I wrote a comment piece about housing policy for Guardian Australia that ran on Boxing Day last year. The piece elicited quite a few strong reactions from people who agreed or disagreed with the piece, including from Godfrey Moase. Godfrey is Assistant Secretary of the National Union of Workers General Branch, and has been active in the Save Williamstown campaign. He took issue with my piece, expressing disappointment that I view neighbourhoods in “mercantile terms,” so I thought it might be interesting to tease out our disagreement a little in this exchange.
There was a scary pamphlet in the mail waiting for me when I got home today:
There’s a very interesting chart pack by Matthew Butlin over on the Economic Society of Australia website, which tells the story of Australia’s economic history in 15 charts.
Is the Australian labour market today in worse shape than it was during the Great Depression? There were about half a million unemployed people in 1932, at the height of the Depression, but around 730 000 unemployed in January this year. The second number is certainly larger than the first number, so does that mean we’re in sub-Depression territory? Of course it doesn’t. The population is about 4 times larger than it was back then and the labour force is about 4.7 times bigger, so comparing the number of unemployed people today and in 1932 doesn’t really tell you much about the relative health of today’s labour market. There’s a reason why people look at the unemployment rate rather than the number of unemployed people when they want to make comparisons over time.
I’ve written a new piece for Guardian Australia, in which I draw upon my own experiences to defend the Australian welfare state against its critics.
Part of the theme of the piece is the way that income support payments can help to promote social mobility. Without family payments and Youth Allowance, it would be much harder for kids from working class backgrounds to go to university, and so on.
This is part (but only part) of the reason I get so exasperated by the absurd “aspirationals” language that Mark Latham and others use. Aspirationals are, at least implicitly, contrasted against some other group, who presumably don’t aspire to much at all. Income support recipients can’t be ‘aspirational’, particularly not if they receive Newstart or Youth Allowance (FTB gets a pass). This is self-evidently piffle, and part of the aim of my piece was to show how income support can help people ‘climb the ladder of opportunity’ or however you wish to phrase it.
Anyway, please read the piece.