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Tag Archives: Australian Labor

The Taxed Nots. Who are they and what should we do with them?

When the Government chooses not to participate in active job creation, the expectation on people seeking employment to engage in active participation welfare programs, is unfair, burdensome, stigmatising, demoralising and counterproductive. Mutual Obligation under the Keating Government was developed based on the notion that the Government would also commit to job creation and increase vocational training. This is not the case today, nor has it been for some time.  The Government is not investing in job creation and vocational education has been largely privatised and is predominantly inaccessible and unaffordable to those who most need it.  Active Participation welfare programs are punitive and are underpinned by the assumption that the jobseeker is lazy and needs motivation by a paternalistic guiding hand to participate in society as a full human being. It is time for a new narrative and a new solution.

The latest narrative – The Taxed Nots. Who are they?

They are bludgers, rorters, welfare cheats, the undeserving poor, the drug addled, leaners not lifters, people with their hand out, a hindrance to the ‘national interest’, people who don’t try hard enough, job refusers, taking loans from the tax-payer, won’t get off the couch, lack participation, who go from the school gate to Centrelink’s front door, self-entitled, sitting at home playing X-box and eating cheezels and now the latest …The Taxed Nots.

The Taxed Nots – what should we do with them?

We need to drug test them, force them into unpaid labour, manage their income, give them a card to label them and not trust them with cash, push the welfare cops after them, get them moving, force them to live 45% below the poverty line and if they are poverty line newbie, we should starve them for six months whist the Government simultaneously breaches human rights obligations. .

With the exception of John Howard’s gem, “the undeserving poor” and Amanda Vanstone’s “Don’t try hard enough and refuse jobs”, these are just some of the labels the Australian Liberal Party has given to those seeking employment and just some of the ‘solutions’ to assist the jobless to find employment, since 2013. Pretty confronting when it is wrapped up in neat little paragraphs, isn’t it?

The dehumanisation and the stigmatisation of those seeking employment must cease immediately and a new narrative and new solutions need to start today.

A little history

Mutual obligation has always existed within the jobseeker framework.  However, mutual obligation penalties were discretionary and mostly non financial (ie write on your dole form where you looked for work this week).  However, postponement of payment could occur for up to two weeks.  This was dropped in 1984 as it was causing hardship, but reinstated in 1987.  The widening of activity based breaches will be discussed in the next section. Active Labour Market Participation (ALMP) programs were the shift towards paternalistic and punitive measures and financial penalties for the unemployed.

Active Labour Market Participation (ALMP) programs commenced under the Hawke/Keating Government. The  original intention of the ALMP programs was to manage retraining and to assist new workers to move across industries in the new globalisation and at a time where long time unemployment was the new reality and had shifted from a long period of relatively low unemployment.

Zigarus ¹ (2004) sums up another driver as, “In essence, this approach holds that the unemployment rate is influenced by how actively the unemployed search for work. The more effort people make to find jobs, and the less choosy they are about what jobs they will take, the lower the overall unemployment.”

Regardless of how well intentioned ALMP programs were when they were introduced, the very essence of these programs are driven by the notion that the unemployed do not have the same desires to achieve a full life as the employed do and they are inherently lazy.   Paternalistic and punitive welfare measures are also the antecedents to enabling the stigmatisation of the unemployed. The era of the ALMP programs were the beginning of segregating the unemployed as separate citizens from those who are employed – the bludgers and the workers. Even within the cohort of the unemployed, the narrative was able to change from discussing welfare as a necessity for those out of work to those who deserved assistance and those who did not.  Those who needed a hand up and those who just wanted a hand out.  This narrative continues today and it has become increasingly more comfortable for politicians to use this stigmatising rhetoric with conviction.

Punitive measures intensified under Howard

The shift in ALMP programs under John Howard introduced the concept that unpaid labour should be imposed on those seeking employment. Howard’s notion was to deserve a hand out, the recipient must give back to the community.  This adds the public’s scrutinisation of the intentions of the jobseeker to the mix.  Work for the Dole and similar unpaid labour programs normalised the perception that jobseekers had to be forced to work, as they were not motivated to do so; and if they were working as unpaid labour, this would be the impetus to force them to look for paid labour.

Financial Penalties under Howard

The Howard Government dismantled Keating’s Working Nation (job creation, increased Labor market programs and training and mutual obligation, including breaching penalties). Financial penalties increased and the activity for which you could be breached significantly widened under the Liberals “Australian’s Working Together” policy.  The other notable shift from Keating’s policy to Howard’s policy was that financial penalties moved from discretionary to enforced by legislation and contractual obligation on the jobsearch provider.

The initial extremely punitive measures are outlined by Eardley et. al ² as:

The initial legislation proposed to strengthen breaching arrangements by extending the activity test non-payment period to six weeks for the first breach and 13 weeks for all subsequent breaches, while all administrative breaches would incur rate reductions of 25 per cent for eight weeks.

Welfare groups successfully lobbied and this initial bill was defeated in Parliament. However, less severe penalties were adopted.  This included an 8 week breach of 100% loss of benefit after the third breach. The Abbott Government put up a bill in 2014 which sought to exempt new Newstart recipients from payment for six months. This has been defeated/taken off the table and a bill for Newstart recipients to be exempt for six weeks, is still progressing though today’s parliament.  This shows the long standing determination of the Liberal Party to impose harsh and extreme measures on the unemployed.  This also shows the shift from welfare as a human right to dignity, to one of targeting the disadvantaged as a means for budget savings.

