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A real wage cut? What’s the go, Albo? (Part Two)

Continued from Part 1

I want to be a prime minister who represents the entire country, our cities, our regions, our rural communities,” the PM says, following The Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) 18 June decision to lift the minimum wage to $21.38 an hour, a 5.2% boost for 186,000 workers, yet those on awards get 4.6%. 2.7 million workers will directly benefit.

NewsCorp goes ape. It’s as if a streaker jumps the SCG fence to run on to the pitch. Pay rises strike at the very heart of the wage-slavery so vital to the profiteering of the investor and business classes which have successfully frozen real wages for nigh on a decade. Thankfully, there’s still usury to fall back on with interest rates set to rocket.

The Coalition counter offer? Attack Albo. Call for wages to fall. Slur, sneer and smear.

So it’s a win for Labor? On points. Real wages will fall. But not as much, thanks to the FWC. Millions of workers suckered into selling themselves and their labor short under enterprise bargaining agreements, (EBA) on 2-4% rises will fall even further behind. QANTAS offers even less; 1.5% over five years, with a $5000 bribe to sign its EBA.

You can’t get real wage growth if wages stay below inflation. Forty dollars a week for the 186,000 of Australian workers on the minimum wage amounts to a 5.2 % rise. They’ll barely keep up with our price and profit spiral inflation. Currently it sits at 5.1% but it’s rapidly rising. 

Workers in “rural communities” can travel an hour each way every day to work and back. They’ll feel forgotten once again, whatever Albo may hope. The Community buzz-word does a lot of heavy-lifting. Already, low wage earners have lost a mozza under nine years of Coalition rip-offs despite Porter’s Omnibus Bill being gutted in the senate, March 2021. 

The bill would be law now but for the dissenting vote of Centre Alliance’s Stirling Griff.

Porter’s law aimed both barrels of the Morrison IR shotgun at workers. Slash wages by degrading an awards system which sets minimum wages and conditions across industries and weaken what little remains of unions’ bargaining power. Workers are marginalised.

Women are hit hardest. Labor must know this. Almost half of women workers are part-time in an increasingly casualised workforce. (One in four workers). And under-employed. Young women are much more likely to be underemployed (18.3%) than men (15.0%)

Compounding the injustice, Australia women get paid less for the same work than men.

The full-time total earnings gender pay gap, which includes overtime payments, is 16.4%. A woman’s average weekly total full-time earnings are $316.80 less per week than a man.

And prices keep rising. Essentials are up 6.6% in the year to March. Even the RBA’s gnomic rate-whisperer, Philip Lowe tips 7% inflation by 31 December. Growth in real wages was Labor’s campaign catch cry. Economic vandalism, Bulldozer Morrison sneered.  

But can Labor deliver? 

Most of our 2.7 million workers on a few dollars more than the minimum will receive a 4.6% rise – in effect – a real wage cut, given the rising cost of food, shelter, healthcare and other necessities which the ABS coyly terms “non-discretionary expenditure”. 

It all adds up. From 2012 to 2019, cumulative non-discretionary inflation was 14.8 per cent, whilst discretionary inflation was 12.9 per cent. 

And it’s worse than it looks. The much-feted pay increase won’t take effect until November for tourism, hospitality and aviation workers. Casuals? Forget it. Retail wage-slaves must wait until September – despite the FWC acknowledging that retail has recovered. 

Recovered? Is the FWC looking at liquor sales which the ABS says jumped 27%, 2019/20. Or hardware, electrical and furniture, up 14% over the year as we spent online and on home projects when we couldn’t get out and about?

Murdoch minions are screaming about a wage breakout. Reserve Bank muppet, Phil Lowe, a type of pythian oracle, Still Livin’ in the ‘70s, whose $1m PA salary keeps him in touch with average households, warns us off bids for “unrealistic wage increases [which] could fuel inflation and risk a rerun of a 1970s style wages breakout.” 

You want to buy groceries, pay the rent and the power bill? Dream on.

