The Oligarchs Research Project

How Powerful is Big Business in Australian Politics?

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The project seeks to test Wayne Swan’s assertion to see if it is true, or just political posturing by the Labor Party.

Political science literature hotly debates the role of corporate interests in modern democracies.  Some argue the political importance of a strong economy, the lobbying power and political donations given by major corporates distort our democracy.  However, counter arguments are made that business rarely speaks with one voice, so the competing voices of major corporates cancel each other out. Further it is argued that on the rare occasions big business does speak with one voice, the issues become highly contentious and get a lot of media coverage. Politicians then prioritize public opinion and the views of ordinary people become an effective form of counterveiling power.

This project seeks test these arguments by looking at the highest profile issues in which the companies Wayne Swan calls ‘the Oligarchs’ had skin in the game under the Rudd/Gillard and Abbott/Turnbull governments.

The starting point will be to examine:

  • The Mining Tax (the Big Miners)
  • The Future of Financial Advice Reforms (the Banks)
  • Competition Law Reform -the ‘Effects Test’ (Coles and Woolworths)
  • The NBN (Telstra)
  • Media Regulation Reform (Newscorp)
  • Multinational Tax Evasion

I will also be examining questions like:

  • Are these companies the right ones to be examining? Or are they just Labor’s political enemies?



About Dr Lindy Edwards

Promo Photo2 Dr Lindy Edwards has worked as an economic adviser in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, a press gallery journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald and was head of policy to Natasha Stott Despoja when she was leader of the Australian Democrats. After extensive experience in the Australia political system she returned to academia to complete her PhD at the Australian National University.

Dr Edwards has been a Fellow of the Australian Prime Ministers Centre, the Centre for Policy Development and a board member of the think-tank Catalyst and the Economic Advisory Board of the Australian Conservation Foundation.  She has had a fortnightly column in The Age newspaper and she is a regular media commentator who has appeared in The Times, The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, Radio National, SBS radio, the Malaysia Straits Times, The Monthly, The New Matilda as well Sky News, Compass and most commercial television stations.