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The Factors of Production in Contemporary Australia

Written by: (Contributed) on 26 November 2023


A recent Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) poll has revealed a large-scale reaction to the Australian corporate-led agenda of pushing their profits to the detriment of basic workers' rights and attempting to undermine and vandalise the Closing the Loopholes Bill passing through Canberra. The findings, together with other additional information, provide all trade-unionists with data to strengthen their bargaining power at all levels of industrial relations in workplaces across Australia.

In early November an ACTU-commissioned survey conducted by Essential Research found two-thirds of voters from a sample of 1216 voters within fifteen marginal seats that they regarded big business of possessing too much power; they also supported labour hire casual workers in the struggle for same-job-same-pay legislation. (1) The poll followed similar findings with an earlier survey conducted by SEC Newgate Mood of the Nation where nearly half the 1600 voter sample expressed the view that the Australian corporate sector were not behaving in an ethical manner when dealing with workers' issues. (2)

The results of the two surveys reveal the reaction taking place against decades of economic rationalism which enabled the business-classes to strengthen the role of capital against organised labour; the result was enrichment of the corporate sector, with little benefit for the working class. Decades of liberalisation, de-regulation and privatisation foisted on governments through international financial institutions controlled by the US, had removed barriers to wealth creation solely for the rich.

The role of capital, as a basic factor of production, was strengthened over labour, the other factor. Information, readily available in the public domain, has revealed the problem.

Over twenty years ago an eighteen-month project commissioned by the elite US National Security Council (NSC) intelligence service, concluded that economic globalisation 'will not lead to a general well-being … because the gap between rich and poor … both between countries and within them … is growing'. (3) The findings, while subsequently subject to classification, were leaked to a Spanish language media outlet without comment from Washington.

Similar studies also conducted years ago showed how wealth accumulation accelerated under globalisation; the rich were quick to expand their wealth. A study conducted in 2005 concluded that in 1980 the income of the advanced, industrial countries was eleven times larger than the rest of the world; by 2000 it had increased to 23 times larger. (4) Global inequality grew at a rate of 2.4 per cent in the decade before 1980, afterwards it had an annual rate of 3.9 per cent into this century. (5)

In fact, by 2020, it was established the richest one per cent of the world's population had already grabbed two-thirds of the US$42 trillion of new wealth; the remaining 99 per cent acquired the other one third. (6)

With such inequalities commonplace it was hardly surprising that the ACTU-commissioned survey also found that, 'Australians don't trust big business and they see through the lies they have been peddling simply to protect their profits'. (7)

Against the backcloth of vast economic power wielded over the working-class, it was noted that business groups had already spent millions of dollars opposing proposed government legislation designed to create a more favourable industrial relations arena: the Closing the Loopholes Bill at present passing through Canberra deals with same-job-same-pay procedures and wage theft, which remains rampant across Australia. (8)

Elsewhere, information emerging about wage theft, has revealed how the Fair Work Ombudsman has already recovered $17.7 million on behalf of 7,242 underpaid workers in the care industry during the past financial year. (9) An official media release from the department noted, 'increases in civil penalties and the proposed criminalisation of wage theft would act as a deterrent'. (10) No wonder the business-classes are campaigning against the proposed legislation; it effectively challenges the power of capital and the abuses of their power over entire workforces.

Official facts and figures about the Australian workforce, for example, reveal a third were born overseas; despite continuing problems of shortages of workers only one per cent of employers, however, were keen to offer higher wages to attract suitable personnel. (11) It is, therefore, not particularly difficult to establish how wage theft takes place: many new workers from overseas originate from countries where trade-unionism is dangerous and activists are targeted by para-military organisations, they are reluctant to challenge Australian employers; language difficulties, likewise, present a challenge. Australian employers appear only too keen to exploit the vulnerable sections of the workforce. (12)

And, finally, there is the whole issue of tax evasion; data released by the Australian Tax Office has shown that during the 2020-21 financial year, 66 very wealthy Australians, who had amassed over one billion dollars, paid no income tax, not even the Medicare levy. (13)

The sooner the Closing the Loopholes Bill is passed, the better!

Dealing with massive tax evasion should then also become a government priority. Workers pay income tax all their working lives, while unproductive employers bludge on the system!

1.     Big business has too much power: voters, Australian, 14 November 2023.
2.     Voter rage against corporate ethics, Australian, 7 November 2023.
3.     Hunger does not subside and slavery returns, Granma International (Havana), 24 June 2001.
4.     How globalisation fuels poverty, Socialist Campaign Group News, (Westminster, London), July 2005.
5.     Ibid.
6.     Survival of the Richest, Oxfam publication, 2020.
7.     Big business, Australian, op.cit., 14 November 2023.
8.     Ibid.
9.     Pay a priority for work adjudicator, Australian, 10 October 2023.
10.   Ibid.
11.   See: Skills shortages proving chronic, Australian, 5 October 2023.
12.   See: $50m to combat 'systemic' exploitation of migrants, Australian, 5 October 2023, which has provided evidence that Canberra is aware of the problem of exploitation of vulnerable workers and unscrupulous employers.
13.   Rich should pay their share, says Smith, The Weekend Australian, 11-12 November 2023.


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