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77 responses to “Budget 2011, Labor values and Labor voters”

  1. wilful

    What are you talking about, food, rent and mortgages getting dearer? Got evidence? People are no more on the edge of a precipice than they’ve ever been. You sound like Joe Hockey.

  2. Ron

    Why are they so slow at The Drum on letting comments go through?

  3. Kim

    Check out the composition of the first quarter CPI, wilful, and for that matter indices of rent.

    In case you hadn’t noticed mortgage rates are on the up and interest rates on credit cards are around 20% and 14 or 15 on personal loans.

    Then go read the linked Steve Keen article.

  4. patrickg

    Kim, you can’t really turn to Steve Keen as a rational source on anything regarding property and interest rates in Australia. He’s like the Clive Hamilton of interest rates.

    The reality is that “higher cost of living” is code for “you’re not poor, but you have borrowed way more money than is sensible, and you expect the government to do something about it”.

    The productivity gains from women entering the workforce have been funnelled almost entirely into a housing boom and skyrocketing credit card debt. However, I’m not sure that the government’s job is to subsidise Australia’s debt binge (though they certainly have aided and abetted it with negative gearing, a truly bad policy that will have repercussions for years to come, he says, writing from a two bedroom apartment in the suburbs that is absurdly valued at half a million dollars [!]).

    The way Australians – egged on by a media desperate for the next “crisis” – moan about education, hospitals etc, you would think we lived in Somalia. The reality is that for the tax we pay we get some of the best value services in the whole OECD. It’s an unpopular message though, “Things are actually pretty great. You should probably be paying a bit more tax if you want more reform, and any household with an income over >100k a year doesn’t really deserve any tax breaks or special government assistance”.

  5. patrickg

    “Feeding the voracious appetite of employers for workers at the lowest cost possible to them is hardly a Light On The Hill, yet this is what the contemporary participation agenda tends to reduce to.”

    Also, I think is this a really reductionist and short-sighted view of what a skills shortage actually means for a country. It is much more than getting workers at the lowest cost.

  6. Kim

    Patrickg – two points:

    1. It is still a political problem for the government;

    2. People have a habit of forgetting a lot of folks earn wages lower than the median. There are more folks on wages 10% the so called average than 10% above – particularly women who are disproportionately represented among casual and low wage earners.

    So often it is income being below costs driving borrowing not profligate.

  7. wilful

    Check out the composition of the first quarter CPI, wilful, and for that matter indices of rent.

    A full quarter of CPI? Oh dear.


    In case you hadn’t noticed mortgage rates are on the up

    from historic lows to neutral settings…

    and interest rates on credit cards are around 20% and 14 or 15 on personal loans.

    which is different to which period in recent history?

    Then go read the linked Steve Keen article.

    Steve Keen, what the guy who owns property? He’s been wrong so many times he’s a joke.

  8. Kim

    @5 – But employers do want labour at the lowest cost.

    Where is the “more” Patrickg? Are we back with the Dignity of Work and alarm clock society?

    While it is doubtless true that work has a social dividend, how high do we raise our sights?

  9. Kim

    Wilful – the point is that if you feel under financial pressure the views of economists and beautiful sets of numbers is not reassuring.

    Richard Farmer had it right on the Crikey blog. Trumpeting a boom when it feels anything bit is bad politics.

  10. patrickg

    But employers do want labour at the lowest cost.

    I never said they didn’t. I did say that’s not all there is to the story.

    <Where is the “more” Patrickg

    No, the more is inflation bubbles, labour market distortions, lowered efficiency and competitiveness, to name a few. Skills shortages are real, and they have real effects on the economy far beyond a single industry.

    I respect Mark (and you!) a lot, but when it comes to economics, these are not good arguments.

  11. Russell

    Until there’s a bit more analysis (where people find that the ‘new’ money to fund this, is actually the old money that was funding that) is done, we just have the words. Jobs, jobs, jobs.

    I wonder if that’s because the ALP have some polling that tells them that unemployment is the biggest area of concern in the electorate. The government can’t say that, while boasting of a wonderful unemployment rate of 5%. But I suspect that counted differently unemployment is 10% or more, and, in uncertain times, is worrying the electorate.

