state's goldfield region and farm ownerships on the edge of the Wheat Belt.
However, contrary to the China-bashing pro-US mass media, Chinese ownership of agricultural land is minor compared with agribusinesses owned and controlled from North American and Western European finance capital interests.
The AgJournal May edition contained a list of the top 10 agribusinesses owning land and food processing in Australia with a few surprises in it.
The Top 10 In Order of Asset Value
1. Public Sector Pension Investments (PSP) from Canada. A superannuation management fund for Canadian police and other public servants. Asset value in Australian agriculture is $3 billion
2. Macquarie Agriculture. A division of Macquarie Financial Services. Asset value of $2.7 billion in agriculture in Australia
3. Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America and College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA - CREF). This New York based investor is the biggest investor in agriculture globally. Asset value in Australian agriculture is $1.7 billion.
4. Rural Funds Group. Asset value in Australian agriculture is $950 million. Major shareholders appear to be Australian based. The Group has large scale investment in cotton, almond orchards, beef and vineyards across four states.
5. Warakirri Asset Management. Manages agricultural investments for major superannuation funds, include the retail workers' fund REST. Asset value in Australian agriculture is $800 million. It has extensive property ownership in the dairy country of western Victoria and the south east of South Australia. It is also one of the largest grain-growing owners in the country.
6. Outback Beef/Hancock Prospecting. Asset value in Australian agriculture is $800 million. These interests complement Gina Rinehart's extensive mining interests and mineral exports to China in particular.
7.Australian Agricultural Company. Asset value in Australian agriculture of $738 million. This British owned agribusiness was started in Australia in 1824 by a British Act of Parliament. It still "owns' 1% of the Australian land mass with cattle stations sprawling across the NT and Queensland.
8. North Australian Pastoral Company (NAPCO). Asset value in Australian agriculture is $650 million. This agribusiness was started in 1877 and is majority owned by the Queensland Government's Queensland Investment Corporation.
9. Consolidated Pastoral Company (CPC). Assets value in Australian agriculture of $600 million. It is owned by a private equity company from the UK, Terra Firma Capital Partners. It is in agriculture for speculative purposes, selling off properties to the highest bidder. Recently it sold cattle stations in WA and Queensland to a company calling itself Clean Agriculture And International Tourism which is a Vietnam based investment group.
10. Hancock Agricultural Investment Group. Assets value in Australian agriculture of $600 million. This Group manages $US3.1 billion worth of farmland globally including substantial holdings in California, Mid-West and Mississippi Delta regions.
There are another 10 agribusinesses not far behind these top ten by asset value.
By land mass value, the pecking order changes slightly but the players are the same.
The corporate nature of agriculture ownership has created a large rural First Peoples- led working class which creates the surplus value and profits for these agribusinesses. As can be seen in the top 10 list, a lot of the wealth created ends up overseas, following the pattern of Vestey in the days when British imperialist interests were dominant in Australian agriculture.
The struggles at Wave Hill by First Australians with their seven-year strike to win back their land is very relevant today.

Covid-19 pandemic shines powerful light on capitalism and imperialism

Written by: Alice M. on 31 May 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic exposed the irreconcilable class antagonisms of the capitalist system.  It proved again that monopoly capitalism’s inherent exploitation and drive for profit works against the economic security, the health and wellbeing of the people.
Frontline and essential services workers step out of the shadows
Covid-19 has shone a powerful light on the work of frontline and essential services workers.  Most front line and essential services workers are among the lowest paid in the country, the majority are women whose low paid labour enables capitalism to maximise profit making.  Health care workers, cleaners, child care, disabilities and aged care workers, retail, hospitality and services workers, keep the capitalist economy functioning. 
Most workers stood down by the Covid-19 lock out are in the lowest paid hospitality, retail and community services industries, the majority are women in casual and precarious jobs for most of their lives.  Part-time casual workers for less than 12 months with one employer don’t qualify for the JobKeeper package and face a life of permanent unemployment, economic insecurity and poverty.
George Megalogenis, an economics commentator, has pointed out that unlike the 1990s recession in which men lost 85 per cent of the jobs, and the 1980s recession in which they lost 76 per cent of the jobs, more than half of the workforce facing loss of their jobs so far from Covid-19 are women.
On average, women’s superannuation savings are less than half those of men. Covid-19 and the recession will increase this inequality at the same time as older women are already the fastest growing group of homeless in the country.
The following graph shows that in most industries, more women are in insecure casual work. It shows the number of casual workers employed for less than 12 months with their current employer, by gender.

