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Generations change, but the game remains the same

July 30th, 2009

I tried to ignore it, but Employment Services Minister Mark Arbib’s resurrection of the (Tony Abbott?) “job snobs” line has turned into yet another tiresome round of the generation game. This time it’s Generation Y who are copping the flak for being “Generation Lazy”, a collection of job-hoppers and dole bludgers.

How many times must these cannonballs fly? Arbib (born 1971) was barely out of nappies when the phrase “dole bludgers” was coined and applied to the unemployed members of Generation Jones (the younger boomers who missed out on the fun of the 60s), a group to which I briefly belonged. That continued right through the late 1970s, and into the recession of the early 1980s. And even before that, the older boomers had been routinely labelled as work-shy hippies.

The recession of the 1990s hit all groups of the population, with older workers suffering even more than youth. Still, the old cliches were dragged out and applied to Gen X-ers (remember the Paxtons?)

Now the economy has soured again, and Gen X bosses and pollies are kicking their Gen Y subordinates. If the slowdown drags on as long as I expect, it will be the turn of Gen Z/Millennial/Potter before long.

As I said back in 2000

Much of what passes for discussion about the merits or otherwise of particular generations is little more than a repetition of unchanging formulas about different age groups Ð the moral degeneration of the young, the rigidity and hypocrisy of the old, and so on.

You couldn’t get a better example than the latest round of recycled cliches.

  1. Alice
    July 30th, 2009 at 17:17 | #1

    Is there a group this unchristian christian hasnt attacked from single mums, to the poor, to “any on welfare”, to the “homeless” and now its our kids is it Tony Abbott. Its a strange thing when your mother (who is apolitical and leans towards the conservatives but went right off them at the last election … and knows nothing about economics) announces just today “that Tony Abbott wants people to work till they are seventy – its alright for him he just sits back and gets his parliamentary perks for life”
    And he wants Australians to work longer, pay more taxes, and he wants to kick the kids now with an unemployment rate that is not good.

    My suggestion for Tony Abbott and the federal opposition is to get off their collective priviledged posteriors and contribute something positive to economic policy instead to correct the unemployment instead of doing nothing because “markets will fix it” (when instead they have nothing to offer) and endlessly running the blame game.

    Mr People Skills is an apt description of Abbott. Another coalition member living in cloud cuckoo land and looking for a quick scapegoat for the mess they helped get us in.

  2. Alice
    July 30th, 2009 at 17:23 | #2

    In fact Abbott is truly pathetic. If they think Malcolm is doing badly in the polls….let them try Abbott. he is an also ran and he should have lost his job as alter boy when Howard fell off the pew.

  3. derrida derider
    July 30th, 2009 at 17:45 | #3

    The irony is that there is empiric evidence that the young can actually end up a lot better off in the long term by a modest amount of job snobbery; getting trapped in a cycle of lousy jobs with no prospects does neither them nor future government tax revenue any good. There is an optimal amount of job snobbery which is not zero.

    Both major parties are dominated by older white males whose social conservatism considerably exceeds that of the median voter. For all their selfrighteousness, their economic ignorance and their fondness for the symbolic over the substantive, I’m voting Green next time.

  4. David Irving (no relation)
    July 30th, 2009 at 18:10 | #4

    We welcome your vote, derrida derider.

  5. boconnor
    July 30th, 2009 at 18:48 | #5

    Ah, the joys of anecdotal stories from a couple of disgruntled employers, vs. a proper statistical study of the employment churn rate for an age cohort. But, it does make good copy for the tabloids.

    In any case, even if the churn rate for young people is higher than other age cohorts, so what?

  6. ABOM
    July 30th, 2009 at 18:55 | #6

    Alice, I thought you said you were married to one?

  7. Ken N
    July 30th, 2009 at 19:14 | #7

    Indeed. To be fair, Arbib did not play the generation game though his statement was as foolish as we have come to expect from almost all politicians in power. Can you imagine a young person reading that and saying “Y’know he’s right, I will take that manual job after all and not hang about waiting for a job in a law firm”?

  8. Alice
    July 30th, 2009 at 19:55 | #8

    I am ABOM – as I said the best I can manage was green shoots (and one of them was alive at the last election….well he voted for Rudd anyway…not the Greens). Considering his background ….and the number of country rels he has – Ive had the stock standard climate change denialist arguments escalate into heated arguments…with me…. in my kitchen (with cousins at least three).

    Too many damn cousins and I think they think I have “corrupted” him – led him astray!! Fortunately he can cook a steak and make jokes so they havent given up on him and hes not a total outcast from the deep blue tribe. As for me? Im viewed secretly askance by the tribe I suspect.

  9. ABOM
    July 30th, 2009 at 20:04 | #9

    You won’t get any arguments from me, Alice. The environment is st*uffed through over-consumption and mindless industrial pollution. What happened to clean air and forests and farms producing local produce for local communities. What happened to milk in glass?

    I have few cousins and I am soooooooo alone. The (ex?) wife keeps screaming she wants kids…for what possible purpose? To add to the pollution?

    What tragedy made us so far away from each other at this point in our otherwise bleak existence?

  10. Alice
    July 30th, 2009 at 20:09 | #10

    ABOM – as for Tony Abbott. Ive had two strange experiences with him. I went to a debate at North Sydney Council once between politicians about Iraq(at the time of Iraq)…Genia McCarffery was the moderator…John Vale spoke (who was good – liberal but opposed to our involvement). Tony Abbot was one of the speakers and his speech was bizarre – full of religious evil v good arguments – quite extreme and odd – until the speaker who was seated beside him breathlessly told us at interval that all his notes for the speech had been downloaded from US websites (she saw the web addresses) and nothing was pre prepared.

    Then – second incident – I was strolling through Forestville shopping centre one weekday morning and I heard a very loud voice coming from a front row outside table at a coffee shop. I thought who is speaking so loudly and well, it was Tony Abbott who was paying scarcely any attention to his male coffe companion and was clearly addressing his loud commentary to the passing traffic.

