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Whatever happened to work, rest and play?

There is a sense of relief in hearing Malcolm Turnbull talk about the need for flexibility to be able to respond to, and provide for, the needs of the nation and the future of its citizens.

This relief quickly evaporates however when listening to our new Treasurer whose every utterance oozes the same intransigence he displayed as Immigration Minister, something he prides himself on.

Scott says he must cut spending and we must work, save and invest. No suggestions outside that mantra will be entertained. His unwavering focus will be on growing GDP by assisting business and hoping that translates to more jobs.

Rather than increasing revenue, it seems we will be lowering the top marginal tax rate and the corporate tax rate because, if we don’t, businesses will find other countries to operate in, and individuals will either do less work or find clever ways to avoid paying the top rate.

But if we had someone with a little more imagination and a lot less rigid tenacity, they would realise that we should not be sacrificing happiness for the sake of some numbers on a fiscal document. Increasing GDP does not necessarily equate to a higher standard of living for the majority.

The benefits of a new policy should be measured in terms of the impact of the change upon the happiness of the population. This applies whether the policy is a regulation, a tax change, a new expenditure, or a mix of all three.

The World Happiness Report finds that three-quarters of the differences among countries, and also among regions, is accounted for by differences in six key variables: GDP per capita, healthy years of life expectancy, social support, trust, perceived freedom to make life decisions, and generosity. Differences in social support, incomes, and healthy life expectancy are the three most important factors.

Moves to decrease income like abolishing penalty rates and minimum wages, or cuts to health and welfare spending, will inevitably have a negative effect on happiness.

When it comes to personal income tax, Australia’s top marginal rate of 49 per cent is over 7 percentage points above the OECD average of 41.58 per cent. But rather than just looking at percentages, one must take into account the services provided.

Sweden (57 per cent) and Denmark (55.56 per cent) both provide excellent public services and rank higher than us on the 2015 Happiness report – Denmark 3, Sweden 8, Australia 10.

While Australia’s top marginal rate starts at $180,000, these two Scandinavian nations start a lot lower – Denmark at $86,000 a year, and Sweden at $93,000.

If taxes are paying for health, education, social support, and infrastructure, people are happy to pay them.

Four of the world’s ten “most liveable cities” are in Australia, with Melbourne number one for the fifth year in a row.

The ranking considers 30 factors related to things like safety, healthcare, educational resources, infrastructure and environment in 140 cities. These are the things that make a desirable place to live – the services that governments provide.

The things that could endanger our cities’ high rankings, which are a very marketable asset, are a lack of affordable housing and public transport along with growing road traffic into cities. Another issue mentioned was the fuss made about the Sydney siege and the heightened security alert – a consequence I am sure Abbott et al didn’t consider in their zeal to show us all that there was an “existential threat” to Australia.

The most liveable places, notes the EIU, tend to be “mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with a relatively low population density”. We could have quite a few more of those if we would build high speed rail which would also take the pressure off our major cities and create employment in regional areas.

Australia performs very well in many measures of well-being relative to most other countries in the OECD Better Life Index. Australia ranks at the top in civic engagement and above the average in environmental quality, health status, housing, personal security, jobs and earnings, education and skills, subjective well-being, social connections, but below average in work-life balance.

But Scott wants us to work more and for longer. Wealth creation is part of his religion and he wants us all to worship at the same altar.

As someone whistfully commented the other day…whatever happened to work, rest and play?

There seems very little about the quality of life in Liberal Party speak and none at all in the language of our new Treasurer who seems eager to take an axe to the things that make this such a wonderful place to live, the things that give us a sense of opportunity and security.

We want to emulate the American way in so many things but they don’t rate a mention on the happiness and liveability lists. Making businesses wealthy does not translate to well-being for citizens. It is the things a government provides for its people that make the difference

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18 comments

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  1. Blinkyewok

    Well said. Lets hope the extreme right Teapot party self implode before Morrison can implement their self serving agenda.

  2. diannaart

    Australia is a very desirable destination whether for travelers or investors – and will remain so provided Australians continue to work and be paid fairly for their time – this nonsense about wages discouraging investors only applies to investors who wish to exploit others – we don’t want that type here, maintaining high living standards helps to weed out many – admittedly not all – of the more dodgy type of investor.

    Germany manages quite well paying people an equitable income, holidays and working conditions AND they still have a car industry – similar applies to many northern European nations.

    So, Sco-Mo & Bullshit, eff off and come back with a working economic plan based on facts not ideology!

  3. Kaye Lee

    I think our current Pope is doing a pretty good job Lawrence and my aversion to worship and chanting probably precludes me from the position even without considering my gender. I do love a rousing hymn though I must say. I have been playing How Great Thou Art on piano and singing it at the top of my voice from a very young age.

    I meant to also talk about my concern at the decline of unionism. Our society would work far more smoothly if business and labour negotiated common goals with government as mediator and facilitator on how to achieve them with input and oversight from social welfare/human rights/environmental groups as to consequences. That sort of relationship is far healthier than the secretive lobbying culture we are currently enduring.

  4. totaram

    “Work, save and invest” – but who should do this? Private sector and households? Great idea. But if our trade balance is negative AND government is aiming for (and achieving ) a surplus, then simple accounting says, the private sector must increase its aggregate debt.