(Source: Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre/ABS)

Unpaid work at home

At home women do the bulk of domestic work, childcare, organising and co-ordinating family responsibilities and activities. The lockdown has burdened women with increased household, family and childcare work.  The exploitation of women at home and at work is covered and hidden under the capitalist promoted myths of the caring and self-sacrificing nature of women.

Studies in past two months of lock down have shown that for families with children the physical isolation and school closures have added an extra six hours every day on caring for or supervising children at home. Around four of these six hours of extra child care work is done by women, and two by their male partners.

The lockdown has increased housework for women by more than an hour every day, but less than half an hour for men.

This unpaid housework and family work is a vital bedrock in the capitalist economy, essential for the reproduction and sustaining the present and future generations of workers for capitalist exploitation. The unpaid labour of women’s domestic work and caring for children, the sick, the elderly and disabled maximises profits for the capitalist class. 

The coronavirus crisis has exposed that the exploitation of women, both paid and unpaid, is fundamental to the operations of capitalism and class exploitation.
State capitalism to the rescue

The scale of the economic recession and Covid-19 that hit the global capitalist economy is taking a huge toll on the health, the livelihoods and economic security of ordinary people.  Even before the Covid-19 outbreak the global capitalist economy was already in recession and hurtling towards a major economic crisis.  The bourgeois state is compelled to step in directly and take control of the entire country’s economy and political functions to prop up monopolies and save capitalism.  This is simply state monopoly capitalism temporarily taking over some functions of monopolies.  It has nothing to do with socialism where the means of production are taken over by the working class and run for working people.

Some operations of private hospitals were temporarily taken over by the bourgeois state as the only efficient way to manage the national health crisis.

Child care is suddenly declared an essential public service and heavily subsidised by the government to make it free for frontline and essential services workers, showing the indispensable role of child care in the economy.  And yet Early Childhood Educators are some of the lowest paid workers because the majority are women doing “women’s work”.  At the same time, before the corona virus pandemic crisis, childcare costs in Australia were among the most expensive in the world – more expensive than for private schooling.

The government instructs banks to defer mortgage repayments and placed a moratorium on residential and commercial rents. 

The banks were the first beneficiaries of $105 billion government handouts from people’s taxes.

Billions of working people’s taxes are handed over to Qantas to save it from collapsing.

The billions of dollars for the JobKeeper Allowance is nothing more than the capitalist state trying to bail out big business and the capitalist system from deepening recession and looming depression.

It is simply corporate welfare – welfare for the big business.  Using people’s taxes to rescue big business.

Suddenly, the government found money to increase the unliveable Newstart Allowance, rebranded JobSeeker Allowance for the unemployed.

Some describe the government intervention, the bailing out of companies and an increase in welfare subsidies for the people, as socialism.  It is simply state capitalism sending in the fire engines trying to rescue the monopoly capitalist class and the capitalist system during the economic crisis. Capitalism can’t be reformed and given a more humane face because the fundamental exploitation remains. 

The JobKeeper and JobSeeker allowances aim to stimulate spending, dampen social unrest and get the capitalist economy through a deep recession and depression.  These welfare payments to the people are dwarfed by the massive government welfare handouts to corporations and big business. 

Already Covid-19 and the economic recession are sending more small businesses into extinction, increasing monopolisation.

Control and suppression of the working class

Under the pretext of the national health emergency crisis the state is making preparations to intensify the exploitation of workers through “increased productivity” and “more flexibility” for big business to wipe out hard won rights and conditions and for workers to make sacrifices to reboot the capitalist economy and increase the rate of profit.