    I thought – well thats Tony Abbott – typical – “look at moi, look at moi!!”

  11. ABOM
    July 30th, 2009 at 20:12 | #11

    All politicians are psychopaths. I saw Costello at Crown Casino smiling that idiotic smile looking around to see who was noticing him (he’s actually pretty tall so he’s not hard to spot). Abbott and Costello. Two Canberra Clowns.

    Get us back to gold as money and we wouldn’t need (nor afford) these overpaid idiots.

  12. Alice
    July 30th, 2009 at 20:17 | #12

    Futher to the Tony Abbott persona ABOM – I have also heard on the local grapevine… he has made himself none too popular at his local surf club where his sense of self importance has upset some of the real local workers there.

  13. Alice
    July 30th, 2009 at 20:18 | #13

    Overpaid and their opinions overexposed ABOM.

  14. pedro
    July 30th, 2009 at 20:20 | #14

    It’s not just that they’re job snobs. Their music is crap too. 😉

  15. Ken
    July 30th, 2009 at 20:31 | #15

    Don’t waste your electrons on Abbott. He’s never going to be in a position of power again. Unless the Rudd government is very incompetent and very unlucky (a combination only achieved by Whitlam in recent years) ALP will be in government for a least 2 and probably 3 terms. Abbott will be long gone by then. As someone pointed out, Rudd was not in parliament when Keating was defeated so the next Coalition PM will probably be someone we haven’t heard of yet.
    So, on this issue, direct your fire at Arbib. It is worryingly early in the life of this government for a minister to be saying dopey things like that.

  16. Alice
    July 30th, 2009 at 20:39 | #16

    And ABOM –

    I tend to agree in the case of Tony Abbott. I think his interest is primarily in the Tony Abbott “image” and that what lies beneath is actually very damn shallow. I think he has very little to offer us and I think worse than that, Im astonished other people may think he has anything to offer.

    He made his name as a a rather rude and obnoxious “attack dog” for JH but those days are over now and I suspect people tired of that close coterie of coalition schoolyard heckling style in parliament (which included Costello).

    Amusing for a while…witty even…but people have tired of it and generally want a bit more civility now – a bit more seriousness and a bit less sarcasm. I might be wrong….Im not discounting that…but the supercilious “attack dog” style has gone out of fashion with the confrontation to the population in general, of more serious economic problems.

    But Id like to see the coalition put Abbott up actually…if only to see them lose!

  17. July 30th, 2009 at 20:39 | #17

    Given age demographics and the fact that compulsory superannuation was introduced in the early 1990s it should be time soon to start phasing out the aged pension. Lifting the eligibility age is a reasonable way to achieve that. Somebody born after 1970 should not be getting the aged pension before age 70. In fact 1970 is probably a bit late as a transition year.

  18. July 30th, 2009 at 20:41 | #18

    p.s. The LDP advocate a pension phase out. However the LDP somewhat compensats by also advocate a general negative income tax (i.e. social wage) applicable to everybody irrespective of age.


  19. Alice
    July 30th, 2009 at 20:58 | #19

    Good on that Daniel Fitzgerakd and great commentary on it JQ.

    I think gen Y is being screwed into the ground.

    How dare they say Gen Y shouldnt be so selfish as to want an interesting job or learn to be “tougher” (read and take crap jobs as if they can actually get them anyway).
    Stuff the damn politicising – the problem is unemployment.

    We have a big problem. Its an economic problem. Its called unemployment and underemployment (and no we dont obfuscate the two with “official” statistics”). Its the politicians job to fix it (Arbibs as much as anyones currently in power – its called not performing if they dont).

    End the blame game and get on with doing the real job.

  20. Alice
    July 30th, 2009 at 20:59 | #20

    Terje – you are damn well dreaming saying its time to “end the age pension.”

  21. fred
    July 31st, 2009 at 00:23 | #21

    I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.

  22. Jill Rush
    July 31st, 2009 at 00:32 | #22

    My Gen Y takes quite badly to the suggestion that Gen Y is this or that as she seems to think that the labels don’t apply to her. So Mark Arbib’s advice would – if she had been listening – be treated with contempt. I suspect the advice was more along the alcopops line where a solution can be found to solve a problem that affects non voters in the main, to appeal to prejudice in older voters. Mark Arbib seems like Tony Abbott in some ways. Active but clueless but rewarded with a portfolio for loyalty to the cause. It seems foolish to alienate a whole generation of future voters. Perhaps he is banking on the notion that none of them can read.

  23. charles
    July 31st, 2009 at 07:52 | #23

    It’s interesting to note most comments looked at Tony Abbot and not Mark Arbib’s stupidity. You won’t get any argument from me Ikonoclast, men in power seem to want to turn everything into an argument, mind you women to women relationships can be a bit tense at times.

  24. Ken N
    July 31st, 2009 at 09:33 | #24

    I’m starting to suspect that Alice is a sock puppet used by JQ. Of course he has banned them but it’s his blog, right? And have you noticed that they never argue in the comments section? A coincidence? I think not.

  25. stuart
    July 31st, 2009 at 09:43 | #25

    Wow what a great piece of common sense from mark arbib. Youth unemployment is 12% up about 4% from one year ago. Clearly we’ve all become job snobs in that time. Its obviously nothing to do with the governments failure to bring in sufficient programs to reduce youth unemployment.

  26. jquiggin
    July 31st, 2009 at 09:51 | #26

    I’ve deleted a bunch of comments making hostile generalizations about age and gender groups, and some responses.

    Ken N, I take it this was a joke, but to be clear, I don’t do puppetry of any kind.

  27. Paul Norton
    July 31st, 2009 at 10:04 | #27

    The great irony is that much of the loudest grumbling about the shortcomings of each emerging generation of young adults invariably comes from the age cohort in which their parents, teachers, sports coaches, religious leaders and other significant/formative others are concentrated.

