“The recovery means nothing for the more than two million workers who are still looking for a job or for more hours, this government is leaving millions of people behind,” said Michele O’Neil, the ACTU’s president.
“We have heard a lot about economic recovery, but for many Australians this is still completely out of reach,” O’Neil added.
The ACTU’s general assessments are shared by Labor MP Brendan O’Connor, the shadow minister for employment.
“It’s really important now, at a time when many Australians are finding it very difficult to find work or to find enough work, that we see opportunities in the labour market, and there’s been some modest signs of that.
“But there’s still a very long way to go,” he added.
The hurdles which the government has yet to clear consist mainly of the unemployment rate and a state of wage growth having been stagnant under seven years of consecutive LNP governments.
“There’s over 15 percent of Australians that are either looking for more work, or looking for any work and not being able to find it. And that needs to be therefore the goal of the government to look after those workers who are underemployed, unemployed, and also deal with the persistent low wage growth,” O’Connor said.
“We have people even when they are employed are finding it difficult to make ends meet, because of the very, very low wage growth,” he added.
And the solutions to those issues are not simple ones, either, according to O’Connor – especially when the Morrison government continues to stand by its failed and doomed initiatives with blind faith.
“What we’ve seen from this government is it’s very happy to help some, but not help everyone,” O’Connor said.
For example, the JobMaker initiative announced by the government last year was to help people recover after the end of JobKeeper. However, no worker over the age of 35 will be provided any support in looking for work, now or indeed when JobKeeper ends” at the end of March, O’Connor added.
Both O’Connor and O’Neil share the similar view that one stopgap for the economy lies within the JobKeeper and JobSeeker subsidies: extend them beyond their current planned March 31 expiry dates.
“For those hundreds of thousands of Australians that are reliant on JobKeeper, for those thousands and thousands of businesses that are reliant on JobKeeper, they have only ten more weeks before that support ends,” O’Connor said.
“And so it’s Labor’s view, and others for that matter, that there may well be many Australians that will find themselves unemployed at the end of JobKeeper, and we advise the government to properly consider extending JobKeeper for those sectors of the economy that have still been very hard hit as a result of this pandemic,” he added.
“Many sectors still badly affected by the pandemic, such as tourism, aviation and universities, are being left struggling and without support,” said O’Neil.
Further to these points, O’Neil says that the current government lacks vision to fix the economic problems brought on by the multiple crises of the global COVID-19 pandemic and a resulting once-in-a-generation national recession that Australia still finds itself in the grips of, despite recent modest gains.
“A genuine recovery from the pandemic and the associated recession requires sector support, job creation and wage growth.
“It is more important than ever for the government to look after working people, not set them back by cutting JobSeeker payments and ending JobKeeper,” added O’Neil.
“The federal government needs to do more,” O’Connor concurred.
Employment minister Michaelia Cash, whose shortcomings to adapt JobActive since February have been exposed (Photo from abc.net.au)
O’Connor also points out a significant statistical shift in existing employment advocacy programs which the government and its employment minister Michaelia Cash has failed to address in adapting its programs to the changes within rising unemployment numbers and the jobs culture as a whole.
O’Connor singled out the JobActive program, citing that it has doubled in size – from 700,000 users to 1.4 million – since February and pre-pandemic times.
“There’s been no proper examination of the effectiveness and efficacy of the Jobactive program. That needs to be attended to and examined by the government,” O’Connor said.
“But what that really says is there are many, many Australians whilst they are employed, they’re not employed with sufficient hours so they are still engaged with employment services seeking to find new work, more work, so that they can make ends meet,” he added.
O’Neil and the ACTU, meanwhile, point out that the dichotomy of the Morrison government languishing in a still-struggling economy amid cutting the JobKeeper and JobSeeker subsidies and pushing its proposed industrial relations reform legislation possesses counter-productive effects towards backing its ultimate claims that the economy is recovering.
“The Morrison government’s plans to cut income support and introduce industrial relations legislation which cuts workers’ pay and conditions will worsen unemployment, increase insecure work and further drive down wage growth,” O’Neil warned.
Unemployment numbers were reported to have improved on Thursday while federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg claimed that Australia’s economy was rebounding – but the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) sent out a message of its own: increase wages and help the insecure workforce, and the nation can be guided out of recession.
As the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) was reporting two divergent numbers relating to the nation’s employment figures – unemployment had improved by 0.2 per cent to 6.8 per cent for the month of November, but also noted that underemployment figures had improved by 1.0 per cent to 9.4 per cent – Michele O’Neil, the ACTU’s president, insisted that wage growth was the best way to ensure a faster and stronger economic recovery.
And as O’Neil’s comments come in the wake of Thursday’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) presentation update by Frydenberg and Simon Birmingham, the government’s minister for finance, she pointed out that the government’s update lends very little hope for those who had sacrificed close to a year of their working lives in 2020.
“The government had an opportunity to show that they do really care about the future of so many unemployed and underemployed Australians, but failed to deliver that today,” said O’Neil.
“We must not forget that 2.2 million Australians will be facing the end of the year with no job or not enough hours, and the government’s mid-year economic statement does not deal with this fundamental issue,” she added.
The ACTU also advised that the nation’s under-employment figures come with a caveat: while it is encouraging that people are returning to work, the government, as well as the ABS, defines anyone who works as little as an hour per week as being employed.
It also said that any current signs of recovery out of a once-in-a-generation recession possess a shaky foundation – of that recovery being quite fragile, warning that the jobless rate could possibly return to COVID-level rates without the proper vision and leadership to create jobs and increase wages.
“They had an opportunity today to redirect unspent JobKeeper to reverse the cut in payments coming at Christmas and to fund programs that would deliver decent secure jobs that help rebuild our economy, but have shirked that responsibility,” said O’Neil.
“Further, there is no plan to lift wages which have now seen eight years of low growth including the lowest on record – and we know that unless workers have confidence to spend the economy will suffer. Instead, the Morrison government has introduced industrial relations legislation which will cut workers take-home pay,” O’Neil added.
Meanwhile, both Frydenberg and Birmingham used the occasion of the MYEFO to thump the collective chest of the Morrison government, claiming that economic recovery is underway.
“The updated numbers are encouraging and better than what was expected at budget just ten weeks ago,” the Treasurer added.
“This Budget update tells a story of resilience, of recovery and of Australians getting back to work. Stronger business and consumer confidence means more Australians are in jobs [and] there are fewer demands on government programs and stronger than expected revenue,” said Birmingham, who has forecast that the budget deficit is expected to be $24 billion less than previously anticipated.
“These forecasts, along with the other economic forecasts, stand Australia in incredibly good stead, relative to many other comparable nations. In summary, Australia’s economic and fiscal strength enabled us to enter the COVID-19 crisis with resilience,” added Birmingham.
O’Neil also put the government’s figures – which also included a line from Frydenberg saying it could take up to four years to return the unemployment rate to pre-pandemic levels – in a perspective, that revenue numbers over deficits wouldn’t be possible without tax-related incentives to businesses.
And she feels that a long-term plan for growing the economy, raising wages for all workers, and jobs-based growth has been lost in the government’s feel-good messages.
“The government has chosen the ‘low road’ recovery, with un-tied tax cuts to big business, and failed to deliver a nation-building approach to job growth,” O’Neil said.
Previously, the ACTU had called for the Morrison government to adopt and implement its National Economic Recovery Plan (NERP), a jobs-based economic recovery blueprint geared towards getting Australia out of recession, on several occasions since unveiling it in July.
Areas such as creating more secure jobs, extending childcare and early learning free of charge, investing in job-training facilities and programs, such as the TAFE system, investing in the nation’s university system, and placing a focus on jobs and investment in the manufacturing sector, were among the items on that blueprint.
But as wage growth has stagnated under successive LNP governments since 2013, the view of O’Neil and the ACTU which holds that area as the most critical means of pushing economic recovery is shared by Brendan O’Connor, Labor’s shadow minister for employment and industry.
Shadow employment minister Brendan O’Connor, spruiking direct action to combat a jobs crisis (Photo from TWU Vic/Tas)
“If the economy was as strong as the Treasurer claims, there wouldn’t still be a million Australians stuck in the jobless queues, 1.4 million workers underemployed and more left out and left behind in this recovery,” O’Connor said earlier in the week.
“While too many Australians and communities are hurting, the Liberals and Nationals are reverting to form and using the pandemic as an excuse to cut workers’ pay, cut super and strip protections from borrowers,” added O’Connor, who earlier in the month announced on behalf of the ALP what it calls a Pandemic Recovery Jobs and Industry Taskforce.
As the ALP’s initiative could be viewed as a complement to the ACTU’s NERP blueprint, O’Connor says it runs counter to what the Morrison government has been alleged to be doing in the heart of a jobs and economic crisis – leaving people to go at it in a survival-of-the-fittest regimen.
“The Taskforce will travel around the country – particularly to outer-metropolitan, regional and rural areas – to hear from employees, employers, unions, industry bodies, academics and experts about what is needed to best respond to the Morrison recession,” O’Connor said.
With ever-growing concerns among those in Australia’s union movement over rising levels of casual work and under-employment, a Senate inquiry on insecure work will take place in 2021, shadow industrial relations minister Tony Burke announced on Friday.
