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Why Labor Have Always Misunderstood Economic Management!

Ok, here’s a recent news item:

Sarah Palin Blames Son’s Domestic Violence Arrest On Obama.

What’s that got to do with Labor and the economy, Well, we’ll get to that, but first you need to remember that when one talks about the economy, there is always bad news!

If unemployment goes up, it’s bad for those seeking work and those in precarious jobs. If unemployment goes down and the country is booming, there’ll be concern about inflation and a rise in interest rates.

If the dollar goes up, it’s bad for our exporters. If it goes down, it’s bad for imports and people travelling overseas.

If house prices go down, it’s bad for homeowners and investors because the value of their asset is falling. If house prices go up, it’s bad for those trying to buy a house.

Of course, there’s always good news too, in purely economic terms.

When a storm wrecks crops in one place, it’s good news for the farmers getting higher prices in another part of the country. And good for anyone employed to repair the storm damage.

So, managing the economy is all about managing the news. And that means making sure that things are framed in a particular way.

You know, framing. Like when the media talk about a person being on the “left” of the Liberal Party. I’m strongly tempted to suggest that’s like when someone wrote about how Abetz’s Uncle Otto was one of the moderate Nazis, but then I’ll have all these comments about Godwin’s Law.

If you remember how much political mileage the Liberals made out of the tragic deaths of four workers in the home insulation scheme blaming Labor for “rushing” into things. Yet they were still able to frame the idea that “red tape” which slows things down is a really bad thing and the more regulation we can remove, the faster things can move. Basically, the same action – a desire for speed – leads to a dangerous tragedy when Labor was in power, but with the Liberals, it’s just an unnecessary slowdown.

As for Sarah Palin’s son, there’s an argument that his domestic violence has nothing to do with her and to suggest that it has something to do with the way he was raised would be politically risky, so the best thing to do is to say nothing because some people are going to come to that conclusion anyway and the ones that don’t are probably going to be shocked that you’d try to make political capital out of something like that. However, Palin goes on the front foot and suggests that her son, Track…

Track. Now there’s an interesting name, I wonder how on earth they came up with that.

“Let’s call him something that we both love to do!”


“Don’t call me names. How about ‘Spoon’ or…”

“I said ‘Hunt’. As in track animals.”

“Hey, that’s great. We’ll call him ‘Track Animal’…”

“No, my uncle’s called ‘Animal’. Let’s just call him ‘Track’!”

Where was I? Ah, Palin goes on the front foot and, for once carefully avoiding her mouth, she tells us that Track’s domestic violence problem is the fault of Obama, because, well, Track’s a veteran suffering from PTSD and the President has disrespected our troops by not finding enough wars for them to fight, so those coming back don’t have lots of buddies also suffering PTSD and therefore any antisocial behaviour is the result of having a man like that in the White House. And when we say, White House, we mean the place where the president lives and when we say a man like that we don’t just mean one with a silly name; we just know that you lot know what we mean but can’t say in these politically correct times where like people us and our poor son are persecuted for simply expressing themselves.

Of course this response sounds completely insane to people here in Australia, where we shake our heads and say, “Only in America!”

However, Palin’s response was only slightly different from the way the Liberals manage the economy. The Liberals have two basic principles:

  1. Anything bad that happens when Labor is power is a direct result of their policies, their lack of understanding, or their union* links, while anything good is a result of them being left a great economy thanks to us.
  2. Anything bad that happens when we’re in power is not only a direct result of Labor being in power at sometime in the past century but also because of something we couldn’t have foreseen (like iron ore prices not staying at record levels or reducing wages leading to people paying less income tax). Of course, anything good – like the resources boom – is thanks to our sound economic management.

You only have to have a brief look at any time in the past fifty years to see this in action. Whitlam’s government was responsible for unemployment and inflation, not the oil shocks of the seventies which had unemployment and inflation rising worldwide, but after Fraser was elected, well, they needed time to fix Labor’s mess. The fact that unemployment continued to rise, the deficit continued to swell and inflation was never brought under control was still Labor’s fault seven years later.

