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Class war Oz style

Written By: - Date published: 10:37 pm, March 20th, 2012 - 11 comments
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Here is an interesting video clip from Essential Media, an Australian opinion research company with a track record of developing effective campaign communication. They followed up Wayne Swan’s recent speech to the National Press Club attacking vested interests in the mining industry, following on from an article he had written in the Monthly magazine headed “The 0.01 percent; the rising influence of vested interests in Australia.”

Swan came under heavy fire, described as an old-fashioned class warrior; so the EMC researchers asked whether people still thought that class still exists in Australia. While the accepted wisdom is that class is dead, the results were clear; 86% of Australians still think that class exists, only 8% say no. It’s not just defined by money; while no-one thinks they are upper class 34% define themselves as working class and  50% as middle class. Among Liberal voters,  30% say they are working class and 54% middle class;  for Labor voters it is 41% working class and 46% middle class.

Participants were then asked to identify those who were respectively middle income, well off and wealthy as individuals and for households. The results were as follows: Middle incomes  $66,000 for individuals and $94,000 for households;  well off $69,000 individually and  $111,000 for households; and the wealthy  individuals  $106,000 and households $159,000. Interesting.

In his Monthly article Wayne Swan quotes President Obama saying that rising income inequality is “the defining issue of our time.” As for the vested interests Swan had this to say :

But again, it’s that tiny 1%, or even 0.1%, who are trying to drown out the others, who are blind to the national interest, and who pour their considerable personal fortunes into advertising, armies of lobbyists, dodgy modelling and corporate and commercial manoeuvring designed to influence editorial decisions.

The latest example of this is the foray by Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, into Fairfax Media, reportedly in an attempt to wield greater influence on public opinion and further her commercial interests at a time when the overwhelming economic consensus is that it’s critical to use the economic weight of the resources boom to strengthen the entire economy. Without a blush, her friend and fellow media owner John Singleton let the cat out of the bag when he told the Sydney Morning Herald that he and Rinehart had been “able to overtly and covertly attack governments … because we have people employed by us like Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones and Ray Hadley who agree with [our] thinking”.

This will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the Murdoch meltdown in Britain, or who has watched Fox News trying to pump life into the developing fiasco  that is the Republican primary race. Closer to home, this attempt to influence was also obvious in the way Sky’s Agenda programme continually undermined Gillard, with help from senior editors from the Australian. Our media are tame by comparison, but there must be worries about the demise of TV7 and the deference the National government pays to the gradual takeover of our TV media by Sky.

As indicated above, after writing his article Swan was attacked by the conservative media in Australia and  the mining magnates pictured – Palmer, Forrest and Rinehart. That didn’t faze him; he came back strongly with his speech to the National Press Club, in which he  made four points –  the importance of inequality, the role of the contemporary policy mix in advancing the fair go in Australia, the importance of  developing productivity an competitiveness,  and the risk posed by vested interests who’d rather see the benefits of the Asia century flow to a fortunate few in  society. He thinks the Aussie “fair go” and its democracy is under threat from the vested interests. It’s a very good speech – worth watching all the way through, including the questions.

Swan says the global debate about rising inequality is genuinely relevant; while it is hotly contested around the world, the volume in Australia is a lot lower.  That goes in spades for New Zealand. Swan certainly raised the volume across the Tasman.

The EMC researchers also asked what people thought about  Swan’s speech – 58% agreed with him while  26% did not. The researcher’s conclusion was that opening up the debate in the context of the mining tax is a sure-fire winner for the Labor party.

Inequality in New Zealand has risen faster in New Zealand than in most OECD countries. In my opinion opening up the debate about inequality in New Zealand would be a sure-fire winner for the Labour Party here too, if it was also backed up by some decent research.



11 comments on “Class war Oz style ”

  1. Olwyn 1

    Failure to speak in those terms is degrading to a Labour Party, in my opinion, when people are being crushed under the wheels daily. What is more, Michael Cullen was unafraid of such terms and it did not do him any harm. There were media whinges, but they did not dent his standing.

  2. ChrisH 2

    It’s a surefire winner because NACT can’t copy it.