This inquiry has been announced days after industrial relations reforms measures in the way of proposed legislation announced by the Morrison government and Attorney-General Christian Porter, Burke’s counterpart in industrial reforms matters, was seen by Labor to offer precious little if anything in the way of easing the levels of insecure work.
And as the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has come out to assail the proposed “WorkChoices 2.0” legislation as resulting the cutting of workers’ pay and conditions in addition to avoiding scrutiny of insecure work issues, Burke says that Labor shares the ACTU’s concerns about putting more people into more permanent working positions.
“Some Australians like the flexibility of casual or gig work. But Labor wants to see more people in secure work, with good reliable pay and the highest of safety standards,” he said in announcing the inquiry.
“Insecure work is the pandemic that will stay with us – long after the COVID-19 threat has passed,” added Tony Sheldon, the Senator from New South Wales and former national secretary of the Transport Workers Union who will be chairing the inquiry.
Sheldon hinted that those working in the gig economy – from food delivery drivers and riders, and those operating ride-share services, to any form of temporary contract workers, freelancers, consultants and independent contractors and professionals – would be examined towards reaching more permanent employment solutions for their sectors as well as that of the entire workforce.
The recent deaths of five food delivery riders in Sydney’s CBD since the end of September has also hastened the need to bring the issues of gig economy jobs within the spheres of insecure work as a whole into focus alongside the need to regulate the nature of that type of work, said Sheldon.
“It is not acceptable that an underclass of work has been spawned where workers are denied the basic rights and minimum protections all Australians deserve,” said Sheldon.
In October, in Victoria, the Victorian Council on Social Services (VCOSS) drew links – centred around the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic – between those whose employment was defined as being of an insecure nature and workers’ declining states of health and well-being.
“… our industrial relations framework has not kept pace with changes to the labour market, and neither has government policy,” the report stated at its outset.
Specific to those in the gig economy, the VCOSS report stated: “A safe workforce is a healthy workforce. COVID-19 has highlighted the heightened financial vulnerability of workers in the care sector, a lack of coordination and consistency in training, entitlements and protections, and the fragility of support systems in maintaining consistent, quality care
“Workers engaged in the gig economy, who work across multiple platforms or a mixture of platform and more traditional employment types, have no access, or limited access to sick leave and other entitlements. Wages vary across platforms, and time and travel costs between shifts are not compensated. Health, safety and workers compensation arrangements depend on a worker’s employment status.”
Shadow industrial relations minister Tony Burke, who announced the inquiry (Photo from abc.net.au)
Burke said the inquiry is set to commence under Sheldon’s chairmanship when Parliament returns from its summer break in February, and its investigations stemming from it could take up a majority of the year ahead of a final reporting date of November 2021.
Those investigations may include personal security areas such as in income and housing, as well as dignity in retirement, affecting roughly four million Australians lacking the benefits and entitlements tied to permanent employment.
“If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything it’s that insecure work is not just a threat to the wellbeing of individuals – it’s a threat to the wellbeing of our society,” said Burke.
Meanwhile, Wes Lambert, the chief executive officer of the Restaurant and Catering Association (R&CA), said in October that the lack of legislative definitions over what constitutes a gig economy worker was an area which required addressing.
Lambert, stating the R&CA’s position on the heels of a deadline for submissions into a State of Victoria’s own inquiry on the status of the gig economy and insecure work, said that his organisation seeks to operate within the rules and standards to suit gig economy workers – as long as all parties knew what was expected of them.
“[The] R&CA expressly does not condone sham contracting arrangements, or any other such arrangement deliberately intended to undermine employees,” said Lambert.
“However, [the] R&CA submits that the current laws and workplace protections are not fit for the purpose in the 21st century, particularly as the world of work continues to change in the current and post-pandemic climate.
Lambert added that without any clear definitions in any current amendments of the Fair Work Act (2009), members of his industry sectors could run wild and rampant with interpretations as to what makes up gig economy participants.
“Such an arrangement, in the R&CA’s view, would create opportunities for unintentional mis-classifications resulting in disparate inconsistencies.
“More interestingly, if an employer can prove that they were not aware that the employee was not a contractor, and they were not reckless, they would not be in breach of the Act, nor be subject to any civil penalties,” he said.
So while an industry organisation such as the B&CA views and supports investigations around what next year’s Senate inquiry is trying to achieve, Sheldon says that the practice of insecure work is far from restricted to industries such as hospitality and tourism alone.
“Insecure work is not just found in food delivery and ride-sharing – it is expanding across the economy including the mining, retail, hospitality, health and aged care, university and information technology sectors,” Sheldon said.
“This inquiry comes at a critical time for our economy and for the future of work,” he added.
Reports on electoral strategies are often written in order to be avoided. They are scripted for the express purpose of gathering dust on shelves, or decaying in digital files rarely to be consulted except by historians. But the review of the reasons why the Australian Labor Party lost the May 2019 Australian federal election was deemed of particular interest. Authored by Jay Weatherill and Craig Emerson, the report was harsh. “Labor lost the election because of a weak strategy that could not adapt to the change in Liberal leadership, a cluttered policy agenda that looked risky and an unpopular leader.” The authors advance 60 findings and 26 recommendations.
The review does make relevant and cogent points. The campaign was deeply flawed: dissenters and contrarians concerned that Labor was not making the progress needed to win government were dissuaded. Victory would surely be inevitable. But with the campaign barely a week old, the primary vote had fallen to 34 per cent, with Labor coming out on the two-party vote with 47 per cent. This was at odds with the optimistic magic that seemed to be coming from internal polling, with Labor set to secure 37 to 38 per cent of the primary vote in marginal seats, and nab 51 per cent of the two-party vote.
Having Shorten as leader was a handicap. Six years which had included seeing off two prime ministers had taken a toll on popularity. (This ignores the obvious point that Shorten was never popular.) He was also “attacked through an enormously expensive campaign funded by Clive Palmer, which dovetailed into the Coalition’s campaign.” The review did concede that, especially when it came to Queensland, the opposition leader fared poorly, especially when compared with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The review suggests taking a battering ram to centralised campaigning. “Success is likely to require a campaign culture that is less centralised and encourages a greater diversity of views and more robust internal debates – to reflect the increasing diversity of Labor’s constituency from inner-city voters to those living in outer-urban, regional and country communities.” Australian regionalism, in other words, must become a serious feature of ALP policies.
One of those manifestations is a nod in favour of preserving such beasts as coal mining, thereby giving the renewables sector a generous shove off. The stranglehold of the resource sector is secure. “Labor should recognise coal mining will be an Australian industry into the foreseeable future and develop regional jobs plans based on the competitive strengths of different regions.” The stance taken by the party on the Adani coal mine project “combined with some anti-coal rhetoric, devastated its support in the coal mining communities of regional Queensland and the Hunter Valley.”
On the policy front, the report did not single out the tax policies as being, in of themselves, costly. What mattered was their complexity and their message, lost in the Coalition megaphone approach designed to foster “anxieties among insecure, low-income couples in outer-urban and regional Australia”.
An important point made by such commentators as Katharine Murphy is that the broad church of Labor is fracturing. The view of the congregants are at odds with each other; the high priests are not sure what line their sermons should take. “The central question of the review,” poses Murphy, “is how does Labor fuse its increasingly divided core constituencies – those constituencies being blue-collar workers and affluent metropolitan progressives?”
The reviewers have their own existential assessment. “Success in resolving this dilemma will first require Labor to acknowledge it exists. It will require Labor to devote the necessary time and energy as a party to address it.” The party had “been increasingly mobilised to address the political grievances of a vast and disparate constituency.” A certain core of “working people” facing “economic dislocation caused by technological change will lose faith in Labor if they do not believe the Party is responding to their needs, instead of being preoccupied with issues not concerning them or that are actively against their interests.”
Such analyses tend to contain a mandatory amount of self-flagellation. But the report’s sense of electoral contrition risks dulling the policy making arm of the party, giving the apparatchiks further reason to be more conservative. The focus there will be to push the party further into coalition territory and the political right, thereby making them even less appealing than they already are. Why go for Labor when you can get the true Conservative with reactionary trimmings?
Labor has already become the hostage of the poll meter, the statistical projection, the party factional machine. The Gillard-Rudd years were symptomatic of adjustments that did little to project a party secure about itself, and everything to suggest that demons of contradiction had taken residence in the castle. The poll dictated the policy, rather than policy driving the polls. Fearful party factions, knives at the ready, did the rest.
The report does little to discourage that, even if it does suggest faults in the internal polling system of the party. Do not dare to dare, as it were. Restrain yourself: the electorate needs generalities, not complexities.
Australian politics lost its shine some time ago – if, indeed, it ever had it – obsessed as it is by various measures of the pragmatic and reactionary. This review is bound to re-enforce such tendencies, extinguishing any social democratic embers that might be lingering. But an important group who resist sufficient chastisement remain the pollsters who persist in their mawkish way to parade figures supposedly obtained with the highest degree of accuracy. The influence of such modern astrologers must be curbed.
Like what we do at The AIMN?
You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.
Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!
Bill Shorten took over as leader of Australian Labor Party in 2013 and resigned in 2019 after taking the party to two elections.
He won the leadership in a two-horse race with Anthony Albanese (Albo) under revised party rules: Rules that gave Albanese little chance of winning.
