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The next election is our chance for a people’s revolution

Last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) produced a paper titled Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality : A Global Perspective.

They found that “increasing the income share of the poor and the middle class actually increases growth while a rising income share of the top 20 percent results in lower growth—that is, when the rich get richer, benefits do not trickle down.”

They identified weakening protection for labour as one of the common drivers of inequality and suggested that policy “should focus on raising the income share of the poor, and ensuring there is no hollowing out of the middle class. To tackle inequality policies should focus on raising human capital and skills and making tax systems more progressive.”

Whilst I hasten to add that this was not modelling based on the Coalition’s policies, it could well have been – and its findings show the Coalition is going in completely the wrong direction.

About the only thing we know for sure is that the Coalition is going to attack unions in this election, further undermining labour protection and negotiations. In 2012-13, the estimated economic cost of work related injury and illness was $61.8 billion, representing 4.1 per cent of GDP for the same period. With stagnant wages, rising unemployment, and almost 200 workplace fatalities each year, now is not the time to give up our collective voice.

Far from raising the income share of the poor, we have seen repeated attacks on welfare, penalty rates, workplace entitlements, and universal healthcare.

Rather than raising human capital and skills, we have seen billions stripped from education, moves to privatise vocational training and to deregulate university fees. They would prefer foreign students who pay exorbitant fees and foreign workers who you don’t have to train or care for.

Every attempt to make the tax system more progressive has been ruled out as the Coalition strive to protect wealthy investors, entrepreneurs, speculators and big business, despite the ‘trickle down effect’ being proven a fantasy. Making the rich richer only helps the rich.

One of the most important causes of the French Revolution was inequality.

“The fundamental issue of poverty was aggravated by social inequality as all peasants were liable to pay taxes, from which the nobility could claim immunity, and feudal dues payable to a local seigneur or lord. Similarly, the destination of tithes which the peasants were obliged to pay to their local churches was a cause of grievance as it was known that the majority of parish priests were poor and the contribution was being paid to an aristocratic, and usually absentee, abbot. The clergy numbered about 100,000 and yet they owned ten percent of the land. It maintained a rigid hierarchy as abbots and bishops were all members of the nobility and canons were all members of wealthy bourgeois families. As an institution, the Church was both rich and powerful. As with the nobility, it paid no taxes and merely contributed a grant to the state every five years, the amount of which was self-determined. The upper echelons of the clergy had considerable influence over government policy.”

Other contributing factors were a growing debt due to profligate spending on wars and the deregulation of the grain market, advocated by liberal economists, which resulted in an increase in bread prices and food scarcity when the harvest was bad.

Very little has changed in the last 220 years other than replacing the aristocracy by the corporatocracy ably abetted by the political class.

Churches are still exempt from tax, many still engage in tithing, big money is still going missing with George Pell, the man tasked with finding it, saying “who knows who was involved.” Big business seems immune from taxation, the poor are still paying high rents to landlords, wealth and property is still concentrated in the hands of a few, and church and business still dictate policy. And the neocons are still pushing their free trade and market ideologies.

It is not IS or asylum seekers who threaten our society, it’s not unions or climate scientists, it’s not people on unemployment benefits or disability and age pensions, it’s not gays or single parents or the Aboriginal children we persist in locking up.

It is those whose greed has blinded them to the inevitable consequences of their actions. Those who are happy to sacrifice the planet while they wring the last cent of profit they can out of pillaging our home. Those who are more concerned for people buying their second, third and fourth properties than for those who are homeless or trying to buy their first home. Those who listen to business and Christian lobbyists but refuse to work with unions or Indigenous groups. Those who look after their own, creating high paying jobs for people who have failed at their current job but must be bought off. Those who claim every cent they possibly can, contriving photo ops to justify claiming money to attend private functions while railing endlessly at “welfare cheats” and “double dippers”. Those who strip hundreds of billions from health and education to spend on wars and to give to foreign armaments manufacturers. It is those who sell our assets for quick gain on a balance sheet ignoring the loss of our common wealth and the cost to future generations.

