Tag: Coalition policies

Who really invested in jobs and growth? An economic comparison of Australian Prime Ministers.


If you’re looking to make an informed vote based on economic strength this Saturday, here are some numbers worth looking at. The Australia Institute has released a paper analysing the economic performance of Australian governments from Menzies onward.

Independent and non-partisan research organisation The Australia Institute released a new research paper, ‘Jobs and growth… and a few hard numbers‘, illustrating the economic performance of Australian prime ministers across a broad range of economic indicators.
The Coalition’s constant reminder of Labor’s ability to take a government budget in clear surplus and turn it into deficit and debt (as Rudd did following Howard*) seems to have resonated with the Australian public. Polls show the Coalition leads public trust in economic matters, but how much of that is influenced by political spin, and who do the numbers support for ‘best economic management’?

Here are some highlights of the report.

* Note that while the Howard government passed a surplus to Rudd (that he famously destroyed and put the government into debt), the debt was accumulated in the roll out of Rudd’s stimulus packages during the global financial crisis.  And what is a budget surplus if not unallocated funds to cushion a country in unexpected economic crisis? That is precisely what Rudd did, and may have been the best economic management the country has seen—ever.
On innovation investment growth:
The investment of the Abbott/Turnbull governments for innovation is less than that of the Rudd and Gillard governments. The Coalition’s claim that they are the masterminds behind a more innovative Australia is branding at best. By dollars invested, the ALP was leading this as far back as Rudd.
On business investment growth:
Once again, the LNP under Abbott/Turnbull fails to put its money where its mouth is. For a party that claims to support ‘jobs and growth’ by investing in business, it’s a little worrying to see the lowest business investment numbers since the Whitlam government. Interestingly, the Gillard government comes out on top here, followed by Howard and his lauded surplus.

On GDP per capita growth:
Only the Rudd government performed worse than the Abbott/Turnbull duo in this category. Remembering that both governments have been victims of difficult economic times, you might be ready to shrug it off. The Gillard government’s result matches Abbott/Turnbull at 1.1% a year each—so where exactly does this idea that the ALP under Gillard was worse at economic management come from?

It’s nothing more than warping the interpretation of statistics to claim that Rudd ‘failed in economic management’ because the numbers reflect the initial hit of the GFC, and his spend-more response.

On jobs and wages growth:
Of particular interest to those of you who like to eat, and who need the money to invest in food to indulge in the luxury of eating: wages growth has suffered under the Abbott/Turnbull government.

Falling from 1.2% per year under Gillard to -0.6 per year under the Coalition. Personal income growth fell from 0.7% to 0.3% per year. This doesn’t look much like ‘jobs and growth’. This looks more like ‘underpaid and starving’.

Remember that in this time, while wages are falling, living expenses are still inflating. The average postage stamp costs $1 and public transport fares increase every January 1st. Wages should be growing to support those costs, not shrinking.

On household debt growth:
This is where it gets scary. This is where we see the sort of ‘growth’ Abbott/Turnbull have really shared with the Australian public.

The Gillard government saw the fall of household debt growth from 1.5% pts per year to 0.9% pts per year. Rudd had already drastically reduced that number from Howard’s 4.3% pts per year. In the short time of the Coalition’s rule, Gillard’s 0.9% has become 5.5% pts per year.
The Coalition, though allegedly committed to reducing government debts, seems to be doing so at the cost of households.
Record low wages and income growth coupled with record increase in household debt. Not really something you’d want to boast about. 

On allegedly reducing government debt:
So there’s some numerical support here. Some. Under Rudd, government debt growth hit a record 3.3% pts per year. As noted at the top of the article, a large chunk of that growth was in response to the global financial crisis, and a government that was determined to out-spend economic disaster.
It was Gillard who saw this come down to 2.3% pts per year, and Abbott/Turnbull have so far only succeeded in reducing this to 2.2% pts per year. Achievement, or the result of a trend started before they took power? Either way, to claim that the Coalition is better at managing finances than the ALP is like trying to claim that five twenty cent coins is better than a dollar coin.

On the GDP and economic growth:
If you look at the numbers as they’re typically presented (by average GDP growth per year), you’d be fooled into thinking that Rudd was a terrible economic manager. Abbott/Turnbull are too willing to boast their 2.60% growth against Rudd’s 2.17%, though they notably forget that Gillard tops the three recent governments with a growth of 2.75%. Essentially, GDP growth has stalled since the Coalition came into power, and that is not what they would have us believe.

To look at the numbers a different way, and the way they perhaps should be measured, is to compare those growth rates against the rest of the world–against the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development or OECD. This gives a picture of how each government performed against other countries during the same economic period.

That is, Rudd’s performance against other governments faced with the GFC, Howard’s performance in relatively stable times, etc. To compare governments directly with each other is somewhat unfair, as they each faced different situations in global economics.

