Have you picked up on the government’s latest three word slogan, “paid with savings” yet? Each new initiative announced recently, where money is involved, comes with the new mantra “paid with savings.”
The government has got the ever vexing question from the media covered. “How are you going to pay for it?” they ask. “Paid with savings,” they answer. How cute.
Meanwhile, we read that Labor, via Jenny Maklin, will release its review, “Six Pillars of Social Policy” early in the new year. Maklin, an economist and Opposition spokeswoman for families and disability payments reform, has said that central to Labor’s social policy framework will be employment. What? Surely not!
She also revealed that in framing social policy she had spoken with Nobel Laureate, Joseph Stiglitz who, it would seem, has convinced her that inequality is bad for growth. Did she need convincing?
The six pillars revolve around Early Childcare, Education, Employment, Work and Family Life, Active Ageing and Community Cohesion.
Macklin told Guardian Australia the review, which will be released before parliament sits next year, would place employment at the centre of social policy framework.
To say that this is a refreshing approach and long overdue would be putting it mildly. Any economist, not hamstrung by sectional interests, would tell us full employment is the key to a growth economy.
A successful economy must include everyone, fairly and inclusively, not submit to sectional interests, or rewarding friends to the exclusion of the broader community and it staggers me that it should even be necessary to say this.
One can only wonder what drainpipe has our nation been flushed down that we need to have a new social policy framework that includes full employment explained to us? But the fact is, we do need it explained.
The present government does not care about employment beyond lip service and a large body of corporate advice comes to them upholding this view.
They uphold this crazy piece of wizardry called the NAIRU. It stands for the Non Accelerating Inflationary Rate of Unemployment. Without sending you to sleep with the boring detail, it means simply that there is a rate of unemployment we must not fall below, for fear of inflation taking hold of the economy.
It means, there must always be a pool of unemployed to protect the super wealthy from a decline in their living standards. And, believe it or not, western styled governments everywhere accept this rubbish.
Jenny Maklin’s six pillars of social policy would appear to see it differently. Let us hope so. But the real barrier to convincing a greedy, self-centred, wealth oriented nation that this could work, will be that haunting and much feared question that has a tendency to kill off any Labor initiative: how are you going to pay for it?
Maklin says, since Labor lost government she has consulted over 100 experts in their field on the changes necessary to address today’s family and work life. The present, outdated formula dates back to the 1950s, when the existing social policy legislation was framed.
“Some people just see these things as a cost,” she says of the NDIS (the National Disability Insurance Scheme) which she introduced in the dying days of the Labor government. Yes, they do. So how does she propose changing the nation’s mindset to one of recognising that social policy is an investment?
And more importantly, how does Labor plan to demonstrate that social protection and social investment can be used in the same sentence? One can just see the Coalition salivating at the thought of fighting an election on the issue of a social investment.
“More welfare,” will be the cry. “Labor will bankrupt the nation,” they will scream in panic. It’s all too familiar. The idiot majority out there fell for it once, doubtless they will fall for it again.
A platform dedicated to full employment that embraces targeted educational skills and is a companion to dedicated childcare, health and family needs, is a no-brainer, so what’s the problem?
The problem will be explaining it in words of one syllable sufficiently simple to rise above the negativity that the Turnbull government will thrust at it, a negativity the Australian public finds so easy to digest.
I just hope Labor have taken that minor piece of detail into consideration. And I hope they can explain how they plan to pay for it without exposing themselves to ridicule.
Somehow I don’t think ‘paying with savings’ is going to cut it.