Scott Morrison Fantasy Budget

Jobs and growth. Jobs and growth. Jobs and growth. This incantation seems to have delivered only a little of the latter, but has had negative impact on the former. Even our central bank has been obliged to name underemployment as a new menace, making the shock finding in March that “flexible” labour arrangements tend to offer advantage to firms while punishing the people who work for them. Golly gee and this just in: the first obligation of business is to profit, never to employees.

Australian wages, stagnant for most for decades, are declining. Still, our Prime Minister retains his faith that workers will be happy as “agile” entrepreneurs and that business relieved of the burden of tax, or troublesome unions, will allow us all to share in their prosperity. At least, that’s what the CEO of Australia says in public; perhaps it is only Pauline Hanson deluded enough to believe this near-dead dream.

Hanson might have made her strange marriage of neonationalism and neoliberalism, but Turnbull needs to build a new relationship with voters if he’s to hold onto power. He can forget the public racism; first, his heart just doesn’t seem to really be in it and, second, even the most bigoted Australians are bound to eventually realise that it wasn’t a jihadist who made their workplace so “flexible”. The government must deliver on jobs. (We’ll leave the urgent question of housing affordability to another budget correspondent.)

Let’s pretend that the neoliberal fantasy can be made a legal reality. By a certain low-cost method, which I shall soon describe, Turnbull can save face and save capitalism. There is a way for him to uphold his vision of a nation led to comfort by powerful business innovators! There are the means for him to bear out the (hitherto unproven) idea that the immensely rich love nothing more than to create good jobs. My gift to government is the proposal of a budget reform that actually will create those good jobs that are, so far only allegedly, being created by the well-to-do. We’ll have flourishing businesses that benefit all. Plus, the bureaucracy is already in place.

We simply take the paternalism of the BasicsCard (a program itself to be immediately discontinued) and transfer it to Australia’s rentier class. Let’s call it BasicsPlatinum — our intended cardholders are of the sort who prefer elite club names, and we respect their culture — and apply it to every individual with, say, a net worth exceeding $10 million, to be indexed over time. They will be legally obliged to use their wealth for job creation. As they do, we are led to believe, anyhow.

All BasicsPlatinum elite club members will be encouraged to personally enjoy up to 500,000 ordinary dollars per annum — or the figure that reflects 10 times current median Australian wage. Alas, they may spend no more buying unhealthy things such as cigarettes or politicians, not that this honourable class would wish to. They may take any further income — derived from rents, interest, capital gains, etc. — and spend it on nothing but job creation. Which is, per Mal, precisely the work that capitalists are most naturally drawn to do.

Cardholders will be permitted to etch their names in large, gold letters on any structure that contains their grateful workers.

Save for this gratification — I’m not a monster — cardholders will not be permitted to spend on anything but job creation. Which will be fine with everyone, of course. This is the loveliness of BasicsPlatinum: it makes law that which, we’re told, already occurs.

BasicsPlatinum members may spend entirely as much as they wish on programs of job creation; just as, we read so frequently, they currently do. Construction, research and development, even public infrastructure projects are the bread, milk and green veg purchases of this simple and innovative scheme. We’ll privatise everything! If it’s going to create a job in privately held industry, your BasicsPlatinum Card can buy it. The creation of a job, whether in arts, education, science or any sector you care to name, is a neoliberal “Basic”. Your handy card, by which your every transaction is now made, will inform you when you have made a non-“Basic” purchase by triggering a loud alarm, which makes a sound that suggests that you are a burden on the state. We apologise in advance for any embarrassment this may cause. 

I am yet to finesse the details of this thrilling scheme, which is bound to save us a bundle on complicated management of a system of progressive tax that we neoliberals despise. I had considered incentivising BasicsPlatinum cardholders by offering those who created jobs in regions of high unemployment extra income, or vacations on a nice timeshare island with Richard Branson. But then, I thought, fuck them.

Those who accumulate wealth by doing nothing more exhausting than waddling to the mailbox to welcome a cheque must be made to create jobs for the nation. Which is what Malcolm is insisting that they already do. You’re welcome.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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