    My first impression is: glad that foreign aid wasn’t cut, amazed that the arts minister was stupid enough to accept cuts to the National Library and National Gallery, disappointed there wasn’t more for environmental projects. Already knew that they haven’t got the guts for real tax reform.

  12. adrian

    As usual, Ross Gittings is a voice of reason among the mediocre and the partisan.
    Everyone in the lucky country seems to believe that they are doing it tough and need some form of government assistance, even while they send their offspring to government subsidised ‘private’ schools and drive the latest 4WD. With petrol becoming so expensive surely the government should reduce the petrol excise so we don’t pay so much.

  13. dave

    patrickg, wilful – why is Steve Keen wrong? Just asking…

    Being on the edge of a precipice affords very nice views.

  14. David Irving (no relation)

    dave @ 13, my feeling is that Steve Keen (like Malthus) is correct, but his timing’s a bit off.

  15. wilful

    the point is that if you feel under financial pressure the views of economists and beautiful sets of numbers is not reassuring.

    The point is these people are in fact wrong, and crap commentary by Joe Hockey that echoes their concerns, that are largely made up in their own heads and has no foundation, needs to be called out. Of course some people are “doing it tough”, however the actual numbers of these people are at historic lows. Mostly, they’re a pack of whingers, who are being pandered to.

    Dave, Steve Keen isn’t falt out wrong per se, it’s just taht his opinion on subjective matters is permanently pessimistic, and every time he’s made a strong prediction he has in fact been wrong. He even walked to Kosciuscko he was so wrong. And he tells everyone that the housing market will implode in about two seconds, yet continues to own an investment property himself. There are a lot of red herrings in the article too. Australia should be moving towards surpluses over the next two years. I think it should be via a resource rent tax, however the australian populace seem to disagree.

  16. wilful

    (where falt = flat, and taht = that)

  17. silkworm

    For the last three years, the Opposirion has jumped on any hint of govt waste. The biggest area of waste in this budget is the $200m+ for the school chaplaincy programme, yet we’ve heard not a peep from the Opposition on this. Why?

  18. OnTheBus

    @ Silkworm
    “The biggest area of waste in this budget is the $200m+ for the school chaplaincy programme”

    Why is it a waste exactly?

  19. David Irving (no relation)

    OTB, the chaplaincy program is a waste because there’s much better uses for $200M than financing 18 year old fundies to tell the kiddies a bunch of fairy tales about beards in the sky.

  20. adrian

    For the same reason that they have completely ignored the far bigger wastage problem that is the government funding of ‘private’ schools which is one of the biggest ‘rorts’ of all time.

  21. Eric Sykes

    @17 & @19

    Quite right. The chaplaincy program is appalling and a real marker of how reactionary this lame excuse for a Labor Government actually is.

  22. wilful

    Why is it a waste exactly?
    A. This is a state government responsibility, not federal.
    B. Public schools are supposed to be secular. If you wish for religious instruction or counselling, tehre are readily available churches and sunday schools, not to mention the government supported religious schools.
    C. There is no demonstrated, evidence based need for this service. Hence, by definition, a waste. There are no metrics of success.

    Howard at his wedging, ‘values’ worst. Rudd at his pandering, me tooism worst. Gillard at her cowardly, reformless worst.

  23. OnTheBus

    @ David Irving
    “the chaplaincy program is a waste because there’s much better uses for $200M”

    I would prefer it went on this than double that on set-top boxes for the pensioners.

  24. Paul Burns

    Aw, come on! The school chaplaincy programme teaches the kids not to worry when they leave school, can;t get a job, get knocked up, then get cut off the dole or single parent pension its all okay, cause suffering is good for you and you have to offer it up to God. etc, etcv. Fuck, the last thing the pollies want is an electorate that can think. I mean, remember all those little bastards in the 60s and all the trouble they caused? Don’t want that again!

  25. silkworm

    Grog said:

    The chaplaincy program will be hated by the left (and I mean hated).

    Are we to to read from this that Grog is a Christian? Is Grog from the left or is he trying to appear neutral on this issue? Why is he distancing himself from the left on this? Or is Grog from the religious right and signalling this to his followers? I think Grog should come clean on his religious and political allegiances.

  26. Paul Burns

    No, silkworm, he’s right it will be hated by the left. And so it bloody should be. Its an atrocious waste of money. Meanwhile a piss weak arts minister lets the cuts to the National Gallery, Library, Museum go through. Disgusting!