  28. Alice
    July 31st, 2009 at 10:24 | #28

    Im no ones puppet Ken and I dont hide behind a sock. If I made any age generalisations (it would have been about OWM politics I suspect) my apologies JQ – I was a bit cross at Terje’s recommendations to raise the retirement age AGAIN – and OWMs are still overweight in the power structures as ever…..I really would like to see more younger ones and females get up there for a bit of balance but it probably wont happen in my lifetime.

  29. philip travers
    July 31st, 2009 at 10:50 | #29

    I found very little fault in the Quiggins line presented today.But for the real and obvious fact to me,still presenting itself,that university education,does simply.. not pull people up by their bootstraps and the rest of the population with it.Which isn’t mentioned in the article ,yet is the endless claim of the university educated rather than those who aspire to their standards.Abbott is university educated,and so is Arbib.As a baby boomer born in 1954 ,and long term unemployed pensioned off,people like Arbib and Abbott get my complete sense of contempt by suggesting the work for the Parliamentary pay and conditions,is much more worthy than some teenager discovering for the first time..the Delltones.As advice…. seek your own potential in job or out of it,and if the advice given to you shows an over abundance of heart without fact,or all head no heart,the first is preferable,but, still highly unacceptable very often.

  30. Paul Norton
    July 31st, 2009 at 11:20 | #30

    Socrates was not responsible for the quote about the younger generations frequently attributed to him. However, in her interesting book The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions, Karen Armstrong reports that Confucius’s predecessors in China (who predated Socrates by some centuries) were much exercised by the declining standards, as they saw it, of the younger generations in that time and place.

  31. Fran Barlow
    July 31st, 2009 at 11:33 | #31

    @Paul Norton

    IIRC the quote above by Fred is usually attributed to Hesiod …

  32. Paul Norton
    July 31st, 2009 at 11:55 | #32

    Fran, that’s right, The quote misattributed to Socrates is a different one:

    The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they allow disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children now are tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

  33. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    July 31st, 2009 at 12:11 | #33

    John Quiggin – thanks for removing the uncalled for hostility remarks.

  34. Donald Oats
    July 31st, 2009 at 12:23 | #34

    I had a trot of illness lasting maybe 3 years now, from time of diagnosis. This is compounded by chronic pain, which I’ve had – and managed – for nearly 12 years. During the last 3 years I’ve been on LWOP and have paid my own way without any government assistance. Whether I’ll ever be able to do fulltime work again is unknown; I simply can’t last through an 8 hour day. Because of my age and illness, I’m the kind of person who would find it difficult to gain employment in something that I can cope with. I heard Mark Arbib’s comments and thought “Streuth, here we go again!”

    As a Generation Kingswood, I’ve heard the sledges and put-downs of unemployed people too many times now: the late 70s, the ’82 recession (or, Howard Mk I), the 87/88 blip, the 90/91 recession – that we had to have (thanks Keating), the 2000 tech wreck (IT: perfect job one day, no job the next), and now this one (Howard Mk II). I don’t blame Howard completely, just for not paying enough attention to the property market and his FHOG scheme, and the negative gearing treatment, and the rapid population growth inspired by middle class welfare and high immigration. Rudd has continued the mistake of FHOG under even lower interest rates; I would have thought he would have learnt from Howard’s property boom/bust, but apparently not.

    While I’m financially okay, many people in similar situations to mine go from wealthy and healthy to poor, sick, and abused (for being lazy, not fully employed, faking it to get sickness benefits, etc etc). Some become homeless due to the sudden drop in income. Many end up on the dole because they don’t “qualify” for other benefits for technical reasons rather than material reasons. I’d love to understand just how the magical free market optimally deals with people plagued by chronic illness and/or disability.

  35. Michael
    July 31st, 2009 at 12:27 | #35

    At last a comment by philip travers @30 that I can understand and agree with! Hooray! The categorisation of generations is not completely unfounded, sterotypes often are based on a grain of truth like successful propaganda.

  36. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    July 31st, 2009 at 12:35 | #36

    Alice – welfare benefits should not be paid on the basis of age. I have nothing against disability payments to people that are old, however only if they suffer disability and not simply because they are old. I also have nothing against the aged pension for those born well before my time because lousy governments did somewhat promise to care for them and signalled as such through falsly earmarked taxes. However we should be phasing out such expectations. Old people (even white male ones) should not receive special entitlements. As a 21st century society we ought to aim for rules that treat everybody equal irrespective of age, race, gender or sexuality.

  37. Alice
    July 31st, 2009 at 12:46 | #37

    Terje – then it must have escaped your attention that many people even now have insufficient superannuation to live on after retirement BUT more especially women, who’s careers in many cases are interrupted by reproduction preciesly because this is not taken into account by the market ( reproduction – a negative externality that is blatantly discriminatory!) So many studies show many women have insufficient superannuation Terje. Your beliefs embed no sociakl safety net and I find that one step towards an unhealthy society. One only has to look to the aged that were begging on the streets in Russia with opening of the old soviet system to the markets (and the collapse of the pension system) Terje – and no this is not an argument advocating the prior communist system but neither is my argument one recommending that people should be “left entirely to the market” and their old age is without government support if required. Thats a very cold view.

  38. Alice
    July 31st, 2009 at 12:51 | #38

    Terje – age is a disability when it comes to the labour force.

  39. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    July 31st, 2009 at 12:59 | #39

    Alice – I’ve no problem with a general modest social wage paid to everybody irrespective of age, race or gender as a safety net. It is part of what I campaigned for during the last election (LDP tax policy 30/30). Specifically the LDP policy advocated that the government pay everybody 30 cents for every dollar they earn below $30000 and also that we abolish unemployment.

    However we don’t currently pay a social wage to able bodied people under 65 so we shouldn’t pay it to able bodied people over 65. Age should not be a basis for entitlement.

