The Guardian June 7, 2000


Editorial:
The process of monopolisation

The takeover by the Commonwealth Bank of the Colonial Bank has been 
approved by shareholders, the Government, and regulatory and judicial 
authorities. The staff, bank customers and the general public have no say 
what so ever. They are mere bystanders whose views are beneath 
consideration. We are told that the takeover is "in the national interest". 
At the same time we are told that it will lead to job losses and branch 
closures. Is it in the interests of those staff members who will lose their 
jobs or the country towns who will see branch closures?

For years, the propaganda of the economic rationalists centres around the 
watchwords of deregulation and competition. The Government set up the ACCC 
 Australian Competition and Consumer Commission  which is supposed to 
promote "competition", restrict the formation of monopolies and watch over 
the interests of "consumers". But when it comes to the really big boys, all 
the propaganda goes out the window and they give a big tick to a bank 
merger which will create one of Australia's largest financial institutions.

Gone also, are the social responsibilities that were formerly incorporated 
in the Commonwealth Bank's charter when it was a publicly owned "people's" 
bank.

The social obligations were swept away when the Hawke Government privatised 
the Commonwealth Bank and started down the road which has progressively led 
the Board of Directors to become one of the most rapacious, anti-social and 
anti-worker banking organisations that anyone would care to have dealings 
with.

The merger of the Commonwealth and Colonial has nothing to do with 
enhancing services or reducing costs to customers. It is all about reducing 
the number of staff employed by the two banks, reducing services, 
eliminating competition and dominating the market.

As Kenneth Davidson comments in The Age (1/6/00): "The only threat 
to the monopoly profits of Australia's big four banks are small banks such 
as Colonial or credit unions which are prepared to expand business by 
offering better service or lower charges than the established banks. To 
protect their monopoly profits, the big four are prepared to offer huge 
premiums to take out this competition." 

Having increased their monopoly power the banks will put up their charges 
that have already reached obscene levels.

The advocates of economic rationalism claim that "competition" is a good 
thing. The Labor Government issued its own glossy brochures to launch its 
"Competition Policy" which has not and was not intended to stop the steady 
process of monopolisation.

Competition policy is really about destroying the public (monopoly) 
provision of essential services by publicly-owned enterprises such as 
Telstra and Australia Post, by state electricity authorities, port 
facilities, public hospitals and public education and other government 
departments. Under competition policy there was never any talk of breaking 
up BHP's monopoly of steel production in Australia or the monopoly of 
Packer and Murdoch over the media.

Under the umbrella of competition policy the campaign of privatisation was 
launched. This was associated with contracting out which was another aspect 
of the privatisation policy.

The alacrity with which the takeover has been approved by all the bodies 
that are supposed to be concerned with the "national interest", shows that 
such considerations do not even enter their minds.

There was a period in the development of capitalism when there was "free 
competition". But competition led, inevitably, to the elimination of 
competition and the creation of monopolies. These giant monopolies that 
were the real ruling class in every capitalist country spawned political 
parties and became closely integrated with government. It was called state-
monopoly capitalism. 

The national monopolies steadily grew into today's transnational 
corporations that see the whole world as their stamping ground and are now 
aiming to take over the role of governments as well.

These developments have only one upside. It is that the obscene profits, 
the massive sackings, the deterioration of services and the disregard of 
any social responsibilities will help to enlighten more and more people to 
the point where they take action against the stinking, rotten system of 
capitalism at the forefront of which are today's profit hungry banks.
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