“Full” Employment: Shorten’s Jobs Pledge Recycled Hot Air

ANOTHER DAY, another empty ALP “policy” statement; the announcement by opposition “leader” Bill Shorten that a Labor government would aim to achieve full employment is not a policy, is completely devoid of substance, and merely regurgitates an identical slogan uttered by every state and federal ALP leader over the past 25 years. No government has presided over full employment since the 1960s. One “led” by Shorten would be no different.

For an idiot savant like Bill Shorten — who has spent two and a half years ranting about “honesty” and the need to keep election promises — to start talking about full employment as a Labor election platform is such an oxymoron it is difficult to know where to begin; Shorten’s political specialty is connecting misleading statements about his opponents with attractive-sounding but vacuous populist propositions to make himself look better than he is, but for this particular Labor “leader” to start belting the jobs can in the hope it will win him votes is (to quote one of his predecessors) a bridge too far.

Yet having spent more than a decade presiding over an organisation at the AWU that purports to look after workers’ rights — and there are and were an awful, awful lot of part-time and causal workers who are AWU members — Shorten now aims to do precisely that: suddenly, he has discovered “the under-employment of more than a million people,” just in time for a federal election, and wheeled out a vague and tired “policy” objective of achieving full employment in Australia if Labor wins office later this year.

I have been following elections in this country since I was a teenager in the 1980s, and I can’t think of a single state or federal election over a 30-year period at which the Labor figurehead (whoever it was) did not campaign on some nondescript but awe-inspiring number of jobs he or she would seek to create — including, more often than not, some formulation to suggest the achievement of full employment — but naturally, it’s one agenda item the ALP has never delivered on.

Funny that.

Whilst small business — a constituency detested by the ALP, irrespective of whatever it says to the contrary — is overwhelmingly the driver of employment growth in Australia, the sector can only do so much; the only ways any government can “create employment” is by stacking out the public service (generally with politically pliant personnel) or by the politically fraught measure of instituting a program of compulsory National Service.

Of course, Labor is no slouch when it comes to the former: public services across Australia, state and federal, are swollen by ambit appointments that are often unnecessary and, largely, excessively remunerated, but that’s the point: the ALP has used its periods in office all over the country to ensure that at any given time, reliable and well-remunerated sets of eyes and ears remain stockpiled and embedded within the mechanisms of government even if Labor does not at any given time hold government itself.

These people, of course, perform valuable service in many cases, but it’s scarcely the point. Were there no political purpose for hiring them, their jobs wouldn’t even exist: and whilst “everyone does it” might be a justified retort, the fact is that the ALP does it more, and better, than anyone.

Where National Service is concerned, I don’t actually mind the idea of a conversation around it; a gap year — or even two — after young people finish school during which they are well paid, receive some practical training and experience, and actually return something to the country could (if properly calibrated) be a mutually beneficial arrangement that helps add to their employability in the longer term. Yes, it’s controversial, and no, I don’t want to divert right down that tangential track now. But the point is that aside from public service recruitment, it is the only other guaranteed way of creating jobs, and I’m certain Shorten and his cohorts won’t have a bar of the idea.

They hate the armed services, too.

For someone whose own union made an art form of stripping pay, overtime and other conditions away from low-paid workers — often causal or part-time — it’s a bit rich, to say nothing of offensive, to listen to Shorten rail against “under-employment” now.

And the announcement today comes with no details, or solid, tangible plan, or a series of markers against which to measure progress, or any itinerary to be followed after the ALP takes office: a cynic would point to the fact there are no promises of actual jobs, and that Shorten has merely said he “aims” to achieve full employment.

Yet so has every other Labor leader since the debacle of the Whitlam government — every one of them more substantial individuals than Shorten could ever dream of being — and none of them were able to achieve it. Yes, some of them never won elections, for those who want to split hairs. But with the exception of the paedophile Keith Wright in Queensland and the crooks prosecuted in the WA Inc debacle in Western Australia, all of Labor’s defeated leaders were more formidable figures than Shorten too.

