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Feb 28, 2014

Coalition takes a brave stand on Labor's territory of jobs

The Coalition is doing the right thing on industry handouts, but it is playing to Labor's strength with voters. The opposition is ahead in the polls because voters are worried about jobs.


Labor made an interesting tactical decision on Monday that perhaps does more to explain its current surprisingly strong opinion polling than anything else.

Labor could have used question time to chase Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, who had been forced to admit on Saturday night that his initial story about the killing of Reza Barati, whom he implied had brought his injuries on himself by escaping, was wrong. They could have used it to chase Health Minister Fiona Nash over her peculiarly pro-food industry take on her portfolio duties. Instead, Labor came into question time and asked about jobs. Morrison’s unravelling attempt to blame Barati for his own death didn’t get a question until 25 minutes in. Nash came after that.

The pursuit of Morrison petered out during the week, and Labor’s heart rarely seemed to be in it, appropriately given they reopened Manus Island; only toward the end of the week did Morrison and Prime Minister Tony Abbott look uncomfortable as Labor extracted that Morrison had waited a long time after finding out he was wrong about the location of Barati’s attack before revealing it. Health shadow Catherine King’s pursuit of Nash was more successful, despite the best efforts of Speaker Bronwyn Bishop to block any scrutiny of the government. King repeatedly asked why there was such a gap between Nash’s account of events — in which staffer Alastair Furnival had selflessly fallen on his sword because he had become a political liability — and Abbott’s version of events, in which Furnival had broken the code of conduct for ministerial staff and had to resign. Abbott’s way of explaining the difference was to refuse to explain.

But Labor’s focus all week was on jobs outside Parliament, as Qantas served up yet another in what for the Coalition must be an infuriating series of high-profile job loss announcements. Yesterday Labor backbenchers repeatedly taunted Abbott that for every three-minute answer he gave, another job was lost. Shorten asked Abbott to show the same tenacity he was displaying in defending Nash’s job for the jobs of other Australians.

This is Labor’s natural territory. Even during the dark days of 2011 and 2012 under Julia Gillard, when voters seemed to have acquired a violent hatred of all things Labor, they still rated it as the party better at protecting Australian jobs. And much of politics since the election has been fought on exactly this territory.

In taking the decisions not to provide handouts to General Motors and SPC Ardmona, the government has displayed guts and good sense. But it has also handed Labor a weapon to exploit the succession of job cut announcements; the impression that the Coalition simply doesn’t care about jobs. The most effective political messages are the ones that reinforce voters’ views, not contradict them. This is one message that resonates with voters.

That will be even more the case after Abbott signalled in question time yesterday that no loan guarantees for Qantas would be forthcoming because, as he so correctly and pithily put it, “[w]hy should the government do for one what it is not prepared to do for all?”. But the Prime Minister’s comment came two weeks after Treasurer Joe Hockey had gone to great lengths to explain the four criteria that he believed Qantas satisfied for exactly that question.

The government’s sudden lack of interest in loan guarantees may be a way of ramping up the pressure on Labor to back (much-needed) changes to the Qantas Sale Act to allow greater foreign investment. But it’s a risky ploy when the government already has a reputation for sitting back and doing nothing to stop job losses, and it will be very hard for the government now to extend loan guarantees to Qantas down the track without offering the same to the rest of the domestic aviation sector.

Meantime, Labor will get on with cynically exploiting the government’s willingness to hold the line on industry handouts. That’s what oppositions do — and after Abbott’s behaviour as opposition leader, entirely unsurprising. Judging by the polls, it’s also paying off with voters who grow more worried about their own job prospects with every Holden, every Toyota, every Alcoa, every Qantas …



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40 thoughts on “Coalition takes a brave stand on Labor’s territory of jobs

  1. Jimmy

    The Libs are hadning the ALP a gift in job losses but they are also handing them other gifts – in fact in 6 months this govt has done almost everything possible to reinforce every negative thought the voter would have of them, they don’t care about job losses, they want to cut penalty rates and blame workers for businesses being uncompetitive, they want to slash medicare and are out of touch with the average voter.

