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Friday, 11 March


TPP puts our food labelling laws in jeopardy: CHOICE AFTINET

12 March 2016


Consumer advocacy group Choice has launched a new campaign to 'get rid of the devil in the detail' of the TPP.


Chief executive Alan Kirkland told Fairfax Media that the TPP opens the Australian government to being sued by foreign companies for changes to food labelling and product safety laws.




Repeal Taft-Hartley (crosspost from Crooked Timber) John Quiggin

Assuming that the US Presidential election is between Trump and Clinton (or, for that matter, Sanders) the voting bloc that’s most obviously up for grabs is that of working-class whites[^1]. Relative to expectations, working class whites have done worse under neoliberalism/market liberalism than almost any other group in the population. So, they ought to be more solid than ever against the right. But it’s easy for tribalists like Trump to blame migrants and minorities for the losses that working class whites have suffered.

What’s needed to turn this around, I think, is something, in Trump’s words “yuge”. My suggestion is repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act. Way back in 1948, Taft-Hartley prefigured anti-union laws that were passed throughout the English-speaking world[^2] from the 1970s and have spread even further since then. Its repeal would, at a minimum, be a huge symbolic step.

Would it be more than symbolic? The case for mere symbolism was presented (a little surprisingly for me) by Doug Macarey in Counterpunch

Yes, without Taft-Hartley there would be more national membership drives, more people being allowed to join unions, all of which would be a salutary, democratic effect of repeal, one that would benefit working people. But, arguably, the country is too “grown-up,” too cynical and world weary, to engage in radical industrial actions such as secondary strikes and boycotts, even if they were made legal.

With so many workers now invested in the stock market, and union expectations and identity having been profoundly warped over the last half-century, it would be hard to find a critical mass willing to engage in the more radical actions made available by repeal of Taft-Hartley.

This argument, presented in 2008, looks hopelessly dated now. Wh...


Link Peter Martin


The Weekend Quiz – March 12-13, 2016 Bill Mitchell – billy blog

Welcome to The Weekend Quiz, which used to be known as the Saturday Quiz! The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.

1. Money is often considered to be currency plus demand deposits. If there is more money in the economy its value always declines.

2. A public works program that digs holes and fills them in again has exactly the same impact on current economic growth ($-for-$) as a private investment plan which constructs a new factory.



Parliament in Spain removes punitive ‘sun tax’ Renew Economy

Spanish parliament have signed an agreement removing a controversial Royal Decree against self-consumption of solar energy, also known as the ‘sun tax.’


Queensland push for “fair” solar FiT hits major roadblock Renew Economy

Regulator sees no reason to make rooftop solar feed-in tariffs mandatory, saying it's hard to see the benefits of the technology. Energex, however, has found one: using rooftop PV as a "solar sponge" to power electric hot water. And it will effectively charge 12c/kWh to solar households for their own output.


Melbourne unveils plan to boost CBD bicycle traffic to 25% by 2020 Renew Economy

Melbourne City Council is set to consider a comprehensive plan to boost bicycle traffic into and around the CBD, aiming to reach one in four vehicles by 2020.


AGL unveils largest demand response trial, combing solar + storage Renew Economy

AGL is working with 68 Melbourne households to trial how to to balance electricity demand spikes in hot weather and, ultimately, cut costs.


Shared solar start-up in renewed push to get PV on rented rooftops Renew Economy

Developers of shared solar technology unveil new digital platform to make path to solar less complicated for Australia's 2.4m rental properties, calculating size of system, savings and ROI.


Networks push for renewable energy target to be dumped Renew Economy

Networks lobby want renewables target replaced by new mechanism that also encourages gas generation.


US, Canada climate pact targets methane, aviation, trucks, HFCs Renew Economy

Three months after the world united on climate action in Paris, the US and Canada have announced a bilateral climate agreement.


Finally, a push to crack down on dodgy solar panel and inverters Renew Economy

CEC introduces new standards and ongoing testing to make sure solar modules and inverters in Australia meet quality standards.