It’s a low blow because we are in a price profit spiral – not a wages breakout, writes Richard Denniss, The Australia Institute’s Chief Economist. Phil’s perpetuating a myth that’s hardened into orthodoxy. Like Howard’s whopping lie that Liberals are better at managing the economy. It’s a go-to for the pocket sages who pop up on The Drum or on Q&A or Insiders, along with every Liberal MP’s favourite “downward pressure on prices”

Downward pressure is usually a lie about how electricity or gas will be cheaper because the industrial cartel owning generation and often retail, which colludes in price gouging, in the same way banks collude in rate fixing, is imagined to be in competition. Yet downward pressure is everywhere, depressing the value of the working woman’s labour.

Every time workers seek a pay rise, the tamed estate clutches its pearls and reaches for smelling salts. Without a skerrick of evidence, our media, wail, prices can only go up.

Theatrics abound. TV news even features vox pops with sobbing coffee bar proprietors and café owners who fear they must shut up shop as a result of paying staff the new minimum wage. In fact, you’d be paying another nine cents for your four dollar flat white. 

Lowe needs to lift his game. Get real. Or get out. Acknowledge, as Richard Denniss prompts, that current inflation is the result of worldwide increases in the price of energy and a wide range of consumer goods. Huge profits are driving our inflation, not wage rises. 

It’s “cost-push inflation” Denniss writes. 

“Hitting the Australian interest rate brakes will not do much to lower our inflation when there is a global freight train pushing it along.”

Those brakes themselves are defective, too. A third of Australians have mortgages. Businesses who borrow may trade a little less but a lot of things have to happen along the way before the rate rise curbs spending. Lowe must know this. He should level with us. 

The RBA Governor is also out of date. Oddly de trop. A bit fey. Fawning audiences, hanging on every syllable, parsing even your pauses can do that. Turn your wisdom into an in-joke. 

Lucky Jim Chalmers who’s as smart as a whip, reminds ABC’s Insiders of Labor’s review of the RBA in train. Lowe’s job is up next year. Chalmers chooses his words shrewdly.

Sally MacManus doesn’t mince words. Lowe’s fear of wage breakout is a “boomer fantasy”, retorts the ACT secretary. Our workforce has been de-unionised and centralised wage fixing is long gone, thanks to the same bosses, Libs lobbyists and our business-friendly, media oligopoly who now scream that we’ll all be ruined if employers have to pay workers a few cents more. Meanwhile business profits are up 20%. 

So what’s the go, Albo? A “real pay rise” that few of us will get? A wage cut in real terms? Is it just a bit of spin? There’s nothing wrong with PR, of course, for a good cause. But that’s all the last mob did. Pat itself on the back in public. Make announcements.

As for being inclusive, Julia Gillard warns that the times make it even harder for women to get recognition and due recompense for their labour. 

“There’s a risk that if nothing else changes in five years’ time, what we’ll see is a pattern where women have chosen, particularly in the family formation stage, disproportionately to work from home,” Gillard says.

“And men, who have been much more regular attenders at the office … that very visibility, if nothing else changes, will show in who’s been considered for promotion, sponsorship, mentorship. The women will be kind of invisible behind the screen.” 

We know, of course, there’d be no rise at all from the casualised, wage-slave precariat that lies at the sclerotic heart of any Labor-bashing, Coalition government’s IR. Yet helping workers feed their families has to be a core promise from the workers’ party – at least historically. What’s the go, Albo? You tell us you promise to listen.

Time to turn to the new PM’s second major pledge.

“And I want to make sure, as well, that we listen to Australians wherever they live, whoever they voted for. We will be a government that represents the entire nation. And I want to bring the country together and concentrate on what unites us rather than look for division, which is what characterised the former government.”

Listening seems to be going well in work towards an indigenous voice to parliament. It’s part of Jim Chalmers’ spiel on ABC Insiders where the Federal Treasurer agrees there should be an ACTU representative on the Reserve Bank Board. He’s having talks with pensioner organisations and others to seek their input on a range of social justice issues. 

Jim’s keen to “have a conversation” as part of the RBA review. Ensure the review examines the composition of what is currently a very narrow board of mainly business-class types.

We must ask, he says “whether it’s broad enough, in geographic terms and gender and all the important considerations, but to also make sure that the right voices are represented around the table, that the board is of the right composition and size”.

