Big Wheels Keep On Earning

TO the best of my knowledge, not a single Australian parliamentarian anywhere has solemnly announced his intention to forego, say, twenty percent of his taxpayer-funded salary or – if he cannot technically forego it – donate it to charity during the Coronavirus Recession. Every Labor MP knows the words to ‘Solidarity Forever’ but they’re obviously as saddened by the implications as the rich young man in Matthew and Mark. It shouldn’t even come down to personal altruism – but certainly that is always more admirable and inspiring. Australia’s governments should have mandated such reductions by now with the force of either law or regulation. With unemployment expected to climb as high as 15 percent in coming weeks and months, the class/wealth/power divide in a country that prides itself (fatuously) as almost genetically egalitarian has never been so pronounced. Masses have been forcibly stood down not by improvident employers or crashing markets but by state decree. The Morrison government sacked Australia, not in the Visigothic sense it’s true but it will soon appear that way if they keep drawing the same hugely generous pay. For the moment, Australians are still in a state of shock. It’s important for officials to keep them that way because the longer they see themselves as lucky virus have-nots the more accepting they’ll be of housebound penury. This nexus between hyped danger and acquiescence is no happenstance. Without it, governments will fall.

They have taken untold millions
That they never toiled to earn
But without our brain and muscle
       Not a single wheel can turn.”

Solidarity Forever, (Ralph Chaplin, 1915).

 
On the subject of money, Laura Tingle wrote a sound critique yesterday of the income replacement steps the Federal government has so far taken for coronavirus employment casualties. Forced to abandon a sour weekly campaign against Scott Morrison over climate change, Tingle has returned to what she used to do well: dry and unemotional analysis of economic policy. This she invariably does with a negative slant against the LNP and a transparently partisan habit of denouncing as stubbornness any reluctance to embrace “new ideas” which are actually old left-wing ideas. Her doubts about the sustainability of the government’s approach was nevertheless on the (sorely needed) money. Directing the unemployed to Centrelink (which cannot be contacted), the MyGov website (which crashed), increasing ‘benefits’ (which won’t be available for three weeks) and making a limited portion of super available (causing a chaotic run on funds) were haphazardly applied band-aids that didn’t stick for seven days. People cannot survive and pay their bills via this cockamamie ensemble.

It seems the Tingle view – shared by several other commentators – will prevail. The Financial Review reported last night that as early as today the government will announce a wage subsidy plan for workers and businesses similar to those instituted in the UK and elsewhere. If true, you could say we’ve come full circle and returned to the Commissariat model I mentioned in passing on Friday. As for solidarity, this is the nearest thing to it we’re likely to see. Our noble rulers privatise the plaudits and socialise the sacrifice.

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28 Responses to Big Wheels Keep On Earning

  1. NoFixedAddress

    Communists-R-Us

  2. jupes

    The Morrison government sacked Australia

    Indeed. The bastards. A personal anecdote from my son – a (former) commercial real estate salesman and DJ.

    No access to Centrelink website, eight hours on the phone with no joy, followed by four hours in a queue to get his application done. Plenty of frustration and pride swallowed.

    On the bright side, he will learn some valuable lessons about living frugally. Lessons well learnt by his grandparents who grew up in the depression and WW2.

  3. BorisG

    I heard that Israel has stood down 70% of its government workers. I couldn’t find this in English language sources and my daughter also couldn’t find it in Hebrew press but confirmed from her own friends that this is true. Perhaps was on the local radio but not widely publicized.

    May still be a wrong rumour.

  4. Herodotus

    All the expenditure by governments has made the BBC think. Their program The Real Story focussed on it and extrapolated that if huge sums could be found for da virus, huge sums for climate change should be no problemo. Some guy with a name like Jonathan Parrot said that it would be a tough assignment to get climate back in the driver’s seat, but at least “the science” was being respected in the case of coronavirus, and the deniers and science destroyers needed to be sidelined in regard to climate. The difficulty as he saw it was that people had to be convinced that climate change was at least as big a threat as the virus, but it was further away, over the horizon while the virus was rampant in the here and now.
    Another line of reasoning was that African countries needed development, but advanced countries had developed enough, and needed to stop enlarging their economies because it was draining the planet of finite resources.
    The vision splendid for these people was the control! At the same time, they wanted to have a poke at the UK cabinet for not doing their social distancing well enough to avoid the contagion.
    The beeb has a program called Science In Action, but all to often we get the zombie left in action.

  5. rickw

    Four blokes dismissed last week (new hires, no way to train them), everyone else is on half their work hours.

    Government just wrecked a whole lot of people’s lives essentially because they’re incompetent morons.

    All the staff are now 1 day less a week, as soon as we get over the implementation hump, they’ll be down to 3 days a week.

