Beyond the Budget bullshit… worry about losing your job

Roy Morgan unemployment rate

According to Roy Morgan’s indeoendent survey the real unemplyment rate is 9.3% – more than five percentage points higher that the official rate of 4.9% calculated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The totally off-the-planet Rupert Murdoch’s May 9 The Australian front cover suggested this was a “Smash the rich, save the base” Bolshie Labor Budget. Rightwingers may rest assured that it was not.

Is there a surplus or is there not? Does delivering a $1.5 billion surplus in 2012‑13 make Wayne Swan a “good economic manager”? Are you a winner and grinner or a loser soon to be driven to the boozer? Blah, blah, blah. Enough, enough already with the Budget spins and counterspins!

You want something to real to worry about from the Budget? Well worry about your job (if you are lucky enough to still have one) and worry about what will happen to you if you lose it. Because beyond the little bribes and fiddles in the Labor government’s desperate budget the bad news is for the jobless, whose numbers are predicted to grow even in a Budget that forecasts annual 3% real GDP growth for the two years to 2014.

The  official unemployment rate is now 4.9%  and the Budget predicts it will grow to 5.5% next year. However, the private polling company Roy Morgan calculates the real unempl0yment rate to be 9.3%. Its May 2012 survey found that:

  • Unemployment was 9.3% (unchanged since March 2012) — an estimated 1,149,000 Australians were unemployed and looking for work.
  • A further 8.2% (up 0.3%) of the workforce* were working part-time looking for more work (underemployed) — 1,010,000 Australians.
  • In total 17.5% (up 0.3%) of the workforce, or 2.16 million Australians, were unemployed or underemployed.

Another recent survey by Macquarie University researchers found that Australian’s biggest worry was about their jobs, and how to keep them. Job insecurity has been on the rise as permanent and fulltime jobs keep giving way to casual and part-time jobs. Budget measures alone axed another 4,200 full-time public sector jobs but even the official ABS unemployment report tells the same story, if you look beyond its happy headline number: While 26,000 part-time positions were created in the April, 10,500 full-time jobs disappeared.

Roy Morgan estimates that the Australian workforce in April was 12,307,000, — comprising 8,131,000 full-time workers; 4,176,000 part-time workers (up 183,000 since April 2011) and 1,149,000 looking for work (up 302,000 since April 2011).

Australia has the dubious honour of being a leader in casualisation in the developed world (only Spain outranks Australia among OECD countries).  Since 1984 casual employment in Australia has grown from 15% of the workforce to 25%. In addition, so-called  “independent contractors”,  now make up 10% of workers — people technically working for themselves but in reality dependent on a single “client” (“the boss”, in effect) — and the number of people in non-permanent jobs is about 40% of the workforce.

So what does the budget offer the growing army of the jobless? The basic Newstart Allowance of $243/week will be kept at more than $50 a week below the poverty line and single parents without a job will be bumped down to this level once their youngest child turns eight.

One of the little bribes in the budget is a woeful “Supplementary Allowance” for  the unemployed, students, and parents with young children — those hardest hit by the increases in the cost of living: A yearly allowance of $210 for singles and $350 for couples, paid in two instalments, with the first payment to commence on March 2013.

The heartlessness of these attacks on some of the most vulnerable in Australia matches the heartlessness of its $2.9 billion cut to foreign aid over four years, a move that will lead to the deaths of up to 200,000 people, according to Tim Costello of the World Vision aid group.

So why are the jobless numbers predicted to rise? Didn’t Australia escape the global recession? The short answer is “not completely”. While overall GDP is growing making, as the Treasurer boasted “stronger than every single major advanced economy” this is largely due to growth in the mining/resource sector which employs just 2% of the workforce, accounts for 15-20% of GDP and is making a small number of people unimaginably rich and powerful. Meanwhile, the rest of the economy is “subdued” in Reserve Bank-speak.

The Budget papers concede:

“The resources and resources‑related parts of the economy are expected to grow strongly, but activity in other parts of the economy is likely to be uneven. While some parts of the services sector are expected to continue performing solidly, pressures from the ongoing global uncertainty, the high Australian dollar, consumer caution and changes in expenditure patterns are all expected to continue to weigh heavily on other sectors, particularly retailing, manufacturing and tourism.”

In short, the bigger part of the Australian economy (the part that accounts for 98% of jobs) the prognosis is gloomy. And all the Budget offers is the hope that the benefits of the mining boom will trickly down to the rest of us. It desperately tries to paint the few election bribes delivered as “spreading the benefits of the mining boom”.

If you listen to the Liberal-National opposition politicians this is all the fault of the pathetic and ineffective feint by the Gillard Labor government at doing something about the climate change crisis (which is another big thing to worry about). The slashing of jobs and the growing insecurity is not down to the yet-to-be introduced carbon price/emissions trading scheme. It’s all down to the capitalist system which is stilled dogged by still unresolved global economic crisis.

As in Greece, the public all around the world is being forced to pay for the sins of greed of the capitalist bankers — even in Australia. This global bitter pill of austerity.

There could be an altogether different approach to this crisis if the 99% was able to marshall its potential power put the country onto a course that is in our common interest. But we are a long way from that. The trade union movement in Australia for instance should have stood up and championed a defence of  working class interests (including those of workers forced out of a job), social justice and urgent public investment in an ecologically sustainable future but instead the ACTU cheers on the government for delivering ” tax relief for struggling businesses”.

Well-paid union bureaucrats would have us believe that susidising the boss will save our jobs even while the most-heavily subsidised companies, GMH, Toyota and Ford demonstrate otherwise by laying off thousands of workers.

But surely the nearly a billion dollars less spent on “Defence” (we should call it by its real name: Department Foreign Military Interventions and Intimidation of Neighbouring Countries) is a good thing in this budget?

Sorry! Most of these savings are from a deferral of planned purchase of the world’s most deadly and most expensive warplanes from the US. It had to be deferred because these killing machines won’t be ready for delivery on the scheduled date. And when Australia buys them they will be more expensive than previously advertised.

These savings aside, the military expenditure in the Budget includes:

  • $2.2 million in 2011‑12 to “enhance detainee management in Afghanistan”.
  • $9.5 million in 2012‑13 for “Operation Resolute” military refugee boats and to protect the big mining corporations’ offshore resources.
  • $1.3 billion over four years for the net additional cost of continuing Australia’s military intervention in Afghanistan and the wider Middle East.
  • $15.6 million in 2012‑13 for the purchase of long‑lead supplies for the acquisition of further Bushmaster vehicles.
  • $39.8 million in 2011‑12 for the acquisition of two CH‑47D Chinook aircraft “will replace the CH‑47D destroyed in Afghanistan in May 2011 and increase the Australian Defence Force Chinook capability from six to seven until 2016”.
  • $19.9 million in 2011‑12 for the purchase of long‑lead item equipment for the potential conversion of twelve of Australia’s F‑18 Super Hornets to the EA‑18G Growler electronic warfare system.
  • $123 million in 2011‑12 for the acquisition of an amphibious ship, the Skandi Bergen, which will be used in “border protection”.

The totally off-the-planet Rupert Murdoch’s May 9 The Australian front cover suggested this was a “Smash the rich, save the base” Bolshie Labor Budget. Rightwingers may rest assured that it was not.

Loopy cover of The Australian May 9, 2012

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