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Keep the proletariat poor, in debt and scared – it’s the capitalist way

When Tony Abbott, contrary to his 2013 election promise that there would be “no adverse changes to superannuation”, chose to delay/abandon the scheduled increase in the Superannuation Guarantee from 9% to 12%, he tried to pretend that we would be better off.

“I can confirm, in response to the Leader of the Opposition, that money that would otherwise be squirrelled away in superannuation funds will instead be in the pockets of the workers of Australia,” the Prime Minister told Parliament in September 2014.

“I want to see for the next 10 years this money stay in the pockets of the workers of Australia. If the workers of Australia wish to invest that money in superannuation they are perfectly free to do so but, as far as I am concerned, for the next 10 years that money should stay in the pockets of the workers of Australia,” he said.

Former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser, who has sat on the board of industry super funds, told ABC Radio that unions did not have the power to press for wage increases to make up for the lower super contributions.

“Employers are not going to say, ‘well look, we don’t have to make this mandatory improvement in super contributions so therefore we are going to give the equivalent amount to workers’ – that’s not going to happen,” Mr Fraser said.

And he was right.

Abbott’s naïve, or more likely dishonest, claim that employers would, off their own bat, automatically increase wages did not eventuate despite corporate profits reaching record highs.

Over the course of 2016, company profits rose 26% while wages rose by about 2%.

The Fair Work Commission’s Annual Wage Review 2016–17, which recommended a 3.3% increase in the minimum wage, made some interesting observations.

Over the 5 years to the December quarter 2016, labour productivity growth in the market sector was higher than the previous 5-year period and rose sharply in 2016.

On an annual basis, profit growth was particularly strong in 2016 compared with the preceding years and above the 5-year and 10-year averages for both total industries and non-mining industries.

The principal business conditions surveys show that the assessment of business conditions is positive and above long-term average levels.

Over the last 5 years, the real value of the National Minimum Wage and modern award rates has grown at 4.3 per cent, which is less than half the rate of growth of labour productivity.

In previous Reviews, the Panel has accepted that if the low paid are forced to live in poverty then their needs are not being met and that those in full-time employment can reasonably expect a standard of living that exceeds poverty levels. While we have not departed from that position, we acknowledge that the increase we propose to award will not lift all award-reliant employees out of poverty, particularly those households with dependent children and a single-wage earner. However, to grant an increase to the National Minimum Wage and award minimum rates of the size necessary to immediately lift all full-time workers out of poverty is likely to have adverse employment effects on those groups who are already marginalised in the labour market, with a corresponding impact on the vulnerability of households to poverty due to loss of employment or hours.

In other words, it doesn’t matter how much profit corporations are making, or how great the labour productivity gains are, any attempt to ask for a liveable wage will result in loss of employment or hours.

But hey, let’s cut penalty rates and give big business a 5% tax cut. And while we’re at it, let’s destroy unions and outlaw any form of industrial action because we can’t have the workers uniting to demand adequate recompense for their labour. Make them all casual or put them on temporary contracts so they don’t make waves.

Keep the proletariat poor, in debt and scared – it’s the capitalist way.


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  1. Keitha Granville

    Poor, frightened, unrepresented, so that gradually they will accept a crumb from the master’s table and find themselves saying thank you.


    nice one Kaye. “‘to grant an increase to the National Minimum Wage and award minimum rates of the size necessary to immediately lift all full-time workers out of poverty is likely to have adverse employment effects on those groups who are already marginalised in the labour market, with a corresponding impact on the vulnerability of households to poverty due to loss of employment or hours.”‘

    There is no evidence that increasing wages leads to unemployment and hence their decision is not reasonable. In fact, the evidence is the contrary as increased wages leads to higher consumption and demand and hence to jobs growth.The Commission is propagating the myths and ideology of the neo-liberalist capitalist class. Shows what this country is really about and whose interests it is ‘governed’.

