Joe Hockey is upbeat. He has to be. Disingenuous frauds have no other choice. For a government that prides itself on having economic management ‘in its DNA,’ a government forever banging on like the proverbial empty vessel about jobs and growth, the truth hurts.
Unemployment is up 0.5% from July and a year ago while growth is almost at a standstill according to the ABS June 2015 quarter National Accounts. A slow-down in mining and construction and a 3% decline in exports have reduced the economy’s growth to 0.2% or half the predicted rate.
Unemployment is up 0.5% since July bringing the real unemployment to 9.2% and rising says Roy Morgan.
There are new jobs, of course. Yet the 3000,000 new jobs Coalition MPs boast that the federal government has ‘created,’ are not enough to meet an expanding workforce. Nor did they create many of them. Apart from the recently hiring of a mob of ABF recruits or in the case of creating a wind farm commissioner, or paying the crew of people-smuggling boat to turn back to Indonesia the ultra-right Abbott government does not create jobs.
It’s just the opposite. As CPSU National Secretary points out the coalition has been quick to save on its wages bill by sacking masses of public servants and by chiselling away at the quality of work available to those who retain a job .
“The Abbott Government has slashed 17,300 public sector jobs since taking office and now it’s going after the conditions, rights and take-home wages of 160,000 Australians who work in the public sector.”
Infected by tea party rhetoric about ‘small government’ and keen to cut expenditure where they can, the coalition has slashed public service jobs and clamped down on even modest wage increases. The flow-on effects as workers and their families must suddenly make do with a loss of income, not to mention the incalculable costs to well-being add significantly to the slowing of the economy.
Public service cuts are sold by the treasurer and ‘economies’, ‘savings’ and even productivity dividends. Beneath the bullshit, workers struggle to complete projects with fewer colleagues to assist; morale plummets; efficiency declines.
Perhaps the false economy of cutbacks explains the recent catastrophic failures of the Department of the Environment to perform due diligence in the required environmental studies for the Carmichael Mine or their failing to do any study at all in the scandalous Tiwi Port project which has been built without any environmental consideration whatsoever. Certainly, a reality-denying, ideologically-driven culture in cabinet does not help. Hockey is a major repeat offender.
Nominal GDP grew at 1.8% for the year, according to the ABS, its weakest growth rate since 1961-2, a comment which the Treasurer seems unwilling to accept., arguing that it is in line with ‘over-arching expectations’ and a target of 2.5%. Hockey bluffs that the figures ‘bounce around’ a bit when what he has in front of him is not bouncing but steadily declining. The government likes to apply the same spin to its consistent and continuing record decline in 27 straight opinion polls. No-one is deceived.
It’s about as bad as it gets without turning into a recession, an event defined by two successive quarters of negative growth. We are not there yet. But everything is going to plan, according to our Treasurer. Plan? Recession-led community security? We can hardly wait.
Hockey shrugs off suggestions that the high points of the National Accounts data, are part of his plan. Government spending on three new warships has helped tipped growth into a marginally positive territory. Total government spending increased by 3.4% also contributed to delivering growth of 0.2%.
Yet for Hockey this one positive is to be explained away. ‘It wasn’t planned that way,’ he says of the three warships. Sadly he and his government are wedded to government cuts – austerity. It is against his religion, his neo-con ideology to concede any evidence that state investment in the right projects could be part of any plan to support economic activity in challenging times.
The same windmills which Hockey finds ugly on his drive past Lake George are a solution staring him and his Prime Minister in the kisser. A government lead in boosting Australia’s renewable energy industry would be a prudent investment in job creation and in longer term benefits to the economy and environment. Its attacks on the renewable energy industry, sadly expose its lack of vision.
The coal-powered coalition needs to get over its ideological block towards Keynsian economic investment; its mindless opposition to alternative energy and go cold turkey on coal. It cannot afford to continue its servile protection of a fossil-fuel industry not only heading for history’s dustbin itself, but likely to take us with it.
In the end the current account figures reveal some concerning trends which call for more than head-shaking. Hockey needs to abandon his pretence that we are still ‘on trend’. His government needs to get its blinkers off, wake up to itself and take the lead. Intervene. Subsidise solar and wind. Instead of wasting money we don’t have to prop up a dying coal industry, we don’t need and can’t afford.
Put some money into industries with a future. Create jobs and export opportunities. Harness Aussie ingenuity. Build a clean future. If that’s all too hard, then get out of the way. Make way for someone who can. But stop pretending, please.