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Tag Archives: Economy

Fixing Our Society

Does anyone remember that we once proudly described ourselves as an egalitarian nation? Just after World War II, the Australian government wanted everyone in the world community to understand that Australia was a socialist democracy. Evatt at the UN, then later Gough here at home, were simple expressions of the majority opinion.

We were hugely proud of the fact that we were a country, where the population were the ones in control. We wanted a level playing field with ample public services for all. What happened?

We hear all the time that our democracy is broken. In virtually every debate relating to the big picture issues facing our society, just about the only thing that everyone seems to agree on is that our democracy is broken.

The pattern is obvious. The inequalities and disaffections entertained by a particular part of the citizenry are identified, listed, and then widely and loudly discussed. (Think about women, Aborigines, the poor, the unemployed, the disabled, homelessness, rural services, health services, the environment, etc etc etc).

Then, having identified a range of obvious and dire problems, we implement some half-arsed idea and publicly forget about it all until the next time we again jointly and collectively fail to fix the very same problem.

Pay gap widening. Rich getting richer. Homelessness growing. Great Barrier Reef going white and crumbling. Cannabis illegal, yet super strong legal heroin widely available. Cities outgrowing their infrastructures. Housing, twenty-years plus, unaffordable. Huge concentrations of corporate power in every segment of society. Electricity ever more expensive. Workers ever falling behind bosses raking it in and vacationing in Europe.

Let’s for a moment step back from these ‘intractable’ social problems and ask ‘why?’ Why can’t we seem to address any of these problems? After all, it is not that we have not already had our best minds consider these matters and give their opinions. Sometimes endlessly. Anyone can go to the internet, right now, and track down a thousand articles and discussions relating to any of these topics, with many containing a range of rational responses, sometimes from the best minds of our generation, discussing how we might begin to tackle all of these problems.

Of course, I am not saying that any of these long-standing difficulties and faults in society can be easily fixed. But why no progress at all? Especially since it is relatively easy to also gauge the opinion of the Australian population regarding any and all of these matters. We want these matters addressed: yet nothing continues to happen.

Note that not all social problems are a difficulty. In situations where the interests of the corporate sector and the interests of the majority are aligned then we do seem to get instant government response which is sometimes incredibly effective. Think about littering, smoking, the road toll, child sexual assault, gay rights, sewage and stormwater control, etc. Aussies like a cohesive and safe urban environment and, in the main, so does the corporate world.

I despair for our current social discourse. It has become stupid, mean, and corporate. It simply does not represent the Australia that I know.

Why did our governments sell off all of our electricity and water services? Why did they sell off the Commonwealth Bank? Why did they dismantle the CES to replace it with a huge corporate sector that costs four times as much? Why do we give away all of our mineral wealth to a group of rich men? Why does none of our corporate sector pay any tax? Why are the rich getting so much richer? Why aren’t the workers getting more?

After twenty-five years of our entire mainstream media being owned and run by corporate apologists, these questions are simply not being addressed. The people who ask these sorts of questions are now sneered at and their questions absent. What did we expect?

We allowed all of our social services and structures (in media, banking, retail, health, electricity, etc) to be privatised and sold off piecemeal to the highest bidders (and every one of them with a friend in Parliament). All generally against the wishes of the majority of the population. Now we sit around griping about the rising cost of everything like a bunch of whimpish three-year-olds. We just gripe. It’s pathetic. It’s now too late. The baby-boomers have utterly stuffed up ‘our’ democracy.

Ask any mainstream politician in our land and they will tell you that the most important thing in their universe is to make sure that Australia has a ‘healthy economy’.  This is simply because, for the last quarter of a century, every media outlet in our country has been unabashedly expanding their ‘business’ section to cover the entire social realm.

Until now, in our modern age, every political decision has to be ‘economically feasible’ rather than merely being socially equitable. Moreover, to point out this gross capture of democracy is no longer even considered rude. It is celebrated.

I have to accept that we no longer live in a socialist democracy. Our ‘society’ has become an ‘economy’. In other words; the bastards have won. Both major parties take their marching orders directly from the big end of town. Everyone now talks about our country as if it is a big shopping centre. WTF?

Once upon a time, there was at least the need for a modicum of stage-craft. The politicians had to at least pretend that they were acting in the interests of the majority of the people in society. But no longer. Now we have a merchant banker in charge of our land and the leader of the free world is a bigoted property developer from New York.

I think I have cause for at least mild to medium levels of dark despair and foreboding. If you are poor then, apparently, you have the option of starving to death or working hard, all your life, to just make ends meet, so as to make someone else rich. It’s up to you. After all, we are all equally free to sleep under the bridges in our land (at least out in the countryside where the municipal authorities won’t hose you down).

Anyway, why would you complain? Everyone tells us all, all the time, that we all should simply do what is in our bosses best interests because ‘capitalism won’. ‘Socialism’ was defeated. Greed is now not only good; but right. Just ask our PM, the leader of the opposition, all of the media outlets in the land, and just about every kid (under 25) who are wondering why the hell they can’t seem to make ends meet while all of their parents were able to afford to buy such beautiful homes.

None of our ‘intractable’ social problems can even be approached, let alone addressed because we sold our souls to the idea that everyone could be rich. We have turned our society into an economy and all of our politicians now work for the highest bidder. Now the flower-children are all homeowners, small business people and have generally bought the capitalist dream utterly. They all seem to think that they are sitting on a house that is worth a million dollars. A whole generation has drifted from flower child to shallow corporate schmuck in just twenty-five years. It’s pathetic.

This is why we have ‘intractable’ social problems. In simple terms, in an economy, the one with the biggest wallet always wins. And the biggest wallets in our society are very happy with the way that things are, right at this moment. After all, these intractable ‘problems’ are making them ever richer. The bigger the problem; the better the banker’s holiday. Stuff the reef.

It will now be up to the next generations to fight for the soul of Australia. There is no doubt that our descendants will look back on us and disown us completely. We have lost the plot. The baby-boomers are fools. When the 1% walk away from the smoking carcass of the Australian economy after their twenty-five years of disastrous mismanagement, they will be happy to retire to nearby their money in an offshore haven.

Then we, the baby-boomers, will have nobody but ourselves to blame. Yes, our democracy is broken. We, the smug ownership class, have allowed our system to become corrupt. We surrendered our entire free press and most of our infrastructure to large commercial conglomerates.

Ours is no longer a country run by the populace but rather the corporate sector. We have allowed the concept of our democracy to be perverted. Our children and their descendants will look back on our generation with contempt. We identified all of the problems, and carefully, one by one, totally failed to fix any of the big ones.

We allowed our society and political system to be captured by big money. For all of our constant barrage of self-congratulation, the baby-boomer generation has failed. And now it is simply too late. When our housing bubble bursts and Australia settles into becoming a third-world backwater for a quarter of a century, then the baton will not so much pass-on as be wrenched from our hands.

We have allowed our industrial base to virtually disappear. We allowed multinational corporations to export all the profits of the mining boom. We allowed our public services to be sold off, bit by bit, until we have to pay a toll even to travel from one end of a city to another. We have pissed the opportunity to make a better society, up against the wall. I am ashamed to have been born amidst such a cretinous bunch of imbeciles.

But then the baby-boomer generation have simply carried on the great tradition of mankind. In the last two hundred years, we have consumed voraciously everything we might and done our best to irretrievably damage the ecosystem on every continent, even whilst simultaneously causing a mass-extinction and a climate change event.

Hopefully, our children might do better with the little we leave behind. We cannot hope they will consider us kindly. Perhaps the best that we can hope for is that there might actually be someone still around in another thousand years. It’s a low bar but I think we might just clear it.

Happy Holidays.

Open letter to Simon Birmingham

The Weasel often writes letters to elected officials… as the dictum goes: If you smell something, say something.

