The year 2023 will be a hard slog for the government. Perhaps a momentous one in terms of urgency and necessity. There is no point in prioritising one over the other because they are all critical.
It seems incredibly unfair that many in the mainstream media refuse even the slightest praise for a government that has performed exceptionally well, given the wreckage they confronted when acquiring office. But with the number of campaign promises it has ticked off, its popularity has increased.
But according to the mainstream media, newlyweds have no honeymoon anymore.
Therefore, before addressing 2023, I need to acknowledge just a few triumphs made in the government’s first six months in office.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong has re-established Australia’s relations with China after the Damage Morrison and Dutton did.
Now for 2023. Albanese and his ministers face the most indulgent of problems, both domestic and international.
Indigenous voice to Parliament
When he won government, Albanese promised to enshrine a voice for our First Nations people in our constitution. A large proportion of Australians agree with this.
The referendum on this is due to be held later in the year, with Minister Linda Burney saying it may be as early as August. It is only possible (historically at least) for a referendum to be won with the support of the opposition. The ultra-conservative Nationals have already given it a big No without even waiting for the detail. I am concerned that the other half of the LNP will only lend its support if they perceive it as political gain.
Many protractors claim there is not enough detail, but this is patently untrue. Seek, and thou shall find.
“… requires a double majority – an overall majority of voters plus a majority of voters in at least four states.”
Needless to say, Labor has a ton of work in front of it.
Energy costs will dominate the political conversation in 2023. The opposition needs more to discuss (it cannot talk about itself) so that it will target anything and everything. If you remember, Parliament was recalled for an extraordinary sitting in December to pass the energy relief package.
Facing international markets that have given the energy sector huge profits, the government has to make this work. It all comes in a year wherein Labor is expected to make further announcements about its climate policy. The May budget will include some aspects.
There is also an electrification package Labor is working on, which is part of a deal with the Greens, on energy subsidy plans for low and middle-income earners on the east coast.
I hope Chris Bowen is wired up for the year ahead.
The cost of living
We repeatedly heard, “Everything is going up except your wages” during the May 21 election campaign. But the reality is that there is little the government can do about the cost of living.
With real wages falling faster than ever since 1997, living costs have become a nightmare for low and middle-income earners. We have a cost problem. The cost of housing, energy, food and rent are at a crisis point. My observation tells me that many companies are taking advantage of a bad situation. Even full-time workers are still looking for housing.
It will be touch and go if Australia avoids a recession. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be tough. It will be a walk down a street in darkness. As is usual, it will be the poor who will take the brunt of it.
Inflation and the global landscape
“Inflation is the enemy of any economy.” It was expected to rise to 8% and gradually decrease this year. The RBA has signaled that it will continue to raise interest rates until it defeats the enemy. It is the only firepower it has.
The latest report from the IMF shows that Australians are dishing out 40% of their income on housing. One of the highest in the OEDC. At that rate, it raises questions about whether we are close to experiencing a bust in the housing market.
Because we are at the mercy of global inflation, there needs to be more the government can do domestically, but there isn’t. The US, UK, Europe, and China face trickier situations. Australia is vitally linked to these economies and requires them to perform well to combat its own inflationary issues.
Stage-three tax cuts
I have covered this elsewhere, however, it needs repeating:
“Since the election and the disclosure of Australia’s authentic debt, with the enormous amounts required to finance campaign commitments, repair the NDIS, and care for the elderly, the imperative for the cuts is now unwarranted.
The Stage Three Tax Cuts will overwhelmingly benefit the rich, but will they help the economy? The short answer is “no.” Those who benefit from the reductions won’t spend it and will probably invest it in accumulating more wealth. Nor would it encourage them to work any harder.
Given there are so many justifications for cancelling the cuts, Labor is allowed to demonstrate the philosophy they talked about before and during the election campaigns. That being equality and a fairer society.”
The tax cuts defy logic when stacked against the reasons not to. They will not improve equality.
Albanese will build up enough public goodwill to get away with their cancellation. That’s my view.
“Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. That’s the way the system works. And since we know that the system will not change the rules, we are going to have to change the system.” (Martin Luther King Jr)
Social security and JobSeeker
As part of a deal, he struck with Labor to pass its industrial relations legislation through the senate, ACT senator David Pocock negotiated a yearly review of the adequacy of jobseeker and associated social security payments. Australia has around 13.4% (or 3.3 million) of its population living below the poverty line. While the government isn’t under any obligation to increase these payments, there is an expectation that it will.
The second round of IR changes
Then comes the battle over the second round of changes and the commitment to a broader industrial relations overhaul. These include tackling “same job, same pay” arrangements and an extension of minimum conditions to employment-like work conditions.
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And if that’s not enough work that needs to be done, Labor has committed to implementing all 55 recommendations of the sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins’ Respect@Work report. Then it needs to do something about the country’s debt. Let’s remember the jobs market.
After that, there are day-to-day emergencies that come out of nowhere.
My thought for the day
The left of politics is concerned with people who cannot help themselves. The right is concerned with those who can.
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