In 2016 he came within one seat of becoming Prime Minister after adopting a strategy of prematurely revealing major policies well before the election.
He also adopted a benign approach to the everyday swings of Australian politics. An approach that was seen as sensible by some and too light on by others.
He wasn’t expected to win in 2016 so his narrow loss was seen as exemplary. In 2019 he was in better shape and given the dreadful performance of the Coalition in office was expected to win in a canter.
Labor had led in the polls for the better part of three years. Shorten had turned the conventional wisdom on its ear by going early with new policies and shirt-fronting the government at every opportunity.
In many ways it was a radical approach to electioneering taking from the rich to accommodate a fairer and more equal society. Having said that, there were many Labor die-hards who wanted policy to be even further to the left. Conversely, others wanted more centre-right policies.
In short, Labor had done everything right. They were disciplined and loyal to their leader but when the crunch came, even with a set of policies that would make for a better society, their campaigning was terrible.
“The campaign, not the issues, was Labor’s Achilles heel, with the Coalition’s personal attacks on Shorten the final nail in the coffin,” wrote Peter Lewis in The Guardian.
A leak, however, from the committee appointed to reason why Labor lost, seems to lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of Shorten.
It is now almost 6 months since Labor experienced its night of soul-destroying darkness. All the untruths and scares told by a prodigious teller of fabrication by Morrison wasn’t enough to unseat him.
The accrued mistrust of Shorten together with union association and unpopularity reigned supreme over the lies and scare campaigns of the Coalition. It must have run deep.
Once again Labor was to experience the loneliness of opposition.
Having had a right-wing Opposition Leader who took them to the left they elected a left-wing leader in Anthony Albanese who seems intent on taking them to the right.
In the months that have past, Albanese has given members the chance to publicly speak up on policy. Some have, and I feel sure more will once the report into their election loss is released in the next week or so.
Moreover, this point in time Albanese seems to be taking the rather old fashioned tactic of laying low unless its otherwise necessary, upping the anti in the third year and releasing policy with only a few weeks or months to go before the election.
At this point it would be wrong not to release a climate policy, very wrong.
The perception of Albo was that he could ‘tuff’ talk to any conservative leader. He indeed unlike others knew how to lay a decent shirtfront on the government.
Initially, Party members wanted him instead of Shorten. Now that they have him and the shirt-front is nothing more than a powder-puff to the left cheek, they want more aggression. As if it resolves everything.
As the theory goes, Labor only ever wins when a person of charisma enters the fray. Whitlam, Hawke and Rudd were men of their time who had vision, excited the people with the possibility that they could achieve great things.
All had one thing in common. They dared to be different, even radical.
The common good should be at the centre of any political philosophy. However, it is more likely to be found on the left than the right.
There are those in the Party, and those who support it, who long for the socialism of days long gone without a thought for the changes that have occurred in society. As if one thought suits all.
People scream out “retaliate with the truth”, but the fact is that accessibility or exposure to do so in opposition is limited to a 15-second grab on the nightly news.
Taken in totality, and in my view, there was nothing wrong with Labor’s policies for the recent election. It was just the way they were presented that was deplorable. A Hawke or Keating would have held society in the palm of their right hand and mellifluously told them the facts.
Had as much thought been put into how they were to sell them, and indeed defend the complications in them, they might have stood a chance.
As it was there were so many impediments that you could drive the proverbial truck through them.
Just as the government has a list of talking points to defend its policies, so too should the opposition have had to defend its own.
For example, when employment raises its head every Labor MP should know the following:
“In September 2013, there were 706,400 people unemployed (trend) or 697,100 (seasonally adjusted).
In September 2019, there were 718,000 people unemployed (trend) or 709,600 (seasonally adjusted).
They aren’t keeping up with population growth. Why does no one ever say in response to the jobs growth claim, that there are 12,000 more people unemployed now than when they took over?”
Tell it straight, tell it as it is and fix it.
I have gotten a little ahead of myself so let’s come back to the present. Labor is going through a period of self-examination with a new leader who hasn’t yet found his feet.
Albo is, however, making overtones of doing politics of the past whereas what is needed is something purer than the abrasive manner of the mouth that roared.
Albo should be using the phrase; “He’s loose with the truth” (about Scott Morrison) on every occasion he can, and keep on doing it until it sinks in.
And he should add; ”Just a clone of Trump” to a collection.
It is reasonable to assume that after his sucking up to Trump, Morrison is telling us that it will be the path of Trumpism he will be taking in the future.
At the moment Morrison is having a ball portraying Labor as a party of the past and that it is he and his party that are for the workers.
This impression is reinforced by responses to questions in this week’s Essential Report designed to get the first real take on peoples perceptions of Anthony Albanese’s Labor.
Morrison’s marketing experience – based mostly on slogans – comes through in everything he says and does. He understands the value of lies, repetition and misrepresentation.
It is a pity that Australian politics has degenerated to such a level, but it does however; give Labor an opportunity of rebirth, maybe as a “Common good party.” Dare to be different, and above all be progressive.
It would be a grave mistake to re emerge as just another centre-right party.
It seems to me that everyone wants an economy that is performing well.
However, when you are asking those who can least afford it to disproportionally support it you are not serving the common good.
When Joe Hockey was Treasurer he told the National Press Club: “The average worker works one month every year to pay for the welfare of others.”
At the time I wondered how many months the average worker worked to subsidise farmers, miners, tax breaks, negative gearing, franking credits, private and religious schools (religions don’t pay taxes), and retired politicians.
Fairness and equality of opportunity must be central to any Labor Party platform.
It is difficult to get a grip on just how Albo might rebrand Labor after its period of self-examination given that the opposition leader, given his confusing support for so many Coalition policies.
At the moment he is less popular than Shorten himself. If he doesn’t survive they could end up with a future leadership team of Queensland’s Jim Chalmers and former deputy leader Tanya Plibersek.
So much depends on the attitude of the leader that it is even more difficult to predict how the party will brand itself without it being settled in leadership.
Let’s put that aside for a moment. Before any re-branding can take place the party has to be satisfied that the reason or reasons for the defeat have all been exposed.
Was it the unpopularity of Bill Shorten? Was it the policies or was it entirely the campaign itself?
For me it was the trifecta. Yes, Shorten was unpopular. No, there was nothing wrong with the policies – it was the leaders inability to articulate them, which of course bleeds into the conduct of the campaign.
Ask yourself would Labor have won with Albo?
A hypothetical question indeed. And truthfully I don’t know what Labor should do. It is too early. All I can do is offer some comments, ideas and suggestions, but I have always felt that cleaning up our democracy would be a noble pursuit and the first step toward regaining government.
I note that as I write the news community today, 21 October, are asking for more transparency in our government. It is true that we have a government of a “need to know” mentality, that hides things from us and is about as transparent as a black glass window.
When a political party deliberately withholds information that the voter needs to make an informed, balanced and reasoned assessment of how it is being governed. It is lying by omission. It is also tantamount to the manipulation of our democracy.
Here are some thoughts on a Labor revival based on repairing our democracy:
The Labor Party needs to rid itself of out-dated social objectives and invest in a social philosophical common good instead.
And recognise that the elimination of growing inequality is a worthwhile pursuit.
In terms of talent, both parties are represented by party hacks of dubious intellectual liability without enough female representation and worldly work-life experience.
Labor’s pre-selection processes are rooted in factional power struggles that often see the best candidates miss out.
There is a need to select people with broader life experience. Not just people who have come out of the union movement. Fix it.
Our Parliament, its institutions, and conventions was so trashed by Tony Abbott and those who followed that people have lost faith in the political process and their representatives. Fix it.
Ministerial responsibility has become a thing of the past. Fix it.
Question time is just an excuse for mediocre minds that are unable to win an argument with factual intellect, charm or debating skills. Fix it.
The public might be forgiven for thinking that the chamber has descended into a chamber of hate where respect for the others view is seen as a weakness. Fix it.
Question time is the showcase of the Parliament and is badly in need of an overhaul and an independent Speaker. Fix it.
Recent times have demonstrated just how corrupt our democracy has become. We have witnessed a plethora of inquiries all focusing on illegal sickening behaviour. Fix it.
Light frivolity and wit has been replaced with smut and sarcasm. It has debased the parliament and all MPs, as moronic imbecilic individuals. Fix it
I cannot remember a time when my country has been so devoid of political leadership.
In recent times we have had potential, but it was lost in power struggles, undignified self-interest, and narcissistic personality.
The pursuit of power for power’s sake and the retention of it has so engulfed political thinking that the people have become secondary and the common good dwells somewhere in the recesses of small minds lacking the capacity for good public policy that achieves social equity.
People on the right of politics in Australia show insensitivity to the common good that goes beyond any thoughtful examination.
One cannot begin to discuss the decline of Australian democracy without at the same time aligning it to the collapse in journalistic standards and its conversion from reporting to opinion.
Murdoch and his majority-owned newspapers; with blatant support for right-wing politics have done nothing to advance Australia as a modern enlightened democratic society.
On the contrary, it has damaged it, perhaps irreparably. Fix it.
Bloggers more reflect the feelings of grass-roots society.
Truth in government as a principle of democratic necessity needs to be reinstated.
Fix it first and common good policy will follow.
My thought for the day
Leaders who cannot comprehend the importance of truth as being fundamental to the democratic process make the most contribution to its demise.