You always feel cheered by Lucky Jim because he’s on the ball. He exudes intelligence, principle and decency. Despite inheriting a trillion dollars of debt. No doubt, he’ll already have mapped out possibilities in his own mind. He’s had nine years to think about things. But due process has to be done and seen to be done. 

But is Labor listening to its arch-enemy, The Greens? The Greens and 34 crossbenchers – 16 in the HOR and 18 in the Senate wail that their advisors are a quarter of the previous government’s staffing largesse. Not feeling the love from Labor at the moment?

Here, you can’t fault Albo’s unity pitch. Morrison’s doubling the staffing for crossbenchers to buy their support is one of the many boobytraps left in the wake of his electoral rout.

A new PM should seek parity in the parliamentary workplace. Equal support staff. Expect this to be beaten up into an attack on democracy itself, despite being regularly treated to MSM stories on how The Greens will wreck everything- including our national flag fetish. 

True, Labor’s listening to The Greens hasn’t started so well. The PM bags Adam Bandt when the Greens’ Leader removes the flag with a Union Jack, Commonwealth Star and The Southern Cross, a symbol of oppression for first nation’s peoples, from his presser. 

But it’s the Vision Thing. You can’t quibble, carp or cavil. Nor can Dutton’s flummoxed opposition, even if it does have trouble finding its own bum with both hands. (Angus “air-miles” Taylor is Shadow Treasurer. Brave choice. Shady Taylor holds a press conference. No-one turns up.) If you hold a presser and no press attend …?

Shady’s innumeracy is legendary. Wind? “By 2020, the impost on Australian electricity bills will amount to about $3 billion a year,” he warned. He is only $3 billion out. 

Gus miscalculated on renewable compliance certificates remaining high because of Abbott’s threat to abolish the RET. Their price plummeted. As Shady posts on his own FB account, “Fantastic. Great move. Well done Angus”.

Unity? “It’s the vibe of the thing …” for Loose Units and Liberals. Word-salad whiz, ScoMo, spins similar, hokey, platitudes, in August 2018, when helped by Murdoch and Cormann “the ultimate seducer and betrayer” he knifes Fizza, “fraudband” Turnbull and undermines Spud. 

But Murdoch does the groundwork. In 2018, The AFR and ABC both report that Murdoch tells Stokes, Seven chairman and victim of Ben Roberts-Smith backer, that Turnbull needs to be replaced as PM. Thirty straight NewsPoll losses help.

Having pumped Dutton’s tyres in an earlier ballot, ensuring Turnbull’s defeat, Duplicity Morrison gets key backers to switch their votes to himself 45-40. Then the PM for himself alone promises to be a responsible leader. Having Corman on camera, too, makes it democratic.

“We will provide the stability and the unity and the direction and the purpose that the Australian people expect of us as leaders,” he lies. “We are on your side..”

Sceptics may demur, but as La Belle France’s toy-boy, Emanuel Macron, president of a self-deceiving, soi-disant, “Pacific Power” knows, Scotty is an inveterate liar. And with the help of Murdoch, Trump, Costello and Stokes, we do live in a post truth world. How else can $u$$an Ley keep a straight face when she claims she’s listening to women?

There’s no sign she understands remotely what they are saying.

“What you hear from the opposition is this long, ongoing, bleak, dreary narrative about entrenched disadvantage. And, you know, it’s just so last century.”

That may be the case for high-flyers such as herself, (a pilot, Ley did get into trouble booking her air miles up to taxpayers) but a glance at ABS statistics show she’s ignoring a very modern injustice. Government gender workplace data includes an array of evidence. 

As of 24 February 2022… “full-time average weekly ordinary earnings for women are 13.8% less than for men. This has decreased by 0.4 percentage points since May 2021.” Instead, Ley gushes about opportunities. As fact-free as her love-in with Dutto.

Ley praises the new soft and cuddly Dutton 2.0 who in 2019 accuses women of faking being raped so they get their ticket of leave from Nauru to give birth in Australia. 

