Leave a comment with your name underneath this post AND most importantly Join our Facebook Group to register your support before National Conference in 2015! PLS Read On!
Dear Friends and Comrades;
For too long the ALP has failed to find sufficient inspiration on the ‘big picture’ social welfare, democratic and nation-building reforms it needs to implement in government as a genuine movement of democratic socialism and social democracy.
Please find below a ‘minimum program’ I have developed in tandem with other ALP members in the hope of influencing debate leading up to the 2015 ALP National Conference in July 2015.
Included are proposals on tax and welfare reform, social insurance, environmental reform, a ‘democratic mixed economy’ and much, much more. Not every proposal could be included because of reasons of space.
This ‘Minimum Program’ will be published at the ALP Socialist Left Forum web-page as well; and there you can also comment and leave your name in support of it.
Please also propose motions in support of this program at your local branch, or your ALP student club. Or you may belong to a ‘third party organisation’ (eg: a welfare organisation, charity, student union or other advocacy group). Motions of support from these organisations are also welcome! If you successfully pass a motion in favour of this document please leave a comment to that effect either here, or at the 'For and Equal and Democratic Australia' Facebook Page.
With enough support and wide enough distribution we may influence debate on the ALP National Platform – to be decided upon in 2015.
If you are a delegate we would especially be interested – pls let us know.
But we will keep on campaigning after that also: to continue to build momentum for a genuinely progressive Federal Labor Government for 2016 and onwards.
There are some changes from the earlier version so you may like to read through first
As supporters of this Program we endorse the incorporation of the following into the ALP Platform for 2015:
a) ALP Core Mission: We believe that part of the ALP’s core mission in government is to promote a progressive accumulation of reforms - for the purpose of improving fairness, democracy and equity; promotion of a robust civil society characterised by informed and active citizenship and civil rights and liberties (speech, association, assembly; continued universal and equal suffrage; and basic industrial liberties); And preservation of the natural environment upon which human survival itself depends
b) Supporting Human Rights: We support the ‘core mission’ of pursuing ‘political’, ‘social’ and ‘economic’ citizenship; That includes the defence of civil and democratic rights and liberties; the provision of social wage and welfare rights; and finally the pursuit of a ‘democratic mixed economy’ via a plurality of strategies –
c) A Democratic Mixed Economy: We support variety of strategies for a ‘democratic mixed economy’ - including a mixture of public and co-operative ownership and control (including but not necessarily limited to public ownership of critical infrastructure and natural public monopolies), as well as mutualism, co-determination and other related strategies; and also crucially including ‘democratic collective capital formation ‘(that is democratically administered funds such as superannuation, public pension funds, wage earners or citizens’ funds etc) (nb: ‘collective capital formation’ was a term used by Swedish social democrats)
d) Expansion of social expenditure: We are committed to seeing an incoming ALP Federal Government implement a progressive expansion of social investment and expenditure – incorporating the social wage, social welfare state, collective consumption and social insurance; and state-funded public infrastructure
e) Expansion of Social Expenditure Detail: Specifically we aspire for the ALP to increase sustained social expenditure in the realm of 2.5 per cent of GDP – or by approximately $40 billion in today’s terms (as of 2014) – upon taking government, and more throughout the following terms. (plus even more still if the Australian economy is in danger of recession and stimulus is necessary) More specifically, we aspire to achieve a Federal tax to GDP ratio of 30% over several consecutive terms of Labor government, with a corresponding increase of social expenditure in diverse fields listed elsewhere in this statement. (ie: see article ‘g’) We understand the ALP cannot provide real progress regarding social expenditure on a variety of fronts without such measures. On social welfare, we reject ‘giving with one hand’ for the needy only to ‘take away with the other’.
f) Specific Revenue Measures: To fund these new commitments we support the following:
· very significant strategic and equitable rescission of superannuation concessions
· expansion of the Medicare Levy,
· restoration of a robust Mining Super Profits Tax
· the establishment of a progressively structured Aged Care Levy.
· progressively-structured tax reform elsewhere
Additional measures might include crack-downs on corporate tax avoidance, taxes on ‘super profits’ in areas like the banking sector, and a reduction in the rate of dividend imputation.. A Federal Land Tax should be considered but might infringe upon the revenue options for the States. We also ask the Party to consider a moderate increase in Company Tax and actions to ‘end the race to the bottom’ in corporate taxation which is leading to greater and greater ‘corporate welfare’ globally. Other taxation measures will be decided upon by any incoming Labor government – but the ‘bottom line’ is that the total measures implemented must provide for the aforementioned increases in social expenditure, and very significantly add to rather than detract from the progressive nature of the overall tax and spending mix.
g) Specific social expenditure/infrastructure measures we support for implementation in the first term of an incoming Federal Labor Government include:
· a progressively-funded National Aged Care Insurance Scheme providing a broad range of high quality aged care services for all those aged 65 and over with the need – and without forcing disadvantaged and working class families to sell or take equity against the family home to achieve the highest quality care;
· Robust and progressively applied increases in state school funding; including improvements in funding formulae as proposed in Gonski;
· provision of comprehensive Medicare Dental – with a wide array of dental services provided at minimal cost and promptly for pensioners and low income groups;
· Completion of the National Broadband Network – publicly owned and with Fibre to the Home technology; as well as other public-funded and owned infrastructure in areas such as transport, communications, water and energy;
· full implementation of ‘GP Super Clinics’;
· greater public support and funding for pure and applied scientific research via the CSIRO.
