Bicycling Along a Tightrope

Another fine post from Catalyst, which (and whom) I wish would be the catalyst for changing the hearts and minds of the rich and super-rich elites of this country. Thank you again, Catalyst.

(Image credit: State Library of Victoria H96.160/2603)

Bicycling along a tightrope was how Harold Macmillan( Britain’s Prime Minister 1957-1963) explained how demanding formulating economic policy was and is. After the war and the subsequent years of bleak austerity, Macmillan famously reminded Britons that You’ve never had it so good.

In Australia too, Prime Minister Robert Menzies (1949-1966) was in the fortunate position of presiding over a high growth period. And it was prosperity that reached almost all Australians.

As Andrew Leigh writes in Battlers and Billionaires: The Story of Inequality in Australia:

There was a fridge in 97 percent of Australian homes in the 1960s, an appliance that most Britons, Germans and Italians did not yet possess.

(Image credit: Attic Paper)

He adds that Australians also took for granted owning a washing machine, a vacuum cleaner, a radio, and a television.

When we arrived as migrants in the early 1970s I was overawed by the variety of small electrical appliances for sale and which were present in so many ordinary homes.

(Image credits: Hoover washing machine; Electrolux vacuum cleaner; radiogram; PYE TV receiver)

Working conditions in Australia were better, the pay was better, the flat we rented was superior to the one we had left. What’s more, people were friendly, quick to help and the weather was so good. If it wasn’t quite a land of milk and honey, it was certainly a very favourable place to be.

Dreams that had seemed impossible were realised here: a home of our own with a swimming pool. Four weeks paid holidays (introduced 1974), penalty rates, and a more relaxed lifestyle.

Life was good, and it began to change so slowly that at first it was hardly noticeable. Management in the 1980s suddenly became the preserve of the young, and American ideas flourished. Pie charts and motivational talks were the order of the day. Personnel departments – alarmingly – were now presumed to manage ‘human resources’ .As the terminology changed, people became just another disposable asset

No longer could people expect lifetime careers. The rich list flourished and flamboyant millionaires indulged their sporting and others passions, while they sold off their companies. Alan Bond, Christopher Skase, Rene Rivkin, and Laurie Connell bought and sold companies and spent money lavishly: polo ponies, racing yachts, Van Gogh paintings and extravagant parties. Businessmen suddenly became the corporate elite and excess became commonplace. Think of the gloss and glamour of the TV shows Dynasty and Dallas.

(Image credits: Alan Bond; Christopher Skase; Rene Rivkin; Laurie Connell)

(Image credits: Dynasty; Dallas)

As the 80s came to an end some of the tycoons were jailed, some exiled themselves, some died, and some just faded from the limelight. The gulf between them and us had widened, Australia had become less interested in being egalitarian.

Interest rates climbed: rising from 12% they spiralled to 18%. In the early 1990s we had “the recession we had to have”. The boom mentality had led to a spending cycle which could not last. Dreams collapsed, firms failed, and jobs were lost. Many people were retrenched, in some cases (like mine) more than once. Houses went up for sale, as people could no longer afford their Australian dream. Firms merged or closed, leaving staff afraid for their superannuation. People found their job “rationalised” or downsized and the job for life disappeared, to be replaced by increased part-time and casual work.

(Image credit: The Age)

Insecurity was in the air, and like a game of snakes and ladders the assets that had climbed so high tumbled in value. If the 80s had been one long high, the 90s were a much more sober affair. But for some the party never stopped – while those on the lower rungs of the ladder were reeling, those at the top just kept on making money.

In 1992 Lang Hancock died worth about $150 million – a sizable fortune. These days, though, his daughter Gina Rinehart’s “worth” is estimated as $29 billion. In Battlers and Billionaires, Andrew Leigh asks:

Is she really 190 times more ingenious than her father?

He concludes that the income boost is due mostly to a tenfold increase in the price of iron ore.

At the same time he estimates that half of Australian families have an annual pre-tax household income of $77,220 or less. Many people take home considerably less. Life at the lower income levels needs clever budgeting and an unenvious spirit. Ingenuity, not cash, is the order of the day: bulk buying, home cooking, op shopping and the ability to amuse yourself and seek out free events can make life better, even at this income level.

As someone commented to me,

I can always tell middle class kids – even in op shop clothes – they’ve got straight, white middle class teeth.

They may find it fun pretending to be poor. Many don’t realise that not everyone enjoys private schooling, with Foxtel and broadband on tap, an iPad, a job lined up by daddy or mummy, access to the latest books and films and their own car, not to mention annual holidays, often overseas. These kids have known nothing else, but older people have less excuse for ignoring the growing inequality in our society.

(Image Credit: Dental Implants Review)

Why should a TV personality – an ‘ordinary mum’ type – reportedly be paid $700,000 a year? How much should her opinions be allowed to influence the rest of us? How can these people speak for and represent the majority?