It is well and good to aim for things; when you are aspiring to be the Prime Minister of Australia and starting without a scrap of credibility, aiming at things is probably all you’ve got going for you.

But Shorten’s announcement that he suddenly gives a rat’s rectum about armies of under-employed people — when there is ample evidence that the existence of these people never troubled him in the past — ought to fool no-one.

It is not a policy; it is entirely devoid of any meaningful substance; there probably isn’t a single job in it, the truth be told; and it ranks alongside attacking anything the ALP opposes for partisan purposes as “unfair,” or GST scare campaigns based on wet lettuce leaves and excruciating slogans like “lettuce be free of GST.”

In any case, “under-employed” people are the only group that gets the casual penalty rates so beloved of Labor these days, and which provide such a useful political sledgehammer with which to attempt to bludgeon opponents with WorkChoices scares. Moving those folk onto full-time salaries removes a powerful political weapon. Shorten can’t have it both ways and, to be sure, I don’t think he wants to do so at all.

In the end, those who thought Kevin Rudd and his slogans were bad find themselves faced with a more insidious encounter again to contend with when it comes to Shorten: and for all the stereotypes about politicians saying anything they think will yield votes, Bill Shorten actually does it.

Just think about it: he is opposed to anything that might fix the federal budget his own party booby-trapped with recurrent spending; he is opposed to anything that might rein in the culture of welfare dependency that is becoming a national disgrace, but on which millions of Labor votes depend; he is opposed to anything that might modernise Australia’s outdated and archaic industrial framework, whilst hundreds of thousands of jobs are being lost in industries “protected” by unions and their high-wage, anti-business agenda; and he is opposed to reforms in areas like Health, Education, and other sacred Labor cows, which might cut overall expenditure but reap better outcomes for less money, for the specious reason that someone might lose a job that isn’t actually required.

No government in 50 years — Labor or Liberal — has presided over a full employment situation, and neither would one ever formed (God forbid) by Bill Shorten.

And anyone who seriously believes the election of a Labor government will automatically lead to a full-time job for everyone who wants one is kidding themselves.



Fighting For Australian Jobs — Based On A Labor Lie

THE LATEST empty slogan hurled vigorously, repeatedly and abusively at Prime Minister Tony Abbott by the ALP is that he has “refused to fight for Australian jobs” by “allowing the car industry to shut down;” the warped premise these stupid pronouncements are based on has been picked apart and — needless to say, in a play on his own words — shows Labor “leader” Bill Shorten to be considerably dumber than “every other first world country.”

The problem with the politics of abuse and deceit is that eventually, someone calls the ruse; it mightn’t make the front page of a newspaper or otherwise gain the mass circulation it should, but eventually, the truth will out. It always does.

For this reason, I’d especially ask readers who find today’s piece resonates with them to share on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, repost in other social media forums or otherwise help to circulate it: the material I am featuring today explodes at a stroke the myths and lies behind Labor’s predictable attack on the Abbott government in the wake of Toyota’s announcement that it will stop building cars in Australia.

I have read an article in The Australian this morning from its regular columnist and economist Professor Judith Sloan, and whilst it sums up neatly the whole distort-and-smear approach of the ALP to the daily political grind, it also knocks out the foundations on which Labor’s latest ill-conceived offensive is based.

Most readers will know that since the Toyota announcement was made on Monday (catching a good number of political players off guard, I’m told), Labor — and its “leader,” Bill Shorten, in particular — have expended a greater amount of energy even by its own usual grimy standards to run around the country accusing Abbott of “refusing to fight for Australian jobs.”

The basic charge seems to be that Abbott has “allowed the car industry to shut down,” despite Ford calling time on its manufacturing operations during Labor’s own term in office, Mitsubishi having departed some years ago, and in spite of ample anecdotal evidence to suggest General Motors had made a similar decision about Holden in the middle of last year — but which it delayed making a formal announcement on until the September election had been held and finalised.