Like what we do at The AIMN?
You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.
Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!
An extended period of time after an event gives one a better reflection of its context, rather than the usual instantaneous rushed response.
So, it is in that vein that I look back on the last Australian election campaign, Saturday 18 May 2019.
Analysing the election campaigns a few months on gives one a greater understanding of the campaigns of both parties.
But let’s start with the Coalition. What did they take to the election other than some ill-considered tax cuts? (By ill-considered I mean that I struggle with the concept of tax cuts while there is a Royal Commission in place about the treatment of our aged and $1.5 billion is being taken from the NDIS). Well, they took very little, actually. A born to rule party, generally speaking, doesn’t think it needs to.
Although the Coalition, maybe because it was convinced it would lose, decided the effort really wasn’t worth it.
However, this belies the fact that Scott Morrison campaigned like a drunk looking for a drink. He lied in fact and by omission.
He invented scare campaigns in the best Liberal Party tradition. A retiree tax,‘The Bill Australia Can’t Afford’, franking credits,and a tax on everything all worked a treat. So much so that you would be hard pressed to pick the best.
He upped his pomposity to the point of pure fakery that was a precursor to his conversion to Trumpism, playing his Christ-thin Christianity for all it was worth.
All it amounted to was some more money for domestic violence, a reduction in pensioner chemist scripts before becoming free, a lift in the five-year freeze on Medicare, 307 million for schools, 100 billion for infrastructure over 10 years, a cap on refugee numbers, a cap on immigration, a promise to maintain border security and catch internet trolls.
There was also a promise to reduce our power bills by 25% and of course, the tax cuts.
That was it in all its Liberal glory, shallow with no narrative about our future or where the Prime Minister saw us in an increasing complex world. There were no ideas, no mention of the struggles of our First Nations People or the poorest in our community.
Negativity seemed to be the order of the day, highlighted by a champagne launch held in the shadows of darkness in case the light might reveal how few bothered to turn up.
Hardly the foundation for a winning an election campaign but Morrison, to his credit, furiously pounded Bill Shorten for his inability to explain Labor policy.
He made what – was in my view – good policy look mediocre. His sheer will must have won over many voters.
Aided and abetted by the Murdoch press and the shock jocks; the wealth of Palmer and the inappropriate intervention of Dr. Bob, the Prime Minister created, not a miracle, but an illusion.
Life is about perception, not what is, but what we perceive it to be.
If you tell the people often enough that you are the best to manage the economy … they will believe you.
Speaking of slogans and advertising in general, one has to say that for the first time I can remember the Coalition got it right with the use of television and social media.
They targeted voters judicially with ads aimed at specific groups and individual personalities at the micro level.
If per chance you are wondering why I haven’t mentioned the Deputy Prime Minister and his party it is simply because I cannot remember his name nor what he said he would do for our good country folk.
That Morrison could have won after 6 years of the poorest governance the country has known, together with a policy campaign that berated Labor and overlooked its own hopelessness speaks volumes for his abilities of persuasion.
And what of Labor?
Labor entered the campaign full of running. After all, it hadn’t lost a poll since the Moses parted the Red Sea.
The government had elected yet another leader and had proven to be an accident-prone chaotic mess of people who had no idea how to govern. It had a leader who hadn’t shown an empathetic tear in all the portfolios he had been a minister in. Was he ‘tuff,’ was he a motor mouth. Yes he was.
Labor had everything going for it. It had revealed policy after policy in a calm orderly manner and provided the Australian voter with a stark ideological difference to consider.
Its policies were fair and just, seeking to take a more equitable share of the country’s riches from those that have and create a more just society.
Gone would be the days when the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.
Labor’s policies were full of fresh economic ideas that would see an end to trickle-down economics that in conservative eyes at least is the answer to all things economics.
More money would be spent on schools and hospitals and all those things that created a better social cohesion. Nothing wrong with that. The average punter would endorse those moves rather enthusiastically
It undoubtedly had the better power and climate policies, the best proposals on health and infrastructure, and the better and fairer policies on education. The sheer range of policy was enormous, and displayed the vast work the party must have put into them.
But here is the crux of the matter. They fell for the oldest trap in the political Bible. They found themselves in a mire of detail.
Every policy required a truckload of explanation. Did you ever have it explained to you just why the country wouldn’t be able to afford the subsidies for franking credits and negative gearing a few years from now? No, because it would take a month of Sundays to do it. Therefore attempts to do so ended up being bogged down in the inevitable too hard basket.
And you can add to that last but not least the main reason Labor’s campaign fell flat on its face.
In my view Labor had the best campaign, the best policies, and the best group to manage the economy and was and is the best party philosophically conditioned and able to take Australia into the future.
However – and it is sad to say this – they had the wrong man as leader. One can hear populism vibrating in the hearts of those who use it and you can tell sincerity when confronted with it. Morrison reeks of populism and Shorten the latter.
My view nevertheless wasn’t that of the majority of Australians. More than enough hated him for reasons beyond my understanding to make the difference between winning and losing.
In a couple of weeks a small group of Laborites will report on why Labor lost to such a group of pathetic individuals unfit to govern our great nation. They will come up with a multitude of reasons, but Shorten probably wont be on the top.
My thought for the day
I found it impossible to imagine that the Australian people could be so gullible as to elect for a third term a government that has performed so miserably in the first two and has amongst its members some of the most devious, suspicious and corrupt men and women but they did.
Like what we do at The AIMN?
You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.
Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!
When the Coalition under Malcolm Turnbull won 76 seats in the 2016 election, it was generally accepted that Turnbull had “blown it” and the knives were quickly sharpened. Yet when the ad man wins 77 seats, he is hailed as a messiah that has delivered a decisive victory enabling the Coalition to do whatever they damn well please.
Let’s be clear about that election result.
Leaving out Queensland, in the rest of the country, Labor won 62 seats compared to the Coalition’s 54. That is a resounding victory.
We have the government that Queensland thrust upon us against the wishes of every other state and territory (except WA – the only other state where the Coalition won a majority of seats).
Instead of highlighting that endorsement, Labor are flapping around like a dying Murray cod, desperately trying to find something or someone to blame.
Labor’s agriculture and resources spokesman, Joel Fitzgibbon, told Gerard Henderson’s Sydney Institute that the ALP should offer “a political and policy settlement” on climate policy “to make 28% the target by 2030”. Matt Keogh agrees.
This view has nothing to do with science or jobs or responsible governance and everything to do with self-serving politics.
“How many times are we going to let it kill us? Indeed, how many leaders do we want to lose to it?” said Fitzgibbon whose primary vote in his coal-mining electorate fell 14% at the last election.
If Fitzgibbon was worth his salt, he would be pointing out to his constituents that opening Adani will lead to job losses in existing coal mines. He should recognise that automation will also threaten coal-mining jobs and be transitioning his electorate towards more sustainable industries and employment.
Did I mention climate change?
At the time when we need them most, Labor are losing their nerve.
Fitzgibbon did say one thing with which I agree – “Labor’s equivocation over the Adani coal mine left us in no man’s land,” though I doubt we mean the same thing when we say that.
Speaking of Adani, despite government approvals being fast-tracked and a timetable of what happens next being published by the Coordinator-General, Adani continues to fail to meet deadlines.
The royalties agreement with the Queensland government was supposed to be finalised by September 30. That deadline has now been put back to November 30. Worryingly, the timetable now says “Agreement not required for construction of mine or rail to commence.”
Infrastructure and interface agreements with the Whitsunday RC and the DMRT also missed their September 30 deadline with hopes now that they will be concluded mid-October.
Accreditation as a Rail Infrastructure Manager (RIM) and Rolling Stock Operator (RSO) – Stage 1: construction and Stage 2: commissioning of rollingstock – were supposed to be concluded by July 31. The latest release on October 1 states that “Adani will continue to work with the Commonwealth Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator to obtain necessary approvals. This approval not on the critical path and the Coordinator-General will continue to monitor.”
As climate activists around the world hit the streets pleading with governments to take urgent action, Labor is missing a crucial opportunity, preferring to investigate how they can be more like the Coalition.
Trying to appeal to Queenslanders is a road to ruin. Have a go at the people they choose to represent them – Peter Dutton, Matt Canavan, George Christensen, Stuart Robert, James McGrath, Andrew Laming, Pauline Hanson, Malcolm Roberts, Bob Katter – what a sorry bunch.
We need strong leadership and conviction to tackle the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. Sadly, Labor seems more interested in courting votes from those who will never vote for them than in saving the planet.
Paul Keating was so right about Malcolm Turnbull, wasn’t he? “A bit like a big red bunger on cracker night. You light him up, there’s a bit of a fizz but then nothing, nothing”
After all the glasses-twirling hype and the selfie-induced-train-hopping; nothing is exactly what we are getting from an undemocratically elected, Liberal Party appointed Prime Minister who is quickly learning that he can’t please the people and his party. However, he has clearly chosen who he aims to please. Malcolm Turnbull has clearly chosen to please the conservative right wing of his party and not the people of Australia and certainly not our children!
In his interview on 3AW with Neil Mitchell, Turnbull described Labor’s commitment to fund Gonski as, “Reckless.” Malcolm Turnbull believes that the fair and equitable education of ALL little Australians is “Reckless.” Malcolm Turnbull believes that investing in our children, the very people who will shape this country for our future, is ‘Reckless.”
