economy

Since its November 20 election triumph, the administration of Spanish Popular Party (PP) Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has launched such a blitzkrieg of neoliberal policies, less democratic rights, state centralism and conservative social values that at times it seems as if the country has gone back 40 years in four weeks.

Rajoy’s is not just one more example of a new government breaking promises due to “shocking revelations” that its predecessors had left the cupboard bare. (That old ruse has already led to public sector salary cuts of up to €500 a month.)

Media watchers should be forgiven for a degree of confusion over statements by federal treasurer and deputy prime minister Wayne Swan in the past two weeks.

He began the month with a Press Club address, published in The Monthly’s March edition titled “The 0.01%” where he attacked “the rising power of vested interests” — naming mining magnates Clive Palmer, Andrew Forrest and Gina Rinehart — for “undermining our equality and threatening our democracy”.

Workers and their unions need strong labour law reforms. Two of many changes I urge can be adopted by the Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work in Australia and the federal government’s Fair Work Act Review are:

1. Amend the Fair Work Act to repeal the penal powers and have an effective right to strike.

2. Amend the Fair Work Act to restrict casual and other forms of precarious work to a limited period. Then require employment contracts for ongoing, more permanent work. Fair Work Australia should have the power to order the transition to more secure employment contracts.

There is a growing disconnect between the official rosy picture of the Australian economy and mounting public anxiety about job insecurity. The latest official unemployment rate (January 2012) was steady at 5.2% and Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson insists there is no reason to worry. Australians, he said, should shake off their misplaced “boom with gloom” attitude.

Greek unions launched a two-day general strike on February 10 against new extreme austerity measures the “troika” of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Union is seeking to impose on the southern European nation. The deal will give Greece a new “bail-out” worth 130 billion euros (A$161 billion) in return for fresh spending cuts.

Amid ongoing street protests and building occupations, the Greek cabinet approved the deal on February 10. Six cabinet members resigned in protest. Greek parliament was scheduled to vote on the deal on the evening of February 12.

Renewing Sydney’s train fleet is far too important a matter to be left to the “free” market. On February 6 the NSW government announced it was going to pay $175 million in 2018 to bail out the failed Reliance Rail syndicate that has been contracted to build and maintain the new Waratah commuter trains for Sydney’s CityRail network.

It's another failed Public Private Partnership (PPP), meaning more public money is poured into the coffers of financiers and speculators.

A vast icy pool of Siberian air, the coldest in 50 years, settled over all Europe in late January. At least 150 people without shelter were killed.

Yet the suffering from this extreme cold snap will be nothing compared with that of the economic ice age now threatening to entomb Europe’s most vulnerable economies.

Over the past fortnight southern Europe’s growth prospects have become increasingly wintry:

US gangster Al Capone once said: “Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class.” 19th century US president Thomas Jefferson said: “Banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.”

These quotes capture the bastard nature of the dangerous racket that is the Australian banking cartel.

See also:
Socialist candidate says fight private bank ripoffs

As you read these words, disaster may be about to strike in the galloping crisis of the European financial system and the euro. Or it may not — yet.

On November 30, the imminent threat of a banking system implosion stirred the European Central Bank (ECB), the US Federal Reserve, Bank of England and central banks of Japan, Canada and Switzerland, into taking the minimum action needed to prevent a “Lehman Brothers event” collapsing the European financial system.

After months of relentless propaganda by mining companies and the corporate media, the idea of taxing the super profits of the big mining companies remains a popular measure. Recent Essential Research polling said 51% support such a tax (up from 50% since July 2010). Opposition to it rose from 28% to 33%.

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