Other notable changes

Structural changes to jobseeker programs to note (but not limited to) are:

  • The inclusion and shift from other benefits to jobseeker associated benefits (Single Parents and Disability recipients shifted to jobsearch programs.)
  • The increase in mutual obligation age brackets from 17-18 years, to 18-30 years to 18-49 years and now 18-60 years and over
  • Intensive case management
  • Enforceable preparing for work agreements
  • Increased obligation to search for more jobs, or a breach is imposed
  • The length of time travelled to search for job, or a breach is imposed
  • Relocation expectation
  • Implementation of Government approved doctors only (not jobseeker’s own doctor)
  • Shift to a jobsearch payment from Disability pension if you can work 30 hours per week down to 15 hours per week
  • Shift from Government provider to private contracted providers
  • Obligation to jobsearch if not employed for more than 70 hours per fortnight (jobsearch is a requirement although you have gained employment)
  • Income Management (Basic’s Card – non-cash component imposed)

The jobseeker’s positioning in Australia.

The reality of a jobseeker securing work in Australia, is that there are 19 jobseekers for every job available in Australia (as of May, 2016). That is however, not a true figure, as it needs to be considered that not all jobseekers are equally qualified for all jobs.  Therefore, for some, the jobseeker to job vacancy ratio is much higher.  In addition, vocational education and training has become less available and less accessible for those seeking employment; particularly in lower income brackets. Changes to eligibility for vocational training (ie The Certificate 3 Guarantee is for any eligible Queensland resident who does not already hold and is not currently enrolled into, a post-school Certificate III or higher qualification.)  Therefore if you hold a cert III in one vocational area, for example beauty, you are not eligible to undertake vocational training at cert 3 level in business administration.

In addition, specialised services such as JPET (Job placement, employment and training for homeless and disadvantaged young people) have ceased and are now replaced with a one-stop-shop model of ‘streams’ of unemployment.

The Liberal Party’s small government, free market mindset, is an inherent propensity to shy away from job creation and allow the free market to ‘sort out the jobs’, rather than the socialisation of job creation projects.  Government’s who do not commit to job creation are not complying with their mutual obligation to the nation’s unemployed citizens.  The onus is completely on the jobseeker and the framework within the jobseeker must search for jobs, is unrealistic; secure full time jobs and skills development get increasingly more difficult to obtain.

It should also be noted that barriers to employment and the adverse outcomes of financial and other punitive measures are more severe for (but not limited to); Indigenous Australians, single parents, jobseekers with a disability, youth and homeless and disadvantaged jobseekers.

The new narrative and the new solutions

To achieve the re-humanisation and the de-stigmatisation of those seeking employment; the jobsearch model must shift to a jobseeker-centric framework and away from a budget savings measures framework where jobseekers are currently seen as a strain on the public purse and a dehumanised as a target for savings measures.

Therefore, the jobsearch framework needs to shift from one of mandatory participation to one of voluntary participation.

Jobseekers need to be allowed free agency to participate freely in jobsearch activities.  To do this, the narrative needs to shift from the stigmatising rhetoric outlined in the beginning of this article to a more supportive narrative. Jobseekers should be given the support and recognition by Government that they have the same hopes, dreams and aims as the employed and are actively participating in job search to improve their life circumstance.

This then shifts the narrative away from the current underpinning assumption that jobseekers need a paternalistic guiding hand to motivate them; to a narrative that has the underpinning assumption that jobseekers are intrinsically motivated to seek employment.

This then shifts the onus for outcomes from the jobseeker and the public expectation to punish them for non-achievement to the public expectation that the Government of the day has an obligation to perform and enable an environment conducive to an expectation that secure employment can be achieved.

This should put pressure on the Government of the day to engage fully in job creation projects and the public less likely to accept the promises of a free market, small Government intervention model.  This means that there would be an increase in the expectation that the Government would create jobs where it had the power to do so.  This may include Government intervention to increase positions in all Government owned, operated and funded entities at local, state and federal level.  This may also include Government intervention to make mandatory the requirement for quotas within Government funded infrastructure projects to achieve targets of employing those who are employed and underemployed.

This should also put pressure on the Government to ensure they meet the obligation of providing skills development opportunities for those seeking employment. This may mean the implementation of yearly quotas of trainees and apprentices for all Government owned and funded organisations.  This would also place pressure on the Government to provide affordable access to TAFE and other training for all jobseekers, both under employed and unemployed.

In regional and rural areas where there is a higher concentration of unemployment; this should also put pressure on the Government to decentralise the public sector at state and federal level. In addition, pressure should be placed on the Government to provide attractive incentives for SME’s and large corporations to invest in relocations or start ups in regional and rural areas.

Government change to enhance the current model would also require the adoption of a basic wage, which will shift the public perception of one that jobseekers are welfare dependent, to a perception of a human right to a basic wage for all citizens.  This will also enable the underemployed to be as competitive for jobs as the unemployed.  Currently some incentives favour only the long term unemployed and lock the under employed out of the labour market.   Punitive measures such as income management (basic card) and financial penalties would no longer need to exist.