  3. Matters Not

    Yes profits are on the increase but wages still lag. And yet we have other economic myths that are also aired – almost on a daily basis. Here’s a few:

    Not so long ago, the top income tax rate in Australia was as high as 60 per cent, but there is no evidence that the reduction since then has made any discernible difference to Australia’s subsequent economic growth. In fact Australia grew faster back in the 1950s and 1960s when the top tax rate was higher .

    (What does make a difference ) … workforce participation would be increased more by increasing the availability of affordable child care and by spending more on education and training respectively.

    It is frequently argued by its proponents that a cut in company tax will have a positive effect on investment, which will in turn lift economic growth. But the truth lies elsewhere:

    … the share of profits in national income is as high as it has ever been, but instead of investing, companies are returning an increased share of profits to shareholders. Indeed, net distribution from profits by Australian companies has more than tripled over the last twenty years. And this generosity to shareholders has the added side-benefit for senior managers that it increases the share price, which then flows on into a bigger increase in their pay. Thus increasing rates of return have not and cannot be expected to lead to any increase in investment; this additional investment will only eventuate when aggregate demand increases sufficiently to justify that investment.

    Note carefully: additional investment will only eventuate when aggregate demand increases sufficiently to justify that investment. Must admit, the business journalists at the ABC do well in busting many of these myths.

    MICHAEL KEATING. Tax cuts – what can we expect? Part 1 of 2.

  4. Freethinker

    Keitha Granville December 4, 2017 at 5:53 pm
    “Poor, frightened, unrepresented, so that gradually they will accept a crumb from the master’s table and find themselves saying thank you.”

    And in many cases serve them right, many of them choose to not be union members, further more sold cheap the gains in working conditions that cost immense struggle and financial lost to the union movement of the past.
    Many of them are unrepresented by choice and those that are not are not prepared to form a front to fight for their rights.
    Greed for materialist things are above dignity.

  5. Matters Not

    On Super and the role of Industry Super Funds:

    In its most recent adjudication of superannuation fund performance, industry funds produced a 9 per cent return on investment in both the 12 months to the end of September 2016 and the year to the end of September this year.

    The bank-run retail funds were no match. They notched up a 6.1 per cent return last year and just 6.3 per cent this year.

    It has been the same story for a quarter of a century. That alone is worthy of investigation

    The populace would do well to keep the Banks and the Insurance Companies far distant from their Super.

  6. Zathras

    I’ve always liked the saying that the poor live off the scraps that fall from the tables of the rich.
    Therefore the best way to give the poor more to eat is to give the rich much larger meals.
    Some refer to it as “trickle-down” economics.

    Sadly, it’s more than a saying – it’s a deliberate ideology from the far (and not-so-far) Right.

    The other part of the strategy is to keep the poor distracted by provoking them to fight among themselves and blame various other social groups while the real culprits sit back and grow richer.

    It works all the time.

  7. Kaye Lee

    It just astonishes me that the FWC concedes that even full time workers are living in poverty whilst company profits are at record highs yet they STILL recommended reducing penalty rates.

    And why is there not more of a fuss about the freeze on the SG which will shave about $150 billion from workers’ super by 2025. Surely that is enough saving for employers without giving them another $50 billion in tax cuts.

  8. diannaart


    “The other part of the strategy is to keep the poor distracted by provoking them to fight among themselves and blame various other social groups while the real culprits sit back and grow richer.”

    I agree. One of the multitude of weapons used against workers is the campaign against unions while, always present, reached new levels of limitations against both workers and unions from John Howard onwards.

    Conservative Howard Government elected – introduces Workplace Relations Act, reducing workers entitlements under awards and severely limiting unions’ capacity to organise and pursue members’ interests
    Waterfront Dispute, in which the Patrick Corporation undertook an illegal restructuring of their operations for the purpose of increasing the productivity of their workforce. This dispute involved Patrick Corporation locking out their workers after the restructuring had taken place, with many of these workers members of the dominant Maritime Union of Australia. The resulting dismissal and locking out of their unionised workforce was supported and backed by the then Australian Liberal/National Coalition Government.
    Howard Government’s WorkChoices laws come into effect in March, ripping away protection from unfair dismissal, reducing basic workers’ entitlements, and neutering the independent industrial umpire.