When interest rates started to rise under Howard, we were told that they were higher under Labor. And that they’d always be higher under Labor, but when they fell, it wasn’t anything to do with Wayne Swan; we were told that they’d be even lower if the Liberals were still in power. And we were told that right up until Joe Hockey decided to start telling us that interest rates were low because the economy was weak, and that wasn’t because of the Global Financial Crisis which apparently had only last a couple of weeks everywhere else, that was because we had a socialist government who didn’t understand how to get the economy growing. High interest rates are, after all, the sign of a strong economy.

Of course, when the banks raised interest rates independent of the Reserve Bank while Swan was Treasurer, Hockey told us that such a thing could never happen under the Liberals because well, they’d give them a damn good talking to. It was a big story. Just in case you didn’t notice, the banks raised interest rates independent of the Reserve Bank late last year, but Mr Hockey was packing for Washington and Mr Morrison didn’t seem to think it was anything to do with his goverment if banks decided to raise a little bit extra.

Imagine if the cost blowout of the NBN was under Labor! We’d never here the end of it. But hey, when Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott stood up and said they’d get us a cheaper NBN and it’d be faster. Faster in the sense that it’d be here by 2019. To quote them directly:

“The Coalition’s plan to transform the NBN will see:

· Download speeds of between 25 and 100 megabits per second by the end of 2016 and 50 to 100 megabits per second by 2019.”

Although to be fair, they don’t say where these download speeds will be, and I could be just trying to hold them to the promise I thought they made, not the one they actually made…

Now just to quote Turnbull and you’ll see exactly why there’s been a cost blowout:

”The Labor government, incumbent with the company, with access to the company systems, did not even know how much it was costing to connect a premises with fibre. They were clueless—absolutely clueless, and wasting billions of dollars. We actually now know what the project is costing, and we know what the alternatives are, and the facts are that if we were to proceed with the Labor Party’s alternative it would take six to eight years longer and cost up to $30 billion more.’

Yep, look at those two principles again. Not only is it Labor’s fault, but apparently some of the copper wire is aging and needs repairing or replacing.

When he says Labor’s plan would have cost $30 billion more, I’m not sure if that’s more than his original estimate, or his revised estimate. And it’s not clear if it includes what it’ll cost to replace all the outdated copper wire with copper wire.

But still it’s good to know that now they’re in power, they’re taking responsibility for things and not trying to blame Labor…

Let’s be real, if Labor were currently in power, they’d be responsible for the banks hike in interest rates, the suspension of the Essendon players, the Chris Gayle controversy and the Powerball numbers being too hard to pick.

But the Liberals are in power. And they believe that you’re responsible for yourself. So if anything’s gone wrong, don’t blame them. You’ve nobody to blame but yourself… Or maybe Labor and the unions.

So when you laugh at Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, just remember that they’re managing to frame the debate so that the media is discussing about the very thing that they want them to talk about. While we’re talking about Mexicans and Muslims and how silly it is to blame Obama for Track’s silly name when his first name is Barack, then we’re not talking about how obscene it was that the crooks# behind the 2007 crash were bailed out, while the some of the victims now sleep in the streets and get told that hard work would make everything all right and if you just take on a third job then maybe you won’t need to find anywhere to sleep.

And on a lighter note, apparently Joe Hockey can count on one hand the number of mistakes he made as Treasurer. Apparently though, some of the Labor Treasurers were able to count without using their fingers.

Forget about maintaining the rage. Maintain the fight to keep the argument rational and relevant.

*Speaking of the unions, does anyone find it ironic that Tony Abbott told us that the purpose of the Royal Commission was to “shine a spotlight into the dark corners” of the union movement, yet one of its volumes is so secret that MPs aren’t allowed to read it even with names redacted.

#In fairness, they weren’t all crooks. Most were just too incompetent or unimportant to ever think to question anything. Or as someone said, “You can’t expect anybody to question anything when their paypacket depends on them not doing so”.


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  1. Susan

    Brilliant ??

  2. Sen Nearly Ile

    sorry rossleigh you write a lovely causerie on why ‘rational argument and relevance has nothing to do with politics.
    At today’s bridge the ladies showed me why they are voting liberal – ‘labor’s debt problem’ has not yet been fixed.
    She did promised to look up the greens and libs increasing the debt to nearly double and agreed that the rabbott may have lied but she won’t, none of the rabbott/hockey lies have any purchase now they have gone and the topic won’t come up again.

