Friday, March 06, 2015

Threads in Australian politics - Australians in Indonesian death row, the McClure report, industrial relations and that Intergenerational Report

This is an opium den. I tried to find one with guaranteed local provenance, but could not in the time I had.

I mention this now not because any of Australia's politicians displays signs of smoking opium; they don't! By all accounts, opium smoking is a peaceful occupation reducing the desire to argue. Instead, I am presently bogged down in aspects of the history of the Chinese in Australia with especial reference to New England. The things that I am learning about!

Meantime, a number of things have been happening in Australia at political and policy level that warrant a mention.

To this point, I have not mentioned the potential imminent execution of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, the ringleaders of the “Bali Nine” drug smuggling gang. I have not done so because I haven't been sure just what to say that might have any meaning. The continued delays have become cruel, high farce. If the result is a cancellation of the death sentence, then that will not matter. If the execution does proceed, it matters very much indeed.

 The affair has reinforced Australian opposition to the death penalty. That's not a bad thing from my perspective.  It has damaged the reputation of the Australian Federal Police, although the AFP has said that it will have more to say on this should the executions proceed. The fall-out in in terms of the relations between the two countries is difficult to predict, but is likely to be complicated. Overall, the worst part is the misery inflicted on all the parties. .

By the way, the inclusion of the opium photo and comment above is not connected with this case, just with my interest in New England history.

I have yet to read to McClure Report on the the review of Australia’s welfare system, A New System for Better Employment and Social Outcomes, released on 25 February 2015. The Department summarises the review in this way::
The review’s purpose has been to identify how to make Australia’s welfare system fairer, more effective, coherent and sustainable and encourage people to work.
Anybody spot the problems in this description? Ain't official English wonderful!

The report recommends simplification of welfare payments, something that I strongly support. Whether the recommendations in  the report are the best way to go is something I cannot yet comment on. Perhaps you have views?

In December 2014, the Australian Government has asked the Productivity Commission to review Australia's workplace relations framework.You can find the details here. Winton may have some views. By the way, I found Winton's assessment in Is Papua New Guinea a safe place for tourists to visit? very interesting. I have never been to PNG but have wanted to go for some time.I felt a bit sad at the comments on Lae.

 Finally, .how could I resist commenting on the 2015 Intergenerational Report.For the benefit of non-Australian readers whose eyes are glazing, the Commonwealth Treasury  describes the process in this way:
Every five years, the Australian Government produces an Intergenerational Report that assesses the long-term sustainability of current Government policies and how changes to Australia’s population size and age profile may impact on economic growth, workforce and public finances over the next 40 years. 
The Government is required to produce an Intergenerational Report at least every five years. The first three Intergenerational Reports were produced in 2002, 2007 and 2010. 
The Intergenerational Report contains analysis of the key drivers of economic growth – population, participation and productivity – and examines what projected changes in these areas mean for our standard of living and public policy settings. 
It is a projection into the future, giving us an estimate of the challenges we face as a nation and where opportunities could come from.
I took the report out to lunch today. Yes, I know that sounds very boring and in the end I put it aside to look at some more Chinese Australian history.

Despite Treasurer Hockey's enthusiasm at the launch, it is likely to sink without a a highly politicized document. I will give you a summary of the media reports later, along with my own assessment. For the moment, I just wanted to note that the report actually raises some interesting issues, especially if you turn some of the framework on its head.


It's difficult to know just what the latest stay in the executions means. I see the Jakarta Globe has called for the end of the death penalty in an editorial.  


Legal Eagle said...

Australian Chinese history is fascinating. One of our family friends could only find one other person in the phone book with his surname - his sister - turns out his grandfather was a Chinese gold miner who anglicized his name. Once you knew it, it was easy to pick.

Winton Bates said...

Hi Jim, so many reviews and reports to read! I think it is a good idea for governments to prepare such reports to provide a basis for sensible public discussion and policy development.
So I should spend some time next week reading some government reports.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi LE. I think you mentioned your friend way back on one of the first Chinese posts I wrote, on Quong Tart. As an aside, the Braidwood & District Historical Society site has an interesting page on the local Chinese -

Next week's Armidale Express column is on leprosy. It seems to have attracted interest among the younger Express staff.

Jim Belshaw said...

