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Issue #1788      August 2, 2017

Dingo

In a warning bell to commuters around Australia, London-based Standard Life Capital Infrastructure last month provided a timely reminder of what happened to Britain’s privatised rail system. The British government was forced to take back control of the overland system following fatal accidents due to cost-cutting on maintenance. The government also took back the running of the London Underground after the public-private corporate owners financially collapsed in 2010. Sydney’s new Metro rail system has been franchised out, with the Sydney Metro to be run by Hong Kong company MTR Corporation. The whole of Sydney’s public transport system is being targeted by the Liberal government for privatisation with buses and rail to follow the privatisation of Sydney Ferries.

How is the corporate print mass media responding to the threat of the (inevitable) challenge from the rise of digital media? Along the lines you’d expect from the kill-or-be-killed system of capitalism: create an even greater monopoly. The News Media Alliance represents a “trade coalition” (read cartel) of 2,000 media groups across the US and Canada that includes the likes of the Wall Street Journal. The Alliance wants to be exempted from anti-trust laws that block businesses coordinating their operations to gain market advantage. Facebook, which has recently held meetings with publishers on how a monopoly might accommodate their outmoded print counterparts, said, “It’s imperative the news industry has sustainable business models.”

Another mechanism that gives a helping hand to toward corporate monopoly is self-regulation. This means basically that governments and relevant authorities gives free rein to the for-profit sector. For example, the recent deadly high-rise residential Grenfell Tower fire in west London was the result of construction companies going for cheaper cladding on building that turns them into fire hazards. Last week a warning came from the construction industry here in Australia that the big building companies are using glass imports that have no guarantee on the compliance of glazing used for high rise towers in the current apartment boom, including heat resistance.

All incidents involving acts of public, or even not so public, violence, must first of all now be either confirmed or dismissed as terrorism. In turn, the police are now responding to every event that might involve violence or the threat violence as terrorism. So it was that 40 heavily armed police stormed a nightclub in Melbourne last month and shot two partygoers, both ending up in hospital with gunshot wounds, one fighting for his life. This was based on an anonymous phone call and involved a plastic toy. A spokesperson for the Critical Incident Response Team would not confirm the critically wounded man was also tasered after he was shot, saying “a number of police options were used.”

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