Dear Friends and Comrades;
We’re Promoting an Updated version of the ‘For an Equal and Democratic Australia’ Model Platform for the ALP. The program is updated for 2018 from a very similar version platform I promoted for the 2015 Conference.
At this point we’re still considering suggestions to expand the document – and your ideas are welcome. Contact Tristan Vaughan Ewins at Facebook if you have a suggestion you would like to make.
The ALP needs a vision for the ‘big picture’ of social welfare, democratic and nation-building reforms it needs to implement in government.
Included are proposals on tax and welfare reform, social insurance, environmental reform, a ‘democratic mixed economy’ and much, much more.
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 Tristan Vaughan Ewins at Facebook so I am aware of this and can promote our success in garnering support.
With enough support and wide enough distribution we may influence debate on the ALP National Platform – to be decided upon this year in 2018.
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 2018 or 2019 and onwards.
Again: if you support the goals of this ‘minimum platform’ please respond to this paper by ‘liking’ it at our Facebook group – and that support will be noted for purposes of our campaign.
We may also see if we can promote this cause via the ‘Megaphone’ Petition Platform to mobilise further support ahead of Conference.
As supporters of this Program we endorse the incorporation of the following into the ALP Platform for 2018:
a) ALP Core Mission: We believe that the ALP exists for the purpose of improving fairness, democracy and equity. We support the promotion of a robust civil society characterised by informed and active citizenship ; and civil rights and liberties (including industrial rights and liberties), as well as preservation of the natural environment upon which human survival itself depends. Also we support separation of church and state - amidst freedom of faith and worship. We support the advancement of ‘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’.
b) A Democratic Mixed Economy: We support a variety of strategies for a ‘democratic mixed economy’. That includes 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, and strategic Government Business Enterprises), as well as mutualism, 'union-friendly' co-determination and other related strategies; and also crucially including ‘democratic collective capital formation. (‘collective capital formation’ was a term used by Swedish social democrats to describe their Meidner Wage Earner Funds ; but might also be applied to superannuation for instance). Specifically we support a stronger role for producers and consumers co-operatives in the Australian economy on both a large and a small scale. For instance, government co-investment may be required to help co-operative enterprise increase its scale so as to remain competitive and hence viable. 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)
c) Reform Tax to Extend Social Investment and Expenditure: We have as a medium term objective the goal of meeting the OECD average regarding our Tax to GDP Ratio. That means an increase in the Tax to GDP ratio by 5% ideally over as long as three terms of Labor Government. Specifically this translates to an increase of $80 billion/year in today’s terms.
d) Specific Revenue Measures: To fund these new commitments we support measures including but not necessarily limited to the following:
· very significant strategic and equitable rescission of superannuation tax concessions (perhaps $10 billion/year or even more)
· Progressive expansion of the Medicare Levy
· restoration of a robust Mining Super Profits Tax
· the establishment of a progressively structured Aged Care Levy.
· Progressively restructure the income tax mix, and thereafter fully index the bottom three thresholds.
· Restoration of Company Tax and strong measures on Corporate Tax Evasion ; network with like-minded parties to create a global shift against the ‘race to the bottom’ on corporate tax
· Halving the rate of Dividend Imputation (perhaps $10 billion/year)
· An inheritance tax on inheritances valued over $2 million and over. (indexed)
· Consider stronger measures further limiting Negative Gearing for investors holding portfolios including several properties.
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.
e) 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 (including high intensity care, low intensity care , and ‘ageing at home’) – and without forcing disadvantaged and working class families to sell or take equity against the family home to achieve the highest quality care. Also mandate a nursing skills mix in every aged care facility that includes a Registered Nurse on-site 24 hours a day.
· Robust and progressively applied increases in state school funding; including improvements in funding formulae as proposed in ‘Gonski 1.0’ ; over the longer term we aim to improve the quality of state education (including infrastructure and student to teacher ratios) to the point where demand for private schooling is very significantly reduced. The point is to achieve true equality of opportunity in education.
· Completion of the National Broadband Network – publicly owned and with Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology; as well as other public-funded and owned infrastructure in areas such as transport, communications, water and energy; keep it public and provide as a social and economic good – not just ‘to realise a profit’.