The most recent pronouncement by our erstwhile federal education minister that creative careers were a lifestyle choice had a particular odour. The lack of response from the reigning opposition parties also left much to be desired. So while the intended recipient for below missive was originally for Mr Birmingham; I encourage you, good reader, to freely appropriate the text and send to all those elected officials you believe would benefit from my educational inquiry.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Dear Minister Birmingham  [or insert name of senator or MP here]

I am writing to you regarding recent comments [by the Federal Education Minister] that described creative careers as a lifestyle choice.

I would like to enquire why the government of the day is ignoring the actions of most other technologically developed nations. In the UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030, creative industries are identified as key drivers in revitalising manufacturing sectors, and on-shoring production or services that in previous decades been shifted to less expensive markets.

The U.K., France, South Korea, and Germany all have policy that explicitly links creative industries to programs designed to build or enhance innovation; and gain competitive advantage in the shift to Industry 4.0. Many countries now have dedicated creative industry hubs to create and enhance networks and connectivity between creative professionals and other industries.

To state that creative careers are a lifestyle choice ignores the essential function of cultural events in our society. It ignores the economic contribution. It ignores the contribution to the expression of the Australian character by thousands of actors, painters, dramaturges, designers, editors, architects, writers. Finally, it ignores the contribution that trained creative’s deliver in innovative thinking to thousands of Australian businesses. You can read more about how vibrant and vital creative professionals are on the AusTrade website.

If the current government is truly serious about innovation, then engagement and investment in creative careers and industries is essential. Design thinking is inherent in all creative pursuits, and those are exactly the structured innovative skills Australia needs to regain economic strength.

In the new knowledge economy, superior creative thinking can conquer limitations of scale or distribution. The emerging decentralised, interconnected, and data-rich manufacturing landscape has opportunities waiting to be discovered and exploited; and it is creative professionals who are best positioned to think outside the box, make use of limited resources, and take advantage of connectivity to drive innovation.

In light of all this, I would like an answer to the following questions:

Why does the Education Minister consider creative careers non-essential to the Australian economy?

How does the government plan to succeed with an innovation agenda without using design thinking, or input from creative professionals?

I have included links to some of the sources to which I refer in this letter. I encourage you to investigate them further.
I look forward to your reply

Yours Sincerely

The Weasel

 

austrade.gov.au: Creative-Industries

thecreativeindustries.co.uk/

creative-industries-worth-almost-10-million-an-hour-to-economy

Deutschland creative industries

UNESCO Science report: creative industries driving innovation

https://en.unesco.org/USR-contents

forbes.com: what everyone must know about industry 4.0

Reeling The Liars In

Look around you.

Direct your gaze over towards the low hill of politicking and gamesmanship and tell me what you see.

Liars.

I’ll tell you what I see.

I see toddlers in men’s suits, conning other toddlers into that painful fiction. I see grown men yelling across expensive tables loaded to the brim with complex law volumes the pages of which are as clean as a laboratory floor. I see hatred, malice, vindictiveness, falsity, nastiness, cunning flash across red, semi-dilated pupils, amphetamine spittle flicking out over the ends of decaying slabs of talk-meat.

I hear the insect-traps of patriotism snapping and buzzing as clean hearts burn black with false panic. I smell the rotting flesh of nationalism piling up in the streets. I taste the tar shuddering through the veins of economists shouting profit! profit! prophet!

Ghostly outlines of cities being filled in by real men who are ghostly outlines of real men!

I recoil at the liars face: he is selling cosmetics to children. His breath is quickening, out of fear or excitement, or the twisted combination of the two that must cross the mind of the rapist.

I see the cigar and the mottled lips, only woman he can f*ck and look in the eye.

Our gross domestic product is apathy, sweet suicidal apathy, short term memory loss, binge and purge. Our churches are brown. Our priests are trading god for a chance to rape spirit.

Our media are staggering around the apartment complex, drunk and looking for a cheap f*ck, pockets lined with payoffs from cheaper f*cks still.

Blind, wretched piglets on cold gratings, struggling past their own open sores to taste metallic tin-milk. Flashes of cold steel amputating beaks in hot cages where the smell of shit only ever gets stronger. Metal on bone, not wanting to give up, reluctant surrender.

Our wheels of karma are multi-storey buildings with suicide nets. Suicide nets. Suicide nets. Stop the man from dying, he has work to finish. Keep him here, death is an outrage. Survive.

I recoil at the liars face: he is selling free markets to children. His breath is quickening, out of fear and excitement, that twisted combination of the two that must cross the mind of the rapist.

Gain wealth forgetting all but self. Repeat after me:

My son, you will live as I have lived. Eat the food, never ask where it is from. Drink the water, don’t notice the greying. Say the words as if you know what they mean, don’t falter. Wear the right clothes. Marry the right one. Don’t do drugs.

Lie. Lie. Lie. Don’t stop.

We won’t lock you up for lying. We’ll lock you up for missing a beat.

Keep going. Be consistent. Maintain momentum.

“We are reeling the liars in,”

I just removed his face. I found a mirror.

“We are removing their face,”

The skin I collected was mine.

“Collecting their skin,”

It’s time.

“The only true place, the place to begin, is by reeling this liar in.”

My dear friend, I’ve been lying to you all along, and my heart cracked open in the betrayal. I must tell you everything.

I never wanted you, until I saw you.

I’m afraid too.

I don’t know what they mean, but I go along with it.

I never really know what to say to you.

Sometimes I tell you that I’m happy when I’m not.

I talk about you behind your back.

I don’t know if I know how to really trust anyone.

I get hurt badly and thicken my skin, it’s hard for anyone to come in.

I want it, I close my heart and choose safety over love.

Words catch in my throat every day, a thousand songs get left unsung.

I sometimes sing in the car by myself and feel a lump of sorrow fall out onto my tongue.

I’m genuinely struggling to cope with the responsibility of being human, knowing that simultaneously I am incredibly powerful, and completely powerless.

I hold back tears from you.

I hold back laughter too.

Sometimes I choose my own laziness over compassion.

I hesitate out of fear and trap you in who you think you are.

I yearn to say it all, to let it all flow out and to hell with the consequences. I hold myself back.

There are some though, that fall ready, like morning dew onto a soil quivering with anticipation, and need no pushing. Listen to the sound they make as they fall:

I am in love.
I am here.
I am that.
I am breathing.

Come, be washed of your sin:

“The only true place, the place to begin, is by reeling this liar in.”

 

Privatisation: Just Who Is It For?

New South Wales is following Canberra’s lead in adopting what the Abbott government is referring to as “asset recycling”, which in practice translates to privatisation, securing 2 billion dollars under the deal.

Abbott’s five billion dollar scheme encourages states and territories to sell assists to fund infrastructure development.

The Baird leadership intends to funnel the money garnered from leasing 49% of the state’s electricity network into road and rail projects, though it is unclear as to whether this will actually take place and if it does, whether the decision is in the public interest.

Proponents of privatisation describe it as conferring a multiplicity of benefits to the public by boosting the efficiency and quality of remaining government activities, reducing taxes and shrinking government. The argument rests on the presumption that the profit seeking behaviour of private sector managers and owners will produce ever more efficient, cheap and customer focused services.

We mustn’t forget that the raison d’être of a business is to provide profit. People do not start up or buy a business for the sole purpose of serving the public, that sort of behaviour is more likely to be found in a monastery than in McDonalds. This basic profiteering function of business is primary in capitalist society, and we often see that rather than being customer or human centric, the businesses that make it to the big time cut corners when it comes to ethics and the treatment of their employees and customers.

