Sometimes Mathias Cormann, in his unmistakeable drone can seem like the cartoon villain, but in a speech to the business-funded Sydney Institute1, he seems to have gone from cartoon villain to comedian. In this speech, he reiterated Turnbull’s ‘warning’ that Shorten is the “most dangerous left-wing leader” in a generation. The only way that Shorten is dangerous, as far as Turnbull is concerned, is that he may be the next Prime Minister, thereby depriving Turnbull of that pleasure (unless Turnbull’s party take it from him beforehand). Cormann, on the other hand, went to such lengths to excoriate Shorten that he imply sounded ridiculous. He attempted to insinuate that Shorten is a socialist rather than a social democrat, and then conflated communism with socialism3 making the huge, if ludicrous, leap that Shorten was a communist. This is the sort of reds-under-the-bed idiocy one would hear from McCarthyist nutters in the 1950s. Such conflation and confusion is still common among the gullible in the United States, particularly among those trumpettes with whom I have corresponded4. However, I expected to hear better from a modern Finance Minister. To attempt to conflate communism5, in which everything of consequence is owned by the state, with social democracy6, in which the capitalist system operates to promote social justice, either betrays Cormann’s inadequate understanding of the difference, or his ability to lie.
Cormann even used the hackneyed ‘politics of envy’3 epithet used by Morrison and Howard7 to justify bashing unions and anyone else with whom they disagreed. This is an inaccurate description of the situation. It should be directed back at Cormann, Morrison and Howard for it is they who are indulging their donors in big business with the ‘politics of greed’.
I suspect that the reason Cormann is particularly upset, is because he realises that the neoliberal trickle-down economics to which he has nailed his colours, has failed8, and people all around the world are realising this, except perhaps those in the Liberal party. Indeed, ‘trickle-down’ is a misnomer, because the wealth doesn’t trickle down at all, it mostly gushes upwards and the system should perhaps been more accurately termed ‘vacuum-up economics’. This is because it has led to a huge increase in inequality of income. In Australia in the interval from the late 1970s to 2010, the share of total income going to the top 1% has gone from about 4.5% to 9.0%. In the USA, from 8% to 17.5%. In the UK, from 6% to 14%9. These are rates of income inequality not seen in Australia since the 1940s, the US and UK since the middle 1930s. The growth in income inequality in recent decades has been much more pronounced in the English-speaking nations than in other, non-English-speaking nations9.
Cormann stated that Shorten has misread “not only what is in the best interest of Australians today and into the future, but also the great aspirational spirit of the Australian people”. This is simply a bit of waffle and (speaking from personal experience), in this decade, it is impossible for a young couple to get ahead unless they are assisted financially by their parents, despite them having relatively well paying jobs, as Shorten has indicated10. The only Australians about which Cormann is concerned are those who donate funds to the Liberal and National Coalition. All the other Australians might aspire to get ahead, but if they live in the larger of the capital cities, aspiration will be all they have.