  40. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    July 31st, 2009 at 13:06 | #40

    Age is not a disability. There are disabilities that are more prevalent amoungst old people but that is not the same thing.

  41. Xanthippe
    July 31st, 2009 at 14:07 | #41

    When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders

    Whereas nowadays youth are all joined together in some sort of amorphous job-snobbish blob.

  42. Michael
    July 31st, 2009 at 14:10 | #42

    Do libertarians ever feel lucky?

  43. fred
    July 31st, 2009 at 14:54 | #43

    Yonks ago, in another life, it was one of my sad duties to give speeches to all sorts of social groups on the subject of youth and the world of work.
    I quickly became tired of the all too prevalent attitude among older people, often my age range actually, and particularly those who identified themselves as employers, that the youth of the day were lazy, irresponsible etc and so on and that the current education system was to blame cos it was not what it used to be when we were all kids.
    You know the sort of thing.
    So I collected a bunch of quotes from history that boringly repeated the tired old claims. The Hesiod [Greece c 700BCE] quote mentioned back at #22, was #1 on the list. [I found it last night by googling Hesiod whose name I remeber being attached to the quote, I’ve lost the rest of the quotes, it would be a cute exercise finding them again.]
    And I would trot several of them out in a speech with a particular cluster of Australian quotes that was spoken or written at the time I estimated most of my audience would have been youthful.
    It was a moderately successful tactic.
    Some people later told me that they initially agreed with the criticisms of the youth until they realized that they were the youth being targeted, many of my audience went through a stage of anger then amusement and then, sometimes, a reevaluation of their own attitudes.
    Perhaps the cause of this phenomena of blaming the youth of the day is best reflected by a slogan on one of my coffee mugs.
    “The older I get, the better I used to be”.
    My wife bought the mug for me.
    Not sure why exactly.

  44. Paul Norton
    July 31st, 2009 at 15:22 | #44

    There are nuances to the generational whinging, of course. I imagine that if we surveyed a random selection of parents of married children about their daughters in law, and then surveyed the parents of the same group of women about their daughters, we would find some interesting differences.

  45. Fran Barlow
    July 31st, 2009 at 15:43 | #45

    Removed ref to deleted comment – JQ

    I alway cringe inwardly when I hear some politician say: “Know that all of Australia is behind you …” I heard Quentin Bryce claim that all Australians thought the troops were doing a fabulous job in Afghanistan. During the last Olympics, apparently, according to rudd, “all Australians” were following the runners around the track. It must have been distracting.

    The impulse to generalise from little more than anecdote or personal experience is often hard to resist but IMO, one should make the effort.

  46. Ken
    July 31st, 2009 at 15:47 | #46

    To have the insight and wisdom to trust other people enough to allow them freedom is itself very fortunate.

  47. jquiggin
    July 31st, 2009 at 15:48 | #47

    MU, the comments I deleted targeted the same group. Looks like one slipped through further upthread. I should say that I don’t object to the factual observation made by DD at #3, just to generalized attacks that produce this kind of response. Anyway I’m going to delete the comment to which you objected and your objection to try and bring this thread back on track.

  48. Jim Birch
    July 31st, 2009 at 15:56 | #48

    Lucky to be blessed with uncommonly incisive intelligence, I guess.

  49. Monkey’s Uncle
    July 31st, 2009 at 16:13 | #49

    Alice says “Terje – then it must have escaped your attention that many people even now have insufficient superannuation to live on after retirement BUT more especially women, who’s careers in many cases are interrupted by reproduction preciesly because this is not taken into account by the market ( reproduction – a negative externality that is blatantly discriminatory!) So many studies show many women have insufficient superannuation Terje.”

    This is a legitimate concern, but is often over-estimated in these debates.

    The reason why some of the costs of supporting people in their old age should be borne by subsequent generations, rather than funded by retirees during their lives, is that every generation has to sacrifice a certain amount of time and economic activity in order to have children and raise the next generation. This in turn impacts on their ability to fund their own retirement.

    The problem is that if you have a situation where the population is getting older and birth rates have been in decline for a long time (since about the mid-1960s) then obviously older generations spent less time raising subsequent generations and so should fund more of their retirement. Moreover, it is not fair or sustainable to have a declining ratio of working age people supporting more older people.

    The chief flaw in existing social security systems is that everyone is able to rely on the same support from subsequent generations regardless of how much or how little one contributes towards raising those generations. A person who doesn’t have children, or who neglects or abandons their children, can still rely on other people’s children to support them when they are old, just the same as someone who devoted their life to raising a large family of productive citizens. In other words, because the benefits of raising human capital are socialised there is an incentive to underinvest in the human capital needed to keep the system going.

    The problems you identify are not primarily the result of market failure. They are a result of the flaws in existing social security systems.

  50. Michael
    July 31st, 2009 at 16:49 | #50

    I like Nicholas Barr’s reasoning on superannuation and pensions http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/LSEPublicLecturesAndEvents/events/2008/20081203t1509z001.htm

  51. Monkey’s Uncle
    July 31st, 2009 at 16:56 | #51

    Fred says “When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.”

    I’m skeptical of the idea that older people were necessarily treated better in the past. As a young boy, I recall that my father was often rude and discourteous towards old people. My father would be 63 if he was still alive today. There is good and bad in every generation.

    Indeed, if you look at current debates about things like increasing aged pensions or measures like seniors discounts and the like, it seems that society today is actually more oriented towards the needs of older people than it was in the past. I actually suspect that in the past older people were more marginalised and ignored than they are now. At least in terms of public policy.

