Rusted-on Labor, Coalition and Greens supporters will vote as they always do. So this piece is directed towards the ‘undecideds’.
In this week’s Essential Research Poll
they amounted to 18% who said: “It is quite possible I will change my mind as the campaign develops”
, with another 4% responding: “Don’t know”
. Since just 47% of those polled responded: “I will definitely not change my mind”
, and another 30%: “It is very unlikely I will change my mind”
, only three quarters of those polled have locked in, or almost locked in, their voting intention. With nearly a quarter not so committed, the election really depends on them. Coupled with Essential’s
TPP of 50/50, there is plenty of scope for the election to go either way, depending on how the non-committed 22% vote.
Before reflecting on which party and which leader is best equipped to guide the nation through the next three years, a number of myths need to be exploded. These myths have been perpetuated over the last three years to such an extent that they have become virtual folklore, some of it ‘verified’ by opinion polls, where, for example, despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary, those polled consistently rate the Coalition as the best managers of the economy. So let’s examine some of these myths, myths that need to be erased if the undecideds are to have a balanced view of the options. MYTH: The Coalition is the best manager of the economy
This is what Stephen Koukoulas
wrote in The Drum
at the end of last year: “The Liberal Party and many conservative commentators suggest that the size of government in Australia under the current Labor Government is too big. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has said the current government "is addicted to taxes" and that it "is spending like a drunken sailor… mortgaging our future". In a similar vein, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey says: "Labor has shown it is incapable of cutting spending”. Either these comments are deliberate mistruths or reflect the lack of understanding of budget policy from people who, within a year, could well be prime minister and treasurer.
“The facts of the budget show that the current government's budgetary footprint on the economy is small, running at the lowest level in 35 years. The current small government is made up of both low tax receipts and record cuts in government spending.”
The Kouk concludes: “In what should be an embarrassing fact for Mr Hockey, 2012-13 will see real government spending fall 4.4 per cent, the biggest cut ever recorded. This cut will see the government spending to GDP ratio fall to 23.8 per cent, having previously been ramped up to successfully counter the shock from the global financial crisis. This level of spending is 0.4 per cent of GDP below the average government spending level of the Howard government. In today's dollar terms, the 0.4 per cent of GDP amounts to around $6 billion.
“All of this suggests that the current government and the Labor Party more generally are low taxing and the only side of politics willing to cut spending when required.”
Add to that assessment the fact that during the first mining boom when there was rivers of gold flowing into the Treasury, instead of saving this ‘for a rainy day’, John Howard and Peter Costello chose to reduce tax and give overly generous middle class welfare handouts, all to attract votes, thereby creating a now unsustainable structural deficit in the budget that will bedevil governments and treasurers until they have the courage to tell the people that the age of such entitlements is over, are increasingly unaffordable, and need to be discontinued. Joe Hockey knows this, but his leader won’t have a bar of it, as it would lose him votes. The Howard government also neglected infrastructure, creating a structural deficit that will consume many billions in the years ahead.
The evidence points decisively to the incontrovertible fact that during the Howard/Costello years the Coalition was not the great economic manager it is pumped up to have been, and that Labor has been a superior manager of the economy, so much so that it has a triple A rating from all three rating agencies for the first time in its history, is regarded as the best managed economy in the developed world, remains the envy of other countries, and attracts the admiration of economists world wide. The continual denigration of Labor and its financial management, and the persistent talking down of the economy by the Coalition and sycophantic journalists, has led voters to really believe the myth that Labor is a poor economic manager, and the Coalition is better. Yet myth is it. Erase it from memory. Indeed, economic management is one of Labor’s very strong points. MYTH: Labor did not save Australia from the global financial crisis
The Coalition, its finance spokesmen, and Coalition-oriented journalists insist that it was the sound state of the economy gifted to Labor by the Howard/Costello Government, the burgeoning Chinese economy, the minerals boom, and RBA monetary policy that saved us from the GFC. Some scarcely acknowledge that there was a GFC at all. “What crisis?”
said Joe Hockey. They still refuse to accept the continuing and devastating fallout from the GFC all across the globe.
