Thursday, 20 April 2017

The last refuge(e) of the scoundrel and the bigot

Changes to immigration and refugee policy always have been the last refuge of the scoundrel or the bigot. Rarely are such changes anything but reactionary, designed to engineer a bump in the polls and "send a signal" (i.e dog whistle) to a specific portion of the electorate.
And so it is the case with Malcolm Turnbull's latest policy "leak" announcing a tightening of Australia's citizenship process.

It's been observed before, but this arguably marks the complete disappearance of the leather-jacketed Turnbull beloved by most Australians of the centre...and many Labor supporters. The erudite classical liberal Turnbull has been subsumed by an ugly combination of John Howard and Tony Abbott in a better suit. Like Darth Vader, "he's more [Liberal Party] machine now than man. Twisted and evil."

But he has a problem. The people he is trying to appeal to, the folks who think that hearing a foreign language on the street is tantamount to an "invasion", simply don't trust him. Even with all of his lurches to the right, they still ultimately view Turnbull as a latte-swilling inner-city leftie. Besides, these people get their jollies from people like Hanson, and even if he wore a tiny moustache, red and black armband and brown tunic, Turnbull could never satisfy their needs.

Turnbull's greatest weapon could have been his wide appeal — that frightened Labor silly when he won the leadership — but this has now been all but scuppered, and is entirely of his own making.

Rudd found himself in a similar position before the 2013 election. Seeking to close down refugee policy as an election issue, he tried to outflank the right by announcing no refugees who arrived by boat would be resettled in Australia. It's doubtful he gained even a single vote by being a part of the "lurch to the right" on immigration policy he had previously argued strongly against. He sold out his principles and, perhaps unsurprisingly, voters didn't think more of him. All it allowed was the then-opposition and next government to wave inhumane policy through without debate and without an effective opposition. And didn't it just work out so well for Rudd and Labor in 2013...

Is there anyone who seriously thinks gaining Australian citizenship is easy? Well, yes, otherwise Turnbull wouldn't be embarking on this course. But like those who think citizenship comes in a cereal box are informed by A Current Affair. They're told how dem imgrints get more than poor old granny from Centrelink, with none of their beliefs actually supported by evidence. So basically we have policy, in conjunction with the 457 visa announcement, that exists not to address serious issues, but designed solely to manage the incorrect and often xenophobic beliefs of a few. So much for leadership.

Changes to immigration and refugee policy always have been the last refuge of the scoundrel or the bigot. Voters now have to decide which one Turnbull is.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

With Friends Like These...

The business lobby's tone deaf response to Mark Kenny's entirely story about the groups' offices being shut on a Sunday demonstrates why they're going to lose — if they haven’t already lost — the battle over penalty rates.

The lobby groups and their acolytes got their knickers in a knot over the story, saying that as a professional group and not a service provider, there was no demand for them on a weekend and were thus shut. This is true, but it completely misses the point of the story.

Their response misses the optics — as PR flacks are fond of saying — of the situation, which is that those who are so very eager to cut weekend penalty rates value their own Saturday–Sunday weekends. This was the point that Kenny admitted he was trying to make. He succeeded, even if his targets didn't get the hint.  Some labelled Kenny's story a "stunt", while others continued the habit of scoring own goals,  criticising the story by saying "it's called a normal working week, duh“, to which Kenny replied "exactly".

The blindness to these optics means business groups have lost this battle before it has begun, even if they had "masses" of evidence to support their dubious claims (they don’t). They try to blame the SDA — whose agreements have often reduced penalty rates in exchange for higher base rates of pay — not realising the old adage that two wrongs don’t make a right. Some have tried to insult workers by saying they’re “lucky” to have a job and should go without penalties entirely. Basically every negative sentiment workers feels about employers is being confirmed.