· A review of existing job network services; considering the possibility of re-consolidation of a single provider in the public sector; And regardless of this ensuring an emphasis on a more compassionate, patient and understanding approach to case management; especially considering the special needs of the long term unemployed, the under-employed, disability pensioners, those with differing skill types and levels; and for older job-seekers,
h) Welfare Reform: We are committed to the ALP increasing welfare payments in real terms across the board upon re-taking government through more generous welfare formulae. We reject the ‘blame the victim’ and ‘blame the vulnerable’ mentality apparently promoted by the Abbott government.
i) Retirement Age: We are committed to maintaining a retirement age of 65 instead of raising it to 67 or 70 as proposed by Abbott and previous Labor Governments. Indeed we are also open to the possibility of reducing the retirement age below 65 into the future. Specifically we support reducing the retirement age for those who have suffered physical debilitation as a consequence of demanding work. (eg: manual labourers)
j) More Welfare Reform: Again in the sphere of welfare in particular: we support an incoming ALP Federal Government providing substantial positive incentives and support for pensioners – including disability and aged pensioners – to ‘return to work’ via community programs (eg: in aged care, helping provide company and care for the vulnerable – unless professionally deemed psychologically unsuited to such work) But we do not support ‘negative incentives’ or labour conscription of any kind for these people. We understand that many such people – for instance the disabled – require flexibility which existing labour markets do not provide. Again: we support ‘positive incentives’ and ‘flexible work’ without loss of pensions.
k) Industrial/labour rights: We support a legislated real increase in the minimum wage as well as pattern bargaining rights for unions. And we support effective subsidies for some of the most exploited and underpaid workers (including in child care, cleaning, aged care and elsewhere)– whether through direct subsidies, tax concessions, enhanced social wage provision and other effective measures We also support the industrial rights and liberties of workers; including a right to withdraw labour ‘in good faith’ (including political strike action), and including a right to secondary boycott when ‘in good faith’ in solidarity with ‘industrially weak’ workers
l) Economic Democracy: We support the extension of democracy on the economic front, and for that purpose will support a stronger role for producers and consumers co-operatives in the Australian economy on both a large and a small scale. Specifically we support very significant but initially-capped aid to co-operatives via cheap credit, tax concessions and free advice/economic counselling - with co-operative enterprise supported in a variety of spheres, including credit unions, insurance, child care and aged care, manufacturing; as well as co-operative small and medium businesses. (for example in hospitality)
m) Curricula for ‘active/critical citizenship’: We are committed to reform of school curricula for the purposes of promoting ‘active and critical citizenship’. Without bias, the point of such reform would be to impart balanced and inclusive understandings of political values, movements and ideas, and social interests. We believe active and informed citizenship means a stronger pluralist democracy.
· We support restoration and expansion of tertiary education funding; including for universities and the TAFE sector; with an expansion of tertiary education placements on the basis of an understanding of education as a modern social right, and not an exclusive privilege.
· We also support the humanities and social sciences for the sake of effective pluralism in the Australian public sphere. And we support provision for tertiary academics’ participation as ‘public intellectuals’ and not only on the basis of the bulk of published academic works.
· Furthermore we support progressive reform of the HECS system: reversing any fee deregulation, and with real increases in the repayment threshold; and forgiveness of debts of those who have a good reason for not being able to benefit from the prior education. (eg: because of disability)
· Gender equality: Finally, here, we support equal participation, and on-average equal achievement - between men and women in higher education, and greater participation and opportunity for those from disadvantaged and working class families.
o) Treaty: We are committed to beginning formal dialogue with representatives from the entire range of indigenous peoples with the aim of negotiating a Treaty. We support an incoming ALP government initiating such a process in its first term.
p) Environment: We are committed to increasing the proportion of renewable energy sources so as to achieve a real reduction of emissions even as the economy and population grow. Specifically we aspire to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25% below 2000 levels by 2025. To this end we support large scale public investment in renewables, as well as generous subsidies for lower income households to acquire micro-renewable energy systems; and incentives for landlords to invest in micro-renewable energy. In further environmental reforms we are committed to sustainable land use and water management, achieving ‘world’s best practice’ in food production.
q) Humanitarian Migration: We support a very significant expansion of Australia’s humanitarian migrant intake – increased very significantly in real and proportionate terms on top of what was proposed by the outgoing Rudd Labor government. Additionally, we want for an ALP government to pursue diplomatic channels to encourage other prosperous countries in the region to also increase their humanitarian intake very significantly. For asylum seekers we support humane onshore community-based processing.