In 2016, a federal court finds him guilty of breaching his duty of care to an asylum seeker who became pregnant after being raped on Nauru, and exposed her to serious medical and legal risks. Dutton had her flown to Papua New Guinea for the procedure, despite abortion being illegal in that country and the hospital lacking the expert staff and equipment required to make the operation as safe as possible. The abortion would have placed the woman at risk of criminal prosecution, Justice Bromberg found.

In the midst of the Covid pandemic, the former head of Home Affairs Peter tried to sneak through an Amendment to the Migration Act (1958) to give Australian Border Force power to confiscate the phones of asylum seekers and refugees being held in detention. He nearly succeeds, but for Jacqui Lambie’s dissenting vote in the Senate.

“I think he’s quite unassuming. I know that isn’t what people see, but it is what I see. He’s much more of a modern person than people realise.”

Dutton is a dead man walking. Another serial failure in every portfolio he’s been given, he will be another Abbott wrecker but with a smaller parliamentary cheer squad. Spare us the spin. Tell us the truth about COVID. Our lucky country is struck by a pandemic killing fifty a day as it mutates, yet barely makes the news. The cabal we let buy, redesign and ruin our semi-national grid is price gouging, leaving us in the cold and dark as it boosts a profit-driven inflation spiral with government subsidies. Yet workers must not seek wage rises lest they add to inflation, grins winsome Phil Lowe. 

Helped by our blinkered “news media”, we are busy violating China’s Economic zone. An embedded media never reports how we drop sonobuoys, small portable radar units, which will help the US detect and destroy China’s subs in its next act of military madness. Better to pretend we are innocents abroad in international waters. 

Yet far worse occurs – the triumph of experience over hope. Jerry and Rupert are to split. 

A teary nation grieves the cleavage of Jerry Hall (65) from her crocodile man bag, Rupie (91), our own Australian Fairy Godfather, who uses his supernatural powers to choose our governments, make life hell for Dictator Dan and ruin any other Labor upstart Down Under, while still finding time to be the perfect Murdoch Mafia don. And wage war on the truth and climate science. Not to mention his unceasing campaign against unions and workers.

How does he keep it up?  There is some hope he is starting to struggle financially.

Two years ago, Michael West reports, the Murdochs ripped a cool $1.4 billion in salary and bonuses from public companies since 1999. Now the family fortune is sunk in Disney+ shares, a deal which excludes Rupert and Sons from any seats on the board. The shares are sinking and the Murdoch empire may already have halved in value.

Albo’s “I will unite” stuff really bucks us up just when we need to toughen up to cope with the big stuff. A split in the October-December marriage of two star-crossed lovers. 

But six years hence, Jerry sensibly gave Mick Jagger the flick to reset her love-life, seeking the romance she so richly deserves. And now Rupe and Jerry are getting unhitched? Jerry married the love of her life only to find old age creeping up on her?

That bastion of plagiarism, The Daily Mail claims Rupe told Jerry to butt out. He doesn’t like her smoking in the house. Sounds plausible. Be a drag on any relationship.

Some wags unkindly suggest that Jerry expected Rupert to peg out a little earlier. No wonder she’s on edge. Did she fail to understand that no one sees off The Dirty Digger? 

Besides, he’s a man on a mission. Marina Hyde understands. 

“Rupert will be one of Earth’s last-surviving life forms, affectlessly inciting the tardigrades to insurrection and publishing grotesque lies about the cockroaches.”

Beware. Rupert is now free to follow his heart. Do what he loves. Destroy our Labor PMs.

No-one can cavil at the way our new PM hits the ground running on the Albanese Labor Government project, a work very much in progress. The vibe is right. Team Albo seems intelligent, articulate, co-ordinated and decent, even allowing for a halo effect bestowed on any act following the Morrison omnishambles. 

Experienced, too, which is what we need with The World Bank tipping economic recession for most of us. Plus a return to seventies stagflation. The US economy will tip into a recession next year, say 70 per cent of leading academic economists polled by the Financial Times. That’s two consecutive terms of negative GDP.

It’s not just the threat of Murdoch god-like power. Albo knows, “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; They kill us for their sport.” If not, he isn’t listening to Kevin Rudd. 

