THE ISSUE of control of vital resources has been the cause of wars and famines over millennia. One answer was to place sufficient resources under the control of the people via some form of government, so that the population could have reasonable confidence that the resources that they needed to live would be available to them.

Reviewing what’s happening around us by taking a ‘big picture’ view, it appears that we’re on a trajectory that could be taking us somewhere that most of us won’t want to go. While the reasons for those trends may be arguable, the implications are pretty clear and potentially very serious.

Greater government control – fewer citizen freedoms

In Australia, government exercises control through attempted regulation of our behaviours (as opposed to delivering valued services), and our multiple levels of government are producing ever more regulation ever faster. Each of the regulations implies a loss of freedom for someone somewhere.

Government grows, freedoms disappear.

The anti-terror legislation pushed through by Howard has swept away many of our previous freedoms leaving Australians targetted by the government (e.g. Haneef, Hicks) in a very risky situation (1).

The move to fewer freedoms has been amplified by a greater focus on physical security that has added immense costs to airline travel and event planning (e.g. APEC) and threatened many peoples privacy. The costs of all of this are usually paid from tax monies leaving less money for more positive uses.

Lower levels of government accountability & performance

Many (all?) state governments have been behaving as though the needs and wants of the population are less important than party political agendas (2) (3).

Our muted media still carries multiple stories of how populations are treated more as subjects than as participating citizens (e.g. Aboriginal intervention, Port Phillip bay, Wonthaggi desalination plant, Tamar pulp mill).

People with differing views or information are too often ignored, even vilified, by government (damn Greenies).

In Tasmania the state government appears highly skilled at avoiding accountability, via secrecy, failing to answer legitimate queries and misleading the public, while looking like incompetent bozos at producing useful results.

Australian governments appear to be progressively less able to do the things that need to be done, despite the record amounts of money taken from the public. Evidence of this is the gradual collapse of our infrastructures, including transport, ports, health etc.

The key priorities for life are becoming harder to get at a reasonable level of quality. Air, water, food, shelter, health and power are all essential to each of us, yet many of these vital resources are becoming severely degraded or unavailable.

Governments that are compromised by large corporate donations, coupled with huge corporate lobbying budgets, have created an asymmetric lobbying system where the voice of the people is entirely lost in the rush of overseas jaunts and the murmur and clink of after dinner champers.

The result is that government is tightening it’s grip on the population through increased regulation and denial of rights, while itself behaving in less accountable ways and delivering lower levels of service while simultaneously demanding increasing amounts of money. It’s looking like time people took action to regain control of their public institutions before they’re either dismantled or sold to the private sector.

Pay us - if you want to live

Most of the critical resources necessary to life are being sold, by our governments, to the private sector. The ownership and control of the top priorities for survival are both being moved from the people to unknown corporate entities.

Some resources were mainly privately owned (e.g. fossil fuels) already, but now water and power are on open offer (4) (5). Ownership and control of food producing land and irrigation water is being transferred to large corporate interests. Taxpayer monies (MIS) are facilitating the conversion of farmland into tree plantations that exhaust the land, drain water catchments and eliminate strategic flexibility.

In Tasmania, this is amplified by the destabilising effects of the proposed PAL policy that deters food farmers from living on, or ‘developing’ their land, while simultaneously declaring trees an agricultural crop, again changing land use priorities at a time when we need every food producer to focus on producing food.

Despite the raft of government explanations/excuses the question of who should control the resources that are vital to our lives has never been debated, neither is there any indication that any level of government is particularly interested in such a debate.

As water, power, fuel and food prices climb, corporate speculators see that there is a lot of money to be made from the sale of essential resources and a captive market that has no choice but to pay.

Seen in this context, we can begin to realise that it’s not only the Lennon government that is favouring corporates. The drift of control over our lives from governments that are, at least from time to time accountable to the people, to control over our lives by private sector operations that have no accountability to the people, could be one of the most serious threats that we have faced. The Enron debacle should have been a lesson to us all.

The shift to corporate control of resources as governments sell their responsibilities to corporations, has not been matched by a decrease in our taxes. Instead, taxes and charges of various types have been on the increase as government grows.

The result is the appearance of government being used to legitimise corporate control of resources and to assure that populations are kept in check so that they don’t disrupt corporate profits.
It will be most interesting therefore to check the fiscal priorities of the Rudd government after the budget on Tuesday.

Will they reverse the trend to corporate control, or hide it under a blizzard of cuts?

Watch this space.

Mike Bolan
Mike  is a complex systems consultant, change facilitator, and executive and management coach.


Mike Bolan

In Tasmania the state government appears highly skilled at avoiding accountability, via secrecy, failing to answer legitimate queries and misleading the public, while looking like incompetent bozos at producing useful results.