Did the big miners topple the Prime Minister?

I haven’t heard all that much gloating in the last couple of days from the big mining companies, despite the fact that their bitter media war against the RSPT was the decisive factor encouraging Julia Gillard’s powerful co-conspirators to sink their knives into Kevin Rudd’s back. Perhaps they are now feeling just a little sheepish. Looking back over the last couple of months since the Budget, it is difficult to believe that the government’s polling would have been quite so bad or the Prime Minister’s personal political situation so dire if the government had won the media war or else managed to forge an agreement with the miners and the Minerals Council of Australia. The televised ad campaign against the RSPT was as audacious as it was relentless; never before in Australian political history has a cabal of multinational companies banded together so effectively with the aim of overturning the policy of a democratically-elected government.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that one of the most big-mouthed public opponents of the tax, mining magnate Clive Palmer, has a long political history with the Liberal and National Parties, and also happens to be Australia’s largest political donor. As Adele Ferguson and Rafael Epstein reported in a somewhat revealing profile piece for The Age on Saturday:

In the year to June 2009, Palmer and his private company, Mineralogy, gave $400,000 to the federal Liberal Party, $280,000 to the Queensland Liberal National Party, $110,000 to the West Australian National Party and $50,000 to the federal National Party.

That is why Kevin Rudd responded to the tax debate intervention with the accusation that Palmer had bought the Coalition ”lock, stock and barrel”. And Palmer’s ”communist” gibe, had Rudd turning to history. In the ’80s, Palmer was a friend of Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s, was at one stage a director of the party and in 1986 Palmer was spokesman for the party during the Queensland election, helping usher in Bjelke-Petersen’s seventh consecutive term in office.

One wonders how many average folk knew, when watching Palmer’s bulbous face bleating about communism on the nightly news, that he was not only a mining magnate and therefore hardly an impartial observer, but also a conservative political stooge from way back, and therefore even less impartial. The whole episode has been a timely reminder about just where the real political power lies in today’s Australia: with those who have the most financial capacity to influence people through public relations and advertising.

The people of Australia don’t have any serious institutionalised mechanism for relegating the Clive Palmers and the Twiggy Forrests of the world to the backbenches; we’re just stuck with them. In contrast our politicians, in thrall to the almighty ubiquity of the latest polling figures, are left scurrying around like so many primitives, fighting amongst themselves and skulking around behind each others backs. After last week’s events, the trading room floor is looking just that little bit more like the centre of real power in this country, and the Federal Parliament, just that little bit less.

6 thoughts on “Did the big miners topple the Prime Minister?

  1. Hear! Hear! Rudd was ‘courageous’ for taking on the mega miners. He was supposed to be a student of the Whitlam era but missed the major lesson. The Loans affair that ultimately brought about Gough’s downfall was essentially about who owned Australia’s natural resources. The multinationals knew quite well. They now own the media as well.

  2. For someone who supposedly represented a triumph of spin over substance (according to the recent media narrative) and purportedly was not a “conviction politician”, its fascinating that it was his attachment to a rather courageous social democratic initiative that more than any other, brought him down.

    The Kevin Rudd “spin king” portrayed in the media would never have taken on one of Australia’s largest and most powerful interest groups for the good of the nation.

  3. Spot on (again).

    It strikes me as quite plausible that the mysterious figures within the Labor party (who made the backroom deals that replaced our elected prime minister with one we didn’t elect) might have personal agendas beyond getting the party re-elected. How do we know what ties they might have to wealthy corporate mining interests?

  4. Hi Guy. my thoughts pretty exactly, which is not to detract from Julia or to cast nasturtians on her, but I’m sure she’d be pragmatic and ambitious enough to agree that it was in everyone’s interests, miners, the ALP etc if they were to win a second term and roll back the 40% tax–a bit or a lot and/or offer some other incentives to keep er . .destroying the landscape etc and a handful of people in temporary employment. .

  5. Mr M, indeed there are a few notables within the Labor caucus who have fairly strong ties to the mining industry. Methinks the decision to drop the Gillardtine was probably drive more by the polls and fear of a backlash than anything else, but I am sure that certain mining company execs were in the ears of their mates in the ALP.

    Link, yeah even as we speak there seems to be a lot of pressure mounting on the government to cut a deal. The miners are already threatening to re-engage their ad campaign if they don’t get a deal in 2 weeks. Now that’s power for you.

  6. I was at Gary Sauer Thompson’s blog with a cartoon by Moir, I think that had Gillard lying floored by a mighty mine dumpster truck, hoying back. “I hope you have learnt your lesson now” to the corporates.
    Only a couple of days ago it wasMighty Mo flooring Rudd, champion of a dozen prize fights. So the undercutting actually starts quite subtly.

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