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The sound of nodding heads

In the lead up to the last election, the vast majority of voters indicated the economy was the most important issue. There is no doubt the supposed debt crisis had an impact on the electorate when it cast its vote, even though the Coalition was embarrassingly wrong on the issue.

Asylum seekers was a clear but distant second, ahead of issues such as health, climate change and education. Defence barely rated a mention.

Abbott is doing everything in his power to avoid speaking about the economy and climate change. And for some unknown reason, the Labor Party seems happy to allow him to control the message. They seem more focused on not alienating Conservative voters than on representing the progressive vote. Whilst they are disappointing on so many levels, there are still many things the Labor Party should be highlighting as the Liberals roll out their “Don’t trust Bill” ad campaign.

In September 2013 Australia had a gross debt of $273 billion. As of June 26 this year, that has increased to almost $369 billion. That is an increase of over a billion per week.

The debt blowout has been largely caused by a surge in government spending.

In the last full year of the previous government, 2012-13, real government spending fell 3.2% to 24.1% of GDP.

According to the budget, in 2014-15 and 2015-16, government spending will be 25.9% of GDP, a huge 1.8 percentage points higher than the level in the last full year of the previous government.

The latest ABS figures show labour force underutilisation was 14.5 per cent in May 2015 (6% unemployment and 8.5% underemployment). 756,300 people are unemployed. Seasonally adjusted aggregate monthly hours worked was 1,631.8 million hours

In September 2013 the unemployment rate was 5.6%, 697,100 were unemployed, and the aggregate monthly hours worked was 1,641.5 million hours.

In other words, there are more unemployed people and those that are employed are working less.

No wonder Tony is avoiding discussing the economy.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) is paid by the department of defence to prepare a defence budget brief. The document they produced last year was very informative.

They found that the cost of defence in 2014-15 is $80.3 million per day. This does not include funds appropriated to the Defence Housing Authority, those administered by Defence for military superannuation schemes and housing support services, nor the additional funds provided directly to the Defence Materiel Organisation.

Further they advise that

“The government’s ability [to increase defence spending to 2% of GDP] will depend on the electorate’s willingness to incur the resulting opportunity cost of forgone social services and higher taxes. On current estimates, each of Australia’s roughly 10 million workers will be contributing around $5,000 a year each to sustain the promised defence budget in 2023-24. Yet, according to opinion polls, support for higher defence spending has fallen from 60% in 2001 to less than 40% today. Absent a strategic crisis to shake off the complacency, sustained increases to defence spending will only be possible if the government makes a convincing case for doing so.”

Tony Abbott is playing up the danger we face here from Daesh and we are paying a huge price to maintain that fear.

Compare that to the real and present danger posed by climate change to health and people’s livelihoods and the amount of money that conservative voters considered unreasonable to spend in fighting it. Instead of collecting billions in revenue the government is spending billions of dollars on Direct Action. Every year more extreme weather events cost us billions in repair bills and emergency assistance. And still the spurious one-off saving of $550 is trotted out as Tony’s greatest contribution to the nation in general and women in particular (not to mention the big polluters).

Why is this comparison not being yelled from the roof tops by Labor. The Pope is even on side. China and the US are on side. Paris is coming up.

But oh no… we can never point to the massive waste and dubious benefit of billions spent on weapons of war. That might make us appear “weak”.

And speaking of weak, when will Labor come up with a better plan for asylum seekers. Why not admit that the current situation is untenable. People are being abused, refugees are not being helped, and it is costing us a fortune as well as damaging our international reputation.

I know we can’t take everyone but we have an obligation to help. Raise the humanitarian quota, have offices in regional transit countries who facilitate processing in a specified time frame (barring negative assessments), communicate regular updates to applicants about the progress of their application, provide a safe method of entry for refugees, and take more action to reduce the number of people who arrive by plane and overstay their visas.

Labor should also be comparing policies and histories on health, education, and workplace relations.

But all I hear is the sound of nodding heads.

UPDATE: I wrote this before reading Roswell’s transcript of Bill Shorten’s speech on Thursday. I was heartened by it and I hope Labor uses these six weeks wisely. Give me a reason to back you Bill. That speech was a good start.