It is not unreasonable to assume that the same profit hungry managers and owners the evangelists of privatisation refer to may have no second thoughts about implementing practices that make service unaffordable to large segments of the citizenry. Profit seeking organisations may decide that spending on the disabled or the poor is money wasted, and those affected may find it far more difficult to seek accountability than they would were the services government owned.

It is worth noting that efficiency is not the only goal of services like electricity, healthcare and water. One must also take into account quality, ease of access and sustainability when building a picture of what a successful service should look like.

Privatization was billed under Jeff Kennett’s Victorian government as leading to a more efficient and productive industry, passing on the savings to consumers. Despite Kennett’s comments to the contrary, electricity prices in the state have remained consistent with non-privatised states, only falling below the mean between 2004 and 2008.

There is evidence that companies running Victoria’s electricity services increased prices by up to 175% for “off-peak” periods, a decision which affects a sizeable portion of the populace who conduct their business during those times, perhaps the most notable example being agriculturists and farmers.

The notion that productivity would increase under privatisation has fallen apart, with the industry becoming an anchor on national productivity since the turn of the century. The private sector’s tactic of employing a higher percentage of managers and salespeople has contributed to further bureaucracy rather than having the intended effect of streamlining the industry.

Selling off government assets is typically coupled with the promise of the revenue being funnelled into new and needed infrastructure such as roads and rail networks, however the promise does not always carry through to reality. Economist John Quiggin noted that investment in infrastructure did not occur in Queensland under Bligh’s leadership despite almost ten billion dollars being made from the sale of government assets.

A 1991 report from the Harvard Business Review raised three key conclusions on the issue of privatisation that may help us frame the issue a little better:

1. Neither public nor private managers will always act in the best interests of their shareholders. Privatisation will be effective only if private managers have incentives to act in the public interest, which includes, but is not limited to, efficiency.

2. Profits and the public interest overlap best when the privatized service or asset is in a competitive market. It takes competition from other companies to discipline managerial behavior.

3. When these conditions are not met, continued governmental involvement will likely be necessary. The simple transfer of ownership from public to private hands will not necessarily reduce the cost or enhance the quality of services.

There are hidden costs of privatisation rarely spoken of by the politicians and their friendly counterparts in business. When a public service is privatised, much of the time employees are paid less on average and lose their existing benefits. On the surface this seems like a saving, but the costs of poverty and ill health must fall somewhere, and it seems it’s generally into the waiting arms of another state agency. The profits increase for those at the top of the pyramid, and those underneath carry an ever-increasing burden to support them.

It is also unclear as to whether privatisation actually does save governments money, with a study by the Project on Government Oversight finding that in 33 of 35 occupations, using contractors cost the United States Federal Government billions of dollars more than using government employees.

This seems yet another example of cosy relationships between politicians and businessmen taking priority over the wellbeing of the public. A more thorough, nonpartisan investigation into the history of privatisation in Australia, a cost benefit analysis and a public debate over the issue would go some ways to clarifying the relationship of privatisation to the people it affects.


This article was originally posted on the author’s blog, which you can find here.

“Battlelines” by Tony Abbott; my computer thinks even the title is wrong!

As many of you are aware, before becoming Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott put his brain to work penning a manifesto which he published under the name “Battlelines”, which according to the spell check on my comuputer is incorrectly spelt because it should be two words.

Apart from that, there’s nothing wrong with the title. except that it does suggest a rather combative approach for someone who wants to us all to be on “Team Australia”. And it does tend to suggest some sort of class warfare. Flicking through the book in 2015, there are some interesting little snippets of how our beloved leader’s brain works.

For example:

“Last October’s notorious leaked phone call had a savvy Prime Minister Rudd browbeating an ignorant President Bush. There’s something unsettling about an Australian prime minister who needs to big-note himself by appearing to ‘verbal’ the American president.”

Unless, of course, the American President happens to suggest that we should do all we can to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Well, them’s fighting words, because clearly that Obama guy is suggesting that we’re not managing the Reef well. Yeah, yeah, he never said so, but we all know that he’s hinting that dumping crap into the ocean near the Reef will somehow have a negative effect!

Of course, Abbott’s views on Climate Change are interesting too:

“Finally, (in 2020) there will have been bigger fires, more extensive floods and more ferocious storms because records are always being broken. But sea levels will be much the same, desert boundaries will not have changed much, and technology, rather than economic self-denial, will be starting to cut down atmospheric pollution.”

Mm, bigger fires and floods and storms can’t be used as evidence of climate change because, “records are always being broken” and “sea levels will be much the same” because… um… ah… well, they just will, ok. Like the deserts – their boundaries won’t change either, because well, nothing changes, does it?

We get an inkling of his attitude to pensions with this:

“Given that people invariably earn more working than on the pension and can access other forms of social security if they can’t work, delaying access to the pension does not raise issues of fairness comparable to those potentially involved in changes to existing superannuation entitlements.”

And, as for education, parents are in the best position to judge what works because they care about their children.

“As with public hospitals, better public schools are likely to emerge when local teachers and parents have more say over how their schools are run. It’s especially important to give parents a direct say in the running of schools rather than just an advisory role. Even though classroom teachers are often among the highest-minded of people, the one group to whom the interests of children are invariably paramount is those children’s parents.”

Does this mean that the families of patients should have final say over the treatment, because even though doctors might be high-minded, it’s the families who have the patient’s best interest at heart, and nobody should worry about their decision to use leeches because traditional methods are best?

But it’s his statements on economics which are truly troubling:

“Quite soon, the Rudd Government’s attempts to stave off a recession by fiscal sugar hits and propping up uncompetitive businesses will come to seem like putting off the inevitable at unsustainable cost.”

Putting off the inevitable, eh? Yeah, “inevitably” the Liberals will win government and then we’ll “inevitably” have the recession, because:

“The real question is how much damage will be done in the process of trying to avoid the recession that is almost inevitable. My instinct is that Australians who were dismayed by the seeming harshness of the original Work Choices legislation could be much less sentimental about ‘hard-won conditions’ when businesses are struggling to survive and jobs are disappearing”

So, they do have a plan – stifle economic growth, reduce jobs in the public service and manufacturing by buying submarines and cars from overseas, and use the economic conditions to make us less “sentimental” about things like a minimum wage and work safety! Still perhaps this next quote will end up being more profound than he realised at the time:

“If Australia had large and growing gaps between rich and poor, if minorities were persecuted, if we were struggling to meet an existential challenge, there’d be every reason to want fundamental change.”

There many other interesting little ideas that Abbott, the backbencher, shared with his readership. But they’re not so interesting that I’d recommend buyiing the book. Even at the cut price of $2.95!

Who Put The Thorazine In The Economist’s Ovaltine?

You’ve got to love MSM economics editors/experts/commentators. They all sing from the same depressing song sheet – ‘The Deficit Dirge’ or the ‘Surplus Serenade’.

The only thing missing in the lyrics is the refrain of ‘need ya baby, wantcha baby, lurv ya babeee…’

What they lack in vocal skills is usually made up of  through interpretive dance.

This is usually performed wearing a bespoke suit while clutching a pointer, and features a dazzling array of signs arrows and graphs – gotta have graphs, otherwise the audience may cotton on to the fact that what they’re peddling is a slightly more up market version of tea-leaf reading.

Without exception, they all state what is known in common parlance as the ‘bleeding obvious’.

The economy isn’t in too bad a shape, the first phase of the mining boom is over, climate change could be a problem in the future (no kidding???) and that the trade deficit is okay but could be better.

From ‘Kochie’ to Kohler, Greenwood to Gittins, the message rarely varies.

The depressing thing about listening to this flannel is the knowledge that every last one ’em studied economics at tertiary level and understand the premise of fiat currency and how it operates.