This is the assessment of Politifact
. Richard Holden writes: “So, was the Rudd Government brilliant, lucky, or reckless?
“My reading is: brilliant. For sure, they had a lot of other factors supporting the economy that many other countries did not have: a central bank with the decisiveness, and room, to slash interest rates; a major trading partner (i.e. China) enacting a massive stimulus of their own; and a very flexible exchange rate. They also arguably "played it safe" by following advice from Treasury and the International Monetary Fund.
“But two things merit the term "brilliant". One: the resolve to use overwhelming fiscal force, particularly in the face of political opposition; and two: the sophistication to understand the importance of shoring-up the banking system through deposit guarantees (announced in October, 2008).
“Together these gave Australians confidence that we would weather the crisis. That confidence prevented the kind of expectations death spiral from which the US is still battling to recover.
“Franklin Roosevelt was right. In times like 2008 "the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself". Oh, and a government that doesn’t realize that stimulus only works if it’s big, bold and credible.” Labor did save us from the dire affects of the GFC. To say otherwise is a myth, one to be discarded. MYTH: The cost of living has risen out of control under Labor
This is Stephen Koukoulas’
assessment of this myth: “To summarise, the average household is taking home $17,250 a year more in after tax income than in late 2007, paying $6,100 a year less in mortgage repayments and their cost of living has risen by $9,240. Netting this out means a gain of over $14,000 a year. For this average household and frankly millions like them, the cost of living issue is a complete furphy, a lie and a distortion that sounds appealing but is baseless in fact.
“It is odd that so few many people realise or care to acknowledge just how well off they are.”
Read too what Tom Allard has to say in Life is much better under Labor after all, says study
. Another myth exploded. Forget it. MYTH: There has been a wage blowout under Labor
Writing in The Guardian
, Greg Jericho says: “…two weeks’ ago the latest Wage Price Index was released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics; it showed that the annual increase in wages is a mere 3% – the lowest such increase, outside the period of the global financial crisis, for the past 10 years.”
Later he writes: “After the GFC, and the introduction of the Fair Work Act, real wages recovered to the pre-GFC average growth of about 1%. But…they have now fallen to 0.4% annual growth.”
Later, referring to the assessment of the RBA, Jericho writes: “…it noted, “Unit labour costs ... declined over the year, with the sharp slowing in the growth of average earnings more than offsetting an easing in labour productivity growth from its recent fast pace.” Another myth debunked. It is nothing more than a furphy perpetuated by Coalition IR spokesman Eric Abetz to support his push for Abbott’s changes to Fair Work Australia to ‘return IR to the sensible centre’. MYTH: Cutting corporate taxes will boost real wage growth
The Coalition’s ‘Our Plan’ states: “By cutting corporate taxes we…boost real wage growth”.
This was subject to examination by The Australian Institute’s Facts Fight Back
. The finding: There is serious doubt that the academic and theoretical work underpinning the claim is valid in the Australian context and the available evidence does not support the claim. Another myth down the drain. Ignore it. MYTH: Labor has done nothing for small and medium business enteprises
This myth is common among business lobbies. Let’s read what Rob Burgess says in Business Spectator
in Labor's SME 'failure' is a myth
: “It’s been worrying…to see people who should know better asserting that Labor has done absolutely nothing for small business, unlike the angelic Coalition governments of John Howard. That’s a staggering position to take given that the Abbott-led Coalition voted for round one of the $10.8 billion Rudd stimulus package in 2008 – a cash splash and infrastructure splurge that kept retailers, sub-contractors and many other SME sectors alive as the first wave of GFC pain hit the nation. The Coalition did not vote for the second round of stimulus in 2009. But that $42 billion adrenalin shot to the economy, besides $950 cheques to most households, included ‘hardship bonuses’ of $950 to 21,000 farmers and farm-dependent small businesses, and $2.7 billion in additional investment tax breaks for SMEs.
“Small businesses were also the main beneficiaries of the ‘school halls’ and ‘pink batts’ schemes. Both have been attacked as administrative stuff-ups… The overspend on school halls became the main criticism of that scheme. Some cost a lot more than market value, but overall the final cost blowout was about 14 per cent.
