THE HON WAYNE SWAN MP
FEDERAL MEMBER FOR LILLEY
Turnbull's government is all about 1980s agenda of American style trickledown economics including crushing the labour movement
There is a stench of dishonesty about the Liberal-National government; its agenda, its motives and its foul propaganda are the same no matter who leads them because Australians all know Tony Abbott’s baton has just passed to the next runner, writes the former 2011 world’s best treasurer, Wayne Swan.
The Registered Organisations Bill and its twin, the ABCC Bill were never about cleaning up corruption in Australia. They’re not about making building and construction more efficient.
What they’re about is the Liberal’s signature policy – WorkChoices. The Australian labour movement was the only thing standing between Australian working families and WorkChoices in 2007 and it, along with the Fair Work Act, is the only thing standing between them now.
These Bills were about crushing the labour movement. It’s not about a union watchdog; it’s about letting the dogs loose on workers’ conditions across the entire Australian work force.
“Camouflaging the failure of the Liberals’ economic strategy.”
Australia is in its 25th straight year of continuous economic growth; our economy has performed remarkably well over the past decade in the face of some of the most significant global supply and demand shocks in history. There are deep structural changes slowing the global economy, driven in part by growing income inequality. We are seeing a squeeze on living standards and middle incomes across the developed world.
These Bills were about smashing our trade unions, to lift the profit share even higher and further drive down the wage share of our national income. This is a recipe for weaker growth, precisely at a time when the global economy is at its most vulnerable since 2008-09. The legislation was a part of the Liberal’s economic approach that will lead to further wealth concentration, not wealth creation.
Even the IMF rejects the trickle-down economics embraced by the Liberals, and by trickle-down I mean:
“The notion that if you give more resources to the rich, the benefits will trickle down and we’ll all be better off.”
It’s a notion that’s disproved by our experience across the developed world of concentrated incomes at the top, hollowed out middle classes, and armies of working poor.
This is all about camouflaging the failure of the Liberals’ economic strategy and the chaos that has resulted from their last two budgets.
“Issues of the people on the street are very different.”
If you ask any person in the street about the Registered Organisations Bill, they wouldn’t be able to tell you much. But if you ask them about the Panama Papers – they all know about that!
This legislation said a lot about the government’s priorities; it’s their spiteful vengeance writ large. In effect, they have taken our nation to an early and expensive double dissolution election over something that is not an issue on the street.
The issues of the people on the street are very different.
Families are asking how on earth they can juggle the strain of wages that actually went backwards last year; they’re asking how they can absorb this government’s hit on the social wage, like cuts to Medicare that directly affect family health costs.
Expectant mothers are asking how they cope with the cuts to paid parental leave.
If they’re students, it’s the explosive increase in the cost of university degrees and the threat to the penalty rates they earn from their weekend job. If they’re a family with kids, they’re asking serious questions about the future of education in this country.
In my electorate, Lilley, more than 40 schools will on average each lose $3.2m. It’s the equivalent of sacking one in seven teachers.
Class politics..with fingerprints
The Liberals’ mantra fails the motivation test.
In public life it’s not just what you do, it’s the way you do it and why you do it.
Liberal and National governments never find their policy priorities in the daily struggles of middle income Australians; they find them in the musty board rooms of corporate Australia and the mouldy hallways of the IPA.
And what are they told to do? Attack the labour movement.
It’s ironic we are facing an election over productivity on building sites at a time when ABS data clearly shows productivity in the construction industry has been surging since 2011.
It’s equally telling that at a time when corporate tax evasion is rampant and the Panama Papers have disclosed questionable corporate transactions, the Liberals’ preferred model contained higher penalties for civil contraventions by union officials than apply in the Corporations Act for directors of companies.
It also introduces criminal offences relating to officers’ duties that exceed those found in the Corporations Act. The massive financial penalties to apply to voluntary union officials were designed to break the network of delegates who every day represent their fellow members in workplaces across the country.
What is truly alarming is if this Bill had been passed along with the ABCC Bill, construction workers being investigated by the ABCC would have been denied the most fundamental and basic legal right: the right to a lawyer of their choice, as well as the right to remain silent.
Reflect on that for just a moment.
“PM is working to crush the very organisations that are the last line of defence.”
You can bet that in the upcoming election campaign, Malcolm Turnbull won’t be telling Australians the whole truth. He won’t tell them he wants to take away the legal rights of trade unionists but leave them in place for corporate high-flyers.
This is the ugly hand of greed and class politics at its worst, and the PM has his fingerprints all over it.
So in this federal election, while Australians are worrying about jobs, working conditions and attacks on the social wage, their PM is working to crush the very organisations that are the last line of defence that define and secure these social goods for them.
There is a stench of dishonesty about this government; its agenda, the motives and the foul propaganda are the same no matter who leads them. Tony Abbott’s baton has just passed to the next runner.
Sure, Malcolm Turnbull might seem a little smoother and polished, but scratch the surface and he’s just the same. That’s why Turnbull – like Abbott – fails the motivation test.
