30 December 2020

Ben Butler: “Never one to miss the opportunity a crisis presents, the treasurer has used the coronavirus pandemic to ram through changes to the way the Australian economy is regulated that will significantly shift advantage away from ordinary people. But who benefits? With one significant and telling exception — the banks — the answer is not, as you might expect from the conservative side of politics, the forces of capital. Or at least, not so much. Instead, a lot of the Frydenberg program favours what you might call the managerial class — the executives who in normal times prowl the mahogany-lined corridors of CBD towers but this year have been confined to their luxury homes in Point Piper or Toorak. Frydenberg, aided or spurred on by a ginger group of backbenchers — it’s difficult to tell which is cart and which horse — is increasingly pursuing an agenda that will weaken the power of the owners of capital to hold the managers of their money accountable for bad decisions. This is the unifying link between things as seemingly random as attacking industry super, making it harder for shareholders to sue company directors who cause losses by failing to keep the market properly informed and declaring war on the corporate regulator. … As company executives tend to be Liberal voters, it’s perhaps no surprise their agenda is reflected in party policy. The only real change is that those interests no longer so perfectly align with those of capital. … [A]n understanding of the shifting power dynamics within Australia’s financial world goes a long way towards explaining what Frydenberg has been up to — and why we can expect more of the same in the new year.”