On all sides, Labor is in danger of being mugged by ugly realities. Already, it’s struggling to put its money where its mouth is – even if you can’t fault its rhetoric. 

If Albo wants unity, however, he needs first to deal with the divisive disinformation, the undermining of Labor and the abuse of power that is the malignant Murdoch empire’s stock in trade. What’s the go with Rudd’s call for a Royal Commission?    

Similarly, a “business friendly” Labor government needs to reassure true believers that it still cares about workers, a quarter of whom are now casual and exploited mercilessly. 

Late last year, The Australian High Court ruled that, if an employment contract says you are a casual worker, then you must be a casual worker – even if you work regular, ongoing hours. This denial of workers’ rights is a massive wrong that needs to be put right. 

A token rise in the minimum wage is a start, but our whole IR system lies in ruins after nearly a decade of Coalition onslaughts. Our workers suffer one of the most draconian, anti-union IR regimes in the democratic world, in which they have all but surrendered their rights to organise; their rights to withdraw their labour; take industrial action. 

But can Labor make a move whilst an American billionaire runs the country? Before Murdoch sells News Corp, (if indeed, he still owns it – you’d never know with an outfit registerd in Delaware) time to get that federal ICAC into gear. 

Albo promises that it will be ready by the end of the year. There’s a lot of questions about the rorting, the corruption and the colluding with the nation’s power-generating oligarchy that the previous mis-government needs to answer. Just don’t expect Murdoch’s hacks to be happy about it. In the meantime, make nice with the Greens. Hold a truth and reconciliation commission, if you need to, Albo. 

Time to get over the Malaysian solution and the carbon tax betrayals. Your new Labor government needs to be fair dinkum about unity and be a genuine workers’ party if it is to achieve the pressing reforms on the IR front that are at least nine years’ overdue. It needs to be fearless about climate change, reducing emissions and renewable power generation. Most important, it needs to follow through on its commitment to women’s safety. At least seven hundred women have been killed in the twelve years since Labor tabled the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.

Above all, those women who helped you to win deserve to be listened to, too.  

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11 comments

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  1. Bert

    FFS!! Labor have been in government for a month, ONE FEKKIN MONTH!!! Give them a bloody chance.

  2. David Stakes

    Think we are all suffering from 9 yrs of LNP torpor. And are anxious for change to happen quickly. Not going to happen but change will happen eventually.

  3. Michael Taylor

    It’s not too much to get worried about, Bert. As David S just said, we’re anxious for change.

    Since Howard’s days we always used to think that if the LNP win the next election then they’ll bring in all the nasties they hadn’t told us about. And how true it ended up being!

    Voters can be fickle – whatever they voted for, they want to see it happen as soon as possible.

    Over decades of watching AFL games I’ve often heard that if an away team kicks a few quick goals it takes the home crowd (the 19th man) out of the picture.

    If Albo does the same and kicks a few early goals then it might keep the home crowd – in this case the Murdoch media – out of the picture. They’ll have less to cheer about.

    Albo, in my opinion, is doing a great job. It’ll be in his favour to do the great job quicker.

  4. Michael Taylor

    Another thing the LNP were good at: give out a few sweeteners before the election, then take them back again if they won.

  5. RomeoCharlie29

    Albo, Albo Albo, sure he’s doing some positive things? Support for an inadequate wage rise for the impoverished? Pensioners still waiting for theirs. But knocking off three quarters of cross-benchers support staff? How to win friends and influence people? Not a good way to keep them inside. Stupid. Everything in this article is good and yes it is only four weeks, or five but I go back to my earlier comments about too many ‘ruling outs’. One thing I think we do need is a review of how the CPI is determined. If this is going to continue to be the benchmark by which all life improvements are judged then it needs to accurately and comprehensively reflect all of the products whose ( which’s?) volatility are measured.

  6. Bert

    JAYSUS FUCKIN KERIST!!!!! I give up.

  7. Terence Mills

    I heard Tanya Plibersek this morning talking on her new portfolio of environment.

    Isn’t it a pleasure to hear someone speaking with enthusiasm for the task ahead and being well informed and in command of her portfolio.