It’s very difficult for captains of industry large and small to claim victimhood at any time, let alone when profits in some sectors are at record highs, trust in business is low and they’re campaigning for even more funds from the public purse by way of company tax cuts. Trying victimhood on for size while advocating slashing the take home pay of their lowest remunerated workers is not a good look. Combine this with an almost sociopathic disregard for the effect of pay cuts on workers, and you've got a battle that's already lost for employers.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Closed Sundays

closed sign
Shameless cliche of a stock photo from Wikipedia Commons — https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Artaxerxes

You really have to question the PR and business acumen of Australia's most egregious rentseekers. Completely predictably, Fairfax's Mark Kenny spent a few minutes on Sunday afternoon calling some of Australia's peak business lobby groups.

Surprise, surprise, no one picked up. These offices were closed on Sunday. I guess the 24/7 economy is a case of "do what I say, not what I do".

This Sunday silence goes to the heart of the hypocrisy of those loudest voices in favour of cutting the take home pay of our poorest remunerated workers. The weekend is still special to them.

Perhaps just to get a taste of weekend work, the lobby groups' phones can redirect to the mobiles of their respective CEOs. It might interrupt their day in the MCG corporate box hobnobbing with all the other knobs, but it might help them understand why Sunday isn't just another day.

If nobody in their offices has the skills to redirect their phones, then I'd be happy to teach them for a fee on Sundays.

Monday, 6 March 2017

President Trumble cites #fakestats. Sad!

President Trumble has gone on the attack, claiming there are "masses of evidence" to support claims that penalty rate cuts will lead to more jobs.
Sadly, this mass of evidence was not presented at the Fair Work Commission hearings into penalty rates. Nor were the Treasury Secretary or the Treasurer, it would seem, appraised of this evidence. Instead, on penalty rates, the Coalition Opposition-in-Exile has been mumbling about "independent umpires" and blaming Bill Shorten for everything.
The Opposition-in-Exile is like the dog who has caught its own tail and has absolutely no idea what to do with it. For years, some in the Liberal Party have been complaining about penalty rates as a handbrake on employment without providing any evidence (aside from spectacular own-goal anecdotes about business owners who want to put more workers on Sunday because the owners want to spend time at home with the family).
Now they've got their desired cut and they are disowning it as quickly as possible. The government expecting the egregious rentseekers of the business lobby group world to do the heavy lifting selling the case for a penalty rate cut. Sadly they are about the Coalition's least reliable suppprts, condemning the government on inaction, then staying silent when action takes place.

Could it be there simply is no evidence to suggest "more jobs" will be the ultimate outcome of "less pay"? Hands up if you've worked in a business where a colleague has left and not been replaced? [my hand is up].
Years of deregulation and wholehearted embrace by all of the good and bad of economic liberalism has brought first hand experience to employees that employers aren't really interested in creating jobs, they're interested in creating profit. Not a criticism, just a fact. If more profit can be created through more jobs, then great, more jobs come. But nine times out of ten, existing workers are saddled with a higher workload while employers pocket the difference.

So what about those "masses of evidence"? Simply put, they don't exist. No evidence of the sort — certainly not "masses" — was put before the Fair Work Commission and no labour market expert takes such claims seriously. All cuts to penalty rates will do will make the lowest paid tighten their belts even further — a latte at the cafe in the morning before work replaced by a Blend 43 in the tea room; a lunch break focaccia in the food court replaced by a Vegemite sandwich brought from home. These are the likely outcomes. In an age when the twin pains of youth unemployment and underemployment are on the increase, it'd be nice to see the government help those under 30 for once, instead of actively harming them.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

T minus 4 Years


Donald Trump was sworn in as President overnight in an inauguration that was bleak and miserable as the weather in Washington D.C.

Despite the inevitable forthcoming Twitter protestations to the contrary, crowd numbers were down substantially on the past two inaugurations. Anti-Trump protests abounded in the city, with reports of some damage to shops and property.

Those expecting the new President to strike a conciliatory tone in line with the loftiness of the event were sorely disappointed. Trump basically reaffirmed the worst of his campaign sloganeering, telling the world he's going to govern for the anxieties and worst excesses of White America.

Mine — and most of the world's — only hope is that if this is to mark the end of Pax Americana, they do so with a whimper rather than a bang.