    I am simply too tired to provide anything more concise about the campaign that is still being waged against unions. Simply to make the point that successive LNP governments have made union membership difficult for workers to access and unions themselves have suffered a loss in membership as well as limitations to the right to strike, collect union fees and access the workplace.

    To suggest that workers can simply regain liveable wages by joining a union is simplistic in the extreme and that people on low income wanting a liveable income is greedy is beyond common sense.

  9. Freethinker

    diannaart December 4, 2017 at 7:43 pm
    “To suggest that workers can simply regain liveable wages by joining a union is simplistic in the extreme and that people on low income wanting a liveable income is greedy is beyond common sense.”

    diannaart, with repects I complete disagree with you and I have the personal experience to back up what I am saying.
    Have you try or lived trough the struggle and victory of the power of the people?
    Have you being part of a 3 months strike to bring the capitalist that exploited their employers to their knees?
    Have you experience what is a real general strike where the only thing that function in the country is water and light nothing more?

  10. Matters Not

    yes diannaart, I have to agree with your assertion re simply regain liveable wages by joining a union.

    I became a Union member from the day I started work. My membership activities were wide and varied including Branch Secretary, Council Rep, Conference Delegate, Executive Member, Research Director and so on. I was a member until I was ruled ineligible under the Union’s Constitution due to promotions and the like.

    But none of my offspring are union members – at least in the industrial sense. While it’s a cause for much regret, I accept that the world has moved on. And it’s not necessarily for the best.

  11. Harry

    The pendulum of industrial power has swung heavily towards employers under neoliberal ideology. Even though many businesses would benefit from a rise in overall demand employers are not likely to agree to a wage catch-up.

  12. Kaye Lee

    Workers went backwards under Howard: casual and precarious work with inferior entitlements and conditions rose, the inequality gap grew and minimum wages growth fell behind average earnings, there was a deficit of investment in skills and training, and immoral business practices spread.

    If the world has moved on from having a collective voice for workers then we are well and truly screwed. Every man for himself and bugger the other guy.

  13. Freethinker

    Kaye, rest assure that that will never happen in South America, we know well what the people power can achieve.

  14. Keith

    Apparently the Republicans in the US lowered tax suddenly on the basis of being told by the Koch brothers and other backers that they cannot expect donations if they do not reduce taxes.

    ““This is the crux issue,” said Chris Wright, a Koch donor and CEO of Liberty Oilfield Services in Denver. He predicted that Republicans would “pay a heavy price” in the 2018 midterm elections if the effort fails, explaining that donors and activists alike would walk away from the party.”

    We have been told by the LNP that corporate taxes must come down to compete against the taxes being reduced by the US.

  15. Joseph Carli

    The Left is enormously powerful compared to the Right-wing…Because of the discrepancy of equality now existing so visibly amongst us, there is potential for the unification of many low-income casual workers to unite…but the trouble is we are divided..and we will stay divided as long as there is right-wing elements in the Labor side of politics…Labor ought to unite in a “lock-step” move with the a coalition with the unions as a union-based absolutely left-wing political party..without fear or trepidation..and when the LNP and their goons go in for the attack..take them on with all the power available to it with social media, accrued knowledge of the criminal activities and confront the Right head on!…It will take courage and conviction ..but it has to be done sometime ..and soon…or we will all burn out with frustration and despair..

  16. Freethinker

    First think that have to do an ALP government remove that laws that make strike unlawful and that companies can take legal action against the unions.
    McManus has to make sure that the ACTU will not make any concessions to a possible ALP government and put the interest of the workers first.

