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Byron Shire
May 23, 2024

Thus Spake Mungo: the economy

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Last week Scott Morrison spelled out what he called his economic policy.

But, as usual, it was little more than a series of motherhood slogans about the need for more productivity, less regulation, and a spot of union bashing for good measure — nothing new, nothing of real substance, much like the prime minister himself.

Basically it was all about tax cuts, because this is the one and only idea Scott Morrison can convincingly articulate: tax cuts were his election policy and he won the election.

So it follows that if he can bully the parliament into legislating them, the economy will spring to life like a startled gazelle, the surplus will be delivered, confidence will be restored, employment will rise, wages will revive, spending will soar and we will all bask in the promise of Australia forever after.

Well, putting $20 a week in the pockets of the least wealthy, who will spend that because they must, may help, but it is hard to see how the rest of the package – the bits that will have to wait for another six years – will turn the economy gangbusters. One of ScoMo’s business spruikers said bravely it would give people something to look forward to – the archetypal pie in the sky.

Then there is the need to unleash our animal spirits

Then there is the need to unleash our animal spirits, cruelly entangled in red and green tape, which he defines as ‘the regulatory and bureaucratic barriers to business.’

Others might characterise such rules as a bare minimum required to protect the public from exploitation – wasn’t that what the banking royal commission proved, not to mention aged care facilities and of course the construction industry, whose new buildings are being evacuated regularly to ensure basic safety?

But hey, we need more animal spirits, nature and free enterprise red in tooth and claw, and so we are inviting the business sector – the exploiters, both real and potential – to give us their agenda. Consumers, environmentalists, and other busybodies need not apply.

Time for yet another ritual bashing in the name of industrial relations reform

And as for the unionists – well, hush your mouth. Time for yet another ritual bashing in the name of industrial relations reform, again to be masterminded by the impeccably impartial employers, who have thrown their tired old prescriptions onto the counter as if they had suddenly discovered a cure for cancer.

Get rid of unfair dismissal laws, they chorus – let us sack more people, that should boost jobs and growth. And remove the provision that replacing new awards must include a ‘better off over all’ standard – ‘no disadvantage’ is more than sufficient, until we can get around to actually slashing terms and conditions as true free enterprise demands.

Scott Morrison’s propagandist powerhouses, the Murdoch press and the Institute of Public Affairs, have already made it clear that their real nirvana will be the re-introduction of the feudal system. But why be politically correct, let’s get out of the bubble and be fair dinkum: how good is slavery?

And just for starters, we want laws that allow us to deregister unions we don’t like (meaning just about all of them, but in particular the hated CFMMEU). That should get productivity going gangbusters.

The unions have always been a convenient whipping boy for the coalition

The unions have always been a convenient whipping boy for the coalition, but using them in their traditional role at this moment in history is even more opportunist than usual – it is based purely on the embarrassment of John Setka.

In fact the union movement has seldom been more impotent. Not only has its membership dwindled to the point where it is seriously endangered, but its real influence is minimal. This is why we have wage stagnation, now conceded by everyone from the Reserve Bank to struggling employees as the major and most urgent problem confronting the floundering economy.

And it is why industrial disputes – strikes – have diminished to insignificance. The bogey men, the big bad union bosses now exist only in the fantasies of the right wing warriors who cannot face the reality that actually a lot of the mess is their own fault – and they have absolutely no idea how to fix it.

The irony is that their tentative solutions are firmly against their own neoliberal ethos

And the irony is that their tentative solutions are firmly against their own neoliberal ethos. Energy prices too high? Government intervention, control, regulation, more red tape to restrain the animal spirits of the power companies.

It probably won’t happen and if it does it almost certainly won’t work. But such is Morrison’s desperation to provide an agenda – any agenda – that the contradictions entailed in his manifesto have to be overlooked in the hope that someone, somewhere, will take him seriously.