You should, Winton, and so should I! It is difficult to find the time, however.

Anonymous said...

On the IGR, go here for links to past IGRs.

Note the rapid growth in the size of these reports - the pdfs:

Full Reports 2002 705kb, 2007 1.6Mb, 2010 1Mb, 2015 2.6Mb

Extrapolation would suggest that the 2050 IGR will come in at about 10-12 Mb; may take 7 years to prepare; will take 9 years to digest. And how come one was snuck in at 2010?

Not to be too cynical, but I expect somebody will actually read the reports, even tho at best they can only be a collection of motherhood statements of the obvious, aligned to the particular bias of the government of the day.

At the very least, any future IGR should start with a brief para headed "What we got wrong in the last IGR", or maybe Prof Aitkin can update his "What Was It All For?"


Anonymous said...

And on the press reporting thus far, it seems that a primary consideration is to be encouraging older Aus workers to remain in the workforce for appreciably longer. So what about addressing our chronic, and rising, youth unemployment?

If this really is an 'intergenerational report' I just think more focus should be applied to that end of the average working life. On present trends, by 2050, we may end up with a generation of cuckoos subsisting in their parents' garages, undertaking the occasional 'self-improvement' course at the local (by then non-existant) TAFE equivalent.


Jim Belshaw said...

Hi kvd. I'm going to bring my response up in the next post.

Evan said...

Has anyone noticed that work for most people isn't a terribly enjoyable or edifying way to spend their time.

I'd be more impressed if the goal was to increase leisure time.

And ignoring youth unemployment is appalling.

I don't suppose it was surprising that this lot ignored climate change - still ludicrous and disgusting though.

Jim Belshaw said...

kvd, I did bring your first comment on the IGR up.

Evan, I don't think the evidence supports this comment: "Has anyone noticed that work for most people isn't a terribly enjoyable or edifying way to spend their time?"

Accepting that not all work or types of work are enjoyable, work is fundamentally important to most people because it provides human interaction and structure as well as income. I can't remember actual stats, but I think that there is survey data that shows how much people value work.

I have real problems with analysis that ignores unemployment among young people. However, that is not the only problem.

Employment depends on the number of jobs. If the work isn't there, keeping older people in the workforce does increase unemployment among young people.

I commented on this some years ago in the context of Germany where you had an aging but bifurcated workforce. At one end you had older workers in secure employment who were hanging on to jobs, on the other end younger workers taking generally insecure jobs with high levels of unemployment. However, the story doesn't end there.

A lot of the analysis uses comparisons based on the numbers in the conventional working age range compared to those past 65. In fact, a lot of older workers are already staying in the work force, throwing the conventional dependency ratio out of kilter.

As often happens, policy is lagging. I am having computer problems. I need to restart and will then continue the comment.

Jim Belshaw said...

Continuing. The growth in the proportion of older workers is recognised of course, but the effects are not.

The reality is, I think, that the proportion of older workers will continue to increase because many do not have a choice. The changing policy settings are defined to reinforce this.

This effect can be modeled simply by taking existing trends and extrapolating them. If I am right on trends, older worker involvement is still an interesting policy question, but not the type of breathless focus issue so often presented.

The effect of increased older worker participation is by its nature limited. There are only so many years you can actually add,

Increased retention of older workers ripples down through all working age cohorts. It's not just the young who are affected. Availability of jobs then becomes an issue.

The stagflation of the 1970s was associated with the emergence of unemployment among the young. This led to considerable policy debate in Europe. One line of argument ran that the aging of the workforce would of itself lead to rapid job growth among younger workers in a relatively short time horizon.

This failed to materialise, in part because of economic and structural change. Looking forward, the key issue is not the availability of jobs for any age cohort, but the total availability of jobs. There has to be sufficient jobs growth to accommodate all.

Evan said...

Hi Jim,

I'm in favour of people having interaction, structure and income.

"The reality is, I think, that the proportion of older workers will continue to increase because many do not have a choice." I entirely agree, but don't think this an unalloyed blessing.

Jim Belshaw said...

It's not, Evan, for many will have no choice, many will have no choice but not be able to find work and then be forced back onto a diminishing old age pension.

Evan said...

Agreed Jim

Dr Purva Pius said...
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