  6. Tel

    Government just wrecked a whole lot of people’s lives essentially because they’re incompetent morons.

    Can anyone name one thing that was done right at any level? Either the state governments, or the Commonwealth, or the unconstitutional “national takeover” government?

    I honestly think that if all those guys sat in their office chairs and dozed off for three or four weeks the whole country would be better off.

  7. John Commenus

    The real ruling class finally emerge from the shadows – the “public service” and our uni party political leaders.

  8. mundi

    The real risk here is all the talk from the abc of suspension /freeze of the economy. The left wet blanket at the moment is “freezing” rent / mortgages etc.

    If the government attempts any such thing it will be have colossal unintended consequences and could trigger hyperinflation through rapid devaluation of the AUD causing extreme high velocity of money.

    Forget for a moment government making jobs illegal and not compensating, that will be a drop in the bucket when government orders a freeze of the economy- which as we all know will actually just mean people will get to consume for free, while others will take the hit, and a while new huge wave of problem will be created.

    Morrison needs to stick by his current plan of 80% of minimum wage paid to workers stood down or sacked.

    He then needs to change IR laws. Unions will be ready to pounce the day this is all over.

  9. John Bayley

    Don’t worry, MMT and that other wet dream of socialists everywhere, ‘Universal Basic Income’ (UBI) will fix everything! /s

    Seriously though, I’ve no doubt both are on the way.
    No need to work, comrades. The government will provide!
    Just watch the turkeys enthusiastically demand that Christmas be brought forward!

  10. Tel

    He then needs to change IR laws. Unions will be ready to pounce the day this is all over.

    In the highly unlikely event that ScoMo can pull one over the unions, I will apologize to him, but up until then he’s a bozo way out of his depth and his seat-of-the-pants policies are worse than useless.

    If ScoMo only manages to antagonize the unions, stir up trouble, and make people get very defensive about hanging onto whatever jobs are still left … then would have been better he did nothing at all.

  11. John Bayley

    If the government attempts any such thing it will be have colossal unintended consequences and could trigger hyperinflation through rapid devaluation of the AUD causing extreme high velocity of money.

    You’re assuming any of them (politicians & public servants) actually know what they are doing.
    They don’t and they won’t.
    All they know is how to appear to be doing something; anything in fact will do.
    As Tel says above, the best thing would be if they all locked themselves away for at least a couple of months. Things would resolve themselves with much less damage.
    But of course that won’t happen.
    Hold onto your hats.

  12. Petros

    Tel you are one of the best commenters on this blog IMHO.

  13. DHS

    I couldn’t find this in English language sources and my daughter also couldn’t find it in Hebrew press but confirmed from her own friends that this is true.

    How does a government that is just about to go full totalitarian do so without 70% of its employees? That makes no sense.

  14. Yarpos

    Again all the armchair generals who know so much and powered by hindsight would have done things sooooo differently. You can bet many have never made sigificant high pressure decisions in their life , especially in a shifting chaotic environment with lots of conficting info and advice.

  15. shatterzzz

    Yes, members of Parliament going on 5 months, full pay, holidays is not a good look when that same Parliament has/is putting millions out of work.

  16. nfw

    Have been asking for weeks when we will see politicians, their staff and public servants being laid off and taking pay cuts. I wonder if these morons actually know where the tax revenues come from to pay their fat cat salaries and perks? Oh, let’s just borrow more money from….China. Good thinking boys and girls.

    In Tasmania (if you don’t want us there give back our GST moneys) the so-called Liberals have basically given renters a three to four month rent holiday (oh they say it’s not and they should keep paying their rent but we all know what that really means don’t we?) but the top hat cigar smoking landlords, you know those people who invested savings rather then gamble or piss it up against a wall so as to be self-funded retirees and not a burden on the taxpayer, have to keep paying rates and other government taxes and charges. Wonderful socialism.

    Still waiting for loudmouth tough-talking Peter Dutton to sic the AFP dogs onto the Chinese, yes it has been proven it was Chinese, who went around by the bus load buying up supplies, which in turn caused the low IQ panic buying (of bottled water?), to send to China to make a profit without any consideration of the Australian public’s well being. Surely an act of war? Come on Dutton, where’s your bravado now? Coward.

  17. Asking Parliamentarians to take a 20% pay cut is insignificant in the overall scheme of what is now happening. The PM has asked all Australians to make sacrifices and share the burden but so far I have seen no articles relating to lay offs, job cuts or pay cuts in the ranks of the public servants. Heck, they are probably still recruiting. Many have been sent home on full pay or are working much reduced hours. If Governments can shut down whole sectors of private enterprise costing hundreds of thousands their jobs then where is the sacrifice by non essential civil servants ?

