As pundits on both sides rally around the issue of Chelsea Manning’s visa denial, Crikey readers are taking the opportunity to vent about the the hypocrisy of the government’s employment of the “character test” (as pointed out by Bernard Keane). Meanwhile, there was some insightful conversation stemming from the Productivity Commission’s inequality report (another Keane special) and the wider implications of the commission’s role.
Administrator writes: For illegally leaking the private welfare details of blogger critic Andie Fox to a single selected journalist, Minister Alan Tudge was awarded with ministerial promotion. The minister claimed the leak was “to correct the record”, which is not a permitted use of private information. For disclosing the criminal actions of ASIS in bugging the Timor-Leste Cabinet for commercial advantage, lawyer Bernard Collaery faces prosecution. Yes, the Liberal Party is entirely hypocritical regarding privacy. It feels free to act inconsistently and be a law unto itself. I don’t care whether we hear more from Petraeus or from Manning. In the spirit of fair trade, we should offer to export Tudge and Joyce and our privacy commissioner.
BeenAround writes: Clearly the Productivity Commission is an inherently neoliberal institution. It is constituted to see us purely as an economy, not a society living in communities. The only (or at least dominant) reason the commission recommended NDIS was that it would make the disabled and disadvantaged more productive and by neoliberal economic magic the NDIS will pay for itself. It may. But the point is the NDIS was not founded on any basis of compassion or sense of equity. That Harris claims to not know what neoliberalism means displays either ignorance or stupidity given that volumes of philosophical and political-economic texts written about it since the early 1990s. To defend aspects of neoliberalism on the basis that at least it embeds “meritocracy” misses the point that “meritocracy” has long been a cover for maintaining wealth inequity.
Geoffrey Edwards writes: The Productivity Commission’s reports have long been unidimensional and therefore suboptimal or worse as guides to policy formulation. Whether that single-minded perspective can be labelled neoliberal or not ultimately doesn’t matter much. Time after time, they have tried to squeeze the subject under discussion into a rigid framework that preferences private-sector provision over coordinated service delivery. Time after time, the results for Australia’s society and economy of an atomised model of service delivery have been catastrophic. Think telecommunications, electricity, vocational education and, looming, NDIS.
Even where the commission’s deliberations have brought contrary evidence to the surface, they don’t seem to be able to muster the courage to follow that evidence through if it leads to a heterodox solution. Take the infrastructure report of 2014. No real mention of climate change. No mention of peak oil. No uncovering of the vested interests busily involved in pitching infrastructure proposals to government. The commission lacks the tools necessary to develop robust policy, including the natural sciences and public administration. Truly it has been said that if the only tool in one’s kit is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The commission should be abolished.
Arky writes: It’s interesting to get an insight into the Productivity Commission because to those of us outside government it’s a black box that spits out reports of varying quality which the government of the day cherry picks for their own use and uses for the classic appeals-to-authority. The Productivity Commission said it therefore it is gospel (except the bits the government doesn’t want to use, those bits aren’t). I accept the general intention to carry out evidence-based policy development and maximise community outcomes, and sometimes the PC gets the blame for the way ideological governments carry out PC recommendations.
For example, on penalty rates. The PC suggests there is no real basis for Saturday and Sunday penalty rates being different and recommends they be aligned to create a weekend rate. That actually makes sense. The recommendation is not “reduce the Sunday rate to the Saturday rate” or “cut penalty rates entirely”. The PC also said “Penalty rates have a legitimate role in compensating employees for working long hours or at asocial times”. The actual decision by Fair Work to do the government’s dirty work on cutting penalty rates was not a PC decision and who knows how much weight they even gave the PC report on the subject.
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