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John Passant

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February 2010



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Working harder, working longer, for less

A stopped clock is right twice a day. So it was that Joe Hockey, the Shadow Treasurer, summed up the Labor Government’s intergenerational report succinctly today:

Quite clearly Australians, according to this Government, will have to work harder for longer with less reward in more crowded cities.

The Liberals in power would do the same. It’s what Workchoices was about. But that doesn’t detract from the truth of Hockey’s criticism of Labor’s ‘Australia to 2050: Future Challenges’ report.

Labor increased the retirement age to 67. Labor is talking about increased productivity but without the massive infrastructure investment necessary to avoid speed ups, even longer unpaid hours and more slave driver workplaces.

Both Labor and the Liberals have put in place industrial and other laws which have transferred more and more of the value our increased productivity has created over the last 30 years  to the bosses, not us. 

While real wages have increased the share of national product going to labour has fallen to its lowest level ever.

Australia has the longest working week of any OECD country.

Workers’ personal debt levels are among the highest in the world, fuelling a level of consumption that is perhaps unsustainable in the long term. 

Now we have an education revolution whose real aim is to turn our schools into little factories and our kids into learning automatons. 

The forced savings model of the 9 percent superannuation guarantee is built on a wage cut. 

Yet despite this workers when they eventually retire will not have enough in their superannuation funds to live reasonably well.

Superannuation, when the market is in crisis, is not safe at all. It destroys futures, not protects them.

Fifty years of working for the man and all you get is a goodbye card and a poverty pension.

Why can’t we work shorter hours and retire earlier?

The drive for profit and its reinvestment in more and more expensive capital vis a vis labour creates a tendency for the rate of profit to decline.

Increased productivity, reduced labour rewards and living standards, cuts in social spending and a longer working day (plus the devalorisation of capital in crises) can address that tendency for some time. 

The logic of the system is to pour more and more petrol onto the fire until it engulfs us all. 

The more value we create the more it goes to capital and the more voracious the system forces it to become to produce even more to counteract declining profit rates 

Capital sucks more and more life out of us for its own survival.

It’s time to kill the vampire and reclaim life.

That of course is for the future. Here and now?

A 30 hour week and retirement for all on the average wage at sixty is affordable.

Make the bosses pay for their system, not us.



Comment from Helen Said
Time February 1, 2010 at 10:51 pm

This “education revolution” is definitely part of the problem: linking parents’ welfare to kids’ school attendance doesn’t address the social/family/bullying reasons why kids get alienated from school. This new school report system, which deprived most hard working govt school kids of an “A+” and relegated them to a “C” was part of this sour message.

Comment from Dave Bath
Time February 1, 2010 at 11:37 pm

“A 30 hour week and retirement for all on the average wage at sixty is affordable.”
That’s a bummer for those who had jobs and got injured, or chronically ill from work-related-stress before they got to 60, so that they were forced into part-time/lesser-skilled jobs or even a disability pension!

Comment from John
Time February 2, 2010 at 6:22 am

How so Dave? Such workers would get a pension that is the average wage. And if we could force such a vision of a reduced working week and adequate pension on the bosses we would also be strong enough to humanise our workplaces to massively reduce stress and accidents.

Comment from Arjay
Time February 2, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Kevin Rudd is a joke.Work harder and longer.Many people are already doing 50-60 hrs a week and still struggle to get by.

We have to start a new political party that has in it’s constitution not to take donations from corporate interests.The present oligarchy is killing us.Labor and the Coalition are past their use by date.They will not change.It is all a big game of right v’s left and the public fall for it every time.Both parties are puppets of the Corportate world.It is the media who determine who will be elected and often who our leaders will be.

It is time we put an end to the avarice of the “Robber Class”.The harder we work,the more they take.Just a single computer does the work of many people compared to the 80’s ,yet we are all working harder than ever for less.

Comment from Dave Bath
Time February 2, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Ooops – missed “average” – got I hate times when I’m having a string of partial seizures and trying madly to get through my feeds!

I saw a paper recently which showed that a hospital cleaner’s work creates more value for society than a typical executive. If we don’t follow the one pay for all, then pay should relate to social worth of the work + danger money (either for accident risk or increased wear like shearers have).

It’s worth noting that both in More’s Utopia (people work half a day on what they’re told, the other half on work or training they WANT to do, as long as the village elders think it is of some value to the community) and studies of hunter-gatherers, (provision of food/shelter takes about four hours a day) – doesn’t say much for our current society and double those hours still has people without adequate food or shelter.

Comment from Marco
Time February 3, 2010 at 8:28 pm


I’m afraid there’s something here that’s not right:

“While real wages have INCREASED, the share of national product going to labour has fallen to its lowest level ever”. (Emphasis added).

It’s not clear that real wages have increased.

Or, to be more precise: I imagine you are using the statistic information made available by the RBA. If so, you probably mean AVERAGE wages.

Average wages (or income, or wealth, or prices) mean little when it comes to describe actual wages for the lowest wage levels. Please have a look at my blog, as I’ve written some simple pieces about this subject.

I am preparing a more complete piece and, if you are interested, I’ll let you know about it.

In fact, I suspect at least the lowest wages may have decreased in real terms.

Let me just advance that, according to Prof. Emmanuel Saez (from University of California, Berkeley) the top 1% of Americans reaped 2/3 of income gains in the latest expansion (he was writing in 2007).

Comment from Marco
Time February 4, 2010 at 5:24 pm


As follow up to my previous post. Atkinson, Piketty and Saez, using US pre-tax, pre-Government transfers data, for the period 1976-2007 found that real AVERAGE income grew 1.2% annually (that is, averaged over the period and over the population).

It isn’t impressive, but it isn’t bad either, right?

Not so quick. The top 1% income share grew during that period 4.4% annually.

If one discounts the part appropriated by the top 1% from total income, this leaves the remainder 99% with 0.6% annual income growth.

Again, as this is real growth (i.e. inflation discounted) at least nobody is losing. Right?

Nope. Not so quick. Among the 9% incomes immediately following the top 1% income share, there are plenty of extremely wealthy people, too. And those people may have appropriated a much larger share than the remaining 90%…

As the data Atkinson, Piketty and Saez use refers only to the highest income levels, in the US, they can’t find exactly how much income growth was finally left for the lowest, say, 10% income share. But it strikes me it can’t be that much.

In Top Incomes in the Long Run of History (National Bureau of Economic Research, working paper 15408, 2009) they also have some data refering to several other countries, including under developed and developed, in Asia, Europe and America. I am reading the paper really carefully, because it contains some data refering to Australia.

Aggregated over the period 1976-2007, this means that the top 1% population by income captured 58% of the total growth, in the US.

If you are interested, let me know and I will send you a copy of the paper.

PS: By the way, does the ATO have this kind of information?

Comment from John
Time February 5, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Marco, I was talking about Australian workers.

Unionised workers won better pay increases than non-unionised ones, but overall wages increased above the inflation rate. Maybe those on the minimum wage and just above didn’t fare that well. I’d have to re-check the figures.

My main point is that we create the wealth yet most of it goes to the bosses, even when or if there are real wage increases.

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