Even so, Shorten thunders, Labor holds Abbott “at fault” for the looming disappearance of the car making industry.

If Labor won last year’s election, Shorten says, Toyota would still be making cars here into the future — no ifs, no buts, despite the rather obvious fact that this piece of hyperbola can never be tested or validated.

And one of the gems he and his colleagues have been circulating to bolster their “case” against Abbott and fortify their onslaught against the government is a disingenuously dishonest assertion that the level of industry assistance historically provided by the Australian government to car makers is far lower than that given by other first-world governments who subsidise their car manufacturing sectors.

“Mr Abbott thinks he’s smarter than every other first-world country,” Shorten blustered accusingly.

If we run through the reasoning and logic of Sloan’s article, it ticks off a series of boxes that ultimately expose Labor’s (and Shorten’s) position as the manipulatively dishonest rubbish it is.

When was the information relied on by Labor compiled? 2009, in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, when stimulus spending by governments across the developed world ran at record levels in a one-off spike desperately seeking to stave off a 1920s-style economic depression. That spending spanned whole economies, and was not limited to automotive manufacturing.

Other forms of government expenditure in foreign countries have been lumped together with the kind of industry assistance the ALP advocates to stiffen up its argument and sharpen the attack on the Liberals in what, viewed from any perspective, isn’t and wasn’t intended as a like-for-like comparison.

Using Productivity Commission figures — a much more objective reference point than Labor’s dodgy, doctored, self-serving numbers — Sloan’s calculations based on a level of subsidy per vehicle manufactured reveals the truth of the issue, and detonates Labor’s ridiculous accusations: at subsidies of US$1,885 per vehicle, Australian government assistance to car makers is six times that of the Swedish government, nine times that of the Germans, and eleven times that of the USA.

I would also point out that even many Labor Party and trade union figures concede that the auto workers in those countries are far, far more productive than their counterparts in Australia: this fact, combined with the true scope of industry assistance in Australia, makes it fairly easy to see why the car makers don’t want to continue building their products here any more.

The other thing that stands out for me insofar as the homework Sloan has done for her article (and I am grateful to her: it has saved me doing a lot of the donkey work I don’t have time to do at present) is that industry subsidies shelled out to Toyota alone over the past four years average out to some $50,000 per worker per annum, based on the size of Toyota’s workforce and the half-billion dollars shovelled out to the company by the last government.

Viewed in such terms, the spectre of industry subsidies are nothing short of a national obscenity — especially when it is remembered that labour costs have been the greatest driver of the car manufacturers in shutting up shop and going elsewhere.

In the context of industry assistance to car makers, does this all add up to Tony Abbott arrogantly believing himself “smarter than every other first-world country?” On no account. In fact, a case could be made around the stupidity and vacuity of Shorten for even suggesting it.

But to suggest that Abbott has “refused to fight for Australian jobs” because the government he leads has declined to continue and increase the obscene amounts of money being thrown at car makers — especially in light of Productivity Commission figures Sloan quotes — should be seen for what it is: a cheap, tacky, meaningless slogan from a cheap, tacky, worthless political outfit.

Shorten might think that his ticket to becoming Prime Minister is to oppose and criticise everything, as he and his colleagues regularly complain Abbott did to them when the latter was opposition leader.

The fundamental difference is that Labor’s policies were bad policies, as is becoming clearer with every day the new government digs further into the mess it inherited; and in any case, Labor mishandled the nation’s finances so badly in office that were it not for the hundreds of billions of dollars in debt it bequeathed its successors to deal with, the conversation around the cessation of industry assistance to the car sector might not even be happening.

I think Australians can have faith that their Prime Minister will indeed fight for Australian jobs, although I acknowledge some in the labour movement might not agree with that assessment given yet another of their cosy little sinecures — this time, at Toyota — is soon to cease to exist.

But whether they do or not, the people of this country are entitled to better than the bare-faced lies the ALP is attempting to peddle.