    In the recent past ministers in the Morrison government were usually in witness protection as they were so pathetic and incompetent.

  8. Harry Lime

    The transnational corporations and their local equivalents(hello, you fat pricks), who basically coerce their political stooges to stack the deck in their favor, using threats and promises,are the greatest barrier to a fair and equitable distribution of wealth,not helped by a media landscape that profits from the same distortions.Revisiting the urgently needed and long overdue reform of a fucking ridiculous and unjust tax system would be the first port of call on the way to correcting all the glaring social injustices.Balance the tax burden and we are on the way to righting the ship,and shaking out the 1%ers who threaten to sink us. Ditch the unaffordable and unjust forthcoming tax cuts,and be sure to include Phil Lowe in the rubbish.All else will follow. No doubt Albo has been thrown the greatest hospital pass of all time,but he also has the greatest opportunity to run with it.He may need to have a full and frank discussion with some of the old stagers about retaining their places in the ‘team’.Right now is the time. Another entertaining article,thanks David.And big thankyou to the fucking Lying Rodent who set so much of this shit in motion.Not forgetting peaheart Costello,the prince of smirk.

  9. David Tyler

    Harry. Well put. We are, indeed, a virtual subsidiary of News Corp and other a few select energy multinationals whose price-gouging and profiteering has helped create inflation which the RBA blames on poor wage-earners’ audacious requests for minimal pay rises – just so the family can pay the power bill and the rent. Sheer luxury.

    Keeping a quarter of workers as casuals ensures they are not spoilt by holiday or sick leave and does wonders to boost the profits – all neatly offshore of course – and tax free given the ways OS branches “lend” working capital to their Australian branches to evade any taxable income.

    Agree Albo needs to have a quiet word with some of his team if he is to move swiftly enough to dodge the booby-traps set for him by the previous misgovernment, an epic fail on every level save the level of its graft and corruption. No good going to the ACCC, for example, about power prices. That’s already been done. Time to sort out the oligopoly that’s robbing us blind and impeding any progress towards reducing emissions and the transfer to renewable energy.

    Tax cuts are a big issue. Labor does not have to be the first government to preside over a regressive tax system where the more you earn the less you pay. Not only is it unjust and unsustainable, there’s the cost. Tax cuts to start in 2024 will cost the federal budget more than $184 billion by early next decade. And there’s Labor upsetting the cross bench by economising on staff – or cutting back the rort that Morrison created. Peanuts will be saved compared with the cost of tax cuts.

  10. David Tyler

    Crossbench staff cuts? Not cost cutting. Political. Says David Meija-Canales, former chief of staff to Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe.

    “This was a political decision. This isn’t some cost-cutting measure. If you want to talk about real cost-cutting, then let’s get rid of tax cuts for the ultra wealthy. This is a calculated move by the government against these politicians and the communities they represent.

    Never mind that this huge workload will now need to be done by one person — which is terrible for their health, well-being and mental health — it’s bad for democracy and bad for work health and safety of working people. And we all know how good the Parliament is in terms of work health and safety. Fun fact: there are three hotlines at Parliament House for staffers to use if they experience WHS breaches or harassment. Three different 24/7 hotlines to report mistreatment at work as a staffer!

    My days at Parliament started at 7am and ended anywhere between 9pm or 2am. Every. Single. Day. Now all of this will be the work of one person. Not to mention the travel, being away from your friends and family for long periods, the never-ending torrents of abuse. ”

    Confessions of a former staffer: Albanese cuts to crossbench staff is a ‘deliberate decision’ to block scrutiny

  11. David Tyler

    RomeoCharlie29 Thank you. The CPI is, indeed a contentious measure. It’s based on a theoretical basket of goods and services. But that one basket does not fit all. It does not measure price changes in regional, rural or remote areas. Nor does it take into account the differences in spending patterns between individual households. It excludes mortgage and rent payments. As a result CPI will always understate real inflation.

    But it helps governments save money. When the Coalition’s 2014-15 Budget made the CPI the sole index of change in pensions, for example, it “saved’ (or deprived pensioners of) $449.0 million over five years.

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