“The logic of slamming that as one of the biggest wastes of government money ever is utterly insupportable… It prevented the financial collapse of thousands of small businesses and individual contractors and that was its primary purpose…”
Burgess concludes: “…failing to recognise the good Labor did in the SME space in the past six years is partisan revisionism that really helps no one.” So it’s a myth that Labor has done nothing for SMEs. Indeed, some of the existing benefits are those the Coalition is now threatening to remove: instant asset tax write-offs and loss carry-backs. MYTH: Labor’s NBN will cost over $90 billion
Peter Martin quotes PolitiFact
that finds Turnbull's claim that Labor's NBN would eventually cost $94 billion possible but unverifiable. It rates it "half true".
Turnbull continually quotes the $94 billion figure and compares it with his estimated cost of his NBN-Lite. The estimated cost of Labor’s NBN was $37.4 billion, (but it may blow out to $44.1 billion,) but that is not a bottom line figure in the Federal Budget. It is an investment
that will achieve an estimated 7% ROI when fully deployed. It is fiscally inept to treat it as an expense. The only ongoing expense to the budget is interest on money borrowed to fund the NBN rollout. Turnbull knows this very well, but still perpetuates his myths about the NBN. It is a unverifiable myth that Labor’s NBN will cost $94 billion, three times as much as the Coalition’s NBN-Lite. MYTH: The Coalition’s NBN will be cheaper, roll out sooner and be more affordable
Malcolm Turnbull states the cost of his NBN-Lite FTTN will be $29.5 billion. In response, Stevej on NBN
quotes Professor Reg Coutts, a member of a seven member Expert Panel: “Essentially to go down the FTTN road would mean something in the order of greater than 50 per cent of the capital being put into digital cabinets in the suburbs…They then become an obstacle to the final solution… fibre-to-the-premise. Fibre-to-the-node is not a stepping stone to fibre-to-the-premise.”
Stevej goes on: “…what was a really bad, uneconomic idea in January 2009 is now a worse idea.”
He concludes: “If Turnbull wins office, we're going to hear a lot about Labor’s "costs", "waste" and "poor economic management". We won't hear the truth from him that he's planned to land the Australian taxpayer with a $30 billion write-off, courtesy of his ill-advised and wasteful FTTN.”
This weekend in Despite News Ltd, Turnbull WILL kill NBN, if he wants
Stevej says: “If Turnbull was really committed to building an NBN, why has he crafted a "plan" that is so complex and so riddled with omissions that the Parliamentary Budget Office cannot cost it?...Turnbull is either incompetent, which I don't believe, or working very hard to hide some very unpalatable facts."
In this weekend’s The Conversation
Rod Tucker writes: “Will the Coalition’s NBN provide value for money? Compared with Labor’s FTTP NBN, which will be easily upgradeable to ultra-broadband capacity when new applications come on line, the Coalition’s FTTN NBN is a short-term, limited-bandwidth solution. At a whopping two-thirds of the cost of the vastly superior FTTP NBN, the Coalition’s NBN stacks up as waste of money.” Forget the myth that the Coalition’s NBN-Lite FTTN is a cheaper and better option than Labor’s NBN FTTP. It isn’t, and Turnbull knows it.
The myths listed above are related to the economy and the NBN, but to illustrate that they extend beyond these areas, try this one: MYTH: Immunization rates have fallen under Labor
The ABC’s Fact Check
says this: “Given the overall vaccination rates across all three age groups over the period of the Labor governments has either remained stable or increased, Mr Abbott's claim that "this Government (has) presided over a reduction in vaccination rates" is wrong. Another myth exploded.
There are many, many more, but to include them all would take the whole piece. I trust there are sufficient though to convince undecided voters that to make a considered choice of which party to support, these myths need to be discarded, and the mind cleansed of their pernicious influence. Indeed, in exploding these myths, Labor’s strengths are exposed for all to see. Now let’s look at why undecideds should say yes, yes, yes to Labor.