Democratic Rights

The police and intelligence agencies have been given unprecedented powers and resources to impose draconian restrictions on people’s democratic rights, including public gatherings and protests, intended to suppress people’s resistance to austerity. 

Independence and self-reliance

Covid-19 Pandemic has exposed the depth of imperialist control over Australia’s economy. It revealed the manufacturing industry gutted so deeply that Australia no longer manufactures even the most basic medical equipment, medical masks, ventilators and personal protective equipment.  Most of Australia’s medications are imported from overseas whilst many of our medical scientists are starved of public funding for research and development.   Many local manufacturing industries have been taken over by multinational corporations, killed off or moved out of Australia to low wage countries where exploitation of workers is even more intense and profit margins higher. 

Covid–19 has accelerated and deepened the economic recession.

Long struggles and economic hardships lay ahead for working people. Capitalism has reached well beyond its use-by date and is now threatening all life on earth.  But capitalism will not collapse simply from its own created and unavoidable economic crises.  The people, led by an organised revolutionary working class, are decisive in consciously ending capitalism and sending it to the dustbin of history, for ever. 

The revolutionary fight for an independent socialist Australia takes many turns and twists, and is unstoppable. 


Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Henry Jackson Society – the softer sell of a far-right agenda

Written by: (Contributed) on 29 May 2019

A recent report from a UK-based think-tank about the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing partnership has far-reaching implications for Australia.

While based in highly diplomatic terminology and the product of a society based in the corridors of power at Cambridge University and Westminster, the report, Breaking the China Supply Chain, is little other than a convenient cover of political expedience for the far-right sections of the Trump administration.