Malcolm Turnbull believes that your child does not deserve a fair go!
Any leader who undermines the very essence of our shared Australian value of – “The Fair Go” is reckless. It is reckless toward us as individuals and it is reckless toward us as a collective. Turnbull’s rejection of Gonski funding is not just reckless, it is irresponsible and regressive.
To play on a phrase Julia Gillard famously used … If Malcolm Turnbull wants to know what Reckless looks like, he just needs a mirror. That’s what he needs.
The Abbott-Turnbull Govt has been the most reckless Government of my lifetime. That is why we need to talk about the:
Ten Things More Reckless than Funding Gonski:
1. Not Giving a Gonski
Education changes people’s lives. The Gonski Reforms are an opportunity for fairness and equality in education. It is an opportunity to provide equal access to pathways of future success for all of our children. The Gonski reforms will pull some sectors of our society out of generational disadvantage. The Gonski reforms enable our country to be competitive and improving our economy. Giving a Gonski is giving our children, your children, a chance to be competitive in the jobs of the future. Committing to Gonski could mean enabling the pathway for a future Prime Minister. Refusing to commit to Gonski is keeping the door shut to a Prime Minister that could have been.
The Prime Minister of Australia willingly choosing to uphold disadvantage over fairness and equality for all is beyond reckless, it is downright destructive.
This little gem drummed up by the ‘let’s stigmatise poor people’ rabble of the Abbott-Turnbull Government, decided that in the era of high unemployment created by decisions by their own party, that young people who could not find a job are not entitled to social security payments. Deciding that young unemployed people should have no money for basics such as food, clothing, shelter, hygiene products or medicine is very reckless indeed. (Labor, Greens and some cross-benchers opposed this and a new policy is in progress for jobseekers to starve for one month instead.)
Wasting millions and millions and millions of dollars on a political witch hunt, presided over by a judge with a history that spans decades of very close ties to the Liberal Party of Australia, is one of the most reckless acts against the working class this country has ever seen. The reckless attack on workers to bring back a reckless star chamber style ABCC is abhorrent. No Mother or Father ever wants the young man in this video to be his or her child! Shame. Shame. Shame.
The cuts to health and the continuous push towards a user pays system are reckless to the extreme. The situation the Abbott-Turnbull Government is pushing for, is where your wealth decides whether you are in pain, undiagnosed with a serious or terminal illness, or possibly even die. This type of class division of access to health will lead to a broken country. No human life is less valuable than another life based on the amount of money someone has in the bank.
Both John Howard in 2005 and Tony Abbott in 2014 said that the Liberal Government was the best friend the workers have ever had. Pretending to be a friend to the worker, is not just reckless, it is deceitful. A Government who makes it easier to employ foreign workers instead of Australian workers is not a best friend to the worker. A Government who does that is made up of a pack of self-righteous, out of touch lazy gits and by taking a generous wage, are the real leaners on society. MP’s are not elected by the people to do backroom deals to push Australians out of work. How reckless is it to make changes to employment rules that result in Australians being replaced with foreign workers and then laugh about it. Really? How reckless is that to everything the people in this country value?
The push from the Abbott-Turnbull Government to make life more difficult for families by cutting family payments and attacking penalty rates is indeed reckless. Some parents rely on weekend shift work to help the family get through the week. Sometimes this is the only work mum or dad can get to work in with their primary duty of caring for children. To attack the penalty rates of some of the poorest people in the country in conjunction with cuts to family payments and abolishing the School Kids Bonus is yet another step closer to the Abbott-Turnbull led class divide trotted out by the Liberals and Nationals time and time again. Class divide is indeed one of the most reckless things a Government can do.
8. The Government’s policy of Secrets and Lies
The approach and treatment of Asylum Seekers under the Abbott-Turnbull regime is abhorrent, shameful, disgusting and damaging. The Abbott-Turnbull Government’s commitment to the secrecy provisions of their policy is beyond reckless. I do not believe a word exists for how damaging this extreme practice is. The treatment of Asylum Seekers is in the name of all Australians, not just in the Government’s name. Concerned citizens and advocacy groups have the right to investigate the treatment of people seeking asylum in our name. Asylum seekers have the absolute right to advocacy, medical treatment and legal representation. The cloak and dagger approach has only lasted so long. As reported yesterday, Border Force admitted that at least 23 boats have been turned back and this is a regular occurrence. To say the boats have stopped is a bald-faced lie. With the Government casting its invisibility cloak over people seeking asylum, the public have no idea if people are still drowning or the number of deaths at sea. As Harry Potter Fans will appreciate, the Government has the invisibility cloak and with Dutton’s face as the stone and Turnbull’s twirling glasses as the wand, the Government really could be the Masters of Death.
The Cashless Welfare card is the symbolic mechanism that brings the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s agenda of stigmatisation of the poor to life. This draconian, punitive measure ensures that those who are unemployed are branded as such at the checkout. The Government harps on about how they understand innovation, but then deny the unemployed the ability to purchase cheap goods off buy and sell sites on Facebook and at the local market. The cashless welfare card denies an unemployed mother the ability to give their school child that $3.00 in an envelope for the school excursion they just remembered about that morning. Income management only serves to degrade the unemployed as incompetent and not able to manage their own meagre budgets. It is a punitive and degrading measure, which takes away the liberty and freedom of those who are on welfare. Income management increases barriers to employment for jobseekers and that is indeed reckless to the individual and to our society as a whole.
One of the roles of the Prime Minister and Government is to provide leadership of tough issues. This often means doing what is right for minority groups, regardless of popular opinion. I was deeply perturbed at the very vocal Abbott-esque backflip by Turnbull in question time on Thursday. The new Malcolm appears not only to be reckless, but now completely unhinged.
Terri Butler: Given it is clear that members of the Prime Minister’s own party will not respect the $160 million plebiscite on marriage equality; will the Prime Minister immediately allow the free vote that he used to argue for on the private member’s bill that is currently before the parliament?
Malcolm Turnbull: I am not sure what it is about the honourable member’s approach to democracy that she so despises the views of the people that sent her here.
Parliament did not conduct a plebiscite to determine if we should or should not have sexual harassment laws introduced. They did not conduct a plebiscite to pass the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, contrary to what the popular belief at the time would have been. The Government of the day saw legal entrenched discrimination and had the guts to redress it.
By standing by a plebiscite, Malcolm Turnbull is valuing the opinion of bigots and homophobes who have recently photoshopped rainbow nooses around a woman’s neck in an anti-marriage equality advertisement. That is not valuing democracy. That is upholding bigotry and allowing bigots to have a voice against those they seek to oppress. As leaders, the Government has a moral obligation to view this debate from a legal standpoint of discrimination based on the choice of sexual preference and redress this discrimination immediately.
It is reckless for a Government to deny people who love each other the right to marry, based on their sexual preference.
If Malcolm Turnbull wants to know what reckless really is, here are just ten of the many reckless things the Abbott-Turnbull Government has done in the short space of two years and four months. Investing in Gonski is not reckless, it is responsible and visionary, two things the current Government lacks. To fight this Government’s recklessness, remember always to put the Liberal/National or LNP last on your ballot paper and Give a Gonski today.
A very wise man once said to me, “There are two types of politicians. Anti-Community and Pro-Community. The Liberals are always Anti-Community. That is why there are always protests against a Coalition Government.
Turnbull has been ahead in the polls since he obtained the Prime Ministership by default. Anyone who toppled Abbott would be the Nation’s automatic Messiah. He could read the back of a Cornflakes packet and the public would still have been cheering. How fortunate for Turnbull.
The party did not want Abbott. The party re-installed a former failed leader, Malcolm Turnbull. Four Corners painted Turnbull as the good little boy who didn’t make any fuss about Abbott whilst he was the Prime Minister. He just sat back patiently and waited for his crown.
The fact that Turnbull did not make any fuss about Abbott or vocally opposed Abbott’s policies or rhetoric, clearly shows that Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal National Coalition simply were happy with Abbott’s policies. They just wanted a new face to deliver them and that is what we have now.
We saw the rise of March in March or March Australia during the Abbott years. We also saw massive protests against Campbell Newman’s harsh cuts, job losses, privatisation of public assets and the attack on our civil liberties in Queensland as well as his mantra of selling our assets. People marched and yelled in protest because they were fighting to protect everything that underpins us as Australians – A Fair Go.
Will you join the Protest to support Turnbull?
This leads me to the central question of this piece. Turnbull and the Coalition are ahead in the polls, but are his policies really worth fighting for? Your vote for a Turnbull Government is the ultimate endorsement of your fight for Turnbull and his policies. Would you protest for his policies to save his Prime Ministership?
If the Coalition’s policies are so important to make this country great, why do Liberal members and Liberal supporters and even swinging voters not get out there and protest to make their voices heard? Why do they not get out there and really fight for them?
I ask you this: “If you are thinking of voting for the Abbott-Turnbull Coalition Government are you so passionate about their return in the election that you would protest to keep them?”
To look beyond voting for a face and to really understand what that face represents, let’s take a look at what 10,000’s of people protesting for the Abbott-Turnbull policies would sound like…..
Cuts to Medicare
“If you get sick you should pay, user pays is a better way”
“It’s my taxes anyway, Make the poor PAY, PAY, PAY!”