They know that government ‘deficit’ is not debt, that pursuing budget surplus is not beneficial to the economy but in fact is detrimental and most importantly, that creating unemployment to have a ‘buffer stock’ of surplus labour in order to suppress wage demands and control inflation is a recipe for disaster.

Nonetheless, like a drunk at a Karaoke night they keep slurring the refrain of ‘freeing up the economy and the job market’ ad nauseam.

In fairness to MSM economists, much of their research material is sourced from the Reserve Bank of Australia reports, and it would seem that at the RBA there’s been liberal doses of Thorazine in the boardroom Ovaltine.

This week, there have been tea-leaf readings from two of the eminence gris of this august institution, John Edwards, who served as an economic adviser during the Keating years (hardly something to boast about), and Chris Kent, an assistant governor at the RBA. Kent has made the amazing discovery that the buffer stock of available unemployed labour so treasured by supply side economics, is actually declining as available jobs disappear!Kent traces this shrinkage to many of the unemployed simply giving up looking for work as they become discouraged by an ever shrinking job market.

The notion that this is usually what happens when there are fewer and fewer jobs available doesn’t seem to have crossed the good assistant governor’s mind.It may also be argued that this is the end result of creating a permanent pool of unemployed when taken to its logical conclusion. Any downturn in the economy, a high dollar and weakening growth in government spending means that the private sector has to make up the shortfall, and the usual method is to reduce labour and cut wages in order to survive.

Nevertheless, under Hockey’s budget the ship of fools sails on toward disaster while the captain and crew are tranquillized to the eye-balls by the cloying miasma of supply side economics and ‘market forces’.

Rather than continue with the notion of a buffer stock of unemployed and underutilized to curb wage demands and inflation, the intelligent solution is to turn this ‘buffer stock’ into employed workers in a ‘Job Guarantee’ program which pays the minimum wage and thereby circumvents the worst social aspects of long term joblessness, while at the same time is able to control both wage demands and inflation via the fixed minimum wage.This buffer stock would expand during times of private sector downturn, and contract when the private sector recovers.

In a recession, the Job Guarantee would serve as a back-stop against rising unemployment and maintain a stimulus for aggregate demand.In times of economic expansion, participants could leave the Job Guarantee scheme for higher paid positions in the private sector.

A Job Guarantee scheme would also replace the current NAIRU (Non Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment) with a NAIBER – Non Accelerating Inflation Buffer Employment Rate through control of the overall wage rate by allowing participants to transfer from an inflating sector to a fixed wage rate sector.

As the architect of the scheme Bill Mitchell argues, this would ultimately attenuate the inflation spiral. Mitchell’s scheme makes immanent sense. It provides not only a humane solution to unemployment, particularly long term unemployment and underutilization but also serves as both buffer zone and stimulant in times of private sector downturn.

In stark contrast, the continued application of supply side economics and ‘free market forces’ merely exacerbate a widening gap of social dislocation and unrest.

Similarly to Thorazine, Chicago School economics has had the long term effect of stultifying employment in Australia to the point of atrophy.

It is well past time that MSM economists, not to mention assistant governors of the Reserve Bank threw out the dregs of the Thorazine in the Ovaltine and embraced the truth of the need for a new economic strategy based on Keynesian economic theory.

As politicians such as Chris Bowen and Tony Burke are aware, nations which issue fiat currency have the means well within their grasp to create a system of full employment and that the commencement of schemes such as the Job Guarantee are only a key stroke away.

If they don’t know this, then they certainly should as should the Greens.

All that is really required to bring about change especially in the light of the current governments mendacious and draconian ideology – is the political will to do so.

If what is termed ‘The Left’ cannot find this will, then perhaps it’s well past time for the public to insist on replacing the Thorazine with Benzadrine and find a replacement brand for the Ovaltine.

Ovaltine

Also by Edward Eastwood:

Galileo, Modern Monetary Theory and The Job Guarantee

ABBOTT, ANZUS, AND THE DILEMMA OF THE MID-SIZED SUPER POWER ALLY

Conscription by stealth: is cordite the new fragrance for the unemployed?

Can you do a better job than Joe Hockey?

Joe Hockey (image from news.com.au)

Joe Hockey (image from news.com.au)

I have read a lot since the budget has been brought down as have, no doubt, many of you.  I have also listened to the spin from Joe Hockey, and the responses to date from a great range of people.  I could give my responses to what Hockey said at the Press Club, and some very interesting quotes but, quite frankly, I got sick of listening to bullshit.

So I thought my time would be better spent deciding how I would fix things.

The Coalition approach is to make some people wealthy so they will employ more of the rest of us.  As least I think that is the plan.  Economy has replaced the word society so it becomes increasingly hard to understand why things are being done – what are our goals, what are we trying to achieve.  Surely the economy is only a means to an end rather than THE end.

I understand that we need to raise revenue and cut spending.  Here are a few ideas.  Feel free to add your thoughts.

Cap and freeze defence spending at $20 billion a year.  If a real threat emerges we can increase this.  Saving $50 billion

Cancel the order for the 58 extra jet fighters and get by with the 14 we have already ordered.   Saving of $24 billion

Cancel the changes to the Paid parental leave Scheme.  Saving $22 billion

Cancel Direct Action and keep the carbon pricing scheme.  Saving of $10.6 billion

Scrap the fuel tax credit to mining companies.  Saving $11 billion   Scrap the fuel excise indexation.  Loss $3.4 billion.  Net saving $7.6 billion

Keep the mining tax.  Saving $5.3 billion

Find a better solution for asylum seekers that does not involve our Navy except to rescue people in distress, does not involve offshore processing, and most definitely does not involve disposable liferafts costing millions.  One that actually helps people.   If you let them work while their application was being processed we might actually get some taxes from them rather than incarcerating them or giving them below poverty handouts.  Saving…..hard to tell but it would be several billion.

Scrap the 1.5% decrease in company tax until the country can afford it.  Also scrap the 1.5% levy for the PPL.

Keep the requirement for people claiming car business usage to maintain a log book for 3 months once every 5 years to justify their claim.  Saving $1.8 billion

Make the 2% increase in taxation on income over $180,000 permanent.  How much this will make is dependent on if we tighten up on tax avoidance, otherwise the revenue will be nothing and for those as creative as Rupert and Google, we could end up owing them money.

Negative gearing should only apply to new building with certain greenfield developments slated as owner-occupied only.

Introduce a Financial Transactions Tax on various categories of financial transactions including: stocks, bonds and currency.  If implemented on a global basis, its projected revenue could be as much as US$400 billion a year, depending on the size of the levy imposed, the size of the reduction in trading (if any), and the number of implementing countries/jurisdictions. In the US alone it has been estimated that annually, between US$177 and $353 billion could be raised.

A flat rate of 0.05% has been proposed on all financial market transactions, many experts actually advise vary rates (of between 0.01 and 0.5%) depending on the transaction (stocks, bonds, currency, commodities, swaps, derivatives, etc).  The UK stock exchange, one of the largest in the world, already has a 0.5% tax on share transactions.

Forget buying Tony a fleet of new planes to carry around business people and journalists.  Saving over $600 million.

Keep the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.  Saving $400 million

Tighten up the tax concession for superannuation.  There are huge savings to be made there.  At least reinstate the tax targeting earnings on superannuation pensions above $100,000.  Saving  $313 million.

Cut the exploration subsidies to mining companies.  Saving $100 million.

MPs should fly by commercial flights rather than private jets.  Flights to football games, the races, weddings, book signing tours, charity events, fun runs, should be paid for by the MP rather than being seen as an entitlement.  Accommodation for these events will also not be provided as an entitlement.  Don’t know how much it will save but Tony Abbott as Opposition Leader claimed over $1 million a year in entitlements.

Legalise voluntary euthanasia.  This not only gives terminally ill people a choice which may give them peace of mind, it would also save an enormous amount of money which is spent in the last month or two of life.

