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Byron Shire
January 26, 2021

Thus Spake Mungo: shovel ready

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There’s one sure thing about Josh Frydenberg’s budget – it is shovel ready.

Warehouses have been emptied to find the shovels (and also the wheelbarrows, the backhoes, the bulldozers and the front-end loaders) needed to move the mountains of cash from the invisible lenders, through the Treasury, to the pockets of the punters.

The figures, as the commentators have pointed out, are eye-watering, not to mention spine-chilling, hair-raising, mind-blowing, gob-smacking… cue clichés of shock and awe.

But the numbers that matter are not the record debts and deficit, but the long hangover in unemployment. Even the rosy view envisaged by the government concedes that the jobless rate will go up to eight per cent this year, and will still be well over six per cent by 2022, by which time the next election must be called.

The great cash splash was supposed to be all about jobs – indeed, according to Scott Morrison it still is

The great cash splash was supposed to be all about jobs – indeed, according to Scott Morrison it still is. The battlers desperate for employment have replaced hard-working Australians as the government’s favourite demographic. But in fact the biggest spending has little to do with jobs and much to do with politics. Unsurprising, but depressing nonetheless – just another con.

As the indispensable Ross Gittins pointed out in the Nine media, the huge handout in tax cuts could be far better spent on direct job creation, if that was its aim. But it wasn’t – the idea was to buy votes, a preliminary bribe to prepare the ground before the poll, whether it is to be next year or the year after.

And the much applauded business package, while it may secure the viability of some of the employers who are hanging on by their fingernails, offers scant hope of a surge in job vacancies, especially given the imminent demise of JobSeeker, with JobKeeper not far behind.

Frydenberg is pushing the idea that this is the perfect time for enterprises to expand: innovate, renovate, invest, digest, hire, aspire

Frydenberg is pushing the idea that this is the perfect time for enterprises to expand: innovate, renovate, invest, digest, hire, aspire. But he won’t even admit the reality, that many are effectively broke, zombies who may be revived in ICU, but are in no position to take risks.

And of course experience shows that even if they could put on more staff, a lot would prefer to increase dividends and buy outs or simply trouser the profits. This is why Frydenberg has to offer wage subsidies for the young, in the hope that when the grants run out, the jobs will remain permanently. And in the meantime, the more expensive older employees will be discarded – forever, if the history of previous recessions is any guide.

And then there is infrastructure – there is always infrastructure. There was plenty of it in the campaign before the 2019 election. The problem was that it just hasn’t happened – for the majority of the pork-barreled projects announced with such glee by Morrison and his colleagues, not a shovel has been hefted in anger.

Funding new infrastructure sounds good, but somehow the promised jobs bonanzas never really materialised. Never mind, they can always be re-announced

But, we are assured, behind the scenes it is all go, go, go – so much so, in fact that there is no room for new public works to find a way in. Funding new infrastructure sounds good, but somehow the promised jobs bonanzas never really materialised. Never mind, they can always be re-announced.

JobMaker will make some difference: it is certainly better than nothing. But in practice it will be just another slogan, far from the single-minded crusade for jobs Morrison and Frydenberg have been telling us they have laboured selflessly on for weeks.

And much of its effect will be negated when the previous logos of JobKeeper and JobSeeker slide into the dustbin. This looks like pure ideology if not deliberate cruelty – sending the unemployed back beyond the poverty line seems to have no purpose other than to remind them who’s in charge. Hardly a way to inspire confidence and unity.

But confidence – hope – is what we all need. And it must be confessed that the budget rests on hope, on the belief that the improbable assumptions underpinning it can be realised. And it is unlikely that all will. Internationally, things are decidedly flaky – nothing much we can do about that, except pray that the price of iron ore holds up and that the Chinese keep on buying it.

The budget is counting on a vaccine to be rolled out by the end of next year, although most of the experts think that the odds are against it

But the big unknown is what started it all – COVID-19. The budget is counting on a vaccine to be rolled out by the end of next year, although most of the experts think that the odds are against it. And it is factoring in open borders, both state and national, well before then. But crucially, it needs this coronavirus to co-operate – no third wave, but a gentle decline into the new normal, which will be much like the old one.

