Being the real Julia

Julia is now ‘being Julia’ – complete with a big announcement – by her – that she’s going to be the new ‘real’ Julia prompting the opposition and media into the obvious riposte ‘then who was the old Julia?’. Might it have been a bit wiser to have been the real Julia for a few days and then, if the media hadn’t duly loaded it onto their memeographs to have send the spinmesiters out after the press to hand out memeograph cartridges preloaded with the desired meme?

No, Julia doesn’t have to be the real Julia particularly – though obviously it helps not to violate Brady Bunch rule #3 “Just be yourself Marcia.” She needs to be articulating both the Govt’s achievements – which are considerable – and its promise.

She’s a tad hamstrung in that by her circumstances. The greatest achievement – of having saved over 150,000 odd jobs – is an achievement of her old boss Kevin, though the Government has every right to take credit for it. And she’s hamstrung in it because for a year or so now, the government’s internal spinmeisters have told the government that school halls (and so, by implication, the stimulus) are not what you want to talk about – they’re where the Opposition is making headway.

As Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz put it last week, the choice was between waste from hasty stimulus spending (it was either that or nothing) and the waste of people sitting on the dole when they could be doing something useful, like let’s see . . . building school halls. Since the stimulus was the Government’s pre-eminent achievement, something that put it in Stiglitz’s book at the very top of the class when it came to fighting the GFC, not having taken on the Opposition’s criticism on waste left the government in a very bad place coming into an election.

Now, the spinmeisters are at least half right. It would be better not to start from here. You’d rather not have your strongest points like the stimulus so muddied by the one liners of the Opposition at this late stage.  But this is where the Government is.  And it’s a better place to be starting from than any desire to unfurl the ‘real Julia’.

Blogger Grog’s Gambit proposed some ads to focus on Labor’s economic achievement during the GFC. For instance screens rolling up lists like this:

During the Global Financial Crisis these countries went  into recession:

United Kingdom
Japan
New Zealand
Germany
Russia
Italy
Hong Kong
Singapore
Ireland
Greece
Spain
Sweden
Ukraine
Iceland
Estonia
The United States of America

The countries that didn’t:

Australia

But, as my old boss John Button once said to me after the 1985 election where the ALP did surprisingly badly despite its stellar performance in the previous term.  “one emotion the electorate doesn’t possess is gratitude”. So you have to have something to offer them – based on your record. So based on the ads Grog proposes running I’d be concluding them with something like this.

“Tony Abbott’s policies would only have saved a fraction of our very small debt, but we’ve got another 150,000 people. In jobs. Paying tax. Paying off that debt. Who do you want in charge the next time something goes wrong? Do you want an Australian Government that will put it’s own job on the line to save yours?”

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Kevin Rennie
11 years ago

At the height of the GFC people were waking in the night sweating about their job, their investments, their Superannuation. Wayne Swan should be canonised! Whoops, wrong team.

It’s the ECONOMY Tony!

Rafe
11 years ago

Re the ingratitude of the electorate, in the 80s the Greiner Liberals won a landslide in NSW on the back of the electorate’s fear and loathing of the economic rationalism of the Federal Labor Government. Talk about misreading the play! Safe Labor seats were lost. This was a false dawn for the NSW Libs because all the Labor seats reverted next time and it was a very close run to get back the second time. And that was a good Liberal administration as well.

More recently the (then) Premier Rees did a bold and honourable move to drop some troublemakers from Cabinet but he got no bounce in the polls because the electorate thought it was just another sign that the ALP was disorganised.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

Canada
Which is the most comparable country, and didn’t go into recession for similar reasons…but had a lot less stimulus

observa
observa
11 years ago

Heard Bob Brown proudly announcing he was jointly responsible for the $42 bill worth of stimulus measures, presumably the Pink Batts, green/inspectors/green loans and BER. The Greens policy like Labor states they’re all for fast accessible internet and now we have them bcking the $43bill NBN for 93% of us and of course Julia banging on about the need for infrastructure. Seems to me there it was staring them in the face all along with stimulus and Snowy type infrastructure imagination all rolled out in one. What happened there guys?

Guido
11 years ago

Someone must have heard you Nicholas and Gambit. Look at these ad.

Guido
11 years ago

I guess so. Hopefully we will have conviction during interviews etc.

Don Arthur
Don Arthur(@don-arthur)
11 years ago

The point about gratitude makes sense.

