Former New South Wales Premier Bob Carr says he is excited by the Occupy Wall Street protests against US corporations, which deserve “a roughing up … after the abuses that blighted the lives of ordinary families”. Yet he has decided the protest movement has no future.
In an October 17 post on his blog, Carr said left groups will “kill it” by fighting with each other. Further, he said the movement will eventually raise unrealistic demands “that will die in the full light of American politics”. Instead of protests, he said the “greedy incompetents on Wall Street” will be tamed by “parliamentary politics”.
But don’t expect many occupiers to take this advice, pack up their tents and wait patiently until the next election. Bob Carr doesn’t seem to get it that the people occupying hundreds of cities worldwide are, in part, protesting against people just like Bob Carr.
Just two months after he resigned from parliament in 2005, Carr took a job as a consultant with Macquarie Bank, Australia’s answer to the notorious US-based investment bank Goldman Sachs.
Macquarie Bank is often called “the millionaires factory” because of the huge salaries it pays its top executives. Former chief executive Allan Moss was paid $33.5 million in 2007. His successor Nicholas Moore was paid $32.9 million a year later.
The bank is having a very lucrative global economic crisis. It announced a 21% rise in after-tax profit for the year to March, up to $803 million. Its total operating income was up 31% — more than $4.7 billion.
Founded in 1970, Macquarie is now Australia’s biggest investment bank. As it happens, the bank’s profits rose enormously during the NSW premiership of a certain Honourable Robert John Carr.
Australian economist John Quiggin said soon after Carr joined Macquarie: “The Carr government’s dealings with Macquarie have involved billions of dollars of public money, and contributed (probably more than any other government) to Macquarie’s reputation as a ‘millionaire factory’.”
Briefly, the media criticised Carr’s eager leap on to the Macquarie Bank payroll. But he was unfazed.
He told reporters: “You say what I’m doing today involves a conflict of interest? I’m using the knowledge I got, I acquired, as premier, any influence I got as premier to push a particular policy outcome. They can say that about anything a former politician does. But I reject the notion that I alone of former politicians is going to be subject to some sort of artificial restraint.”
Most politicians would agree with Carr, which is precisely the problem. There is a revolving door between the corporate world and the big political parties. Most politicians seated in parliament today will be seated in a corporate boardroom at some point in the future.
And none of these hugely wealthy and powerful people are “subject to some sort of artificial restraint”.
Far from being in a position to advise occupy protesters, Carr is a great example of what is wrong with our political systems. If he is not sure why the occupy movement has so much support, he could go and take a long, hard look in the mirror.
The occupy movement is taking a stand because 99% of us don’t have a real democracy. Instead, we have a system where the 1% supports the government and the government supports the 1%. If we are to make real change, then a real democracy has to be created. Politics as usual is no answer.