G20, LNP and neoliberalism

Inside the old Cloudland ballroom
Inside the old Cloudland ballroom at Newstead in Brisbane.

‘… in my view populism is what we need, roughly speaking hanging bankers from the lamposts …’

– prof john quigan speaking
at the cloudland committee
inaugural forum
on 28 nov 2013
[1:07:37] in PShift
recording below


Review of talk given by prof quigan and organised by the cloudland collective.

about 60 people (i counted) attended the inaugural meeting of the cloudland committee. it was addressed by john quigan on G20, LNP and neoliberalism. before the meeting brisbane city council officers turned up agressively asking questions  about G20 protests.

john quigan disclaimed any real knowledge of the G20 but spoke at length about the Australian policy elite’s failure to understand the current crisis because they are stuck in what he called ‘social democratic keynesianism’. john quigan said that this era of economics ended in the late 1970s and then gave rise to neoliberalism that has driven economic policy since the 1990s e.g. in the labour market (union bashing).

the professor referred to paul keating as being the supporter of the Bond’s and the Skase’s of this world and as rejecting the traditional capitalists in the Melbourne club. according to quigan, keating’s undoing was ‘the recession we had to have’.

Yet the economic statement Keating released (it was called ‘One Nation’ [sic]) in response to the recession involved a lot of public spending – ironicaly, quigan’s own remedy to the current crisis. Keating himself referred to One Nation as ‘pure keynesianism’ [Kerry O’Brien’s Keating Interviews -ABC].

john quigan claimed that keating has tried to re-invent himself as a republican warrior and supporter of indigenous issues. i thought this caricature a little harsh given that keating gave the redfern park address in the early 1990s and was always a republican albeit a conservative one – i say conservative because, unlike 70% of Australians, keating insisted a president be elected by the executive.

Just a mile or two from the place where the first European 
settlers landed, in too many ways it tells us that their 
failure to bring much more than devastation and 
demoralisation to  Aboriginal Australia continues 
to be our failure.

                 - prime minister paul keating, 
                 address given in redfern park, 
                      Sydney, 10 December 1992.

regarding keating’s redfern address, i wonder how would an aboriginal person see this – as a whitefella wringing his hands in shame? Well we don’t need to look far. aboriginal activist, gary foley, pulls no punches on the government’s introduction of native title legislation following keating words describing ‘devastation and demoralisation to Aboriginal Australia continues to be our failure‘. gary foley is quoted as saying:

In response to the High Court decision (in Mabo), Keating’s Labor government passed the 1993 Native Title Act. Historian and veteran activist Dr Gary Foley says the passing of this legislation was “the greatest act of dispossession of Aboriginal people in the history of Australia since Captain Cook stuck the Union Jack in the ground”.

from ‘Native Title vs Land Rights
by Callum Clayton-Dixon

quigan said a lot of economic changes were hatched in secret e.g. competition policy was foisted on an unsuspecting public. trickle down, efficient market hypothesis, stability through the financial markets, ‘great moderation’ are all myths according to quigan – as is the goose that laid the golden egg – the market.

As a response to the crisis john quigan advocated populism i.e. ‘hanging the bankers from light poles’ [figuratively speaking, of course].

prof quigan warned the meeting to be wary of ultra left marxism. this was especially ironic given his views on populism i.e. critical of left-wing idealism and opportunism but not of populism!? he stressed the need for close analysis of what was actually happening – to know and understand what is proposed by neo-liberals e.g. free trade agreements .

john quigan has the misfortune of being peculiarly misunderstood in Brisbane. Down in George street, john has the right to be a poor populist, because he is reputed to be a good economist. On the Left, he has the right to be a bad populist, because he is reputed to be one of the ablest keynesian economists. Being both marxist and political activist at the same time, we desire to protest against this double error.
The reader will understand that in this thankless task we have often had to abandon our criticism of john quigan in order to criticize populism, and at the same time to give some observations on political economy. … to paraphrase marx’s views
  in ‘The Poverty of Philosophy’

To his credit john quigan said to watch out for free trade agreements like the current Trans Pacific Partnerships.

quigan’s advocacy of big public spending was straight out of the keynesian ‘new deal’ by Roosevelt. The new deal was a failure because unemployment became greater in the USA under the new deal than in the earlier part of the great depression. only world war II curtailed the lines to the soup kitchens.

