In March Labor released “Growing Together”, its statement on employment, education and welfare for the next election. It contains a long list of motherhood statements and vague policy proposals reheated from other years.
All well and good; but it misses a key point. Why have we so much poverty today? The following may supply an answer to that question.
Two key problems remain from Federal Labor’s last stint in office, when it was led by “Comrades” Gillard, Macklin, Albanese, Swann, Plibersek, Shorten, Wong, Kim Carr, Conroy, Danby and others.
First is the failure to increase Newstart payments. There had been no real increase in Newstart for 20 years up until Labor’s last term in office, nor did the ALP raise it at all during that six-year term. This opened the way for the Coalition’s proposed vicious Newstart rules in the 2014 and 2015 budgets.
Labor’s claim that in 2013 that they had to make expenditure choices is nonsense. Increasing the dole should have had priority. However, Labor’s first choice was, of course, a 35 per cent MP salary and allowance increase in 2013. This put an ordinary backbencher in the top 2-3 per cent of income earners in Australia. Frontbenchers are in the top 1 per cent.
Bill Shorten, in January 2012, told The Australian: “Australia’s social security system needs to provide a strong safety net for people who need financial assistance while also acting as an incentive for people to take up paid work.” Yet if Bill or Anthony “Albo” Albanese and others had bothered to check the real unemployment figures, they would have found the same thing that Senator Penny Wong found.
Senator Wong, in a March 8, 2007, reply to a letter from the author concerning Australia’s true rate of unemployment, had this to say — while in Opposition to the Howard government:
“Whilst Labor is always pleased to see the official rate of unemployment drop, and to see more people gaining work, we recognise a great many people do not show up in those figures. For example, one in five part-time workers — some 600,000 people — want more work than they can get.
“There are also many people who are not in the labour force at all. Around 1.2 million Australians would like to work but for various reasons are not looking. Many of them are discouraged or do not have the skills employers are looking for.
“When you add these two factors to the nearly 500,000 officially unemployed, we know that there are around 2.3 million Australians who are … unemployed or want more work than they can get. This is a point that I, and a number of Labor members, have made on a number of occasions.”
Comrade Wong did not withdraw her view when asked in the Senate in late 2011 and when I asked her twice in 2015 at ALP/Fabian Society functions.
No money? Not so
Second, if the ALP had closed off many tax loopholes from day one in office (2007), they would have had the funds to increase the dole. But Bill wanted to show “the market” how hairy chested they were when it came to dealing with the unemployed and expenditure.
So, the ALP decided sole parents would lose the sole-parent pension and go onto the much lower Newstart allowance when their child turns eight. Bill Shorten, who moved the bill, was told by his employment department that many single mothers were already working part time and that their part-time earnings allowed them to continue to receive all or most of the pension, still ploughed on and removed them from the pension when their child turned eight. Bill’s view was that he wanted to get them into the very workforce they were already in!
His former close friend, Nicola Roxon, also voted for the bill. She retired in 2013 on a pension of $143,000 a year, fully indexed. Her stated reason for retiring was that she wanted to spend more time with her eight-year-old daughter.
Newstart pays around $13,600 a year, or $37 a day. In 2015, 870,000 Australians lived on $37 a day, because of Bill, Nicola and colleagues.
This is Bill’s “New Class”, Labor’s Princelings, in action! Frozen between real socialism and raw capitalism, Bill is all over the shop. All this was going on while Bill knew that the employment market figures showed that we had one vacancy for every 20 unemployed persons.
Yes, I am aware that Labor has now officially acknowledged underemployment, but not of course the real unemployment figures as mentioned in the ABS “Persons not in the labour force” survey. Yes, Labor did increase the Age Pension; but it is still, like the dole, one of the lowest in the developed world.
Then came the tightening of Disability Support Pension (DSP) requirements under Labor, meaning many on the DSP are now on the lower payment, Newstart, but have no hope of getting a job because of their health problem.
This “New Class” of ALP politicians, meanwhile, has gotten rich via the old, defined benefits superannuation scheme, liberal travel allowances, and jobs at the top end of town or in the public sector on leaving public office.
Many of the Labor MPs in 2013 who voted against increasing the dole will also receive $6 million plus from the defined benefits super scheme when they retire.
“New class” greed unlimited!