“Cuts to Medicare should come quick. If you can’t afford it, don’t get sick!”
“Increase GST on everything!”
“GST up NOW!”
“Make the poor pay much more. A GST rise is our winning score!”
“Fast Broadband is a joke. Keep the copper that gets choked!”
“44th in the world isn’t last. We don’t need Internet that’s fast!”
“Rural living is a pity. If you want internet move to the city!”
Climate Change Denial
“Climate Science is a joke. Renewables will send us broke!”
“It was hotter last year! Climate Change is a smear!”
“Coal is good for humanity! Up the Climate Anti!”
Education – Cuts to Gonski
“We don’t need children educated. Gonski should be eradicated!”
“More funding for Elite Private Schools! Funding needy schools is for fools!”
“Education is a privilege, not a right. Down with Gonski, Fight, Fight Fight!”
It’s an election year. It’s time to get serious.
It is time to look beyond Turnbull’s smile and his nice suits and the fact that he is not Tony Abbott. In my personal view, what Turnbull stands for – Mass privatisation, harsh neo-liberal policies and radical industrial relations reform, is far worse than what Abbott stood for. By voting for a Liberal or National party member, you are joining the protest above. Through your vote for a Turnbull Government, you are endorsing the destruction of the quality of life we enjoy in Australia.
It’s time to vote with our hearts and use our vote to stamp out the greed and austerity that underpins the destruction of a fair go in Australia by the Abbott-Turnbull Government.
If you can chant all of the above and stand shoulder to shoulder and march with those who support Turnbull; by all means, vote for your Turnbull candidate. If not, put the Liberal and National Coalition candidates last on your ballot. It is where they put you.
Bob Katter is a man I’ve never paid much attention to. He’s on the other side of the country and might as well be on the other side of the planet as far as I’m concerned. But when a friend sent me the link to Katter’s speech in Parliament last week on the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement I sat up and took notice. It’s a gem. It sparkled. You need to see it.
Here it is:
Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (17:50): I feel sorry for the members of the government, I really do. They get a brief and they have got to get up and tell us how wonderful the free trade deal is and how it is going to save the world. I was in this place and saw the then Prime Minister stand up and lead the clapping for Andrew Robb on the free trade deal with China and I thought, ‘Maybe I know nothing about politics, but if this is getting you votes I am a Martian astronaut!’ Four weeks later he was thrown out a window.
You think you are deceiving the people of Australia. You are not. When they hear ‘free trade deal’, they hate you. Understand that, because I might not be an expert in a number of fields, but after 41 years of straight wins in pretty hostile territory, I can tell you that I know a little tiny bit about politics. I sat at the feet of the great master, Bjelke-Petersen. So if you are not interested in governing the country, if you are not interested in helping your country, maybe you might just think about your survival.
I feel sorry for the LNP. They somehow think that Australia is this big, huge country and that it can produce a magnificent amount of agricultural production. It most certainly can produce a lot more than it is producing. But it is not a big, huge agricultural country at all. There is 53 per cent of Australia that is designated as desert and 23 per cent is designated as Indigenous lands. Since the governments of Australia will not give title deed to those lands, they are sterilised. That is 76 per cent gone. There is seven per cent that is national parks. So, if you take out that 83 per cent, there ain’t a lot left.
The concept that huge areas of land will produce huge areas of food—sorry; that is wrong. There are a few thousand hectares, maybe 30,000 hectares, of land that is producing about a quarter of Australia’s beef production. They are called lot feeders. Basically the cattle do not wander around chewing grass. That is not the way beef is produced anymore in America or in Europe or in Australia. It is done in lot feeders. So you have a different concept altogether, where you do not need huge areas of land. Your competitive advantage is in that lot feeder. That is where the action comes. You have a competitive advantage in that area.
Somehow they think, ‘There are millions of people in South-East Asia, and we’re going to be able to sell all this food to them.’ Mr Deputy Speaker, I would refer you to the statistics. In fact, there is a pretty good chance that we will be importing food from those countries. Let me be very specific. When I stood up in this place 15 years ago and said that this market fundamentalism, this free market rubbish, will destroy your country, I said that Australia could become a net importer of food. Every 10 years, the imports increase at 103 per cent and the exports increase at 21 per cent. You do not have to be Albert Einstein to figure out that the graphs will soon cross.
Mr Deputy Speaker, you must understand that, if every Chinese city had two 20-storey buildings with tanks on each storey, then they could produce all of the protein requirements for China. They do not have to buy any of our beef. They do not have to buy any of our seafood product. In fact, if you look at a graph of the increase in seafood production in China, if you extrapolate that graph on for about 30 or 40 years, in theory all of the world’s protein would be coming out of the prawn and fish farms in China.
I am fascinated by how this is going to help Australia. The last speaker, the member for Lyne, touted the beef industry. I do not know if he knows anything about it. I rather doubt that he does, but he touted the beef industry. Well, let us have a look at what this free trade deal does for the beef industry. We sell our beef at the present moment at $2 a kilogram. If you look at the average price, it is a lot less than that, but I will take $2 a kilogram. Its 10 per cent tariff has been abolished, so that is a 20c advantage we get. The beef sells over there for $32 a kilogram. Those are the figures that have been given to me. But now the Australians are going to have a terrific advantage of 20c, so it is $31.80 now. Jeez, that will lead to a huge increase in the benefits for the beef producers of Australia! A difference between $32 and $31.80, and the member of parliament who sits beside me here, the member for Lyne, seriously touted that as something that is going to help the beef industry? Why doesn’t he do his homework? Why does he just take the drivel that comes from the frontbench? And the drivel that comes from the frontbench is dictated by the giant corporations that bankroll the mainstream parties.
Having dealt with the LNP, we will move on now to the ALP. If ever there was a day on which ‘Red Ted’ Theodore would turn in his grave and the founders of the labour movement would spit upon the people that sit in this House and call themselves Labor members, today is the day. When I walk out of this place, there is a magnificent portrait of a bloke called Charlie McDonald. Charlie McDonald was the first member for Kennedy, and every time I go out I salute Charlie. Six of Charlie’s first seven speeches in this place were railing against the importation of foreign labour. Well, this document opens the door to it. This man went out and helped form the Labor Party, the labour movement, of Australia. They fought and died, literally—there were three shearers shot dead at the strike, where Waltzing Matilda was written a couple of months later—and the entire executive of the AWU were jailed for three years with hard labour for having a strike. These men and their families went hungry. What happened when they got arbitration was that the miners said, ‘We’re bringing the coolies in from China. Ha, ha. Take that, Buster Brown; take that.’ And the cane plantations said, ‘We’re bringing the Kanaks in to be cane cutters, so take that, Buster Brown; take that.’
So the first member for Kennedy stood up in this place and courageously fought to create the Labor Party—and the people who sit here on $200,000 or $300,000 a year, enjoying the benefits from the creation of that labour movement, sit here and betray every principle that was put forward by those people. Charlie McDonald would turn in his grave. But I am proud to say that the people of Kennedy are still represented by people who are not sell-outs, who are not under the control of the big plantation owners or the big mining companies. No. We are under the control of the people of our area. That is who we are under the control of and proud to say it. This opens the door that the Charlie McDonalds died for. The ALP today sold them out—lock, stock and barrel. There is not a trade unionist in Australia who is not looking at the ground and being ashamed of his association with the labour movement.
Let me become very specific. I am fascinated. I am just a poor, humble, simple Cloncurry boy. Clearly, these wunderkind—over here and over there—have decided to have free markets. The honourable member over there, Mr Brough, is making faces; he thinks it’s funny! I will tell you how funny it is, my friend. You have to buy everything from overseas. The last whitegoods factory, which is at Orange, closes this year. So you have to buy all your whitegoods from overseas. About 40 per cent of the steel in your house—the roofing on it, the reinforcing steel for your floor—comes from overseas. About 40 per cent of your cement comes from overseas. All your whitegoods and all the motor cars in your garage will come from overseas, next year. The clothes you wear will all come from overseas. Your footwear will all come from overseas. The petrol you put in your car comes from overseas. Everything we buy comes from overseas. Where are we going to get the money to buy all of these things?
The honourable member there, Mr Brough, laughed at me. People have laughed at me ever since I came into this place and started talking about this. I want it on record that he laughed at me, because the history books will pass judgement upon him. They will say: ‘Who are the people who destroyed this country?’ We have to buy everything from overseas. Where are we going to get the money to buy all our petrol, to buy all our motor cars, to buy everything in our houses and to buy the clothes on our backs?
Let me turn to food—and people in this place laugh at me about this. This country is now a net importer of pork. It is a net importer of seafood. It is a net importer of fruit and vegetables. It is only a matter of time. As I said, it is 103 per cent every 10 years, the last time I looked, and a 21 per cent increase in exports every 10 years. Inevitably—as the sun rises—we will become a net importer of food. You cannot eat live cattle or unprocessed grain, but if you take those two commodities out we are getting pretty close, in fact, to being a net importer of food. People in this place have laughed at me, but the people of Australia are passing judgement upon them, already, as we talk.
Where are we going to get this money from? We have only two things now that we export, and everyone knows that they are iron ore and coal. I am not here to denigrate those industries. In fact, I pray every night of my life to the good Lord that it does not come to pass, the continuation of what we are suffering in the thermal coal industry. But I would not like to be backing myself in, and I will not go into the problems of the thermal coal industry. What you have is what you have, in iron ore.
