Hockey takes a stick to welfare:

Avatar Polymorph writes: Re. “Hockey goes off the reservation on handouts — at long last” (yesterday, item 2). With their statements on reducing entitlements Tony Abbott and Joe Hocking have revealed themselves in their true colours: men without compassion and crude social Darwinists without moral understanding.

Their logic and world view is full of counterfactuals, mostly drawn from the far right of the American Republican party. Government activity is bad, spending is bad, entitlements are bad, taxation is bad. The words responsibility or community are not in their lexicon.

Perhaps Tony Abbott has not looked up “Wealth Inequality in the United States” on Wikipedia — after all Australia is now more unequal than the UK and moving steadily towards the American position. The last time this wealth skew happened in America was during the technological growth and westward expansion of the 1890s that resulted in the robber barons owning even more of US wealth than is the case today — so much so that trust-busting and a social explosion followed.

Abbott seems to believe that growth is driven by hard work — no, it is driven by technological acceleration and universities. Abbott seems to believe that unemployment is driven by laziness. No, it is driven by structural change due to technological acceleration — jobs are lost faster than jobs are created. Abbott seems to believe that the playing field is level. The US economic school of the new mercantilism calls for at least a dozen to 20 players for real competition, and this is true.

The solution to further growth lies in fostering technological change — for example 3D printing including of robotics — and dealing with the festering issue of the corporate class and its plutocracy, as the Occupy Movement has pointed out. Otherwise we find ourselves in the position of the Roman Republic, unable to stop our elite from sliding society into a world where money and n-ked power rules, where there is corruption and autocracy in development and where the lower orders suffer.

And let us not forget that in the country that has weathered the global financial crisis and in the midst of a mining boom the poor in Sydney and Melbourne bear the intolerable burden of the highest rents and mortgages in the world, which enslave them in a fashion that those who lived before 1980, in the old, compassionate Australia, find hard to comprehend.

Hong Kong resident David Parker writes:  Apropos of your article on Joe Hockey’s advocacy of utilising Hong Kong or other Asian models for welfare entitlement, while it is true that pension-type entitlements (either for retirees, unemployed or people suffering from ill-health or disabilities) are very limited here in Hong Kong , it should be noted that Hong Kong people have substantially greater welfare entitlements than Australian residents in the areas of :

  • housing (where fully half of the population is accommodated in government-supplied welfare housing at very cheap rates);
  • health (where a substantial public health system provides near-free health coverage, including access to GP-type treatment at public hospitals, and free or heavily subsidised pharmaceuticals)
  • public transport which, while all privately owned, is regulated as to pricing, and is clean, safe, cheap and plentiful; and where one can easily (maybe more easily) live life without a car
  • an Employment Ordinance [Act] which provides substantially greater protection to (for example) pregnant women (at the expense of the employer, not the government/taxpayer) than does the Fair Work Act in Australia

Peter Lloyd writes: Joe Hockey’s suggestions about some big-picture economic issues is an opportunity to sort the coal from the diamonds of the Fourth Estate.  See how long our trusted scribes can resist reverting to the “how will this affect the polls?” angle.

Are they capable of discussing and interpreting the subject at hand? Or have endless cycles of leadership speculation, he-said/she-said reportage, and expensive agenda-setting campaigns caused atrophy of such faculties?

Older workers:

Peter Angelico writes: Re. “Cox: older workers need some new-age thinking” (yesterday, item 14). I’m amazed that companies fail to see the value of employing experienced and therefore by definition, “older workers”.

I employed a general manager in my manufacturing business around his 64th birthday and not only is he still going strong, his experience and drive are an invaluable asset to the business and he puts me to shame on occasions with his enthusiasm and energy! I don’t need a token gesture of $1000 (which is a political solution, not a practical one) to employ anyone, let alone somewhere who is incorrectly perceived as being “too old”.

The same goes for all employment inducement schemes, the needs of the business will determine the level of employment any business can sustain, not some focus group driven confidence trick. Why is it that Labor think these wasteful schemes will work? All they do is hurt the people they are supposedly trying to help.

I wonder how many Labor MPs have actually run their own businesses?

Katalin Erdosi writes: The mind boggles at the thought of 45 being seen as an “older worker” who somehow isn’t desirable. Being 35 myself I can see those in 10 years being chewed up quite quickly.

A kid or two, renovate a house and a couple of overseas trips and suddenly it’s 2022. So to all those young ones hiring and excluding the “elderly” watch out, the day of the shoe being on the other foot may arrive quicker than you think.

Peter Fray

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