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Policy Consensus-Building: Some Enduring Post-Election Outcomes

Denis Bright invites discussion on the longer-term outcomes of the 2016 federal election after the narrowest victory for the LNP since 1961. The LNP has the capacity to repeat Sir Robert Menzies successes at an early federal election by renewing its domestic policy agenda and tilting to the right in its foreign and anti-terrorist agendas. So what political assets are available to Bill Shorten to prevent a similar LNP resurgence in 2016?

1 The Appeal of Centre-Left Populism

Bill Shorten’s 2016 campaign brought a return to the centre-left populism. The campaign has continued after 2 July with enthusiastic visits by Bill Shorten to reclaimed Labor electorates.

Reclaiming Labor’s heartland particularly in regional areas across Australia is still a work in progress. Even the apparent victory by Labor’s Cathy O’Toole’s in Herbert might invoke a fresh election on the basis of excluded postal votes from army personnel. Bill Shorten could indeed be back on the campaign trail in Townsville in a few weeks.

As in 1961, Bill Shorten’s successful campaign took advantage of the income divide which had been widened by the erosion of Australia’s social wage model. Commitment to full-employment, challenges to industrial awards and curtailment of essential support in health, housing and social welfare are even more strident LNP objectives in 2016.
Many regional voters reserved their judgment by supporting minor parties and the Xenophon Party in South Australia. This hesitation ignored the obvious.

The purchasing power of take-home wages has been eroded by the casualization of employment in a largely non-unionized workforce. Pockets of severe poverty exit in both outer suburban and regional electorates has not kept pace with rising rents and housing costs.

1

SBS Online 19 May 2016 (http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/05/18/wages-growth-slowest-record-abs-data-confirm)

Billion dollar cuts to genuine social security are in the pipeline to deliver a proposed balanced federal budget by 2019-20.

The Federal Government will again crack down on the Disability Support Pension and cut off carbon tax compensation for all new welfare recipients to help fund the $22-billion National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The Government has found $2.1 billion in savings from the welfare budget which it will move into the new NDIS savings fund.

Nearly $1.4 billion will be saved by stopping all new recipients of Government welfare payments from receiving carbon tax compensation which, for a pensioner, was worth up to $14 a fortnight. (ABC News Online 3 May 2016).

Treating disadvantage as a statistical problem has been a hallmark of the Abbott-Turnbull Eras since 2013. In the current budget papers Current budget strategies invite more left-populist responses.

2

Budget Papers 2016 Balancing the Budget Objectives

This centre-left populism can extend to a post-election commitment to a full inquiry into the banking system which can be run as a senate inquiry to test the commitment from minor parties.

2 The Appeal of the Inquiry into the Banking System

The appeal of Bill Shorten’s Royal Commission into anomalies within the banking system will continue to have support from across the political divide.

The terms of reference for a senate inquiry could be broadened to question the failure of the Australian financial system to generate sufficient equity for investment in essential innovation and infrastructure programmes.

Far from offering Australia new investment possibilities through the diversification of our financial system and the expansion of essential investment, the old ideological model of the federal LNP is simply widening multinational control of the Australian economy and hindering the diversification of our financial outreach into the Asia and Pacific Region.

The policy mirage offered by LNP infrastructure projects such as the Inland Railway and the Very Fast Train Project all involve the transfer of public assets to the private sector.

Welcome support for an anti-privatization agenda has come from Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman Rod Sims:

In a blistering attack on decades of common government practice, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said the sale of ports and electricity infrastructure and the opening of vocational education to private companies had caused him and the public to lose faith in privatisation and deregulation.

A better balance between public and private sector infrastructure solutions is more appropriate for Australia as an innovative middle-sized first world economy with a GDP that is around half that of either France or the UK.

The success of the Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC) and the Australian Government’s Future Fund demonstrate the advantage of greater public sector involvement in major financial investment.