  27. Paul Norton

    Paul B @24 has prompted me to post this.

  28. Paul Burns

    Glad I was an inspiration. :)

  29. adrian

    You mean we have an arts minister PB? Who would have thought.

  30. David Irving (no relation)

    I agree with OTB about the set top boxes, BTW.

  31. wilful

    Mark, that’s a terribly weak defence for your use of the points. As you implicitly acknowledge, people aren’t in fact doing it tough, no tougher than they ever have. It’s politics, not data. Yet you, along with everyone, continues to pretend that we’re all on struggle street.

    You’ll see that I’ve been careful to acknowledge that tehre are poor people in Australia. However, I can’t really recall when there weren’t. Middle class people (which is what this is all about) think they’re doing it tough, because that’s what tehy’re told, and now you’re part of it, and it’s bullshit and I’m sad you think you have to be part of it.

    Your point (?) about Keen misses the point. That’s some data, but there’s lots of other data out thare that’s relevant too. This budget is in deficit. That’s OK, it’s understandable. This budget ought to get out of deficit in a few years. That’s what the government intends to do, and what is welcomed by just about everyone apart from Keen (and now yourself). keeping the budget in deficit when Australia is growing (at FOUR frigging percent! pretty healthy!) is wrong, it’s not what Keynes suggested.

    Personally I would prefer a sovereign wealth fund and a decent MRRT to get out of deficit, but we’ve been down taht track.

  32. dave

    Work and pray, live on hay, and you’ll get pie when you die…

    that’s a lie!

    Chop some wood, it will do you good :)

    Paul N – I love it!

    Set top boxes and school chaplains, great investments both. Maybe the chaplains could double up as set top box installers and save the government some money.

  33. adrian

    But the valid point that Wilful is making is that for most of the middle class the ‘never done it so tough’ meme is simply incorrect, and by pandering to this lie, commentators and politicians are doing the country a diservice.

    Can’t get my hands on it, but I’m sure that there was a very recent analysis which showed that the majority are actually better off than they were 5 years ago.

  34. snorky

    I just heard ABC Radio National give air time to a spokesperson from the Minerals Council of Australia who bemoans that there were not greater cuts and that, had there been, we would be in surplus already. This from the mob who bayed the loudest in opposition to the original version of the mining tax (the RSPT), which would have raised the revenue which would have contributed mightily towards, guess what, getting us into surplus. Hypocrisy and breathtaking are two words that spring to mind. And dutifully and uncritically reported by our ABC.

  35. jules

    Nice one Paul N

  36. wilful

    Actually Mark, it’s pretty simple. People are either worse, better off, or the same – their feelings are irrelevant on this point. I’ve introduced the only data on this (Ross Gittins), you say that people are worse off than previously, how about you demonstrate that?

    Unemployment is at five percent! GDP growth at four percent! Interest rates are low, coming off historic lows. Inflation is well under control. Waah waah waah, poor middle-class Australia.

  37. Russell

    “the majority are actually better off than they were 5 years ago”

    This could work thus: better off enough to install air-conditioning, and then feeling pressured when the (rising) electricity bills come in.

    People with mortgages have probably been better off because of interests rates having been so low, but they may be feeling apprehensive now that rises are promised.

  38. patrickg

    wilful and patrickg, Kim is spot on about the implications of income distribution. With all due respect, it’s easy enough to think “everything’s fine, people are just whining” when one is on a comfortable income oneself.

    Well, Mark, I’d suggest the onus is on you to demonstrate that people are doing in fact doing it comparatively tougher than in times previous, and how much tougher, and how many people we are talking about.

    I’m not trying to deny that there is an underclass in Australia who are struggling, but there’s little evidence this class is expanding, and there’s no evidence whatsoever (the opposite, in fact) that skyrocketing household debt is being propelled by poverty and privation, for goodness’ sake.

    You say yourself: “the sense of being pressured” – it is a manufactured sense, by and large, manufactured by politicians of both parties, industry, and banks. But the presence of this sense is not evidence for its basis in reality.

  39. Russell

    ” feelings are irrelevant on this point” – but if people feel better off they probably make more committments?

  40. tigtog

    David Abbott at The Punch on the School Chaplains program (he’s not in favour, so may never write there again).