What is actually needed is, as the RBA Governor Phillip Lowe wearily repeats, stimulus – interest rates by themselves can no longer suffice to end the malaise.  A more ambitious program of infrastructure might help. To which Morrison replies we already have one – it’s just not stimulating yet. In fact, actual construction went backwards last year. But eventually it might  work – when it trickles down…

And then there was innovation – we have to be daring, smart, in the forefront of developments – except, of course, if they involve the biggest challenge and opportunity of all, climate change, which Morrison could not bring himself to mention. Ah, yes, we remember innovation, way back in 2015, when Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister and was innovating like buggery, being agile and nimble all over the place.

The likelihood of some Damascene conversion, however miraculous Morrison pretends, is at best minimal

Admittedly not a lot happened – the business community decided that there was no point in taking risks when the government was already depressing wages and pushing profits up quite nicely, thank you, and could be relied on to keep doing so. The likelihood of some Damascene conversion, however miraculous Morrison pretends, is at best minimal. But Morrison is relying on the business community for guidance and direction – he is their leader, so he must follow them.

However, perhaps not just yet – first he had to jet off to the G20 to tell Donald Trump and Xi Jinping how to run their economies. Of course they won’t take any notice of him either, but there could be a decent photo opportunity in it. And there was plenty of time for shmoozing the Donald, and even inviting him to come to a game of golf in Melbourne.

Now that should get the economy moving. Or at least the headlines, which are what really matters.

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  1. The Liberals have no ‘economic policy/ies-never have. Just the politics of fear. Using their own yardstick which they used to first lie their way into government in 2013-net has doubled. Gross debt has blown out to $540billion. Investment and consumer confidence are the lowest in 10yrs. Wages growth is the lowest in 15 years whilst company profits and iron ore prices are booming! The economy was stronger under Labor even during the GFC and electricity prices were cheaper, yes even with the so-called ‘carbon tax’. Unemployment and underemployent remains one of the highest in the OECD. In fact in 2007/8 Labor had unemployment at 4.9%. Under Hockey and Abbott it blew out to 6.2%. Why give 80 billion in tax cuts to companies when only 17% of companies pay the full rate of tax anyway and shisters like Foxtel pay NO TAX at all yet cop a 30 million in the hand bribe from Turnbull! On the campaign alone, Labor did not deserve to win govt. It was a shocker. They just would not go after the Liberal’s mismanagement of the economy when they had so much ammunition. And Labor’s biggest tactical error? Labor’s refusal to exploit its success in managing the GFC and embed its economic credentials when Australia was one of only 3 developed countries to avoid recession. This totally destroys the Liberals’ daily mantra that ‘Labor cannot manage money’. I rate this as Labor’s most devastating and self-destroying tactical error in 10yrs. Embarrassingly, Labor had to resurrect Bob and Keating to do this for them.“It’s the economy stupid”

  2. No-one responding and least of all Mango ever mention the fact of China, a slave labour economy that undercuts anything we can do. Finding something not made in China is near impossible, including solar panels and bits for windmills. Meanwhile China whilst encouraging renewable energy takes every chance to profit from it, and encircle our island. The ten years or more since Holden was set to stall have passed, and not a dicky bird from Labor or the Greens. Economy is more than just words, that’s true, it’s also more than squabbling over the crumbs. Go the Donald. Someone has to stand up to this behemoth. And we all should be buying not made in China, if there is any choice. Because. Because the choice goes beyond a domestic policy in any purported scenario filching bits of facts from one side or another, creating an Australian angst for the sake of a limited nothing. It’s also due our artists this angst, like there’s nothing we can agree on. i will say it again: SLAVE LABOUR. Time we were on track, not a question of profits in their millions or even pennies.

  3. Right on the Knocker, Ray. How could any party forget
    the GFC [unless it was The Tea Party in Alice’s – hell
    forbid – Blunderland] ? The Giddy Aunt, once a golf Pro
    is calling ’em out… Trump or ScoMo & Xi Jinping plus
    Murdoch’s scniggering. Four holes in One.