Space dictates that just a handful of reasons be used to illustrate why. Economic management
What has been written above suffices to support the quality of Labor’s economic management. Its brilliant carriage of the Australian economy through the GFC and to this day, its moderation of the cost of living, its achievement of low inflation and interest rates, its control of wage rises, its contribution to productivity, and its strong support for small and medium business stamp Labor as a sound economic manager, one that could be safely entrusted to manage it well in the decade ahead.
In contrast, the Coalition’s record of achievement pales into insignificance, is built on a belief in free markets and light regulation, and on cost cutting and austerity, but is redolent with deceit, another piece of which we saw publicized this week: the Liberal’s ‘Cost of Labor Calculator’. Greg Jericho delightfully debunks this downloadable app in an article in The Guardian
. He concludes: “Dodgy cost calculators make for a great toy when you are trying to win an election, but as long as political parties treat voters like idiots and refuse to give them the full picture on such issues, we will forever be denied the chance of a proper debate. And while complaining about cost of living sounds like a great idea when you are in opposition, shifty claims about reducing the cost of living inevitably come back to bite you when in government.”
Is it any wonder there is an insistent clamour for the Coalition to release its costings immediately? Labor has the runs on the board for economic management. The Coalition, with its history of profligate spending, the unnecessary extension of middle class welfare, and its intention to slash and burn, doesn’t. National Broadband Network
The clearly superior NBN offered by Labor trumps the inefficient, costly and inadequate NBN-Lite of the Coalition.
Labor’s NBN holds great promise for commerce, industry, science, agribusiness, service industries, education, health, and aged and disability care, as well as having enormous potential in the field of telecommunications. Its contribution to competitiveness will be massive. It will enable work from home and thereby reduce commuter traffic and pollution. Australia deserves the best to compete in a global economy. And in the fullness of time, the NBN will turn a profit, and repay the investment in it. Labor’s NBN is what this nation needs. Education
The ground breaking reforms inherent in Labor’s Better Schools Plan (Gonski) will revolutionize school funding, cater for the disadvantaged, and enhance fairness in schooling. Added to a national curriculum, the MySchool website, NAPLAN, enhanced teacher education, more teachers, and incentives for better teachers, the foundations of a strong and equitable system of schooling are already in place. Labor will retain and improve it. Despite being on 'a unity ticket' with Labor, the Coalition does not show the same determination. It does not believe the funding system is broken, has committed to fund only the first four years, not the expensive years five and six, and wants to encourage public schools to become independent.
Labor has increased university funding, has created 190,000 new higher education places and 50,000 apprenticeships and training places, and will spend $14.3 billion in skills and training over the next four years. Education has been a signature policy area for Labor. It has done more in its two terms than the previous government ever did. Health
From the outset, Labor has focussed on improving the health care system. It has moved to better integrate the contributions of State and Federal governments, often against resistance. Its efforts have been directed to enhancing community-based primary care and prevention through Medicare Locals and GP Superclinics, cancer care through many new centres, aged and dementia care, disability care through the groundbreaking NDIS, mental health care, and dental care. The NBN is seen as a crucial tool in home monitoring to keep the aged and disabled at home, to enable remote consultations, and to extend medical technology by bringing city expertise to regional and remote areas. Health is another signature policy area of Labor. The originator of Medicare and the NDIS, it has always been superior to the Coalition, and will do even more in the future. Industrial Relations
This is yet another signature policy area for Labor. It was responsible for the changes to WorkChoices that removed its punitive aspects. It has always been a champion of workers. It remains the defender of fairness in the workplace that would be threatened by an Abbott government, one hell bent on complying with business demands for ‘more flexibility’ and a ‘move of the IR pendulum to the sensible centre’.
Labor was the first to introduce an affordable paid parental leave scheme, now threatened by Abbott’s unaffordable and inequitable PPL, being marketed as a workplace entitlement like annual leave. IR is Labor’s long suit; it is the Coalition’s bête noir. Infrastructure
Labor has embarked on the largest infrastructure project in Australia’s history – its NBN. Bigger even than the Snowy Mountains Scheme, it promises to elevate Australia into the top echelon in the communications world, thereby ensuring international competitiveness as it facilitates manufacturing, agriculture, service industries, tourism, education and health care.
