above: Julia Gillard
Retrospective on the Gillard Leadership -
and Last Chance Policy Fixes for Rudd Labor
Much to be treasured from the Gillard Leadership: and
Rudd’s motives more complex than recognised by some Feminist critics
I think, though, that things are more complex than the
author of that article acknowledges. I agree that Rudd took advantage of the
‘blue tie factor’ in response to the Gillard speech. Responding to male
resentment following Gillard’s recent speech on the threat to women’s
participation in public life, it was a clever ploy – underscoring impressions
Gillard was being divisive, and appealing to a mass male demographic which felt
threatened by Gillard’s stand. I agree
this was a form of destabilization – and even if effective, it was the [ethically]
wrong ‘symbolic tactic’. And I agree there have been men – powerful right-wing
men – who have subjected Gillard to constant mockery in order to weaken her
authority and credibility – and sometimes in the most debased and sexist form. And that sexism still comprises a problem in parts
of the broader electorate as well.
But this was also personal vindication for Rudd in a way
that goes way beyond gender… If Rudd
had been ‘done in’ by another man his bitterness was have been just as
palpable. Arguably, there was also bitterness in the 'Rudd camp' because it
appears Rudd as PM was removed at the behest of Australia’s powerful mining
industry – after he had attempted to introduce a Mining Super Profits Tax to
spread the benefits of our mining boom… As I’ve said before – both ‘camps’ in
Labor tried to set a precedent. Each
side attempted a ‘political scorched earth’ strategy against the other – and
that only escalated the division and crisis. That an accommodation and
reconciliation was not achieved earlier led us to this point – with the caucus
elevating Rudd as their ‘only hope’ due to his consistent ascendancy in the
Importantly – the monopoly mass media in this
country (largely controlled by Rinehart, Murdoch etc) exploited the internal conflict
to destabilise the ALP. But now that
Rudd has returned he is enjoying a ‘honeymoon’ courtesy of previous ‘oxygen’ he
was provided by that very media establishment… But will the media continue to
‘give Labor a fair go’ now? Some are
talking of Rudd reforming the compromise mining tax we ended up with – But what
chance of this with Rinehart dominating the traditionally (and still
relatively) liberal Fairfax media assets?
IN the final analysis, though, Gillard deserves credit for pursuing education reform, implementing
disability insurance, promoting a better deal for low paid workers (mainly
women) in the community services sector and elsewhere, and improving diplomatic
relations with China. Though there were bad policies too: Sole Parent Pensions
reduced; Disability Pension eligibility narrowed etc… Recognition of all this
is part of the answer for future healing in the ALP – for the same reason that
the former Labor leaderships’ past attempts to ‘airbrush’ the Rudd governmentt’s
prior achievements only escalated and deepened the internal conflict… And in
any case Gillard DESERVES recognition for her policy achievements under the
most difficult circumstances of minority government…
Here’s hoping Labor now has a chance of fending off the
prospect of an Abbott Liberal Government – which could be the most right-wing
government we have had in decades should it come to pass…
Conclusions: Possible Election-Winning Rudd ‘Policy Fixes’
as the ‘Day of Reckoning’ Draws Nearer
above: Will Rudd take the Opportunity for Bold Reforms that take the Fight to Abbott?
Concessions Reform to pay for ETS reversions: and Tax Breaks to pay for wage
cuts flowing from Superannuation Increases
early? Or go later and maybe reconvene parliament?
believe it would just be good for Rudd to "get some reforms under his
belt" before the election if possible; including restructuring the tax and
spending mix in such a way as to pre-empt Abbott... (For example: if we remove
superannuation concessions from the wealthy and the upper middle class to pay
for winding back the carbon tax to an ETS...)
If we don't do this and Abbott wins - he can use fiscal pressures as a
rationale to wind back social expenditure and welfare. So if possible we should
get the reforms in place while taking away the Abbott excuse/rationale for
austerity. Getting 'reforms under his belt' could also give Rudd more
credibility - a concrete indicator of the direction he intends to take Labor
should he win the election.
