Beholden bosses dance as Canberra calls tune on banking, energy

Beholden bosses dance as Canberra calls tune on banking, energy, by Maurice Newman.

Green shoots of authoritarianism are sprouting in the nation’s capital as calls come for ­executives to rush to Canberra to receive lectures from senior politicians.

Scott Morrison’s “cry me a river” comment after hitting the top five banks with a special tax certainly sounded dictatorial, as did his cop-this announcement that delivered the banking regulator even greater powers to intervene in senior management through the Banking Executive Accountability Regime ….

If the culture in some banks needs attention, that’s the preserve of shareholders and boards, not politicians. …

The creeping economic fascism (private ownership, but government control) in Canberra:

But is coercing business for political ends to become the new policy normal?

Well, when governments choose state corporatism over the efficiency of market forces, yes. When the priorities are political, not economic, shareholder sovereignty takes a back seat. Increased corporate welfare and regulatory protection have empowered government, and captured and politicised much of big business. It gives credence to the notion that business operates under a “social licence”. …

The media-left loves this form of collectivism. It promotes anti-capitalist ideas and beats into submission businesses that fear community reprisals from non-compliance. It explains why so many companies give uncritical support, however marketed, to perceived popular causes such as global warming and same-sex marriage. Political correctness may be a topic of wonder and derision at family barbecues, but to the business elite, in language and in deeds, it is deadly serious stuff.

Seen this sort of thing before:

German author Sebastian Haffner kept a secret journal in the 1930s in which he wrote: “There are few things as odd as the calm, superior indifference with which I and those like me watched the beginnings of the Nazi revolution in Germany, as if from a box at the theatre.”

Like today, it was easier to accept the lived realities and adapt to them than to resist. When your and your organisation’s future are linked to being on one political side, you pay close attention to the new doctrines. It shapes your behaviour. Haffner calls this “sheepish submissiveness”. “There was not a single example of energetic defence, of courage or principle. There was only panic, flight, and desertion,” he wrote.

It may be melodramatic to draw parallels between 1930s Germany and contemporary Australia. But there is no denying Canberra is warming to a culture of enforcement. And freedom’s champions are few.