It’s more than our birthday week at The Pub. It’s Labor’s re-birthday.
William’s Bowe’s inestimable BludgerTrack has Labor at 51.2 to 48.8, with these metrics being enough to have Labor in notional government, with 75 seats, plus presumably a Green to tip them over to a working majority.
Although it all seems a bit late, doesn’t it?
Nothing has changed since September, except perception of how big a train wreck the Coalition are today, and (I suspect) always were. It’s what happens when you treat a nation’s progress as a Reality TV show.
The promised confidence resurgence has been subsumed back into the morass of doom and gloom, led, as much by real Reality – Holden, Gonski, wage rises being sucked away, poor international relations with our neighbours, blooming debt from the anti-debt fanatics – as Joe Hockey’s ersatz variety.
Joe can’t stop talking his own economy down.
Michael Pascoe puts it in terms of a family domestic situation. He’s talking about Joe Hockey’s attitude to running the economy here:
The dire threats of what-Daddy’s-going-to-do-with-you-when-he-gets-home (the Commission of Audit) does nothing for confidence, nor does the Gonski flippity-flopping or headlines about cutting childcare workers’ pay. The ceaseless combativeness and talking down of the economy isn’t working with the voters and that, in turn, is not working for our economic prospects.
… to which we might add his gloating in QT a couple of days ago about just how rotten the MYEFO is going to be next Tuesday. The man’s mad if he thinks this is going to make people feel upbeat about their lives.
The pattern emerges… three years of constant trash-talk in Opposition could be (sort-of) half forgiven. The Coalition wanted to make things look as bleak as possible so that they could be seen as the only chance for an uptick. This message got out, especially to talk-back radio, where the constant theme regarding the economy was that the nation’s financial fortunes would boom on Day #1 of the Coalition winning government.
It was a pretty naive expectation, and shown to be so when the “Boom” ended up lasting about a week.
But, with barely a pause to be sworn in, have his picture taken and organize new paintings on his office walls, Joe Hockey got stuck into the economy again as if he was still in Opposition.
Even that could be forgiven, on the “old habits die hard” theory, but it’s been over three months since the election, and he’s still at it., worse than before.
Joe is trashing everything: Labor (to be expected, of course), debt and now GM Holden being among the major moaning topics de jour.
The forgiveness is petering out among the punters. They want to know what the f**k Joe is going to do about the mess he claims we’re in. They want him to quit whingeing, roll up his sleeves, and start working. Give us some ideas to mull around, Joe!
All this garment-renting is a poor excuse for actually doing something. It’s getting to the point where one suspects Joe doesn’t have a clue what to do except seek excuses for his own inaction.
Anyone in business knows there is a very simple equation regarding sales, something like:
Price x Marketability x Availability x Confidence = SALES.
If the price is too high, the quality too low, or the warehouse is empty, there’s no sale.
Equally, if confidence is so abysmal that customers don’t bother getting out of bed to go to your shop or pick up the phone to make an order, then it doesn’t matter if you have the best product in the world. You still don’t win any business, because there is no business. If any of the major precursors to a sale – including confidence – are zero, or near-zero, then there is no sale.
So why is this man smiling?
His name is Paul Zahra, of David Jones “The Carbon Tax ate my homework” fame. He wised up. He just got OUT of retailing as soon as the Coalition got elected.
Meanwhile, Joe Hockey seems determined to keep the “Confidence” input at a minimum.
As I suggested above, my guess is that he doesn’t have a clue what to do differently to Labor. It could also be that he wants to wreck the joint a little more, so that he’ll be all the bigger a hero when (and if) it recovers. In the meantime, we all suffer. Eventually the ratings agencies will notice and downgrade us. Joe will blame Labor. More excuses, more misery.
But the danger of carrying on with heroic negativity like this is that the patient dies from the procedure before he can get a chance to get his strength back.
Same with an economy: You can trash talk an economy for only so long before your slagging-off becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The latest Consumer Confidence figures show that the very people Joe needs to encourage to go out and spend are about to start slashing their wrists in despair, with rusty razor blades.