  2. MJPC

    The LNP can’t help it, Howard did it in his time (and lost the election and his seat) and Abbott is on the nose after 6 months. Their solution to all ills is to screw the worker but they aren’t reading the tea leaves in Bronwyn Bishops teacup.
    The proletariat don’t trust any politicians and when they don’t have a game plan (ecept benefit the rich, or their mates: sometime one and the same) they doubly don’t trust them. Look to NSW, the LNP was all self righteous over the Obeid sage now the LNP has a nest of rats in their ranks smelling of the same deals. It’s not Federal, but they all get banded together.
    All that has to happen now is a recession (likely) or interest rates rise; ?; (or both) and Abbots goose is cooked!

  3. Jimmy

    MJPC – An interest rate rise is very unlikely short to medium term but a recession is very likely (which I have been prediciting would occur under Abbott for some time) – business investment is already down since he got in (wasn’t the opposite supposed to happen SB)if they cut govt spedning significantly in May a recession won’t be too far away – at the very least unemployment will continue to rise.

    The ridiculous thing is by scrapping the Carbon & mining taxes Abbott is deniyng himself of revenue to use to encourage business investment.

  4. klewso

    Abbott will have to take us to war soon, to win the next election?

  5. Jimmy

    Klewos – MAybe that explains his attitude towards indonesia – he did promise a more Jakarta focused govt.

  6. klewso

    …. but if QANTAS was made out of chocolate, and had a ministerial staffer in it’s hangar ….?

  7. klewso

    Labor has every right to pursue this sort of m.o. Abbott was allowed to get away with it.

  8. Jimmy

    The big difference was that Abbott had his media cheersquad.
    Is it just me or do opinion polls appear far less on the nightly news than they did under the ALP?

  9. Scott

    “The ridiculous thing is by scrapping the Carbon & mining taxes Abbott is deniyng himself of revenue to use to encourage business investment”

    Investment decisions are not made through Government handouts. Investment decisions in the private sector are made by comparing the return on the investment/project with the cost of capital of the business/division. These things are determined in part by the tax rates (which affect cash flows for the returns) and interest rates (which determine the cost of debt and also equity, indirectly).
    Getting rid of the mining and carbon taxes and the Reserve dropping interest rates will have a more positive affect on investment than anything else the Government could do.

  10. Jimmyhaz

    An interest rate rise is highly unlikely. A recession, however, is inevitable.

  11. michael r james

    klewso at 2:16 pm
    Abbott will have to take us to war soon, to win the next election?

    Hey, klewso & jimmy, I have precedence on that suggestion in Crikey! Months ago I said it was Abbott’s PlanB (if it worked for Maggie in the Falklands ….). You think all that upsetting of the Indonesians is just sheer incompetence? Like General Turgidson said (in Dr Strangelove when proposing a nuclear exchange): “ok, it’s not like I’m sayin’ we wouldn’t get our hair mussed”.

    Just like happened in the US in WW2, the idle GM, Ford & Toyota factories will be ordered to produce fighter planes ….

  12. Jimmy

    Scott- “Getting rid of the mining and carbon taxes and the Reserve dropping interest rates will have a more positive affect on investment than anything else the Government could do.” And yet business investment is dropping despite the imminent removal of those two taxes!

    And even excluding the “government handouts” (which by the way is exactly the Libs Direct action policy) the carbon tax provided a policy setting where all the things you listed were improved for the renewable enery sector, it was driving investment into this sector creating new jobs.

    And the govt provides handouts by the way of R&D tax concessions or seed funding or “PPP’s” or diesel fuel rebates or accelerated depreciation for many businesses and infrastructure – why is it only the “green” economy that should be excluded?