The most critical shift that needs to occur is for citizens to reject the stigmatising narrative that currently exists around those seeking employment today; as this narrative is the antecedent for the entire burden of secure employment to fall on the jobseeker, rather than the onus of providing citizens with full, secure employment on the Government.

All of the above can be achieved and it can start with a rejection of the current dehumanising and stigmatising narrative surrounding jobseekers; and it should start with all of us today.

“Stigma is a process by which the reaction of others spoils normal identity.”
―Erving Goffman


1 Ziguras, Stephen (2004) “Australian Social Security Policy and Job-Seekers’ Motivation,” Journal of Economic and Social Policy: Vol. 9: No. 1, pp 1-24

Tony Eardley, Jude Brown, Margot Rawsthorne, Kate Norris, Liz Emrys, 2005, The impact of breaching on income support customers, Social Policy Research Centre (UNSW)

Originally published on Polyfeministix

Shorten’s Labor: Fair Go Mate!

The saying, ‘Fair Go Mate’ embodies so much of what Australians are about in three little words – a fair go. It sums up everything that is the backbone of who we are: to stand up to those who try to knock us down and don’t give us a chance – a fair go.

When someone judges us or our efforts unfairly or tries to knock us down and not give us a chance; in our beautiful, unique Australian vernacular we respond with “Fair Go, Mate!”

Every time I hear Bill Shorten speak, every positive policy he announces, he promotes something positive that will give Australians a fair go.

Woven into every rebuttal of the Liberal Government’s punitive, conservative, knock everything and everyone down rhetoric and policies, I hear Shorten say to Turnbull – “Fair Go, Mate!”

On July 3rd, we will wake up with either Labor or Liberals as our Government. There is no other choice. I understand that there is quite a movement of people wanting to vote for independent and minor parties; however, your vote will decide which one of the Major parties will rule us for the next three years.

We need to seek a clear majority for a Government to achieve good progress in their own right. Hung parliaments are not something ‘cool and trendy’ that teach anyone a lesson, nor are they something we should wish for. Being one seat away to the return of Campbell Newman/Joh Bjelke-Petersen type rule in Queensland, is not a pleasant thought. With 42 seats each, it is real fear. It is not a joke.

Please vote for a minor party or an independent, if you are truly dedicated to that party or individual. However, there are many people who state they will do this ‘to teach the majors a lesson.’ There seems to be a growing popularity that somehow this is a ‘trendy thing to do.’  Please don’t vote to be ‘trendy’ when so much is at stake.  We are adults. Politics does matter. It changes lives. Please take your vote seriously, because with this election being so close, your vote is powerful and you will be a participant in real choice.

Malcolm Turnbull is correct when he has implored voters

“To vote as if your vote decides the election.”

This election is so close, your vote might do just that.

That choice is a Shorten Government or a Turnbull Government.  That is it. No beating around the bush, no platitudes, no whimsical fancies of a minor party breaking history and winning 76 seats. Every single primary vote counts.  It is Shorten or Turnbull. Your choice.

A choice between a fair go and progressive policies with Labor, or a continuation of stagnant, conservative and punitive measures with the Liberals.

On July 2, you will either vote for a Shorten Labor Government to give you a fair go and to be given a real chance, or you will vote to be knocked down by the Liberals and not given a chance.

The Liberals won’t care if you scream at them “Fair Go, Mate!” The Liberals see punishment as an incentive to push people to improve. It simply does not resonate with them.

Here are some of the choices you will be voting for:

Bill Shorten is saying to Turnbull “Fair Go, Mate” because Turnbull wants to knock kids down before they can get a quality education, by not properly funding schools.

Shorten will give kids a fair go by properly funding Gonski.

Bill Shorten is saying to Turnbull “Fair Go, Mate” because Turnbull wants to knock sick people down who don’t have the money to pay a GP Co-Payment, or fees for pathology and scans that are essential for diagnosis, by putting extra taxes on Medicare and making moves to privatise our national health insurance system.

Shorten will give sick people a fair go, by protecting Medicare and lifting the Medicare rebate freeze , so more Doctors have an incentive to bulk bill.
In two words: Medicare Stays.

Bill Shorten is saying to Turnbull “Fair Go, Mate” because Turnbull wants to knock LGBTI people down by spending $160 million dollars on an plebiscite, which will give voice to the homophobic anti-marriage equality lobby, to shout their enraged hate at LGBTI people, just to decide if they should have the same rights as every other citizen in the country.

Shorten will give LGBTI people a fair go, by legislating for Marriage Equality within the first 100 days.

Bill Shorten is saying to Turnbull “Fair Go, Mate” because Turnbull wants to knock Australians down, before they can even begin to think about starting a business, or remaining competitive, or by preventing their education in a rural area, by giving Australians a second rate copper-laden National Broadband Network.

Shorten will give all Australians a fair go, by rolling out Fibre to the Premises and give Australians a first class technology fibre laden NBN

Bill Shorten is saying to Turnbull “Fair Go, Mate” because Turnbull wants to knock school leavers and mature aged students down, by deregulating some university fees, and locking some students out of higher education, based on their family’s wealth and not their hard work.

Shorten will give all University Students a fair go, by keeping higher education affordable and accessible for all students; creating STEM Scholarships and offering some places completely HECS Free.

Bill Shorten is saying to Turnbull “Fair Go, Mate” because Turnbull wants to knock jobseekers down by giving business a 50 billion dollar tax cut, which will only impact the economy by .01% – under the guise of “jobs and growth’ and offer $4 Internships.

