The Politics    Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tough times

By Nick Feik

Source
Coalition strategists have nowhere to turn

Times are tough for Coalition strategists at the moment. It was the second anniversary of their gaining government this week, and they seem lost for direction.

While Abbott is weighing up the pros and cons of being more generous to Syrian refugees, it seems the public has more or less made the decision for him: “Let them in”, said the Herald-Sun’s front page.

It shows just how far the asylum seeker debate has moved in just three days. (“Breathtaking hypocrisy? Or a sign of the times?” asked journalist Ben Eltham.) Tens of thousands of citizens hit the streets around the country last night to express a similar sentiment, and were joined by leaders of all stripes across the media.

Abbott could easily respond to these calls, and get the issue off the agenda by announcing that Australia will take more refugees. Even if he does show generosity, however, he’s unlikely to get much credit for it, because it already looks like he’s been dragged to the decision.

A second problem for Coalition strategists: if not this issue, then what? Do they really want to draw public attention back to the economy at the moment, back to “jobs and growth”?

This morning the latest ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence figures were released. The index had fallen 5.8% in a single week to its lowest level since … just after the Coalition’s first budget. The fall was undoubtedly prompted by the feeble recent GDP figures and three weeks of market volatility, along with pre-existing issues such as the end of the mining boom, the slow rise of unemployment and the fall of the Australian dollar.

One aspect of Australia’s economic outlook that has not received great consideration was discussed in a Fairfax column by Ian Porter yesterday. We all know that the car-making industry is finished in Australia, but many have forgotten that the job losses are yet to come: “When all the car factories close, that will add about 12,500 people to the dole queue. Most of the parts suppliers will also close their plants, adding a further 33,000 people.” These figures aren’t taking into account the “multiplier effect”, either: some estimates put the likely number of job losses at six times higher in the next two years. The end of the car industry will take billions out of the economy and decimate the manufacturing industry. What’s the plan for these displaced workers? Australians aren’t convinced that repeating the phrase “jobs and growth” constitutes a plan, so it’s little wonder they lack confidence.

 

Today’s links

Nick Feik

Nick Feik is the editor of The Monthly.

@nickfeik

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