  17. Matters Not

    KL re:

    If the world has moved on from having a collective voice for workers then we are well and truly screwed

    Yes. But the world has moved on in many other ways as well. Some of which might just be positive. In my Union days (and nights) I had to physically attend Branch Meetings after work – Council Meetings on Saturdays – Executive Meetings on Monday Nights – Conference Meetings during my holidays etc, etc,

    Seems to me that we might give an even greater collective voice if we used the available technology to do many more things within the same timeframe. As I write this, I am watching the cricket as well as ABC TV (swapping between same) I am also monitoring the share market as well as listening to some music.

    When I was a Union Executive member, the Agenda Documents would (physically) arrive on Friday night at about 9.00 PM so that they could be read for a 6.00 PM Monday Meeting lasting about 2 to 3 hours. Travel each way took about 45 Minutes. Lots of Time wasted. Not sure how they arrange things these days but I hope they have moved on.

    Labor along with other political parties wants more members. Here’s a suggestion. Why not have an online Branch. Or indeed many online Branches. Same with Unions.

    I could go on.

    Collective voices are at the heart of the good society. How they are organised, heard and responded to is up for grabs.

  18. Matters Not

    Political parties with Branches Online might create a new vibe. And a new vibe might well be needed. As someone who has attended any number of ALP functions – where the beer is invariably warm, the speakers aren’t working, the video is on the blink and the air con is on strike – change is both necessary and desirable..

    But with Branches Online – the focus might be on the potential policies, issues and the like rather than .. take your pick from ‘the raffle’, ‘the gossip’ the ‘next factional meeting’ ..

  19. Joseph Carli

    What I tried to point out in the post “The Bitter-Sweet art…” written by both Freetasman and myself, is that politics demands that the principle leadership has the.. APPEARENCE ..of the power of authority on its side. It does not have to actually control it nor use it..but they MUST have the perception to control it..

    Howard used his position to both take command of the military forces with the Tampa incident and created the appearance that they were HIS to command…He aligned himself with both America and The United Kingdom military and leadership to give himself supreme credibility..Howard had the backing of the MSM TO THE HILT! to apply his authority and Beasley buckled because he was also a military sympathiser and had nothing to counter the argument…and Howard used this perception to give himself the appearance of power and the swinging/fickle public backed him for that out of the fear that was created by the use of that authority and collusion with the MSM.

  20. Joseph Carli

    The interesting tactic used by Julius Caesar in his stretch for power, was even though he DID NOT have power in Rome, nor the majority of military numbers or command, he used his plundered wealth and influence in the capital to win over the popular vote so that when he did use “Plan B” and crossed the Rubicon, he met no resistance because he was welcolmed by the popular “vote”…so the political tactic would be to have a degree of strength up your sleeve (The Unions) and popular opinion on your side (policy that is beneficial to the people).

  21. wam

    no lib govenment can exist without the votes of the labourers they have frightened.

    The scarers have access to the media who thrive on controversy real or virtual. and feed them often into a frenzy unanswered by billy or tanya.

    Sadly labor has lost the stomach for getting down to the workers level.

    Trump’s lot said a story doesn’t have to be true as long as it could happen. so the potus is right to retweet a view that a boy on crutches getting beaten up by thugs who were muslim refugees without the evidence of their origin?.

  22. Patagonian

    TONY ABBOTT, 2002: If we’re honest, most of us would accept that a bad boss is a little bit like a bad father or a bad husband. Not withstanding all his or her faults, you find that he tends to do more good than harm. He might be a bad boss but at least he’s employing someone while he is in fact a boss.

  23. iggy648

    When I was a boy, a carpenter was a blue collar worker who worked for a boss and (by and large) belonged to a union. Today, a carpenter is just as likely to be a “builder”, and will likely have an ABM and run his/her outfit as a small business. Such a person will have less need of union support. He or she might then employ other blue collar workers. Hence it is as important that Labor be seen to support small business, as well as the workers who belong to unions.

