The Republic of Ireland’s financial crisis, which has caused unemployment to rise from 4.3% in 2006 to 14.1% in October, has deep roots. The conditions of the European Central Bank (ECB)/International Monetary Fund (IMF) “bailout” package for the Irish government will total €85 billion — at a higher interest rate than that tied to the Greek bailout in May. It is tied to the Irish government carrying out huge government spending cuts, tax rises for workers and wage cuts for public sector employees. Irish workers are being told to pay for a crisis they did not cause.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Economic Survey of Australia, released on November 15, called for an increase in the rate and scope of the goods and services tax (GST) and a cut in business taxes. The rich countries’ economic club also called for higher road tolls, greater labour productivity and a price on carbon. The OECD’s annual survey congratulated the Labor government for avoiding recession during the global financial crisis but also demanded it undertake further “structural reforms to strengthen productivity”.
The Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) released by treasurer Wayne Swann on November 9 shows that Labor is betting on the minerals boom continuing. While admitting that the global economy remains tenuous, and that the whole house of cards could collapse, it has no “plan B”. “The update forecasts strong growth, falling unemployment and a big pipeline of investment that’s gathering momentum”, Swann said.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard knew just who she was talking to when she gave her address to the Australian Industry Group’s annual dinner on October 25. The AIG and its affiliates represent more than 60,000 bosses, according to its website. This includes Veolia, the privatisation juggernaut. But just so she didn’t rustle too many feathers, Gillard spoke to them in the kind of arcane riddles she hoped only they could understand.
Review by Graham Matthews
Capitalism and Workers’ Struggle in China By Chris Slee Resistance Books, Sydney, 2010, $5 www.resistancebooks.com China enters the 21st century as something of an enigma.
The Australian dollar has become a favourite for international currency speculators. Fuelled by expectations of rising interest rates, the A$ has increased in value from US$0.82 in June, to almost $0.98 on October 12. Some expect the $A could surpass the value of the US$ in coming weeks.
After a month of thundering that a rise in the official interest rate was close, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has kept interest rates on hold at its monthly board meeting on October 5. Most financial commentators were betting on a rate rise of 0.25%, with banks expected to increase their mortgage rates by an even larger margin, despite their record profits, to account for higher costs of borrowing overseas. However, the dark financial clouds over Europe and the US appear to have put the kibosh on the financiers’ party.
We’re told that Australia is an egalitarian country. Our prime minister is a working-class migrant girl made good, while her predecessor was raised in regional Queensland by a single mother after the early death of his father. Anything is possible; our origins need not hold us back. A new report, linking health outcomes with social status, casts doubt on this. It concludes that those born poor are more likely to live in poor health during adulthood, and to die younger.
Voters’ stunning rejection of both major parties has left neither likely to form a government in its own right. Whichever party governs, it will have to rely on the support of at least three and probably four independents, with Andrew Wilkie's chance of taking Denison from Labor firming.
Lesser evilism — whereby one votes for a party defensively, because at least they are not as bad as the alternative — is a three-card trick that the Labor Party is very skilled at using. In this election campaign, the very real threat of a Tony Abbott Coalition government is allowing Labor to establish the framework of a very harsh second term while scaring voters with the warning that the alternative would be even worse.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s catch phrase for this election is "sustainable". No longer, according to Gillard, should we look to a big Australia, but a "sustainable" population. In a speech in western Sydney on July 21, Gillard emphasised the squeeze on health services, transport, roads and infrastructure. She hinted her "sustainable population" mantra would ease the squeeze. Apart from rhetoric largely designed to pander to irrational fears of immigrants and prejudices against asylum seekers, Labor has failed to explain what it means by "sustainable".
The Parramatta Climate Action Network (ParraCAN) staged a series of rolling protests outside New South Wales state government ministers offices calling for no new coal The NSW state government is planning to construct two new coal-fired power stations, which will increase the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 15%. ParraCAN is circulating a petition calling for the prohibition of the construction of new coal-fired power stations; the development of a phase-out plan for coal; and that the state government support job creation in renewable industries.
Mortgage rates, we are told, are at historical lows. And yet, according to The experience of Mortgage Distress in Western Sydney report released in June by the University of Western Sydney, some mortgage holders are finding it so hard to pay, they are reduced to eating nothing but rice. The study sought to investigate the impact of mortgage distress as experienced by individual households. The accepted definition of mortgage stress centres on the borrower being in payment arrears of 90 days or more. The UWS study argues that this definition is not broad enough.
In one of her first policy changes after replacing Kevin Rudd as leader of the Labor Party, Prime Minister Julia Gillard dumped Rudd’s idea of a “big Australia”. On June 26, Gillard said “Australia should not hurtle down the track towards a big population”. Instead, she called for a “sustainable population”. Almost four weeks on, however, Labor’s policy has no details — just lots of rhetoric designed to pander to fears that immigration (particularly asylum seekers) is causing a raft of social problems.
In her speech to the National Press Club on July 15, Prime Minister Julia Gillard threw down the gauntlet to the labour movement. In a speech outlining the plans for a second-term Labor government, Gillard promised to run a regime of “reforms” that would entrench greater competition and privatisation. There should remain little doubt about Gillard’s intentions. Her speech was aimed directly at the wallets of big business.
The New South Wales government welcomed figures released by the state transport department on June 28 showing a slight increase in the proportion of trips taken by public transport in NSW over the 2008/09 year. “In 2008/09 travel by train increased by 3.1 per cent and travel by bus grew by 2.4 per cent whilst car trips fell by 0.8 per cent”, the government website said.