Labor has made record spending on transport infrastructure in its six-year term. It favours, and has costed the Melbourne-Brisbane fast rail project and intends to proceed. Tony Abbott wants to be the ‘infrastructure prime minister’, but is stuck on roads, and against urban rail. He would have a lot of catching up to do. Labor has a fine track record of infrastructure development, and would continue in this vein. The Coalition would be in catch-up mode. Manufacturing
Labor has been supportive of the struggling car industry, recognizing that beyond the 50,000 direct car-building jobs, there are 200,000 jobs supporting the industry. The Coalition is indifferent, and disinclined to offer support, operating from a ‘survival of the fittest’ mindset.
Ship-building is set for a boost if Labor is re-elected with the building of more Navy frigates in Melbourne. The possibility of moving Navy assets from Garden Island to Queensland opens up new opportunities for manufacturing. Labor is manufacturing’s best bet. It plans to open up new industries as older ones fade during the transition that is in train. The Coalition never mentions the needed transition. Immigration
This is a most vexed area. On the positive side, Labor proposes to increase the humanitarian intake eventually to 27,000. The Coalition intends to curtail it. Labor has taken many steps against people smugglers, including the recent arrests in Australia. The Coalition’s policies become more and more retaliatory by the day, this week scrapping free legal services for asylum seekers. Labor’s track record is not good, but is less punitive than the Coalition’s. Climate change and the environment
Labor has a price on carbon that will evolve to an emissions trading scheme with worldwide trading in mid-2014. The Coalition does not take global warming seriously. It has a discredited Direct Action Plan that analysts Reputex say will have a $35 billion cost blowout in achieving its emissions reduction target
So much for the ridiculous 15,000 strong Green Army, cleaning up waterways and planting 20 million trees in countless hectares of semi-arable land! Labor’s approach to global warming is based on science, is feasible, and is already reducing our emissions and power usage. It encourages the development of renewables. The Coalition’s approach is virtually the reverse and will be ineffectual. The choice between them is easy and logical. Fairness
Labor’s insistence on fairness, equity, and concern for the disadvantaged, permeates all its policies. It is the party that supports the less well off, the disadvantaged and the disabled, those that need a hand. It seeks to close the gap between the richest and the poorest. The Coalition is less concerned about those at the bottom of the pile, supports those at the top, and believes the ‘trickle down’ theory of economics works, which study after study shows is not the case. The contrast between the ideologies of the two parties is stark and telling. Any undecided that seeks to live in a fair and equitable society has no choice other than Labor. This piece is already long enough. I trust that having exploded the many myths that have been spread about Labor, myths that turn out to be strengths, and having shown how much Labor has done in the last six years, more than any prior government, most of it the excellent work of Julia Gillard, work that Kevin Rudd now seeks to carry on, undecideds will be convinced that Labor is the most obvious choice for the next three years, and that the Coalition offers far less.
The Economist agrees: “The choice between a man with a defective manifesto and one with a defective personality is not appealing – but Mr Rudd gets our vote, largely because of Labor’s decent record. With deficits approaching, his numbers look more likely to add up than Mr Abbott’s.”
Labor has had its upheavals and its leadership unrest, but on sheer performance, on its forward-looking strategy for this nation, despite what most of the media says to the contrary, it is a long way ahead of the Coalition.
Labor has the long term vision and the coherent plans for the period of transition ahead and for the decades ahead; the Coalition does not.
So undecideds, say yes, yes, yes to Labor.
Should you decide to ‘Disseminate this post’, it will be emailed to: Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Anthony Albanese, Julie Bishop, Chris Bowen, David Bradbury, George Brandis, Tony Burke, Mark Butler, Bob Carr, Jason Clare, Mark Dreyfus, Craig Emerson, Joel Fitzgibbon, Julia Gillard, Joe Hockey, Greg Hunt, Ed Husic, Barnaby Joyce, Bob Katter, Andrew Leigh, Jenny Macklin, Richard Marles, Tanya Plibersek, Christopher Pyne, Andrew Robb, Kevin Rudd, Bill Shorten, Tony Smith, Wayne Swan, Warren Truss, Malcolm Turnbull, Andrew Wilkie, Penny Wong and Nick Xenophon.