A Game of Mates
“Corrupt politicians make the other ten percent look bad.”
― Henry Kissinger
Mr PYNE (Cairns—Ind) (3.15 pm): I would like to talk about the new book Game of Mates: How favours bleed the nation by economists Cameron Murray and Paul Frijters. It is the story of how Australia became one of the most unequal societies in the Western world while merely a generation ago it was one of the most equal. It is the story of how a group of mates have come to dominate our
corporate and political sectors and have managed to rob us, the Australian majority, of half our wealth.
To understand how the game of mates is played and to disrupt it, we must see Australia through the eyes of our villain, whom we call James. This book is about how the Jameses of this country play
their game of mates. It is about how much their game costs us and it is about what we can do to stop them.
The villain, James, swings no sword. He instead swings his power in the halls of parliament, in the media and in the complex bureaucracies of government and large corporate enterprises. James now robs you of a hefty part of your superannuation. He dodges tax so you pay more. You pay higher interest rates on your mortgage, higher transport costs and higher medical costs, because James and his mates take a cut.
Economist and social scientist Mancur Olson described the process of social decay resulting from what we call the game of mates as ‘institutional sclerosis’. He observed that over time all
institutions succumb to the power of special interest groups that impose great economic cost on the community as they reallocate wealth towards themselves.
If any country can rise up and fight the Jameses, it is ours. The authors hope that this book can help in this fight by providing alternatives. Just one alternative is to establish a public competitor to supply the products James sells to reduce his collusive power; set up a state superannuation fund, like other countries do, to compete with the private ones; or set up a state bank. James thrives on the lack of competition, so let us give him some.
James will protest, as the authors personally discovered. He will play dirty. Journalists who wanted to report their research in the areas of property development and infrastructure projects had their jobs threatened. James will tell bald-faced lies. One favourite is that there is already intense competition between superannuation firms and banks. When pushed, James will enact reforms but twist them again in his favour to ensure any change is superficial, or he may introduce more bureaucratic rules, for land rezoning for example – something only he knows how to navigate, while others do not. The authors argue that James’s gain impoverishes our media, as James’s opinion buys airtime—