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Election 2022: From ‘Return to Normalcy’ to Real Debate on Fair Wages and Living Standards

By Denis Bright

Hoping a smooth campaign of boring photo opportunities, LNP insiders were obviously shocked by negative reactions to its Return to Neoliberal Normalcy Strategies. The leadership and policy vacuum generated by the LNP has generated unexpected focus on real policy issues which the latest round of pork-barreling has not arrested.

There was real wisdom in Labor’s small target response to the LNP’s bid for re-election. Negative reactions to falling real wages in the context of exploding housing and rental costs are giving new momentum to Labor campaign to achieve government with a substantial majority.

In the once marginal Labor seat of Griffith in Brisbane from the LNP’s 2019 campaign, the Liberal Party accepted the trends in polling by allocating preferences to Labor ahead of the Greens. On the latest YouGov polling, Griffith is now the safest Labor seat with 60 per cent of preferences going to Labor after preferences.

The groundswell for a change of government has built up during the past two years as more working poor and really disadvantaged constituents head to the weekly food distribution at a park near the West End CBD.

This is the darker side of neoliberalism which Scott Morrison refuses to acknowledge in his ideological commitment to the current economic system.

Such heartless attitudes prevailed in the discussion of fair affordable wage policies which have surfaced in the latter stages of the LNP’s plans to return to normalcy by provoking slip ups in those gotcha questions from the assembled media to Anthony Albanese.

Anthony Albanese in government can support +5 per cent increase in the minimum wage through the deliberations of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) on 7 June as promised without compromising any political conventions.

Labor is not attempting to control the deliberations of the FWC which was established during the Rudd-Gillard years to end the excesses of John Howard’s Work Choices. John Howard lot his own seat in 2007. Perhaps the precedent can be extended to Scott Morrison’s own seat of Cook which was temporarily won by Labor in 1972.

A federal government does not have the constitution powers to set wage rates in peace-time. Even the heroic Harvester Judgment of the Arbitration Court of 8 November 1907 was successfully appealed against in 1908. However, it was a moral victory for wages justice through the Arbitration Court and more recently through the Fair Work Commission (FWC) which was established in the Rudd-Gillard years to end the excesses of Work Choices: In the Harvester Decision, Justice Higgins of the Arbitration Court decided that 7 shillings a day, or 42 shillings a week, was fair and reasonable wages for an unskilled labourer. This became the basis of the national minimum wage system in Australia.

It was a ‘living’ or ‘family’ wage, set at a level which would supposedly allow an unskilled labourer to support a wife and three children, to feed, house, and clothe them. By the 1920s it applied to over half of the Australian workforce. It became known as the ‘basic wage’.

Additional amounts were paid to more skilled workers, for example an additional 3 shillings to a fitter or other tradesperson. These additional amounts were known as ‘margins’. In the Harvester Decision, a fair and reasonable wage for more skilled employees was for example 10 shillings a day for ‘journeymen’, or tradesmen.

Visiting the Transfield Factory in Sydney’s Seven Hills in 1986, Pope John Paul II commended Australia’s wage determination system which offered a fairer but not perfect deal for Australian workers. Having worked in a quarry near Nazi occupied Krakow, Pope John Paul was aware of the horrors of degrading workplaces.

Despite all the sweet rhetoric, Australians soon experienced horrors of that neoliberal recession We had to have in the early 1990s (Image Catholic Outlook 2016):

 

Image from caffestoria.it

 

Just 2 per cent of the workforce subsists on minimum wages. It is up to the FWC to deliberate on the flow-on effects of minimum wage increases to other awards.

The LNP is clearly divided on wages policies. Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce indeed claims to be on Struggle Street. He is well aware of the extent of income and social disadvantaged in every country town. National Party votes there rely on persistence of the Joh era populism to keep disadvantaged voters in the fold.

 

Strutting Out from Struggle Street at Canberra Airport

Barnaby Joyce with partner Vicki Campion

 

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce often complains about his own financial circumstances as noted by Samantha Maiden on news.com.au (21 June 2021):

Resurrected Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce once complained he was so skint he was forced to kill his own meat – but he’s now doubled his pay by returning to the fold as Deputy Prime Minister on $433,575 a year.

The father of six will secure a whopping pay rise in his next pay packet that will increase his pay from his current salary of $211,500 as a backbencher.

Two years ago, the MP revealed he was doing it tough and was slaughtering his own farm animals to help reduce his grocery bill.

