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Social Market Solutions: Simplify and Integrate Policy Messages

Denis Bright invites discussion of the importance of linking complex policy issues to the practical concerns of people in a more stridently market economy. The federal LNP has successfully eulogized its policy message in defence of its market ideology throughout the entire post-war period to encourage many constituents to vote against their own self-interest.

In addressing the LNP Party Room, the Prime Minister cloaked support for the Budget (Omnibus) Bill with a new moral authority:

But you know, above all of that, this Parliament faces and we face – our Government faces – a massive moral challenge. It is the task of Budget repair. It’s more than economics. It is more than fiscal matters. It’s not just a technical issue. This is a fundamental moral challenge.

How long are we prepared as a nation, as a generation, to load more and more debt onto the shoulders of our children and grandchildren? How long are we prepared to live beyond our means, to live effectively on the credit card of the generations that come after us? We have a task. We have a task and this Parliament has a task.

Peter Costello could be more specific at the Young Liberals Conference in Canberra on 22 January 2016 about the precise limits of fiscal morality:

“Tax changes will not solve the budget problem,’’ Mr Costello will tell the Young Liberal Annual Conference in Canberra tonight. “The budget problem is that spending close to 26 per cent of GDP is still at the ‘temporary’ and ‘emergency’ level that (Kevin) Rudd introduced in 2008.

“If we could get back to where it was before then (and no one was starving in the street at those levels), the budget would now be in surplus.’’ Spending was 23.1 per cent in 2007-08.

Mr Costello will say balancing the budget will put the government in a stronger position on tax ­reform, warning that while the budget is in deficit there will be a suspicion that tax changes “have more to do with grabbing money than improving incentive and ­efficiency”.

Authoritarian dogmatism with appeal to common sense

Authoritarian dogmatism with appeal to common sense

In this return to comic farce from the musical genre of HMS Pinafore, market ideology now has such moral qualities as defined by the Prime Minister.

The appropriateness of this new political morality is quite easy to dismiss but the LNP’s media communication is sound. Should Labor take the bait, it is likely to lose votes to the cross-benchers at the next election.

Younger people struggle to enter a costly rental and housing market where a median house price of $400 000 would be regarded as an affordable bargain to be paid off over a working lifetime for a place in outer suburbia or a regional centre.

Many potential buyers and rental tenants do not have the finances to enter such precincts. Even rental contracts require substantial cash bonds.

Behind high fences, some caravan parks offer permanent lower cost accommodation as an alternative to the mainstream property market rat race. This type of accommodation offers mixed reviews on the caravan park web sites.

The new outer suburbia-Yandina Caravan Park, near Nambour, Q

The new outer suburbia-Yandina Caravan Park, near Nambour, Q

Sites at other localities with accommodation on-site for young children fetch rental prices $80 per day which is similar to the rental price of modest houses and units.

The challenges of housing, work, care of children and access to public transport cannot be viewed selectively and in isolation from each other. Politics is best communicated through a holistic message.

Constituents are not driven into the arms of the Labor Party by their financial frustrations.

In the electorate of Fairfax where the Yandina Caravan Park is located, the LNP won the nearest polling booth with almost 54% of the vote after preferences at the recent federal elections.

A significant number of voters who were actually enrolled directed preferences from One Nation and Family First to return another federal LNP member in Fairfax as a replacement for Clive Palmer. Officially, One Nation issued a spit-ticket in Fairfax.

Bill Shorten’s political communication in the election campaign succeeded in linking macro-policy initiatives to the erosion of living standards. This is a work in progress as many marginal seats in outer suburban and regional seats in Queensland resisted this approach.

The strength of the federal LNP’s vote in some Labor heartland seats like Hinkler, Capricornia, Dawson and Leichhardt reflected a pragmatic management of pre-polling and absentee votes as well as an emotional appeal to working class voters.

Too much co-operation with the Prime Minister’s commitment to budget austerity in the forthcoming Budget (Omnibus) Bill invites Labor’s co-operation in more attacks on the most disadvantaged sections of the community who turn to benefits like Newstart allowances as the best hope for some escape from real poverty.

Opposition to this legislation is justified by the federal LNP tolerance for high income superannuation perks, tax relief for large companies and high income earners as well as a feather brush approach to systematic tax evasion.

Not quite Rodeo Drive: The US trailer park

Not quite Rodeo Drive: The US trailer park

Excessive consensus building with the Prime Minister simply prolongs his tenure. In the interests of balance, it is fair game in contemporary politics to contrast harbour side mansions with emergent Texan style trailer parks in outer suburban and regional sites across Australia.

All credit to Bill Shorten for giving Centre-Left Populism a rerun in 2016. Sir Robert Menzies showed us the way in his 1942 radio eulogy on behalf of The Forgotten People.

This was a conservative treatise against the excesses of legitimate government planning. It talked up the role of an embattled middle classes at home who were identified in moral terms as the backbone of the nation in war and peace

It is for progressive leaders to redefine the parameters of contemporary political marginalization as discussed in Fairfax electorate as Prime Minister Turnbull tries to establish political consensus on his terms.

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 highly compatible with current trends in contemporary globalization.




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  1. Jaquix

    I wouldnt be even looking at the omnibus thingy, until I saw what their final superannuation policy was – if it leads to lesser savings to the bottom line, then some item/s to the same value would have to be removed from the omnibus. Besides, Coalition still plan to give their business mates company tax breaks so on those grounds alone I would throw out the rest of the omnibus passengers.