· Construction of ‘East Coast Fast Rail’ and State-Owned Centralised Renewable Power Generation
· 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 (Centrelink); 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,
f) Welfare Reform: We reject the ‘blame the victim’ and ‘blame the vulnerable’ mentality promoted by the Conservatives. Along with that we reject all forms of ‘Punitive Welfare’. Specifically we propose raising the Aged and Disability Pensions, Youth Allowance, Austudy, ABStudy by a minimum $50/week. (then indexed) Newstart to be raised by $75/week (also fully indexed). We also support a more generous Carers’ Allowance ; and reject effective labour conscription for ‘Work for the Dole’ , as well as rejecting waiting periods for Newstart which force vulnerable Australians to exhaust their personal savings. (or even drive some into homelessness) We understand that many pensioners – for instance the disabled – require flexibility which existing labour markets do not provide. To overcome ‘poverty traps’ we support ‘positive incentives’ and ‘flexible work’ without loss of pensions. FINALLY: We believe the ALP should consider – and conduct research into – the replacement of NewStart with a Guaranteed Minimum Income. (GMI)
g) Retirement Age: We are committed to maintaining a retirement age of 65 instead of raising it to 67 or 70. 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)
h) Industrial/labour rights: We support a legislated real increase in the minimum wage as well as pattern bargaining rights for unions. As well as stronger re-regulation of the lower end of the labour market more generally. 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
i) Further Educational Reform
- 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 significantly above Average Weekly Earnings; 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) Over the medium to longer term we support reversion to free tertiary education.
· Gender equality: Finally, here, we support and strive for 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.
j) Treaty and a Republic: 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. Also we support the realisation of an Australian Republic at such a time that public opinion is such as to achieve the change.
k) 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.
We also support an Emissions Intensity Scheme that would set an emissions intensity benchmark for the whole electricity sector, which will reduce in line with emissions reduction targets; 50% by 2030. To ensure that this mechanism would successfully reduce emissions, benchmarks will be set five years in advance as recommended by the Grattan Institute, and revised as the need for greater emissions reduction appears. The EIS would be accompanied by the maintenance of the Renewable Energy Target, and large scale investment in renewable energy through reverse auctions, provided the assets are held in public ownership at the end of construction. We also support providing microgeneration grants to households and businesses to promote uptake of renewable generation technologies, and reform of feed-in tariffs so consumers producing their own energy are paid an appropriate amount when selling the excess back into the grid.
l) Humanitarian Migration: We support a very significant expansion of Australia’s humanitarian migrant intake. 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. (that means close detention centres including in Nauru)
m) ABC and SBS: We support continued (and extended) 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
n) Public and Social Housing: We support very substantial new investment in high quality public housing (a minimum ‘surge’ of $10 billion) 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) That includes expansion of ( largely ‘non-clustered’) public housing stock to at least 10% of total stock over perhaps three terms of Labor Government. Where appropriate we support a mix of low, medium and high density stock. Further: High density housing development in capital CBDs, and amongst strategic activity/transport hubs - should not be left ‘only to the private sector’ ; and public developments could include more generous provision of space, and high quality amenities such as common rooms, gyms, pools, parks and gardens. Planning laws should also be rigorous to ensure a viable spread of amenities and services where-ever housing developments occur.
o) 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. We also support the establishment of a ‘progressive public sphere’ in this country, including (for our part) ALP related forums, and policy and ideas conferences and publications which are inclusive, authentic, progressive, and which accommodate difficult debates.
p) 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 and shipping-construction. This means a public investment rather than a public subsidy or handout. And it could create the basis for a more-independent foreign policy as well. 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. This ought also be supported by attempts to emulate Denmark's success in related Education and Training.
q) 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
r) On Health Care we support the following:
· provision of comprehensive Medicare Dental – with a wide array of dental services provided at minimal cost and promptly for pensioners and low income groups; The main aim here must be to radically slash waiting lists which currently can be in the vicinity of two years unless in the case of a ‘dental emergency!’ This means that vulnerable people are denied help until things reach ‘the critical point’. With new funding and resources public dental waiting periods must be no more than six months.
· 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; Over the longer term we aim to improve the quality of public health to such an extent as to significantly reduce demand for private health insurance. During the interim we also support the growth of Health Insurance Mutual Associations as alternatives to Private Health Insurance.
· 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. (for example there are in the vicinity of 200,000 to 300,000 Australians with Schizophrenia who on average live 25 years less than the general population)
s) ‘Physical and virtual commons’ ; ‘Public Space for Public Use’ ; We believe that ‘physical and virtual commons’ are necessary to provide support for a strong, participatory and democratic civil society’ ; In part this means decoupling public space from any strict and/or exclusive relation to consumption. Local communities must have centrally-located meeting and gathering spaces – and this requires a significant public investment, and associated regulations. In part this can also be supported with dedicated space in local business districts – including in shopping malls. Such developments should be dependent upon the provision of ‘community kiosks’ which would provide comprehensive information on how to become active in community organisations and clubs, social movements, political parties and so on. But excluding the far-right. Once-off public meetings and gatherings could also be promoted via these ‘community kiosks’ ; and citizens could ‘sign up’ for mail outs and/or emails regarding ‘what is going on’ in communities on a month-to-month basis.
t) A Comprehensive Bill of Modern Human Rights: Finally: We support a comprehensive ‘Bill of Rights’ in this country, supporting liberal and civil 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.