And that wasn’t exactly wonderful – a state of prolonged economic stagnation. But it beats the hell out of what we’ve got now. Morrison would happily settle for a back to the future recovery right now.

Anthony Albanese, on the other hand, wants something more. His headline act is childcare: not just as a boost to bring more women into the workforce, but a mainstream economic and social issue that will emulate Labor’s great reforms in the tradition of Medicare and national superannuation.

And the other big one is manufacturing, policies that range from mandating apprenticeships in all government projects to rewiring the national energy grid and developing new industry, such as building trains and carriages. And if this seems too long-term, we can get on with repairing and restoring neglected social housing, an urgent and easily implemented agenda unaccountably ignored by the current government.

Albanese’s ideas seem to have caught the prime minister flat-footed: absurdly, his response was the ancient and predictable line, ‘where’s the money coming from?’

Albanese’s ideas seem to have caught the prime minister flat-footed: absurdly, his response was the ancient and predictable line, ‘where’s the money coming from?’ Our 1.7 trillion dollar-debt-man was chiding the Labor leader for not providing details of where he would cut spending to pay for his largesse. It is hard to believe that ScoMo expects to be taken seriously.

But undeterred as always, he just keeps shoveling. Presumably he feels that when he is as deep as he already is, he might as well keep going. And even if he tunnels right through the centre of the Earth and emerges on the other side, he can be sure of fulsome praise from his cheer squad, and most particularly from The Australian’s comedy cross-talk duo, Dennis Shanahan and Simon Benson. That’s one assumption he can rely on.

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  1. Oh! My Giddy Aunt’s in a rage again, ‘Too much ado about politics & not
    enough of saving Grace.’ Politics in the round? You just gotta be kidding.
    JobSeeker ‘n JabKeeper’s all a plot dished up by Fryin’-the-Burg’s Mother
    of Sundays. As for ScoNo – big boss man – playin’ Mulberry bush go-round
    with the Landing Queen of opposition-ing propped by tanks ‘n military
    play-pens. Even FoxTel’s on the rise.

  2. Yup a baby-sitting led recovery !
    Unless ,of course , we import some more Kanakas, as in the case of the fruit pickers that we can’t afford to pay market rates of wages to Australians. 8% unemployment my great hairy derriere, if the real unemployment rate isn’t already 25% I’ll eat my hat ! But.. if we must continue to import unwanted immigrants and insist on visa holders performing under-payed field work, to get an extension, as well as continuation of the ‘blackbirding’ of the South Pacific to subsidise uneconomic agriculture, how in the name of God will anybody employ the masses or pay fair wages ?
    Yeah, the whole country is shovel-ready, but don’t forget to organise the pall-bearers, the Unions are dead and so is the country.
    Cheers, G”)

  3. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will need more than a shovel with the increasing problem of unemployment. He needs to dig deeper to budge it.

  4. Easy solution for you Ken .
    Freedom of choice is what you got !!
    So if Australia is dead . Move to a counrty
    That is Green vibrant flourishing
    Hey heres a suggestion China
    Emerging nation freedom of speech
    If you want to be never seen again ..
    Uh such a tolerant nation Australia..

    • Barrow my man, it is noted that you continually invite people who are critical of ScamMOfromMarketings to move to another country., which as you well know is not possible with the Covid. But moving is not the solution. The solution is fixing the damage of the failed last 7 years of Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison governing and that fix starts with installing a new administration.

      • No Joachim not critical of the Prime Minister
        But critical of our Country Australia !!
        Un – Australian comes to mind.
        “How good is Australia?
        “Australia is dead” all to often those comments
        Are used in replies on this forum..
        But not one of you have the guts
        To leave Australia to call another country home ..
        And stand by your Beliefs..

        • Barrow, I’m not for cutting and running. I’m here to ‘Make Australia Great Again’, and it starts with turfing out a corrupt and lying administration.