Howard dug the grave. Abbott and Turnbull are putting the nails in the coffin lid. They present the greatest current danger to Australia and we will soon see if the people are smart enough to see through their lies and strong enough to stand up to them.

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34 comments

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  1. Norm.

    Couldn,t agree more, we need a plausible intelligible economic blueprint brave but not fullhardy which nails the neocons for what they are. A bunch of sloganeering ne,er do wells who apart from Mal have never had a real job. Howard should be in jail for Iraq,Costello for wasting the proceeds of the mining boom, Abbot for gaining Government by deceit and Hockey and Morrison for incompetence.

    nhmcck

  2. Anthony Element

    That this article is correct should be the most obvious thing in the world.
    Simple example. A billionaire can only wear out a couple of pairs of pants a year no matter how wealthy he/she is.
    But redistribute, say ten million dollars of his/her income among a thousand people and you now have a couple of thousand extra pairs of pants being bought a year.
    That’s well on the way to a pants factory which creates jobs for some more people who will now be able to buy a couple of pairs of pants a year.
    Now multiply that by all the clothes, food and other consumable and we have thousand of jobs being created, merely by addressing inequality.
    Really? Does it really require research by the IMF, whose policies, btw, for decades contributed to massive inequality in developing nations, (Read ”
    Confessions of an Economic Hitman” if you don’t believe me), for us to get the bleeding obvious?

  3. Kaye Lee

    John Howard said a few days ago that our problem is that supply is sluggish. He was one of the worst Treasurers we ever had and he is still trying to dish out his advice.

    Psssst, John….there is no point in increasing supply unless there is demand and there won’t be any increase in demand if you keep suggesting we cut low income earners’ disposable income.

  4. jeffrey

    Tony blair was interrogated.
    murdoch was dragged through the court in the newsoftheworld saga.

    Australian’s are still far too complacent and far too gullible.

    This is where Trump maybe good for all us. If he does upset the status quo, if he does even advertently, expose the US fed reserve and their intent, then it may stimulate an awakening of the masses here.

    Advanced robotics will mean there will be a reduction in the costs of labour. Therefore an overwhelming number of citizens will be competing for the available employment or be permanantly redundant.

    Therefore there is a requirement for less citizens.

  5. brickbob

    Very well written informative article,and as far as the revolution part goes,mmm” this is Australia after all,i think most Australians idea of a revolution is sneaking a sickie every now and then.””

  6. z2610 (@zhen2610)

    Far from raising the income share of the poor, we have seen repeated attacks on welfare, penalty rates, workplace entitlements, and universal healthcare.

    Rather than raising human capital and skills, we have seen billions stripped from education, moves to privatise vocational training and to deregulate university fees. They would prefer foreign students who pay exorbitant fees and foreign workers who you don’t have to train or care for.

    Every attempt to make the tax system more progressive has been ruled out as the Coalition strive to protect wealthy investors, entrepreneurs, speculators and big business, despite the ‘trickle down effect’ being proven a fantasy. Making the rich richer only helps the rich.

  7. Kaye Lee

    “i think most Australians idea of a revolution is sneaking a sickie every now and then.”

    Luckily, previous generations fought the revolution for us to have paid sick leave. From 1935 to the 1970’s, paid sick leave and annual leave were gradually introduced into federal awards until 10 days sick leave and 4 weeks annual leave became standard.

  8. mark

    you’re a delight kaye lee,I wish australia had more like you.mark

  9. Wally

    Great article Kaye if ever we needed a massive wage rise across the board now is the time. Please note I specifically said wage not salary.

    Every worker needs to look at the side of politics that butters their bread and make their vote count at the next election. Then to ensure the LNP rabble are pushed aside for a very long time join a union and male your voice heard, increased income for low and middle income workers is the only way to increase prosperity for everyone.

    Some might say increased wages will cause inflation and/or increase interest rates and they are probably correct but life was much better in the 1980’s when we had all that than what it is today. And even if our currency devalues and our buying power is reduced who cares, maybe we will start value adding instead of exporting raw minerals, just think how much employment could be created.

