Editorial Bruce Duncan.
Business leaders, economists, and social agencies were stunned and appalled by the recent refusal of the Morrison government to lift unemployment by more than a measly $3.57 a week, amounting to a grand total of $44.35 a day on which to live. The increase will go to nearly two million people, including those on Austudy, Youth Allowance, and parenting payments. The rate of Newstart had not increased since the early 1990s, after allowing for inflation. Cassandra Goldie called the decision “a heartless betrayal of millions of people with the least”. It showed this “cruel decision” showed “a complete lack of humanity and empathy”.
It is quite shocking to me that government chose to provide the paltry amount of $25 per week as we move forward. $25 equates to about $3.60 a day; you can’t have a coffee, can’t catch the train. It is disturbing that the government missed such a great opportunity to close the gap, give “a ‘fair go’ to all, and encourage people to thrive and move ahead”. It is beyond my comprehension that the government decided in that one decision that not all would have a fair go.
The reset to lift us out of the Covid recession has to be bold: returning to where we were is nowhere near good enough
Josh Frydenberg has said he will maintain an expanded budget only until unemployment “is on a clear path back to pre-crisis levels”. He defines pre-crisis levels as “comfortably back under 6%”.
That is nowhere near what Australia is capable of.
The truth is, we won’t know what Australia is capable of until we run the economy strongly enough for long enough to see the emergence of market pressure for substantial wage increases. That might happen at an unemployment rate of 3.5%, or it might happen at an unemployment rate even lower than that.
Real wages in Australia were 0.7% lower in 2019 than in 2013, and Australia sat in third-last place out of 35 OECD countries for wage growth. Now the Government is pursuing policies which will further depress wages and increase insecure work, while inequality is even worse. Australia has become the 11th most unequal nation in the OECD, and ranks behind most of Western and Northern Europe, as well as Canada in its rate of inequality.
Sr Patty Fawkner
On January 6 this year, like millions of people throughout the world, I could not drag myself away from the television, as supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol Building in Washington DC.
Of all the images of that day, the one which haunts me most is that of a young female protestor. She was about 20 years old and petite, compared to the hairy beefy protestors around her. She wore a star-spangled beanie, and was one of the whipped-to-a-frenzy mob on the steps of the Capitol, chanting, or rather screaming, “USA! USA! USA!” It was the depth of rage, hatred, and venom etched on her face that disturbed me. I felt dismay and outrage.
Canberra has steadfastly rejected calls for a social housing stimulus program for national economic recovery. This disengagement fits with a now-familiar refrain from federal ministers. Housing and homelessness, they repeat time and again, are constitutional obligations of state and territory governments.
For all these reasons, when the pandemic has finally subsided, it’s only with federal government leadership that we can effectively tackle the fundamental flaws in Australia’s housing system.
Killing the wrong people is shocking to contemplate. That is, however, part of what happens when armies are sent to war: lethal mistakes go with lethal force. This is especially so in complex counterinsurgencies involving civilians whose histories, cultures, politics, and languages Australian commanders, intelligence officers, and soldiers can’t be expected to understand for the most part. Neither are the armies responsible for sending themselves to war; the government and people are.
At a time when the share is continuing to rise of national income going to profits rather than to labour, the government is proposing changes which would not just suppress wage growth, but also actually allow employers to cut some forms of pay and conditions.
The reforms would also entrench casual work, one of the largest forms of insecure employment.
Reviewed by Denis Blackledge SJ
Pope St John Paul II and our current Pope Francis have written extensively on the creative value of human work, and, on the Feast of St Joseph, in the Worker 1 May 2020, Pope Francis prayed that noone would be lacking a job, “that all would be paid justly and may enjoy the dignity of work and the beauty of rest”. Sadly, with the advance of artificial intelligence, only 40-50% of workers will have paid employment. Catholic Social Teaching will need to be revisited and revised.