Conspiracy, Collusion or Stuff Up?: The Winter of Our Discontent - - The Australian Independent Media Network
It was former Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating who
remarked that when faced with the choice of deciding between a stuff-up
and a conspiracy, always choose a stuff-up.
Examining the question of 457 visas raised by John Kelly in his recent post Conspiracy of Convenience, one can come to the firm conclusion that the Abbott government’s policies surrounding 457′s are certainly not a stuff-up.
Kelly’s article is both thoughtful and timely, and raises the issue
of whether or not that proliferation of 457′s are a conspiracy on the
part of the Abbott government to create an even larger buffer stock of
unemployed – that is, over the figure of between 5.1 to 5.8% advocated
by Chicago School economic theory to offset inflation.
For the sake of clarity, a conspiracy is normally confined to a
single group which plan to achieve its ends through illegal means,
whereas a collusion involves two or more groups to achieve the same
ends, again, usually through illegal means but not in every instance.
A conspiracy always requires the utmost secrecy therefore making it
far more difficult to carry out its intended goals without discovery,
whereas a collusion may be masked as a mutual and beneficial agreement
conducted in privacy.
If the answer to Kelly’s question is a resounding ‘Yes!’ and one
could hardly come to any other conclusion, then the next question is
The answer lies in part, to further the government’s agenda of
breaking unionism and the dismantling of the minimum wage in line with
the Neo-liberal philosophy of ‘free markets’ and the right to employ
workers at the wages and conditions set down by the employer without
government interference or oversight.
It also enables the government to cripple any opposition from either
unions which it can easily negate due to rapidly dwindling membership,
and more importantly, – any political opposition that relies on a worker
The tricky part of this agenda is to keep the pool from growing too large.
While the whip hand of cutting unemployment benefits and importing
457 visa workers serves to curtail any form of collectivism as people
scramble to find a job at any price in order to simply survive – the dog
eat dog scenario – if the pool of unemployed grows too large, then the
lubricant of consumer spending evaporates and the entire economy grinds
to a halt.
Should this happen, there are only two alternatives; either embark on
a massive public spending program – something which is an anathema to
the concept of Neo-liberalism – or go to war.
The second alternative is far more likely, especially if the pool of
unemployed is large enough and coupled with only subsistence wages for
those who are employed, then in all likelihood extreme right wing
nationalist organizations would have already sprung up in protest
against ‘foreigners taking our jobs!’
Extreme nationalism is always wedded to militarism, and bellicosity is always a short step away from confrontation and conflict.
While the reader may find the above argument too far fetched or
bordering on paranoia, the author would add the caveat that
historically, this is the likely outcome should the government’s agenda go unchecked.
Moreover, the author is not arguing that war or the emergence of
extreme nationalist organizations are the intended outcome of this
agenda, for the simple reason that the current government is not that
They are however, willfully pursing an ideology without thought of
long term consequence which may easily lead to the above outcomes.
Arguably, the proliferation of 457 visas is far less conspiracy and
far more a matter of collusion between between business and government
to break both unionism and the minimum wage to achieve the maximum level
of exploitation for the maximum return of profit, and more importantly –
the minimum level of accountability.
There can be little argument that since being elected to government,
the Coalition and big business having been moving closer together to
form a relationship which is far less than a healthy distance to ensure
the well-being of all strata of the population.
This in itself puts democracy at risk, and like children playing with
matches inside a powder magazine, both parties seem oblivious to the
consequences of their actions.
It is the role of democratically elected governments to ensure the
safety and well being of all citizens while at the same time formulating
policies that enable the private sector to flourish but only under the
guidance of regulations to prevent worker exploitation. This is
considered the normal fulfillment of the Social Contract.
The easing of restrictions which apply to the issuance of 457 visas
and of their purpose to fill jobs which cannot be carried out by local
workers and the exploitation of those restrictions by unscrupulous
employers is not only a clear breach of the law and detrimental to the
economy in the long term but also creates the conditions for social
dislocation and unrest.
It is highly unlikely that the Coalition will reimpose stricter
conditions on businesses that wish to use 457 visa holders rather than
local labour due to the nature of the dominant ideology driving their
Therefore, it will be left to the Opposition to act in a role of
watchdog against abuses of the system while at the same time formulating
policies to tackle both unemployment and under utilization of the
available work force.
For the ALP, this will mean establishing a sharp and clearly defined difference between themselves and the LNP.
The most obvious and easiest place to start would be for the Labor
Party to reject all economic policies which are based on Ricardian and
‘Supply Side’ theory and adopt Neo-Keynesian economic models as the way
While it may be argued that there is not a conspiracy between the
Abbott government and business who wish to use 457 visa holders as
workers, there is certainly a strong sense of collusion between the LNP
and the business sector to dismantle existing regulations governing the
use of local employment in favour of overseas workers.
Should this be allowed to continue unchecked, social dislocation and
the emergence of a hard right nationalism will surely follow.
The question now remains whether or not the new Senate line-up will
be able to thwart much of the Abbott government’s agenda to
‘restructure’ health, welfare, education and employment, or will
Australians be faced with a truly dark and deep Winter of discontent?