Aussie billionaires James Packer, Rupert Murdoch and Frank Lowy reorganise their family fortunes
Australian politicians and regulators queue up to make life easier for billionaire casino owner James Packer. They can’t do enough for the louche playboy and son of the late Kerry Packer.
Take the gambling report commissioned by the NSW Coalition Government into gambling harm generated by poker machines at Packer’s casino company, Crown.
Former deputy Premier Troy Grant, an ex-NSW cop, was advised last year to release the report publicly “as soon as possible”. But it took another 18 months before the report by Professor Alex Blaszczynski of Sydney University saw the light of day.
By then Grant was no longer Deputy Premier or Gaming Minister; he was demoted to become Police Minister where he has been busy arming his former colleagues with automatic machine guns.
Packer is grateful for the lavish support he received from Liberals, Nationals and Labor for his monstrous casino development at Barangaroo on the Walsh Bay foreshore.
“Getting the rights to and building Crown Sydney will be my proudest achievement,” he said recently. “It is the most exciting thing in my business life and in terms of my relationship with Australia.
“I have made a lot of mistakes, but I don’t think many people could have got Crown Sydney up with bipartisan support on the best site in the city.”
He had the fawning Sydney media eating out of his hands too. “Trying to manage media relationships, especially in a place like Sydney, is really difficult. For the first and only time in my life, we had all the major outlets – even Fairfax – editorialising in our favour.”
That’s “Independent. Always” Fairfax where the CEO is Greg Hywood, and editor-in-chief at the time was Darren Goodsir, former head of communications at NSW Police and ex-adviser to Liberal Police Minister “Torpedo” Ted Pickering.
Packer is so overjoyed with his gleaming monstrosity at Barangaroo which had been belatedly supported by still on-the-make Paul Keating. Fifty-year-old James has decided to pay $60 million for the casino’s penthouse pad and stay there whenever he visits Spiv City.
Murdoch & Lowy: Family business
In the space of a few days, two other Australian billionaires Rupert Murdoch and Frank Lowy have sold large chunks of their respective global empires. Why?
Murdoch sold 21st Century Fox and most of its associated film and television entities to Disney for $US58 billion while Lowy flogged the shopping centre business to European rival, Unibail-Rodamco, for a cool $US32 billion.
Murdoch, aged 86, and Lowy, aged 87, have grabbed the money from the empires that they built. As a result, their sons, the natural successors, appear to be left a lot richer but pushed into deeper waters on a leaking raft. If this is a “planned succession” as some media commentators have suggested, who are they kidding? In fact, it’s the very opposite. It is a vote of no confidence in the heirs apparent: they will get a financial inheritance but not the golden media assets or the vast shopping malls.
For Lachlan and James Murdoch or Steven and Peter Lowy it is swim or sink time. As for the grandchildren and great grandchildren, they have been left to fight it out in the courts, like the Packer and Holmes à Court kids.
For the film and television industry, Disney Co’s acquisition means the wholesale dumbing down of content. “Mickey Mouse Land” has always been a family-rated franchise selling fantasies of the American dream so 21st Century Fox will undergo a mouse-led assault on serious content.
At Unibail-Rodamco, the board of directors have bought Lowy’s empire at top dollar price. Rothschild Bank was responsible for doing the numbers and trousering a generous success fee, which is a worry. France’s President Emmanuel Macron, a former Rothschild operative, has played a silent role supporting the takeover and enhancing his country’s grip on the European retail market.
Murdoch and Lowy have sold at peak valuation, cashed in their chips and made billions of dollars to finance their legacies. One suspects these wily old birds know something about the precarious state of the market, eye-watering levels of debt and a potential run on the banks.
Cash ‘n’ Carry
Senator Michaelia Cash, aka “The Voice”, has retained her Cabinet status and landed a new job in the most unlikely and unsuitable role as Minister for Jobs and Innovation.
But perhaps there is some sense in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s apparent lunacy. He knows better than anyone that Mrs Cash’s life as a senior Minister may be terminated at any time if she is found guilty of leaking Cabinet secrets.
An official police investigation is under way – at the senator’s request – to discover who leaked information about the raid on Australian Workers’ Union offices in Melbourne and Sydney in October.
It may become the first recorded case of a minister initiating an official inquiry and failing to fix an all-clear result in advance.
Meanwhile, her senior media adviser, David De Garis, has landed on his feet with a well-paid job as media communications officer at the WA branch of the Australian Hotels Association in Perth.
When the police report is completed in the New Year De Garis, who worked for then Employment Minister Cash, is due to emerge as the “patsy”. He tipped off the media but the big question is whether he took that action off his own bat or on the orders of Senator Cash.
