17 May, 2007

"Let them eat damper"

Costello slam dunks - but Australia is in line to lose the series.

Costello’s big number-crunching is designed to appear very savvy. The average Australian might feel as though the guy is in control of the financial helm because somehow, magically, he can rake in big bucks while they’re still doing it tough at the coalface.

Success is interpreted as a bloke thing, macho. In the short term, sure, he’s rolling in dough – your dough – but it’s a campaign manipulated and stage-managed by spin-merchants in the Coalition’s back-rooms. Front-man Costello’s counting on public myopia and apathy to pull off massive electoral deceit.

If things don’t go well for him, Howard the chameleon will probably announce late in the election campaign that he intends passing the baton to his little pet Costello ‘sometime’ during his next term. Costello’s on the nose, rather.

All that matters for this December’s election is that the Coalition rabbit is seen to pop out of the hat. It’s Costello’s best – and only – shot at the top job, so he and his mate Ducklips Howard will change colours like the proverbial chameleon if necessary. Costello and his tunnel-vision ambition will do anything to achieve it – anything - including pulling the wool over voters’ eyes about the country’s strong economic position. Ambition’s like that… selfish and ruthless, and it would be naïve to trust otherwise.

For instance, Costello glossed over the fact that Australia is still living on borrowed money - a whopping 5.7% of GDP is still owed to foreign debt, which even the alleged resources 'boom' is unable to repay. You, therefore, are slaving half-an-hour out of every 8-hour day just to pay the interest on Peter Costello's debt, let alone your own:

Costello wants to create an impression that the process of boom creates jobs, which in turn create more jobs as people spend money. It’s tempting for Joe Blow to conclude that this apparently circular process might become self-perpetuating. Everyone fervently wills it to be so, just like the mythical perpetual-motion machine.

Belief in Perpetual Motion, however, is wooly thinking which falls into “The-Emperor-Has-No-Clothes” trap. What Costello won’t admit is that he is painting Australia into a suffocating corner by relying so heavily on the resources boom - and by basing its Budget projections on the assumption that the drought will break in 2008. Man, that’s what I call big stakes. Well may Howard encourage Australians to pray for rain.

The Australian Tax Office is watching YOU. Costello’s 2007 Budget is bulging with YOUR dollars because the government never fulfilled its erection promises to substantially reduce personal taxation once the GST kicked in. The GST was basically supposed to replace personal taxation. Yeah sure: Costello's raking in a double-whammy. Yoo-hoo, Petey, we’re still on 30% out here in voter-land, mate!

More than ever before, Australia is a farm and a mine. But with water rapidly becoming extinct, mines are seizing the baton. No wonder Howard wants to mine uranium. Rudd was correct when he asked “After the resources boom, what then?” He’s exactly targeted the Budget’s Achilles Heel – and Australia’s - but gets little credit for thinking past the horizon of the next election.

Howard and Costello have cleverly blinded the public to their own plight by effectively removing Unions and Collective Bargaining from the stage. I'm relieved by Greg Combet’s grand entry at Stage Left, too – Greg’s a an intelligent and clear thinker - but think he’s got as big a struggle against the new Howard-ized public attitude to Unions as he has against Howard himself. Greg, do a Hawke - but maybe leave out the Jewish fetish.

The other thing Costello’s minimizing is the fact that unemployment figures have been rigged to look their best until just after December’s election. Treasury admits it expects growth to slow: employment growth will hit a brick wall – slowly – because of a growing shortage of workers. (This explains the grudging relaxation of migrant quotas – skilled ones only, of course), viz:

One person’s Pillars-of-the-Establishment are another person’s dole-queue

Costello knows that employers already recognise that fact that there will be a shortage of workers after the election, so are therefore increasingly hiring full-time workers in anticipation of the shortage.

Worker shortage, you ask (raising your eyebrows)?? Yippee, wages will be going up! Not so. Treasury figures reveal that the extra money now in the system due to the resources boom is not filtering down into workers’ pay-packets. Wages have remained steady, against all predictions. Woo-hoo, sings Costello - more dosh for me. But FunkyPix2 is so not surprised – it’s the natural outcome of losing Collective Bargaining. Rescue the Unions, Sir Galahad Combet, and do it soon.

Behind Costello’s creepy snake-oil smirk, he knows full well that unemployment figures will not look as healthy next year, due to the government’s cold-blooded tightening of Centrelink rules. As a direct result of Howard’s “Welfare-to-Work” reforms, more people will be forced off Centrelink support and into the labor market. The government knows that these people (eg, the mentally and physically disabled, single parents, etc) will not be as attractive to employers. No disrespect intended – it’s just a grubby fact of life – but unemployment queues are expected to lengthen again in 2008.

Another day, another breadwinner goes down the tubes at the bankruptcy courts.

An impoverished beggar in AlexanDUH Downer’s electorate of Mayo

Did Costello even hint at this coming worker squeeze in his Budget speech? Does the Howard government really care if even more of its poorer citizens lose their livelihoods and homes as a result? Let them eat damper - on credit. That'll boost the banking sector. There is an unprecedented reliance on credit: it’s the easiest fall-back tactic to bridge and temporarily disguise the increasing chasm between rich and poor:

The temptation to put the Woolworths or Telstra bill on plastic is putting thousands of marginal mortgages at risk. The alluring panacea of credit is making the system is increasingly top-heavy, the same cause as the 1997 meltdown of the baht in Thailand:

At least the coming slowdown will mean that the Reserve Bank probably won’t have to cool the economy by raising rates. Some consolation for the victims who will have already lost their homes.

Don’t forget, either, that the work-force is shrinking due to the greying of the population. This is despite Mr Costello-Gollum sssuggesting sssmirkishly in 2005 that people consider ssstaying in the work-force into their ssseventies. That was an assstonishingly masssive U-turn from the days when the government itself was leading the rush to offer early retirement severance packages.

Hey, wake up and smell the coffin

Meanwhile, Mr Cossstello iss sssaving up hiss sssuper so he can retire comfortably…

…before any economic crash happens:

Well, that's the end of that barbie...

Update! June 7 2007: Costello has been crooning in his customary self-congratulatory way yet again. In this interview on ABC Radio he chooses his wily words with extreme care, mentioning only facts which show him in a good light. In my mind's eye, I see an image of Costello gingerly picking safe stepping-stones as he crosses a flooded creek. It's left to a commentator to point out that while company profits are at an all-time high, workers are getting less of the benefits than at any time before. Yet again, nowhere does anyone mention that the boom in household spending is being fuelled by credit. That extra money isn't coming from wages, after all.

How do you spell B-U-B-B-L-E ? Answer: refer to the photo of the truck, above.

Oh dear, what a negative doomsday article. In real life I’m a bubbly optimist by nature, but from here in Thailand I sometimes cast my eyes toward Straya’s dire situation with some alarm. I don’t think I’m entirely unjustified. Well, I’m off to have a spicy chicken Tom Yum ;-) bye

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