3Alternative forms of financing for infrastructure and community development programmes can be taken up by a future senate inquiry into the limitations of the current banking system.

As the world’s twelfth largest global economy, Australia should be in a prime position to become a player in delivering the infrastructure investment at home and abroad in the Asia-Pacific Region.

The possibilities are demonstrated by the latest projections from the McKinsey Global Institute.

Bill Shorten can claim a mandate for a return to centre-left populism in Australian politics which can address our yearning for affordable infrastructure and community services to address the challenges raised in the recent McKinsey Global Institute’s article.

A victory for Hillary Clinton with the support of Bernie Sander’s supporters will be a reminder of the commitment to renewal in global politics as the political pendulum swings back from an over commitment to market globalization. Even the federal LNP will note the signs of the times after over 25 years of experimentation with the market ideology that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Election 2016 showed that the need for change widely resonated across Australia but it is still a challenge in progress.

denis-brightDenis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in developing pragmatic public policies for a contemporary social market that is quite compatible with existing globalization trends.

 

16 comments

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  1. townsvilleblog

    If this composite CLP/L&NP/LNP federal govt moves any further to the right on any policies they will be bumping the fascists off the bench seat, upon which they sit.

  2. Kaye Lee

    Future Fund: “We are Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, responsible for investing for the benefit of future generations of Australians.”

    Total funds managed $133.06 billion
    Future Fund $117.38 billion
    Medical Research Future Fund $3.13 billion
    DisabilityCare Australia Fund $5.18 billion
    Education Investment Fund $3.70 billion
    Building Australia Fund $3.67 billion

    Can anyone explain to me why we are sitting on this nest egg rather than using it?

  3. johnlward010

    Corporations can—and do—get away with buying politicians, changing the outcome of elections and making laws because their legally-protected greater sums of money talk louder than we citizens do.
    Let me give you three examples of how this works:

    Shortly after taking office as governor of Texas, George Bush signed into law the Texas Environmental, Health & Safety Audit Privilege Act which exempts companies from reporting violations of environmental regulations to law enforcement officials or to the public. And if they do choose to report a violation, they cannot be penalized in any way. The same companies who benefited from this law donated $4 million to Bush’s campaign, which is perfectly legal under the First Amendment rights of corporations to “free speech”—you know, the “money talks” entitlement.

    Over the past ten years, some 25 other states have passed similar Audit Privilege laws.
    In 1997, the EPA received an anonymous tip from an employee of Riverdale Mills, a wire-mesh manufacturer located on the Blackstone River near Worcester, Massachusetts. The employee said the mill’s wastewater treatment plant wasn’t working. Agents got a search warrant to investigate and collected evidence that was used by the EPA to indict the company’s owner on two counts of violating the Clean Water Act. However, the judge agreed with the owner’s attorneys and refused to allow the water test results into testimony because the EPA took the samples without informing the owner. The case against the mill was dropped.

    In the early 1990s, Florida Rock Industries applied for a permit to mine limestone from 1,500 acres in the Florida Everglades wetlands. To their credit, the Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit because of the high risks of pollution and destruction of habitat. So the company sued the Army Corps for compensation of future profits;
    the government wound up paying Florida Rock $21 million.

    Today, the charters governing corporations no longer require businesses to benefit the public good; instead, they are required by law to place the wealth and profits of the private shareholders above all other considerations, including local laws and ordinances.

    This legal point is also now—thanks to the United States—enshrined in international law and is the reason why the World Trade Organization consistently rules against the laws and protections of sovereign nations in favor of the rights of corporations to operate independently and above local and civil laws and regulations: So long as they are creating wealth and profits for the shareholders, their practices and operations cannot be impeded in any way.

