Albanese loves the wealthy

1 September 2023
Priya De

The doors of corporate privilege are opened for prime ministers, and Anthony Albanese has leapt inside many.

A quote from Lenin’s State and Revolution makes a fitting caption for Albanese, donned in his personalised Rio Tinto uniform: “The bourgeoisie are connected with [the state machine] by thousands of threads”.

Fossil fuel corporations are destroying the planet in return for a quick buck. Rio Tinto is a particularly scandal-ridden entity, disgraced for blowing up the Juukan Gorge cave, an important Indigenous heritage site, to expand an iron ore mine.

But while on a tour of the WA mining town Karratha, “Anthony” gushed that “Watching the iron ore go into the hull of that ship, what I was also watching was funding for schools, funding for hospitals, funding to keep our national economy going that comes from this sector”.

Never mind that just last year Rio Tinto was ordered by the Australian Tax Office to pay nearly $1 billion in dodged taxes.

Albanese’s corporate flirtations reach beyond the mining sector. The Australian Financial Review revealed in August that Albanese’s 23-year-old son is a member of the ultra-exclusive Qantas Chairman’s Lounge—members are personally approved by CEO Alan Joyce, who describes himself as “good mates” with the prime minister.

Qantas has been a symbol of corporate heartlessness during the pandemic, and greed during the cost-of-living crisis. The airline is currently subject to a class action suit to refund nearly half a billion dollars’ worth of cancelled flights the company is holding as credits. Meanwhile, Qantas boasted a record pre-tax profit of $2.5 billion in the last financial year.

Albanese and Joyce have scratched each other’s backs: in August, Albanese blocked Qatar Airways from introducing new international flights from Australia, fending off a Qantas competitor.

The Financial Review also reported that Albanese engaged in another sleazy tête-à-tête with accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to land his son a two-month internship in 2021. Here’s the catch: PwC doesn’t have an internship program. The company effectively invents internships—and tasks for the interns—when it’s expedient. This is akin to a political donation—currying favour with an influential political leader while no doubt expecting something in return.

Peter Collins, former head of international tax at the Australian branch of PwC, is currently facing a potential criminal investigation for leaking government tax schemes (which he was appointed to advise the federal government on) to clients in return for millions of dollars’ worth of business.

And then there are the parties.

While Albanese attends Business Council of Australia dinners as part of official prime ministerial duties, he took a personal day before the 2023 federal budget week to attend the wedding of right-wing shock-jock Kyle Sandilands.

Sandilands is a misogynist goon, a backer of Scott Morrison and a right-wing troll. But Albanese lauded him as “an Australian success story” and justified attending the April wedding by saying “I keep my commitments, including to Kyle Sandilands”.

Nearly $1 million was spent on the wedding, which had a star-studded guest list. Sandilands’ best man was convicted drug smuggler and former brothel owner Simon Main. Andrew Hornery reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that Albanese was seated prime of place next to Sandilands’ mum.

Albanese is not hiding his high-flying personal relationships, nor is he apologising for them. Why would he? They don’t contradict his political agenda of fossil fuel expansion, tax cuts for the rich and corporate handouts. Politicians inhabit the universe of the wealthy, whatever occasional rhetoric they pay to the plight of workers. The grass is plusher, sleazier, more obsequious and ostentatious—and utterly appalling—on the other side.

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