I know it is Wednesday and The Insiders was several days ago. But something that was discussed on “the couch” is still sitting in my craw. You see, a dominant proportion of the Insiders panelists from last Sunday implied that the biggest threat to Australia’s prosperity is the business sector/community. And in particularly successful business. Not North Korea. Not a global pandemic. Not terrorism. Not even Donald Trump. Nope. Business and its evil spawns of globalization and climate change are the main threat to our standard of living.
As a brief reminder, on last Sunday’s Insiders couch were 1 public servant (Barry Casssidy of the ABC), 2 NGO workers (Lenore Taylor of the Guardian and Comrade Mike Seccombe of the Saturday Paper which is published on Thursday) and 1 employee of a private business (Shane Wright of The West Australian). More than 1 of these 4 panelist would struggle to actually spell the word “business” let alone understand how business works. But notwithstanding.
When discussing the recent “Fair” Work Commission determination regarding conversion of casual employment to permanent, business expert Mike Seccombe, said:
If you go back a generation, part time work has doubled, essentially, in that time. The number of people. It’s hovering, I think now, over 50% for women. And some of that is because there are more people who are students, so they work part time while they are getting a degree. But at least half of that change, I was talking to a labour market specialist, who called it “involuntary”. So in other words, it’s not the choice of the worker, it’s the choice of the employer. And they (business) put them (workers) on at a time that suits them.
Where can one start with such insightful analysis from The Saturday Paper’s national correspondent. Perhaps Mr Seccombe, familiarize himself with new phenomenona including the internet.
Accepting Mr. Seccombe’s thesis, it is possible, just possible, that while the negotiating power of workers may have diminished, it has not been to the benefit of business. It has been to the benefit of consumers who can now better chose what they buy, from where and how much to pay. In response to this increasing consumer power, business has reorganized to meet what the customers demand, including through changing operating models to incorporate things like global supply chains and flexible work practices.
To the extent that there have been “transfers” from workers, it has been to the benefit of consumers. And where consumers have not benefited, it is more likely to be the result of governments rewarding rent seekers through regulation and legislation.
There is a reason that iPhones aren’t built in Australia. Given Australia’s labour practices and costs, not to mention energy costs, it is difficult to imagine anyone paying $4,000 for an iPhone.
Trying to return labour market practices to pre-internet and pre-globalisation times through legislation will be just as effective as trying to travel through time through legislation.
Further to Mr. Seccombe’s other observation that the number of part time workers has doubled (in absolute terms), might that be impacted by that phenomenon called immigration which is increasing the population of Australia.
One must wonder whether Mr. Seccombe’s “labour market specialist” is in fact a Union official.
But a more general point on the attitudes of too many commentators, you know those people who have no idea how business works, yet like to lecture on business.
There seems an increasingly hostile narrative towards business in this country. Allegations of underpayment of tax are based not on profit but revenue. Pricing behaviors caused by government policy (reference energy and health) are blamed on business complying with government policy rather than the government policy itself.
The usual default seems to be that, when business make mistakes (and they do and do often and will continue to mistakes) then the better pathway is for government intervention. Yet never does it seem to be considered that no matter how bad business does it, governments do it exponentially worse. More expensive, slower and worse. What better example than the NBN.
They can’t handle the truth! We live in a world that has government, and that government has to be paid for with taxes. Who’s gonna do that? You? You, ABC? You Guardian? Business has a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom.
This morning I was at a presentation about the just passed Commonwealth budget. It was asked of one of the speakers if they thought that it would take some sort of external shock to wake Australia up to the need for budget repair and economic reform. The response was essentially, don’t hold your breath. It was also commented that we should cheer up because it was only going to get worse!
There is an ever increasing indulgence and sense of entitlement by an ever increasing number of people. I despair as to where this great country is headed. Our national anthem says wealth for toil and not wealth through government.
Perhaps we just rename our national capital to Caracas and get stop pretending.
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