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Welcome to the Oligarchs Project

Promo Photo2I am a UNSW academic and author of the best selling Cambridge University Press book ‘How to Argue with an Economist: Re-opening political debate in Australia”.

I am doing a research project into the power of big business in Australian politics. The project has been crystallising my thoughts about what a post-neoliberal economics might look like. I will be using this blog to share my findings and thoughts as they unfold.

A Once in 50 Years Political Realignment

My latest article to appear in the Sydney Morning Herald and across Fairfax…relates very closely to the ‘kicking up versus kicking down against globalization’ article from a couple of weeks ago.

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/malcolm-turnbull-is-facing-a-oncein50years-upheaval-to-politics-20170308-guu0bo.html

Coles, Woolies & the Long Chain Economy

Coles and Woolies dealings with the farmers is a powerful case for the ‘long chain economy’.

In the last week we have seen debates about the Murray Darling Basin, the backpacker tax, yet another story about foreign workers being underpaid on farms, and abuse of market power laws that impact on the power struggle between farmers and supermarkets.

These debates have all been treated as separate issues, when in reality they are all about the same thing. They are all about how money is distributed along the food production chain. Continue reading “Coles, Woolies & the Long Chain Economy”

Profit Bludging and the Long Chain Economy

To attack economic inequality at its source we really need to take on what I like to call ‘profit bludging’.

There are some businesses out there that have a great idea, and find a way to turn cheap resources into a product people really value. These are the wealth creators in our society. They make a healthy profit, and so they should. They have made a contribution to our collective well-being.

But then there is our anti-hero. The profit bludgers.  These are the businesses that boost their profits in ways that don’t add to our wealth at all. They are not making the pie bigger, they are just taking a larger share of the pie. Continue reading “Profit Bludging and the Long Chain Economy”

Govt pays 6 times the price for PBS drugs – is dark money the reason?

Govt pays 6 times the price for PBS drugs – is dark money the reason?

In the wake of the Dark Money report, Martin Whitely, a former Labor MP and Executive Director of the Health Consumers Council, got in touch to explore whether political donations could be behind an extraordinary anomaly in our health system.

Martin pointed to a Grattan Institute report which found that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (the program that purchases our drugs and provides them to us at subsidised prices) is paying up to six times as much for the drugs as the Kiwi govt across the ditch. They also pay more than many other state government bodies who also bulk buy drugs.

In the wake of all the noise we have heard about ballooning health costs, it is extraordinary that one of the most expensive items in the federal budget is being allowed to balloon out like this. If we are facing a health funding crisis, why are we cutting nurses rather than cutting the fat we are paying the big pharmaceutical corporates?

Is dark money to blame? Don’t know yet – but it certainly a fascinating issue that we will be looking into.

 

Donate $20 million with no disclosure – pay on different days

Hi All,

In the Dark Money report I argue disclosure is entirely optional because payments as large as $20million can be concealed through donation splitting. Ie breaking large amounts into small payments that individually come in  below the disclosure threshold.

This claim is often made about payments of $100,000. This based on making payments to separate branches. However the reality is worse. Payments made on separate days do not have to be aggregated. So you can pay $10,000 a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year to eight branches and pay $20m without having to disclose.

My evidence that this is permissable is from AEC guidelines to political parties on how to complete their returns

. http://www.aec.gov.au/parties_and_representatives/financial_disclosure/guides/political-parties/information.htm#part2

Check it out for yourself! They even give an example.