r) ABC and SBS: We support continued funding of the ABC and SBS – and the pursuit of ‘participatory media’ principles and strategies through these channels. We support a role for the ABC and SBS in pursuing an ‘authentic’ public sphere, and an inclusive pluralism. (with the exception of not providing a platform for the far right) And we support representative ‘popular’ participation on the ABC and SBS boards of management.
s) Public and Social Housing: We support very substantial investment in high quality public housing (facilitated through tied Federal grants to the States), and also social housing where it is more cost-effective - to increase supply, and hence also affordability. (combined with the necessary public investment in local infrastructure in emerging suburbs) Re-iterating from item ‘g’ –that means expansion of ( largely ‘non-clustered’) public housing stock to at least 10% of total stock over several terms of Labor Government
t) Local Government:We support a gradual re-working of the funding of local government – to ensure local government is funded in an increasingly progressive way, and is less dependent on ‘rates’ and ‘levies’ which do not take sufficient (or any) account of ‘capacity to pay’. In that context we also support additional Federal funding for poorer municipalities to improve their capacity to invest in local infrastructure and services.
u) Internal Reform: We support internal democratic reform of the ALP; including a direct role for union members in supporting particular policies and platform items; as well as direct election for ALP National Conference delegates; actual adherence to State and National Platforms; and a ‘mixed model’ for election of the Party Leader which may include rank and file, Parliamentary Labor and trade union components. In the same spirit we demand that both major factions (Left and Right) – and the Party more broadly - equally share the work of achieving the Affirmative Action goal of 40% women preselected for winnable seats.
v) Public Sphere: We also support the establishment of a ‘progressive public sphere’ in this country, including ALP related forums, and policy and ideas conferences and publications which are inclusive, authentic, progressive, and which accommodate difficult debates.
w) Strategic industry policy: We support an active industry policy aimed at the maintenance of ‘strategic industries’ with ‘strategic capacities’ in Australia; including through automotive production, shipping-construction and also defence industries. (but not for export to aggressor nations) Said industries can also involve high wage, high skill labour. And there are a variety of potential models, including joint multi-stakeholder co-operative-state ventures – involving workers, regions and government.
x) Multilateral Disarmament and Peace: At the same time we support a policy of realistic multilateral disarmament with the aim of freeing resources for purposes which meaningfully improve peoples’ material; quality of life
y) On Health Care: In addition to the aforementioned implementation of comprehensive Medicare Dental and GP Super Clinics we also support the following:
· Also increase investment in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to extend its coverage
· Improve the rate of Bulk Billing
· Tighten means tests for ‘Lifetime Health Cover’ in order to pay for the removal of penalties for low income individuals (including pensioners) who let their policies lapse;
· Also extend Medicare to cover physio, optometry (including glasses or contact lenses), speech therapy, podiatry, psychology; provision of hearing aids where necessary; and also cosmetic surgery for those in extreme need (for instance as a consequence of physical injury)
· Improvement of and substantial new investment in mental health services to ‘close the gap’ regarding the life expectancy of those with mental illness; as well as to improve productivity and quality of life
z) A Comprehensive Bill of Modern Human Rights: Finally: We support a comprehensive ‘Bill of Rights’ in this country, supporting liberal and civic rights of suffrage, speech, assembly, association, faith, conscience. As well we support ‘social rights’ including education and health, a guaranteed minimum income; housing; access to communications and information technology; access to transport; access to fulfilling employment with a remission of exploitation; social inclusion including opportunity for recreation and participatory citizenship; respect and human dignity.
ADDENDUM: Further resources on top of what has been considered here might be accessed via reform of superannuation concessions as well - perhaps in the vicinity of $20 billion or more out of a pool of over $45 billion.. (taken from wealthy superannuants enjoying unfair tax breaks) But with over 400 people already supporting the original document it is too late to include this addendum as part of the official 'For an Equal and Democratic Australia' statement. Nonetheless the primary author urges policy makers and ALP National Conference delegates to take this ADDENDUM into consideration - as an aspiration ON TOP OF the existing call for progressive tax reform to enable a pool of $40 billion for social investment.
Furthermore the prime author of this document (Tristan Ewins) has also decided to support a significant increase in all welfare payments in addition to an increase in the minimum wage. This along with other proposals here must be committed to at National Conference. Poverty is a serious problem for the welfare-dependent and the working poor. Specifically I am now supporting an increase in welfare/minimum wage by a minimum $35/week - on top of existing indexation arrangements. And also changing the indexation arrangements for all pensions (including Sole Parents, student allowance, NewStart) - to match the Aged Pension and Disability Support Pension indexation provisions) This is modest enough not to break the Budget (assuming the tax reforms considered here), but significant enough to make a big difference in alleviating the extremes of poverty. (both for the welfare-dependent and the working poor) Though further income tax and other reform might also be necessary to impart the appropriate rise in disposable income and living standards for the working poor... Improving the social wage as considered here could also make a very big difference. (Again, though - it needs to be noted that this specific proposal was developed after the original document; Hence not all people who elected to support the broader document at our Facebook page did so with this specific proposal in mind)