  3. Colonial Viper 3

    Exactly Mike. The people are waiting for gutsy, principled leadership from Labour. Real alternative which do much more than soften neoliberal political economics, and which isn’t just watered down National.

    Labour must understand you can’t combat inequality by continuing the system which created it in the first place and simply adding redistributive sticky plasters over the top.

    Until Labour shows it understands how to build a future society where every NZer is a true stakeholder, and it can demonstrate that it has the guts to follow through to accomplish it, its no longer a political party worth supporting.

  4. Tc 4

    Swann being a former ALP president shows the way, Rudd couldn’t do what Gillard now has, a mining tax and he is on solid ground as the general public is sick of whingers like Rinehart and Palmer who are wealthy yet greedy for more more more. Tough stuff designed to bring out the redneck idiot in Abbott, which doesnt take much.

    Oz has a 2 speed economy with unemployment actually running about 12% so why should folk fortunate enough to be in possession of in demand minerals not share more of what is essentially easy money. Murdoch isn’t a loved character, since becoming a US citizen so he could kick off Fox, add a lack of a fair go in and that’s downright un-Australian.

    If shearer doesn’t follow this type of course Labour are headed toward minor party middle ground as he’s just not cutting it….but then they have that coming if they think mallard is to be listened to.

  5. just saying 5

    Isn’t it a bloody tragedy that National didn’t offer Shearer a job first.

    I know it wouldn’t have fixed things, but it sure would have slowed the decline. Maybe McCarten et al have decided that the best way forward is to crash Labour as quickly as possible, that Labour is now the biggest threat, and its death needs to be hastened, even if the process, as with the mechanics of many mercy killings, is repugnant.

    • s y d 5.1

      not if you read this article by Mr McCarten


      Cerberus anyone? Once you cross over you cannot return….

      • just saying 5.1.1

        Yeah, that’s the article I was referring to. Bomber wrote something similar. They are saying that Labour should continue following the path of what has been described as Paganiism. I’m saying that unless they are simulatneously out of their cotton-picking minds, maybe they believe it would be best if Labour were to hit that sheer unsurvivable cliff face theyve been progressing towards for ages, sooner rather than later, and that the dalai shearer is leading the team on the fastest shortcut to it.

  6. ad 6

    The last Labour Minsiter to take on a major corporate head on, and win, was David Cunliffe as Minster of Telecommunications when he sank the wedge into Telecom and started its split-up. Apart from that, the current lot seem pretty gun-shy when it comes to engaging corporate capital.

    • tc 6.1

      Years of hard work undone by bovver boy Joyce’s UFB deal where they get a taxpayer filled pit of cash, all the juicy high density areas and get to standover rural users.

      Nat’s are meant to be pro rural but I guess big business ranks above that.

  7. Half Crown Millionare 7

    “In my opinion opening up the debate about inequality in New Zealand would be a sure-fire winner for the Labour Party here too, if it was also backed up by some decent research.”

    Shearer won’t do that, he is too busy thinking about being a “me to” moving to the centre policies.

  8. Zeroque 8

    “In my opinion opening up the debate about inequality in New Zealand would be a sure-fire winner for the Labour Party here too, if it was also backed up by some decent research.”

    I was just the other day talking to some of my friends about this as a good idea for Labour. From what I can recall in the last couple or 3 years Labour has periodically mentioned income inequality and I think the idea of the capital gains tax was consistent with remedying it but obviously wouldnt be good enough on its own. On the other hand the tax changes both GST and tax cuts for high income earners dont seem to be in their sights.

    From what I’ve read the labour share of productivity gains (there may be better terminology than this) in NZ has been reducing relatively more rapidly than in other countries since the late 1980’s. To turn this around I think wage bargaining laws need to change to strengthen workers ability to bargain for wages. There was a 9 year period relatively recently when it may have been opportune to do this but I guess it looked like things were going along OK at that stage so there wasnt much motivation to address the longer term trend.

    I tend to agree with those who have said that time will tell as to which way labour will lurch. The fact that there is a possibility they may be looking to vacate the left and working class (some people I’ve talked with say they have already) is a bit disappointing.

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