“The Westpac Bank-Melbourne Institute’s leading index, a gauge of economic expansion in three to nine months, reached 6.7 per cent in April — above its long-term trend of 4.4 per cent … The index, which tracks growth components such as company profits and productivity, put the annualised growth rate at 5.5%, above its long-term trend of 3.7%,” reports The Age.

In the Canberra bearpit, Kevin Rudd is being forced to sack more union thugs from the Labor Party. Polling by Liberal pollster Mark Textor has shown that WorkChoices is a worry for many voters, but that concerns can be allayed. This echoes a recent Morgan poll that showed that IR concerns are still driving Labor support.

Gary Morgan commented:

The central issues behind the support for the major parties remain the same. As the April federal Roy Morgan Qualitative Research showed, the Howard Government’s superior economic credentials continue to be cited by many electors as reason for their support of the Liberal Party.

On the other hand, a significant proportion of people who say they support the Labor Party continue to highlight the Government’s controversial WorkChoices legislation as reason for their support.

This shows that the economy, and the related industrial relations debate, will be the important issues when the country goes to the polls later in the year.

We are reminded today by John Roskam that:

This week is the 20th anniversary of the most famous promise in national politics. At the Sydney Opera House during his campaign launch for the 1987 federal election, Bob Hawke said: “By 1990, no Australian child will be living in poverty.

In conclusion, Roskam writes:

Since 1987, the politics of good causes in Australia has been turned upside down. The reality is that the people who have done the most to overcome poverty have been John Howard and Peter Costello.

The thread that links these stories is that union bosses care less than many other groups that kids live in poverty. Welfare is not the answer, and neither is union-dominated closed shops, but a strongly growing economy helps.

WorkChoices has meant that many unskilled workers have gotten (low-paid, low-productivity) jobs. This will help their morale and skills and this will boost their kids’ chances of climbing out of the poverty trap. The Libs at least have a coherent philosophy on these matters; where is the equivalent Labor story?

These two graphs add some statistical background to the productivity debate, which again flared up in recent days. Sent in by Rory R, the first graph may indicate that productivity has declined in recent years, but he states:

Of course, productivity growth in the 2000s will be boosted somewhat when the 2006-07 financial year is complete, and this annual chart can be updated for the strong readings of recent quarters.

These graphs do not fully support either side of the political debate but, at least, as Rory states:

At least our politicians have found something worthwhile to argue about. 

Read more at Henry Thornton.