Not to mention we should have an interest in distributive justice for low and middle
income Australia regardless of pragmatics. In 2012 Dr Richard Denniss of the
Australia Institute argued that removing superannuation concessions from the top 5% would save over $10 billion. (See: http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2012/s3568235.htm )
Meanwhile, today that figure would be significantly
higher: and targeting the top 10%
demographic would presumably bring in much
So not only could this money pay for an early reversion
to an ETS. (which is a very regrettable political
imperative) The removal of
subsidies/concessions for the wealthy and upper middle class could pay for an
expansion of the Clean Energy Fund. And it could also pay for improved welfare
- and make room for tax cuts for low income groups to overcome the effect of
the increase to 12% superannuation contributions for these already-struggling
is right that today the superannuation industry comprises a private pension
system – where risk is privatised – and within a highly inegalitarian framework. While the Aged Pension was once a great
leveler – in the future retirement income will be greatly stratified and
effectively discriminate against women, and low income, part-time and casual
workers. The Aged Pension itself faces
potential future marginalisation as a second-class, residual system.
Davidson notes there is growing pressure for governments to privatise their remaining assets by selling them to the superannuation funds. This
is presented as saving governments from the need to invest in future
infrastructure. But what would the ultimate consequence be?
remain potential problems, here, even where those funds are union-controlled. There is the potential that they may increasingly
comprise ‘corporate interests’ – which pursue
their own particular interest rather than the general interest.
the important socialist thinker Eduard Bernstein pointed out as far back as the
1890s - as the “mistress of a whole branch
of production” even unions theoretically have the potential to become “a
monopolist productive association…antagonistic to socialism and
democracy…” Here, “Associations against the community are as
little socialism as the oligarchic government of the state.” (Bernstein; pp 114-119, pp 138-141) Of course there is a difference between
Bernstein’s example here, and that of Australian unions – but the theme of
general versus particular interest is the same. (the answer, of course, is natural public monopolies where appropriate)
Referring to the Superannuation Industry, Ken Davidson wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald in 2012:
“Specifically, the superannuation industry has its eye on existing water, road, rail and port assets, which are largely monopolies with assured income streams. To reveal what is at stake, assume that, as state monopolies, these assets earn 5 per cent on capital for the government and would be expected to earn 10 per cent on capital for private investors… This means that the assets worth $100 billion on the government's books, would only be worth $50 billion to the private operators if the prices for the services remained the same. The government might get $100 billion for the assets if it allowed the new owners to double prices for the services.” (Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/its-about-time-super-funds-stepped-up-20120729-235y4.html#ixzz2YFLdAnnr
It is too late to substantially alter Labor’s 12% superannuation promise, and too difficult to sell Davidson’s complex message to the electorate on the eve of the election. Especially when Labor has been selling this policy unequivocally for so long, and many of our supporters are convinced it is ‘free money’.
But the government has options in creating a more egalitarian system.
Again this should involve cutting superannuation concessions for the wealthy and the upper middle class – which could bring in well over $10 billion. (I have no modeling beyond Richard Denniss’s figures ** – but extrapolating from that a minimum of $15 billion seems credible for 2014) And using some of those proceeds, in addition to paying for an early reversion to an Emissions Trading Scheme, and an increased Clean Energy fund - it must also mean further restructuring of the tax mix. Further, it should also involve easing of means tests for some partial self-funded retirees. And what is more, this could involve another real increase in the Aged Pension, and improvements in social wage benefits for pensioners of all kinds. This should include improved cost-of-living subsidies (energy, water), and free or discounted access to the NBN and public transport. Finally, here, the funds released by superannuation concession reform could be ploughed into infrastructure and completely bypass pressures for privatisation.
Concluding, though, the most industrially strong unions could attempt to hold onto their share (ie: the labour share) of the economic pie – even in the context of increasing superannuation contributions from employers - but also in the hope that this could occur in the context of a squeeze on profits, rather than a squeeze on consumers. Whether or not this happens also depends on how profitable and how competitive the economic sectors in question are. Competitve sectors with lower profit margins would have little room to move.
The election is far from over; and neither are Labor’s policy options exhausted even at this late point in the electoral cycle. Let us hope Rudd Labor governs and reforms in the interest of justice and equity for most of what remains of 2013 – and that the consequence is another reforming Labor government.
Allison Pearson from ‘The Telegraph”
“Evolutionary Socialism”, Shocken Books, NewYork, 1961
Ken Davidson at
‘The Age’ and the SMH::
Denniss argues removing superannuation
concessions from the top 5% income demographic alone could bring in $10 billion
in 2012; For my purposes I am assuming the top 10% should be targeted in the
reforms I am suggesting.