De Garis’s job with the AHA is precedent-making as well. In the past, the hotels lobby group was a funk-hole exclusively for ALP politicians or minders who had run into “difficulties”. Now it’s Coalition supporters who are welcomed to evade the spotlight of scandal.
Before his troubled career with Senator Cash, De Garis worked for WA Liberals Alan Egglestone, a senator from 1996 to 2014, and Don Randall, MP for Canning, who died in office in 2015. De Garis was tipped as a future Liberal politician from WA but that seems to have gone up in smoke – his.
Rahul Gandhi takes charge
There’s been a changing of the guard in South Africa and India but little examination has appeared in the mainstream media. Does it matter? Yes.
The African National Congress (ANC) and the Indian National Congress (INC), historically linked independence movements, have just changed leaders.
In South Africa, former National Union of Miners firebrand, Cyril Ramaphosa, aged 65, has been elected ANC leader to become the next president in place of the disgraced Jacob Zuma.
In India, Rahul Gandhi, aged 47, has become president of the Congress Party, replacing his mother, Sonia Gandhi, who led India’s oldest party for 19 years.
Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and fledgling Congress politicians, a mass movement led India’s independence struggle against British colonialism using non-violent protests and strikes.
While working in South Africa as a lawyer and civil rights agitator, Gandhi played a leading role in the formation of the ANC to fight for racial equality.
In short, South Africa’s ANC and India’s INC are linked by history in independence struggles against London. Both organisations were greatly influenced by Gandhi’s pacifist and anti-socialist teachings.
Rahul Gandhi (no relation to Mahatma although the family has shamelessly used the old boy’s name) is the “golden boy” of the Congress Party. He has been groomed since birth to become the sub-continent’s leader.
He is the sixth member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to lead the Congress party.
His mother is Italian-born Sonia Gandhi. She is the widow of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who was assassinated by the Tamil Tigers.
Rajiv’s mother was Mrs Indira Gandhi, assassinated by Sikhs, the daughter of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
If Rahul Gandhi manages to evade the assassination attempts of Prime Minister Modi’s ultra-sectarian Hindu party, the BJP, he will be the next PM of India when national elections are held in 2019.
When he was elevated a couple of weeks ago to the Congress presidency, the stage was decorated with flags and symbols of all his relatives dating back to Nehru as well as the Mahatma.
Three generations of Rahul Gandhi’s family have successfully played Moscow off against Beijing, accepting aid from both sides; it is a diplomatic art they learned from the PLO’s Yasser Arafat and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh.
But that era of Third World diplomacy has run its course, except in Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea, and nobody is certain which way Rahul Gandhi, a student of Harvard and Trinity College, Cambridge, will jump.
At his presidential inauguration, Gandhi said: “Congress took India to the 21st century but Prime Minister Narendra Modi is taking us backwards to medieval times where people are being butchered because of who they are, beaten for what they believe and killed for what they eat. Foreign policy is in tatters, everything is subservient to one leader, his personal image.
“The BJP is spreading hatred and communalism. They break while we unite. They ignite the fire, we put it out. They break, we join.”
In provincial elections held this week, Modi’s BJP held power in two major states but suffered electoral reverses. Congress increased its voter strength and Rahul Gandhi is now campaigning for victory in nationwide elections due to be held in 2019.
ANC pushes Zulus out
At this week’s ANC special congress delegates voted to install Cyril Ramaphosa as the next president, bringing the Xhosas back to the top of the ANC’s leadership.
The disgraced Jacob Zuma, a Zulu tribalist, did not stand for re-election but one of his former wives, 68-year-old Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, contested the vote as his proxy … and lost by 2,440 votes to 2,261, a slender margin of 179 votes.
Ramaphosa led mineworkers during the downfall of apartheid. In the post-apartheid era he has become one of the country’s richest men and now enjoys the warmest relations with the overseas mining industry although their boardrooms once had a price on his head.
His campaign for the presidency of the ANC and the republic itself has been heavily backed by the mining industry and other foreign investors who want to exploit the country’s vast resources.
During presidential electioneering, Ramaphosa returned to his former rhetoric calling corrupt cliques “the enemy of the people” but saying nothing about investigating, prosecuting and jailing those found guilty.
In that sense, Ramaphosa was a bull’s roar behind the Chinese President Xi Jinping whose anti-corruption drive has led to executions by firing squad.
Bankers and investors from London and New York have been knocking on Ramaphosa’s door even before he claimed the presidency. They want him to open the country to tourism (shooting elephants and giraffes), travel (more casinos) and investment (more theme parks and mines).
