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Tag Archives: Brendan O’Connor

Unemployment down, but recovery still way off: ACTU

Any cries from the Morrison government championing the gains in unemployment figures being tied to a greater economic outlook has a premature ring to it, Australia’s union movement said on Thursday.

As the nation’s unemployment figures fell by 0.2 per cent to 6.6 per cent for the month of December, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) said that despite 50,000 people returning to work in 2020’s final month, 900,000 people are still looking for work with another 1.2 million being in search of more hours.

“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.

“Labor welcomes any additional job to the labour market,” O’Connor said on a doorstop interview in Melbourne on Thursday.

“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.

 

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MYEFO missing points on long-term recovery: ACTU

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.

“Today’s [federal] budget update confirms Australia’s economy is rebounding strongly,” Frydenberg said.

“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.

 

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Pauline Hanson and friends

I’ve never paid any attention to anything Pauline Hanson says, but I’m starting to pay some attention to what people say about her. It was the article on news.com today titled “Please explain Julia Gillard” by Tory Maguire that directed me on this new ‘thought trail’. The article is reproduced in full below, to save the more intelligent among us from having to click on a link that leads to news.com:

See what happens when you drop your politics to the lowest common denominator.

Julia Gillard’s botched attempt at populism this week with her jobs-for-Aussies-first pledge brought Pauline Hanson back out of the woodwork, firstly to claim vindication, and now to muse on a return to politics.

When Hanson muses on something, such as fleeing Australia for ever to live in the UK, it doesn’t always pan out, so her promise (threat) to return to public life should be taken with a grain of salt.

But such is her political logic, this week Hanson has both praised Gillard for finally seeing the light on foreign workers, and now insisted she will run again because of the lack of “representation” of Australians in public life.

Gillard is fighting fires on every conceivable front. Her 457 visa pronouncements this week were a blatant attempt to appeal to the cliched idea of “the western Sydney voter”.

It’s unlikely to have much political upside, but the downside for Gillard is with Hanson on her side she loses ground in all directions.

What an apt Christian name: Tory. It clearly doubles as a political expression. Pauline Hanson unofficially endorses a Labor policy therefore Julia Gillard is guilty of dropping politics to the lowest common denominator. Hanson is ugly therefore Gillard is ugly.

Shortly before Hanson announced her unofficial support for the Prime Minister, the 457 visa issue was put fairly and squarely under the media spotlight. The article “Coalition takes aim at Gillard staffer on 457 visa is an example”. It is not a news.com site, so feel free to visit it. Talk on 457 visas was the new ‘national debate’ and of course, the Prime Minister was being slammed. Then yesterday, this:

Julia Gillard received support today on one of her other policies, the 457 visas.

One Nation founder Pauline Hanson is backing the Prime Minister’s push to fill jobs vacancies with Australians before turning to foreign workers.

I believe this was staged.

The LNP might be pleased that Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor has had to spend the last 24 hours distancing the ALP from Hanson while the Murdoch media attempt to portray them as buddies.

Mr O’Connor said he found most of Ms Hanson’s views reprehensible.

“She’s irrelevant to the public debate,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.

“She, of course, only came into the public spotlight because she was a Liberal candidate.”

I smell a rat. A rat called Tony Abbott. Consider this:

Pauline Hanson is backing Tony Abbott, the man who helped kill off her political career, over Australia’s first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Ms Hanson, the other famous female redhead of Australian politics, said she’d put her grudges to the side and support the Opposition leader’s tilt for the top job.

“I won’t be voting for Julia Gillard PM.

“Australian people are sick and tired of the illegals coming here and being looked after when we can’t look after our own.”

Ms Hanson said she supported Mr Abbott for prime minister despite their history as foes.

Ms Hanson said she was not Mr Abbott’s best friend but he was a better alternative prime minister.

“Tony Abbott came after me, he was responsible for the slush fund against me,” Ms Hanson said.

“But you know what, I’ll back Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party.

“I’m the type of person who will not hold a grudge for the sake of holding a grudge.

Does anybody else small the same rat?

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