  3. Maxoz

    Ross, I can’t really see your point. It’s labor incompetence….whatever the time scale.

  4. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Here’s a thought. Instead of Labor trying desperately and futilely hard to combat the LNP’s wrong accusation that they cannot manage the economy, Labor must be seen to adopt alternative economic theories like that explored by Bernie Sanders with his economics advisor, Joseph Stiglitz.

    Likewise, Labor can show some strength by engaging experts like Steven Hail, who offer alternative and energetic new perspectives on managing the economy so the best can be harvested for all demographics while engendering more robust inputs by the labour of everyone.

    Your article Rossleigh states that no matter what Labor does, it can’t win with the relentless naysayer bullshit of the LNP. So, Labor must adopt a nothing-to-lose brashness at opportune intervals to show Aussies that despite AUS experiencing bad, austere times, Labor is not lying down playing dead and is instead looking for effective solutions.

    Once Labor is able to show some intestinal fortitude to seek brave, new, alternatives to the neo-liberal economic stunting favoured by the LNP, Aussies will be informed of the benefits that can be expected.

    The other immense advantage of such innovative and brave politics will encourage other progressive and alternative parties like the Greens and Progressives to take Labor seriously in terms of mutual benefits afforded by a well-run Alliance.

  5. diannaart

    Well said, Rossleigh & Jennifer – Blaming the left is as essential as breathing to the LNP (and Murdoch press) – such an essential part of the frame as to be considered the ‘primary plank’ in framing theory.

    Instead of feeble defensive tactics, Labor could offer reasonable alternatives without even mentioning the LNP at all and, as Jennifer pointed out, win some respect.

    Meanwhile, I am still thinking… Track? Track?? Track???

  6. Bacchus


    Excellent and very timely article, raising the issue of ‘framing‘.

    Ad Astra over at The Political Sword yesterday published the first part of a three-part series on ‘framing‘.

    Why did Tony Abbott thrive as Leader of the Opposition, but turn out to be such a dud as Prime Minister?

    What was it about his period in opposition that was so different from his period as the nation’s leader?

    There are many possible answers to these questions.

    This piece asserts that the most plausible reason for the difference is that in opposition he had the uncanny ability to frame the political debate in his favour, but in government that ability deserted him.

    Framing the political debate – the key to winning

    Part 2 will appear on Tuesday evening (26th) and part 3 on Sunday evening (31st).

    I’m sure astute readers and especially the authors here will get something out of Ad Astra’s trilogy – highly recommended!

  7. Adrianne Haddow

    Great stuff, Rossleigh.

    Keep writing, please, and that will keep us laughing while Rome burns.

  8. Rossleigh

    Remember that some time after Rome burned it was replaced by the enlightenment… Although there was a thousand years of the dark ages in between! (Yes, I know that’s historically inaccurate but I blame Labor for that!)

  9. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    🙂 Actually, I’ve often wondered what sustained people in the thousand years of dark ages?!

  10. Sen Nearly Ile

    Same as now, Jennifer, ignorance, bullying, lying, god, the pope and other sundry male hype.

  11. Siobhan Halo

    Let’s be real, if Labor were currently in power, they’d be responsible for … suspension of the Essendon players.

    Actually, that was Abbott’s position:

    I’m not saying everything’s perfect when it comes to sport and performance-enhancing drugs,” Abbott said
    on Sydney radio on Monday.

    “But far from being the blackest day for Australian sport, it was a black day for politics, it was a black day for the Labor Party.”

    Abbott said the politicisation of the ACC report was a “silly, squalid, sordid” thing to do.

    “It’s pathetic. Absolutely pathetic … It was just really appalling that people could stoop to this level,” he said.

  12. townsvilleblog

    Its the LNP who have taken the federal deficit from $30b to $48b in 2.5 years and now want to burden the poor with a 15% GST, rather than force the 579 corporate bludgers who didn’t pay tax last year to pay up!

  13. Neil of Sydney

    Its the LNP who have taken the federal deficit from $30b to $48b in 2.5 years

    Wrong. Hockeys first budget deficit was smaller than Swans last budget deficit.

  14. David

    Absolutedly bloody brilliant Ross. that without doubt for me, is the best summation of the basic differences between Labor and the Torys I have read.

