Its sad when politicians lie just to get political points as they face declining popularity. We saw last week that the Australian Prime Minister started attacking indigenous Australians for living in areas that they have occupied, one way or another, for somewhere up to 80,000 years. He claimed these settlements were “lifestyle” choices and people could no longer expect government support if they wanted to indulge in such choices. 80,000 years for a culture that has a deep connection with the ‘land’ is quite story compared to the Anglo settlement in Australia of 226 years for a culture that connects via iPhones! The PM was playing into the hands of the racist Australians who think the indigenous population here are skivers and drunks and should get no state support. They ignore that this cohort is one of the most disadvantaged peoples of the World. In the last few days, the PM has been lying about the state of government finances and pledging to that “the government will have the budget back in balance within five years”. There was no mention of what this might imply for the real economy. I am surprised that the conservatives haven’t learned from the previous Labor Government who made continual promises of surpluses but failed each time – largely because they didn’t understand that they cannot control the fiscal outcomes no matter how hard they try. And when they do try and run against the spending desires of the non-government sector, they just cause havoc and damage and fail to achieve their goals anyway. Stupid is not the word for these sorts of promises.
There is growing pressure on Australia’s wage setting tribunals to scrap penalty and overtime rates, allegedly because they damage employment and firms are just busting to put more workers on as long as wages drop. I have had a long association with these tribunals as an expert witness and I cannot recall the employers’ representatives ever agreeing that the time is right for wage rises. If their submissions are to be taken on their word then there would never be any wage increases. The facts are that real wages continue to fall in Australia – more rapidly in the private sector than the public. The Australian Bureau of Statistics published the latest – Wage Price Index, Australia – for the June quarter yesterday (August 13, 2014) and the data shows that hourly wage inflation is running at 2.4 per cent per annum, which is well below the current inflation rate. Real wages growth is also well below the growth in hourly productivity, which means that the Australian distribution system is still redistributing real national income to profits. And all the while employment growth is flat or negative. Meanwhile, our cigar-smoking Treasurer sees it as his role to berate the poor for being poor and distorting the public data to hide the fact that the May fiscal statement (aka budget) significantly cuts the real standard of living for low income earners and leaves the top income earners relatively unscathed. But all of this is in the name of fiscal austerity (aka madness).
The Australia government released its annual fiscal statement (aka ‘The Budget’) last night and I admit it is the first time in many years (as long as I can remember) that I haven’t actually listened to the speech. Granted at times when I have lived abroad I missed it. But usually I watch or listen to it if I can. Last night I just could not bring myself to listen to the hubris. The build up has been too much. Australia, despite our pretensions to being the ‘clever’ country, despite our high literacy rates, despite being among the wealthiest nations in the world, is a highly ignorant nation. We allow a fool (the Treasurer) to wheel out a catalogue of lies and half-truths before us every day without stopping for a second to question them. This fiscal statement is harsh, will deliberately undermine the well-being of our weakest citizens, will damage our position in the region (cutting foreign aid) and for no reason other than the government wants to hand over real income to the corporate elites at the expense of almost everyone else. When the spending cuts and tax hikes finally come into play, they will damage the prosperity of our nation. That is much more important than the media flurry about whether the Government has broken its promise not to introduce higher taxes. Of-course they broke their promises. They always do. But we should not accept actions that undermine our welfare. That is more important.