  52. Bobimagee
    July 31st, 2009 at 18:27 | #52

    “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for
    authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place
    of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their
    households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They
    contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties
    at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

  53. Alice
    July 31st, 2009 at 18:38 | #53

    ABOM shes trying to get closer to you – babies do that you silly man (they do seriously bring so much “joint effort” that you actually get closer – she sees your soft side and you see hers – I never really understood my partner till we had one – he was, to me, on a slightly different planet (still is in lots of ways – especially politically – and that is teeth grinding at times because of the lack of deep thought behind it – but not in the way that you love your child – that brings sympatico ABOM – is that what you call it? – am I raving at this point?)

  54. Alice
    July 31st, 2009 at 18:59 | #54

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Terje – 30 cents for each dollar earned is JS when retirees over say 55 and under 65 to 70 arediscriminated against in the labour market. They dont get hired. They are not liked by employers no matter how able bodied and fit they are. So they earn nothing and dont even qualify for your mystical 30 cents in the dollar earned. 30 cents times nothing Terje. Are you consigning this cohort to begging on the streets. Well – more indifferent and cold your personality who could walk by them as failures, than mine Terje. I think a healthy econony can do much better than that.

  55. Donald Oats
    July 31st, 2009 at 19:30 | #55

    During the Keating recession many able-bodied males got sacked (remember the cleaning out of “middle management”?) and because of their age bracket, failed to successfully negotiate a return to the work force. Some ended up on disability pensions in order to shift them from the dole. Others ended up doing Howard’s tree-planting, after several years on the dole. Some died of their own hand.

    If we are going to have older employees we are going to have to change our attitudes towards age; dramatically change, I dare say. And we are going to need a change in attitude towards population growth. If we want to maintain the consumption lifestyle of the present then sooner or later something is going to break, economically speaking, unless we look at ways of stabilising population.

    A stabilised population with current consumption implies the need to realign our attitudes towards employment of older people – the shrinking pool of younger people will force this upon us.

    Finally, I notice one comment in an earlier post suggesting that “barren” people should be somehow treated punitively since they have made a smaller contribution to the next generation who are expected to look after the previous generation. The minor fly in the ointment on that thought is that some of us have paid humungous taxes to the government, only to see it funnelled to others as baby bonuses. Those lil’ critters have already been paid for by me, so I expect my dues come false teeth time 🙂

  56. July 31st, 2009 at 21:49 | #56

    So they earn nothing and dont even qualify for your mystical 30 cents in the dollar earned.

    Alice – If you earn nothing then under 30/30 you would receive from the government $0.30 x (0 – 30000) = $9000.


  57. July 31st, 2009 at 21:57 | #57

    Finally, I notice one comment in an earlier post suggesting that “barren” people should be somehow treated punitively since they have made a smaller contribution to the next generation who are expected to look after the previous generation.

    I don’t think Monkeys Uncle said anything to indicate that we should treat people punitively. He merely suggested that our current welfare system has consequences:-

    The chief flaw in existing social security systems is that everyone is able to rely on the same support from subsequent generations regardless of how much or how little one contributes towards raising those generations.

    Monkeys Uncle is simply pointing out a free rider problem. Something that is quite typical of socialist systems.

  58. July 31st, 2009 at 21:58 | #58

    second last paragraph should be in block quotes.

  59. Alice
    July 31st, 2009 at 22:15 | #59

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    $9000. Wow Terje.

    $20O per week rent in Sydney? – makes $10,400 a year. Shame about eating. Those aged to between 55 and 70 who cant get jobs to earn income and dont have many savings will have to give that up (eating). You cant be serious and if you are Terje – I find your view intolerant in the extreme.

  60. July 31st, 2009 at 22:28 | #60

    Alice – it is intended as supplementary income not a lifestyle option. I merely offered the case of zero income to correct your misunderstanding. And obviously you have never heard of share accomodation.

  61. July 31st, 2009 at 22:29 | #61

    p.s. Newstart is currently $11778 p.a. but it isn’t tax free.

  62. July 31st, 2009 at 22:32 | #62

    p.p.s. With Newstart each earned dollar currently causes you to lose 50 cents in the dollar plus tax, which is a lot more draconian than 30 cents in the dollar.

  63. Alice
    August 1st, 2009 at 12:33 | #63

    Oh my goodness Terje – “its intended as a supplementary income is it Terje?”

    Thats all very well but what you a reallly saying is that you would comdemn those with no income and no savings – lets say a single Mum for example, whos husband has decamped (and is refusing to declare correctly his self employed income – a well known esacpe route) whos savings have run down and she is now attempting to get a job after many years of perhaps part time work to support her partner (lots of Mums work part time for years Terje).

    Alas – the income she earns is insufficient to carry the now greater load and her work history such that she is disgregarded by employers.

    What then Terje? 30 cents in the dollar whilst the ex is still going on overseas holidays.

    I dont like your suggestion… for the absolute simplicity of the underlying assumption that most people have positive savings. Life may not be like that Terje and as I mentioned before – you would condemn a lot more people to poverty to save taxes for those with some sort of erroneous belief that ALL people are able kicked into action by harsh deprivation. ALL is an aggregate Terje. A harsh aggregate that takes no account of individual circumstances of disaggregated groups. Furthermore what you suggest is progressive – more is given to those who earn more.

    Ewwww…this idea is very yukky Terje and it will just widen inequality and its beyond me that you can even suggest (or think that it would be good for the economy) – this suggestion is worthy of Delusion Central.

  64. Alice
    August 1st, 2009 at 12:34 | #64

    Above post should say “Furthermore what you suggest is regressive”

  65. Alice
    August 1st, 2009 at 12:37 | #65

    Furthermore – female breaks, interruptions and career impediments during their working lives (due to reproduction) is well documented leading to lower retirement savings and lower superannuation (yet they live longer).

    Your suggested policy is also discriminatory Terje. It bears a greater burden on females as well as being regressive. OWM policy.

  66. Alice
    August 1st, 2009 at 12:40 | #66

    Oh and Terje at $200 in Sydney – you are already sharing accommodation and probably sharing a room.