    Except for a full blown depression no economic climate could be worse than what we are suffering nowadays.

  10. Kaye Lee

    Mark, I am fighting for my children. I have had a good life. They deserve the opportunity of the same. We also all deserve the truth. I wonder to myself about people like Scott Morrison who admitted that his lying was just “politics”. How dare he jeopardise my children’s future for his personal ambition. He is the same man who suggested they should exploit the community’s xenophobia for political purposes. This man should not be in control of the nation’s finances. Even his appointment was “political” – assauge a possible opponent. It’s all a game for them. Look at what Julia Gillard achieved – it was for the betterment of the country. Look at what Abbott and Turnbull have tried to do – it’s all for rich mates, big business, and to fit a populist slogan. It makes me soooooooo angry. Don’t lie to me and especially don’t mess with my kid’s future. They deserve a good, affordable education. They deserve to have the opportunity to one day buy a home. They deserve the benefits of universal healthcare. They deserve help when times are tough. Every generation in this country has been better off than their parents. Let’s keep it that way rather than turning them into serfs on a dying planet.

  11. Miriam English

    Well said Kaye, as usual.

    Small typo, I think, at the end of the second-last paragraph “It is those sell our assets for quick gain…” Omitted “who”?

    Economic consensus on this is gradually increasing. I think governments are generally run by advisors, and as they start to move away from old Thatcher/Reagan models toward an understanding of how the world really works, we should gradually see these changes anyway. Even if the current bunch of dinosaurs never see beyond their bribes, future ones will. (Well, I hope so anyway.) 🙂

  12. Matters Not

    Small typo, I think, at the end of …

    Yep and then there’s this:

    1935 to the 1970’s,

    Clearly the world will end in the ‘morrow’ because KL is ‘fallible’.

    Or is it the case that she has been mentally corrupted by too much ‘reading’ of the use of an apostrophe whenever an ‘s’ appears at the ending of a word?

    Nevertheless, I know my sleep tonight will be troubled as I ponder the possibilities.

    Or maybe that should be possibilitie’s or perhaps possibilities’ or simply left alone as possibilities?

    Shit these metaphysical questions are a problem.

  13. Denisio Fabuloso

    Good luck with the waking up bit. We have a fundamentally ignorant population… seemingly addicted to voting against their own interests on a consistent basis. Not as dumb as Amerikans… but working on it.

  14. jeffrey

    Presidents and prime minsters are only puppets, and they have been for decades.

    The policies are decided and enacted beyond any immediately recognised figure.

  15. Matters Not

    I can now s’leep in peace.

    S’igned Matters’ Not or should that be Matter’s Not?

    S’o confus’ing. Or s’hould that be ..

    Jus’t jokin …

  16. Michael Taylor

    Indeed, Jeffrey. I’ve always thought that there are governments within the governments. If you know what I mean.

  17. jeffrey

    As far as storage of nuclear waste?
    Wait until you see what you have really agreed to.

  18. Kaye Lee

    Kris,

    If I was allowed to do it from home in my jammies I would consider it. Flying around having my photo taken or interjecting and sneering and pointing is not my style.

  19. Kaye Lee

    Reading reports has never been the Coalition’s forte…..

    “And then his treasurer Scott Morrison latched on to a “credible report” that said Labor’s policy would have “a significant impact on property values”.

    He latched on too quickly. The report, by BIS Shrapnel, said no such thing. Prices would continue to rise in all but two of the next 10 years under the scenario it modelled, just as they would if negative gearing was maintained. After a decade, they would have climbed 15 per cent. That’s less than with full negative gearing, but its still an increase.

    The report explained that house prices are typically “sticky in a downwards direction,” unable to fall lower than the cost of construction plus a markup. When new attempts at negative gearing were temporarily suspended between 1985 and 1987 real estate prices continued to climb.

    While new investors would be less keen to buy if Labor’s policy stopped them negatively gearing, existing investors would be also less keen to sell, because they could only continue to negative gear if they hung on to the properties they had. Prices wouldn’t be smashed.
    It’s all there in the report Morrison lauded as credible (because it said rents would rise), but appeared not to properly read.

