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Canberra Watch: big on everything « Previous | |Next »
May 31, 2009

Ross Gittens makes an interesting observation in the Sydney Morning Herald about the style of Rudd's mode of governance. Rudd, he says is just big on everything:

Big on foreign affairs, big on defence, big on education, big on relations with the states, big on Closing the Gap, big on modernising infrastructure and big on a dozen other things" Trouble is, being big in any of these areas costs big money. Trying to be big in all of them costs more than we could ever afford. But Rudd also wants to be big on keeping taxes low, big on being an "economic conservative', big on spending to mitigate the recession and big on getting the budget back into surplus and eliminating the public debt.

And Big on industrial policy to protect old style manufacturing, as in the car industry. Too many Big's Gitten's points out means that Rudd will be forced to choose in terms of priorities:
In the end he'll be forced to choose, and all the argy-bargy of the past three weeks tells us what his choice will be. He's incapable of hiding the inferiority he feels to the Liberals on economic management and the Libs think their best hope lies in skewering him on deficits and debt, so that's what will win in the end.In other words, Rudd will end up delivering reasonably responsible budgets, but will do so at the expense of a long trail of postponed promises and dashed expectations.

Gittens says that all the signs are that defence spending has been deferred in the 2009 budget to hasten a return to surplus. What we are offered is a vision of what the defence force will look like in 2030.

I think that Gittens is right on this. Rudd is on the defensive on spending big since that means debt and deficit, and this debt will slowly work away in the background to undermine the Government's economic management. First, the government's revenue decline means that Rudd and Swan's political preference will be cuts to spending. Secondly, being Big on somethings --such as education --is mostly rhetoric. It is the same with renewable energy:---Rudd and Co are very small on investment in renewable energy.

Rudd and Co are also small on the shift that is taking place in the economy away from routine manufacturing jobs towards towards the knowledge jobs by people who analyze, manipulate, innovate and create. As Robert Reich points out:

These people are responsible for research and development, design and engineering. Or for high-level sales, marketing and advertising. They're composers, writers and producers. They're lawyers, journalists, doctors and management consultants. I call this "symbolic analytic" work because most of it has to do with analyzing, manipulating and communicating through numbers, shapes, words, ideas....On the back of every iPod is the notice "Designed by Apple in California, Assembled in China." You can bet iPod's design garners a bigger share of the iPod's purchase price than its assembly.

Wouldn't it be great if on the back of the new renewable energy technology products is the notice "Designed by X in Australia, Assembled in China." But we know in our hearts that is not going to happen, since for all their talk about making the Big shift a low carbon economy, our politicians just cannot see beyond coal. Coal is king. Australia remains Quarry Australia.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:53 PM | | Comments (8)
Comments

Comments

Gary
re your comment "And Big on industrial policy to protect old style manufacturing, as in the car industry" . Kim Carr + co are very Big on industry policy and looking after the unionised workforce. They point to the future in doing so-- a hybrid car.

Yet as Robert Reich points out on his blog the future of manufacturing is automation:

When we think of manufacturing jobs, we tend to imagine old-time assembly lines populated by millions of blue-collar workers who had well-paying jobs with good benefits. But that picture no longer describes most manufacturing. I recently toured a U.S. factory containing two employees and 400 computerized robots. The two live people sat in front of computer screens and instructed the robots. In a few years this factory won't have a single employee on site, except for an occasional visiting technician who repairs and upgrades the robots.

Factory jobs are disappearing all over the world. Reich says the reason is higher productivity. As productivity rises, employment falls because fewer people are needed. In this, manufacturing is following the same trend as agriculture.

So we should stop pining after the days when millions of Americans stood along assembly lines and continuously bolted, fit, soldered or clamped what went by.

Peter
Reich argues that only practical purpose he can imagine for the bail-out of GM is to slow the decline of GM to create enough time for its workers, suppliers, dealers and communities to adjust to its eventual demise. It's a way of paying for structural adjustment without saying that it is structural adjustment.

I wonder if that is the case in Australia with GM-Holden?

"First, the government's revenue decline means that Rudd and Swan's political preference will be cuts to spending. Secondly, being Big on somethings --such as education --is mostly rhetoric."

True. The result of all these bigs is that they'll all end up small and mostly rhetoric.

I know the Tories have been trying to rekindle this big government/deficits ideological nonsense responsible for so much damage done now being repaired post Bush/Howard .
The sad thing is, straight- jacketing linear neolib thinking permeates big slabs of Labor locally, as evidenced in unfolding situations as diverse as the Scrymgour affair in the NT concerning aboriginal outstations privatised along the Pearson/ Brough/ Rudd model, Garrett's acquiescing to redgum logging on the Murray, Murray-Darling in general and the ham-fisted manner with which the Indian student issue has been handled.
Ok, so none of these issues are neoliberal in the strict economic sense, but they demonstrate the mix that results from that underlying pathology blended with abstract economic academic economic theology,that makes neoliberalism so dangerous when blended, with the wrong hands, hearts and heads in charge.
Carr, et al, are of course right to have defence spending cut in favour of Australian jobs, if that's what's happened, to allow workers, who NOT responsible (and therefore should not be punished for) for the current economic troubles, time to plan for the future.
So IT is right, despite what that idiot Crean says, on song with the AUSFTA dictum that that monies headed offshore on defence purchases for the benefit of the Americans should be put on the back burner, with "fair" rather than "free" trade (ideology) just for once foregrounded, for the real economy and Australians.

"Factory jobs are disappearing all over the world. Reich says the reason is higher productivity. As productivity rises, employment falls because fewer people are needed. In this, manufacturing is following the same trend as agriculture.
So we should stop pining after the days when millions of Americans stood along assembly lines and continuously bolted, fit, soldered or clamped what went by."

For those of us that stood along assembly lines, the future offers nothing but poverty and misery. Do you think those service jobs we are being urged to re-train for are better? I assure you they are not, and there is no place for former factory workers in the 'design and creative industries' either.

So excuse me while I pine for the days where I had steady work, a secure income, and I didn't have to shop for clothes at St Vinnies. Those were the days!

Brent's right. It's all very well to talk about the bigger picture of employment, where factory workers can be employed elsewhere when factories close, but it doesn't quite work that way for the actual people involved.

After all this time, we're still seeing the transition from the industrial society to something else, and people are still being left behind. Even if they do end up employed in new, green energy jobs, will they have to move away from family and friends to get those jobs? Can the trauma of being yanked out of the workplace social network be quantified, or the humiliation of dealing with Centrelink?

Brent,
industries come and go under capitalism and we are experiencing the end of one long wave based on the car, suburbia and large factories. A new long wave is forming--digital, sustainable etc.

it is tough on people--the experience of the 1980s, for instance, was that one third of those made redundant/ unemployed found other jobs, one third retired and one third reskilled.

The reskilling option into the knowledge economy strikes me as the best one --but the Rudd Government--unlike Keating's Working Nation--- is not doing very much to help. Many who reskilled in the 1980s got free places in a university to get a degree.

Lyn,
Brent is right because not all those thrown out of work by technology (middle managers in large bureaucracies; reporters and photogpraphers in the mainstream media; irrigated agriculturists) will find employment in a similar industry.

To stay employed and to avoid ending up cleaning offices at night, they need to make the shift to new industries and that requires acquiring new skills.

You are right re --"we're still seeing the transition from the industrial society to something else, and people are still being left behind."

But new opportunities are being opened up---the ABC's regional townhall idea based on user generated content. They are prepared to train people in the digital media skills.