  67. August 2nd, 2009 at 01:59 | #67

    Alice – the LDP policy has more for parents so the single mum scenario would be different. I’m happy to work through how LDP policy would compare if you want to do a proper apples for apples analysis but don’t keep changing the topic. We were previously discussing old people retiring many years after the introduction of compulsory superannuation, not single mothers.

  68. Alice
    August 2nd, 2009 at 08:52 | #68

    single parents now account for 24% of all families. You may as well say they are mostly single mother families, the percentage of primary care being still in the great majority, in the hands of mothers despite JH’s foolish ideas to have kids running here and there week about so as to reduce male financial contributions to child support further (creating more hardship on single mothers).

    Child support amounts are a joke as they are so low in amounts, relative to the cost of rearing children (cost 50 odd K just by age five for one) and easily evaded and extremely difficult for those mothers to enforce evaded payments.

    These women who juggle childraising in many instances primarily on their own with work are often hampered from participating fully in the labour force (ie are marginally or casually or employed part time on lower wages so as to be able to get their kids to and from childcare – a huge expense as well).

    That doesnt help their retirement savings Terje yet they are a sizeable chunk of the population and growing if you note todays paper Terje. Thats why I raise their case. I am not going “off track” – that is a large percentage of families in this country.

    Your policy might be fine for a male with an uninteruppted career path who has accummulated a reasonable pot for retirement but its a narrow view of the world.

    These single mothers retire as well Terje (many years after the introduction of compulsory super) and even then, even then Terje – why dont you investigate what little super they have managed to build, relative to males, from a career or a succession of low paid jobs fitted around raising kids as a sole parent?.

    They were still 20% of all families in 1990 (now 24%) so quite a few of these parents will be starting to head to retirement very soon.

    Compulsory super or no compulsory super – I would suggest for many single parents (mostly women) – any super nest egg would barely last a few years.

    That means you are condemning these women to poverty of the worst order in their old age with your policy, after their children have left and after the work is done of raising them. I suppose next you will suggest that those women be paid for by their children (as 9K wont be enough to live on), whilst the ex husband who has accummulated more super, likely avoided a very large percentage of the true costs of childraising along the way even if he did pay what child support suggests he was obligated to do. He likely suffered less indignity in the labour force, trying to fit work around children’s needs, thus earned more from an uninterrupted “career” – AND now gets more than 9K from your idea of a very holey welfare net.

    Not only is your policy regressive, its constructed and predicated on the view of the typical WM uninterrupted career path (a most fortunate creature who is likely to benefit, yet again, disproportionately relative to females, from this policy). It applies this uniform policy to the aggregate when its gendered disaggregates are very very different. Therefore Terje, I find your policy ill thought out and discriminatory.

    No one is changing the topic.

  69. August 2nd, 2009 at 09:57 | #69

    despite JH’s foolish ideas to have kids running here and there week about so as to reduce male financial contributions to child support further

    I don’t actually understand what this statement says so I don’t know if I disagree or agree.

    I suppose next you will suggest that those women be paid for by their children

    It is not unreasonable to expect that people should look after the interests of their elderly parents.

    why dont you investigate what little super they have managed to build

    The aged pension is $14814 per annum for a single person. So to be in a comparable financial position under 30/30 they would need about $8300 in alternate income. If they had so many children that there entire working career was disrupted then I think it is reasonable that they should look to their children for support.

    I also think you’re ignoring the dymanic effects relating to expectations.

  70. fred
    August 2nd, 2009 at 15:30 | #70

    “despite JH’s foolish ideas to have kids running here and there week about so as to reduce male financial contributions to child support further”
    “I don’t actually understand what this statement says so I don’t know if I disagree or agree.”

    JH’s deliberate policy was to encourage the ‘shared care’ concept for separated “families”.

    So single mums who are the primary care givers in a separated context were forced by changes in policy to ‘share’, on paper at least, the time but not necessarily the costs of caring for their kids with their ex partner.

    Even it it was demonstrably disruptive, even dangerous, for the kids and the mother. Please note that, its a critical but ignored element.

    The increase in time spent with the ex partner decreased the income from child support and the child maitenance disproportionately. The dad saved, the government saved.
    In that the fixed costs of child care did not change, those that do not relate to time.
    To put it numerically.
    If a child was ‘shared’ in its care with the ex-partner at 40% of the time, up from 20% of the time, then payments decreased proportionately [or worse] but no allowance was made for the fixed costs eg housing, clothing, education and health just to name 4 major aspects that impact on the costs of supporting a child. Or children.
    In fact those 4 aspects of the cost of supporting a child were not included in the calculations of child support rates that accompanied the changes to the laws.
    Deliberately so.
    The upshot of the changes in law and policy by the COALition resulted in the primary care giver [usually the mother] losing income, roughly about a third of mothers lost about a third of their income, the other parent [usually the father] paying disproportionately less in child payments therefore gaining from the change and the government saving money which was the stated reason for the change of laws.

    Please note, single mums and their kids lost income [or had no change], all other parties, single dads and the government, paid less.

    It was a major reason the COALition lost votes at the election, even George Megalogenis picked up on that to some extent.

  71. Alice
    August 2nd, 2009 at 16:11 | #71

    Thats also exactly why I dont support Terje’s solution for the welfare net Fred. It has yet more holes in it and lets more women fall through the cracks as if they havent already been penalised by the COALition. In JH’s world view…thats exactly where women should have been….at home lokking after the kids, then depending on kids to look after them (no matter where the negligent father went, and notwithstanding all the studies show that men do better after divorce and women worse even kif they werent derelect in their responsibilities as fathers).

    That is because a lot of the REAL costs of raising children were buckpassed by the COALITION on to women and their policies, as are Terje’s idea of a retirement safety net embedding yet another kick to women, have set women well back against any advances the long fight for equal pay and equal rights prior to the 1970s gave them. As for Prue Gowards Office for the Status of Women…under JH’s Coalition it was an Office for Women of Status. A petty little outfit to mask the genuinely misogynistic policies lurking not too far from the surface of the average liberal politician (and the air head female politicians that inhabit that party like Bishop and Bishop who have done nothing to redress it).

