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Tag Archives: Penalty rates

Honour The Sabbath, But Clearly In A Clearly Optional Way OR Why Tony Is The Only True Conservative Left!

Recently I’ve speculated on how the Christian Right have found clear evidence about the Bible’s opposition to gay marriage based on highly ambiguous readings of obscure verses here and there, but not one of them has come out and condemned the reduction of penalty rates on Sundays. I suppose one could argue that they see it as a sin anyway and whether one is paid double time or not is hardly the issue. However, I would expect that someone like Neil who graced us with his presence in the comments, or Lyle Shelton would have been jumping up and down and complaining about the abolition of penalty rates leading to more sin…

Yes, the wages of sin is death… But you do get to pick your own hours and the working conditions are pretty good!

I don’t know why I chose to start talking about penalty rates. I’m really much more interested in the coming leadership challenge which leaves us with a Liberal Party 100% behind Scott Morrison… Or Peter Dutton, if they decide that he’s the only one who’s still friendly enough with the Tony to convince him to take the effing job in London before they have to revoke his citizenship under the recent changes allowing us to cancel it when dual citizens commit crimes such as sedition… Sedition can loosely be defined as trying to bring down the government, and they could even get a jury to convict Abbott on that.

Ok, ok, I know that Abbott isn’t really a dual citizen and that he revoked his British citizenship some time ago, but he won’t tell us when because it’s a deeply personal thing and therefore an operational matter. Of course, when I say that I know, I’m using the words “I know” in the same way that Donald Trump knows that nobody understands the world like him and he knows that climate change is part of a conspiracy between Hillary and the Chinese to destroy Trump Tower!

Anyway…

Tony decided to warn his colleagues that they were in danger of losing the next election because they weren’t conservative enough. The Tone decided to do this – not in the Party room where he was concerned that his mates may be asleep or not paying attention – but via the media. In the everyday world where most of us live this would be the normal way of doing things. If you had a problem with your boss, you wouldn’t blurt it out at a staff meeting. No, you’d publish it on social media in the hope that someone would bring it to his attention and he’d go, “Yes, that person had a point, I’ll change my ways!”

Peta Credlin rushed to Tony’s defence. He wasn’t being disloyal. He was just frustrated. She quickly added that she was no longer working for Tony and her reflections were just to help us all understand that it was his pent-up frustration and that she wasn’t speaking on his behalf. No, she was just presuming that he was frustrated, and she was just trying to explain what he gets like when he’s frustrated by not having his own way. No, she may no longer be his Chief of Staff, but she knows where he’s coming from!

Tony, we’ll all have you know, is simply trying to keep the Liberal Party together. And we all know that the best way to keep a party together is to criticise it in public…

Yes, Labor has disunity; the Liberals have “a broad church”.

And part of this broad church, in the Gospel according to St Tony, tells us that we should just get rid of all the nonsense that we pretended to believe in when we were trying to get elected. You know, like all that nonsense he pretended to believe in when he was studying to be a priest before he realised that he’d never be Pope.

I mean, don’t you all understand the threat of One Nation?

No, not the One Nation which encourages songs like “We’re all in this together” or multicuturalism. No, the One Nation that wants to exclude most people in our nation from anything approaching rights and thinks that penalty rates should just be abolished altogether and women get pregnant for the money!

You know, One Nation…

Remember, Tony did his bit by meeting with Pauline where they had a jolly good laugh about how he raised the funds to have her put in jail.

You know, One Nation…

Who’ve hired James Ashby. Remember him? He left the Liberals to go and work for Peter Slipper. That worked out badly and he had to leave because he alleged that Slipper was sexually harassing him, but his case sort of fell down when his reaction to a text about being spanked was to reply that he might like it. (This is not a joke. Unless Winston Smith has started to work for the government it’s easily searchable!) Now James is working for Pauline and Tony is saying that we need to be less consistent to what we believe and more like PHON!

You know, One Nation…

Whom Abbott seems to believe may take votes off the Liberals and are a threat.

You know, One Nation…

The Party that the Liberals decided to preference above their Coalition partners in WA. Of course, helping them get elected doesn’t mean that we support them and agree with them. We’re just doing it because we’d trade preferences with the devil himself if he it helped us get elected. I mean, at least we have sunk so low as to work with The Greens!