  41. Russell

    ““the sense of being pressured” – it is a manufactured sense”

    Not so sure about that – there’s a trend to make people more self-reliant (eg. with super) because the government ‘can’t afford’ the traditional welfare schemes.

    The various pensions/dole etc will become barely enough to live on. This drives friends of mine to acquire investment properties to fund their retirement because the bills you get these days, just living modestly at home, are much more than they were 30 years ago. So there is that pressure to somehow make enough money to last your lifetime.

    The other big pressure I see on friends is paying for private schooling. True or not, it is perceived as necessary to help get kids into the good universities, and to avoid mixing with ‘problem’ kids. 40 years ago most people were happy enough with the local state school, now about 50% of high school kids are at private schools.

  42. Russell

    Mark – those figures include part-time workers. Many of my colleagues are women who work part-time, and have partners who earn quite a lot.

  43. wilful

    Mark, as both patrick and I have repeatedly acknowledged, we do not deny that there is an underclass in Australia. However we remain to be convinced that this is growing in relative terms, or that the middle classes (to which 99 percent of LPers belong) are in fact doing it tougher than ever before.

    This is not the USA. While tehre have been some small relative increases in the Gini coefficient, in absolute terms all ranks of Australia, apart from the most disposessed outback aborigines, have prospered over the past two decades. People saying otherwise have an agenda. What’s yours?

  44. Mr. Eyesore

    Silkworm @26:
    Greg has stated that he’s a committed Christian. (You need to scroll down to the last few paragraphs.)

    It was in the context of bagging out Eric Abetz for dragging Noah into the climate change debate, so I think it’s safe to say that he’s not a fundie. That, and the fact that I respect the guy’s opinions, caused me to refrain from commenting “was it voluntary, or did it involve men in white coats?” in response to his use of the word ‘committed’.

  45. Russell

    Mark – this one is a bit more up-to-date

    “The headline indicator shows a rise in the real income of low income households between 1997-98 and 2007-08, with their average real equivalised disposable household weekly income increasing by 41% over this period …. While the rise in the indicator may represent progress in an absolute sense, a relative view is also needed to consider changes in community standards which, over time, may raise the expected minimum level of living standards.”

  46. Eric Sykes

    “And the media will go on implicitly believing in the perverse morality of the budget charade; that somehow subsidising bankers with funding and deposit guarantees and charging cheap rents to multi-national mining companies is about advancing capitalism; while paying decent benefits to the least privileged in our community is something we can’t afford. What a circus.”

    Mr Denmore nails it once more I think at:


  47. Senexx

    Mark, I think you have a better handle on the situation than Grog. In fact, I think you’ve got your hand on the right end of the stick and Grog missed the stick altogether. I’m yet to read Eltham’s new piece. So no comment there – yet.

  48. Peter Whiteford


    Some caution should be taken in interpreting income that has been equivalised. What this is shorthand for is “income per equivalent adult”, where the second adult is given lower weighting than the first because of economies of scale, and children cost less than adults.

    The equivalence scale used by the ABS implies that a single person receiving just over $36,000 in 2007-08 was at the median, but for a couple with two children being at the median for the population as a whole would require an income of about $75,000. The actual median income before tax of couples with children was just under $100,000.

  49. Paul Burns

    Tony Abbott reckons the cuts to middle class welfare are class warfare.
    Guess he’d know. He’s been persecuting the unemployed ever since he came into Parliament.

  50. Peter Whiteford

    It’s the most recent survey – I think the next one will be released later this year covering the 2009-10 year.

  51. Jacques de Molay

    Yeah Labor values.

    Making the lives of the long-term unemployed even more unbearable than they already are, kicking people off of the disability pension with a more stringent incapacity test (if it wasn’t already) and sinking the slipper into teenage mums all with less than 5% unemployment something most economists consider “full-employment”.

    Putting aside the disgraceful lack of compassion for the poorest and most vulnerable in society but how they think these people will now decide to vote Labor in future is mind boggling.

  52. akn

    All of this talk about people not struggling is outrageous. How would you like to have to lubricate your own vibrator. Disgraceful. You lefties have no idea.

  53. Razor

    The only thing the ALP values is winning the next election and at the moment they are making a meal of that.