  24. Joseph Carli

    iggy648…the “ideal” you describe for the life of the contract carpenter..or many other a delusion…I was there when the ransition was in full swing..I did my apprenticeship with one of the “big companies” and then worked in multi-storey construction for some years before the big companies scaled down their physical workshops and turned instead to Project managing with subcontractor tradesmen…For the companies it is good, because they can screw the tradie down on labour costs by playing one against the other..then you get side-companies growing like Bianco Builders (as an example only here) who could gather many of these loose tradies together and bid for a specific trade part of mega constructions and we heard of the secret meetings where those type of companies would meet to work out pricing and divvying up the job-lots between each.other…It is not a good thing for the tradie..
    And worse..the competition between tradies woulds mean running the “business” on an overdraft to pay for holding stock so that you can claim “immediate start”..but the banks were never keen ..if at lend on the skills of a tradie..but rather wanted to see longevity of secure income and amount of carried collateral..
    I could go on..but it is NOT a rosy picture..I can assure you and so many go broke and take the family home down with them.

  25. Michael Fairweather

    Most worker are scared of their boss all the time so they moan a lot but do nothing, they grab any pay rise that Union Members fight for and at the same time echo the Liberals cry that Union’s are. Very few workers have the capacity to see farther than their last beer and so will accept this treatment that Turdbull is dishing out to them now. But to look at the other side of the worker it is the worker who keeps the Country’s Economy going by spending his wages every week, when a recessions strikes like now he has no choice but to stop spending so the Economy goes to shit but they are not to blame for that the RICH do not spend their money they hoard it all the time and that is what crashes the Economy. This is just my personal view as a pensioner, oh yes the pensioners they are what has kept this great country going over the years and now they are retired are disliked by the Liberals as a waste of money.

  26. Freethinker

    Another good example on how the working class has been outsmarted by the “other side”.
    Not only controlled them abut most important created a division to weak the majority.
    And all started by “why I am going to work for someone for x amount of money per hour when I can be my own boss and earn 3 times more?”
    They get the new ute,the new tools better and nicer than the other young tradesman and they become slaves.

  27. Joseph Carli

    Freetasman..”The Beggar’s Opera” by Bertolt Brecht springs to mind.

  28. diannaart


    The answer to all your questions is a resounding, “Yes”.

    Jeff Kennett put a hold on all CPI and other wage increases just for being union members – for the term of his office (this was not remedied until Bracks became Premier). He stopped automatic debit of union fees. It more than about wages also, there were mergers of departments which meant standards for public housing were kept at minimum standards, properties were sold to developers…

    There is more FT. Just because YOUR experience was about greed, does not mean EVERY union action is about greed. I am not well enough to bother arguing with you. But to paint ALL union actions as being about greed is as silly as painting ALL men as one homogeneous group without difference of opinion.

  29. jimhaz

    How the Mont Pelerin Society ‘Neoliberal Thought Collective’ Is Influencing Donald Trump’s Presidency

    “Buchanan — who was a member and past-president of the Mont Pelerin Society — developed a strategy along with MPS member Charles Koch and other elite industrialists to construct a network of neoliberal think tanks that, as MacLean writes and documents, have infected democracies with radical right wing policy ideas designed to shield and benefit the wealthy elite, and to disempower the majority of citizens”

    Unless You’re Rich, the Economy Is Not Working for You — and the GOP Tax Plan Will Only Make It Worse

    “When not rewarding shareholders directly, businesses have been busy buying up other firms. By providing companies more cash on hand, the GOP tax bill would likely mean even more mergers, which frequently result in cuts to jobs, the erection of barriers for small business and the curbing of consumer benefits. Activist investors will have greater incentive to push for such mergers as the super-rich see a chance to pass un-taxed estates on to the next generation”

  30. Ella miller

    Kaye Lee some 20 years ago I was unemployed..out of desperationI took on a job as a Nanny. This was my response to my short period of employment;

    You are rich Madam, that I can see,
    But is that a reason to torture me?