Scott Morrison’s warnings against supporting the maintenance of the purchasing power of minimum wages is regarded as one of the worst slips of the government’s re-election bid according to Economics Editor Ross Gittins of The SMH (13 May 2022):

At last, as the election campaign reaches the final stretch, we’ve found something worth debating. Anthony Albanese has found his spine and supported a big rise in award wages, while Scott Morrison says a decent rise for the masses is a terrible idea that would damage the economy.

First the politics, then the economics. My guess is history will judge this to be the misstep that did most to cost Morrison the election. Successful Liberal leaders – John Howard, for instance – knew never to be caught within cooee of a sign saying “wages should be lowered”. It’s not the way to woo outer-suburbs battlers to the Liberal cause.

Perhaps the plight of self-funded retirees will surface during the final week of the campaign. The trend lines in returns from some of the best superannuation funds like Q Super is not very encouraging as shown by the latest performance data to 13 May 2022.

As the latest YouGov polling shows a definitive swing to Labor outside some rusted-on LNP regional seats, the LNP has become an ideological captive of far-right minor parties as in the allocation of preferences to One Nation on the senate ballot paper across Queensland.

 

Desperate Preference Allocations for the Queensland Senate to Protect One Nation and the Other Maverick Parties

 

A lot can happen in the final week of campaigning as Australia finally returns to that Change of Government era which gave Labor control of both houses as early as 1910 and 1914. As self-proclaimed lovers of traditions the LNP should be pleased that social democracy is working again and finally extending to some of the most marginal regional LNP seats in Queensland.

A majority Labor government with ninety seats in the House of Representatives is still a possibility to achieve a long-term Labor government that is not dependent on constant negotiation with cross-bench members as in the Gillard-Rudd years after the 2010 elections.

Advocates of change should be campaigning until the final vote is cast in this still rampant COVID-19 era when it is still possible to chart a less colonial direction for our country.

 

Denis Bright is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback from readers advances the cause of citizens’ journalism. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Replies Button.

 

 

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16 comments

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  1. Phil Pryor

    I’ve just read of the incompetent P M, Pustular Morrison, saying, as policy, some of the most childish, ignorant, unprofessional, distorted, negative announced misleading ideas EVER. By some unexplained miracle, which would appeal to a superstitious religious idiotic fool, money will now automatically DOUBLE, and thus superannuation can now also become housing. The effing tooth fairy, father Xmas, Simple Simon, Juda, Ponzi, Capone, NONE of these other well known fantasies, frauds, fakes and crooks thought of this!! From now on, the suckers who fall for this Morrison shit tale will have one dollar TWICE, being part of solid superannuation, and, doubling as a solid dollar in housing. The loudmouthed dithering dunce and his backup should just print money, cheques, bonds, I O U’s, anything, for money doesn’t just grow on trees, it grows in the space inside Morrison’s claggy skull. DOUBLE ya money!! Never mind accounting, honesty, decent wages, reality itself, Miracle Morrison Mouths Muck.

  2. Marjorie

    Time for Barnaby to learn to live on a salary of almost half a million dollars. Others have to make do with less than $10,000 in income from compulsory superannuation

  3. Leila

    With migration curtailed due to COVID, the Morrison Government wants a new underclass who work for low wages. This takes Australia back to well before the worst times in the colonial era before the 1890s

  4. Albos Elbow

    Dick Head Scummo the Liar has just annouinced another way to increase the value of his and all his rich mates housing portfolios.

    Letting people use their Super to buy a house is just once again, going to increase demand and push up house prices and rents further and make homes even more un-affordable for young people and newlyweds.

    The problem is the lack of supply of houses to buy and rent and no increases in community housing projects.

    When he allowed young people to access super during the pandemic lockdowns, they actuall spent 90% of it on gambling and alchohol to the tune of 3.9 billion dollars.
    Did it ease their cost of living, motgage or rent stress or just make things worse because now they don’t have any super for retirement?

    Who did that benefit? Oh yes, it benefitted his wealthy political donors who sell alchohol and gambling.

    Once again it shows beyond a doubt who COAL-NP are actually governing for and it isn’t the average Australian.

    Don’t be fooled.
    Lets get rid of these fuckwits when you vote next Saturday and don’t forget a vote for Palmer’s UAP or hanson’s One Nation is still a vote for Scummo.

  5. Canguro

    Scooby Dumbo has no shame, no sense of history, no sense of appropriateness… the apparently perfect set of qualities for the leader of a first-world middle-ranking so-called democracy these days… err , no.

    ‘Casting himself as a wartime prime minister, Morrison’s pitch started in a place largely ignored this campaign — the pandemic..’

    “I had one focus as your prime minister – save the country,” he told Liberal true believers.

    “And we did.”