The country has to buy everything from overseas—and all they have to buy it with is iron ore and coal. A little bit of gold. Of course, aluminium is doomed. Aluminium is electricity. It came to Australia when we had the cheapest electricity in the world, in Queensland. Australia now has the second highest electricity charges in the world. So it will be bye-bye aluminium. It will be bye-bye all mineral processing, because it all depends upon—and I am sick and tired, in this place, of hearing ‘It’s high wages that are killing us!’ Wages look pretty bloody small when compared with the cost of mineral processing, which is the cost of electricity.
It is due to the incompetence of the people in this place and of state governments who have taken electricity charges up 400 per cent in 10 years. That is what your free markets and privatisation have done: 400 per cent increase, in electricity charges, in 10 years. For 10 years before that, in Queensland, there was no increase at all. For 10 years before privatisation and a deregulation of the pricing mechanism we had no movement in price at all. My case rests. It dooms aluminium and it dooms mineral processing, so you are left with iron ore and coal. The income from iron ore and coal—maybe $150,000 million or whatever it is—is not enough to meet our imports. It is nowhere near enough.
You are living in a country that is going broke at 100 miles an hour. You cannot buy everything from overseas when you have nothing to sell overseas. The people in this place with their market fundamentalism, their fanaticism, have imposed upon Australia a regime that no other country on earth has to suffer under. Every other farmer on earth gets 40 per cent of his income from the government. Our poor farmers get six per cent. I conclude on that note. So much for your free trade. (Time expired)
Much has been made of the influence of trade unions and the power of factions within the Australian Labor Party and rightly so considering some of their preselections, particularly for the Senate where position on the ticket has become a gift for union and party hacks rather than a reflection of talent.
In Western Australia we saw the disgraceful elevation of Joe Bullock, assistant secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Union (SDA), above sitting Senator Louise Pratt, causing her to lose her seat.
To underline what a travesty this was, Ms Pratt outpolled Bullock in first preference below the line votes – 5,390 to 3,982.
Ms Pratt was a talented, intelligent, hard-working Senator. Joe Bullock, on the other hand, is a conservative old white guy who described the ALP as untrustworthy and full of “mad” members and admitted he had voted against Labor.
Bullock described Ms Pratt as a “poster child” for gay marriage and questioned her sexuality. He said he was needed in Parliament otherwise it would follow “every weird lefty trend that you can imagine”.
For some reason, the Catholic right leadership of the SDA feel they should have a say in marriage equality. National President, Joe de Bruyn, who Gough Whitlam described as “a Dutchman who hates dykes”, and who was the driving force behind the elevation of Bullock, said “Marriage started with Adam and Eve.”
It is an “objective” truth, he says, that same-sex couples cannot marry. “Marriage is between a man and a woman; always was, always will be. It is based on what is innate in human nature.”
Paul Conway, secretary of the left-wing Victorian meatworkers union, described the SDA as “a tame cat union.”
“Its primary interest is not its members but numbers in the ACTU and ALP, getting its people into Parliament, having an impact on issues like same-sex marriage.”
Bullock is also anti-republic. Addressing the Australian Monarchist League last year, he said the presence of a monarch protected people from “the oppression of a totalitarian regime”.
“An hereditary constitutional monarchy is particularly well suited to embodying in a living human person a focal point for all the best sentiments of patriotism, duty and public spirit,” Senator Bullock said.
Now, in Tasmania, we are seeing a similar factional power play relegating talented Labor Senator Lisa Singh to an unwinnable fourth position on the Senate ticket. Australian Manufacturing Workers Union secretary John Short leapfrogged the sitting Senator to take third spot.
Senator Singh, who is Labor’s parliamentary secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Water, spent four years in the Tasmanian State Parliament before being elected to the Senate in 2010. She has been very active in advocating many causes and was named Hobart Citizen of the Year in 2004 among other prestigious awards such as the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in 2014, one of India’s highest civilian awards, for her exceptional and meritorious public service as a person of Indian heritage in fostering friendly relations between India and Australia..
John Short suggests he is “a reasonable candidate because I’ve got a lot of life experience.”
“I’ve done a lot in my life, brought up a family, struggled at times, and I know what it’s like to struggle, and I stand up for workers every day.”
Lisa Singh is unaligned to any faction and that, rather than lack of talent or performance, is what will cause her demise. Former Queensland senator Margaret Reynolds weighed in on the issue, saying that preselection was a weakness in Australian politics because it relied on the wheeling and dealing of powerbrokers.
Former Franklin Labor MHR Harry Quick also criticised the decision.
“Another example of the Tasmanian Labor Party looking after their mates, regardless of the talent pool available to them,’’ he said. “Having Lisa Singh as a senator has injected a degree of humanity and tolerance to a moribund Senate team, currently representing the union and party hacks who do as they are told.’’
In July this year, Bill Shorten made the following pledge to the ALP National Conference:
“Let us end the debilitating gender divide. Because if Australia can lead the way in equality for women then we will truly be the richest nation in the world.
Rich in every sense of the word.
Our goal should be nothing less than the equal participation of women in work … equal pay for women at work … and an equal voice for women across our parliament.
So let this Conference declare, by 2025 … 50 per cent of Labor’s representatives will be women.
Only in a society where men and women are treated equally, can the true potential of women and men be achieved.”
When the ALP dumps two outstanding young women with proven success in public service for two old men who have done nothing to recommend them, and who express views that are diametrically opposed to Labor policy, one can only conclude that the noble aspirations expressed by Mr Shorten are nothing more than hot air and that he does not have the power or the inclination to make them a reality.
After weekly emails from Labor – that were generally pointless or simply wanted me to sign a petition – I am pleased to announce that something constructive found its way into my inbox.
Instead of garbling on about nothing or inviting me/email recipients to send stern words to the government about whatever horrible policy they were trying to thrust upon us . . . Labor wants my opinion about the policies important to me.
I don’t know how many people received said email but I do hope that a hell of a lot of people are on their mailing lists. I want a hell of a lot of people telling Labor what is important to them.
Now to the email:
We want to make sure our community is heard. We have so many supporters who are passionate about so many different issues.
That’s why we’d like to hold a series of Facebook QandAs with Labor Shadow Ministers so that you can ask your questions about Labor’s plans and policies directly from the source.
So what issue are you most passionate about?
Environment and Climate Change
Immigration and Asylum policy
Innovation and Start-ups
Social Security, Pensions and Welfare
Are Labor actually about to start implementing some policies? Are they actually trying to shake off the Liberal-Lite label? Are they actually trying to move forward again now that Tony Abbott and his wedge-style of politics have been swept away?
If ‘yes’ to all of the above, then “thank you, Labor”.
For two years I’ve been dumbfounded as to why the issues important to me have been ignored. There must be tens of thousands of Labor supporters who feel the same way, but at last Labor wants to hear from us.
As I’ve been the first to complain over these two years I will be making sure I am one of the first to tick some of the boxes. Please join me. We are about to be listened to.
The switch has been flicked. Extraordinary. I have seen more reporting of government policy in mainstream press over the last week than I saw in the last three years. This is probably an exaggeration, but isn’t perception reality? All I remember seeing throughout 2010 to 2013 was yet another report about Gillard’s ‘unstable grip on the leadership of the Labor Party’.
Political journalists treat their readers like idiots by pretending that they got the Labor leadership call right. How dare they now pretend to be innocent bystanders and justify their newfound interest in political policy by saying it was all Gillard’s fault that they couldn’t report her policy success. Because when you’re saying something is going to happen for years and it eventually does happen, you still just look like an obsessive, one-track mind with a Murdoch narrative that no journalist had the courage to rise above. A broken clock is right twice a day; however in this case of course it’s worse than that. The mainstream media just kept picking away, kept writing article after article about Rudd’s campaign to destabilize Gillard’s leadership until they gave her no choice but to give in to the bullying. They made the story a reality.
The excuse that Rudd’s campaign was newsworthy, and therefore justifiably reportable is rubbish. We all know there is leadership tension in any party. Anyone keen to use Turnbull or Hockey as their unnamed source would find the same thing on the other side of the chamber. We all know there is plenty of news going on in Canberra and elsewhere all the time. It’s journalists’ decision, it’s their judgment call, to decide, with their limited column inches and word count, what news is important to report. When every political journalist in the country was writing the same article every week, they were declaring to readers that nothing else of importance was happening in this country. And isn’t this how the mainstream media have really failed? Because I can’t believe anyone could argue that Rudd’s blind ambition was a bigger story than any of the things they missed, namely:
It’s amusing now to see so many political journalists writing glowing obituaries about Gillard’s career as the first female Prime Minister of Australia. Actually, it’s not funny. It’s pathetic. Where were these articles before Rudd challenged last week?
