In case you’ve missed it, John Howard wants you to vote for him because he promises wages will be lower under a Coalition government than under Labor. It’s an interesting political tactic, so interesting that Kevin Rudd hasn’t quite said “me too” on this one.

No wonder Joe Hockey won’t release the government’s own research into the economic benefits of its new industrial relations system – it must spell out that policy difference a little too plainly. And Joe couldn’t just blame pinko academics for the results this time.

Amidst so much pork barrelling, the promise to keep wages down is intriguing. You might think it’s a sign of desperation ahead of the assumed monetary policy wedgie tomorrow. You’d have to be very, very concerned about the political implications of an interest rate rise to start promising lower wages as vote-winning policy.

Funny thing though, there are considerably more Australians working for a living than Australians having trouble paying their mortgages. Despite all the “affordability crisis” headlines, most of us don’t have a mortgage and, of those who do, the mortgages are several years old and therefore have been reduced a bit and the value of the underlying real estate is (mostly) higher.

In terms of general economic rectitude, keeping a foot on wages when inflation and interest rates are rising, when business profits’ share of the economy is running at a record high, when the economy is popping its rivets, is a sound, conservative idea. Corporations (the mob enjoying record profit share) large and small will certainly like it.

But would the broader electorate if it is spelt out to them? Just as well Kruddy also is an economic conservative with no interest in the politics of class division.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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