Yes, it’s a worry that people may start to agree with One Nation whose candidates have done such wonderful things as suggesting that a termite repellent can be used to treat skin cancer (or could, were it not for the fact that silly regulations have stopped it’s import, just because a few people have needed hospitalisation because they have large holes in their face) and the idea that gay people are using “Nazi mind control” to change our thinking. I can see more votes leaking to One Nation than the Labor Party or The Greens. God, doesn’t Donald Trump show how dangerous the left can be?

When I suggest that the Liberals will call a spill this week, it seems highly unlikely at the time of writing. However, in a world where Abbott was elected as PM and Turnbull is praising the virtues of coal and Bill Shorten looks the most sincere of the three*, then it’s a risky call to bet against me unless you’re getting good odds. Do I think, Malcolm will be PM by the end of the week? Probably… But I am prepared to suggest that the person who suggested that Turnbull would go on to be one of our longest-serving and most successful Prime Ministers must be wishing that they’d decided to write a column about the achievements of Lachlan Macquarie instead!

*I only said, of the three, AND I do know we could have a long discussion about it, but the idea that it’s even debatable is EXACTLY my point!

The fair go is going . . . going . . . gone

rich-get-richerIn 1967, Prime Minister Harold Holt said that he knew of no other free country where “what is produced by the community is more fairly and evenly distributed among the community” than it was in Australia.

The pillars of egalitarianism in Australia were high wages, high home ownership and low unemployment.

A decent minimum wage is a sign of a civilised society. Australia was a world pacesetter in establishing a living wage at the beginning of last century, and it has always been one of the hallmarks of the fair and egalitarian society we have had since that we support a relatively high minimum wage. It is what distinguishes Australia from much of the rest of the world.

A decent minimum wage is one of the bulwarks that prevents Australia developing a large underclass of working poor, which now so dominates the United States. And it is credited as helping to sustain our economy during the slowdown caused by the Global Financial Crisis, when other nations with a lower minimum wage sunk into recession.

Despite this, the Commission of Audit suggested that the way minimum wages are set through an annual review overseen by the Fair Work Commission should be scrapped.

Instead, it is proposing a “minimum wage benchmark”, which would fix minimum wages well below what they are now at 44% of average weekly earnings. If implemented tomorrow, it would mean slashing the minimum wage by almost $140 a week.

We also have Maurice Newman, head of Abbott’s Business Advisory Council, saying “While any discussion in Australia about industrial relations evokes screams of outrage and spectres of WorkChoices, we cannot hide the fact that Australian wage rates are very high by international standards and that our system is dogged by rigidities.”

The figures tell a different story.  While big business continues to rake in record profits, wage rises have been so low over the past year that most workers have gone backwards.

The latest wage price index from the Bureau of Statistics shows an average increase of 2.6 per cent in the year to June, well below the inflation rate of 3 per cent – this at a time when productivity is at an all time high.

Not only is the minimum wage under attack, penalty rates are also in the firing line.

On Tuesday, Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs said it was unfair that small businesses had to pay double on Sundays and triple on New Year’s Eve, and it was on the government’s radar.

“We cannot go on in a society where we are charging people on a day which is a normal operating day, double what you would on any other,” Mr Briggs told a small business audience.

Mr Briggs said high labour costs had made businesses “uncompetitive” and hurt youth employment. “This is an area we must reform,” he said.

“But it will only be an area reformed if society is willing to have the debate. And [business] can help lead the debate.”

ACTU boss Ged Kearney said dropping penalty rates will not increase jobs or help small business but damage the economy by lowering the amount of money people spend in stores and restaurants.

“You cut $200 a week out of someone’s pay . . . and small business will be the first to suffer,” she said.

Education is a large factor in employment prospects yet we are reducing funding to secondary schools and increasing the cost of tertiary education.  Vocational education courses are being cut as is funding to groups who facilitated the transition from education to employment for vulnerable young people.

Despite rising unemployment, the Coalition plans to expand the 457 visa program, remove existing controls on employers, abolish any training obligations and open the program up to more semi-skilled workers.