Once again — this time on the issue of jobs — all of this is just another Labor lie, and deserves to be called out as such.


Labor And Jobs: Questions For Bill Shorten

FAIRFAX carried an article at the weekend: a platform for opposition “leader” Bill Shorten from which to spruik Labor’s plan to attack the Abbott government over “jobs;” conservatives across the country will both take heart and demand more of the same from him. It raises questions that Shorten — if he has any integrity — will be incapable of answering without destroying his leadership of the Labor Party.

First things first: the article, by The Age‘s political correspondent Bianca Hall, can be accessed here.

I should disclose that I once worked alongside Hall: she was a suburban news reporter at the community magazine publisher I spent time in the media sales division of shortly after Fairfax bought it ten years ago. She is a journalist of unimpeachable integrity, but make no mistake: Bill Shorten would best be served by refraining from giving interviews like the political abomination he served up to her.

Shorten seems to be outlining (to complement the obsession with pandering to minorities that characterised his leadership pitch) plans to do nothing but to carp, criticise, and stir up trouble: hardly what anyone could call “leadership.”

And I’m well aware that some, more sympathetic than I am to the Labor Party, will justify this on the basis that Shorten seeks to do no more than Tony Abbott did as opposition leader.

The glaring difference, however, is that Abbott’s ascension to the Liberal Party leadership coincided with a Labor regime that had entered its third year in office, and from which the wheels had begun to fall: confronting a flailing, failing government head on is one thing, but seeking to crucify a new government in its infancy is a little rich.

The point is underscored by the fact Labor’s onslaught had commenced even as it indulged in the pantomime of its “democratic” leadership election: Abbott, according to the vacuously bellicose ALP narrative, had pretty much sealed Australia’s ruination at the very time Labor’s hatchet brigade was making it impossible for anyone other than Shorten to win their leadership, but such an observation is probably too indelicate for Labor types to stomach.

In any case, I take issue with Shorten’s attempt to score points off Abbott’s assertion that ”many (GMH workers) will probably be liberated to pursue new opportunities and to get on with their lives.”

For one thing, these workers have been given three years’ notice of Holden’s intention to shut down its manufacturing base in Australia: time to plan, and retrain, and decide what they want to do, free of the sudden jolt unemployment usually imposes.

For another, it is on public record that the average redundancy payout for these workers will be in the order of $300,000 to $500,000: hardly the stuff of being cast penniless onto the scrap heap, destitute, with neither the time nor means of survival to regroup.

And frankly, it’s offensive to me personally, as someone forging a new way forward professionally after nearly 20 years’ experience in another doomed industry — print media — where there aren’t golden handshakes as the industry dies or the mentality of entitlement and handout that co-exists with the snout-in-the-trough culture instilled by the unions, their EBAs, and the permanent expectation of recurring, compounding pay increases that will sooner or later drive the company that pays them to the wall.

In a clear sop to his cronies and Labor’s masters in the union movement, Shorten’s announcement that he would use unease about Holden’s withdrawal from Australia to campaign on manufacturing is cynical rubbish, to say the least, unless it’s backed up with a suite of proposals to liberalise the labour market and find real ways to increase productivity: something that simply isn’t going to happen, if the track record of the Gillard government in particular is anything to go by.

The degree of control exercised by the union movement over the ALP has steadily increased over the past decade, with the Gillard years amounting to little more than a direct exercise in trade union government; high real wages, falling productivity and skewing the balance of workplace relations firmly in the direction of the unions, with a cavalier disregard for the commercial consequences, seem to have been watchwords of Gillard’s tenure both as the minister for Workplace Relations and later as Prime Minister.

The early indications under “leader” Bill Shorten aren’t encouraging.

Labor’s trenchant opposition to the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission — a body that threatens inefficient union culture and unconscionable conduct — is a good example of the type of thing I am talking about. Its outraged resistance to subjecting the union movement to the standards of governance that apply to the business community is another.

