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John Passant

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January 2012



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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)



Bill Shorten is much more offensive than Teresa Gambaro

Dreary deodorant diva Teresa Gambaro has had her moment in the sweaty sun with her thrice denied disgusting comments about immigrants and deodorant.

Now you probably thought it couldn’t get much worse, but it has. The Labor Party’s Workplaces Relations Minister Bill Shorten has revealed the Government’s strategy for unemployment.

Starve the unemployed. Don’t increase their Newstart allowance (unemployment benefit, aka the dole.) 

At this rate they won’t be able to afford food, let alone deodorant. Stinky and starving eh Bill?

Here’s what Shorten said in response to a push from business (yes business!) for increasing unemployment benefits, as quoted in The Australian.

Australia’s social security system needs to provide a strong safety net for people who need financial assistance while also acting as an incentive for people to take up paid work.

He goes on to say:

In the current economic climate, I believe we have got the balance about right. Particularly when delivering a [Budget] surplus next year …

So there you have it. Business, even conservative economists, the union movement and the Australian Council of Social Service are all arguing for an increase from the current disgraceful $234 a week, or $35 a day. Even the OECD – the rich nations club – says Australia’s unemployment benefit is the lowest and needs to be increased.

But Gillard Labor believes to increase the dole would hurt the budget deficit. So the unemployed are to starve while the rich pay little tax. 

Labor is implementing the idea that the best way to create jobs is to pay people a pittance on the dole, thus forcing them to accept whatever low wage job they can.

Is it a pittance?  

The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research updates the poverty line. For the June quarter 2011 it says: ‘Inclusive of housing costs, the poverty line is $838.59 per week for a family comprising two adults, one of whom is working, and two dependent children.’

Even with an unemployed couple their combined benefit is well below the poverty line.

For a single person with housing costs (eg rent) the poverty line is $446 a week. So the Newstart Allowance is $210 a week below the poverty line. Even with rent assistance of around $60 a week added in the difference is still $150 a week.

This discussion about the level of dole payments assumes that unemployment is an aberration, that there are jobs out there. However unemployment is rising.  

In 2008 it was 4.2 percent.  It grew rapidly during the GFC, especially in the mining industry which laid off 15% of its workforce.

By the first half of 2011 unemployment had settled back down to around 5% but has been steadily increasing and in November last year was 5.3%. Treasury predicts this will increase to around 5.6% by the end of June this year.

Under-utilisation of labour is also rampant with over 12% of the workforce wanting to work longer hours but not being able to.

Now, the unemployed get to live on $35 a day, as I mentioned. Cabinet ministers’ pay packets increased from $243,070 to $319,125 recently.

Bill Shorten is now a Cabinet Minister. His pay increase was $76,000.  It went up more than  $200 a day.

So the increase in Shorten’s pay is about six times more than the actual amount the unemployed are paid and have to live on. His actual pay is 26 times greater than an unemployed person receives. 26 times greater! That’s Labor equality for you.

You can’t live on $35 a day. There’s rent, transport, food, clothes, the kids, electricity, gas, water to pay for. And the cost of looking for a job too.

Basic decency demands that the unemployed be paid enough to live adequately.

Labor denies the unemployed that right because it will cost too much and because they believe, like every crusty old Tory, that people want to live it up on the dole. On $35 a week?

You are joking, aren’t you, Labor? Unfortunately not.

Here’s an alternative suggestion. To make work attractive, increase real wages. After all the share of the national cake going to labour is at its lowest in recorded history and that to capital at its highest (or thereabouts.)

Higher wages not on your agenda, Labor? Shifting wealth to capital is though, isn’t it, and that is part of what this ‘starve the unemployed’ strategy is about – keeping downward pressure on wages so that more of the wealth workers create  goes to capital.

And remember all of this is from the party that backed down in the face of a concerted mining bosses’ campaign against a minor rent tax, got rid of a Prime Minister and introduced a very watered down minerals resource rent tax costing up to $10 billion a year in potential lost revenue.

That lost revenue would easily have covered a large increase in the dole and have left lots and lots of money over for public health – a dental health care scheme anyone? – public education, public transport and real climate change initiatives like large scale government solar and wind farms.  

Underlying all this bulldust from Shorten about the dole is the idea that unemployment is the fault of the unemployed, not the rotten capitalist system.

As unemployment rises because of the failures of capitalism, how convenient of Labor to have its excuse ready – it’s all the fault of the unemployed. ‘We are trying to starve them into taking pittance wages but the unemployment numbers just keep getting bigger. The dole is too much. They must be bludgers.’

That is where the logic of Shorten leads.

The last few days have shown us that the Liberals are scapegoating immigrants. Labor is scapegoating the unemployed. Both scapegoat refugees. 

None of these people are to blame for the crises of capitalism.

Fight the system, not its victims.

Readers might also like to look at my article I don’t use deodorant either, Teresa Gambaro



Comment from Howard Marosi
Time January 12, 2012 at 9:14 am

It is a deliberate policy of the Reserve Bank to keep unemployment above 4%. (per Age, Business Day).

Apart from abolishing that policy, we should increase wages if we want to give people incentive to work.

Comment from John
Time January 12, 2012 at 9:56 am

Increase real wages. Of course Howard. I’ll put that in. Thanks.

Comment from LeftInternationalist
Time January 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm

I seem to remember some bearded guy saying capitalism needed a “reserve army of the unemployed” somewhere… wonder who that was. Yes, I fully agree with you about Bill Shorten- a hideous, dissolute, demagogical, morally repulsive hypocrite who deserves far more disgust than Gambaro’s nonsense because of the causes and values he claims to represent.

Comment from David
Time January 18, 2012 at 1:13 pm

John, you might be interested in a chart I cobbled together on the single NSA rate versus net incomes over the last 10 years. It’s here:

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