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  1. townsvilleblog

    Labor no longer represent the Australian Progressives which is why a new party of the same name has begun, Australian Progressives. Labor have been taken over by dowdy right wing conservative people as a result of phantoms numbers within the organization. They are happy for we the public to go along believing that this is the old ALP but sadly it is not. The ALP are ruled by the conservative alliance of the AWU and the SDA both anti-worker and anti-their members right wing ratbags. If we want progressive policies we now have two choices, join Australian Progressives or fight to oust the AWU/SDA alliance. Sad that we emulate the USoA and have two right wing parties now. One party is extremist right wing, the other simply right wing.

  2. Harquebus

    Labor and the Coalition have the same policy on the economy and that is to grow it at all costs. Even if that cost includes us. Economic contraction which, is what is required to reverse greenhouse gasses, is not even on the horizon.

  3. Vicki

    It will be interesting to see how both parties handle the incoming Australian Liberty Alliance. This party will rock parliament and play to what a lot of people will think they want in their lives. There is certainly no difference in the parties now. Tony will trot out another fear campaign to justify military spending very soon. Don’t ever forget that the elite are alive and well in Australia and the puppet on the string is the politician. You only have to look at the TPP to know just how ineffective they really are.

  4. paul walter

    It is a shame to see Labor as it is, because there is a lot of expertise involved with Labor.

    It is a worse shame that Labor has been subjected to a Murdoch Abbott campaign that draws on historical, fascist influences as part of a grab for power and looting, facilitated by dumbing down and wedge politics secured by consequent public ignorance.

    You hope that the small target strategy of Labor that has allowed Abbott to embarrass himself so often continues to yield fruit, but it is a dreadful thing to have seen the ALP backing off on absolute issues to do with Habeas Corpus law and also to see the dominant right faction continue to refuse participation from Labor’s own progressive wing, who therefore continue to defect, disillusioned, to the Greens or splinter left parties that are miles from winning seats.

    However, it must be hoped that the Greens are not overcome with hubris and the desire to play Meg Lees style politics. Playing footsies with the Tories, including doing fishy electoral deals for the Senate while the unconditional embrace of identity politics at the expense of situational politics, including on enviro issues, distances it from the left and may just turn it into Lib-Lite.

    It has to be said, however, that Labor intransigence with the Greens in the past and its own habit of siding with the government against the Greens on things like DR and FTA’s has been the origin of much of its current problems with the Greens, because it does seem that the faction hacks at Labor no longer understand real political issues, instead conflating self interest to policy, worst of all with housing and investment housing just recently.

    In the end, the democratic end of politics suffers from the pressures and consequences of de industrialisation and globalisation, as big foreign interests continue to chip away at the ability of a community to defend itself against exploitation.

  5. corvus boreus

    By their manifesto, I think the Australian Liberty Alliance will pull more votes from the Citizen’s Electoral Council and One Nation.

  6. eli nes

    sad to hear the rabbutt’s mate, fits monkey, on the air again. Fortunately dumton was replying with a nasal nothing.
    But the stop the boats and labor debt crisis slogans are being polished.
    Remember when we had powerful Labor men and women???
    Do we expect a modicum of pre-strike by the labor girls and their girly-man??
    Labor 55 years ago gives you the clue:
    “It’s now or never.
    My love wont wait
    From billy please sever
    Tomorrow will be too flaming late”

  7. kerri

    Thanks Kaye Lee for expressing this deep concern for the actions of the Labor Party!
    Bill Shorten is Tony Abbott lite.
    It’s true!
    Abbott has denigrated The Greens so severely that Shorten thinks they have leprosy, and yet after promising “never to a deal with The Greens!” Abbott has done just that!
    And where is little Billy???
    Signing papers to please Tony!
    Shorten is killing the ALP and they need to realise an about face is needed or the next election will go again to Abbott and co ( and God help us if they do win ) with even more fascist and draconian actions!
    Voters will see so many similarities between an Abbott government and a Shorten government, they will figure why bother changing?
    If Abbott wins again he will think he can do whatever he likes! He claims he has a mandate when he barely had half the vote!
    If Abbott is so hated by the public as protests, polls and the internet make abundantly clear, what the hell is Bill doing trying to copy him???
    Bill is afraid to be called “soft on terrorism”! There is another story there Bill! Try this
    “The ALP does not believe that terrorist attacks in foreign countries pose any direct threat to Australia and would rather see our Muslim citizens accepted and integrated into society for the benefit of all.”
    Bill is afraid to look soft on Asylum Seekers. Here Bill? Try this?
    “The ALP believes that many people seeking asylum in Australia, deserve a fair hearing and a chance to join our lucky country as productive members of our multi-cultural society!”
    “The ALP believes that keeping asylum seekers in offshore detention, indefinitely is counter productive and cruel. The ALP seeks to reverse the nasty image of boat arrivals peddled by the coalition and make Australians think seriously about what these people have been through and why they have taken such extraordinary risks to join our community.”
    “The ALP believes integrating asylum seekers into society will breed a culture of respect, gratefulness and decency in a group of people who have lacked these considerations in the lands they are fleeing.”
    “The ALP will seek to integrate asylum seekers into rural communities in need of labour to assist our farmers in growing and producing imporatnt export crops and the food we need on our tables.”