    Many women now realise they were stepped on by JHs Coalition – so good luck to the liberals getting their show back on the road (and the kids made to suffer this week around damage and the poverty associated with single parent families are growing up and will be voting soon). OWM party.

  72. August 4th, 2009 at 14:29 | #72

    I would just like to remind readers that I canvassed an approach to the retirement income sufficiency issue on this very blog, involving a careful phasing out of various things, for a submission to the Henry Tax Review that is now up at its site. By itself it wouldn’t cover everything needed, but I made another submission for the wider area that is canvassed here.

  73. August 4th, 2009 at 14:31 | #73


    The 30/30 reform would be the most efficient and equitable change to our inefficient and unfair welfare system. I support the idea but out of the options offered up, it is a fairly defensible claim.

    The problem is that it was written a long time ago. Inflation and more ad hoc changes to our tax system (now with two poverty traps net of welfare) have made a good idea obsolete. Every Government since and including Whitlam has complicated the situation further.

    A reform having a NIT is a good idea. The 30/30 was quite a good policies but the parameters (tax, price levels) have moved us on. Moving towards an NIT isn’t perfect either since it unfortunately would still have a lot of churn and inefficient undeserving , although eliminating a lot of it. $9000 in 2001 was probably worth about the same as the dole is now if you factor in inflation. The LDP also wanted general tax cuts and wanted more responsible welfare to supplement caring for children etc. Terje or John Humphreys can probably explain it better.

    You could simply adjust this with a basic income for anyone earning a negative income tax. The crux is that a NIT or a basic income and consumption tax is better than the dog’s breakfast we have in taxation and welfare (the disincentives and unfairness of a phased welfare system and income tax system with the problems noted before should at least arouse informed commentators that the system at least needs changes – perhaps as minimal as raising the TFT to be above the maximum “dole” payment).

    The 30/30 isn’t perfect but you should be more generous in considering it’s formation and the validity of similar ideas and the severe problems the current tax and welfare systems have.

  74. August 4th, 2009 at 14:40 | #74

    “August 1st, 2009 at 12:40 | #16
    Reply | Quote

    Oh and Terje at $200 in Sydney – you are already sharing accommodation and probably sharing a room.”

    This doesn’t necessarily reflect poverty or parsimony, but the reality of a poor economic policy relating to the artificial scarcity of dwellings in Australia.

  75. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    August 4th, 2009 at 15:12 | #75

    Mark – for mostly political reasons my transition preference these days (ie before the shift to libertarian utopia) is for:-

    1. No company or personal income tax or payroll tax.
    2. A potentially beefed up GST.
    3. No state or federal wage regulation (I’ll tolerate a local government minimum wage).
    4. A government funded social wage that most people could house and feed themselves on if they hit tough times without having to move more than 50km.

    Phasing out income tax without any serious increase in the GST would be quite achievable over a 10-20 year time frame if average economic growth is maintained and government spending in real per capita terms was capped. Personally I’d just make the switch with a higher GST and then whittle down that tax over time. Techically it is all quite achievable without much pain. It is the politics of such dramatic reform that is as tough as nails.

  76. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 4th, 2009 at 15:20 | #76

    TerjeP (say tay-a), a flat tax is discriminatory.

  77. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    August 4th, 2009 at 15:29 | #77

    A flat tax with a social wage is different to a flat tax.

  78. August 4th, 2009 at 18:06 | #78

    “TerjeP (say tay-a), a flat tax is discriminatory.”


    Do you mean regressive? That would be incorrect, nevertheless.

    Can you come up with a tax that doesn’t discriminate at all, in any way?

    It is also fairly obvious that anyone not participating in the black economy will be unfairly discriminated against.

    Terje BTW is referring to a linear tax.

  79. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 4th, 2009 at 19:09 | #79

    Mark Hill, one only needs to read up on the introduction of ie the VAT and how it benefitted higher income earners at the expense of those less well off.

  80. August 4th, 2009 at 20:27 | #80

    Please refer me to something I should read.

    The GST exemptions for example favour the wealthy in terms of what they spend in proportion on those items relative to their incomes.

    Welfare recipients can be helped by an adjustment of the NIT or basic income rate – but what actually matters is what the total tax rate is and how that affects their disposable income. Having a more efficient tax system could give them higher disposable incomes, before increased growth occurs.

  81. August 4th, 2009 at 20:41 | #81

    @Mark Hill

    “Moving towards an NIT [Negative Income Tax] isn’t perfect either since it unfortunately would still have a lot of churn and inefficient undeserving , although eliminating a lot of it”.

    Those features are engineered out in the approach I suggested in the Henry Tax Review submission I mentioned above (the later one, not the retirement income one). That is effectively a Negative Payroll Tax. The same engineering out also delivers faster results and no funding problems during any delays that might arise from other causes.

  82. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 4th, 2009 at 21:17 | #82

    Struth Mark Hill, my papers are packed away but if my recollection is correct studies conducted in early 1980s showed the introduction of the VAT coupled with a decrease in corporate and top personal income taxes benefitted high income earners by as much as $100 a week. Maybe John can direct you to some of the early papers.

  83. Alice
    August 4th, 2009 at 21:37 | #83

    Listen Terje and others – I was talking to a working MUM tonight (married). Do you people have any idea at all about what childcare costs???? Well – Ill tell you. Not an upmarket childcare centre – just an average run of the mill centre at Ryde (not even at Macquarie uni where she works because she finds that too expensive)

    Get this – one set of twins about a year and a half old and one 3 year old.

    $90 per day for EACH twin and $70 a day for the 3 year old. This woman works to barely break even after childcare costs of $250 per day. Thats $1250 per week. Thats in excess of 50K per year.

    How on earth do single mothers cope??/ How???

