FRESH AIR

The CEC goes gaga over the “cash ban” bill

Oct 10, 2019 | Judy Maynard

(Source: Australian Geographic)
(Source: Australian Geographic)

The LaRouchian conspiracy theorists of the Citizens Electoral Council (CEC) have been conducting a wildly over-the-top campaign against the Australian federal government’s so-called “cash ban” bill, which was introduced into Parliament on September 19.

The CEC is the cult-like Australian offshoot of the organisation created by US political activist and prolific conspiracy theorist, Lyndon LaRouche, who died in February. In July 1996 the Australia/Israel Review published a detailed report on the workings of the CEC, including its antisemitism and the aggressive and dubious fund-raising methods that make it extraordinarily and disproportionately cashed-up for a political party with such a dismal record of electoral failure. We followed this up with a review of how the CEC are doing now, following the death of their leader and inspiration.

Like LaRouche himself, the CEC is perpetually on message, preaching imminent crisis. For decades, LaRouche predicted the collapse of the financial system almost annually; the CEC continues in similar vein. Prophesying disaster is its raison d’etre, without which it would have nothing to sell and cease to exist.

And so, for the past few months, the CEC has been promoting a campaign of impending disaster – in other words, its usual kind – based on the Currency (Restrictions on the Use of Cash) Bill 2019.

In addition to saturation coverage on the CEC’s website, social media accounts and community TV program “The CEC Report”, Robert Barwick, the CEC’s National Research Director and media spokesman, has launched a petition to the Prime Minister to “stop Scott Morrison from banning cash to trap Australians in banks!”

The Bill’s stated objective is to crack down on the black economy and illicit activities, such as financing terrorism and money laundering, by making it unlawful to make or accept cash payments of $10,000 or more. This would apply only to payments to a business with an ABN, but not to individuals selling to each other.

The Bill is controversial and there has been significant public debate about its merits. For the CEC, however, it provides a marvellous opportunity to saddle up some of its favourite hobby horses and ride them for all they’re worth.

This is because in Lyndon LaRouche’s – and consequently the CEC’s – paranoid world of international conspiracies, bankers are perennial bogeymen bent on universal control. Nowadays the CEC carefully refers to “a private cartel”, a mere global banking conspiracy, as opposed to the global Jewish banking conspiracy regularly peddled in earlier LaRouche publications – which the CEC has never repudiated.

Whereas some of the Bill’s critics have called it an attack on basic freedoms, the CEC dials it up to “totalitarian”. Re-defining fascism as “the use of state power to benefit private corporations”, the CEC then claims that therefore “by [its own] definition, this is a fascist assault on the freedom of Australians to use cash and not private banks.” Yet at the same time it is “a form of communism – for the banks!” The CEC issues a rallying call to “to fight this criminal banking apparatus and their strategic agenda to turn Australia into a financial surveillance state.”

The CEC has also – without any evidence of course –  been raising the spectre of “bail-ins”, whereby the government “steals deposits to prop up failing banks”. The “cash ban” fits neatly into this narrative of government/bank collusion forcing Australians to deposit their savings into banks, leaving them vulnerable to plunder by rapacious bankers.

Of course, the CEC is far from alone in opposing the bill. Criticism has also come from a variety of stakeholders, but the CEC  claims to have played a “leading role” –  for which there is no evidence whatsoever. Amongst the bill’s opponents are: One Nation Senators Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts; Independent MP Bob Katter; major accounting body CPA Australia; the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI); and the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). There are also dissenting views amongst some Liberal and National Party members. Such media reports as have appeared have, in general, been less than enthusiastic and ABC business reporter Nassim Khadem has written a series of cautionary articles.

Until recently at least, the Bill appeared to have enjoyed the support of both major parties, as well as international accounting organisation KPMG and professional body Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand (CA ANZ) amongst others. Although the Bill was envisaged as commencing in January 2020, mounting consternation has resulted in its referral to a Senate Committee for inquiry and report in February.

Despite the ongoing debate, media coverage regarding the Bill has been limited. However, this does not stop the CEC proclaiming that “massive public support for the campaign” has generated “break-out media coverage”. Only in the CEC’s fevered, self-promoting, and delusional parallel universe.

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