  13. Jimmyhaz

    “Getting rid of the mining and carbon taxes and the Reserve dropping interest rates will have a more positive affect on investment than anything else the Government could do.”

    That statement is so wrong it isn’t funny. These are having next to no effect on the economy in their current state, and won’t have any noticeable effect on business investment in the foreseeable future.

    The best thing that the government could do is massively increase its spending, decrease taxes on the poor, and increase them on the wealthy. Scrapping a majority of centrelink payments, and implementing a minimum income would go some way towards stimulating the economy as well.

  14. Jimmy

    Michael R James – Sorry, didn’t mean to infringe your copyright.

    But the Brits taking on the Argentines seems a much safer bet than us taking on the Indonesians!

  15. michael r james

    @klewso at 2:19 pm
    …. but if QANTAS was made out of chocolate, and had a ministerial staffer in it’s hangar ….?”

    Didn’t you see the front page of the Oz today? Quite clever little cartoon. Abbott & AJ looking up at a Qantas plane tail painted with the Cadbury colours and Abbott saying: “Nice try, Joyce”.

  16. michael r james

    @Jimmy at 2:23 pm
    Is it just me or do opinion polls appear far less on the nightly news than they did under the ALP?

    Nevermind the commercial nightly news. On ABC radio news (more significant because it gets repeated every 30 minutes, thus maybe up to 48 times in a 24h news cycle) where the latest News poll was repeated verbatim from the front page of the Oz! (I know this sounds like parody but anyone paying attention knows it to be true, sadly.) In the Abbott era: hardly ever. You’re right, I cannot remember the last time.

  17. Ted Parker

    Howard and Costello had a good run of luck economically (but wasted the money). Labor then got the GFC. It’s about time the conservatives had the bad luck for a change, lets see how these clowns deal with a recession and a “Tsnuami of unemployment” (Gottliebsen).

  18. klewso

    Sorry Michael, I didn’t see that, I’m bull-shit intolerant. Was Furnival in the cock-pit?

  19. Scott

    No jobs in the renewable energy sector. 24,000 at last count (lower than the Arts), mainly in Solar PV. Never going to be a big industry as there is no money in it.
    Seed funding can be done better in the private sector.
    PPP’s are on the nose as the private investors have been the ones wearing the risk.
    Accelerated depreciation is a tax cut, as you would know. The

  20. Jimmy

    Scott – “No jobs in the renewable energy sector. 24,000 at last count” The indistry needs the right policy setting and stability to grow – just because there a only 24,000 jobs now doesn’t mean it can’t grow into something – how many jobs were there 10 years ago?
    “Seed funding can be done better in the private sector.” Then why does the govt do it at all?
    “PPP’s are on the nose as the private investors have been the ones wearing the risk.” SOmeone better tell Abbott & Napthine – that is how they plan to build the east west link!
    “Accelerated depreciation is a tax cut, as you would know.” Yes it is – which is the equivalent of the govt giving them money – afterall money has a “time value”
    “The” ? Hmmm were you going to say the diesel fuel rebate somehow wasn’t a handout?

  21. Scott

    Yes, I was going to say that.
    The diesel fuel rebate is a tax rebate again. The vast majority of the rebate is used to compensate non-road users for the diesel tax excise. i.e diesel for heating, heavy vehicles that used off road such as mining etc, The non-road users get taxed for a levy when they buy diesel, that is supposed to go into roads. Because they don’t use the roads, they get the tax back.
    Again, its a tax cut. Its not a handout as the guys are paying the tax…they are just getting it back.

