A week ago on this page, courtesy of The Spectator Australia Neil Brown Centre for Shamelessly Cynical and Opportunistic Corporate Advice, we pinned down the motivation for the new phenomenon of corporate wokeness. It’s self-interest. There is no better way for a big company ripping off its workers and customers to pacify today’s left-wing activists than to throw them a few virtue-signalling trinkets. Like setting up a Diversity and Inclusion unit or withdrawing advertising money from media platforms giving conservatives a voice. Free speech is free, so Qantas, AGL, Nike, Bing Lee, Coles and the big banks can’t make money from it. But they can suppress certain speakers to get the political attack dogs of the Left off their back. The power of woke advertising budgets has become the phantom menace of Australian democracy. Unelected, unaccountable corporate executives are no longer interested in who their customers actually listen to, that archaic thing called ‘audience reach’. They would rather move their advertising dollars around to give the appearance of wokeness, in effect, to play the role of backroom censors. Radio and TV shows airing PC content can have half the ratings of their ‘red meat’ competitors, yet twice the advertising revenue. In terms of profitability, it’s a self-inflicted wound, but with the political upside of mollifying the control freaks of ‘cancel culture’. The useful idiots of the Left will forgive them any sin. No other form of activism can match the size of corporate advertising and sponsorship budgets, nor their reach across the political system. Cashed- up CEOs have become the most potent force on the battlefield of today’s culture wars. Commercial media outlets live in fear of them, given their own perilous financial position. It is often said that a free media is essential to the workings of democracy; but today’s media are not free, having become functionaries of corporate advertising. This is also true in the world of sport, where business sponsorship is driving woke footy matches, with the players genuflecting to the latest left-wing cause. Who will speak out against this problem? Obviously not the commercial media, given the risk of major revenue losses. Not the Liberal party, which has always been close to big business and relies heavily on its electoral donations. Not any of the think tanks, which also suck on the teat of corporate patronage. Certainly not Labor, the Greens and their media arm, the ABC, which are suffering from a severe case of ‘false consciousness’, in believing identity politics to be more important than class struggle. Instead of helping working people, the Left now vilify them as racist, misogynistic, homophobic ‘deplorables’.
So who will fight? Our position is akin to that of Marshal Foch at the First Battle of the Marne, who told his fellow commanders: ‘My centre is giving way, my right is retreating, excellent situation, I am attacking.’ We too have no choice but to attack. Through parties like One Nation and anyone else who hasn’t been cowered into submission by the weight of corporate largesse. Here’s a 10-point policy plan for combating dictatorial wokeness and its damage to our democracy:
- Expose the big corporates to a new round of competition policy. Small businesses are working too hard in competitive markets to engage in ‘progressive causes’. It’s mainly an indulgence of monopoly and oligopoly capital. A burst of new market entrants would send these CEOs back to their day jobs.
- Empower shareholders to legally demand a singular focus on corporate profitability, without companies engaging in costly political campaigns.
- Extend this shareholder democracy to a direct say in the determination of executive salaries and bonuses. If corporate managers are wasting money on politics, one would expect shareholder meetings to penalise them.
- Charter the ACCC to sanction superannuation funds, public companies and executives that wilfully fail to do their core job: maximising financial returns to members and shareholders. There is no point in financial entities having a so-called ‘social licence’ if they ignore the ‘financial licence’ that legally sustains them.
- Create an ACCC advertising budget to encourage consumer boycotts of companies engaged in political censorship. Customers have the right to know about the hidden political agenda of corporate Australia.
- Extend secondary boycott laws (previously targetting trade unions) to companies that seek to boycott and restrict free speech through their advertising budgets.
- In devising government procurement codes, tender contracts and other funding support, make sure companies that engage in public censorship are ineligible. Anti-democratic companies should not benefit from the decisions of democratic government.
- Ensure government funding of sporting codes is conditional on the games sticking to their core role in organising competitive sport, rather than political campaigning.
- Require large corporations using their sponsorship and advertising budgets for political purposes to publicly declare these decisions as part of Australia’s electoral donation laws. Attempting to close down a broadcaster’s or MP’s speech is an intensely political act that should be known to consumers, investors and voters.
- Advance the new labour rights agenda ignored by the trade union movement: the rights of workers to express themselves freely away from the workplace without punishment by their employer. There should be no more Folau cases, rubbed out at the hands of Alan Joyce.
This is the fight of our lives. It crosses over traditional political boundaries, such that conservatives and libertarians now have a clear interest in fighting the big end of town. So far the Right has been retreating; now it has no choice but to counter-attack.
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