The sound of nodding heads – Written by KAYE LEE

  • June 28, 2015
In the lead up to the last election, the vast majority of voters indicated the economy was the most important issue.  There is no doubt the supposed debt crisis had an impact on the electorate when it cast its vote, even though the Coalition was embarrassingly wrong on the issue.

Asylum seekers was a clear but distant second, ahead of issues such as health, climate change and education.  Defence barely rated a mention.

Abbott is doing everything in his power to avoid speaking about the economy and climate change.  And for some unknown reason, the Labor Party seems happy to allow him to control the message.  They seem more focused on not alienating Conservative voters than on representing the progressive vote.  Whilst they are disappointing on so many levels, there are still many things the Labor Party should be highlighting as the Liberals roll out their “Don’t trust Bill” ad campaign.

In September 2013 Australia had a gross debt of $273 billion.  As of June 26 this year, that has increased to almost$369 billion.  That is an increase of over a billion per week.

The debt blowout has been largely caused by a surge in government spending.

In the last full year of the previous government, 2012-13, real government spending fell 3.2% to 24.1% of GDP.

According to the budget, in 2014-15 and 2015-16, government spending will be 25.9% of GDP, a huge 1.8 percentage points higher than the level in the last full year of the previous government.

The latest ABS figures show labour force underutilisation was 14.5 per cent in May 2015 (6% unemployment and 8.5% underemployment).  756,300 people are unemployed.  Seasonally adjusted aggregate monthly hours worked was 1,631.8 million hours

In September 2013 the unemployment rate was 5.6%, 697,100 were unemployed, and the aggregate monthly hours worked was 1,641.5 million hours.

In other words, there are more unemployed people and those that are employed are working less.

No wonder Tony is avoiding discussing the economy.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) is paid by the department of defence to prepare a defence budget brief.  The document they produced last year was very informative.

They found that the cost of defence in 2014-15 is $80.3 million per day.  This does not include funds appropriated to the Defence Housing Authority, those administered by Defence for military superannuation schemes and housing support services, nor the additional funds provided directly to the Defence Materiel Organisation.

Further they advise that

“The government’s ability [to increase defence spending to 2% of GDP] will depend on the electorate’s willingness to incur the resulting opportunity cost of forgone social services and higher taxes. On current estimates, each of Australia’s roughly 10 million workers will be contributing around $5,000 a year each to sustain the promised defence budget in 2023-24. Yet, according to opinion polls, support for higher defence spending has fallen from 60% in 2001 to less than 40% today. Absent a strategic crisis to shake off the complacency, sustained increases to defence spending will only be possible if the government makes a convincing case for doing so.”

Tony Abbott is playing up the danger we face here from Daesh and we are paying a huge price to maintain that fear.

Compare that to the real and present danger posed by climate change to health and people’s livelihoods and the amount of money that conservative voters considered unreasonable to spend in fighting it.  Instead of collecting billions in revenue the government is spending billions of dollars on Direct Action.  Every year more extreme weather events cost us billions in repair bills and emergency assistance.  And still the spurious one-off saving of $550 is trotted out as Tony’s greatest contribution to the nation in general and women in particular (not to mention the big polluters).

Why is this comparison not being yelled from the roof tops by Labor.  The Pope is even on side.  China and the US are on side.  Paris is coming up.

But oh no….we can never point to the massive waste and dubious benefit of billions spent on weapons of war.  That might make us appear “weak”.

And speaking of weak, when will Labor come up with a better plan for asylum seekers.  Why not admit that the current situation is untenable.  People are being abused, refugees are not being helped, and it is costing us a fortune as well as damaging our international reputation.

I know we can’t take everyone but we have an obligation to help.  Raise the humanitarian quota, have offices in regional transit countries who facilitate processing in a specified time frame (barring negative assessments), communicate regular updates to applicants about the progress of their application, provide a safe method of entry for refugees, and take more action to reduce the number of people who arrive by plane and overstay their visas.

Labor should also be comparing policies and histories on health, education, and workplace relations.

But all I hear is the sound of nodding heads.

UPDATE:  I wrote this before reading Roswell’s transcript of Bill Shorten’s speech on Thursday.  I was heartened by it and I hope Labor uses these six weeks wisely. Give me a reason to back you Bill.  That speech was a good start.