Shorten will give business and jobseekers a fair go, by offering small business a $20,000 tax break if they hire, a ­mature-age jobseeker or someone under 25 and by committing that one in 10 jobs in Government infrastructure projects are apprentices.

Thank you Bill Shorten, for bringing the Fair Go from underneath the layers of political rhetoric voters need to sift through at election time and just placing it smack bang in the middle of the table, in arms reach, right next to the sauce.

Shorten summed this up nicely in his speech at the Labor Launch this morning when speaking of the fair go that underpins what Labor is about:

Today, my remarkable team and I offer ourselves as an new Government, dedicated to Australian’s oldest proposition  – A Fair Go all around. A Labor Govt that recognised that Australia has always grown stronger and richer, by including everyone in opportunity, and leaving no-one behind.


We will be a Labor Government that will always put people first, in the finest tradition of this great country we all love together.

You can watch more about Labor’s Fair Go Here:

Please make your vote count!

Originally published on Polyfeministix


Bill Shorten’s Address at ALP National Conference on Asylum Seeker Policy – Key points

Below is the video of Bill Shorten’s address at the Labor Conference, regarding Asylum Seeker and immigration policies. Key points from the address are listed below:

Key Points:

  • Immigration has been one of the secrets of Australia’s success.
  • Shorten believes in a new direction for Australia’s immigration policies
  • Accept more refugees and ensure we treat refugees more humanely
  • Shorten guarantees to keep closed the lethal journey between Java and Christmas Island, which claims lives.
  • Australia can be the greater, kinder nation, we want our children to see.
  • A Labor Govt will keep more people safe in a more humane way
    • Safe from persecution by dictatorial regimes
    • Safe from the exploitation of criminal people smugglers who prey upon the vulnerable.
    • Safe from abuse in facilities which even fail to meet the basic standard of decency
    • Safe from losing people they love from having families torn apart from drownings at sea
  • In addressing this, unlike the Liberal National Coalition, we do not play to the politics of fear
  • Labor will never use labels to denigrate desperate people
  • Fleeing persecution is not a crime
  • We will not pander to a noisy tiny minority who will never embrace multi-cultural Australia
  • Shorten acknowledges the history of Asylum seeker policy
  • We must ensure Navy, customs officials and border force people never again pull bodies from waters
  • We must maintain regional settlement agreements Labor introduced. Safest deterrent to people smugglers
  • Under Labor’s policies people smugglers cannot falsely advertise settlement in Australia
  • There are now over 60 million displaced people in the world through no fault of their own and this will only increase
  • Risking lives in unsafe vessels will only increase and desperation will become more intense.
  • We should never tolerate the exploitation of vulnerable people.
  • We cannot allow people smugglers to take advantage of perceived weakness.
  • We need to ensure people smugglers cannot traffic vulnerable people.
  • We need to ensure Australia provides safe haven to a greater share of refugees
  • Displaced people will arrive here more safely.
  • We must have the option of turning boats around provided it is safe to do so.
  • By 2025, a Labor Govt will double Australia’s annual refugee intake to 27,000 people.
  • Labor will dedicate a portion of our program to resettling refugees from our region.
  • Labor will abolish temporary protection visas
  • Labor will reinstate the United Nations Refugee Convention in the Migration Act.
  • Labor will reverse the Abbott Govt’s retrograde efforts to undermine international law
  • Labor will deliver historic 450 million dollars to the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees
  • Labor will take up overdue leadership role to work and engage with our neighbours, including Indonesia
  • Labor supports regional processing.
  • Processing offshore does not mean we can offshore or outsource our humanity
  • Vulnerable people should never be subject to degrading violence in Australia’s name.
  • To guarantee safety Labor will implement Independent oversight of every Australian funded facility
  • Labor will ensure refugee claims are processed as quickly as possible.
  • Labor will restore access to the refugee review tribunal
  • Labor will ensure increased transparency for processing times.
  • Labor will fulfil the solemn duty we owe to children.
  • Labor will end the moral shame of children in detention as quickly as possible.
  • Labor will establish an Independent Children’s Advocate
  • Independent Children’s advocate will be separate from Department, Minister & Government, serving only the interests of children.
  • In addition to Whistle Blower safeguards, Labor will legislate to impose mandatory reporting of any child abuse in all facilities.
  • Labor’s plan ensures Australia takes a fair share of refugees
  • Labor’s plan ensures refugees in our care are treated with humanity and dignity
  • Labor’s plan ensures that Australia steps up and fulfils a greater responsibility as a global citizen
  • Shorten says he did not enter politics to shirk hard decisions and hard issues
  • Shorten is determined for our country to be responsible in the world and secure at home
  • Shorten is determined for us to be a welcoming, kind, compassionate and safe destination
  • Shorten is determined Labor will achieve this for Australia.

*Video sourced from Bill Shorten’s Facebook page.

Originally published on Polyfeministix

This isn’t good enough, Mr Shorten

Image courtesy of

Bill Shorten (image from

The Government, and in particular Tony Abbott and the education minister Christopher Pyne have come in for a caning over their education reforms which, by all accounts, are a complete back flip (and a lie) from what they promised during the election campaign.