The fact — and this is an old story — is that manufacturing in Australia is doomed to extinction so long as the unions and their present mentality continue to infect, permeate and steer it: nobody takes issue with the idea, at face value, of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. When that notion is used to justify soaring labour costs at the end of a shotgun, nobody in their right minds ought to tolerate it.

And this country, as we have seen in this column previously, has some of the highest labour costs in the developed world, with low (and falling) productivity to compound the problem; union conduct of collective bargaining has priced an increasing proportion of their membership out of the markets in which they work, yet Bill Shorten is going to go out and campaign on manufacturing jobs. It’s an oxymoron.

His assertion that Australia should have continued to piss more money up against a post to subsidise car manufacturing — thus enabling unions to extort ever more ridiculous enterprise agreements from cornered companies experiencing steadily deteriorating operating conditions — is laughable, despite his contention that the rest of the world is laughing at Australia.

Why didn’t Gillard and Rudd? In Holden’s case, the company was already resuming its tin rattle prior to Labor’s ejection from office. And if Labor’s regard for the car industry were genuine, why did it seek to introduce tax treatment changes that went a considerable way toward crushing it?

All this feeds directly into the flaw in Shorten’s complaint that the Coalition “(talks) about the economy as if it’s a merchant-banking concept:” the Coalition talks about the economy in terms of the country living within its means, not getting too far into debt, and not throwing away endless billions of borrowed dollars trying to save industries and companies that can’t be saved. If such quaint notions of prudent fiscal stewardship qualify the Liberal Party as suffering from a “merchant-banking” mentality, it’s a badge I think the party is proud to wear.

(And I don’t want to hear about Howard government bailouts, thanks. If you want to criticise those, take aim at Howard’s government, not Abbott’s, until or unless Abbott follows suit).

A smartarse like Bill Shorten is typically adept at making noise and stirring up unrest and dissent where real answers or policies are too much to demand of him.

Aside from permitting the eternal continuation of Gillard-era industrial policy to continue — something the Australian public has explicitly voted against — it seems nothing will satisfy Shorten, nor the army of spivs, hacks and adherent noisemakers the ALP invariably retains en masse.

Shorten states that “the economy’s about jobs in the real world,” and the implications of the suggestion that the government should have continued to throw good money after bad propping up yet another car manufacturer sit at odds with the real world reality that employers with outgoings that exceed their revenues eventually go out of business.

In Holden’s case, the company itself stated publicly that 80% of the $3,950 price differential per vehicle between manufacturing in Australia and at its other plants elsewhere in the world was directly attributable to labour costs — even with all the money that has been thrown by governments at Holden for decades.

Shorten’s suggestion that Holden provides an ideal platform on which to campaign on jobs — something Hall describes as “comfortable Labor turf” — also defies real world realities, if not common sense and/or sanity.

Mitsubishi and Ford announced they would take the same path, on the watch of a Labor government, as Holden has done almost as soon as the election campaign was finalised. The difference would be what, exactly, Mr Shorten?

It is publicly known that the decision to shut Holden was taken in Detroit months ago; Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey are guilty of nothing more than extracting that decision from the horse’s mouth sooner rather than later. Please explain, Mr Shorten, how this makes Holden’s withdrawal the fault of the Liberal Party.

And it raises other questions too.

Exactly how many tens of billions of dollars is an acceptable figure to throw at loss-making businesses employing union labour, Mr Shorten, so union EBAs can continue to extract pay rises for workers faster than the government can throw it?

In an economy sitting out of recession only because of $300 billion the last Labor government pumped into the economy to stave it off, what is Labor’s grand prescription for jobs growth, Mr Shorten?

How can anyone believe Labor’s commitment to job creation when it stubbornly blocks the abolition of employment-killing taxes, namely the carbon tax and the mining tax?

Certainly, Shorten and Labor have a story to tell on jobs. But that’s all it is: a story.

Of course Labor will feel comfortable campaigning on it, just like all the other tall stories it has to tell.