The Liberal-Nationals have simply replaced someone who would say and do anything to be PM, with someone who would say and do anything to be PM. Australians are doubly disillusioned because nothing has changed.
“Hiding the truth about their fiscal policy behind deceptive slogans.”
Make no mistake, just as they were hiding a WorkChoices agenda behind their plans, they are also hiding the truth about their fiscal policy behind deceptive slogans.
“We are not spending like Labor” they say. The reality is: spending is almost a full 2 per cent of GDP higher now than in Labor’s last budget.
“We are not taxing you like Labor” they say. The reality is: as a proportion of GDP, taxes have risen almost 1 per cent over the tax take in Labor’s last budget.
“It’s Labor’s debt” they say. The reality is: Turnbull and Abbott have tripled the deficit.
“We need a company tax cut to generate growth and jobs” they say. The reality is: ATO data shows private companies in Australia pay an average tax rate of only 19 per cent (when unweighted for company size and before taking into account deductions, deferred losses, minimisation and evasion).
Who could forget that they managed to spend $80m on a trumped up Royal Commission into trade unions, but have dragged their feet on doing anything about multinational tax evasion including voting against every measure Labor introduced while in government?
Courtesy of Labor’s transparency legislation passed in 2013, we now know that more than a third of all public corporates paid no tax (in 2013-14).
We know that half of all foreign companies in Australia paid no tax. We know that one in three private corporations paid no tax. And we know 55 millionaires paid no income tax.
And now we know through the Panama Papers around 800 high net worth individuals have connections to activities in tax havens.
In the face of this overwhelming evidence it’s farcical and tragic the PM and his ministers can keep a straight face and claim Australia has a spending problem — and not a revenue problem — yet continue to lay at the feet of trade unions the blame for their economic mismanagement.
The Panama Papers revealed the increasing use of tax havens by multinationals and high wealth individuals has reached epidemic levels. Some of the Australia’s largest global companies have been exposed, and when global companies operate in this cavalier way, it normalises such behaviour and gives the green light for everyone else to have a go.
Polarisation and power divide grow daily.
Tax havens are used by individuals and corporates to keep their activities in the shadows.
For years Australians have watched the Liberals pander to corporate and media interests.
In a world where inequality is now rampant, how can anyone have any faith in a leader who professes to believe in equality of opportunity but leads a government that has opposed strong measures to stamp out multinational tax evasion, and voted in this parliament against those measures?
This has been occurring while the PM is a fully paid up member of the Cayman Islands Club, watching his capital fund grow under the palm trees. If this was a leader with faith in his leadership, his Treasurer, and his country, he would put his money here in Australia.
The use of tax havens by wealthy individuals and corporates is destroying progressive taxation in developed economies. The principal reason for someone using a tax haven like the Cayman Islands is to avoid tax, either in countries where they live or are based, or to act as an end point for tax minimisation.
Strong actions against tax havens will never be taken by the public officials who use them.
“Ferocity in the attacks on unions, Medicare, the NDIS, public schools and the public sector.”
In the face of all the international evidence that we need a fairer distribution of income to drive economic growth, it’s stunning this government continues to do the bidding of some Australian businesses, pushing a 1980s agenda of American style trickle down economics, where workers have fewer rights and lower wages while companies enjoy lower tax and lower regulation.
The chief element of trickle-down economics is the trick at the heart of Liberal economic thinking.They’re about attacking workers’ rights and conditions.
In this world, it’s okay for Malcolm Turnbull to attack Bill Shorten and other Labor MPs for being former union officials, but it’s not okay — in fact it’s class war — if anyone mentions Turnbull is a multi-millionaire advocating policies that benefit people like him.
They had no trouble rustling up $80m of taxpayers’ money to fund a Royal Commission into the trade union movement, but now refuse to hold one into banking and financial sector practices, or to deal with the 800 individuals the Panama Papers have disclosed as tax avoiders.
There is a fundamental intent to break the unions, bring back the WorkChoices philosophy, and to discredit any institutions that deliver power to weaker and more vulnerable sections of society. That is why there is such ferocity in the attacks on unions, Medicare, the NDIS, public schools and the public sector generally.
“All Australians create wealth — from cleaners to executives.”
There is now a great divide between the government and the people in this country. Like the wealth divide, the power divide is growing day by day and the Liberal-Nationals want to further silence the voice of working people.
It’s a drive from the government and its sponsors to increase the profit share at the expense of the wage share. This is self-defeating economic policy that the IMF tells us will lead to weaker growth – not stronger growth.
My fervent desire is that responsible voices in the business community speak out against the polarisation that this government is trying to foment and that flows from the survival of the fittest mentality at the core of this legislation.
All Australians create wealth — from cleaners to executives — and all Australians deserve a voice in our economic debate.
Labor will always fight for this voice because we’re convinced our country can’t treat the creation and the distribution of wealth as two separate matters.
This article was originally published on the Labor Herald as "A government all about crushing workers and the labour movement".