Having just saved lots of money, here is how I would like it spent

Help lift people out of poverty by increasing the Newstart payment by $50 a week.  Child poverty has increased 15% in the last decade.  Welfare and pensions should be linked to average weekly earnings rather than the CPI to keep the relative quality of life.

Instead of reintroducing the ABCC, reintroduce the Commonwealth Employment Service who actively provide a link between employers and the unemployed, helping people find jobs without having to go through agencies who take a cut of their wage or hire them out as contract employees with no workplace entitlement to paid sick or annual leave.

Action must be taken about the housing crisis.  We must change negative gearing concessions, introduce stricter foreign ownership restrictions on residential properties, make some new developments owner-occupied only, increase government partnership agreements to provide affordable housing and housing for the homeless.

Invest in education by implementing the full Gonski reforms and re-opening the trades training centres.  Keep University fees capped and introduce more scholarships.

Invest in research by immediately refunding the CSIRO and giving them back their independence.  Support other promising research through our universities.  Do not provide a slush fund for pharmaceutical companies.

Invest in the renewable energy industry through the profitable CEFC and grants to businesses who implement sustainable practices.

Invest in preventative health.  Ask the health experts to come up with ways to better spend the health dollars.  Do not make access more expensive.  I note that the doctors get $2 out of the $7 for all co-payments.  I don’t think doctors are the ones most in need of a payrise at the moment.

Build a proper FttP NBN because it would have enormous productivity benefits, encourage entrepreneurial enterprises, give more flexible workplace options, reduce demand for and consequences of transport, open up educational and health applications, improve the lives of rural and elderly Australians.

Continue with the full rollout of the NDIS.

Keep the schoolkids bonus.

Increase wages and training to childcare and aged care workers.  Provide affordable childcare and aged care.  Community nurses and respite providers do a fantastic job of helping the elderly and disabled stay in their homes for longer which saves us a fortune.  As do carers.  Tony Windsor said a Senate committee was advised that if we could keep 20% of elderly people in their homes for one year longer we would save $60 billion over the next ten years.

Increase action on climate change because the social and economic cost is only going to escalate for every moment of delay.

Continue the gradual increase of the superannuation guarantee to 12%.

Increase spending on public transport with Infrastructure Australia prioritising projects.

Increase foreign aid and pressure on governments who commit human rights abuses.  Increase our humanitarian intake, open processing centres in transit countries, and speed up the process.

I am sure I have left out many ways to save money and many things that would give a better return on money spent but my brain is tired.  Yesterday’s budget was physically and emotionally sapping.

Solving the real problems

 

We have a budget problem.

It’s not a budget emergency. Everyone agrees about that… at least, everyone who understands about national finance and economics, which is unfortunately only a minority of the voting public, and none of the current Coalition government to hear them tell it.

By current standards, by any measures you care to name, Australia is currently doing very well compared to every other nation in the G20. Taking all of the various factors together, it’s impossible to deny that Australia is in the best economic state in the world.

The justification for immediate, sweeping, deep cuts to government expenditure is looking pretty shaky.

With that said, it is prudent for us to realise that Australia does face some severe fiscal challenges in the coming decades. Some of these are the result of demographics. Some are historical, and some are being wilfully ignored or exacerbated by the Coalition government’s policies.

As many commentators have argued, the problem with Australia’s economy is not currently on the spending side of the ledger; despite the Coalition’s rhetoric of “profligate spending”, government expenditure increase was slower under Labor than the previous Howard government. Rather, the challenge is with the decline in revenue. This decline is not going to be fixed by a short-term “deficit levy”. The decline is driven by demographic change as the large baby-boomer demographic leaves the ranks of the taxpayers and is replaced by smaller cohorts of Generation Y and Z. Simply put, we’re an ageing population and that leads to declines in tax revenue. Revenue is further driven down by reductions in the terms of trade for coal, iron and other exports, as international economies both encounter financial headwinds of their own, and bring competing sources of these resources online. And depressed spending in the domestic market, particularly in big-ticket areas such as housing, has been driven by the “near-miss” that was the GFC. When the Australian population saves, there is less money in circulation for the government to take in tax.

The future is looking even more bleak. The already declining revenues from coal and fossil fuels, for so long a mainstay of the Australian economy, are likely to collapse with the increasing push towards renewables and international concern about climate disruption. The brand-new 2014 National Climate Assessment in the US is just the most recent in a long succession of dire reports to the world’s largest economy, and the boulder is
slowly but inexorably starting its downhill roll. As climatic disasters continue to reinforce the immediacy of climate disruption, and as economies like America adopt increasingly stringent carbon-abatement policies, the demand for Australia’s coal and gas is likely to dry up. Many fossil fuel oligarchs are likely to go the wall, a fact that will not provoke a lot of tears, but it’s likely to take Australia’s budget position with it.

An ageing population is one with decreasing health, so just as people drop out of the workforce and stop contributing tax, they start requiring more medical attention and putting more weight onto the healthcare system as well as pensions. Multiple reports are clear that on the current trajectory, over the coming decades the share of government expenditure that social security and healthcare will encompass will increase substantially and unsustainably. Left unchecked, this is the budget emergency of tomorrow.

One final brick in the wall up against which is Australia, is the decline of the manufacturing industry. Whether it’s cars or fruit or sneakers, the past decade has seen a constant flow of manufacturing businesses, large and small, leaving Australia for sunnier climes. This is not driven by a lack of capability or resources, which Australia has in plentiful supply, but rather through things that Australians value, such as a decent working wage and appropriate employment conditions including leave and penalty rates. There is only so much that Australian governments can do to reduce administration costs and provide tax breaks to encourage businesses to set up here or remain, and so long as we live in a globalising world with logistics chains that can get goods to the shelves regardless of being produced in Geelong or Kuala Lumpur, all other things being equal companies have little incentive to stay. This contributes to a loss of manufacturing potential and an over-reliance on the mining and minerals sector, and puts Australia at even greater risk. The next two decades will be critical. Employment ministers like to talk up Australia’s other growth area of employment, the services sector, but there’s a limit to how many service jobs an economy can support if there’s nothing being actually manufactured.

To its credit, Labor is aware of the challenges ahead and had productive policies in place over their past two terms of government, and in their election policies in 2013, despite a growing populism and desperation in the face of Tony Abbott’s attacks. Unfortunately Labor has proven to be absolutely inept at message management and communication to the electorate, resulting in the Coalition defining the terms of discussion for every area of policy debate. This resulted, too often, in Labor watering down its message or arguing on the Coalition’s ground, rather than making the case for their own vision.

There are no simple or foolproof solutions to these problems; after all, Australia exists in competition with a myriad of other nation-states who would love nothing better than to see us fail if only to bolster their own chances of success. There are, however, strategies and approaches that can be taken to address the issues, and it is my belief that Labor, at least until the last year of its term of government, had decent and well-considered approaches to these oncoming difficulties. It was just a pity that they were not able to clearly explain their policies in terms of the problems and their intended solutions.

Take for example healthcare. Labor recognised the burgeoning costs of healthcare for an ageing population early on its first term. Kevin Rudd’s grand plan for a revised health compact with the States combined an increase in the role of the Federal government in return for more funding, a new method of costing hospital procedures to standardise and optimise costs and processes, and a range of measures intended to increase pre-clinical healthcare. Throughout its two terms, Labor instituted GP Super Clinics to relieve the pressure from hospital emergency departments and to improve chronic and preventative healthcare. These same super clinics are now under threat from Tony Abbott’s oncoming budget of scalpels.