There are two issues: they lied; and their proposed reforms dismantle the far better models negotiated by the previous government.

The outrage is being thundered across social media and a small whimper is also coming from some sections of the mainstream media. But who are raising their voices in protest? Mostly, the protests are from concerned parents via Facebook or Twitter and some State premiers via the non-Murdoch tabloids.

Thousands of people across social media are also asking; “Where is Bill Shorten?” Yes, where is he? This has been a monumental balls-up by the Government and he could, to quote a friend, turn this into a “turkey shoot”. The Government’s lie and back flips over education have been exposed yet he has gone mute. He should be hammering the point home and he should be hammering it relentlessly. It was a style that helped Tony Abbott win office. He can learn from it. Yet what has been the response from the Opposition? This wet lettuce leaf attack:

The opposition education spokeswoman, Kate Ellis, said the Coalition’s backflip was a betrayal of students, teachers and parents.

Wow. I bet that hurt.

I thought, just maybe, that the Labor Party might have something resembling a media release about this on their web site and the mainstream media were playing their usual game of ignoring it. After all, when Julia Gillard was prime minister the ALP site was loaded with media releases from both her and her ministers. Even though they were conveniently overlooked by the media, at least they were saying something. At least they were attempting to get their message out.

So I took a look. This was all I found; a blog post called Abbott Backflips on Better Schools by a person named Deb Boughton which reads:

Have you heard what’s happened?

As a teacher for nearly three decades, it’s absolutely ridiculous to find out that the Coalition Government yesterday announced that they “cannot go ahead with the Gonski funding arrangements”.

The Better Schools reform was set to deliver more resources for our kids and provide greater support for students who needed it most. It’s about making sure that none of my students are left behind no matter what their circumstances are. Now all of that is under threat.

What makes it even worse was that not only are they just cutting funding for our kids, but Tony Abbott and the Coalition lied about it. During the election, they declared they were on a “unity ticket” with Labor’s plan for Better Schools, but now it just seems they want my students and my school to get by with even less.

The NSW Government has already stood up to say that they will fight any changes, but we need to send Tony Abbott a clear message: we want our Better Schools.

I’m not usually a political person, but this is too important for me to stay quiet on. You and I have to speak up on this so we can have the better schools we were promised.

Yours sincerely,

Deb Boughton

Posted by Australian Labor on November 26, 2013

That’s all. Nothing else. It’s a good post and good on Deb Boughton for writing it, but notice the date? November 26. Nothing else and nothing since. Was it a media release? No. Was it by member of the Opposition? No. It was a blog post. A blog post almost a week old that has attracted not one comment. It has received a total of only 13 ‘Likes’ on Facebook and hasn’t even been shared on Twitter.

I would rightly assume that the Leader of the Opposition could command a wider audience than this humble blog. If we can write an article, for example, critical of the Prime Minister that attracts over 115,000 views in one day alone and be shared on 56,000 Facebook pages, over 460 Twitter re-tweets and 330 comments, then what could Mr Shorten achieve?

Bill, you’re obviously doing something wrong, and that isn’t good enough.


Writing the Narrative, or should that be “Righting the Narrative”?



“As a result, a story has emerged about Labor that goes like this. Faced with the transformation of its old supporter base, and having failed to build a new one, it has lost belief and self-belief. Machine men predominate. Policy is made only with an eye on the focus groups.


But another story is also true. Through a traumatic period, Labor ministers have focused on producing good policy. They deserve more credit for it than they have got. Their response to the global financial crisis led the world, and they have kept the economy strong since then.”

A Year in My Father’s Business James Button


“Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has admitted Labor did not have a mandate for introducing a carbon tax, naming it as a major policy the party “got wrong” during its term in Government.

Asked on Insiders this morning why the Government deserved to be re-elected, he said all governments make mistakes.

ABC NEWS 25th August, 2013

We initially were told that Gillard was the worst Prime Minister since Whitlam before it was decided that she was the worst PM ever. So, I’m going to throw a couple of questions out here, just for fun.

How much net debt did the Fraser Government inherit from Whitlam?*

Which Australian Government left the highest debt to GDP ratio when leaving office?

The answer to those two questions may surprise you. The answer to the first is “None”#, while the answer to the second is the Fraser Government, with Howard as Treasurer.

Howard’s record as a Treasurer is impressive, he remains the only one to get the 10% inflation while unemployment was also 10%. When Howard was PM, rather than use the proceeds of the mining boom to build infrastructure or to invest in our future, he established more middle-class welfare like the Baby Bonus or the private health insurance subsidy

Yet, somehow the Liberals have been able to write the narrative that they’ve been good economic managers. Whitlam had to deal with the oil shocks of the 70’s, and Rudd/Gillard had the Global Financial Crisis. And somehow, the Liberal narrative ignores these to suggest that it was thanks to Labor that these things occurred.


Well, Labor doesn’t exactly help itself. Kevin Rudd’s mea culpa on the Carbon Tax is symptomatic. “We made mistakes, but we’ve learned” seems to be the way Labor approach being voted out of office.

Rudd, of course, made that comment while still Prime Minister, so he got in early. Labor reacts like someone who feels the relationship break-up was all their fault. “I know that it’s not you, it’s me. What can I do to get you back?”

The Liberals react like someone who should have a restraining order. “I’m going to stand here throwing rocks through your window until you realise you should take me back!”