And if she is out of touch, what about those at the very top, the rich and super rich? Their share of economic prosperity has tripled in the period 1984-2012 from 0.8% to 2.8%, according to Andrew Leigh. At their income levels these percentages really add up. So does their lack of understanding of those who will never make the rich list, who are not members of what some have dubbed the lucky sperm club.

(Image credit: The Age)

PLEASE NOTE: This was the Australian Rich List for 2011

That’s why we need a Labor government: to encourage people, not exclude them. To keep the fair go alive, to represent the majority of people, the ones that the elites like to forget about, so that we don’t end up with a more divided society, the enclaves of privilege contrasted to the rest of us.

If we have been fortunate, whether by inheritance or education, by intelligence or health, don’t we have an obligation to the rest of society? Shouldn’t we use our gifts to help others? Or will we allow the user pays mentality to take hold and grow, forgetting that not everyone has the capacity to pay?

© Catalyst 2013

596 thoughts on “Bicycling Along a Tightrope

  1. Just caught up with the Bradbury kerfuffle.

    Does this not come across a bit odd?

    “What we would say is that interest rate cuts are always welcomed by families and small businesses right around the country. I find it extraordinary that yesterday Mr Hockey was out there barracking for higher interest rates,” Mr Bradbury said.

    “Let’s not forget when the Liberals were last in office Mr Howard once famously said interest rates will always be at record lows under the Liberals now it seems Mr Hockey and Mr Abbott actually stand for higher interest rates.”

    Mr Daniel interjected: “David, hold on what did he say yesterday that you pin that claim on?”

    Mr Bradbury shot back: “He said that interest rates should not be cut.”

    The retort prompted Mr Daniel to tell a now clearly annoyed Mr Bradbury: “No, no, what he said when interest rates come down it is a sign the economy is not going well. That’s what he said. He’s not saying ‘I want higher interest rates.'”

    Surely Hockey is saying exactly that, isn’t he? He’s criticising lower interest rates, and saying that the economy would be healthier if interest rates were higher. If he’s saying interest rates are too low, he’s expressing a preference for higher interest rates. It’s pretty simple.

    I think Bradbury was well within his rights to question what the hell Daniel was up to there. It sounds like he was running a defence for Hockey. Of course the Telegraph, being the venal types they are, would report it as a ‘meltdown’. But on the face of it, Daniel was being partisan there.

  2. Just got in and refreshed the page first thing I see is a link to georgebludger’s latest.

    I’m still kacking meself “a wall full of fists” BRILLIANT georgebludger one of your best ever.

    BK – thanks for the link an absolute ripper

  3. Going on the current Polling @ 50/50 or so. What happened to those 58/42 to ALP if Kevin was made leader Polls? Did some of those nasty Coalition supporters tell fibs.

  4. I saw an ALP advert tonight and a Lib one. The Lib one was an attack on Rudd, which I thought was pretty useless. It is preaching to the converted. IMO.

  5. Kaffeeklatscher – Oh I see. So Murdoch owned radio station takes sides against ALP MP, which is reported in Murdoch newspaper as ALP MP ‘melting down’. Yeah, our media is in a great place.

  6. Both worth reading.

    6 Aug 2013
    Abbott Must Come Clean On The Budget Emergency
    By Ben Eltham

    The Coalition is making bold statements about economic management – but without costed policies, voters can’t judge whether the bluster has any basis, writes Ben Eltham

    6 Aug 2013
    Chris Bowen’s Autonomous Foreign Policy Zone
    By Adam Brereton

    Chris Bowen’s Iraqi Christian constituents deserted Labor at the 2011 NSW election. Now Bowen supports the creation of an autonomous state for them in Northern Iraq, reports Adam Brereton

    What are the voters of Western Sydney asking from Tony Abbott this election? That was the question put to Treasurer Chris Bowen on Lateline last night. His reply: “My constituents would be telling him that they want to see not just slogans, but they want to see real, positive plans for the future” – like the NBN and cost of living relief.

    Many voters in Bowen’s multicultural seat of McMahon won’t be asking why they should vote Liberal, but why they should consider returning to Labor. This holds especially true for one of McMahon’s biggest ethnic enclaves: Australia’s Iraqi Christians.

  7. Watching SBS Insight from my motel room at an undisclosed location to dogs.

    It’s about people who are clinically dead, but come back… drownings, heart attacks etc.


    This is how “forum” type shows should be done.

    Jenny Brockie guides discussion, but does not dominate it, like The Jones Boy does on Q&A.

  8. As I said a long time ago, I said a long time ago that Labor should make News Ltd. an election issue.

    Glad that Rudd has done this.

    News have denied that Foxtel’s fortunes are affected by the NBN.

    Pig’s arse.

  9. Good post by Grog. He should write an Economics for Dummies. Dedicated to Joe Hockey.

  10. I have some hope that the boats are slowing down. Over on the official customs page where they release the announcements on irregular maritime arrivals, only 2 boats came on Aug 5 with about a total of 100 passengers. These were the first since the previous arrival on July 24. That’s very encouraging and hopefully the start of a trend.