  22. Electric Lardyland

    Yes, Michael and Jimmy, the thing that I’ve been the most suspicious of, for quite a while, is the preferred party leader poll. In fact, it was the variance in the frequency of this type of poll, that strongly suggested to me, that was an agenda within News and Fairfax, as opposed to just the traditional right wing bias.
    Firstly, during the reigns of Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull as Liberal leader, there was constant preferred leader polls, which were accompanied by increasing leadership speculation. In these polls, Abbott usually came around about fifth. I think the last poll before he became leader, had him way behind the the two preferred choices of Hockey and Turnbull, behind Julie Bishop and behind the ghost of Peter Costello. So, once he became leader, I looked forward to seeing how the notoriously unpredictable Abbott, would react to poll after poll, showing that nobody really wanted to see him as leader of the Liberal Party. But unfortunately, I waited and I waited, but these polls seemed to be either no longer being asked, or no longer being published. Which seemed very strange to me. I mean, since the unpopular Abbott was only elected by one vote, you’d think that this would have been a strong justification to run the poll. But no, as far as knew, we had to wait until just after the 2010 election for Abbott’s first preferred leader poll to be published. In this, unsurprisingly, it showed him a long way behind Malcolm Turnbull as preferred Liberal leader.
    Of course, this troublesome bit of information was soon ditched, in favour of the endless Australia wants to see Kevvy back instead of the evil Juliar type polls. And yes, these were held with far more frequency; at the height of leadership speculation, there was four in one week, not counting all the micro polls. Which funnily enough, allowed certain journalists to write about little else: no policy, just leadership speculation.
    And still, my suspicion of a deep seated Abbott favouring agenda is still being nourished. What, with increasingly negative two party preferred numbers for the Coalition, you’d think that somebody at News or Fairfax, would run a poll, to see if they might go better with Turnbull or Hockey in charge: but no, it seems that Tony’s our man.

  23. Jimmy

    Scott – “Its not a handout as the guys are paying the tax…they are just getting it back.” So as long as the business pays tax the govt can give them money? And what of the Diesel Rebate that is paid for On Road use?

    These tax breaks and rebates are designed for just one thing, to encourage investment.

  24. Scott

    What did I say in my original comment Jimmy?

  25. Jimmy

    Scott – You said “Investment decisions are not made through Government handouts” Yet here we have handouts that drive investment decisions – the fact that one handout is in cash received and the other is in a payment forgone is irrelevant they are still govt hadnouts.

  26. Scott

    I don’t think giving back tax is a handout. If that is the case, every person who receives a tax return is getting a government handout.
    In fact, it is more about the Government returning money it doesn’t have right to.

  27. Rpinglis

    Fuel Tax is supposed to go on roads Scott? I suppose “supposed” is the operative word. Fuel excise & GST goes into consolidated revenue. The construct to justify the tax break is just that, a construct.

    Every tax break which is a refund or a forgivness of what otherwise would be a debt is a cost to revenue just as every expenditure, grant, subsidy, handout is.

  28. Jimmy

    OK Scott – How about we put a price on carbon and use it to give every renewable energy investment company a 67% rebate on their tax bill – essentially meaning that they a corporate tax rate of just 10% – rather than a cash handout?
    Or maybe they can get a tax credit for every levy, duty, royalty or tax they pay?

    And just out of interest how do you come up with the idea the government doesn’t have the right to the money they essentially forgo with these concessions?

  29. AR

    MrJ,Klewy & Jimmy – Indonesia?!? I think not but an invasion of Manus or Nauru to stop human rights abuses might just be do-able.
    Maybe Fiji to rid a Commonwealth cousin of a military dictatorship.. umm.. no, a coupla days ago some deadshit (was it DeathStare?)was saying that resuming relations would ease the transition back to .. not sure wot but not doubt lotsa Cadbury-type tourism. And those Fijian soldiers would be no easy foe.
    Maybe a blitzkrieg on macquarie Island? But we’d need to be careful, those penguins have nasty sharp beaks and the bull seals are kinda big.

  30. Jimmyhaz

    I think Scott is going down the road where all government spending is a handout. While it’s technically true, it does tend to render discussion rather moot.

  31. beachcomber

    Tony Abbott and the Magical Shrinking Economy, coming soon to an empty factory, boarded up shop or airport near you.