  54. tssk

    They can piss up a rope with this betrayal. I now no longer care that Abbott and his mob would do the same if not worse. At least his mob actually BELIEVE in the shit they want to do.

  55. Doug

    The Government has delivered on a commitment they made on overseas aid and moving it toward 0.5% of GDI.The increase is on target to meet that commitment by 2015-16. Give credit where credit is due. Kevin was behind this commitment and remains behind it

  56. robbo

    Labor values? When did the ALP decide that the most disadvantaged were the favourite kicking toy? When did the ALP become de-facto bible bashers?When did the ALP decide that marginalising the indigenous population and continuing the reviled “intervention” were all ALP policies?

    Oh,now I remember. That would be when the ALP decided that if you can’t beat ’em join ’em. That would be when the current ALP leadership decided to become more tory than the tories. I could go on and on and on ………..

    The only value that this mob now has is win at any cost and that is why those that used to vote labor now vote for the Greens

  57. Mark Bahnisch

    Matt Cowgill has a look at the stats:

    Half of all Australian taxpayers had taxable incomes below $44 222 in 2008-09.

    … and on Peter Whiteford’s point above:

    The median disposable household income for Australia in 2007-08 was $36 082 according to the ABS, and $35 664 according the Melbourne Institute’s HILDA survey.

    This means a single person, living alone, would need around $36 000 in disposable income to sustain the typical Australian’s standard of living. Following a widely-accepted methodology, each additional adult adds $18 000 to this figure, so a childless couple would need a disposable income of $54 000 a year to enjoy a median standard of living. Each child adds $10 800 to this figure.


  58. Giles Anthrax

    Mark @67:

    Thought provoking figures. Disposable of $36K for the household is not eating-lino-for-tea but half are below that.

    I liked the beginnings of the claw back of middle-class welfare. Baby Bonus and any other hand outs should be cut off way below $150K, maybe say $80K.

    Disappointed not to see more R&D/innovation grants and a flamin’ huge investment in Hot Rocks energy. Bloody hell mandatory detention is expensive. $1 billion budgeted for how many ? 2000 or so. Merc’s figures of $500K per person were reasonable figuring.

    The $5000 rebate for a car is a typical Swan non-programme. Why does he keep serving up such dreck. Good to see FBT cut back on cars. That’ll get rid of the blocks-in-the-shed syndrome.

    Agree with prior commenter who said Australia has become a nation of whingers addicted to govt. handouts. The entire white collar workforce seem to think they’re on the verge of starvation. Howard spent the mining boom spraying money around in an extended gala command performance of electoral bribery. So says Costello and he’s correct.

    Would like to see some form of work for the dole. In some places work for the dole was all they had.

    I would like to see middle-class welfare replaced by improvements to public services and amenities: playgrounds, national parks, libraries, swimming pools, bike tracks, conservation of flora and fauna and arts funding.

  59. Labor Outsider

    I’m not sure what the point here is. Most of those stats you are citing mark simply show a long-term reality. The distribution of income is not equal and is skewed such that the median household earns less than the average. No doubt more could be done through the tax-transfer system to narrow the post-tax distribution of income. However, it is also worth pointing out that for almost everyone earning a wage in Australia, real wages have increased substantially over the past decade and are still rising today. The cost of living is always increasing, but inflation is not high by historic standards. You don’t guage cost of living pressures in a general sense from one quarter’s CPI data – especially when that quarter contained a lot of transitory increases. No doubt that many households would like to be getting ahead faster than they are, but wasn’t it ever thus?

  60. Cassia

    The ABS figures cited above exclude numerous income sources such as estimates for cash in hand earnings, which can be considerable for low income earners. When I wanted to make serious headway on my mortgage several years I took in a boarder for example. Practically no-one who does this is silly enough to declare it on their tax return.

    Sure there are pockets of poverty but they have never been smaller than they are today.

  61. Labor Outsider

    Cassia – that depends on whether you are talking in the relative or the absolute sense. In the relative sense that is not true.

  62. Robetbe

    Seen the Herald Sun today? It’s beyond oppositional. Talk about carrying water.

    The Murdoch press is clearly operating a full court press against this budget. Which, given that it is, as one headline writer put it, as tough as tofu, would be pretty funny if the risk that they’ll win the PR battle wasn’t so real.