    The page which makes these announcement is:

  11. Bob Watch

    Snouts to the trough.

    Bob had two breakfasts this morning.

    This is him just now having his second dinner.

    They don’t call him “The Atomic Dog” for nothing, y’know.

    Making up for lost time.


  12. Bushfire,

    Any time you are looking for a reference as a nurse, Bob will definitely put his pawprint on it.

    As you have said, early days, and he is an elderly gentleman, but still – great stuff.

    Goodnight, and good sleeps, from me to both of you.

  13. A thing of beauty.

    My work for the last week.

    Researched, designed, programmed, emailed to the manufacuturer, 3D printed, posted and received in good order and condition in one week… and pretty good at that.

    The NBN is THE pivotal issue of the election. I expect politicians to recognize this in the coming weeks. It’s absolutely fundamental to Australia’s future.

    The sheep’s back is gone. Mining is no longer booming. Car manufacturing (and its associated infrastructure) are dwindling. We need smarts, not bean counters.

    It’s not a matter of the cost of having the NBN. It’s a matter of what it will cost NOT to have it.

  14. BB, what are the dimensions?

    BTW the Aston Martin car used for the stunt work in the latest Bond film was 3D printed. The real one was driven but the 1:3 scale printed one was blown up.

  15. It’s an M8 (8mm) metric) screw thread.

    Previously I had this piece machined down from a steel M8 bolt (complete with hole at the end).

    Then it had to be Teflon coated because it was turning into aluminium and there was a problem with a “squeaking” sound: metal on metal.

    Cost was $36 a piece, in lots of 75, after Tefon, and machining.

    This piece was 3D printed in white Nylon. I then ran an M8 1.25mm pitch die over it to smooth out rough edges, then dyed the final result black,

    Cost $6, 1-off.

    You can see where the future of manufacturing lies.

  16. Does the screw just hold stuff together or is there stress on it? You said earlier is internal, yes? Would the steel have had any corrosive effect on the aluminium without the teflon or any other problems beside noise (and of course cost)?

  17. Bob Watch

    After his dinner, I put Bob in the “fort” I construct every night for him.

    Poor old thing, he can’t escape from it. Too much of a challenge to climb over those cushions.

  18. So many questions, sorry BB. One last one, is that an acutal photo of the part or a digital mockup?

  19. Does the screw just hold stuff together or is there stress on it? You said earlier is internal, yes? Would the steel have had any corrosive effect on the aluminium without the teflon or any other problems beside noise (and of course cost)?

    No stress on it whatsoever.

    It pulls and pushes an internal focusing component that rides on a precision linear guide, which has virtually no friction at all.

    I only used the Teflon to eliminate the “squeaks” and to somewhat enlarge the thread, making the function of the threaded rod a little tighter and smoother.

    As to corrosive effects, I never considered them. My lenses are sealed against the outside environment so, once calibrated, cannot be contaminated by anything outside. Must admit that galvanic corrosion didn’t enter my empty head. Not to say that it’s not a point, but I never considered it.

  20. So many questions, sorry BB. One last one, is that an acutal photo of the part or a digital mockup?

    We don’t call them “mockups”.

    We call them “renders”.

    No, it ain’t the real part. Just a render.

  21. Thanks for the heads up about Grog’s Gamut; I’ve also just discovered that Something Wonky have been doing daily podcasts since the announcement, so have some catching up to do!

  22. Rudd raised a good point yesterday linking Murdoch hostility to Labor to opposition to the NBN. Fairfax is pursuing
    So the tabloid front pages still have an effect – especially the Daily Telegraph’s in western Sydney. They matter in their own right, and because Sydney’s talkback radio hosts bark out the Tele’s stories like Pavlov’s dogs.

    But what’s in it for Rupert? What deals has he cut with Tony Abbott, in return for his newspapers’ support?

    Read more:

  23. Good morning everyone.

    Are you home yet or still in Canberra?

    Great to hear Bob had two dinners, good to hear you had a great sleep yesterday.


    Sorry you missed your trip to Melbourne, hope all is well.

  24. Whose – sorry. I assume that was the Globemaster that dropped in to Canberra yesterday afternoon; not unheard of, but unusual.

  25. Good morning Dawn Patrollers.
    Lenore Taylor says that Hockey can’t admit to a deficit.
    Mark Kenny on Abbott’s company tax reduction. Looks very much like the Repugs’ discredited “trickle down economics”. Also Kenny has this to say “would make Mr Abbott’s already diabolical budget balancing act even harder”.
    Jonathon Holmes on Murdoch, the NBN and the election.‘
    “The Conversation” has its say on the matter.

  26. BB. That screw looks a nice bit of work..’Damn fine machinery”…let us hope the LNP. with it’s fraudband is likewise and as succinctly “screwed”!

  27. “Let’s have some REAL debates. You know, select a gaggle of your best and grill the daylights out of us both.”
    Rudd to journos.

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