This data, displayed by the percentage above the average GDP percentage growth across the OECD tells a vastly different story than a comparison of Australian governments to each other ever will.

Abbott/Turnbull sits just 0.62% above the average OECD GDP, behind Howard (honoured alleged economic mastermind) and his 0.85% above. Gillard shows in at 1.04% above (yes, performing better globally in her time in office than Abbott/Turnbull has in theirs), but is eclipsed by Rudd who saw 2.89% above the falling OECD GDP. Australia grew stronger economically while the world struggled not to grind to a halt.

Part of that? The Labor government under Rudd utilising the budget surplus (and then some) to keep the economy moving. The big ‘economic mis-management’ that Abbott/Turnbull love to trot out under the terms ‘government over-spending’ and ‘increased debt’. Did Rudd spend too much? Possibly. We will never really know what the minimum spend would have been to keep Australia rolling during the crisis.

What we do know, is that we saw growth in that period. The measures saw results.


Turnbull would have you believe that Australia is headed toward a stronger economy with more ‘jobs and growth’.
However, the numbers on prior performance indicate that the only ‘jobs’ we will see are going to be underpaid, and ‘growth’ is likely to be in household debt.
To claim that Turnbull and the Coalition are more equipped to handle Australia’s economy than the ALP is laughable at best, and certainly not supported by the data in this report.


Marriage equality plebiscite: expensive and expected to fail?

‘This plebiscite is being set up to fail. We’re being played.’ article by Matt Akersten inspired the following comments.

How the plebiscite will be counted, and what determines a ‘win’ is incredibly important information. It will determine the type and level of campaigning needed.

Why campaigning? Isn’t this an issue of personal beliefs?

Well, yes. It is. No one wants to see campaigning on this issue, because it’s going to get ugly. It’s going to get personal. It’s most likely going to damage some of the most vulnerable citizens in Australia: those who already struggle with being accepted by the wider community.

Think if someone took a core aspect of yourself, and aggressively campaigned against your right to be that way.

This doesn’t just apply to votes against marriage equality, either. Voters for can be just as aggressive in their tactics, attacking religion (another closely held part of some people) as being wrong and influencing ‘wrong attitudes’. Whatever you believe on the issues of homosexuality or religion, I think we can all agree that no one deserves to be attacked in that way.

But it will happen, and depending on how the plebiscite is counted, it will need to happen. Why? Because the outcome will be decided by the vast majority: people who are absolutely indifferent to whether marriage equality is a thing or not. It doesn’t carry any weight in their lives, and they will vote in accordance with how they feel on the day.

Unless they are brought over to one side or another. It will be the voting equivalent of Hungry Hungry Hippos, with both sides trying to snap up as many indifferent voters as they can before the poll.

And like Hungry Hungry Hippos with my siblings, it is going to get extremely ugly.

What do you mean, ‘how it’s counted matters’?

Plebiscites can be counted in a number of different ways, and the rules will be decided by the governing party (if the Coalition retains government, the plebiscite will go ahead and they will make the rules).

It may follow the rules of a constitutional referendum, and if it does—the pro-marriage equality movement is dead in the water.

To succeed, a referendum is determined by the majority of citizens in an electorate, the majority of electorates in a state, and then a majority of states in the country.

That means that even if 40% of electorates in Victoria get a 95% ‘yes’ vote, because 60% were determined ‘no’, the state votes ‘no’.

But—if only Queensland and Victoria are determined as ‘no’ votes, the referendum can still pass as the majority of states in the country have voted ‘yes’. Referendums almost always fail.

Referendums are also legally binding, meaning the government -must- act on the outcome of the vote. Plebiscites are not, and are meant to serve as guidance for members of parliament in how they should proceed in the way that best reflects their electorate.

Situation: Risky.

How the plebiscite will be counted hasn’t been revealed yet. Either it hasn’t been decided, or the Coalition is staying tight-lipped for a reason. An outcome of ‘no’ could see marriage equality shelved for years or more, and we may see an outcome of ‘no’ simply due to the number of people who don’t really care, and don’t understand why anything needs to change.

A conscience vote in parliament is an equally risky move. It would allow MPs to vote based on what they feel to be right, whether that’s a personal belief or one based on what they feel their electorate wants (which you’d hope they consider at all times). It allows MPs to vote against party lines if they need to.

Whichever path we take, it will be a risk. It may prove expensive. Marriage equality is inevitable in the future, but at what rate Australia catches up to the rest of the world is unfortunately for the government to decide.

If you don’t care, just vote ‘yes’.

In the mean time, if you have a view and you know people who don’t care—share it with them. Encourage them to research and find their own position on the matter, because if the plebiscite goes ahead, their vote will have an impact.

And if they aren’t motivated to find their own opinion, ask them to vote yes. It won’t change their own lives, but it could make someone else’s life complete.

If it doesn’t matter to you, vote yes for someone it does matter to.