    Their right to make money takes legal precedence over human rights.
    This right also extends to concepts of ownership that, in effect, turn human beings into indentured servants for corporate profits. In addition to mineral or drilling rights beneath the land you or entire villages thought you owned, corporations now own rights to the seeds that farmers once saved and shared freely, but now have to purchase at exorbitant cost;
    They own rights to entire species of medicinal plants that are integral to indigenous cultures;
    They even, as I mentioned earlier, have begun obtaining legal rights to entire human genetic sequences, including the genetic material of indigenous tribes in remote parts of the world.
    An interesting example of how corporate rights supersede human rights is in the area of free speech.

    Anyone ever hear of non-disparagement agreements?
    These are contracts signed by employees which forbid them from saying mean things about the corporation they work for, and over the past few years, the number of companies using them has doubled.
    Well, this past January, the investment firm Lazard began using a non-disparagement agreement which forbid not only the employee from disparaging the company, but also the employee’s spouse, domestic partner, parents, and any of their lineal descendants.

    And yes, it’s entirely legal under our corporate personhood laws.

  4. wam

    love the 1961 election! In my early 20s labor trounced menzies but 400000 votes got the country party 17 seats and the 400000 votes the catholic dlp took from labor got 0 seats leaving ming with 62 labor 60. but 58 was worse when the dlp sheep of 1955 completed the killing of labor. Today many catholic workers vote conservative but if the catholics in labor push their religion they might get enough back to win????
    I’d like to support the greens as my big sister did(she walked to pedder three times in the 60s) but they don’t have those principles now

  5. jim

    Australian Future Fund ,The back up a back up fund for paying wages and perks for our fat cats PS personal and for the rest of their natural life (so not to be like us plebs). we wouldn’t want them going with out if there’s a recession. Hell no would we that wouldn’t be fair would it ?.

  6. Catherine in Sandgate,Q

    Language is definitely so important in political communication.

    Lots of Australians don’t even enrol to vote and they are mainly from working class backgrounds. Politics is scary and meaningless to them.

    Straight talking is required to get alienated voters onside with an increasingly irrelevant political system,.

    The electorate liked Calwell’s style in 1961 and Bill Shorten in 2016. Thanks for the comparisons Denis.

    So keep the faith Wam. The DLPs and NCCs from another era were part of a grand CIA Cold War Strategy to subvert social democracy and to replace it with the pro-capitalist reformist rhetoric of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.

    Years later there are signs of change in both the USA and here. Bernie Sanders has has placed demands on his Party.

    Change really starts with us. Ignore mainstream current affairs programmes and get more involved in advancing issues that really matter.

  7. Paul

    Great article Denis!

    The ALP did very well at the election. It’s now time to keep building on the momentum.

    What I feel is needed is an objective review of current spending against labour core values and then educate the electorate about the focus for the future.

    Also, for sure we need to look for innovative ways to reduce costs whilst maintaining quality services.

    I’m not for cutting welfare at all but think that additional non financial support is also needed to assist the vulnerable in society. In the end this will lead to better outcomes.

    I’m not against public private partnerships in the correct format.

    I look forward to some great debates in parliament over the next few years.

    Thanks again for the thought provoking article.

  8. totaram

    Kaye Lee: “Can anyone explain to me why we are sitting on this nest egg rather than using it? ”

    A very good question indeed! Some answers are as follows:

    1. A sovereign issuer of its own currency has no need to “save” that currency. While some may consider that statement “controversial”, I will simply point out that not a single other country has done this. Every country that has a sovereign future fund, has saved the income from massive exports of resources and other goods (usually in US dollars).

    2. There is a lot more to be said about the future fund and you can read all about it here:

    The Future Fund scandal: http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=1570.

    3. It provides a nice sinecure for Peter Costello, who needs to add to his meagre income from dodgy “commissions of audit” that come his way once in a while.