The political fall-out from Ramaphosa’s election will be substantial. The proud Zulu nation will be aggrieved to have lost the ANC leadership while the Xhosas from the Eastern Cape and their middle class white liberal and Indian (coloured) backers will be triumphant. Sounds like a recipe for national disunity.
Dogged by scandals, collapsing membership and massive corruption, the 105-year-old nationalist movement is on its last legs. While younger, more militant and socialist-minded groups like the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) have re-surfaced, the old guard of the ANC sounds increasingly irrelevant as it draws upon outmoded rhetoric from the apartheid/Nelson Mandela era.
Keep a close eye on South Africa and India, relics of the former British empire, where new chapters are being written.
US Congress stirred by Zionist violence
Betty McCollum, the US House of Representatives member from Minnesota, has introduced legislation called the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act.
So far her Bill has attracted only 17 co-sponsors. That number is likely to climb as Washington begins to count the diplomatic and economic damage from President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state of Israel and to shift the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the Holy City for Christians, Moslems and Jews.
It would have made more sense if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moved Israel’s capital to Washington DC. That’s where it belongs.
After all, Israel is the world’s biggest single beneficiary of US financial and military aid, receiving $3.8 billion last year. Of that, the Zionist regime is allowed to spend $800 million without the normal accountability that accompanies US foreign aid.
Ms McCollum, aged 63, has estimated that a percentage of US aid is spent directly on the detention of Palestinian children.
Presenting her legislation, she argued: “Israel’s military court and detention system is unique in the world in its systematic incarceration of children, in this case Palestinian children.
“It is a system that denies basic due process and is cruel, inhumane and degrading. Children as young as 12 years old are taken from their beds at night by Israeli soldiers and police.
“They are bound, blindfolded and taken to detention centres. Under Israeli military law they are denied access to lawyers during interrogation, and even the youngest children are regularly denied access to their parents during interrogations. This happens to around 500 to 700 Palestinian children every year.”
It is worth noting that Ms McCollum belongs to the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party which was founded in 1944. Since then, it has become a leftist faction of the Democratic Party producing a list of presidential and vice presidential candidates including Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Eugene McCarthy. It backed 2017 presidential nominee Senator Bernie Sanders as well, but Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street and Hollywood faction blasted him out of the race.
Ms McCollum’s legislation has Buckley’s chance of getting up but it will be debated and it will be noticed at local, state and federal level of US politics.
Another source of spine-chilling moments in Israel’s persecution of Palestinian children is contained in the Middle East memoir of Australian journalist John Lyons in his 2017 book Balcony Over Jerusalem.
Palestinian wheelchair cripple shot dead
In 2008, a 29-year-old Palestinian living in Gaza, Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, was shot by an Israeli helicopter gunship during Operation Cast Lead. He lost both his legs from the hips down but survived to spend the rest of his life in a battered wheelchair.
On Friday, 15 December, Abu Thuraya wheeled himself out to Gaza’s militarised border to protest against Israeli bombing of homes, hospitals and schools in retaliation for Palestinian fury over US moves to turn Jerusalem into the Zionist state’s new capital city.
He sat in his wheelchair, raised the Palestinian flag and waved it defiantly. An Israeli sniper took aim at Abu Thuraya’s head and killed him.
Israeli journalist Gideon Levy who visited Sydney earlier this month wrote in Ha’aretz newspaper that while bleeding to death Abu Thuraya held up both his hands to give the “V” for victory sign. Levy wrote: “Abu Thuraya posed no danger to anyone: how much of a danger could a double amputee in a wheelchair, imprisoned behind a fence, constitute? How much evil and insensitivity does it take in order to shoot a handicapped person in a wheelchair?
“The killing of the young disabled man passed almost without mention in Israel. He was one of three demonstrators killed on Friday, just another humdrum day.
“One can easily imagine what would happen if Palestinians had killed an Israeli who used a wheelchair. What a furore would have erupted, with endless ink spieled on their cruelty and barbarism.
“How many arrests would have resulted, how much blood would have flowed in retaliation? But when soldiers behave barbarically, Israel is silent and shows no interest. No shock, no shame, no pity.”
All-time great quotes
In 1977 Rupert Murdoch made strenuous efforts to buy The Observer, a prestigious London Sunday newspaper founded in 1791 and later owned by the Astor Family Trust.
Clive James, the paper’s Sydney-born and irrepressible television columnist, opposed the sale to his fellow countryman saying:
“It would be like giving your virgin daughters to a gorilla.”
Blocked from owning The Observer, Murdoch in 1981 settled for The Times and Sunday Times and trashed them both.