23 Apr 2006, Comments Off on Fishy, Pete!

Fishy, Pete!

Author: Helen

Image from http://www.abc.net.au/rn/hindsight/stories/2006/galleries/8hour/index.htm

It was a happy coincidence to be walking up the steps of Trades Hall on Eight Hour Day. (That’s a link to a wonderful program, if you can bear extremely bad folk singing.) I wasn’t there for any event to specifically celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Eight Hour Day – I was there to see Sophie Kelly in Miriam and the Monkfish. But it was nice to be there on that day, and I always love to walk up the bluestone staircase with its pits and hollows worn by the steel-capped boots of millions of workers over the last century, and the honour rolls with a list of Eight Hour Day committee members. (It’s interesting to see the variety of trades, too; you don’t see many “cigar makers”now.)

Not that I’m optimistic about the prospects of the eight hour day in the immediate future. Now we have Work”Choices”, of course, the battle might have to be fought all over again in a different way and in a changed work and economic environment.

So what does Peter Costello do to mark this important anniversary? He smirkingly proclaims the 21st of April as Debt-free day, because the Federal government has paid off its debts.

Well, whoopy-do. We’ve shifted government debt to private debt, and it’s worse than before. Yet again the government’s managed to portray itself as a paragon of economic management based on affluence bought with money that isn’t ours. Like a lot of households these days.

Could Peter’s smirk-and-mirrors show be designed to distract our proletarian attention away from the Eight-Hour anniversary by creating a spurious “We’ve Paid off the Mortgage” day? Surely not.


This looks like a picture of the average punter’s reaction to “Debt Free Day”, but in fact it’s the promo from Miriam and the Monkfish, which is still on and well worth a look.

Comments (0)

  • Splat Guy says:

    Surely it’s a good thing to transfer debt from the government to the public? When governments accrue debts it means their programs aren’t sustainable; they cost more than the government is getting in tax. Further, government debt has to be paid by everyone in some future generation. I don’t see why people in 2006 were still having to pay off debt accrued by Whitlam!!

    When debt is private, it means the government can tax less yet give more services, debt is only taken on by individuals who are then responsible for deciding if it’s a service worth borrowing for, and it doesn’t cascade through the generations.

    As for the eight-hour day, take comfort that economic growth — and WorkChoices — may be your best friend. Economic growth and industrial flexibility have made taking a sea change an increasingly feasible option for people who in the past were too poor to do so. And if people WANT to work more than eight hours a day and others want to employ them, what right has the government to stop them? Indeed, what right have you or I to tell them they’re wrong?

  • Helen says:

    John Quiggin and Kenneth Davidson are better at explaining that sort of thing than I am.

    How do you know “people” “want” to work more than eight hours? If they do, is it really their choice or a “choice” that has been foisted on them by something like, oh I don’t know, maybe massive debt repayments!?

  • Phil says:

    Helen – debt free day isn’t about the alleged paying down of the $10b Labor black hole, but rather:

    “Every year The Centre for Independent Studies calculates the day when Australians will finally finish paying for the government’s spending for the year so they can start to use the money that they earn for themselves. This is “Tax Freedom Day.”

    A hundred years ago, Tax Freedom Day fell on 24 January. At the outbreak of World War II it fell on 26 February. By the late 1950s it had extended to 19 March, and it shifted into April during the Whitlam years. By 1998-99, Tax Freedom Day had been pushed out to 21 April. Last year it was 23 April. This year it’s another two days later than that. That’s another two days spent paying for the government rather than working for ourselves.

    CIS Social Research Director Peter Saunders says: “The reason Tax Freedom Day this year falls two days later than last year is that total tax revenue has increased by 8% – much faster than the growth of the economy.”

    “Most of this increased tax revenue went to the Commonwealth Government. It collected 9% more in personal income tax, 13% more in income tax from superannuation funds, and 19% more in income tax paid by companies. The Government denies we are over-taxed. But it has been taking a bigger share of the nation’s output every year for the last four years, which is why it has such huge budget surpluses. It’s time they returned these ‘surplus funds’ to the people who earned them.”

    The CIS tells us Tax Freedom Day is calculated by dividing total per capita tax revenues by GDP per head. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, total per capita taxation across all levels of government in 2004-05 came to $13,781 (see ABS, Taxation Revenue, Australia, 2004-05 Cat. No. 5506.0). GDP per person in 2004-05 was $44,171 (ABS Australian National Accounts, December 2005, Cat. No. 5206.0). This means taxation absorbed 31.2% of GDP, or 114 out of 365 days of the year. The 115th day of 2006 is 25 April.”

    Thanks to Crikey for the explanation.

  • Helen says:

    No, they are different.

    Treasury calculated that, for the first time in 30 years, from today the Commonwealth will have lent others more money than it owes.

    “It is the day we pay off the mortgage,” Mr Costello said. “The Government will no longer be a net borrower…”

    They’re both spin, but one is government spin about the paying off of government debt over several decades, and the other is CIS spin to make us all feel we’re overtaxed.

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