    You’re welcome Bill!

  8. ianmac

    Dismal,…. but Kerri, you are on it about bill. Have always suspected but now convinced…. Shorten is the mole.

  9. ianmac

    Not finished…quite..
    It seems most partypoliticals fulfill a similar position. As in… Yay the status quo. Crikey we need independent nonpartisan representatives. Stuff all this party politics! Who wins but the flamin’ lobbyists?! Yaargh!!

  10. mars08

    “Senior Labor figure Fitzgibbon supports turning back boats” June 28, 2015

    Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon has become the party’s first senior figure to clearly state support for turning back asylum-seeker boats, angering some of his left-wing colleagues.

    In what appears to be a push by Labor’s Right to stake out its support for the tough approach to border protection ahead of the party’s national conference next month, Mr Fitzgibbon said he believed turn-backs would be part of future Labor policy.

    “I think that there’s a powerful argument that you need a whole range of tools to ensure that the flows don’t begin again,” Mr Fitzgibbon told Sky News.

    “Now, one of those tools currently is boat turn-backs. Personally I believe turn-backs will remain part of Labor policy.”

    Turning asylum-seeker boats back to Indonesia is the centrepiece of the Abbott government’s hardline border protection policies. Labor, which is desperate to assure voters that a future Labor government would not mean the resumption of waves of asylum-seeker boats, is going through an internal debate over whether to adopt the policy itself.

    Labor’s immigration spokesman Richard Marles flagged the possibility late last year but was quickly shut down by colleagues and backed away from his comments… etc


    “…the resumption of waves of asylum-seeker boats…”


  11. Anon E Mouse

    Shorten should stand down. The Liberal-Lite, right wing of Labor, are stooges of the Libs and their big business masters.

    He is taking Labor back to the Beazley me-too-ism that lost an election.

    Labor really needs to look at the successful campaign of the marriage equality, gay marriage, movement. Over a period of a few years they have managed to change the mind of many people including leaders. Obama said that 7 years ago he was against gay marriage, but now is a supporter.

    The marriage equality movement systematically explained their position, used all sorts of media, to get their message across. The main message was that this was about equality, fairness and social justice.

    Labor needs a leader who can get rid of the Lib-Lite attituded, and who can convey a clear message on their policies. Labor also needs policies that are based on equality, fairness and social justice.

  12. Möbius Ecko

    Today I hear the news that Chinese electrical workers bought in on 457 visas under the recently signed FTA will not have to be certified in Australia nor will their work need to pass certification as this was traded away as part of the FTA.

    Who would like to bet that if property is damaged and/or someone is injured or killed because of this there will be no media outrage and blow up against Robb and Abbott as there was against Garrett and Rudd under their HIP.

  13. mars08

    @Möbius Ecko… It’s potentially much worse…

    The battle to keep potentially lethal building products out of Australia

    Cheap, highly combustible, Chinese-made cladding that doesn’t meet Australian standards was installed on a Melbourne high-rise that saw fire fly up its 15 stories last year, and now the Senate has announced an inquiry into substandard building products to respond to the alarm over a growing wave of dodgy imported material making their way into Australian buildings.


  14. Roswell

    Mobius, I’m sharing your comment widely.

  15. Michael Taylor

    Ha, beat you to it.

