According to just about every journalist, commentator, and Liberal/National politician, the Coalition are better economic managers.
Pretty much every problem we have can be laid squarely at their feet.
Despite being the unwitting beneficiary of a mining boom largely due to the expansion of China, John Howard made the stellar decision to sell off Telstra and hasn’t that gone well for us.
Back in 2006 when we still owned a majority share (he had only sold off 49% at that stage), Telstra wanted to move away from copper and start rolling out fibre-to-the-node which could have been slowly upgraded to fibre-to-the-premises to prepare us for the future. Howard and the ACCC put up so many hurdles regarding competition that Telstra gave up. That decision set our telecommunications back twenty years.
We hear a lot about power prices from this government. As the Australia Institute points out:
“The promise two decades ago to Australia was that privatising, corporatising and marketization of the electricity sector would deliver cheaper and better electricity supply. That never happened. Between December 1996 and December 2016 Australian electricity prices increased by 183 per cent—almost three times the overall increase in prices. Instead, privatisation has seen a blow out in the number of managers relative to other workers in the electricity labour force and it now employs an army of sales, marketing and other workers who do not actually make electricity.”
Everybody from the RBA boss on down is saying workers must have a wage rise to keep the economy moving along. But the Coalition, instead, reduce penalty rates for low paid workers, demonise and undermine unions and their ability to negotiate, and stack the Fair Work Commission with fellow travellers who will support the employers’ side every time. This has resulted in a period of the lowest wage growth in history, a growth in precarious employment, and an increase in worker exploitation. Oh, and the highest private debt in the world.
The business and social services community are also in furious agreement that unemployment benefits are so low that they are a hindrance to seeking employment. Despite the fact that over 3 million people are living in poverty, the Coalition launch an all-out attack on welfare recipients, chasing possible debts from a decade ago, imposing draconian compliance regimes, and excluding people from payments altogether for various reasons.
A hot topic for the election – well with Tim Wilson and his cousin anyway – is protecting one of John Howard’s many unsustainable tax concessions. Howard’s tax cuts combined with changes to negative gearing, capital gains, superannuation, excess franking credits and various other claimable expenses etc has severely eroded our revenue base now that the boom is fading away. But as we have seen in some ugly incidents at seniors meetings, trying to get self-funded retirees to actually fund themselves is no easy matter. A gift once given cannot be taken away – unless it’s the baby bonus or the schoolkids bonus or the clean energy supplement to pensioners. Poor people don’t have politicians organise seminars for them to express their displeasure.
There is an enormous body of evidence of the economic return from tertiary education, not just to the individual, but to society. But the Coalition want to pursue the American model where our children must pay, meaning anyone who doesn’t have rich parents will start their adult life with a huge debt which limits their ability to borrow money to buy a home or start a business.
Rather than supporting our vocational education sector and anticipating our future workforce needs, we now import foreign labour to fill skills shortages. Private colleges get accreditation with no evaluation or oversight – all it takes is a wink wink scholarship to a politician’s daughter or attendance at a Liberal Party fundraiser with cheque book in hand. Then they are free to offer intellectually disabled people a free laptop to sign up for courses in rocket science.
As the government wrings its hands about the increasing cost of private health insurance, they sell off the government owned competitor who could have acted as a price standard. But hey, a one-off $5 billion sugar hit in the hand towards being able to promise a surplus is better than the profits it was contributing to the public coffers and any handbrake it may have exerted on prices.
Coalition politicians are eager to tell us how crucial coal is to our economy. So much so that they are considering investing billions of dollars of public money into it. I am yet to find one stockbroker who is advising his clients that they should do likewise. Or any bank that is keen to be involved. Economies that are too reliant on single products expose themselves to great risk, particularly if that product must be phased out for humanity’s survival. How about the economic contribution made by the Great Barrier Reef and the Murray-Darling? How about the economic cost of extreme weather events exacerbated by global warming?
And don’t tell me it’s about jobs. How they can spin that line after refusing to support the car industry is beyond me.
The last couple of weeks have highlighted the Coalition’s practice of handing out huge amounts of government money to dubious players without going through due process let alone diligence, oversight or evaluation. It has gotten so bad that the government has gagged its own Auditor-General from releasing his reports.
These people are not “good economic managers” just because they happened to be in government during a boom time decades ago when my pet rabbit could have delivered a surplus.
They are rank amateurs spouting lines they learned at Young Liberals meetings and reading scripts fed to them by the IPA and the Minerals Council and anyone else out to avoid contributing anything whilst diverting public money into their own pockets.
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