Labor thinks they get voted out because they’ve made too many mistakes, whereas the Liberals seem to think that it’s the electorate whose made the mistake.

I’d like to see someone from the Labor side of politics say that Whitlam was a far more successful Prime Minister than Malcolm Fraser. He achieved most of his agenda and is probably proud of the way he left Australia. Medicare, for one thing.

Hawke and Keating transformed the economy. Rudd and Gillard saw us through the GFC and established the NDIS. I know there’s more. but it’s Labor who should be selling the narrative of their achievements, not apologising for the bits they got wrong.

(When did you ever hear Abbott or Hockey say that the Howard Government was anything less than perfect?)

Howard? His greatest achievement was the Goods and Services Tax – he said so himself. (Although, I think most of us would have said gun control.)

And Fraser? Well, he promoted Howard to the role of Treasurer. Perhaps, there’s something I missed.


#Many dispute this. I read the reasons. It’s a bit like an argument that Isaac Newton didn’t contribute to Science because Gravity hadn’t been invented then, and anyway, the story about the apple tree isn’t real.

A New Narrative


Image from

It’s really frustrating to find that respected commentators like Jonathan Green persist in suggesting that there are no material differences between the LNP and the ALP. Writing in Mamamia, in an otherwise thoughtful article about Julia Gillard and the importance of gender, he said ‘our parties are in broad agreement’ and that ‘heartfelt views that test the status quo are out of favour in a mannered modern politics that is an often loud contest for whatever unique but slender toeholds might be found in the narrows of the middle ground.’ I think that the few short weeks since the election show how shallow this view is.

On one hand, we have an Abbott government doing exactly what we thought it would; denying the reality of climate change and championing the unfettered free market’s right to exploit Australia’s natural resources without let or hindrance by government. Sacking the Climate Commission and supporting fracking  – despite having said during the election campaign that they favoured restrictions – are only the beginning. I

t’s true that the LNP’s ‘small government’ rhetoric hasn’t always played out in practice in the past, and it will be interesting to see how they react to the small government right wing nut jobs that have, perhaps inadvertently, been elected to the Senate.

Will the blocking of such ‘big government’ initiatives as direct action to meet the carbon reduction target, or Abbott’s signature paid parental leave scheme lead to a double dissolution? Will we see an Abbott election campaign supporting the intervention of government into the free market? I won’t be holding my breath.

Don’t get me wrong; Liberals – and especially Nationals – don’t really believe in ‘free’ markets – they are perfectly happy to distort markets through things like fuel subsidies and negative gearing, to say nothing of state aid to private schools. They want interventions that protect the already privileged. They just don’t want interventions that make society more equal, and, heaven forbid, use government to do anything that could possibly be done by private enterprise, no matter how inefficiently or inequitably.

Abbott himself seems confused between populism and the politically correct Liberal free market line, but the weight of neo-liberal opinion in his party and among his big business mates will prevail, and they’ll forget about the carbon reduction targets and the paid parental leave scheme.

Like the conservative parties in Britain and the US, the LNP stands for smaller and smaller government and the broadest possible play of the free market consistent with the interests of their mates. And that’s what we’ll get.

On the other hand, the contest between Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese for the leadership of the Labor Party has given us the opportunity to focus on ALP policy in a way that wasn’t possible during the election – or for most of the last six years.

The reasons for this failure are complex and include the mainstream media’s obsession with political trivia rather than policy, the difficulties of working in a hung parliament and the ALP’s inability to break free of the daily grind and enunciate a broader vision.

How many times did we hear them criticised for not having a ‘narrative’? (No one seems to criticise the LNP for not having a narrative – perhaps it’s just taken as a given that power is all they care about.) In fact, I think there is a Labor narrative, and it’s just easier to see it when someone – in this case, two people – have to enunciate it publicly.

There are a couple of caveats here. It’s easier to talk about Labor values to Labor Party members who mostly share them than it is to talk about Labor values to swinging voters, who are very likely interested in what’s in it for me. Labor’s not like the Greens. As a major party, Labor needs to appeal to something approaching a majority at any election. They can’t just aim at policy purity for the 8-10% who support them. Thus the rhetoric for the internal audience probably isn’t going to be the same as that for the population at large. One of the challenges for the ALP is, however, to align the two sets of rhetoric.

Second, the Labor narrative has, of necessity, changed in the last twenty years. There might still be references to ‘the light on the hill’, but Chifley wouldn’t recognise the current Labor Party or the political landscape it finds itself in. Paul Keating’s embrace of neo-liberal economics – financial deregulation, dismantling of tariffs, privatisation – has seen to that.

There are now far fewer rusted on Labor voters, far fewer unionists, far less sense of common cause than before economic rationalisation reduced us all to single competing units in a market economy.  It’s because both major parties accept market capitalism that we are told that the parties are the essentially the same. But I don’t think that’s ever been true.

What have the two candidates for Labor leadership been saying about Labor’s narrative? Essentially both agree that the ‘fair go’ is central to Labor’s worldview. Both are committed to improving the lives of Australians in the future.

Now any party could say this. What do Bill and Anthony have in mind? Both seem to be looking at gaps in the current activities of government, in areas like urban public transport, better provision for old age and science and innovation, as well, of course, as defending the gains of the Rudd and Gillard governments in education, disability, and health.