  32. Patriot

    What exactly is fair about handing over battlers’ tax dollars to militant unionists earning $80k to throw people’s luggage around? I find the idea absolutely perverse.

  33. Patriot

    No jobs in the renewable energy sector. 24,000 at last count” The indistry needs the right policy setting and stability to grow

    Right policy setting – read government handouts. Stability – read the carbon tax we were promised we wouldn’t have.

  34. michael r james

    Electric Lardyland at 3:54 pm
    “And still, my suspicion of a deep seated Abbott favouring agenda is still being nourished.”

    No, I don’t think it is some kind of Right wing agenda/conspiracy within the ABC. In some ways it is more depressing than that because it shows how Murdoch has made the ABC newsroom his b*tch without doing anything much. It seems that the peculiar logic of the ABC news producers/editors is that if it is being made a fuss in the right-wing papers, esp. The Australian, then it is de facto “news” and therefore must be covered by ABC news. There is also a big helping of laziness because they often do just parrot the Australian story. And of course there is no reason why they always lead with the story!
    Perhaps some of this is a response conditioned over 4 decades of Murdoch causing big trouble if the ABC doesn’t report what he/his editors consider news.–ie. fear and loathing. Waves of hurt ripple down from on high within government and others. And it is just easier for the ABC to report what is on the front page of the Australian. After all it is the major (only) national newspaper! Not reporting what is on its front page would be like ignoring what is on the front page of the New York Times, wouldn’t it?
    And doesn’t everyone in Oz media know that there is a chance sometime in their career that they will work for a Murdoch entity? (That fear and loathing again.)

    I thought Mark Scott’s mea culpa about the asylum burned hands story was just appalling. He shouldn’t have done it. They were simply reporting on a story that was big in Indonesia concerning an extremely topical subject. The ABC didn’t get the story wrong, even if the basis of the story was faulty. It was much more worthy of being reported to Australians than those endless polls about Gillard and Rudd. But it is the perfect demonstration of the power of Murdoch and those under his power cooking up a (totally confected) outrage. Media Watch also didn’t help itself by getting the “The Australian makes $50m loss” story but they made it worse by retracting it—in the absence of News Ltd even being open about what their loss actually is (reputedly $15m).

  35. R. Ambrose Raven

    No. Time and again we are fed the standard mainstream media line that voters seemed to have acquired a violent hatred of all things Labor under Julia Gillard and the 43rd Parliament. In fact, mainstream media interests (primarily Murdoch’s duplicity of ideologues at The Australian, but more than a few ABC and Fairfax journalists as well) waged a ferocious, continuous, and largely effective effort to destroy Gillard Labor, much assisted by a revenge-obsessed traitorous control freak.

    Granted, people can be forgiven for their apparent failure to look to the polity rather than the politics. A good measure of the degree to which the masses can be swayed is that Australia having (for instance) 770,000 more jobs than if we had followed the Thatcherite path is something most mainstream media commentators need even not avoid mentioning, despite their enthusiastic support of the Noalition; perceptions of Gillard Labor have long ceased to have any connection to its objective performance.

    Mainstream media was quite successful in persuading non-upper-class voters that Labor was dreadful but its candidate – Abbott – was wonderful. An excellent measure of their success is that (as Greg Jericho put it) a “Prime Minister from an electorate with a socioeconomic demography that almost perfectly represents typical Australia and a Treasurer from one of the most middle class electorates in the country were less able to convince the working and middle class to follow them than were the party with a leader and a frontbench representing the most advantaged areas in Australia.” Mainstream media was utterly determined to destroy a government it saw as insufficiently servile to transnational interests.

    Given three years of media support and protection for a pattern of commentary from Abbott that ranged from the vicious to the odd to the absurd, it is hardly surprising that Noalition Ministers from Abbott to Border Generalissimo-MP Morrison are utterly contemptuous of accountability.

