Billionaires get playgrounds, we get budget cuts

May 24, 2013
James Packer's proposed Barangaroo Casino.

I had to spend some time in waiting rooms for medical checkups recently. It was an opportunity to glance through glossy magazines.

In its latest issue, National Geographic magazine has an article entitled “Is Australia the Face of Climate Change to Come?”. It said that after a major spike in extreme weather over the past few years, scientists were looking at “the lucky country” as a “bellwether for the Earth's changing climate”.

It may not be so lucky for us but I guess being a bellwether is useful.

It seems a given that society would be doing more than revelling in this global climate-change bellwether status and would be investing big in dealing with the climate change crisis.

However, I then flicked through the business magazines on the waiting room table and guess what I found to be the biggest talk of the week? The ongoing power play between James Packer's Crown Casino and the owners of Star Casino over who should have the rights to invest a billion dollars in a casino for “high rollers” and a six-star hotel for those billionaire punters.

Packer wants to build his latest billionaire playground in Barangaroo, on what was Sydney's former docklands, for $1 billion. Star Casino, which has nearly completed a $1 billion upgrade to its casino in Darling Harbour, plans to build another $1 billion casino in Brisbane.

There are billions to play with, it seems. No one blinks at the fact that Star Casino's owner, Echo Entertainment, only has a market capitalisation of about $2.8 billion and $1 billion of existing debt.

What was all that carry on about debt, deficits and budgets just a few weeks ago? Australia has a government debt of just 3% of GDP. This is used as one more excuse for why it cannot afford to invest in urgently needed renewable energy, public transport and other measures to address climate change.

So it's perfectly OK for big corporations to borrow like crazy to invest in building more playgrounds for billionaires but not for the public to invest in what is desperately needed for the actual survival of humanity.

It was raising my blood pressure, so I thought I had better stop looking at those infuriating glossy magazines for a bit, take a few deep breaths and think of something calming before I had my check up.

If the criminal irresponsibility of the system is sending your blood pressure up, you can do something to bring it down. Make a donation to Green Left Weekly, a voice against the unsustainable tyranny of the richest 1%. We have a target of $250,000 this year — small bickies compared with the money being splashed on playgrounds for billionaires.

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