Introduction to Political Science
What does Elite Theory reveal about the Enterprise Migration Agreements for large mining companies? What are the strengths and limitations of this theory in relation to this particular case study? It is questionable and difficult to prove whether a group of elites in a society exists. All that can really be done is to study the actions of powerful figures and assess their consequences on society. However, with the first Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA) granted for Hancock Prospecting’s Roy Hill project, it is clear that politicians along with mining giants have final say, even after widespread backlash from unions. Therefore, the existence of government and corporate elites in Australia is highly reasonable considering Elite Theory and the decisions made surrounding the EMA. This essay will apply Elite theory (classical and Australian) to the decisions made leading up to granting the EMA for Roy Hill and assess that aftermath of the decision which will ultimately support the argument of an existing government and corporate elite in Australia. Furthermore, the strengths and limitations of Elite theory will be recognized after an analysis of the argument mentioned above. The key researchers in Elitism have often differed in the definition of elites, however the main concepts overlap between these researchers and can be applied to EMAs for mining companies. C. Wright Mills defines elites as “men whose positions enable them to transcend the ordinary environments of ordinary men and women; they are in positions to make decisions having major consequences” (Mills 1959). Gaetano Mosca shares this idea by arguing there are two classes in every society “the rulers and the ruled”. The rulers are the elites, and the ruled are the masses. The elites control economic, social and political power while the masses, which Mosca describes as having the “minds of children”, are excluded, easily manipulated and perceived as inadequate to function without the elites (Mosca 1939). Michael Pusey, a main researcher of elitism in Australia has a difference of opinion in stating that there is no one ruling power elite, but persons in political, policy, business, and cultural positions have power in influencing society (the masses). He also pointed out that there is no military elite in Australia (Pusey 2003), contradicting Mills’ theory of the elite being in three main sectors (politics, corporate, military). Another main researcher of Elitism in Australia, John Higley, identifies the elite as “persons who are able, by virtue of their strategic positions in powerful organizations, to affect national political outcomes regularly and substantially”. In this context, Australian elites are seen as people in powerful positions who are able to influence or make major decisions, implement policies that affect society. In applying this definition to EMAs, the government has allowed companies in the resources sector to apply for EMAs. If granted, this allows such companies to hire foreign workers where they cannot find Australians to fill positions. The policy is based on the fact that there are labour shortages that need to be satisfied in order for large mining companies to finish their projects on time and be able to obtain funding from financial institutions. According to the Immigration minister Chris Bowen, such agreements would allow these projects to obtain funding, to be completed on time, which in turn would have great benefits for Australia’s economy through its capital investment, export earning, and employment and training opportunities for Australians (Ireland 2012). Therefore, a simple policy such as allowing foreign workers to migrate and work in Australia under temporary visas can have a ripple effect on Australia’s economy. Moreover, the people involved in making this decision can be regarded as the elites. According to Mills, the elites have shared circles. Although they might be...
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