Thursday, March 22, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

A human pay rise
Derryn Hinch could be the deal-breaker on tax cuts for big business


Victorian senator Derryn Hinch is now the main obstacle to the government’s push to lower company taxes for big business, and he is holding out for guaranteed wage rises for Australian workers. It’s a haphazard way for workers to get a pay increase, but if the Human Headline delivers, well, a win is a win. And unless the government honestly believes that rising inequality is a concern of the few, not the many, then the outcome could prove a blessing in disguise for the Coalition.

Like most of the random characters on the crossbench, there is little guide to what Hinch will do. Unless you have spent hours listening to him on talkback radio, his economic leanings may be a mystery, and neither the Derryn Hinch Justice Party website, nor the senator’s inaugural speech are much of a guide, beyond familiar crusades against paedophiles, political correctness and sharia law. (The speech is a truly fascinating read.) In a widely reported letter delivered to all crossbenchers overnight, big businesses made a kind of weaselly, non-binding “pledge” to invest more and employ more, which should lead to wage rises, in exchange for a tax cut. In a press conference, Hinch responded: “There’s no contract here. Read the wording of it, it’s ‘we intend, we do this, we do that’. I’m not going to suddenly vote for something and then in three months’ time somebody comes to me and says, ‘well, they didn’t do it. Why did you vote for them when they didn’t do it?’” Hopefully, Hinch is true to his word.

Deep down, business probably knows they will need to do more. When he went to Washington with the PM at the end of last month, the ABC’s political editor Andrew Probyn reported that Australian business leaders on the delegation believed Turnbull’s 10-year tax plan was doomed, and “a grand bargain will have to be reached, where big business agrees to wage rises in exchange for tax cuts”. But there are all kinds of obstacles to achieving such a grand bargain, including the problem of timing: the big business tax cuts are staggered over 10 years, and don’t begin for some time. Workers want pay rises now, and in the lead-up to a federal election, the prime minister, no doubt, would like to deliver them.

Rather than relying on Derryn Hinch, a more traditional way for workers to get pay rises is by taking industrial action, and this is what Sally McManus was talking about in her National Press Club address yesterday. McManus is perceived as radical, but what she is actually saying is not that extreme. When she told Leigh Sales last year it was okay to break unjust laws, the exchange went like this:

LEIGH SALES: … we live in a country where there are laws that are established by a parliament that all citizens are expected to abide by. So, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with those laws, you said that you believe in the rule of law?

SALLY MCMANUS: Yeah, I believe in the rule of law where the law is fair, when the law is right. But when it’s unjust, I don’t think there’s a problem with breaking it.

McManus was talking about the erosion of the right to strike, and touched on it again yesterday:

“As I think I’ve said many times, I fundamentally believe that working people have the right to withdraw their labour as a last resort and that our laws are really out of step with the rest of the world, and we want them to align with the rest of the developed world and the ILO standards. Other countries just laugh at how restrictive it is here, how ridiculous it is, and as I said it’s smothering wage growth.”

There is no room here for a history of the right to strike – arguably we have never had one. You won’t find the right to strike in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or in the Fair Work Act drafted by Labor, but you will find it clearly sung in a higher law, the “Ballad of 1891”, about the famous shearers’ strike that helped launch the Labor Party, which the Bushwackers played so well back in the day. The last line was: “when they jail a man for striking, it’s a rich man’s country yet”.

since this morning

Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm has warned [$] the government that he would withdraw support for its company tax cuts if it gave in to Derryn Hinch’s demands that the big four banks be excluded from the legislation.

The AFR’s technology editor Paul Smith writes [$] that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s latest hollow message shows it is time to forget the social media platform.

The Australian reports [$] that Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has been heckled by passers-by during a press conference as he was forced to deny claims that in 2014 MPs expressed concern about a controversial pay deal for campaigners that broke parliamentary rules.

The Australian government should return the passport of a former secret service agent who blew the whistle on an operation to spy on Timor-Leste, José Ramos-Horta has said.

in case you missed it

The Australian reveals [$] that Peter Gordon Ziani Jones, a former University of Sydney law graduate, is back in the country attempting to recruit Australian clients for Cambridge Analytica. The global data analytics firm is accused of stealing information from 50 million Facebook users to support Donald Trump’s US election campaign.

Some hire car outlets make more money from charging successive unwitting customers for the same “repairs” than from hiring out vehicles, a whistleblower has told Fairfax Media.

Nationals senator John Williams has lodged the terms of reference for an inquiry into the scandal-ridden $170 billion franchising industry. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services is set to examine claims of unfair business models and lax regulation.

by James Bradley
The Great Southern Reef
What is killing off the kelp forests along Australia’s coast?

by Mark McKenna
Moment of Truth
Australia is on the brink of momentous change, but only if we can face up to the past

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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