    Certainly his eyes appeared to glaze over the howling error on page one. The report said Australia’s national income would average $190 billion over the next ten years when it meant $1.9 trillion.

    And they appeared not to be troubled by its suggestion that a measure that raised around $2 billion per year would shrink the economy by $19 billion per year. That’s $9 of economic damage for every $1 collected, a sum so big as to be way out of the ballpark of anything his department has ever modelled.”

    http://www.smh.com.au/comment/negative-gearing-confused-by-the-economic-modelling-thats-the-whole-idea-20160303-gnab18#ixzz4245iCIWn

  20. Mercurial

    Ah, the Church: rich and powerful one day, rich and powerful the next.

  21. Mercurial

    Thanks Kaye. Why aren’t Peter Martin’s views more widely respected? I know, because they don’t suit the tin foil hat brigade.

    Evidence? Schmevidence!

  22. Mercurial

    An irony occurred to me in your second last para, Kaye. Conservatives loathe foreign aid, saying we should look after our own before spending money on others.

    But when you put it to them that we have the opportunity to do just that, and make income more equitable in our own country, they run a mile!

  23. Kaye Lee

    Conservatives are a continual paradox to me Mercurial. We want to be innovative so we gut the NBN and the CSIRO. We want to be the smart country so we cut education funding and make university unaffordable. We are worried about increased health costs so we cut preventative health initiatives and primary health care. We want to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage so we cut over $500 million from their funding. We want to increase jobs available for Australians so we increase the intake of 457 visa workers. We want our tax system to be fairer so we quarantine tax concessions for the wealthy. We want to curb the refugee tide so we cut foreign aid and start bombing other countries. We want to help farmers cope with drought so we increase our GHG emissions. We are worried about retirement income so we freeze the superannuation guarantee. I could go on and on and on. Nothing they do makes any sense to me. They don’t seem to have a goal let alone a plan on how to achieve it.

  24. Miriam English

    As far I can see, it all seems to be about appearance and short-term reaction.

    They are mad-keen on patriotism (or the appearance of it), but sell out our country to giant corporations by signing secretive, one-sided, “free trade” contracts like the TPP. They are supposedly all for democracy, but won’t bow to the will of the majority on marriage equality — not even allowing a free vote among those in their own party. Business is supposedly important to them, but they’ll wreck the tourism industry’s long-term earnings for maybe a year or two of coal.

    Surely some of them must have the presence of mind to see some of this. Surely…

  25. Michael Taylor

    Sending Bernardi out of the country for three months tells me that an election won’t be called anytime soon. I can’t see Turnbull calling an election with one of his ‘stars’ is not here to campaign.

    Or it could be the reverse. Maybe he wants him out of the country during a campaign. Howard used to keep Hockey locked up during a campaign. While he was locked away he couldn’t say anything stupid that might have hurt their chances.

  26. Kaye Lee

    Michael,

    Bernardi’s appointment doesn’t begin until September. Nickky Savva said today she would bet the election will be held on July 2nd.

  27. Michael Taylor

    Thanks Kaye. There goes my theory.

  28. Gerry

    Yes Anthony it is a great irony that The International Misery Fund promoted all the policies that exacerbated inequality. The World Bank followed suit and so did we. Silly us. (Don’t mention Greece where there seems a serious disjuncture between the IMFs supposed worries about inequality and its actual policy). But there is no denying the slow creeping spread of new political economy. Revolution in Australia? …. no chance.

  29. lawrencewinder

    Great, a succinct analysis… when do we “March on Canberra?”

  30. Andrew.

    No election will be a people’s revolution. Who would give it to us? Even if there was a party that would turn this around (who are you suggesting would?), a people’s revolution is not representative.

  31. Miriam English

    The government’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties is accepting submissions on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Submissions close on 11th March, so we need to act now. We can stop this. We need to make a big noise NOW.

    Please write a submission at http://action.sumofus.org/a/tpp-submissions/
    Don’t forget to add your name and address.

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