Conservative HQ 1945: “Damned fools! How can they have elected Labour. If it wasn’t for me they’d be overrun by Nazis.”

Electorate: “Yes thanks awfully for that Mr Churchill. Now be a good chap and get out of the way.”

observa
observa
11 years ago

Seems to me Rudd was a very popular man when he handed out the Howard/Costello tax cuts and subsequently handed out those $900 and $950 cheques to all and sundry. Certainly the uni daughter thought so as she got both. There was a bit of fractiousness over visiting backpackers and such getting them but that was quickly lost in the general euphoria over handbacks. The rest of the stimulus went poorly as has been combed over, but with it clear Oz had dodged the vicissitudes of the ROW albeit with the help of expensive paydirt that was glossed over too because Kev was going to make those nasty polluters clean up their act for all the kiddies’sakes. So far so good but when Cope killed the big emotional appeal and no more handbacks to ease the rising interest rates and nothing having been done about rising prices (those raised expectations with Fuelwatch and Grocerywatch)the voters quickly turned back to look at the economic record naturally enough. That’s when the popularity began to plummet.

That’s where I reckon a big Snowy type achievement to show for any big stimulus deficit would have cut the mustard for Labor here and now(as would say fixing the MDB with wall to wall Labor) The NBN was clearly in that league and superbly broad geographically to ice the cake, but it really only came to light because Conroy couldn’t get his way with Telstra and rather than lose face upped the ante with a highly unlikely follow through now by either party. The accumulated deficit just won’t allow it. With little real direction or runs on the board now, there’s not much for voters to hang their hats on with Gillard Labor now and hence those polls. Not much to hang their hats on with the Coalition either but they do know how to rein in deficits and runaway empire building. Bit of a coin toss really but history and the smart money favours the incumbent as a uniform swing across all marginals is most unlikely. Gillard and the Greens to show us the new LGQ way forward for 3 yrs but now saddled with that deficit baggage.

dorinny
11 years ago

Doesn’t really try to force it’s point like the Liberal ads – about WASTE, WASTE, WASTE. STOP THE WASTE. That’s a pretty simple and urgent point (the fact that it’s wrong just means the joke is on us).

BER & NBN isnt a waste? Please explain.

dorinny
11 years ago

Not to mention pink batts & green loans.

trackback

[…] economist Nicholas Gruen chimes in: As Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz put it last week, the choice was between waste […]

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

Fair enough if I was a Labor staffer I would be running ads exactly as you propose.

But the question wasn’t who has done the most awesomest, it was who has avoided a recession, and the missing part of the answer is Canada, with less stimulus than us.

Seems like a pertinent data point when you consider that it is also the most comparable (lightly geared, full-recourse mortgage lending, highly-regulated banking sector, small-medium population, centre-right governing consensus…).

And it does weaken the impact a bit, since it brings out Jacques’ point that maybe our performance had as much to do with the boring and unimaginative Liberals of the last ten years as it had to with Rudd/Labor/whoever was in charge after the Liberals.

Butterfield, Bloomfiled & Bishop
Butterfield, Bloomfiled & Bishop
11 years ago

No Dorinny it is up to you to actually show it is waste and thus far you have relied on a person who has no credibility!

Canada had less stimulus, not a lot less , but it is not getting back into the black as quickly as Australia.

Showing again Highly successful stimulus packages are good for the budget’s bottom line

Yobbo
Yobbo
11 years ago

Thanks labor, for spending 60 billion dollars in a futile attempt to modify the business cycle based on economic theories proved to be false more than 30 years ago.

Peter Whiteford
Peter Whiteford
11 years ago

Patrick

According to the OECD in their latest Employment Outlook – “Canada’s labour market is emerging from the global recession somewhat faster than most other advanced economies. The unemployment rate – currently at 8.1% – has so far followed a very similar trajectory to that experienced in the recession of the early 1990s, but the latest OECD projections suggest that unemployment will fall more quickly than in the early 1990s, reaching 7% by the end of 2011.

The shock to the labour market – in terms of the decline in total hours worked – was bigger than might have been expected, given the size of the downturn in GDP and Canada’s historical experience. Analysis presented in the 2010 OECD Employment Outlook shows that more than 80% of the reduction in labour input during the recession was achieved through declining average hours per worker rather than layoffs, resulting in a reduction in output per worker but also an increase in hourly labour productivity. Like in many other OECD countries, hours reductions were most important in the early months of the recession. Over time, job losses have played a more prominent role in labour adjustment.