    This fool does not understand a thing about what he is saying. He is just mouthing some nice-sounding stuff to justify cutting government spending, which is the wrong thing to do if he wants the private sector to save and invest. Another numpty, blindly following the IPA neo-con logic.

  5. Karma is coming

    Morrison is just reframing trickle-down economics that time and time again has been shown to NOT work. It just creates a greater level of in-equality in our society and is a deliberate neo-con strategy to shift wealth form the poor to the rich

  6. mars08

    How on earth can we even think about rest and play… when “Daesh is coming if it can for every person and every government with a simple message: submit or die… You can’t negotiate with an entity like this, you can only fight it.”

  7. Kaye Lee

    oh mars08, you are so yesterday 😉

  8. Kaye Lee

    We have a far more clear and present danger to avert….the UN were coming.

    The United Nations has postponed a planned visit to Australia because the federal government cannot guarantee legal immunity to detention centre workers who discuss asylum seekers and migrants.

    The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Canada’s Francois Crepeau, was due to visit Australia on Sunday for about two weeks to investigate the plight of migrants and asylum seekers in offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, following an invitation from the federal government.

    It was impossible for Mr Crepeau to carry out his visit as an independent expert for the UN because the Australian government “was not prepared” to meet his request for a written guarantee that anyone he met during his visit would not risk being intimidated or face imprisonment under the law.

    http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/un-postpones-australian-visit-over-failure-to-guarantee-protection-of-detention-centre-whistleblowers-from-recrimination-20150926-gjvgm2.html#ixzz3mprX5eON

  9. mars08

    @Kaye Lee… I believe that the first part of my comment is still relevant… “How on earth can we even THINK about rest and play…”

    The government spin doctors (and the msm clowns) have plenty to keep us distracted.

  10. Kaye Lee

    I agree…it’s exhausting. But we have to be vocal in the hope that social media can deliver a message to Malcolm before he becomes too enmeshed. And don’t call me any names. I am allowed to hope and I understand the likelihood of success but hell…spectators can’t win.

  11. jusme

    Those that want to reduce the top tax rate often compare us to NZ too. Apparently their top rate is lower than ours. I read somewhere though, that they don’t allow tax deductions, which in Australia is used a lot and reduces tax paid no matter what the top rate is. I wouldn’t know where to start to find this information, but it’d be interesting if those other low taxing countries disallow tax deductions. From there we could honestly compare real taxes paid.

  12. Matters Not

    Seems to me that we constantly put the ‘cart before the horse’ when it comes to the role of ‘government’ and the goal of the ‘good’ society. (I readily concede that the aim/goal of a ‘good’ society is not universally shared.)

    Nevertheless, if it’s a particular social good we are pursuing then the starting point for any government ought to be the desired ‘outcomes’ or ‘ends’ (or goals if you like) followed by a discussion as to how to realise same. Simply, the task ought to be about what needs to be done as the starting point and then followed by developing the means. The notion that the ‘good’ society (democracy implied) proceeds from the arse end (we only have X or Y dollars) and therefore we can’t afford the good society is just a nonsense. (After all we are talking about an ‘entity’ that either has taxing powers or can ‘create’ the dollars, as MMT argue).

    The fundamental point being that ‘government’ in a democracy should never claim that while we would like to do the socially desirable M or N but we can’t afford to do same is just an insult to one’s intelligence.

    What happens in NZ or Russia or wherever is somewhat irrelevant. Aren’t we a sovereign nation? In charges of our own ‘internal’ destiny?

  13. Wally

    “we must work, save and invest” Does Morrison have any idea how many Australians struggle to put food on the table? To be in a position to save or invest is a pipe dream for a high percentage of households due to high house prices, ever increasing rent and the LNP efforts to reduce real wages in particular for the lowest income earners.

    Politicians perks are worth more than low income earners wages and they want to remove penalty rates!

  14. Mary Mary Quite Contrary

    I Work Slave and Detest paying most of my disposable income for a roof over my head.I only invest on the weekly specials at the supermarket.
    Though I am writing a book on this centuries greatest scandal.Private Residential Property Prices. It will reveal all the pigs in the trough.From Real Estate Moguls.,Big Business, Overseas Investors, Bankers, Immigration Lawyers,Solicitors, Corrupt Employment Agencies and of course Deceitful Politicians.All will be revealed.As I have connected all the dots.And I have most of their names.

  15. Carol Taylor

    Morrison is of concern as he has never indicated any conscience as to the damage he is doing. As he had no conscience regarding refugees but indicated extreme arrogance in refusing to inform the public of his actions, it would seem to me that he would have the same attitude towards starving the unemployed, forcing pensioners (disabled and old age) to sell their homes..and any of the myriad of far right wing brain f*rts previously mooted by the Abbott-led government.

  16. townsvilleblog

    Kaye, you have a way with words that is second to none, I enjoy every story you write and agree with its substance, this one no exception, if only the Labor Party could find a leader who could enunciate issues so clearly along with their policies to achieve those objectives we would already be in government.

  17. Kaye Lee

    townsvilleblog,

    I am usually just stringing together the words of others. It is up to all of us to change enough of society to give our politicians the courage to do what is needed and if we can shift the debate to what we want to achieve, as Matters Not discussed, we will be well on the way to realising it’s the society that is important, not the mechanisms on how you achieve it.

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