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jobs jobs jobs=cheap labour « Previous | |Next »
October 21, 2003

I came across this old article about poverty in Australia by Denis Shanahan this morning. It is a little different to the crude "poverty is a natural part of life and/or is deserved" message, as it has a touch of compassion that is worn lightly.

The following sentences caught my eye:

"There is no harm in being rich and there is nothing wrong with being poor. Poverty in Australia doesn't mean someone has to live in a cardboard box and have a begging bowl....Too much of the fight for the poor has become empty rhetoric, envy and malice directed at the rich....There is no doubt that the strength of the economy is the basis for poverty reduction through helping everyone, not just the poor, in finding jobs and boosting tax revenue available to help those who need it, even during boom times.... now is the time to strike out against long-term unemployment and entrenched poverty. The answer of jobs, jobs, jobs, and a good economy, the backbone of the Coalition's re-election policy next year....

This is not just a defence of inequality being good for the economy that we often find amongst some economic liberals. Shanahan also says that there "needs to be a sign of compassion and a recognition that during the good times is the time to deal with the bad aspects of the bad times."

What Shanahan does not say is that the Coalition's answer of "jobs jobs jobs" through a deregulated market presupposes cheap-labour, not minimalist government.

We know the standard neo-liberal message to achieve jobs jobs jobs. The mantra goes like this:

Government regulation is unnatural interference in the free market; public service bureaucrats can't possibly make rational efficient decisions about things as pricing and distribution; and the allocation of scarce resources is best handled by the "hidden hand" of supply and demand. So the public sector and government services have to be cut to make room for the market to do its efficiency and competitive thing.

That cut back to public services is achieved by creating a budget crunch through placing universities and public health institutions on a financial drip feed; leave them there for a decade, then say that we cannot afford to fund these government services from the public purse. Since taxpayers are being squeezed by high taxes, we don't have any choice but to introduce the market via privatisation to solve an intractable problem. It's all about choice and consumer freedom versus welfare state socialism.

The other side of the coin to cutting public services is to change working conditions in the name of market flexibility. The aim is to force people to work cheap. This involves breaking the power of unions; rolling back the institutions of arbitartion and conciliation; keeping unemployment a low priority; reducing the mininum wage; work for the dole, unpaid overtime; doing more with less; increased job security.

The overall aim is to make Australia a low wage country. Why so? Here's
the justification. International competiton in a globalised world means that Australian companies have to compete on the international stage. Many nation-states in Asia have low wages; therefore Australia needs low wages to keep the jobs in the country. Otherwise they will be forced to go offshore. And that means rising unemployment .

Australia cannot compete with China on these grounds, as the Sydney Morning Herald points out. The better option is to take the high tech route into the knowledge economy through ensuring better education for the Australian people. This option shows the short sightedness of running down Australia's higher education system so that it becomes third rate.

Cheap labour. That's the key to the Coalition's economics. Conceptual Guerilla is right. Cheap labour is the core of the right wing's corner store economics.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:48 AM | | Comments (1)


I cannot believe they want to reduce themselves to cheap labour merely to try to boost the economy. Doesn't anyone see anything wrong with that?
I hope they have no power in breaking unions... I really want a union for my work