    “Pick up my child, don’t pick her up on every whimper!”
    The child cries and I start to shiver.
    Do the washing,the ironing then mend the vests!”
    God I’m tired I need a rest.
    “My child is ill, is that because of you?”
    This woman is crazy, what am I to do?
    Money is plenty,but, class is lacking ,
    As orders , instructions and directions she’s giving.

    You are rich madam that i can see,
    But is that a reason to torture me?

    My pride I submerge,I need the pay,
    I submit and die a little day after day.
    Is this the lot of the working class?
    NO! It’s not , I think I’ll pass.

    You are rich Madam that I can see,
    But is hat a reason to torture me!!

    Fed up with the long hours,no breaks and little pay,
    She remembered a new catchword of the day,
    Re-negotiate was that clever word ,
    But found it to mean you are seen but not heard.

    You are rich Madam that I see ,
    But is that a reason to torture me?

    She mentioned the union to her boss,
    Who squirmed and recoiled like a vampire from a cross.
    Bargain and negotiate she did that day,
    Surprise, surprise today she is without a pay.

    You are rich Madam that I can see,
    But you haven’t the right to torture me!

    Kaye this really happened , from where I sit things have not changed much some 20 years later.

  31. Freethinker

    diannaart where I said that “EVERY union action is about greed.” ?
    Please let me know.

  32. diannaart


    So why are you in disagreement with me?

    AM going out now to doctor’s if you still wish to pick a fight you’ll just have to wait.


  33. Freethinker

    diannaart, I have no intention to pick up a fight, I just confused by your post December 5, 2017 at 11:12 am.
    Have a pleasant afternoon.


    Matters Not December 4, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    Yes profits are on the increase but wages still lag. And yet we have other economic myths that are also aired – almost on a daily basis. Here’s a few’

    Strange that we agree on something after all.

  35. Kaye Lee

    Great poem Ella.

  36. strobedriver

    This is a great article. Industrial relations have been progressively whittled away and with the ongoing casualisation of the work force, and there are sociological elements that come into play when governments seek to enforce a particular mindset. What tends to happen in societies is major parts of their ‘fabric’ begin to incrementally and then exponentially, break down. Neoconservative policies and the rabid application of them by conservative governments eventuates in people working harder and harder, in order to gain less and less. As this happens neocons tend to also seek to gain what has been lost in the tax pool due to low wages and casualisation of the work force from the poor(er) members of society: Abbott wanting to charge the poor seven dollars per person to access a doctor; and the more recent Birmingham wanting to lower the HECS payback threshold to 42K, are both examples of desperate politics in order to ‘fix’ the ‘debt and deficit disaster.’ Individual-driven hard-line policies also come into play, Howard tried to ‘fix’ Australian society with Workchoices, Thatcher tried to with the Poll Tax, and Trump is now changing US society by offering more to the rich. Neocons and their persistent Industrial Capitalist policies are actually fulfilling the abovementioned quote of one of their most hated political enemies, and in doing so reflect what their policies are truly designed to do: create a working class poor that is wholly dependent on their political masters. When the working class rebels because they can’t take it any more (Brixton riots under Thatcher), the neocons call them ‘ungrateful,’ and then extol the ‘law and order’ mantra to ‘fix’ what they created.

  37. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    My answer as always these days is to presume to view political policies through the prism of Modern Monetary Theory so that the restrictions of lack of funds for fundamental socio-economic advances cannot be dampened.

  38. Matters Not

    JMS re:

    presume to view political policies through the prism of Modern Monetary Theory

    Unfortunately (perhaps) it’s a view that’s not widely shared. But the way reality is constructed changes over time. Once, the vast majority believed that it was all down to a mystical being but now it seems that the consensus (the common sense) has shifted. Nevertheless, the current political common sense does not include MMT.

  39. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    MN re MMT,

    the consensus is wrong obviously.

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