Australia

Political war revived as childcare made Albanese relevant again

This was not universally accepted. His detention has frustrated bipartisan leftists, boys on Twitter, and politically impatient labor activists. People who have no real world, only political narcissism.

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This week, Albanese got out of national unity mode and came up with a clear alternative. He returned to his relevance as a political warrior. Without Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg, he wouldn’t have been able to do that.

why? The government budget on Tuesday paved the way for economic recovery with a hundred-dollar bill. Laying from end to end, they were on the road to reelection at the expense of an additional $ 98 billion in stimulus.

In addition to the measures taken in the previous COVID era, Morrison’s emergency spending totals $ 397 billion. And that brings this year’s budget deficit to the projected $ 213 billion, or 11 percent of GDP. The outlook is that under Paul Keating, the peak deficit during the last recession was 4.1 percent.

The purpose of this Morrison budget is to bring the unemployment rate back to less than 6% within two years, almost to its pre-pandemic state.

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All this is necessary for the country’s economic recovery. But that wasn’t enough for bigger needs. “This is curious,” said Ken Henry, a former Treasury Secretary under both liberal Peter Costello and Labor Wayne Swan. “When this budget was delayed by six months, I thought,’it gives them six months to come up with a reform budget.’

“But after hearing Frydenberg’s budget speech on Tuesday night, Henry concludes.” They didn’t deliver it. They provided an exciting budget. That’s fine, but they reformed. Has not been realized. “

He is right It’s in Frydenberg’s rhetoric – “rebuilding our economy” is his copy. For example, Jacinda Ardern’s motto is more than “build better”.

Anthony Albanese was secretly relieved. He wrote a key element of his reply budget speech last Sunday. This included his plan to introduce a major upgrade to federal childcare subsidies.

The demand for better access to affordable childcare has increased over the years, and Albanese in particular considered it an obvious option for the government. Women were hit hard by the “pink depression.” The federal government temporarily freed childcare early in the recession, but has since recovered.

Moreover, it is not only about gender equality in the workforce, but also about economic productivity. Currently, 95% of men with children under the age of 5 are in the workforce. For women it is 64%. “The largest cohort of working-age people in Australia who are not fully engaged in the workforce is women,” says Miranda Stewart of the ANU Tax and Relocation Policy Institute.

And you can see why. According to Stewart, if a mother with a $ 45,000 income and a partner wants to increase her paid work days from two to three or more days a week, an effective tax rate of over 90% will be levied on her additional income. You can. .. That’s a severe penalty.

Therefore, modifying it will bring both social and economic benefits, help families and increase the participation of the workforce.

Albanese feared that it would be very obvious for the government to act on it. But when he looked up the budget at the lockup on Tuesday afternoon, he realized that the government had missed an opportunity. Workers agreed with all government stimulus measures, but attacked the lack of improved treatment and childcare of women.

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The government seemed surprised by the inevitable criticism. One indicator was how Social Services and Family Minister Anne Ruston tried to dismiss the criticism that women were overlooked.

“All majors on the budget are available to women. That is, women are using subsidies for young people. As you know, women can use the extra space of the university and young people can. I’m sorry, women can take advantage of driving new infrastructure and roads, so I think it’s wrong to suggest that the budget isn’t focused on women. “

Albanese couldn’t believe his luck. The government had a blind spot, which he overcame. “I have a trillion dollars in debt and nothing to do with childcare,” he said. The stage of labor was set and he replied the budget that night. ..

“And increase the maximum childcare subsidy to 90%, reducing the cost of 97% for all families in the system.”

In the long run, Mr Albanese said the Labor government would ask the Productivity Commission to design a system that would allow all families access to 90 percent of subsidies. That prepared him for this pride. “Workers created Medicare – universal insurance. We created NDIS – universal support for people with disabilities. We created an old-age pension – universal for workers. Retirement Savings. And if I were the Prime Minister, I would also make quality, affordable childcare universal. “

Ken Henry wasn’t surprised. “I think it’s completely wise, both politically and economically.” It’s an exorbitant cost to the budget, “because the government can’t go back.”Debt and deficit are gone [as a Coalition criticism], What is the argument against better childcare?

“In fact, the government will have to intervene in more childcare if it provides sustainable and higher labor force participation, especially for families with children.”

Suddenly, Albanese is related again. He made other constructive suggestions, but the universal childcare promise is the moment of cues. It also emphasizes an increasingly clear contrast between Australian and US politics. In two ways.

First of all, American political drama is nothing but strange. Donald Trump’s show is becoming more and more confused as he praises pandemics and mass deaths as “disguised blessings.” And Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, proposes a bipartisan committee to oversee the health of the US President. Not only is it a subtle suggestion that Trump is insane, but on the day of the inauguration, the president who swears will be 74 or 78 years old, depending on whether it is Trump or Joe Biden. is. Throughout the pandemic intensifying and the discussion of economic stimulus collapsed.

In Australia, on the other hand, political contests are public debates over practical improvements in wise programs such as childcare. The pandemic was curbed and a large recovery plan was enacted three days after the proposal.

And the second is the contrast with the basic approach to inequality. In the United States, a land of shocking inequality, the concept of basic income (UBI) is well established. That is, an annual distribution of taxpayer money that gives the same amount to all adults, regardless of need or income.

In Australia, a successful approach is not basic income, but basic income. And Albanese’s childcare proposal is an effort to extend this to other policy areas.

Emma Dawson, Executive Director of the Progressive Think Tank PerCapita, explains why the Australian approach is so good. “The idea of ​​UBI is momentum because of the large amount of Silicon Valley funding behind it. Big Tech’s motivation is that UBI can keep wages low and profits high. I’m fascinated. Feel-just give people money, no stigma on welfare.

“But that’s a very simple idea. You’ll receive a minimum amount equivalent to the unemployment allowance. It doesn’t help inequality in wealth. Give people money to pay for services, It pushes up the price of services and has very unequal results. Providing people with basic universal services and empowering them to use their own skills and build their own wealth. It has proven to be the most effective method. “

As Australia entered the recovery phase, Morrison lost Lenin-like grip, paving the way for Albanese to return to relevance. Politics is again, as Paul Keating once described it as a “conflict business.”

Peter Hartcher is a political and international editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and the Age.

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