The Canadian government responded quickly by implementing a package of policy measures to ease the effects of the recession on the labour market. These included support for labour demand through an extension of the Work Sharing scheme, additional job search and re-employment services and an extension to the duration of Employment Insurance for job losers. While the recovery is clearly underway, it will be important to maintain adequate funding for labour market programmes in the months ahead.” see http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/14/8/45603588.pdf

The social and economic consequences of 8% unemployment – even if trending down to 7% by the end of next year – are pretty horrific to contemplate if previous recessions are taken as a guide to long-term consequences.

It’s also worth noting that the countries that had smaller stimulus packages than Australia generally had worse deteriorations in their budget bottom line because of falling revenues and higher unemployment payments.

Butterfield, Bloomfiled & Bishop
Butterfield, Bloomfiled & Bishop
11 years ago

Yobbo,
Unless you are living in bizarro world it want a futile attempt indeed it was highly successful in avoiding a deep and bad recession.

The only theories that have been proved false are those of classical economics.
Economies which indulged in their policy prescriptions such as the Baltic states, Ireland , Hungary etc had either extremely deep and bad recession or minor depressions!

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
11 years ago

Jacques

Returning to your comment #11:

“Liberal ad:

Which country had zero public debt leading into the GFC? Australia. Why? Liberals. Who objected at the time? Labor.”

I don’t claim an elephantine memory, but I don’t recall Labor opposing Howard/Costello running budget surpluses in the period before the GFC i.e. this century. Do you? When? Labor might have argued against particular budgetary cuts at various times and argued for alternative ones, but that’s hardly the same thing. To th best of my recollection the universal virtue of budget surpluses has been bipartisan orthodoxy for at least the last decade or so.

SJ
SJ
11 years ago

If they’d married the pile of money they had with workchoices and styled it as a wage-tax tradeoff, people would have ‘got it’ and they’d still be in power today. Then again they may be in power in a few weeks time and then they can go on in the same feckless way.

The Libs’ surplus gradually grew as the boom continued, the cash rolled in and the extent to which additional spending was expected to put up rates. What a pity it didn’t go into super, and didn’t buy reform elsewhere.

I may perhaps be misreading this, but it appears to me that you’re calling workchoices a “reform”, in a good way.

I don’t buy this at all. There was no wage price spiral, no high unemployment, or any other reason to attack pay rates. The U.S. has pursued this line of reform non-stop since about 1972, to the point where either they’ll realise it doesn’t work, or their economy will cease growth altogether because of lack of internal demand. I think Henry Ford woke up to this some time around 1914. Sometimes lessons are forgotten.

SJ
SJ
11 years ago

I think we’ve already seen the results of that experiment, Nick. We’ve seen 40 years of it play out in the U.S.

The U.S. had strong growth in real wages from 1774 to 1972. (For example see here, get the U.S. wage data and the CPI data, deflate and graph the result).

The U.S. ceased to be a net exporter around 1970, and inflation started to take off. The initial response was a wage freeze, in the hope that that would control inflation. It didn’t, but the wage freeze (in various forms) persisted. Unskilled labour is now paid significantly less in real terms than it was in 1972, and the median household is still in about the same situation as it was in 1972. That’s 38 years of stagnation.

If there’s 4% “cut out of the labour market”, the answer to that is just to pay them to stay out of it, if the alternative is to see 95% of us get fried and the remaining top 1% make out like bandits.

(In the U.S. it’s actually only the top 0.1% who’ve made out like bandits, everyone else has been totally screwed).

SJ
SJ
11 years ago

P.S. I get what you’re talking about in theory, but the evidence suggests that it won’t play out that way in practice.

SJ
SJ
11 years ago

What’s with the net exporter stuff? What’s that got to do with anything?

Sorry, I should have explained a bit more clearly.

If foreigners don’t what to buy more of your stuff, and the locals can’t afford to, then expanding production becomes a bit tricky.

doctorpat
doctorpat
11 years ago

If you want a prediction of Coalition ads:

Australia was the only country to avoid the recession. Why? Our mining industry that Labor is trying to destroy. (The coalition doesn’t even have to pay for that ad.)

SJ
SJ
11 years ago

But more on topic, who said anything about going all the way to US relativities. A wage tax tradeoff might reduce the minimum wage by 10% or so – fully compensating for it and do a lot of good without landing one in US relativities.

This is just a solution in search of a problem. If it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it.