    One wonders whether they might not have done better to hold their fire until a more opportune momment. I suspect that they may have been feeling a little used as they gave the government a cheer when they leaked the bit about teenage mums. If there is one credo close to their hearts it’s that they want to use rather than being used.

  63. Fran Barlow

    Mark Bahnisch quoted:

    Each child adds $10 800 to this figure.

    I’d be inclined to see this figure as conservative, especially if we are talking about children over about 14. Doubtless if you have three children close in age the per child cost would be smaller than someone with two children 9 years apart in age — (my circumstance for example). The figure for no2 son from 2006-2009 for me would have been in the range of 13-16,000 depending how you do the modelling. Orthodontic work doesn’t come cheap.

    That said the broader point — that families on 150k, while not rich in the normal understanding of the term, are not, by and large, on struggle street is fair (there might be exceptions in cases where one or more children are high care needs kids). This is particularly so if both wage earners are on about the same share of that 150k since both get the benefit of the threshold/low margins. Of course, a family where one income earner gets 150k while the other doesn’t work does have some very obvious and attractive options in boosting household income not available to two median income earners.

    Really though, if the single community is to cross subsidise the wellbeing of households with children, I’d prefer that be done as programs of means-tested general service provision, (high quality long day care, free quality public education, provision of cheap medical, dental and other child services etc.)

    [Fran, you didn’t close the italics tag. I’ve done where I guessed you meant – Brian]

  64. dave

    In Australia, we have a God-given open door to children and young people with the Gospel, our federal and state governments allow us to take the Christian faith into our schools and share it. We need to go and make disciples

    Thanks god (and the ALP).


  65. Paul Burns

    And Garret’s reply:
    AW, they shouldn’t do that. We’ll have to investigate.
    That speech was made about a year ago, I think, and they’re just investigating now?
    What Garret’s reply should have been was:
    Fuck you! We’ll shut down the programme today!

  66. Brian

    Adrian @ 35 said:

    Can’t get my hands on it, but I’m sure that there was a very recent analysis which showed that the majority are actually better off than they were 5 years ago.

    Adrian, a couple of days ago I heard an interview with a bloke from NATSEM. They had compared how well people were doing in net terms in 2010 as against 2005. Overall it was 15% better, with only one major group missing out, namely single mums. I understand benefits for single mums have been increased as well as hassling them into work (which I deplore).

    Madonna King suggested that we are a mob of whingers then. The NATSEM bloke said you have to remember that expectations have grown and people have expanded their lifestyles. He also said that the figures for what’s cheaper and more expensive had moved around quite dramatically in the various segments. So many don’t do as well depending on how they are placed.

    I think the links that Mark gave @ 67 and the earlier one are quite telling. I’d suggest that households in the bottom 70% tend not to be finding things easy. Many ran up too much debt in the Howard years and many are assiduously paying down debt in the face of expected interest rate rises and rising utility costs, not to mention employment uncertainty.

    But also expectations have expanded and always do. I was 6 years old when we got a kerosene refrigerator, about 8 when we got a telephone (party line) 9 when we got a motor vehicle (a second hand ’26 Dodge) 11 when we got 24v electricity, late teenage when TV came to Australia and in my late 20s when we first purchased a set on hire purchase over 4 years. Colour TV came 20 years later. When I went to university in the 60s I had three casual shirts that lasted me the 3 years (we always wore a shirt 2 days back then).

    Along the way I remember thinking that people on the dole who had a roof over their heads, food on the table, a phone, a refrigerator, but no TV were doing just fine.

    The real disgrace now is that people who are upper middle class, going on rich, are being portrayed as victims by the MSM and the Opposition maniacs.

  67. wbb

    If we sit around disucssing whether or not median wage earners are doing it tough, then we are falling hook and line for Abbott’s propaganda.

    There is no self-respecting political narrative that can defeat Abbott’s relentless populism. Sometimes politics is very simple. Now is one of those times. We are burdened with a politician who is prepared to plumb any depth to achieve power. The wonder is that Australia has been spared this phenomenon for much of the last few decades. We are soon to have our very own Berlusconi.

    Don’t fret about Swan or Wong or Gillard or Rudd or the Age of Spin etc. It’s nothing do with any of that. It’s about Abbott and his pitch perfect populism in an era when the issues of climate change and global economics are way beyond the comprehension of the vast majority of voters.