    And the ‘true believers’ – aka the blind, deaf & dumb – lapped this bullshit up…

  6. Paul

    Does the Gold Coast and Logan deserve such hardline pro scomo ministers.

    Thanks for another topical article Denis.

  7. Albos Elbow

    Queensland Coal Gang Barnaby and Mistress Vicki Campion are not wearing their hard hats or fluro hi vis vests in public and should be thrown out of the COAL-NP.

    Even the pope knows the value of hi viz fluro vests and hard hats, when there are loaded cameras around.

  8. Albos Elbow

    Less than a week of Scottfuckery left. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security like last time.

  9. Fred

    If Scotty has any real empathy with workers that haven’t seen much of a pay rise, then he would demonstrate a small amount of leadership by cutting his and the cabinet ministers salaries to those of 10 years ago before implying he understands that “we’re” all doing it tough.

    News flash for the stupid… If you are suffering economic hardship, consider who was presiding while you drifted into it and then ask yourself… If these incompetent a-holes got me into this situation, where is the logic to suggest they will get me out?

  10. Terence Mills

    Morrison is making a big issue of his policy for first homebuyers to take up to 40% of their accumulated superannuation (up to a maximum of $50,000) to use as a deposit for a home.

    This means that a first homebuyer would have to have accumulated a super balance of $125,000 to get $50,000 (i.e. 40% of $125,000).

    This tends to rule out that majority of first homebuyers particularly younger people as it could take up to twenty years to achieve the required super balance.

    Oddly, when Labor proposed a similar scheme : Labor’s 1993 election housing policy, which undertook to “allow all home buyers to fund up to 49% of the deposit for a home from their accumulated superannuation savings. The policy which was never adopted was severely rubbished as a ‘brainfart’ by the coalition at the time.

  11. Indigo

    @phil Pryor – how you feeling about the weekend. Do you think Albo will get up. I’m hoping so.

    Thanks for the article Denis!!!

  12. Phil Pryor

    Indigo, the result is always a guessy study, and one senior academic psephologist (election watcher) points to the actual pendulum now, so that the ALP actually needs c. 51.5% to break even. If c. 54%m is realisable, ALP stand alone government seems assured, but independents are in the mix. Others assess a hidden “female” voter hatred of Morrison which could see five or six surprise results against the conservatives, over and above the polling normal assessments. W A is not easy to assess, with a stronger anti_Morrison alive there and growing elsewhere. The head lying double dutch filthspeak and reeking bullshit have run out. To offer on launch day a con that is transparent about double dollars for housing and superannuation is the last strain of the bowel. You cannot have both in reality. Even conservative loudmouths are on record speaking against this scheme and older similar ones. House prices are up for the assured conservative faithful, which is their hidden policy. They just want to maintain house prices, inflate accounts of rich property owners, and the actual new buyers can get stuffed…

  13. rubio@robertson on the central coast

    Who will buy the play to inflate the prices of houses and rents from the investment outcomes of Scomo’s re-definition of superannuation to re-elect himself as PM.

    Phil’s assessment is rightly qualified by the political reality of the Opposition needing 51.5 percent of the TPP vote to just get over the line with 77-79 seats.

    The LNP still has some huge regional majorities from 2019 in locations where the the Labor vote is fractured by the populist appeal of far-right splinter parties.

    Robertson should be an easy win for Labor this time but the far-right is ready to dampen our party in other regional seats like McPherson where the surf is just as appealing.

    Good to read Phil’s comments and feedback from other parts of the country

  14. Pat

    Australia is copying the worst excesses of the US Labor model by empowering corporations to exploit the least skilled workers while offer tax minimization to others who are doing well under neoliberalism

  15. Albos Elbow

    Phil and Rubio,
    4 days out from this election and there has been little or no movement in the polls for the last 2 weeks with Labor still leading 54.6% to Coal-NP 45.4% in the 2 party preferred vote.

    With preferences and Labor’s 54.6% 2 party preferred vote, Antony Green’s Election Calculator is predicting 89 seats Labor, 56 Coal-NP and 6 Independent seats and others.
    Similar margins in the Senate.
    https://www.abc.net.au/res/sites/news-projects/elections-calculator-lower/1.2.2/index.html?mode=overall&overall=6.1&nsw=custom&vic=custom&qld=custom&wa=custom&sa=custom&tas=custom&act=custom&nt=custom&retiringmps=false&state=federal&y=2022&help=100796570&chartSeatWidth=3&swing=10&showStates=yes&showLink=yes

    Why else would they be coming up with the desperate lie that Scummo and COAL-NP “will change”.
    There is no chance of that ever happening. Scummo will never change.
    The only way to get change for the better, is to vote Scummo and COAL-NP out of office.

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