Gillard’s amazing legacy will be intact, and future analysis will only improve our understanding of the significance of the last three years of policy reform to the social fabric of our community. That is, on the assumption that Abbott doesn’t dismantle all Gillard’s good work. But no, this was never the story. The story was never on policy, was never on Gillard’s exceptional negotiation skills. It was never on her poise in the face of constant abuse from Tony Abbott, from his colleagues, from many in the media and all their foul mouthed foot-soldiers across social media and deep, ugly dark parts of the internet. Abbott changed this country the day he stood in front of the ‘Ditch the Witch’ sign (twice). He gave permission to the Grace Colliers, to the Larry Pickerings, the Alan Jones, to the Mal Broughs and his fundraising dinner, to children throwing sandwiches. Abbott’s message was that it’s fair game to personally denigrate your opponent for political gain, and to denigrate the position of Prime Minister in the process. He made it fair game to call Gillard a liar every day until it became part of her name. That is Abbott’s legacy. And this is what we saw in the press instead of hearing about Gillard’s amazing success while leading a minority government constantly referred to as ‘chaos’. Journalists should hang their heads in shame when the only way to get an accurate account of Gillard’s leadership is for the Victorian Women’s Trust to buy space in a newspaper.
I can already imagine the groans of mainstream journalists about this next topic. But this time, before you all start complaining, I’m not imploring you again to take interest in the campaign designed by Mal Brough to remove Peter Slipper from parliament, with the hope of bringing down the Labor Government. I’m not asking you to track down James Ashby and to find out exactly what went on. I’ve come to terms long ago with the realization that you’re just not up to investigating Australia’s own version of Watergate. But again, aren’t you shamed by the Ashbygate trust, which has raised over $50,000 from the public to dig into this story and to reveal the truth? While you complain you can’t afford to do any investigative reporting, we’re all donating funds to see this job done properly by someone else. Well played.
Policy, policy and policy
Is it not a huge embarrassment to the mainstream media that they are now trying to spend the few weeks before the election playing catch up in political policy areas far too complex to leave to sound bites? The electorate deserves better than this. We deserve to know about Abbott’s plans, and how they differ from the current Labor government. I could write fifty posts about all the policy areas that have been totally ignored for the last three years, replaced and wiped out by the unending narrative of ‘Labor leadership tensions’. Here’s a snapshot of a couple, and some questions I would like answered which should, in a decent mainstream media, have been asked years ago:
Climate Change – we saw Abbott on the newsevery night in his latest stunt, wearing yellow safety vests, stacking bananas and driving trucks. What exactly is his Direct Action Policy? How much will it cost? And how will it actually work? Did you not think when you went along on one of Abbott’s stunt trips it might have been worth asking about this? And to keep asking until you got an answer?
What about the effect of the Carbon Price which was meant to wipe Whyalla off the map? Have you held the Liberal National Coalition to account for all their easily disprovable propaganda and lies, designed to scare voters and to undermine action against climate change? If you bothered to check, the effect of the Carbon Price has been to reduce emissions and to increase investment in renewable energy which will further reduce emissions in the future. This is great news! Also, it’s slightly newsworthy that, even after Abbott spent all his tax-payer funded time and travel allowance on his anti-carbon-tax road trip, the majority of voters haven’t been fooled. Doesn’t this story warrant as much of your attention as a leaky Rudd? It’s just the health of the planet we live on at stake after all. Is the tenant in the Lodge really more important than that?
Paid Parental Leave – This is Abbott’s ‘signature policy’. He is offering to pay women a full time salary, capped up to $75,000 for six months maternity leave, presumably to help them pay their mortgages while they take leave from work. Apart from the fact that this is middle and upper-class welfare on steroids, I am quite concerned that many voters have very little information about the mechanics and cost of this scheme.
Abbott has said he will tax companies to fund this policy. However he hasn’t mentioned it much since business said they weren’t happy about it. I don’t need to imagine Gina Rinehart’s reaction to a tax increase. Can someone please follow up with Abbott about this? Is his policy a policy or not? We want to see another blood oath! One question, which still hasn’t been answered, is a fairly simple one – will a woman who already receives paid maternity leave as part of her employment contract receive Abbott’s paid leave as well? Or does it just top up the employer’s contribution to six months fully-paid leave? Or is it instead of the employer’s contribution? I would have thought this information is kind of important, no? Is anyone going to ask the question?
We could have seen three years of policy analysis, including plenty of comparison of Abbott’s broadband plan, his education funding versus Gillard’s Gonski plan. We could have heard how Abbott’s ‘Stop the Boats’ policy of turning back boats was not going to be accepted by Indonesia, and how it contravened the agreement Australia has made by signing the UN Refugee Convention.
But no. All we saw was sound bites about how Abbott wants to destroy the Labor government, how Rudd wanted to take over from Gillard and how Gillard’s government was always on the brink. We will surely look back at the last three years as a proud, successful time for the Labor Party with an amazing leader. And a time where trust in the mainstream media was eroded to the point of no return. Because journalists and their vested interests in the vested interests of their bosses have failed the electorate. We are now seeing too little too late and democracy is the loser. Shame on you all.
This has been a black week for those on welfare in Britain. We can’t let the same thing happen in Australia.
The British Conservative government is demolishing the welfare state, brick by brick. A series of changes, scarcely reported here, make it even harder for people who are poor, unemployed or have a disability. They include a bedroom tax – I kid you not – that public housing tenants have to pay if they have a spare room. Many will be forced out of houses they have lived in for years. There’s an arbitrary cap on benefits, reduction of the Council tax benefit and a host of other cuts like no legal aid for civil cases – you can read more of the details here. And by the way, there’s a tax cut for the rich. As far as I know, none of these specific changes figured in the Conservative’s election campaign. The policies are accompanied by flagrant attacks in the mainstream media on people living on welfare; apparently welfare is to blame for the horrific death of six children at the hands of their father. Welfare is a ‘lifestyle choice’, according to the Daily Mail.
What we see here is the almost inevitable result of neo-liberal ideology at work. You can’t tax the rich – indeed they need tax cuts – because they are supposed to be creating the wealth which pays for the safety net for the poor whom the system (inevitably) disadvantages. Only they aren’t creating wealth – there’s a recession. So there’s a vicious circle, with less revenue to pay for the safety net, which is increasingly expensive, and less and less affordable … unless you tax the rich, which is ruled out by definition.
One of the saddest features of this debacle is that the British Labour Party doesn’t seem willing or able to oppose these cruel changes. Guardian journalist George Monbiot describes the Labour Party’s position as ‘low-alcohol conservatism’, a hangover from the ineffective ‘third way’ policies of Tony Blair, who also wanted to relieve the state of its duty to minimise inequality, and promoted ‘personal responsibility’. The economy is in recession, but it’s still your fault if you can’t find a job.
Monbiot suggests that too many people in Britain still suffer from feelings of deference. He says:
‘They lived in great and justified fear of authority, and the fear has persisted, passed down across the five or six generations that separate us and reinforced now by renewed insecurity, snowballing inequality, partisan policing.’
The only antidote he sees is hope, engendered by ‘the power of a transformative idea’ that can change the way people think about equality and inequality. He suggests a ‘basic income’, paid for by a ‘land value tax’.
These ideas may have merit. But here in Australia, we don’t need them. I don’t want to get into a debate about national character, but I don’t think Monbiot’s characterisation of the British as still somehow accepting the rightness of inequality or feeling powerless to oppose it, applies here. We have a strong belief that more equality of opportunity is better than less, though this belief shouldn’t be taken for granted. Certainly the anti-welfare messages all too frequently espoused by the mainstream media probably do have an effect – welfare cheats, lazy unemployed, and shirkers claiming disability are core business for programs like A Current Affair. But while trust in governments’ ability to improve people’s circumstances has declined, people still look to them for assistance when things go wrong. The conservative ‘big government is the problem’ mantra doesn’t work terribly well here.
And surely our Labor Party is not the spineless body that British Labour seems to have become. Yes, it did undertake a massive retreat from government ownership of public enterprises. Yes, there are – and should be – debates about how to avoid welfare traps. But it has never retreated from the associated need to provide a proper safety net. You can read a discussion of what the Prime Minister says and does about equality (admittedly not always the same thing) here.
So at least in theory, we have a culture that approves of a society with greater rather than less equality, and a party in government that still espouses more equal sharing of wealth. Polls continue to show the voters want the ALP to represent workers and traditional Labour values. Essential Polling concludes that
‘Labor’s woes aren’t due to pitting the classes against each other, but rather a failure to fulfil their mandate to represent working people’.
What better narrative does the ALP need? It’s time to be bold. No more nonsense about struggling on $250,000. You can look at the real situation here. Forget about the accusations of ‘class war’. The only class war in Australia is of the rich vested interests versus the poor and weak. Welfare is a right for those who need it. The measure of their need is the level of their inequality. This is the simple message the ALP needs to shout from the rooftops. (After all, the mainstream media won’t publish it.)
And I fear they are going to need to shout it. Should the LNP win the election in September, they will be faced with a version of what the Conservatives have in Britain – declining revenue and growing welfare costs as the population ages. And their solution will be the same. Australia may not be in recession, but the Liberal mantra of balancing the budget, alongside their many expensive commitments to middle class welfare will mean they will cut spending in other welfare areas, no doubt playing the dole bludger card as they have in the past. But don’t expect to see any of this before the election; this is what we can expect from the post budget audit commission. ‘Labor’s budget black hole’. It’s all so predictable.
Where Monbiot is certainly right is in calling on hope as a motive force to oppose such attacks on the poorest and most vulnerable. Labor in Australia must never be ‘Liberal Lite’. It must reassert its traditional left of centre values.