In his 2012 IPA Address, Abbott said that ‘under a Coalition government, 457 visas won’t be just a component but a mainstay of our immigration program.’

More than 60 per cent of the 3323 457 visas granted since November last year and subject to labour market testing went to foreign nationals already in Australia.

In skill level 3 occupations, which are mostly trades, 45 per cent of all 457 visa granted were in occupations not on the national shortage list.

In a move that is becoming increasingly common, ministerial advisers encouraged federal officials to “massage” their economic forecasts to match Tony Abbott’s vow to create one million jobs over the next five years amid concern the original estimates would fall short of his target.

Asking department experts to adjust their figures, the advisers to Employment Minister Eric Abetz sought to add 160,000 jobs to the projections brought out in March.

The Abbott government came up with its pledge to create 1 million jobs in five years solely on the employment growth rate achieved under the former Howard government.  No modelling or detailed calculations were done to reach the figure of 1 million jobs.

Tony Abbott’s office took the employment growth rate of about 2.2 per cent year-on-year under the Howard government and used it to extrapolate its own job-creation target.

”Abbott’s office assumed they could achieve the same outcome,” a Coalition insider said. ”There was no detailed modelling or serious work done to justify the 1 million job target. They looked at the Howard record and said, ‘We can match it’.”

Treasury forecast in MYEFO that employment would grow three-quarters of 1 per cent this financial year and 1.5 per cent in each of the next three years. A Parliamentary Library analysis commissioned by Labor found that this was likely to leave the Coalition at least 200,000 jobs short of its five-year pledge.

That view was broadly backed by a range of economists who said it would be very difficult for the Coalition to create 1 million jobs in five years, with the mining boom ending and with deep cuts in the federal budget.

The uncertainty about the renewable energy target has also seen us miss out on billions in investment in this growing industry while the government’s decision to no longer support manufacturing has contributed to us losing our car industry along with many other closures.

Along with wages and employment, affordable housing is a crucial factor in an egalitarian society.

A national snapshot of rental affordability in Australia prepared by Anglicare Australia has found there are minuscule and in some cases, zero, levels of affordable housing for people on low incomes, with welfare advocates saying some people will be forced to go without food to afford their accommodation.

Despite this growing crisis, the Coalition discontinued the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) in the budget.  The NRAS is a partnership between the federal government and the states and territories to invest in affordable rental housing which began in 2008. It seeks to address the shortage of affordable rental housing by offering financial incentives to persons or entities such as the business sector and community organisations to build and rent dwellings to low and moderate income households at a rate that is at least 20 per cent below the market value rent.

Domestic Violence NSW said “It’s particularly frustrating that a successful program that increased the availability of affordable rental housing has been targeted, while very expensive tax concessions like negative gearing and capital gains tax exemptions remain in place.”

So with an active push to reduce wages, no plan to create jobs amidst rising unemployment, movement away from federal action on affordable housing while encouraging investors to drive up housing prices, one wonders what Mr Holt would have to say about Abbott’s Australia.

Slave trade capitalism and the new Republican Party

Image courtesy of littlegreenfootballs.com

Image courtesy of littlegreenfootballs.com

Time is a funny thing, especially how the same things seem to happen again and again.

In the early nineteenth century, the young United States of America was heading toward civil war.  The practice of slavery had been accepted, but restrained from spreading further, by the Founding Fathers and the new American constitution. However, with the annexing of the new territories in Kansas and Nebraska, slavery was becoming a major fissure in the cultural landscape of the new nation. During the 1850s one of the presidential hopefuls, Henry Seward made a speech addressing the growing disparity between the wealthy slave owners in the South, and the emerging industrialized society in the north;

“There are two antagonistical elements of Society in America”, Seward proclaimed, “freedom and slavery.  Freedom is in harmony with our system of government and with the spirit of the age, and is therefore passive and quiescent.  Slavery is in conflict with that system, with justice and with humanity and is therefore organized, defensive, active, and perpetually aggressive.  “Free labour” he said, “demands universal suffrage and widespread diffusion of knowledge.  The slave based system, by contrast, ‘cherishes ignorance’ because it is the only security for oppression.”