It is particularly relevant to note the report was seized on by like-minded counterparts in the mainstream Australian press, with every intention of pushing the line into the Morrison coalition government in Canberra.
In May the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) based in Britain published a report Breaking the China Supply Chain: How the Five Eyes can Decouple from Strategic Dependency. (1) The publication was the outcome of research into perceived Chinese influence in the countries of the so-called Five Eyes, a super elite intelligence-sharing organisation composed of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Based on glittery websites with all the hallmarks of top-notch sales and marketing techniques, the publication was aimed at a specific readership within the higher levels of the corridors of power.
Coverage reviews of the HJS report in mainstream Australian media outlets were written in an obsequious and sycophantic style reminiscent of strategically-placed creeps in the corridors of power in Canberra.
It is not particularly difficult to establish why the HJS have become so concerned about the economies of the Five Eyes. They are all the victims of US-led economic rationalist policies; slipping down the table of recorded GDP growth rates in relation to other countries:
                                                          Position – All Countries, 2018                                                                
                                                          US            103
                                                          NZ            105
                                                          Australia   110
                                                          Canada     137
                                                          UK           155  (2)
Following decades of globalisation, the report suggested China had been able to gain strategic advantage inside the global economy. The report did not note, however, many of the countries placed higher in the table had more favourable trade with China, or the nature of their softer diplomacy based in mutual respect.
While taking a very broad definition of the subject area, the report, nevertheless, concluded Australia was technically 'dependent on China'. (3) Australia had been assessed as strategically dependent across 595 categories of goods. The US compared at 414, while the UK had 229.
The report did not address underlying economic patterns and methods of operation in recent decades. The five countries in question have become massive exporters of capital, flung to the four corners of the globe in search of higher returns for shareholders; investment in domestic programs has taken second priority. They have, therefore, slipped down the table of GDP growth; their economies are not in a healthy state. The economic rationalist policies have, nevertheless, served the best interests of those wielding class and state power. Massive discrepancies of wealth accumulation are recorded in the all five countries, with drastically lower living standards for the mass of the population.
No reference was provided in the report that both Australia and China exist in the same geographical region, which has provided a far more satisfactory explanation about their close trade relations. The same explanation also can be used for the US. Countries with close proximity to each other usually trade; why would any business organisation ship the bulk of their manufactured produce long distances when shorter haulage and logistics are possible, across Asia and Pacific? 
Those associated with Cambridge and Westminster, however, are hardly likely to be knowledgeable about manufacturing and trade. Such occupations would normally be associated with those sectors of society regarded as existing outside the social positions of those within the higher echelons of privilege and class and state power.
The report, nevertheless, subsequently advocated 'strategic decoupling' from China without reference to present Cold War positions or the fact China is Australia's biggest trading partner. Reference to 'supply chain warfare' was linked to 'economic coercion' without reference to standard US-led business practices where intimidation is commonplace. (4) 
Two significant factors when evaluating the report arise: the role of the Henry Jackson Society and their associates; their relationship with the Trump administration.
What is the HJS?
The HJS can hardly be regarded as an average lobby-type organisation; it is closely associated with Tom Tugendhat, M.P., chair of the present Conservative government House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee since 2017. The committee has a sub-committee, The China Research Group, convened specifically to deal with the rise of China.
A quick study of the curriculum vitae of Tugendhat has revealed a great deal about the political positions of the HJS. His military career and active service overseas in trouble-spots around the world also included Tugendhat joining the Intelligence Corps in 2003. He subsequently rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel a decade later. Foisted into the safe Conservative seat of Tonbridge and Malling in 2015, Tugendhat was subsequently associated with the highly secretive Bilderburg group. He would appear popular with his masters, part of their patronage systems and serving their interests well.
Other people listed in HJS circles also include Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6 who was noted as a founder member. Intelligence organisations have a long history of operations through front-type bodies. The British overseas intelligence service is also closely linked to the Commonwealth, and acts as a private intelligence-gathering body linked directly to the Privy Council and head of state, which at the present time is Prince Charles who is invariably referred to in diplomatic jargon 'as acting'.
Any pretence at objective research techniques can be quickly dispelled with the HJS. In 2017 they were, for example, found to have run an anti-China campaign funded by Japan. (5) It had serious implications; those who pay the piper, invariably call the tune.
Influence of the HJS in Australia
The HJS also have an Australian connection, being revealed when former PM Malcolm Turnbull was invited to address the organisation in House of Commons Committee Room 14 last year, speaking about perceived problems in the Asia-Pacific. (6) The hard right of the Coalition government draws on its publications. On May 12, NSW Senator Fierravanti-Wells cited an HJS report entitled Coronavirus Compensation, calling in the Senate for a “a plan for reparations and a plan to decouple from China.”
The HJS is nothing other than the softer-sell of a much harder US-led intelligence-based cutting edge of Cold War political positions. It has far-reaching implications for Australia.
The publication of the HJS report also coincided, for example, with a major diplomatic statement from the Trump administration. In May, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, issued a statement about the Five Eyes. Addressing the matter of the Andrews State government in Victoria signing for the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative last October, Pompeo referred to 'national security elements' and the 'Five Eyes partners', together with a threat to stop intelligence-sharing with Australia. In a blunt manner he stated 'we will simply disconnect … and … we will simply separate'. (7) 
Fears had apparently arisen in US-led circles about China being able to access telecommunications facilities. (8)
In a manner characteristic of the present Morrison coalition government, Peter Dutton stated he supported Pompeo on national security. It coincided with a series of muck-raking articles throughout the final week of May about figures associated with the Andrews government and people of Chinese ethnic backgrounds, implying they had been up to no good.
With the HJS and their US-led cronies establishing a major foothold in Australian government, politics and the mainstream media, we need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Finally the scales have fallen from the five eyes partners, Australian, 21 May 2020.
2.     Wikipedia: GDP Growth Rates, Position, Country and Country.
3.     Australian, op.cit., 21 May 2020.
4.     Ibid.
5.     British think-tank funded by Japan pushing anti-China campaign into mainstream
        UK media, The Drum, 21 January 2017.
6.     Preserving the freedom of the Asia-Pacific, HJS, Australia, 5 March 2019.
7.     Pompeo warns US may stop intelligence with Australia over Victoria inking deal with China, Oleg Burunov, Sputnik, 24 May 2020.
8.     Ibid.