I personally know a lot of exquisitely talented CNC machinists. They do my mechanical work for me, to fine tolerances.
Almost to a man and woman they were looking forward to the Nirvana of a Coalition government to lift them out of the gloom that Joe put them in while ever Labor was in power. It used to drive me nuts, listening to them delude themselves.
What must these people now think about the closure of Holden?
Whatever they think about the viability of that firm, or the nothing-to-write-home-about quality of their cars (although a lot of them do have FBT-free Holden utes), or the apparent “common sense” of not subsidizing an ailing multi-national business, they have to be thinking this morning that the pool of potential customers for their skills, talents and expensive machines just got a helluva lot smaller. It’s what happens when our so-called “leaders” and their followers take note more of the economic maniacs writing for The Australian and the AFR (and The Age), than they do of the bleedin’ obvious staring them right in the face.
They must be wondering when the big companies – the ones who made diffs or brake drums or power steering units for Holden – the ones who left the little jobs to their smaller competitors, are going to come after those smaller competitors’ customers, to make up for the lack of work from GM (and soon, Toyota).
They won’t wait for 2017. They’ll be out looking right now. It’s going to be a buyer’s market… if there are any buyers left.
Holden may have been a con. They may have been running an economic protection racket, but we’re soon going to realize that what they were protecting was our jobs. It didn’t take much to do it, either. $18 per head here in Australia.
It’s all gone now, or will be within a few years. And there was Joe in Parliament the other day, positively triumphant about it.
As Joe and his pals in the wrecking gang they (laughingly) call a “government” swan around in Canberra being “in charge”, consider the irony of their new VIP Com Car fleet, BMWs all, specially reinforced against bombs and bullets (could come in handy the way the public mood is souring), made in Germany at a subsidy of $90, compared to the losing bidder, Holden, made in Australia, preserving Australian jobs, and cheap at the $18 subsidy mark.
We can’t just sell each other insurance, or houses, or run coffee shops. The service industry is all well and good, but it needs a manufacturing basis. Apart from the economic aspects of manufacturing there are other vitally important things to consider: having a skills base, preserving corporate memory, national pride. Pfffft! Gone in a puff of smoke and mirrors from the blustering Joe Hockey and his cronies.
Maybe if, to take a couple of examples, the NBN was still being built we could all segue over to careers in IT, or service those who did.
Or if the Carbon Bank wasn’t just about squashed, we could make windfarm components. We could play to our undoubted national strengths.
But they’re gone too! There’s nothing left.
- The NBN has been kyboshed in favour of recycling Telstra’s junk copper network so that it works just fast enough to support Foxtel (but nothing faster).
- State governments are obstructing wind farm development all over the country, except South Australia, because the state governments own the coal-fired power generators.
- Even mining is in a slump (and Joe celebrates that too, by heckling attempts to tax it on a more equitable level before it goes under and leaves us high and dry).
In any case, Abbott wouldn’t want anything of Julia Gillard’s legacy to be left intact. This includes the NBN. carbon pricing and now, support for GM Holden.
Economic rationalism has its points. Some of them make sense. But it never makes sense to close down an entire industry because of ideological reasons, some waffle about that industry being “on life support”.
Sure, Holden made not-so-great cars, certainly not ones we were buying in their hundreds of thousands anymore, but that could have been fixed with some hard dealing…. was going to be fixed with newer, smarter models… but only under a government subsidy that amounted to loose change compared to other countries.
Manufacturing involves taking cheap components and, by dint of skills and ingenuity, adding value to them in a way that attracts customers.
With the demise of Holden that process is now substantially gone from this nation. We are left with nothing much more than the digging up of those cheap raw materials, and then shipping them off, largely unprocessed to other countries that will make use of them.
Peter Hartcher this morning, (vainly, in my opinion) trying to curry favour with the new government after his three years of misplaced attachment to Kevin Rudd, has come up with another cunning plan: use the end of Holden to shock the nation into action… a new direction! He says it could be Abbott’s “banana republic” moment, referring to Paul Keating’s own moment related to the identical fruit.