    You want them to work and save a nest egg for retirement Terje – (you libertarians) so they can pay for their own retirement (while you pay less taxes).

    Tell me how they do it Terje because I am at a complete loss. So all your one rule fits all linear taxes or flat taxes or combos dont sit well with me.

    Discriminatory and nothing less. Something HAS to be done about childcare costs if you expect people (women especially) to fund their own retirements.
    This lovely modelled one rule for all damn well doesnt work. You need to have a good look at what you are doing – you can scream all you like about people paying their own way, but look at why they cant? Thats off the radar isnt it.

    Childcare – provide it if you want women to fund their own retirements in the libertarian small government small tax view!!
    (oh the stupidity and blindness of men – its enough to give me indigestion..!)

  84. August 4th, 2009 at 22:46 | #84

    Alice, there is so much pain there that I do not see how to get past that without inadvertently touching a sore point. But I’ll try.

    There isn’t anything that can be done that would actually help with child care costs, while families and work places are structured as they are. That’s because there is too much need chasing too few resources – I won’t put supply and demand because I’m also talking about needs that people can’t pay for, etc. The only way out involves taking away some of the need, i.e. arranging for many families to be able to look after their own needs. I am not talking about pushing women out of the work force and back into the home, but about taking the strain off those who want to stay in the work force by helping those who want to get out of it, because that would reduce the load on available child care resources. If it can’t be done, it can’t be done – but adding funds to the existing set up just wouldn’t cut it.

    As for women not saving enough to retire on, it’s part of a wider problem for people generally, one of getting rid of barriers to employment. Solving that would help women just as it would others, whether directly by offering work or indirectly by putting more income into families. Again, this does not involve getting women who want to work to stop, only raising general levels of adequacy so that resources go to individuals through families and vice versa, with people who want to do it one way taking the load off those who prefer the other way. Behind it all, there is a need to fix the structural problems of the economy, and focussing on women’s needs would leave those in full force. It’s not dismissive of women’s needs to turn away from those and address the other stuff, because it’s the other stuff that’s causing the immediate problems and just addressing those would achieve nothing.

  85. August 4th, 2009 at 23:10 | #85

    Alice I have three young kids so I know the price of child care. And when the kids were younger we lived in Ryde so I probably even know the child care centre in question.

    There are several things driving up the cost of childcare.

    1. Industry regulation. There is this constant push to enforce higher qualifications for childcare workers (and hence higher labour costs).

    2. Childcare rebates.

    The childcare centre we used in Ryde was always asking us to sign petitions pleading for parents to be given more government rebates. I tried to be polite about it but I wasn’t going to feed the problem.

    The mum you refer to is married and is close to break even on the deal. In fact after tax she is possibly even losing money. Ditch the rebate and she or her husband might finally smell the roses, and one of them stay home and look after the kids themselves (nice for the kids). This would immediately open up space for others and at the margin it would reduce the price pressure on childcare places.

    When the kids were younger I looked at our tax situation and figured my effective marginal tax rate was about 85% due to income tax and the phase out of family tax benefits. So I went back to a four day week and looked after the kids one day a week.

    Of course we could alter the economics and continue to keep high skilled mums (and dads) in the work force by cutting tax rates. But we have this weird idea that society benefits when already scarce skills are more highly taxed. So all up comparatively unskilled childcare workers without the right bits of paper are now unemployed or working at Coles in jobs they hate whilst overtaxed high skilled mums and dads can’t find affordable childcare and stay at home instead.
    Welcome to your socialist paradise.

  86. August 5th, 2009 at 10:22 | #86

    @Michael of Summer Hill

    No Michael, please direct me to these papers. Just because the wealthy get a tax cut doesn’t mean the poor are worse off.

  87. Alice
    August 5th, 2009 at 10:40 | #87

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Terje – when my boy was young he went to community childcare and it was $12 a day.
    Childcare should not be in private hands. Sweden provides very effective “socialised” (try not to shudder Terje) childcare and they have a very low rate of single mums on welfare and A very high rate of participation in the labour force for the same, relative to us (is Australia a misogynistric society – Im beginning to wonder). Your view is ideologically biased and now you are blaming the failures of childcare on inadequate deregulation, when in fact it is privatisation (Eddy and other subsidy bounty hunters from the private sector) that is the underlying problem here.

    You cant kick and penalise people like single mums to go to work Terje when it itsnt worth their while to do so and ultimate poverty only creates more problems. Go look at Swedens progress in this area and stop making excuses for a system that is failing mothers and creating more welfare, not less. In fact the childcare system is stuffed (pardon the expression but there is no other word for it) – and it would be cheaper to provide public childcare when netted out against welfare costs I would suggest.

    No point in maintaining a bias to private sector operation of childcare centres if it means we save two cents on running centres, and end up paying more for welfare for these mums whilst ordinary married mums and dads are also forking out much much more as well (and now they charge for everything – food, nappies, you name it – its all plus plus).

    Its a complete rip off and a disaster for all families, not just single mums.

  88. Alice
    August 5th, 2009 at 10:50 | #88

    PM – if we want to reduce welfare costs I would suggest the outrageous cost of childcare is the single largest barrier to increased labour force participation. For a single parent with two or three children under school age – or lets say even with one child under school age – (childcare still amounts to about 25K a year) – that precludes them taking jobs under 40-50K almost. That is insanity. That is well above the true average wage of 27K. Cant you see that? Obtaining a job worth more so that they can clear the cost and provide for their families may actually be impossible for many of these parents. They would need at least another 20K on top and that wont go far with a few kids and paying rent. Thats still poverty in my book.

  89. August 6th, 2009 at 00:16 | #89

    Alice, I do see that. I merely point out that no action simply directed at the cost of child care or at parents’ financial means of paying it can help – because it would simply make the horizon recede by bidding prices up enough to claw back any gains. The only way to address the issue is to turn away from it and reduce the number of people needing it.

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