Among the many important issues which are at present subject to debate in society and the media, there is an inclination to let pass the determination by the Fair Work Commission of the minimum wage. It has received limited attention partly because the body allocated the job of regulating workplace relations has long determined the minimum and even though its analyses have been poor. The FWC has made decisions which have put Australia’s minimum rate at or very close to the highest in the world (over $36,000 pa). But this has not benefited the less skilled because employers cannot afford to pay such a rate for them. Instead of being employed they go on to welfare or crime.
Turnbull’s attempted recovery from declining polls appears to involve two immediate strategies. First, expose and publicise dubious activity by Shorten when he was head of the AWU. Second, attack the energy policy adopted by Shorten now that he is leader of the Opposition. This approach seems to have been welcomed by most members of the Coalition and praised by some in the media, both of whom reacted with comments to the effect “why the hell has he taken this long to point out the defects in Shorten as Labor leader” or words to that effect.
For the second day in a row Turnbull has “savaged” Shorten in Parliament – and outside it. The savaging included an accusation about the benefit to Shorten arising from “managing” one of the deals done by the union he led before he became an MP and Labor’s leader, as outlined in the Heydon Royal Commission. The opportunity for the government to use those investigations has so far been largely neglected and the attack on Shorten presumably reflects a number of recent unfavourable developments, such as the drop in Coalition polling to 46/54 on a TPP, the resignation from the Liberal Party of Senator Bernardi, and the apparent success of Trump in effecting major changes in policy in the US (one of which was even quite favourably regarded in a poll here).
Yesterday my Commentary drew attention to the 1C fall in average world temperature since the middle of the year and I assumed that would be published in Australian media today. But I have not been able to find any reference to a fall anywhere in the media. In one sense this might be regarded as “just typical”. But I still find it astonishing given the graphical presentation below and the fact that the temperature measurement comes from a NASA satellite. A fair interpretation would be that, once the El Nino peaks are set aside on the ground that they are temporary, there has been little or no change in temperature since 1996.
On Friday evening I attended the annual dinner of the HR Nicholls Society and gave the vote of thanks to the speaker, Senator Eric Abetz. His address was highlighted by The Weekend Australian giving it the front page lead story (see below) and the SMH also reported it, but not The Age. Abetz, who was dropped by Turnbull from ministerial ranks (he was Minister for Employment under PM Abbott) and from being Coalition leader in the Senate, used the HRN dinner as an opportunity to criticise Turnbull for failing to make reform of workplace relations a major policy issue at the election on 2 July. He pointed out that, with the ammunition provided by two major reports (the Heydon Royal Commission and the Productivity Commission), a policy advocating further reform had been a “gimme” and he noted that “not even the unlegislated elements of the 2013 election policy were taken forward such as changes to right of entry, transfer of business and individual flexibility arrangements”.
Since the election on July 2, Turnbull has continued his record of mistaken decisions as to both substance and process, plus a failure to indicate what substantive policies will be pursued other than the legislation already foreshadowed to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and to make unions more accountable under the registered organisation arrangements. But unless the (recounted) loss of Herbet by 37 votes is successfully challenged and another election held there (which seems too risky a venture), he has a majority of only one in the Reps and a deficit of 16 in the Senate.This means that if the two houses sit together he would need 9 votes from cross benchers (who include no less than 4 from One Nation and 3 from Xenophon) to obtain a majority to pass that legislation, which is a possibility but clearly uncertain. It is of some importance to climate change and extremist terrorist policy that One Nation ended up with 4 Senate seats, including one held by a sceptic (Malcolm Roberts) on global warming who is well versed in the data.
The Menzies Research Centre says it supports “principles of individual liberty, free speech, competitive enterprise, limited government, democracy, and the family as the foundation of a stable society” and, although it does not endorse the Liberal Party per se, it claims that its publications “go to the heart of Liberal Party policy-making”. Today, its Executive Director, Nick Cater, has had published a critique in The Australian of Lewis’s attempt to set “appropriate” limits on public debate on the influence of Islamic religion on terrorism (see article below). However, while Cater naturally does not mention that the current leader of the Liberal Party, Malcolm Turnbull, has made similar statements to those by Lewis, he is very much on the right track.
The August ABS Labour Force figures show an encouraging growth of 2.0% s.adj in employment over the past twelve months. This is faster than the 2015-16 budget forecast (1.5%) and than the growth in the working age population of 1.5%. This means that there has been a significant increase (2.2%) in the participation rate ie the proportion of the working age population which is employed or actively looking for work.