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A C21 Australia « Previous | |Next »
November 20, 2003

During the last week the Australian Financial Review (AFR) has been running a series that pushed for more market reforms as the way to build a 21st century economy. This neo-liberal pathway to a C21 Australia would enable Australia to be amongst the most prosperous people on the earth. It's cry was the need to overcome reform fatigue, and accept as normal the neccesity to work longer, harder and faster with the elimination of job security.

Peter Bain has addressed this (AFR, subscription required, 18 11 03, p. 71) by saying that we need to be critical of past reforms and and policy trends. Some of these have failed--he mentions superannuation reform and financial deregulation. He says that deregulation has lead to credit-drive consumer boom of the last decade that will probably end in economic misery. I would l add that the consequences of the reforms in the energy industry, which aimed to create a profitable energy industry, will lead to massive social costs and people on lower incomes not being able to pay their power bills.

Bain mentions that the reality of C21 Australia is falling living standards. He argues that workers in Australia are in direct competition with Chinese and Indian labour, and will have to reduce their real wages or accept fewer hours of work. He says:

" The wage floor is the Australian subsistence wage rate, which at current exchange rates is well above the Chinese/Indian rate, forcing reduction in hours of work and increased reliance on social security payments....As convergence [between China/India and Australia] continues more and more Australian workers woill come in direct competiton with developing economy labour.Computer progrrammers and finance sector back-office staff are the latest Australian workers to expereince this effect, with Indian labour providing the competition."

If you put the consumer credit bust and declining work conditions together you get rising unemployment. Bain says:

"After the current consumer debt boom fades, the numbers of working age people depending in whole or part on social security payments can be expected to start increasing rapidly again."

This is the bit that the AFR leaves out from its C21 Australia. The neo-liberal picture involves shifting people off welfare into low paid work as quickly as possible; routinized redundancies and the conflicts between work and family.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:58 AM | | Comments (0)