Improving overall health via preventative care, relieving hospital pressures by increasing the availability and ubiquity of medical care and standardising and optimising costs would not, in and of themselves, solve the healthcare problems Australia faces into the future, but they are a determined approach and a good start. By contrast, the Coalition does not believe in centralisation or group operation, feeling that competition and the holy dollar give the best results. The Coalition does not believe in federal involvement in healthcare beyond what is necessary. The Coalition does not believe in providing government assistance to those in need of healthcare, preferring instead to encourage further involvement of private health in Australia’s healthcare system. This does not address the nation’s healthcare funding problem; it simply shifts the burden onto ordinary people.

Or you can look at manufacturing. Labor’s approach to Australia’s two-speed economy was best encapsulated by the MRRT (Minerals Resource Rent Tax) and its preceding RSPT (Resources Super Profit Tax). Labor intended to marginally increase the amount of tax revenue gained from those resources companies with unfeasibly large profits and pour the resulting funds into support and resources for businesses in other sectors of Australia’s economy. A true case of “all boats will rise”, Labor intended to lower the company tax rate across the board, a move that would have been particularly of benefit to small businesses and retailers across the country. The mining tax would not apply to resource businesses in their normal course of operations; no extra tax would be taken during investment and building of a mine, nor even during moderate production. But when a company got into windfall territory, rapidly depleting a source of minerals and making huge short-term profits, the government felt that the Australian economy should get an extra cut. The philosophical merits of placing an extra tax burden on companies that already paid taxes may be debated; the politics of imposing this ‘levy’, as we now know, turned exceptionally poisonous. (Incidentally, the RSPT and MRRT were intended to replace royalties, so all claims that ‘they already pay royalties to the States’ are furphies.) But it was an attempt, successful or not, to take the benefits of a short term economic boom on the back of mining and use them to strengthen Australia’s performance in other areas of the economy.

Except that the Coalition and the resource oligarchs together conspired to corrupt the public discussion. The average Australian, by the time of the 2013 election, probably thought that the MRRT was going to push prospective mining projects out of Australia and cost thousands of jobs. The truth, of course, is that mining employs a mere fraction of the workforce (and far less than manufacturing and retail), that no companies have realistically been driven from our shores by a tax specifically intended only to be levied when a company was doing excellently, and that the mining companies had won a range of concessions about the methodology of valuing assets that depressed the overall take of the tax in any case. In a world environment where resource prices are declining and the Australian mining boom is largely over, the MRRT has been a disappointment in terms of revenue raised, and whilst it might have been more successful in the latter half of the 2010s as mining companies moved from building phases into full operation, the Coalition is very likely to be able to dismantle the MRRT before it reaches any kind of real success.

Taking even a decent amount of super profits tax from the big miners and using it to reduce operating costs for all businesses across the country would not, in and of itself, solve the problems facing Australia’s manufacturing sector. But it was a good start and a valid approach. The Coalition’s alternative approach of continuing to subsidise and promote Australia’s resource industries will have marginal short term benefits to revenue at the expense of Australia’s ability to transition away from resources into more sustainable and modern forms of production.

On the front of climate disruption, an emissions trading scheme is widely regarded by environmentalists and economists alike to be the best approach to the problem. Labor’s ETS has its detractors, but in this as in so many other areas of Labor policy, the message has been lost in the noise. It is certainly fair to say that even were an ETS to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint to zero it would make minimal impact on the world’s climate. It is definitely true that trading schemes have been gamed in some jurisdictions, that corruption can ensue, and that some people are liable to make a lot of money. It is even fair to say that during the short life of Australia’s ETS, there has been little to no measurable impact on the country’s climate. These objections ignore the bigger picture: that participating in an effective carbon trading scheme would assist Australia to meet its climate commitments and would position Australia to participate in global carbon trading markets without fear of sanctions and tariffs; that the revenues raised from the carbon trading scheme would be ploughed back into successful research and development programs in renewable energy and other carbon-abatement technologies, thus increasing the country’s export markets, renewable energy business and employment, and technological expertise; and that by leading the way for the world, we improved Australia’s standing and encouraged other nations to improve their carbon footprints as well.

By contrast, the Coalition does not appear to believe in climate change/disruption. They are seeking to dismantle a market mechanism to address this global problem, in the process removing Australia’s ability to participate in growing international carbon markets and making us a pariah amongst other nations. They have already dissolved bodies whose remit was to provide impartial and scientific advice on this issue, and are seeking to remove the revenue-generating successful Clean Energy Finance Corporation. In place of these approaches the Coalition is promoting its fig-leaf policy of Direct Action, which has been definitively shown to be incapable of meeting Australia’s stated environment goals, let alone the significantly increased goals that would be required to keep Australia on an even footing with other nations.

Labor’s ETS would not, in and of itself, save the planet from anthropogenic global warming, but it’s the ideal and almost universally respected approach, with many benefits for Australia’s economy and environment, at minimal cost. The best that can be said for the Coalition’s approach is that Direct Action might possibly be of some benefit, but it’s certainly neither the most effective nor efficient method.

On all three of these confronting issues, Labor had successful or worthy policy approaches. Whatever can be said about Labor’s ability to deliver on its policies (either through poor planning or the incapability of the public service), and putting aside the well-publicised leadership contentions, Labor’s main weakness was its inability to get across the message of its approach to these problems. On all three of these issues, judging by policies taken to the election and recent media speculation, our current Coalition government would appear to be taking Australia in exactly the wrong direction. With the Coalition’s first budget mere days away, we will soon see if the government has any valid approaches to these issues beyond the slash-and-burn approach already adopted, but the signs are not looking promising when Tony Abbott and his team will not even be honest about the problems we face. This insistence on a “budget emergency” is a farce and the Coalition’s determined intent to preserve the status quo is not the way to head off the economic emergency that is really oncoming. But of course politics is cyclical, and it’s likely that Labor will be in power by the time these problems become too big to ignore.

You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear

Tony Abbott looking . . . stupid (image by ozpolotic.com)

Tony Abbott looking . . . stupid (image by ozpolotic.com)

As Tony Abbott once said, “politicians are gonna be judged on everything they say”, (May 2010), and goodness knows, Tony has said some rather controversial things in the past.  We are told that many of his more outrageous statements were those of a callow youth in different times, that he has learned a great deal, and changed his views on many things (some of them several times).

Now it’s not as if I expect Tony to be an expert in all fields. After all, “No one, however smart, however well-educated, however experienced, is the suppository of all wisdom,” (August 2013), and I realise that “sometimes, in the heat of discussion, you go a little bit further than you would if it was an absolutely calm, considered, prepared, scripted remark”, but Tony is rapidly clocking up an impressive list of recent quotes that makes one question whether a sow’s ear can be made into a silk purse.

To be fair to the new Tony, I have only included a selection since he took over the leadership of the Liberal Party thus becoming a prospective Prime Minister.  The first quote below is an exception to this in that is was made a few months before Tony became leader but I have included it as being relevant to today’s “toxic tax” chorus.