  16. Kaye Lee

    The enforcement of China’s work-safety measures has lagged behind the growth of its economy. Industrial workplaces boast dire safety records. In 2012 workplace accidents killed over 70,000 people in China, approximately 200 people each day. In May 2013, 33 people died in a blast at an explosives factory, while another 28 workers died in a coal mine. In June 2013 over 120 people were killed in a fire at a poultry factory.


  17. Kaye Lee

    This deal to waive skills assessment was only made public in papers released on Friday and it’s not just electricians. Robb also wants to waive all skills assessment in 5 years.

  18. stephentardrew

    As usual great article Kaye. Having stepped back and observed for a while I see nothing to excite or tell me that change is immanent. Labor is worse than even I considered and we are living in dark times with long term consequences. Keep up the good work much appreciated.

  19. kerri

    So apart from the safety aspect, the FTA will do wonders for unemployment? Or maybe that’s the plan? If workers die it creates more jobs?

  20. AndrewL

    Interesting when you look at defense spending. Australia has committed $12B to the purchase of the F-35 JSF which experts in USA are now saying is the white elephant of the skies. Isn’t it about time we asked ourselves whether it would make sense to design and build our own airplanes? Let’s face it, you could hardly do worse than the F-35 which still has not overcome the problem of blowing up on the tarmac. How hard can it be? China and India meanwhile have ordered the far superior Sukoi T-50 PAK fighters which not only are cheaper but would outperform the F-35’s if they were able to fly for long enough to pull off an evaluation.

    Even better, how nice would the Southern Hemisphere be if instead of spending $12B on defective aircraft, it was instead used for improving the lives of those in Australia and our neighbour’s countries so that their quality of life was improved to the point where there was no conflict and reduced damage to the environment?

  21. paul walter

    Funny with that last from Andrew L. Both parties have signed on for the notorious F35’s and are commited to quarantining defence from razor gang scrutiny. The thing I’ve found interesting about Syriza and the Troika has been the extent to which the Troika could interfere with what spending cuts or budget commitments the Greek government could or could not make: insistence on pension cuts and acceptance of privatisations, but spending cuts for defence, vetoed.

    Are there factors the public is unaware of when it comes to what is cut or not by Australian governments?

    Then there is the issue of the submarines. Despite the wrecking of the ship building industry here, Abbott wants to purchase $ thirteen billion dollars worth of Japanese subs. This appears to have been agreed to in order to get an FTA signed with Japan that could benefit resources producers, although we are not considered adult enough to know details of any covert negotiations. No doubt the Americans are happy we are buying these subs as well as US aircraft, but what benefit does such largesse on the part of Abbott bring to Australians, apart from a few farmers and mining companies?

  22. corvus boreus

    Regarding the waiving of skills assessments for 457 visas.
    It is blindingly obvious that reduced standards, oversight and enforcement within fields like the electrical trade will greatly increase risks and inevitably cause tragedies.
    The ‘pink batts’ affair illustrated this, where an already ‘deregulated’ industry was expanded through incentives/subsidies without any corresponding increase in enforcement of standards. Deaths ensued.
    Now we are to place absolute and unquestioning trust in the qualifying standards of the Chinese training system and it’s conscientious and honest enforcement for the safety of projects undertaken upon Australian soil.
    Again, the federal government (and Labor) abdicate basic responsibility for both workplace and public safety.

    Ps, my biological brother came back from touring China with an anecdotal work safety story.
    In Jian, he observed a man doing some welding on a building site.
    There were neither visual screens nor safety barriers employed to ensure public safety. More disturbingly, the welder had no PPE for his eyes and face, not even sunglasses, let alone a proper welding mask. His only protection was to squint against the glare. As anyone familiar with ‘welder’s flash’ would know, that man would inevitably have suffered agonising eye pain later on, and is probably now seriously vision-impaired or totally blind.
    This is the standard we seek to emulate.

  23. crypt0

    “Give me a reason to back you Bill.” In fact give me lots of them.
    Are you listening, Bill?
    Frankly, I don’t believe the best man at John Roskam’s (Executive Director of the IPA) wedding would have any idea just what reasons I am even talking about.
    No, Bill, I am certainly not talking about the things you and abbott have coalesced to pass lately.
    And I thought it was the LNP coalition. It looks far more like the LNP/ALP coalition to me.
    The Lib lite crowd has just one thing going for it.
    In order to make a vote count, someone has to go last, and someone second last.
    Give me a reason to put you second last, Bill.

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