We don’t trust the major parties for good reasons

May 30, 2024
Used with permission from Alan Moir, moir.com.au

The post-budget approval ratings for Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Opposition leader Peter Dutton are both in negative territory, according to opinion polls.

Roy Morgan snap polls showed more people distrust, rather than trust, both Albanese (net distrust score -3) and Dutton (-14) since late last year. Dutton was distrusted from even earlier.

Most people are not buying the Labor government’s promise to address the severe cost-of-living crisis and they don’t think the Coalition would either.

According to Melbourne University researcher Adam Beaumont in The Conversation, the budget “scored a net zero on economic impact,” but most voters thought the Coalition would not have delivered a better one.

As for addressing the climate emergency, Labor’s “Future Made In Australia” plan is a lot of talk about making Australia a “renewable energy super-power”. But it serves as cover for its decision to green-light even more gas mining for export — which will accelerate global warming.

Dr Jennifer Rayner, Climate Council Head of Policy and Advocacy, described the budget’s climate impact as “more Back to the Future than Future Made in Australia”.

“Australia is already using less gas, so the suggestion we need more of it sounds like Scott Morrison’s ‘gas-led recovery’, not Anthony Albanese’s ‘renewable energy superpower’,” she said.

“More gas means more climate pollution and a more dangerous future, it’s that simple. The Albanese Government has a choice: cut climate pollution and seize the decade by scaling up clean energy, or support new gas projects. It can’t do both.”

Dutton tried to score some populist cheap points off Labor’s Future Made In Australia plan by pointing out, correctly, that it is yet another way of handing out billions of dollars in “tax cuts for billionaires”.

But every major infrastructure plan put forward in the past four decades — under Coalition and Labor governments alike — has been based on huge subsidies and tax concessions for the corporate rich. This bipartisan policy accounts for most of the federal government’s $897 billion gross debt.

Dutton’s proposal to promote nuclear power instead of renewable energy would inevitably involve massive corporate subsidies and concessions.

According to the ABC’s Annabel Crabb, recent polling shows that: “The only demographics showing real enthusiasm for nuclear power were Coalition voters, those aged over 65, those who earn more than $3,000 a week, and those who own their own home. In each of these instances, every other group was [in] majority opposed.”

Both major parties govern in the interest of the billionaire class and Dutton has not the slightest intention to change this.

Wages suppressed, housing unattainable

Neither Labor nor the Coalition question the policy, loyally followed by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), of making the working class shoulder the burden of inflation.

Real wages have been systematically suppressed and the recent slight uptake in average real wages only takes them back to 2011 levels.

Restrictions on the right to strike and organise — spearheaded under earlier Labor governments — and the widespread casualisation of work means that workers are kept so insecure that real wage gains are not made even when there are relative labour shortages.

Neither Labor or the Coalition want to end the billions of dollars in subsidies handed to landlords and property developers each year. Neither do they intend to stop the erosion of public housing. Both these policies have created the housing crisis.

Housing prices and rents are continuing their upward spiral in both regional and capital cities, according to the latest reports from CoreLogic.

A whole generation is being locked out of affordable housing, yet Labor and the Coalition are ruling out proposals from the Greens for rent controls and more public housing.

Even families who have managed to start buying a home are experiencing surging mortgage hardship rates.

A May report by the Australia Securities and Investment Commission revealed that, in the last quarter of 2023, “there was a 54% increase in the number of hardship notices related to home loans compared with the same period in 2022”.

Labor’s budget implied that families struggling to service their home mortgages could have some relief by the end of this year. It predicted inflation would fall to between 2–3% and the RBA would then lower interest rates.

However, the RBA does not expect this to happen until late 2025. Its board predicted in May a near-term rise in inflation before it gradually falls.

Another solidly bi-partisan policy fuelling the cost-of-living crisis is the unwillingness to stop the big corporations that monopolise all sectors of the economy from using their market power to profiteer by hiking up prices.

There has been ample proof that the energy companies and the supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths have been doing this, but no serious action has been taken to stop it.

While there has been some public discussion about policies that are driving up the costs of living, another highly inflationary policy gets little mention: the huge rise in military spending, which, again, both Labor and the Coalition support. 

Military spending drives inflation

Major party MPs constantly echo the big business’ mantra that public spending on social services could add to inflation. But somehow this argument is never applied to military spending, or to big business subsidies and concessions.

The late Marxist economist Ernest Mandel explained that in the 1970s, military spending was the “fundamental cause of permanent inflation” because, while it adds to purchasing power, unlike other spending it does not create socially useful products that could absorb the extra purchasing power.

The only way large arms spending would not be inflationary is if governments pay for it entirely through increased taxation. But Labor’s budget makes it very clear that the huge rise it projects to military spending over the next decade — to pay for AUKUS nuclear-powered submarines and long-range missiles — will be funded through borrowing.

This will put future budgets into multi-billion-dollar deficits and take gross debt over the trillion dollar mark.

Military spending in the 1970s (driven by the previous Cold War) was a major contributor to inflation and stagflation (inflation combined with recession). Economists are concerned that we may be seeing the return of stagflation. Already in Australia, people are feeling the pain of a deepening per capita recession (expressed in the fall in real wages) simultaneously with price inflation.

The consistently pro-big business policies of the major parties and their political spin to manipulate fear and insecurity is fostering deep and sustained public distrust. They are constantly gaslighting the public about inflation.

Treasury polling shows that trust in government dropped into negative territory in 2012 and it is still there.

Younger people’s distrust of government and the major parties runs even deeper.

Alternative paths to politics: How young people engage in politics in Australia, a newly-released Australian National University study commissioned by the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, found:

• Young people have substantially less trust in all levels of government than the general population.

• Nearly 9-in-10 young people (86%) say that the federal government is not representative of their perspectives or values. About 7-in-10 say the same about their state or territory government (72%) and local council (69%).

• The climate emergency is young people’s top concern, followed by First Nations rights, housing, consent education, paid-parental leave, the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, workplace conditions, gender equality, access to education, corporate political donations, disability inclusion, cost of living, healthcare funding and the war in Gaza.

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