Here are some of Tony’s pearls of wisdom on a range of topics – I call it my cringe list:

Action on climate change

“If you want to put a price on carbon, why not do it with a simple tax?” – July 2009

“The argument is absolute crap. However, the politics of this are tough for us. Eighty per cent of people believe climate change is a real and present danger.” – December 2009

“”The carbon tax is socialism masquerading as environmentalism…” – May 2012

“It’s a market, a so-called market, in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no one,” – July 2013

”Well I think the official in question (head of the UN’s climate change negotiations, Christiana Figueres) is talking through her hat, if I may say so,” – October 2013

“We have quite enough national parks. We have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest….When I look out tonight at an audience of people who work with timber, who work in forests, I don’t see people who are environmental vandals; I see people who are the ultimate conservationists” – March 2014

Women

“What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up, every year…” – February 2010

“If we want women of that calibre to have families, and we should, well, we have to give them a fair dinkum chance to do so” – May 2013

“They’re young, they’re feisty and, I think I can probably say, have a bit of sex appeal,” – August 2013

”A bit of body contact never hurt anyone,” he told the teens, sounding less daggy dad than dodgy uncle. ”Nothing wrong with a bit of modest sweat” – August 2013

‘If you want to know who to vote for, I’m the guy with the not bad-looking daughters” – September 2013

“Ok, let’s have a bloke’s question.” – March 2014 to students from Newtown High

‘Where are the ladies, by the way?’ he asks. ‘There are some ladies in this delegation.’ – April 2014 in China

Foreign Affairs

“It’s not goodies versus baddies – it’s baddies versus baddies,” – September 2013 re Syria

“He knows that we play our politics very hard in our country. And I think he understood.”  – October 2013 re apology to Malaysia

“People seeking to grandstand against Indonesia, please, don’t look to do it in Australia, you are not welcome. The second point is the situation in West Papua is getting better, not worse” – October 2013

“sometimes in difficult circumstances difficult things happen”.  – November 2013 re human rights abuses and torture in Sri Lanka

Indonesia is in many respects Australia’s most important overall relationship.” – September 2013

“As far as I’m concerned, Japan is Australia’s best friend in Asia and we want to keep it a very strong friendship,”   – October 2013

“New Zealand is Australia’s closest friend” – December 2013

“Australia and Papua New Guinea are more than friends – we are family” – March 2014

“Australia is not in China to do a deal, but to be a friend,” – April 2014

Economy and finance

“Mates help each other, they do not tax each other.” – Tony Abbott, February 23, 2011.

“We have always as a Coalition been against compulsory superannuation increases.” Press Conference, 23 March, 2012.

“Well, um, climbing mountains is a marvellous thing” – January 2014

“We do not want to clutter up the G20 agenda with every worthy and important cause, because if we do, we will squander the opportunity to make a difference in the vital area of economic growth,” – February 2014

“to get rich is indeed glorious” – April 2014

Unemployment

“Some of them will find it difficult, but many of them will probably be liberated to pursue new opportunities and to get on with their lives” – December 2013

Marriage equality

“I’m not someone who wants to see radical change based on the fashion of the moment” – August 2013

First people

“The first lot of Australians were chosen by the finest judges in England” – January 2013

Forced adoptions

”We honour the birth parents, including fathers, who have always loved their children.” – March 2013

 

Part of being a Head of State is to be able to think on your feet.  Tony often does that by inserting his foot into his mouth.  No wonder Credlin always sits within pinching distance.

Update:  I forgot to include

“I was an opposition leader myself for four years; I know that that position has some exhilarations and some frustrations,”- November 2013 to Myanmar’s opposition leader, who spent 15 years under house arrest before she was freed in 2010

 

Abbott is the Most Moderate Prime Minister In the History of Australia.

 

At first it was easy. Bernardi, Joyce and Pyne have always been a satirist’s dream. You just have to repeat what they’re saying and most people laugh and tell you that you have a marvelous control of irony. And since his election, Abbott has made himself look even more ridiculous than that trio – which, I think you’ll agree – is an impressive achievement.

Going from “elect us for a strong economy” to “what do job losses have to do with us” in the space of a few months ranks with George W. telling us that the French didn’t have a word for “entrepreneur”. But then, we had Scott Morrison’s “Well, what do you expect when people leave the safety of the compound?” changing to “Sorry he didn’t leave the compound, but we’ll have a full inquiry into this and no, I’m not answering questions, I never answer questions because that just helps people smugglers. And look, Steven offended the General so let’s talk about that, because a man’s death pales into insignificance when compared to a general being offended by accusations that he’s helping us cover things up.”

But I must confess, lately I’ve lost my spark. Every time, I start to write something that I hope will rival Swift’s “A Moderate Proposal”# and Abbott comes out with something even more “moderate”.

Today, I started to read something and I thought, “Yeah, that’s the sort of satire I wish I could write”, but then I realised that it quoting an actual news item, and that Abbott really did say:  “When I look out tonight at an audience of people who work with timber, who work in forests, I don’t see people who are environmental vandals; I see people who are the ultimate conservationists” just a few minutes after saying, “Why should we lock up as some sort of World Heritage sanctuary country that has been logged, degraded or planted for timber?”

But I suppose that we don’t want forests locked up? It sounds like the thing you do to unionists and protesters. “Free the forests” has a catchy ring to it. Rather like “liberating” workers from their boring factory jobs. And in some cases they’ll be liberated from their mortgages too. I can see a similar campaign for people in nursing homes.

But still at least we know that he’s a “feminist” because of his daughters. He said so on International Women’s Day when he announced that all the glass ceilings had been broken. Governor-General, Prime Minister and now we had his chief of staff running the entire country. So, there’s no problem any more. Feminists have won, so why are they still complaining.

Yes, Tony’s daughters turned him into a feminist like my son turned me into an incredibly fit man. He’d prefer that I was, so that means I am, right?

#A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick,[1] commonly referred to as A Modest Proposal, is a Juvenalian satirical essay written and published anonymously by Jonathan Swift in 1729. Swift suggests that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies.[2] This satirical hyperbole mocks heartless attitudes towards the poor, as well as Irish policy in general.

In English writing, the phrase “a modest proposal” is now conventionally an allusion to this style of straight-faced satire.

Sometime in the future!

Photo: news.com.au

Photo: news.com.au

 

“QANTAS is gearing up to axe 5000 jobs and sell its terminal at Melbourne Airport to prove to the Abbott Government it can make the tough business decisions required to obtain federal assistance.”

The Herald-Sun, February 25th 2014

Februrary 2016 – A News Conference.

In breaking news today, Squandus the last remaining manufacturing company in Australia announced plans to make it eligible for government assistance.

“We’ve had to make some pretty tough decisions to meet the guidelines, but I’m pleased to say that we’ve met with our workers today and explained the situation to them,” announced Mr Swiss Cayman, the CEO at a news conference.

“First off, we’ll be selling our plants and equipment. Our original thought was that we’d lease them back, but our accountants have pointed out that as one of the conditions our the Federal funding was that we sack all our workers not prepared to take a pay cut and make redundant all those who are, there’ll be nobody to use the machinery. That, combined with the government requirement that all workers sign a confidential agreement on the conditions of their redundancy – and by confidential we mean that they’re not allowed to read it before signing –  means we can make the sort of savings that the government is demanding.”

“Added to the wages bottom line, the fact that we have completely eliminated our energy and running costs means that we’ve reduced our overheads by almost 100%. The only costs will be the board’s salary and a payment to an auditing firm to ensure that we’re spending our revenue wisely.”

When asked where the company was expecting revenue from, Mr Cayman pointed out that now that they’d met the conditions for government support that they were expecting government help to continue.

“Let’s face it, without government support going into the future we’d be earning literally nothing. But we fully expect to get what we’ve asked for because we’re exactly the sort of firm that they’ve been encouraging since they took office.”

A spokesmen for the Government issued a press release with the standard blank page, before announcing that the Minister for Industry would not be taking questions on this because of both the commercial in confidence arrangements and also the government’s practice of not commenting on anything that might affect any other thing in any way whatsoever.

A journalist who rang the PM’s office to enquire the name of the Minister for Industry was taken into custody for trying to breach security. A second journalist who rang to find out the whereabouts of the first journalist was found to be an illegal immigrant and sent straight to Manus Island.

Meanwhile, Mr Jockey announced that the work-for- the-dole scheme had now been expanded to include journalists, judges and teachers. He scoffed at rumours that doctors had also been considered for the expansion, declaring “Medicine is a highly specialised field. We’re just including jobs that anyone can pick up after a few days work in the area.”