  4. Yes give credit where its due..Mr Swan managed to pull the country through the GFC ….but not a mention of the fact , that , labo was left a surplus again by the .coalition…open cheque book !! …to spend on school halls ..pink bats !! That did not end to well did it ? So what was left of the surplus in 2013 after labors spending came to a end !! Debt , debt , debt, for the coalition to pick up the pieces AGAIN !! And of course the worst humanitarian maritime disaster in Australia’s history…14 billion and counting!! Played a huge part of the Debt left to the coalition…Not not mention of this MUNGO ??? Buy hey , if the Coalition had been in Government when 1200 perished at sea…you would never hear the end of it.. bill shorten prime minister…heading to the G20 Kristina Keneally in toe ..to preach Mr Trump on their energy policies, and border policies, laughing stock of the world bill would be …oh ” the Canadian prime minister may have a sympathetic ear…but he was popular at the G20 wasn’t he ??? Same policies….he is next to get the boot !!

  5. AH! What grand Champions the CO-Elic-ion Guv has left
    in its ranks. God will speak to its leader regarding all the
    people’s needs & we will be risen-up. We’ll chuck our
    worry-beads with the knowledge the here-on-in after is to
    be taken care of [forget the Reserve etc] & board the
    New Ark of hope meant to carry us through Climatic
    Waters on the other side of the other side…

  6. Response to Barrow:- The $21billion surlplus left by Costello and Howard to handle the biggest hit to the economy since the 1929 recession (Hockey’s words) was hopeless-nowhere near enough for us to avoid recession. Constant crowing cocky Liberals about the strong surplus it left is laughable. Even Algeria [20.9%], Bulgaria [10.2%] and Kazakhstan [14.4%] had better books in 2007 than Australia. I am just jack of idiots saying Costello’s pizzling surplus saved us from the GFC. Heaps of countries with surpluses bigger than what Costello left went into recession. Denmark, Spain, Finland, Iceland, Canada, New Zealand and Chile all had strong surpluses in 2008, yet suffered severe reversals and recession. The $334billion rivers of revenue Howard was lucky to get from the resources boom and Keating’s economic reforms was pissed up against the wall in 3 years. These two idiots left Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison a structural pork barrelling deficit of $90billion that we are STILL paying off. These are not my words but from the Treasury secretary at the time who Abbott immediately sacked!. Debt you say? Okay:- Gross Debt@2013 Election $273billion (Labor)-now under the Liberals……$540.2 Billion
    Net Debt@2013 Election $175billion (Labor)-2017-18 under the Liberals……$342 Billion
    Net Foreign Debt 2013 $824billion (Labor)-now under the Liberals…….$1.04 Trillion
    In 2013 Abbott inherited and economy with the 3rd lowest debt in the world. An economy stronger than it is now.
    1983 LNP hand govt to ALP. Economic ranking 2oth in the world
    1996 ALP hand govt to LNP. Economic ranking 6th in the world
    2007 LNP hand govt to ALP. Economic ranking 9th in the world
    2013 ALP hand govt to LNP. Economic ranking 3rd in the world
    2018 LNP preside over an economy currently ranked 18th in the world
    The sad story of the Liberals ‘sound economic management is best summed up by one of their own:-
    ANDREW BOLT, Nov 5th, Daily Telegraph:- “The Liberals have delivered record debt, record spending, record taxes and record electricity prices.”
    Magic stuff this from the most right wing journalist in the land.

  7. Really Stefanie, such end-of-days scenario. Look up space station photo-electric cell, if you can find it amidst all the climate change hype. It’s twiceas efficient as what the hipsters are selling us now, only not available for the cost of it. This is where the climate hype gets confused: it’s all about now and yesterday. Before the progressives took hold, science was about the future and scepticism marked it aside from religion. Now, well now it’s just hopelessness. They’re selling us the hopeless because that’s all they have to sell, and making gazoomas from it too. The graphs that Al Gore used to sell this hype were obviously cooked. And I haven’t found a single climate change site that wants to talk science. It’s sales and comfort. The sceptics have been sidelined. The Net is now trash. I have to empty my oil tank tomorrow or I might seize up.

  8. A large tick again, Ray. Robot – not all ‘oils
    is oils’ either – ya gotta watch what’s been
    put into the tank. As for me… I’m dead set
    off to play in the traffic.


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