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Issue #1550      6 June 2012


Sackings and the propaganda of the “boom”

Big business has a new mantra – “Australians have never had it so good.” An AMP NATSEM report released last month appears to confirm that wealthy and not-so-wealthy households are ahead in terms of disposable income since 1984 by a good margin. So why is there such widespread discontent about the cost of living and difficulty in securing the basics? Why is the federal government being punished with low approval ratings when, presumably, they are doing a wonderful job of managing the economy?

The corporate media would have us believe working people are just bad managers. They spend too much on the latest electronics, cars, overseas travel and restaurant meals. Australian wage slaves live in gilded cages, it seems, and have developed tastes above their station. The AMP NATSEM report concedes we’re paying much more in rent and on mortgages and there’s a lot of data to back up the observation. One in five under 25-year-olds shell out more than 30 percent of their income for accommodation, as does one in ten of the whole population. The cost of services from privatised utilities is through the roof.

According to Anglicare, half a million Australian children live in families below the poverty line. Single parents often go without meals and necessities like dental care in order to feed their kids. This is the type of reality that is spoiling the pitch from scribes supporting the neo-liberal agenda and claims that we have never had more discretionary spending or a higher standard of living.

No doubt there have been winners and losers out of the resources boom being fuelled by demand from China and other emerging economies but even the workers said to have benefited most face major challenges. The reality of “fly-in-fly-out” mining jobs is grim and eats away at the big pay cheques on offer. Regional communities often miss out on the benefits of the huge developments unfolding around them. The environmental and social problems caused by the “wild west” mentality all serve to dampen the joy we are meant to feel about the Australian miracle economy.

The biggest problem the propagandists of Australian exceptionalism have is the constant feed of bad news from the non-mining sectors of the economy. The headlines are stunning. Nearly 10,000 manufacturing and construction jobs have disappeared from Melbourne’s outer western suburbs in the past 12 months. Thousands more have been shed from professional and retail services. Qantas has announced 500 jobs are to go. Toyota has axed 350. The collapse of First Fleet transport spells the end of another 1,000 jobs. Many other jobs hang by a thread as companies confront a “softening of demand”, i.e. the reality of workers’ declining purchasing power.

The international economic climate certainly doesn’t help. Jitters combined with bad results from Australian companies have seen $24 billion wiped off the ASX200 recently. There’s more gloomy news for retirees down the track as their superannuation funds lose out in the game of casino capitalism. For all that, the corporate line of indulged workers and a lack of proper gratitude to the mining transnationals will continue. The latest instalment is the claim that Aussies have nothing to complain about if mining magnates import entire workforces for their projects. Locals, the story goes, are too apathetic to grab the wonderful jobs on offer.

The capitalists and their servants in the mainstream media are masters of the game of “blame the victim”. It’s not new and it’s not restricted to Australia. Look at the savage commentary about Greek workers, their alleged reluctance to pay tax, their supposed preference for cushy government jobs and early retirement. The reality is that Greece became an early victim of the global economic crisis because of the behaviour of their capitalist class. It sold out local industry, pitted immigrant workers against local ones in a race to the bottom for wages and conditions and salted their ill-gotten gains away in tax havens. That’s the reality but the media myths about Greek workers survive and are even passed on by word-of-mouth by workers in far away Australia.

The propaganda of the boom and the undeserving, “lucky” Australian worker is part of a battle of ideas aimed at disorganising opposition to the neo-liberal agenda. We must fight back with every means at our disposal.

Next article – Importing workers driven by greed – CPA statement

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