Call this a defining narrative? Well yes. Implicit in Labor’s embrace of economic rationalisation is the promise of an accompanying social wage which ensures that the market does not simply reward the strong or the lucky. It is this social wage that is eroded by small government and low taxes. It is this social wage that requires active government intervention in the market. Only a Labor government can deliver this – the other side doesn’t recognise either the need or the means to achieve it. The narrative is thus government intervention in the market to promote greater equality.

Neither candidate has put their vision in quite these terms; support for greater equality is the nearest they’ve come. I think it’s time for Labor to stop being afraid to say that greater equality can only be achieved through government and that it is the party of government intervention. Given the apparent success of the mainstream media’s anti ‘pink batts’ campaign, they may need to find better ways of saying it. But, thank you Jonathan Green, it’s what makes them different from the winner-takes-all views of the free market Liberal Party.

There are lots of areas where Labor needs to work harder for greater equality than it has so far acknowledged. One stands out: the need to ensure that the rigours of climate changes do not fall most heavily on the already disadvantaged – and this includes many rural communities.

There’s been some acknowledgement that Labor’s agenda has to include sustainability as a core filter for all other policies; for example, there’s no point creating jobs that simply add to the problem of greenhouse emissions. Even the British Conservatives can see that a low carbon economy can create new jobs; Labor’s challenge is to promote growth that is not only sustainable but also equitable. Pricing carbon – which is, of course, a market mechanism – is a good start, but is by no means a sufficient response to the changes that global warming will force upon us.

There’s no doubt lots of other areas where modifying market outcomes is necessary; housing provision and taxation policy come urgently to mind. Labor has time to develop policies in such areas, so long as it is true to its promise to listen to the needs of ordinary people.

The Liberals and their friends in the mainstream media can be relied on to call such policies class war or the politics of envy. This is rubbish. As Warren Buffett says, ‘There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.’ He should know.

Labor doesn’t oppose capitalism, or profit, or entrepreneurialism. Nor, these days, does it want class warfare. But it does want to use the power of government to create a more equal society, and it needs to say so loudly.  And it needs to build new constituencies in support of this.

There is much at stake here. It isn’t just about Labor. It’s about rekindling the belief in the efficacy of government action that twenty years of neoliberalism has eroded. The market, as it is currently configured, is not serving us well. We need to revive the belief that government can, and will make things better. Next time Jonathan Green says Labor and Liberal are the same, can someone please send him this article?

By Kay Rollison

Kevin Rudd Must Resign

In order for the Labor Party to have any chance of limiting the Coalition to a single term in Government, Kevin Rudd must leave the Parliament as soon as possible.

Before I present an argument in support of that proposition, let me first say a few things about the situation as it stands.  In case you hadn’t noticed, because Home and Away is especially compelling just now, or something you just bought from IKEA is taking up far too much of your time, Labor just lost an election.  They did so, substantially, though by no means entirely, due to their own political ineptitude.  That is simultaneously a good and bad thing.  Bad in that there are forms of political folly that are just plain dumb and cannot be excused (whispered mutterings of discontent in the ears of a hostile media a case in point).  It’s good in that there are forms of political deftness that no honourable person would ever want to possess and express.  More on that later.  Labor leaked like a rusted-out colander.  You can’t do that and expect to maintain any political momentum and confidence.  If you cannot present a belief in your own unity and stability, you cannot expect it to be believed of you.

Labor made economic commitments, such as a return to surplus, they weren’t entitled to make, or should have made in a far more qualified and cautious manner.  A return to surplus was a reasonable enough goal, but to turn it into an actual time-framed commitment, one made ostensibly for purposes of political gain and leverage was pure folly.  Labor also allowed legitimate issues of class and sex to be taken out of their hands and placed instead in the hands of the opponent.  They failed to control the narrative.  You can’t hand your opponent and their multitude of mangy minions a bag of Bowies to throw at you and not expect to be subject to death by a thousand cuts.  You cannot depose sitting Prime Ministers – however much you feel your hand is being forced – and think this will not be self-inflicted political evisceration with a rusty butter knife.

In Opposition, the Coalition was unrelentingly, well, oppositional.  They stuck like garlic skin to a kitchen knife to a simplistic plan and formula.  It worked.  Apart from a few exceptional moments, Labor failed to respond.  They failed to communicate. They failed to be creative.  Edward De Bono would have been ashamed of them.  They could have utilized any number of methods to lift their voice above the Coalition’s conspiratorial cacophony.  They should have begun to utilise social and independent media environments the second it was clear that the mainstream media was against them.  Gillard, particularly, could have done a John Howard and have instituted regular Prime Ministerial addresses within which to communicate everything the Government was achieving.  Yes, in some quarters this would have been dismissed as government propaganda, but any message is better than no message at all – and certainly better than a consistently negative, redacted one.   Instead, the Gillard Government let things slip away, allowing a hostile Opposition and media to run rampant without meaningful challenge.  Let’s be clear about something: whoever is in charge of the political narrative is in charge of the political destiny.