The freedom that Seward referred to was the free, or non-slave, workers that toiled in the increasingly industrialized northern cities. What is striking about this passage is just how much the sentiments that Seward expressed resonate today.

Today we appear to be facing a parallel scenario to Seward’s, with a push from wealthy multi-national corporations and northern foreign-owned miners who want to spread their low-wage, low skill, high-profit form of business to every state on the planet.

This aggressive and well-funded movement born in American Capitalism now threatens Australian shores; Maurice Newman, chair of the Commission of Audit, attacks the Australian minimum wage, Tony Abbott dismisses of the importance of penalty rates, education reform is defunded and a ‘review’ is announced into the newly minted national curriculum, all nicely framed by ongoing disinformation from government ministers on the reasons for recent collapses in manufacturing in the southern states, all the while encouraging us to drink the trickle-down Kool Aid.

While these attacks on the backbone of a progressive society continue, it seems that there is little fight from either of the standing opposition parties, the ALP or the Greens.

Can we learn anything from the history of slavery and American capitalism?  And in those lessons is there a blueprint for action that we can take now?

Suggesting that American Capitalism is rooted in the slave plantations of the past is not a new thing.  Slave-grown and picked cotton was America’s most valuable export. Without which silver and gold from England and Europe would not have flowed so readily into U.S. Treasury coffers and the pockets of Northern factory owners, providing the much needed ‘capital’ for the growing nation.  Modern management practices also can be traced back to slavers.  Including time and motion studies, and calculating an employee’s worth against ‘unit labour costs’ to calculate productivity.

From this comes one of the central pillars of American capitalism; the practice of paying as little as possible for labour. With many corporations in America, most visibly WalMart and McDonalds, basing their entire business model on hiring unskilled workers that can be paid the absolute minimum.

The difficulty for the workers is that it is not enough.  Recent debate in the USA has revealed that these corporations access billions of dollars in government welfare through their employees.  Because they do not pay their workers a living wage, employees are forced onto welfare programs like food stamps.  The fast-food industry alone rakes in a government subsidy of roughly $7 Billion per year, with McDonalds even having an employee advice line helping employees sign up to government welfare.  These revelations have gone straight to the core of the argument over a living wage, workers rights and the real corporate welfare queens.

In light of this it can be seen that the only difference between Seward’s “two antagonistical elements” and our own is the deep hypocrisy in the arguments of wealthy ‘job creators’.

American, and Australian, elites insist on their quasi-religious, Ayn Rand infused utopian delusion that, instead of inheriting their wealth and profiting from the intelligence and work of generations of workers, they actually built their entire empires by themselves.  This was perhaps best refuted by Bill Clinton when he responded to attacks on President Obama for his out of context “You didn’t build that”:

“The Republican narrative is that all of us who amount to anything are completely self-made . . . Bob Straus, used to say that every politician wants you to believe he was born in a log cabin he built himself. As Straus then admitted, it ain’t so.”

The economy and all the technological advances we enjoy today have been built by the skilled working and middle class that grew from the Industrial revolution in 19th century.  The claim that higher wages hurt business is simply false. It was the massive movement of consumer funds from well paid industrial workers that created the base wealth upon which the post-WW2 industrialized economies have been built.

Without the capital drawn from taxes paid by thousands of workers the ports, rail, and roads built in the 1950s and 60s that transported goods would never have happened. Those same taxes paid for schools that trained up the next generations of skilled employees that businesses could then leverage into creating products and delivering services.

The profits that companies made in the last hundred years were not driven by a select elite purchasing high price items, but by millions of consumers and businesses buying and selling, working and living, increasing demand and driving growth and trade.

When a portion of the population cannot afford to live, then they cannot participate.  When participation in the economy drops so does demand, with employment, trade and profits following soon after.

The rich will always maintain a degree of wealth and privilege.  In many ways the elite still exist in a semi-feudal world where those on ‘their’ lands should be grateful for the opportunity to eke out a subsistence living.   Thanks to their lofty position the wealthy are able enjoy their life regardless of economic conditions, as the businesses that service the wealthy operate in a very different space to the rest of the economy.  They are often able to ride out recessions, and can simply transfer their wealth to another market or country if trade or economies collapse.