    For example in Qld they have cancelled all driving tests for three months. I presume the testers are Government employees. Do they get to stay home for three months on full pay ? Same applies to staff in libraries, cultural centres, and many other areas. There are huge savings to be made and they need to be done quickly.

    Whilst people are trying to work out how to take money out of their Super to survive Government servants are still receiving their very generous Super whilst performing no work or much reduced work. This is a joke surely ?

    The stats below show the over 2 million public sector employees cost over $166 billion per year. There are billions to be saved across the board. Or are the public sector immune to the financial pain of what is happening in the real world ?

    The income for Governments is drying up rapidly each day yet not one word so far about cutting Government expenditure. In fact the discussion is about the Government giving people more money that we don’t have. Forget about focusing on the Parliamentarians as that is not the issue that needs to be addressed quickly in order to save billions.

    Once the virus is gone the Government is going to have to raise funds to pay for giving away so much money. This will be more taxes, levies, rates etc. How can continued full pay plus Super for non essential civil servants be justified in the present dire circumstances.

    Each Government has an Audit Department. I am guessing it is the type of work place where they have probably been advised to stay home. Well for a start they should be immediately be tasked to identify payroll savings across the whole civil service. It is simple, if you have been told to stay home for months you should not be receiving full pay. This should be a priority as it can be done by people who are probably not currently considered essential and can easily identify the areas for savings whilst sitting at home.

    So far Governments are ticking the boxes about shutting down the country and giving away money. Time to step up and lead by example and have their own workers share the burden.

    From the Australian Bureau of Statistics web page :

    “In June 2019 there were 2,046,700 public sector employees. There were 242,100 employees in Commonwealth government, 1,610,600 in state government and 194,000 in local government.
    In 2018-19, the total cash wages and salaries for the public sector was $166,893.8 million”.

    “TO the best of my knowledge, not a single Australian parliamentarian anywhere has solemnly announced his intention to forego, say, twenty percent of his taxpayer-funded salary”

  18. Good point. But how many Canberra based staff does each of those members have ? Far outweighs the MP cost.

    It will be the highly paid civil servants who will be able to afford to buy the houses and small businesses left behind by those who have gone bankrupt.

    “Yes, members of Parliament going on 5 months, full pay, holidays is not a good look when that same Parliament has/is putting millions out of work”.

  19. Jock

    All non essential public servants should either be stood down without pay or they should have their salaries cut by 25percent until July. Can we have a change.org petition for this ?

  20. Iampeter

    The real risk here is all the talk from the abc of suspension /freeze of the economy. The left wet blanket at the moment is “freezing” rent / mortgages etc.

    If the government attempts any such thing it will be have colossal unintended consequences and could trigger hyperinflation through rapid devaluation of the AUD causing extreme high velocity of money.

    Yep. If they try freezing rent/mortgages for even a single minute it’ll be the end of Australia as a first world country. I don’t think anyone grasps the total destruction of our lives if this happens. There’s not going to be any coming back from that.

    The overall post from CL is right too. The governments actions have bankrupted vast swathes of the population in this country in a few short weeks. We aren’t going to be able to afford the bloated government that we currently have. We urgently need dismantling of government at all levels and the associated cut in taxes so that people can survive 2020.
    But the exact opposite is going to happen.

    But the real test of all those rightly calling for cutting back government right now will be what they say about Trump, who has currently signed off on the biggest spending bill in human history.

  21. alan moran

    You are mistaken. One patriot, Craig Kelly has called for a 20 per cent reduction in salery for all MPs and senior public servants. You can find it buried here

  22. BorisG

    Asking Parliamentarians to take a 20% pay cut is insignificant in the overall scheme of what is now happening.

    True but that would be important symbolically. Many executives at large companies are taking a pay cut. Qantas CEO forgoes his salary entirely. Why the governments, federal and state don’t do the same ?

  23. Robber Baron

    Shut up, pay your taxes and stay home otherwise you will cause people to die.

    Stage 3 is nigh.

  24. Petros

    But make sure you vote in Qld.

  25. max

    If king or dictator is doing this — people will understand what is happening.

    But because “we the people” are government –we are doing it to ourselves.

  26. Squirrel

    Most interested to see if the concept of a HECS-style conditional repayment obligation will apply to any or all of the wage replacement scheme which will be announced in coming days.

    Without a hook of some sort, this could be a catastrophically expensive scheme. Just pretending that it’s only for (say) six months, or some other arbitrary period or condition – e.g. it stops when unemployment (as defined) drops to a certain level – would be almost impossible to sustain in the face of what is likely to be relentless political and media pressure.

  27. Fresh Pat

    L. Tingle, malcontent’s first choice of reporter, makes as much sense as the propeller on my boat.

    If it isn’t in gear it goes nowhere. That is not to say that she could ever get into gear.

    That’s my first post. Yay

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