If he can seize the moment, the passing of Holden can be Joe Hockey’s equivalent of Paul Keating’s ”banana republic” declaration.
Like Keating’s famous 1986 warning of Australia’s economic decline, it can be a national shock, but also a jolt to national action.
Not to try to perpetuate a World War II-era industrial structure but to create the enterprise culture of a new century.
The test of an economy is not what it can preserve but what it can create; not how much subsidy it can pay but what profitable investment it can generate.
Coming from a master of vainglorious spin like Hartcher, this seeming no-brainer of an idea is a bit rich, but it kinda makes sense until you give it a second thought. Taking into account the drongos he’s tasking with “seizing the moment”, Hartcher may as well be pissing in the wind.
What Hartcher doesn’t get is that a banana republic – one where the main economic output is a single raw material or low tech product, be it bananas or red dirt – is what Australia already is, and – this is the clincher – the Coalition’s economic geniuses seem to want to keep it that way, judging by the company they keep, and the political donations they accept: Big Tobacco, Big Mining, Big Gambling and Big Media… lurk merchants and shonks all.
And how does Hartcher explain this, for God’s sake?
It was the text message that sounded the death knell for Holden as a manufacturer in Australia.
”Are you seeing this question time attack on Holden?” read the text message, sent by a company insider.
It was sent by one of the company’s key strategists at 2.30pm on Tuesday, as Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss and Treasurer Joe Hockey were ripping the car maker to shreds during parliamentary question time.
In a seemingly calculated performance – one designed to flush out GM’s intentions and back the car maker into a corner – the Treasurer said it was time for Holden to ”come clean” and be ”fair dinkum” with the Australian people over its future in the country. ”Either you’re here or you’re not,” Mr Hockey said.
Media is dying, manufacturing is about to die, the high tech telecomms industry is stillborn, creative green manufacturing has just been cancelled. Even mining’s on the skids.
We’re a nation sitting and waiting for mannah from heaven that’s never going to come.
In the meantime we sell each other insurance and buy each other’s houses. Great if you’re a real estate agent or a spivvy financial advisor. Not so great when you don’t – and might not ever – get a job to earn the money so that you have something worth insuring, or up-scaling to a nicer suburb from.
We need something to do… jobs… industry… enterprise… not ideological purity and holes in the ground. And we need the confidence to start out on the long road towards a new economic future.
Chopping off one of our economic legs, then some toes, and a hand, then an arm, to get ourselves “lean and mean” for the journey is not the way to accomplish that. That kind of radical surgery will make us feel good for precisely one day, until the anaesthetic wears off.
Then, when the awful reality hits that we have cut off our noses to spite our face, despair will sink in.
If you’ve read this far, thank you. I have just one more “reality” for youse all to consider. Try to digest this tosh from hack-for-hire Mark Kenny, without throwing up…
Once derided as ”Sloppy Joe” and lampooned for his happy-go-lucky Sunrise persona, Hockey has already emerged as the 44th Parliament’s hard man.
His confident performances tagging Labor with a debt blow-out, now expected to exceed half a trillion dollars in the out-years, and his evisceration of Labor for voting against savings measures it had proposed, have impressed.
Hockey, who delivers his first fiscal statement on Tuesday, has quickly found his feet and taken control. Much will turn on the Treasurer’s first budget in May and his explanatory powers as the economy is reconfigured.
That’s a lucky break for Abbott. As long as Hockey doesn’t get too good at it, that is.
Yep, your eyes weren’t deceiving you… Joe Hockey is a lucky break for Abbott and the nation. In the looming Coalition leadership wars – it’s hard to believe – but Joe Hockey is actually seen as the Great White Hope for a new future.
Another true story… Joseph Benedict “Joe” Hockey was named after Joseph Benedict “Ben” Chifley, an irony pointed out recently, as Hockey is presiding over the death of the industry that Chifley created.
I never knew Ben Chifley. He wasn’t ever a friend of mine. But one thing I do know is this: Joe Hockey is no Ben Chifley.
We should get rid of Hockey. And we should do it soon, before he whinges the nation even further into economic oblivion.