Canadian Solar sees Australia as one of top Asia-Pac markets for big solar Renew Economy

Canadian Solar, with largest pipeline of large-scale projects in Australia, says market positive with costs to hit $75/MWh by 2018.

Thursday, 10 March


With the GST out of the way we could fix what's broken Peter Martin

What's left to reform if Scott Morison's push for a GST hike goes south?

Lots. The really big money is in superannuation. A switch to taxing contributions at marginal rates rather than the present flat rate of 15 per cent would raise an extra $15.6 billion per year, about as much as would be left over from an increase in the GST after compensation. It's enough to buy substantial income tax cuts or properly fund hospitals and schools in line with the wishes of the premiers and leave money over for company tax cuts.

If the government didn't want to remove the concession altogether, it could tax contributions at marginal rates minus 15 per cent, raising $6 billion per year. It could rightly claim to be going after high earners harder than Labor, which had the best part of a decade to fix the unfair super tax system it introduced and came up with something more mild.

The biggest economic boost would come not from a switch from income tax to GST but from a switch from stamp duty to land tax. To get it the Commonwealth would have to knock together the heads of a few state premiers, but according to the the discussion paper that kicked off the tax reform process, it's where the big gains lie.

Capital gains are taxed at only half the rate of income earned from interest in bank accounts. The discussion paper asks whether that's appropriate and talks about taxing all income from saving at the same (discounted) rate.

Fringe benefits tax, employee deductions, business deductions, dividend imputation and the role of the family home all come under the microscope in the discussion paper. Getting the GST off the table would allow the government to focus on fixing what's really broken.

In ...


GST hike is a solution in search of a problem Peter Martin

Of all the daft analogies. Scott Morrison says fixing tax is like turning back boats.

"I have had a bit of experience with this," he told a Canberra press conference this week. "I remember before the 2013 election, turnbacks actually had lower levels of support in the Australian community. It's important that when you believe that something's right for the country, that you remain focused on that."

Here's what's different about tax. When you turn back boats, you know what you are trying to achieve. When you attempt to change the tax system, you are without a clear goal unless you set one first. A 15 per cent GST might well be the answer. But it's impossible to know without knowing the question.

The question was muddled from the start. Here's how Tony Abbott put it during the 2013 election campaign: "Well within three years, a tax white paper will have canvassed how we can have lower, simpler, fairer taxes for higher economic growth and better and more sustained services."

That's five points, a bit like the arrow-covered pointless man in the Harry Nilsson film who concedes that "a point in every direction is the same as no point at all".

No matter. Over time the objectives were to be sharpened in a discussion paper, then a green paper setting out options, and finally a white paper detailing the preferred option. We were to be given something to measure the final proposal against.

Except that the Abbott government fell apart. The treasury had the discussion paper ready to go at the start of December 2014. Abbott sat on it for four full months as he dealt with a s...


The neo-liberal class warfare on the poor and the rest of us Bill Mitchell – billy blog

I read a report just released yesterday (March 9, 2016) – The uneven impact of welfare reformby the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, which is located at the Sheffield Hallam University in Britain. It showed that the British Government is successfully prosecuting a class war against the disadvantaged and, increasingly, against segments of ‘middle’ Britain. It confirms the view I formed in 2010 when the Conservative government was elected and announced its first fiscal statement in June of that year that it was intent on pursuing some unfinished business – to wit, entrenching the attacks on workers and income support recipients and redistributing national income in favour of capital. These attacks were somewhat interrupted by the urgency to deal with the meltdown associated with the GFC. Leopards don’t change their spots and the Conservatives are intent on finishing off the agenda that began back in the 1970s with the attacks on unions and public services. I was thinking about the report as I was reflecting on a radio program I heard the other day about how the Australian National Library is being forced to make severe cuts to its archival services among other things in response to federal government austerity plans. Mindless is the first word that came into my head when I was listening to the program. In the case of Britain, the attacks are being dressed up as ‘welfare reform’. In the case of Australia, the spending cuts are being dressed up as ‘efficiency dividends’. The neo-liberal nomenclature is an attempt to obscure what is really going on – a massive attack on society, its disadvantaged, and its cultural institutions. Neo-liberals hate society and anything that provides inclusive access to all in the benefits that society can deliver....