  5. Tax cuts Tax cuts….the siren song of Liberalism to cure all. GROAN! Problem is there is no evidence anywhere in the world that tax cuts have result in more jobs. The Business Council of Australia could not produce even one example when asked! Infrastructure? Housing projects? Programmes that release people for work (e,g child care)? Sure-these work. A survey by the National Australia Bank in 2018 found only 8 per cent of businesses would give workers a significant wage rise if they received a company tax cut. 14 per cent of respondents to the survey reported they did not pay any tax in Australia (GULP!). Of the 900 businesses surveyed, 32 per cent of operators would prioritise reinvesting the extra cash in their own business, while 90 per cent would at least increase their investment.The workers? Wage increases were not even in the equation. Similar results were found in similar surbeys. Most said they would pocket any tax cuts rather than increase wages. (Mungo was right-they would trouser it!)
    Here is a fact foryall…The National Centre for Vocational Education Research reported that the number of apprentices and trainees under The Looters slumped from 413,000 in September 2013 under Labor to just 262,000 four years later under ‘the economic managers’. And they are talking apprenticeships now (wait for it!) that’s for one year. Dunno how many tradies learn their gig in one year?.

  6. Albanese policies as advanced in his budget reply speech are a pathway to rebuilding both the economy and society and should be enthusiastically supported.

  7. Next time your being inflicted by another bout of the contrived Murdoch media and other 5th columnist usual suspects in our “LNP Media” harassing Albo about how he’s going to pay to implement any of Labor policies and then, in almost the same breath blabber endlessly about the wonderful and completely unquestionable and unaccountable Scomo’s new chicken coup or cubby house he’s built in the backyard over the weekend.
    Just remember that Scamo Morrison and Friedandburnt without the contrived Murdoch media are nothing more than the Bevis and Butt Head of the “2018-19 LNP Morrison Economic Recession”, years before Covid 19, that has now the “Morrison Economic Depression” that will result in millions of Australians suffering for decades to come.
    And you idiots out their that voted LNP after their 2018-19 economic incompetence gave us the “Morrison Recession”. Then he treacherously knifed his leader and you still voted for them and gave the LNP a mandate to do let them economically bury us all?

    PS; When they say the LNP are in bed with developers in NSW we thought it was just a figure of speech. Now Gladys Berejiklian has just admitted she’s been doing it for years.
    Again, how can you people vote for these LNP?

    • Tweed, Morrison’s and Not my Glad’s mushrooms, sorry ‘Quiet Australians’, give them years of State and Federal LNP maladministration in between elections and then throw them scraps at election time – it works a treat; a Frankenstein Credit here, a Negative Gear there or the crumbs of a ‘tax rebate’ that is only collectable at tax return lodgement time and then sauce that up by telling lies – How Good is Australia!

  8. ‘How Good is Us-stralia 2’… & apologies to Tresa Brewer (hashed by Stef B.)
    “Put another chicken in/ in the kicker-lodeon/all I want is a sitting-in/ wise
    government.” The yellow-brick road’s running on empty.

  9. The airport is but a short drive Joachim & Stefanie
    Once you arrive at your destination !
    The memories will come flooding backing .
    Oh How Good was Australia to live in !!

    • Barrow please help me here, together we ‘Make ‘Australia Great Again’. We can drain the swamp, turf out corrupt and lying ScamMOfromMarketings and install a fresh, new administration that truly does care about everyday Aussies – Vote 1 The Greens and ‘Make Australia Great Again’!.

  10. Neighbor-hood watch says that ‘well-paid weaklings are wrecking this
    southern land & the stupidity verges on the criminal.’ The country does
    deserve far better than it’s got. Not enough have the backbone needed
    or the respect this land once had in abundance.

  11. Any voyage Barrow & CO chooses, Joachim. I’m over the lies birthed by those
    who stir & get a high by their slighting abuse based on what some well paid right
    winged journo has had pre-scripted for him or her. There’s no dignity left in the
    truth of what matters to the country – the ‘gab’ is play-back slackness & those
    who choose ‘the pack mentality.’ It’s an insult to those who do care & who
    understand that being human is just that. Thought is free – or supposed to be.
    Voice the truth these days & you’ll get hung for it.


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