In question time at the cloudland talk, one person said that ‘60% of the world’s poor live in the G20 countries‘ and wasn’t it better to have them represented in the G20 than in the more elitist G7 and G8. quigan agreed.

one question, not addressed at the talk, was that if we were to start hanging bankers from lamposts (really) and and to bring down governments that support them, what would come next? would there be a period of anarchy and civil war as is currently occurring in iraq and the ukraine? or to put it another way, would the Islamic State (IS – ironic, aye) or a similar group come out and start hanging their rivals in the revolutionary movement?

i recorded the full speech and questions and that is available below with a YouTube clip.

ian curr
august 2014


Excerpts are also available on BushTelegraph YouTube (see below).

G20 as theatre

Redfern Speech (Year for the World’s Indigenous People) – Delivered in Redfern
Park by Prime Minister Paul Keating, 10 December 1992

The following are excerpts from Cloudland Collective’s leaflet advertising the event.

LNP and neoliberalism Bleijie’s attacks on workers compensation and civil liberties are an assault on everyone’s rights. The LNP have done everything in their power to shift the state’s wealth to the corporate sector. They have cut funding to hospitals, schools and community services. Workplace protections have been stripped away and 1000’s of jobs lost. Meanwhile royalty discounts are given to mining companies, agribusiness are allowed to strip bushland. Aboriginal rights are dismissed and the reef is seen as an obstacle to business.

Singing from the same hymn sheet
Next year’s (2014) G20 summit will embolden the LNP government to step up their attacks. Civil liberties has been the summit’s first casualty. And like the LNP, the G20 states claim that the market is the only alternative. They claim that everyone will benefit from privatization, outsourcing and contestability. They see environmental regulations, union rights and social security as obstacles. Increases in inequality, militarization and gender based violence characterize these states.

Civil liberties
The LNP has sought to capitalize on the uncertainties their policies have caused by banging the “law and order” drum and posing as an able protector of the public. Bleijie hopes to gain legitimacy for the government so that it can continue to govern for business. But in doing so Bleijie has undermined judicial independence, expanded police powers, and legislated punitive provisions for use against loosely defined “associations” that could include unions and protestors. The G20 Act represents an attack on civil liberties the like of which we have not seen since Bjelke-Petersen days.

The Cloud land Collective
The Cloud land Collective stands for broad based action and community campaigning in defence of jobs, services and civil liberties. To find out more email: cloudland collective@yahoo.com or ph: 0409877 528.

Click to see leaflet

One thought on “G20, LNP and neoliberalism

  1. Cloudland Collective says:

    CAPITAL in the 21st Century: exploring the ideas of Thomas Piketty.

    Guest speakers: Prof John Quiggin and Dr Michael Beggs

    Thursday, September 11
    at 7:00pm

    ETU auditorium, 41 Peel St, South Brisbane


    A 700-page economics book is taking the world by storm.

    Capital in the 21st Century by French political economist Thomas Piketty, a detailed historical analysis of economic development over the last three centuries, has become a number 1 bestselling book.

    Piketty sets out to uncover the fundamental dynamics driving capital accumulation and distribution.

    Looking at extensive historical economic data, he establishes that the decades of economic prosperity and the flattening of inequality following World War Two were an aberration.

    Instead of being “a rising tide that floats all boats”, modern capitalism with its inherent contradictions is generating extreme inequalities. A tiny minority in society is amassing incredible wealth.

    With the wave of austerity measures unleashed in the aftermath of the GFC, Piketty’s ideas have hit a global nerve. At the same time, the popularity of his book has sent the rightwing in to a frenzy.

    Piketty’s assumptions, formulations and conlusions may be challenged. But he has shown up the prevailing free market economics which dominate formal politics as “the emporer with no clothes”.

    And he has made the study of economics as a key element of understanding our society sexy again.

    Instead of blind faith that the market will deliver, he says we need to look at the evidence and the historical trends.

    With guest speakers, Dr Michael Beggs and Professor John Quiggan, this meeting will explore the ideas of Piketty and provide an opportunity to debate the political implications.”

Please comment down below