Coalition’s broadband plan a non-starter

Denise Marcos writes: Re “NBN Co board refuses to drink poisoned chalice” (yesterday). Let’s re-badge the Coalition’s plan the National Broadband Knitwork. Anyone who has peered into a typical water-logged Telstra pit can attest the ancient copper, frequently riddled with verdigris, resembles a mangled skein of yarn in dire need of a skilled knitter. Maintaining copper wire is a textbook example of false economy.

Fortunate to be one of the chosen few endowed with fibre-optic cable, I am aware to what extent the rest of Australia is about to be hoodwinked and shortchanged by the government.

The hapless Malcolm Turnbull will forever have his name branded on this rusty old jalopy — whereas Stephen Conroy had promised the nation a sleek new Lamborghini. If Tony Abbott genuinely wishes to be remembered as “the infrastructure Prime Minister”, he must cock his ear to hear opportunity knocking.

The numbers on Newstart

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re. “Too little too late on Newstart, Bill and Albo — you had the evidence to act” (yesterday). Wouldn’t it have been good if Comrades Shorten and Albo (and Gillard) had actually sat down a year ago and actually thought through their mean and vicious policy before it was implemented?

No one in their right mind should use the ABS “Labour Force Australia” monthly unemployment figures (700,000), because they are based on a political definition of unemployment, not a real one. Serious economists and ministers should only use the annual ABS “Persons not in the labour force” (2 million-plus unemployed chasing around 132,000 vacancies — advertised/not advertised) survey as the only true measurement of unemployment. Dodgy monthly figures used by Shorten, Albanese and Gillard led to dodgy analysis and policies such as the criminally low Newstart Allowance and the forcing of 100,000-plus single parents on to the dole or Newstart when there is such a massive shortage of jobs.

In February 2011, prime minister Julia Gillard was reported as saying: ”Friends, we look with particular concern on the large number of working-age Australians, possibly as many as 2 million, who stand outside the full-time labour force, above and beyond those registered [600,000] as unemployed. Around 800,000 [now a million] are in part-time jobs but want to work more. Another 800,000 are outside the labour market, including discouraged job seekers. And many thousands of individuals on the disability support pension may have some capacity to work.”

Why, then, would Gillard (now on $200,000-plus a year pension), Shorten and Albo add so many more to the lower dole payment and dole queues when we already have more than 2.6 million people chasing non-existent jobs? Did she take leave of her humanity and professed Labor principles? Yes, but then Gillard was a member of the Socialist Left faction. A faction that is neither socialist nor Left, but merely a job-creation scheme for its members. Shorten and Albo (who will retire with millions in his superannuation pot) are now totally incapable of leaving their respective factional boxes when it comes to policy thinking for the battlers they purport to represent.

John Kotsopoulos writes: According to Eva Cox, “The belated acknowledgement by the two Labor leadership contenders that cutting single-parent payments had been a mistake is sad — they should have fixed it a few months ago while they still had the power.” Perhaps she can stop berating them for a moment and make her own belated acknowledgment that John Howard changed the rules on the parenting allowance in 2006.

Cox writes: “The rules have changed for people who started receiving Parenting Payment before 1 July 2006. The same rules now apply to these parents as to someone who is claiming for the first time.”

The change Labor brought in, while clearly a budget inspired measure, simply puts  longstanding recipients of the parenting allowance on the same footing as people who have applied since July 1, 2006. Those affected have had seven years of extra payments, a fact that she is either ignorant of or chooses to ignore.

Perhaps she should also reconsider her own support of Tony Abbott’s ludicrously generous paid parental leave scheme, which we will all pay for just as surely as any tax through higher prices, especially as the extra company tax to fund it will be levied on those firms best able to pass on extra costs.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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