When one ABC journalist asked why the list didn’t include politicians, Mr Jockey asked him if his visa was still up to date.

“I was born in Australia,” asserted the journalist.

“That doesn’t mean you didn’t come here illegally,” suggested Mr Jockey. “Anyone here without a visa is potentially a candidate for off-shore processing.”

There were no further questions.

Bernardi’s Book, and Why You’re All Wrong About It!

cory search (Click on photo to enlarge)

There are two books called “The Conservative Revolution”, but, unfortunately, only one on Kindle. Of course, as Kindle is too “non-traditional” it isn’t Cory Bernardi’s book, so unfortunately, I can’t download it and tell you what it says. The blurb for Bernardi’s book on Amazon goes thus:

“An unapologetic advocate for mainstream values, Cory Bernardi presents a bold vision for a stronger nation that is founded on conservative principles. He takes the fight to the political left and calls for an overturning of the existing moral relativism that threatens Australia’s way of life. Bernardi argues that the best way to tackle this threat is to protect and defend the traditional institutions that have stood the test of time, something that he has done during his time as a senator in the Australian Parliament. Bernardi’s work courageously promotes the conservative cause and sets out a path to a better Australia through a commitment to faith, family, flag, freedom and free enterprise. This volume reminds us that conservative principles – not the populist whims of the left – generate enduring stability, success and strength. That is why we need a conservative revolution.”

Now, there’s been a bit of talk about free speech lately. Just yesterday, Tom Harris from the “International Climate Science Coalition” commented about people arguing with him:

“Glad to see John and I have all you freedom of speech opponents in a tizzy. The truth will out in the end and then you will look like fascists trying to silence legitimate scientific debate on something that is costing the world trillions of dollars while real problems such as the famine in the Sahel are not properly addressed.”

As I wrote a few days ago, some people seem to think that anyone arguing against their point of view is inhibiting their free speech. How Harris, who made well over twenty comments on two blogs without censorship, was having his free speech deniied is a mystery to me.

However, when I read some of the Amazon reviews, there was one thing that concerned me more than Bernardi’s statements. Let’s start with the person who gave the book five stars “for standing by a position that many conservatives are too afraid to stand up for”, while admitting that they hadn’t actually read it. I think we can all agree that it’s absolutely absurd to rate a book that one hasn’t read.

Equally, I feel, it’s just as absurd for his opponents to use a book review to condemn the book. By all means, write to the paper, mock his ideas on Facebook, send letters to the Liberal Party, but to condemn the book without reading it strikes me as a little closed-minded.

“We don’t need to read it! We know what he’s saying!” some will argue. And as I said, by all means, argue with the things that you’ve heard him say.

But there is one rather large problem with attacking the book without reading it and it’s this. If you haven’t read it, you don’t know what’s in it. And it’s the sort of stance that will be twisted to make it sound like Bernardi’s detractors are opponents of free speech.

To paraphrase, the late Lionel Murphy, “Mr Bernardi has a right to be an idiot.”

However, I think there’s a more concerning aspect to the current controversy over Bernardi. While we’re all jumping up and down over his interesting views on the traditional family, with Bill Shorten saying that, as a step-father, he was offended, and even fellow Coalition MPs like Warren Entsch condemning Bernardi, the rest of his book is being largely ignored.

Apart from suggesting that the green agenda – which supposedly values plants more than humans – and the Islamic religion are destroying our traditional Western culture, he also talks about that “which must not be mentioned” – Workchoices! (He may like to check the number of centuries that Muslims have lived in Western societies.) We see the following ideas floated:

“Surely an employee should be free to negotiate an acceptable workplace agreement directly with their employer … free from government or union interference,”

“Small business needs to be empowered to hire and fire employees free of illegitimate government interference.”

Now, I’ve always tended to the view that if you have to choose between SNAFU and a conspiracy, then you’re more likely to be right if you pick the former, one can’t help but wonder if this little test of public opinion shows us that we can be distracted from economic policy, if the suggestions on social policy are extreme enough.

If unemployment continues to rise, well, that’s Labor’s fault, isn’t it? Abortion is just too easy these days. If Holden leaves Australia, well, they can’t expect handouts, can they? Families need a mum and dad, not a mum and mum, because then they don’t have a male role model and they won’t be able to fix things.  If workers don’t have the skills, then we bring in 457 workers – suggested that our own citizens be trained is “disgusting and racist”, isn’t it? By the way, a muslim in Sydney suggested that sharia law isn’t all bad.  And if employers aren’t hiring, that’s because there’s too much red tape, isn’t it? 

As for the growing number of unemployed, we need to bring it down, don’t we? More flexibility, less handouts, less union interference. Just don’t call it Workchoices! Remember the economy’s a mess because Labor killed the mining boom and it seems that some people just don’t want to work!

And hey, did you hear what Cory said about single mothers this week?

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” – Aldous Huxley

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.

Donald Rumsfeld

“When you understand,” Brandy says, “that what you’re telling is just a story. It isn’t happening anymore. When you realize the story you’re telling is just words, when you can just crumble up and throw your past in the trashcan,” Brandy says, “then we’ll figure out who you’re going to be.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

When John Howard contested the 2007 election, he stood on his interest rate record. The Interest rates had been – on average – lower than when Labor was in office. After Labor’s election, interest rates didn’t climb as had been predicted by the Liberals, so the mantra changed. We were told that interest rates would be even lower if we didn’t have a Labor Government.

At some point, this changed again. Low interest rates become a sign that the economy was in crisis. They were a sign of the weakness in the Australian economy. Which, to some extent, is true. As to how much that weakness is the result of Government policy and how much a result of the high Australian dollar is a matter that can be debated, but the fact remains that the Reserve Bank increases interest rates to slow down an overheating economy and reduces them to stimulate a flagging economy. Depending on what else is happening, a fall, rise or no movement at all may be a cause for concern or celebration.

However, while politics has always been a matter of trying to talk up your achievements and imply that your opponent is not as good as you, we’ve usually relied on the media as some sort of arbiter, pointing out obvious exaggerations, educating us on the expectations, and informing us so that we can make informed decisions. We don’t expect them to simply re-write press releases.

Interpreting history is always political. Part of the difficulty is that we only have one result and it’s always possible to make an argument that it was the best – or worst – result possible. Just as the Liberals argue that things would have been better if they’d been in charge of the economy, it’s possible for me to argue that the Melbourne Football Club would have been better off if they’d appointed me as coach last year. All right, my lack of any qualifications would have been controversial, but it’s hard to argue that they’d have been worse off! Whatever the reality, all we have is what happened, and it’s always easy to make a case for the thing that wasn’t done, using some ideal “if only” scenario.

“If only Rudd hadn’t spent all that money in 2008, we wouldn’t be in debt now. They claimed we were about to be hit by the worst recession in eighty years and the economy actually grew. If the Liberals had been in charge they wouldn’t have spent any money on insulation and school halls or given handouts of $900, and the economy would have grown twice as fast and we could have put more into cancer research leading to world peace and a Nobel Prize for every Australian.”

And, of course, we’re going to hear various theories about replacing Rudd with Gillard, and then back again. It’s perfectly reasonable to argue that Rudd saved the Labor Party from a complete wipe-out. But it’s just as reasonable to argue that if the party had stuck with Gillard, they’d have been more credible and, while Rudd was losing support from his initial surge, Gillard would have slowly increased as we got closer to the election. It’s possible to argue that Labor should have waited as long as possible in the hope that we go to war with Syria – always a boost for a Government. Whatever your point of view, we’ll never know if you’re right and there is no way you can prove it, and we’ll never know for sure.

So tempting and all as it is to pontificate about what Labor should have done, perhaps it’s time to start thinking about the future. What’s the way forward? What should the Labor Party do NOW?

More importantly, what should you do now?

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