  36. R. Ambrose Raven

    Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

    Protection would have done us and our economy so much good, then and now.

    Big Mining, like the banksters, has come to own Canberra’s established political class; as with transnational capitalism generally, they aim to destroy any vestige and economic and social independence, for their benefit and entirely to our cost. As with the indifference to the domestic costs of allowing internal LNG exports (as shown by class traitor then Minister Ferguson), as with the determination of Andrew Robb now to open the gate wide to Philip Morris and the transnationals generally to sue Australia for everything it’s got, those politicians aim not to build this country and our industry but to systematically wreck it.

    Gruen’s recently stated belief that within Australia, “investment in the resources sector is now expected to slow more rapidly than previously expected” and “the transition to non-mining sources of growth also appears to be occurring at a slower pace than previously expected” once again justifies interventionist industry policies. Obviously not doing so guarantees a bleak future. After all, mining is only 8% of GDP.

    Effective industry policy requires government to return to owning strategic industries, ensuring a strong domestic base through various forms of industry protection to rebuild and strengthen existing industries, and directly providing important social and technological services.

    Manufacturing is an important means of countering the increasing polarisation of wealth and income. It therefore deserves serious policy and financial support. Yet support for manufacturing has become politicised, just as it has declined.

    While various issues are affecting the performance of manufacturers, ensuring a minimum size through tariffs and other protections is essential for an industry base to exist. As the AWU noted “in order to invest in and implement innovative change, firms must survive in the near term – i.e. you can’t innovate if you’re dead.”

    As with the car industry, even a loss-making Qantas can provide economic skills and strengths far greater than the headline cost. GM Holden’s managing director, Mike Devereux, spoke as truly for what there is of our airline industry, or SPC, as he did for the cars – “There’s no doubt in my mind that the … budgetary cost of losing this industry would dwarf the cost of keeping it.” And that is exactly what we are now discovering!

  37. michael r james

    Jimmy at 2:58 pm

    Aaarkkk. Klewso & Jimmy. We’ve all been gazumped in our war plans for Abbott! In today’s first edition of The Saturday Paper, Richard Flanagan suggests a different kind of war:

    [Bomb the boats and kill all the illegals.

    It gives our sorely tested navy the opportunity for ongoing live gunnery practice with a real enemy, while helping to restore their morale after suffering the vicious slanders of the ABC. Opportunities would arise for cross forces exercises, deploying US Marines stationed in Darwin to machinegun down survivors. A transnational alliance – and here I think much could be achieved in the way of reducing tensions with Indonesia – that brought the Indonesian navy in to participate in a real-life gunnery exercise would be a welcome development.

    By bombing the boats and destroying them and all the people on board there will be no bodies left to rescue. What there will be is a nutrient-enriched oceanic current that will serve as a much needed food source for dwindling fish stock in the Indian Ocean – thus helping impoverished Indonesian fishing communities by increasing the possibilities of higher catches, and sparing naval personnel the trauma of having to deal with corpses, plus the ongoing cost of litigation from traumatised service personnel years later.]

    Dastardly clever. Maybe they could subcontract Qantas to roll out some barrel bombs thus..ahem..killing two problems with one stone, ie. throwing a bit of loot QFs way. Employ Indonesian pilots and voila, another problem eased (more profit and those Indos can’t complain….).

  38. Suzanne Blake

    With no boats for 70 days or whatever it is the focus is off illegal economic refugees.

    With Labor and Greens blocking in the Senate, WA vote will be interetsig after the stolen vote episode.

  39. AR

    Dear ORAC (aka ‘foresnic’ auditor)- please give your comment generator a grease & oil change. Or, better still, wake up and smell the blood.

  40. Jimmyhaz

    Was the focus ever on illegal economic refugees? I always thought it was on the people actually coming to our country by boats. You know, the overwhelmingly legitimate asylum seekers.

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