Turnbull's wrong, the future isn't what it used to be Peter Martin

What would you rather do without: the internet, or airconditioning?

Here's another one. What would you rather give up: smartphones, or plumbing?

They're questions that go to the heart of the myth at the centre of Malcolm Turnbull's Australia Day speech – that we live in "the most exciting time in human history".

According to our technologically-savvy Prime Minister "there has never been such rapid change".

Really? Try telling that to your great-grandparents.

In the late 1800s families bathed in tubs in the kitchen, often the only heated room in the house, after carrying in buckets of cold water and heating it by an open fire. They washed once a week if they were lucky, and in some cases once a month. Yet within decades, by 1940, they had running water and heating in every room. So says US economist Robert J. Gordon in an impressive, and somewhat depressing, new tome entitled The Rise and Fall of American Growth.

Gordon says not a single urban home was wired for electricity in 1880, but by 1940 nearly 100 per cent had mains power. By 1940 94 per cent had clean piped water, 80 per cent had flush toilets, 73 percent had gas for cooking and 56 per cent had refrigerators.

Houses went from being isolated to being networked, "most having the five connections of electricity, gas, telephone, water, and sewer".

Compare that to the changes we are living through now, the ones spruiked by our Prime Minister.

Gordon says until 1970 progress was...


Negative Gearing. It's turning us into landlords and serfs Peter Martin

Once we talked about the great Australian dream. Now it's something meaner: "getting ahead".

The great Australian dream meant owning your own home. "Getting ahead" means getting ahead of someone else. It's how Treasurer Scott Morrison sees the Australian dream.

"I think it is great in this country that people want to aspire to do better and provide for their kids, so I don't judge people for actually wanting to get ahead," the treasurer told radio host Neil Mitchell a few weeks back. "That's what this country is about."

It's certainly what negative gearing is about. "The vast bulk of Australians who use negative gearing are just trying to get ahead and trying to get their family in a better position," Morrison says. But negative gearing only gets them ahead if prices climb. The more that people negatively gear in order to get ahead, the more prices climb. The further they climb, the harder houses become to buy. And the harder they become to buy, the more the Australian dream recedes.

This is what has happened. Back before the explosion of negative gearing around the turn of the century, 52 per cent of Australians aged in their mid-20s to mid-30s actually owned their home. At the most recent census in 2011 it was 47 per cent. Before the turn of the century, 70 per cent of Australians aged in their mid-30s to mid-40s owned their own home. It's now 64 per cent.

The negative gearing-driven explosion has made it harder for Australians to buy houses to live in. Here's how Luci Ellis, head of the Reserve Bank's financial stability department, puts it: "It's a truism that...


TPP: It's not a done deal. Take action! AFTINET

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been signed and tabled in Parliament - but it's not a done deal yet.

Labor, Greens and independent representatives could still block the deal by voting against its implementing legislation in the Senate.

The easiest thing you can do right now is send a message to your Senators and MP asking them to block the TPP.

It only takes a couple of minutes and could have a big impact.

Want to do more? You can also:

1. Visit your Senator or MP: 
The most powerful thing you can do is visit your Labor or independent Senator or MP. We’ve designed a step-by-step guide to take you through the process.

2. Join AFTINET! 
We're a network of organisations and individuals representing around two million Australians. The stronger our numbers, the greater power we have! Plus, your small annual membership fee will go directly towards supporting our campaigns. Join here

3. Spread the word 
Help raise awareness by liking AFTINET on Facebook, following us on Twitter and sharing our updates. You can also download and distribute our latest leaflet Crunch time in Parliament

IndyWatch Australian Economic News Feed Archiver

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