Feb 032009
 

Parliament is once again in session. We have the benefit of seven sitting days in the next fortnight, a week break then four more days for the lower House. Eleven sitting days out of twenty working days. Nice work if you can get it. Senators have it even easier with seven sitting days out of twenty. Just thought I’d point that out to anyone wishing to say pollies work hard.

ABC Newsradio broadcast the Senate today, more’s the pity, when question time in the House would have been far more entertaining. Personal preferences aside, I was interested to hear quite a number of clearly partisan points of view being expressed today by coalition Senators over the latest Rudd government stimulus package. Claims of a return to the Whitlam era, of socialist tax-and-spend Laborite policies and abandonment of so-called fiscal conservative ethics were bandied around like chaff in a high wind. None of these claims with any basis in fact, and none which take into account the current economic impacts being felt across the country and across the globe. Neo-liberalism is far from dead, it seems. It’s attitudes live on in the conservative side of politics. One wonders what conservatism would be doing currently, were the situations reversed? The current economic fracas was coming like a runaway juggernaut in any event. The flavour of politics in any country matters not a whit as to which ideology is best placed to handle the impacts. Suffice to say though, that conservatism would doubtless be attempting stimulus through idiotic suggestions such as placing a moratorium on compulsory superannuation. Aid business at the cost to the worker. Thankfully that suggestion, along with a mooted cut to the GST, haven’t and aren’t likely to raise their ugly visages whilst sensible socially constructive attitudes hold sway.

Social democracy is the right tack to take in the current times. Protect those who need it most, while stimulating business through providing liquidity for consumption. Creation of jobs through public infrastructure projects. Protection of jobs as much as is possible without direct interference in the labour market, is essential to ensuring a trained workforce remains in place for when the economic tides turn. The costs of re-training in the future far outweigh the cost of retention now.

I applaud the latest stimulus package as being the best of a poor selection of available options. No tax cutting, which is vital to maintaining what tax base remains, while spending on job creation and protection of personal and business interests all get a look in. Impacts will not be immediate and likely won’t be properly felt until after the next electoral cycle due in mid to late 2010. By that stage, Australia’s budgetary deficit is likely to have exceeded A$40b. Political gamesmanship aside, it is hoped that by November 2010 the global economy will be showing signs of recovery as the benefits of careful Keynesianism start to show. We’re lucky in Australia, because of the recently ended resource boom, and we’ll recover quicker as need for our resources return. If the Rudd government have to borrow to keep Australia at the current status quo, then I say borrow. When the global economic  drought ends, those who have planned to catch the rain, will.