  2. Anomander

    “How long are we prepared as a nation, as a generation, to load more and more debt onto the shoulders of our children and grandchildren? How long are we prepared to live beyond our means, to live effectively on the credit card of the generations that come after us? We have a task. We have a task and this Parliament has a task.”

    Why is it previous generations never asked this question when they were building our nation? During the years around WW2, our government debt was well in excess of 100% of GDP, even spiking at over 120% in 1946. Surely all the successive generations that followed were forced to pay for that expenditure – indeed most of them did so willingly, benefiting from the infrastructure and security provided by those times. All now conveniently ignored by this government of neoliberal ideologues.

    The far bigger question we should be asking is how long are we prepared as a nation to bequeath a legacy of environmental destruction to future generations? How much liability will we face remediating all the toxic holes in the ground – because as sure as hell the costs will not fall upon the miners who dug those holes, extracted our resources, made their profits and then folded-up their businesses before paying the rectification cost.

    How long will we all stand idle while our world rapidly heats-up, our oceans rise and acidify, our coral reefs bleach and die, our air become polluted, our water befouled and thousands of species face a dire future?

    Surely, it is incumbent upon us, as temporary custodians of this planet, to leave our children with a comparable, if not brighter future than the one we inherited?

    Instead, the conservatives seem happy to consume everything and leave future generations with a dystopian nightmare.

  3. guest

    It is interesting to see how debt/deficit has been survived in the past. And how there have been higher levels of unemployment in the past.

    But the way politicians talk about those matters has not changed. Debt, according to them, must be paid for by taking from some and giving to others in some kind of austerity program. Unemployed must be beaten with a stick until they get a job even when jobs are scarce.

    AIMN has been telling us, through people like Trish Cory and others, about alternative approaches through Modern Monetary Theory and the work of Bill Mitchell and others.

    It seems that the MMT ideas are worth wide circulation so that people generally can see that the neo-con way is not the only way, or best way, to manage an economy.

    Good work from AIMN in its educational role of awareness raising..

  4. win

    Economic issues are only a moral matter when there is unjustified inequality , which would be worsened by this grab-bag of well heeled ideologues and their disgraceful policies. On the other hand, climate change is increasingly THE moral issue of the century, as there are problems worse than money debt waiting round the corner for the whole planet.

  5. Pauline Westwood

    What I find worrying is that governments are not being candid with the people. If debt and deficit were really the problem, they should tackle perks to high income earners. Those at the bottom of the income range are the ones who spend all their money, paying tax on everything they spend. Given the lack of spending on public schools and hospitals, which is reaching crisis point in some capitals, notably Sydney, why are we still bringing in nearly 200,000 permanent migrants a year and about 350,000 temporary entrants? Especially when unemployment levels are quite high and there is a shortage of entry level positions. Why are we signing so called free trade agreements which allow unlimited numbers of foreign workers into the country without the need for labour market testing? Why is any mention of population stress greeted with howls of “racism?” And why, having fiercely denied Mediscare, did this government in April this year, refer the Productivity Commission to look into introducing competition into all human services, including health and education at a time when Australians are being cheated by existing private service providers such as employment agencies, banks, financial advisers, insurance companies and VET providers? Of course, introducing competition is code for privatisation. Do we want to see Centrelink, hospitals, schools, public transport, postal services, prisons, etc. all being run for profit, proceeds likely going offshore? At the same time, why has this government signed the Trans Pacific Partnership and other agreements which include Investor-State Dispute Settlement clauses, which allow only foreign corporations to sue any level of Australian government for any law or policy which may have an impact on their profits, such as raising the minimum wage, or trying to protect the environment? These cases can involve billions of dollars, and governments cannot appeal decisions.

  6. Theresa

    Caravan parks should be for holidays! Sad when our LNP leaders gloat over the prospect of a more unequal Australia. In the name of meritocracy.

  7. Catherine

    Unplanned globalization has wedged our national consensus since the floating of the US dollar as the new Green Gold by President Nixon in 1971.
    Some earlier LNP leaders like John Gorton supported the social market ideal.

  8. townsvilleblog

    Jaquix, very wise, the tories could pull any stunt at anytime. A slim majority voted against the ALP policy on savings, so it would be undemocratic to adopt them without other policy platforms.

  9. Paul

    Thanks for the article Denis.

    Some really interesting points. There is certainly an opportunity for some savings in the budget but I don’t think the government is looking in the right places. The same vulnerable sections of society are the easy target but in the end this end up costing us a lot more financially and culturally.

    It’s time to think outside the square – look abroad and who is getting right? Take on their learnings.

    I look forward to see some innovation in budget management soon!

  10. Rubio@Coast

    This article seeks an alternative to the old scatter-gun approach to Labor politics. Bill Shorten successfully developed this approach in 2016 and it worked well in heartland electorates of Western Sydney. In Robertson around Gosford, the LNP survived the swing with the support of two minor far right parties that had no chance of success. In an electorate won on a margin of 2,000 votes after preferences, a put the coalition last strategy is so important to avoid such political accidents in marginal electorates like Robertson.

  11. Changing Labor Through Membership

    It is fashionable to have a punt on minor political parties which have no change of forming government. Let’s work for change within Labor and the wider trade union movement. The first step is to become an active member.

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