The Labor Party in this country, despite its long history and what you would expect to be accompanying experience and wisdom, stands alone in its capacity for episodes of political artlessness.   Generally speaking, it doesn’t do “politics” well.  Or at least, it doesn’t do it as well as the Conservatives.  Now, that might sound on the face of it to be a bad thing, and in some respects it is, but not in all.  If we critically analyse what it means to be “good” at politics in a contemporary setting, and do so by candid and honest measures, it can hardly be said to be a virtuous thing.  I would much rather vote for a Party that was good at policy, but bad at politics, than the other way around.   Politics is dominantly about manipulation, exploitation and opportunism.  Lawyers aside, is there any profession on the planet that, in greater measure, employs both formal and informal logical fallacies in its daily rhetoric?  Is there any profession that does more to engender in the populace the egregious error of regarding an expression of passion as equivalent to an argument and opinion as equivalent to fact?  Whenever a politician speaks, something Latin always spews out.  Believe me when I say one of the worst things you can do is familiarise yourself with the litany of logical fallacies that humans employ because you’ll never be able to listen to a politician in the same way again.

But I hold that those of a Conservative bent evince these particular intellectual crimes and misdemeanours more often and more authentically.  This is part of why they do politics better than Labor, generally speaking.  It is my genuine impression and belief that one of the reasons Labor all too often seems clumsy and ineffective in the political sphere is that its representatives appear more intellectually and morally conflicted about engaging in such stratagems and speech.  Contrariwise, such things seem to roll off Conservative tongues like a second language they’ve been learning since birth.  The bottom line is that the Coalition won the election because they did the politics better.  They corralled their support better.  They ran with an “end justifies the means” philosophy and exploited the enormous cognitive dissonance that exists in the electorate to great effect.

So, what should our disposition now be with respect to the election result, when all the emotion, shock and disbelief have subsided?  Well, for the Conservatives, they will be pleased, and rightly so.  It’s always a nice feeling to come home to where you feel you belong.  But how confident should they really feel?  Conversely, how despondent should Labor feel?  The result was not a landslide or anything resembling it.  The Coalition does not have a result that would provide them with any confidence of a second term.  They are faced with a maze of electoral marginality.  There’s an old political adage that runs, “Oppositions do not get voted in, Governments get voted out.”  I personally don’t find that adage especially sound but it certainly applies to our current situation.  Tony Abbott will probably go down in history as the most unpopular political leader ever to attain the Prime Ministership.  The Coalition did not enter this campaign with a strong policy base.  It does not enter into Government with a strong policy base.  If one is to be candid about it, it’s a Government that doesn’t really have a lot going for it and one that was established by means both foul and superficial.  It will have to work hard and offer more if it wants to be seriously considered a two-term viability.

As for Labor, I feel there is every reason to be positive, especially if they are able to play it smarter and learn from the mistakes of the last few years.  Which brings me to the original purpose of this piece – to explain why Kevin Rudd must leave the Parliament for Labor to have any chance of a return to Government.  We know of Rudd’s sins – they have been chronicled by more literate and knowledgeable persons than I, so I won’t go over that territory again.  Suffice it to say Rudd is significantly to blame for putting Labor where it is.  He is now an albatross swinging silently around Labor’s neck, his efforts to mitigate the electoral damage for Labor notwithstanding.  There is nothing he can say or do, whether honestly or not, to reduce the danger he represents to Labor at this time.  No future Labor leader can operate with so-called “clean air” with Rudd sitting on the Backbench.  If he never opens his mouth for the rest of this Parliament, it won’t matter.  We are faced with a media that not only purports to report news but one that actively seeks to create it.   They will happily engineer a leadership issue if none authentically presents itself.

Here is the crux of it:  Rudd cannot be a meaningful representative for the constituents of Griffith without simultaneously being a corrosive force in Labor’s future.  When we speak of the “rusted-on” we must remember that rust isn’t necessarily a good thing.  Rudd is toxic.  Good representatives do not and cannot remain quiet, especially in Opposition.  They have to advocate forcefully and constantly for their constituency.  Rudd cannot be the sort of representative for the people of Griffith that he and they would like him to be without doing damage to the Labor Party.  The sincerity and/or purity of his actual desires and motives will be irrelevant to this.  He simply cannot have any profile lest he presents himself as a target for those will interpret his actions – or simply characterize them – as evidence that Rudd’s political ambitions are not dead.

As soon as the dust has settled on the “battle” for the party leadership and a quality candidate for Griffith is found, Kevin Rudd must resign.  Whilst I do not see this as a serious electoral risk to Labor I would venture to suggest that the peril to Labor that Kevin Rudd represents is far greater and far more immediate than the risk of losing the seat of Griffith.   Should Rudd be unwilling to resign for the sake of the Party, Labor ought to seriously consider the perhaps extraordinary step of disendorsing him from the seat (once that quality candidate has been found).   Hopefully, the former Prime Minister will see the wisdom and necessity of his resignation and take the appropriate action, and in doing so appreciate that he in no small way the architect of his own political demise.  He has the opportunity to bow out in as dignified a manner as Julia Gillard, thereby ensuring his contributions to the Labor Party and to Australia will be acknowledged and remembered without the soap opera antics.

Now, some might say that an announcement by him of an intention to retire from politics at the end of this term would be sufficient.  However, statements by Kevin Rudd on his political motives or intentions no longer have any semblance of credibility.  His resignation is the only option.

Labor cannot successfully navigate the path of the next few years if they have to carry the burden of the baggage of the last few years.  For this reason, I hope those whose duty it is to elect a new leader will consider who presents the lightest burden possible in this regard.  I respectfully submit that Bill Shorten is not that person.

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