    4. It was a good excuse for producing a “budget surplus” which was then trumpeted as the hallmark of “good economic management” by all the organs of the “free” press.
    The facts are a little different. The 3 sectors financial identity will tell you that every time we had a surplus budget, the private sector here went into increasing debt by an even larger amount. This debt was encouraged by the 50% deduction on Capital Gains leading to the housing bubble we have presently. Private sector debt, with impetus from the mining boom, and household debt from the housing bubble, went up from around 30 or 40% of GDP to around 150% of GDP and stands at some of the world’s highest levels. No one talks of it, while everyone continues to bleat about “budget repair” for the govt., whose “debt” is around 40% of GDP. This is actually a “look over there strategy” by the usual culprits.

    A Royal Commission into the banking sector should look into this issue, because this private debt is where the Banks make their money! The only explanation for lending by the Banks at rates far above the RBA’s rate is that they are highly leveraged and must pay more for the funds they borrow to cover their lending.

    Crucially, defaults on these private debts could easily trigger another financial meltdown, which the govt. will have to step in to cover, as they did during the GFC. On the other hand, there is no possibility of default on the govt. debt which is all in the govt.’s own currency.

  9. Lalnama

    Another great article Denis, Labour is priming itself to win the next Federal election. If what we have seen by the Turnbull government over the last 9 months it will be no problem. We have had no governing and bringing Australians together in a progressive way over the last 3 years at least. Australia cannot afford to be so complacent.
    Turnbullmis a huge disappointment to the electorate, let’s hope Labour make them accountable in the forthcoming parliament
    Keep up the interesting articles Denis

  10. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Labor would be advised to incentivise languishing people on Newstart to seek opportunities to form their own micro-businesses based on their innovative concepts, skills, experience, qualifications.

    But this incentivisation will only work if Labor will put money where their mouths are and that money must be substantial and over and above Newstart for a realistic and reasonable period of time.

    If it comes in the form of Micro Finance Grants, I foresee $10,000-$15,000 is an appropriate start for such a grant which would not be repayable.

    If it comes in the form of Micro Credit Loans, I foresee $20,000-$30,000 as an appropriated amount to get the micro business started. The loans would be repayable to the government in affordable installments and low interest rates.

    Micro Finance Grants and Micro Credit Loans are the ways forward to get the growing hundreds of thousands of Australians languishing below the poverty line in miserable unemployment having their human skill wealth wasted. This could also be the re-birth of opportunities for a multi-headed and robust renewable energy sector.

    The benefits to our socio-economic system would be bountiful: happier, healthier, less dependent people AND more home-grown industries with home-grown products that provide even more employment opportunities and enterprise for other Australians.

  11. nurses1968

    Jennifer Meyer-Smith
    Do you not realise the LNP won the election so how is Labor going to do any of what you proscribe, you want to wait 3 to 6 years?
    Get Adam Bandt to move it as a motion in Parliament

  12. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I expect Labor and the Greens to push it as an important part of their policy portfolios in preparation for a joint victory in 2019 or before.

  13. nurses1968

    Jennifer Meyer-Smith
    I just reread the Labor 100 point plan and its not there so I suggest you get onto Adam and the ALLIANCE to get things moving or you can bring it up at your next Labor branch meeting.OH I forgot you are opposed to LIBLAB flipflops so I guess its up to Adam

  14. Brisbanej

    The federal election result in Qld kept the LNP in office. Labour failed to pick up several highly marginal seats. Thanks Denis for your earlier articles on the lead up to the election when Labour did appear to be on a roll in Qld.

  15. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    nurses1968,

    out of respect to other commenters, I’ve decided not to engage with your tit for tat commentary while I maintain my intention to point out any and all of Labor’s shortcomings, if I see fit.

    Sorry, if that offends you.

    You might want to take your own medicine and challenge Labor who you purport to support. Send me a report.

  16. Activists Unite

    Thanks Jennifer. Australia deserves the best policies and you indeed might have the right solutions to our dilemmas. Our LNP government cheers up market globalization but this site is working towards balanced solutions. Noone has the answers here and our news site is about balanced discussion of alternatives. Jennifer, you are part of the solution!

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