  15. Bacchus

    Hockeys first budget deficit was smaller than Swans last budget deficit.

    LOL – Ya get that if you randomly decide to add $8.8 billion to your predecessor’s budget outcome with a gift to the RBA that they didn’t want or need…

  16. Florence nee Fedup

    Bacchus you must give him credit for coming up with something new after years repeating same tripe.

  17. Andreas Bimba

    Very, very good Rossleigh. Pity that articles like this get pushed aside by the AIMN conveyor belt of new articles and don’t get a wider readership. I just noticed a link to it today.

    I also think that our mostly crap commercial mass media that acts as the free propaganda ministry for the LNP under the direction of Adolf’s wrinkly son and the other neoliberal libertarianists, is primarily to blame. They (the mass media) don’t hold the LNP pricks to account, they spread the same distorted narrative, they actually create and build this narrative, they are the primary or only news/infotainment source for the majority of the Australian population (the ABC is boring and SBS is for wogs) and they do this so well that they do influence the voting behaviour of the electorate sufficiently powerfully so as to determine election outcomes.

    How else could you explain the election victories of such poison as Abbott, Newman or Baird and why the ALP has adopted a ‘mini me’ neoliberal LNP policy platform in the important economic/business sphere while just offering better social, health, education and environmental policy for differentiation purposes and to retain enough of the party faithful.

  18. Andreas Bimba

    Bacchus, letting the story get ahead of the facts, or just listening to the commercial mass media?

    Swan’s second last budget deficit 2.9% of GDP
    Swan’s last budget deficit 1.2% of GDP
    Hockey’s first budget 3.1% of GDP
    Hockey’s second budget 2.4% of GDP
    Morrison’s first budget 2.2% of GDP est.

  19. Rossleigh

    Andreas, thanks for your comments.
    As for the Budget deficits, Hockey tried to pretend that the 2013/14 budget was Swan’s as he was there for its beginning. This enabled Hockey to “front end” a lot of expenditure to make it look worse, including giving the Reserve Bank $8 billion that it hadn’t asked for. That’s what Bacchus was refering to.

  20. Salstarat

    Neil of Sydney lives in a WORLD OF EPIC DELUSION! He goes on and on labouring under the worst, most astounding level of Murdoch manipulated crap … like a sponge soaking up all the lies that the hopelessly inept, economic vandals in the LNP were superior fiscal managers … which is the biggest, most astonishing LIE ever forced upon the gullible and totally vacuous Liberal sycophants who REFUSE to face FACTS:

    FACT 1:
    The worst, most wasteful, profligate government in our HISTORY was, in fact, the Howard/Costello regime. This has been confirmed over and over and over again by many sources with the exception (surprise! surprise!) of the lying, discredited Murdoch press. The well respected European financial newspaper, Euromoney; the IMF as well as the Nobel prize winning economist, Josef Stiglitz have ALL stated that the Howard/Costello regime were absolutely RECKLESS in their squandering of Australian dollars at the height of the mining boom. Of course, we all know that BILLIONS AND BILLIONS of this money was pissed off against the wall on the ILLEGAL war in Iraq. So many countless billions … never accounted for … blown away on a criminal war that has caused the largest humanitarian crisis since WWII.

    FACT 2:
    There are only TWO recipients of International Recognition – two Treasurers who were voted by Euromoney as the BEST TREASURERS IN THE WORLD …. BOTH of them ALP Treasurers: Keating and Swan. No LNP Treasurer has EVER been nominated nor are they likely to be. Hockey and Costello, however, get the WOODEN SPOON as the WORST!

    FACT 3:
    The Gillard/Rudd governments left a modest $24 BILLION in national deficit whereas the incompetent basket case Abbott/Turnbull circus has literally TREBLED that deficit to a massive $100+ BILLION in only 2 years! The fact is that the Gillard/Rudd government managed to be the ONLY government in the world to escape the GFC DESPITE the whopping, overbearing debt that was passed down from the Howard/Costello regime to subsequent Labor governments!

    WOW! Neil of Sydney … get a frigging grip! You Libtards just can’t handle the truth. Pfffffffft! As dumb as dirt!

  21. Andreas Bimba

    Sorry Bacchus, I should have referred my 2nd comment to Neil of Sydney.

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