The working and middle class, on the other hand, are reliant on trade and education.  The various accountants, tradesmen, managers, shop keepers, artisans, teachers, and lawyers require commerce and constant self-improvement to maintain their standard of living.  Without trade the rich can still enjoy their lands and property without much impact on their life.  However if trade declines or collapses, as seen in the Great Depression and recent Financial Crisis, the middle class and working classes are devastated.

One of the side effects of trade is exposure to new ideas.  Trade also drives innovation and social progress, as both serve to create new markets and new consumers.  All of this is a threat to any established elite, as social progress and greater knowledge builds further demand for equality. Not simply for equal rights for non-whites or non-heterosexuals, but for more equal representation in government, more equal access to opportunity, in short for a more democratic society.  This evolution of more equality in representation is one of the things that the wealthy and political elite fear most.  The American War of Independence and Civil War were fought over just these things.

The feudal world is a remnant that still hangs from our representative democracy.  In many ways representative democracy is the half-way hybrid of feudalism and true democracy.  We rely on a patrician class of political operators to work in our best interests, when in reality they are mainly working in their own self-interest and the special interests of their patrons.  A more direct democracy would see be form of republicanism akin to ancient Athens where all citizens voted directly on bills or the young USA where the voice of the citizenry was a direction for action by their elected representatives.  The attack on workers and education is an attempt to stave off this next logical step in social and political evolution to a more direct and effective democracy.

This is why religious conservatives and economic libertarians attack the means of sustaining a viable middle class.  Poor education dramatically reduces opportunities for employment and advancement, and hamstrings innovations that may threaten the status quo.  Cutting health care forces families to spend more of their income and time on caring for sick or elderly family members.  Failing to invest in effective public transport creates a class divide between those who can afford a vehicle to access job opportunities and those who are trapped in a cycle of poverty due to lack of mobility.

Even now the decision not to build a national, equal-access broadband infrastructure is picking winners and losers.  Those with fibre connections are already enjoying higher house valuations. Once again the inner cities will have the advantages, while the suburbs and regional cities – the tradition heartland of the working and middle classes – are relegated to second class citizens.  How long until cuts to education, health, penalty rates and minimum wage see further collapse of employment options and standards of living in Australia?

For Seward and his contemporary Abraham Lincoln, the principal opposition party of the time was too weak to respond to the pro slavery Democratic Party and the loud threats and aggression from the southern states that demanded they be allowed to establish slave estates in the new territories ‘for the sake of the nation’.

Eventually there was a split, and many from the opposition Whig party joined with other more progressive groups to form the new Republican Party.  Under this banner the nation set about a new path toward the equality promised in the American constitution.  Civil war followed, but the USA emerged stronger and more vigorous than ever.  What followed was over a hundred years of progress and growth that led the 20th century to be named the American Century.

In Australia the Liberal-National governments federally and in the states are filled with a similar aggression to their pro-slavery forebears, and are in a hurry to force their changes on our society before the sleepy masses awaken.  A vocal opposition would do much to quicken this awakening and stifle the fuming vigour of the neo-libertarians.

Unfortunately, the Greens party seem too much interested in attacking the ALP to increase their market share.  Meanwhile the corruption in the ALP Right and the union movement is currently hamstringing the pragmatic and progressive reform elements in the party, and the ALP is nowhere to be found except in lockstep with the right-wing unionists, vague statements on social media and irrelevant emails.

Now more than ever Australia needs a progressive political force that is unafraid to tackle the destructive policies and practices that are currently arrayed against Australia.

The ALP has split in the past; usually with right-wing elements peeling off to create new conservative parties, such as the United Australia Party; forerunner to the modern Liberal Party, and the Democratic Labor Party.

Perhaps now it is up to the progressive and Left in the ALP party to make a stand and plant a new banner that can be a rally point for the dozens of progressive micro-parties that sprang up at the last federal election, for environmentalists, for small businesses, for workers, for entrepreneurs. For everyone who wants better representation, not just in a leadership ballot but in building policy.  For everyone who sees the threat arrayed against our nation and its future, and wants to do something about it.

Perhaps, once again, It’s Time.

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