Labor’s 100-day anniversary, sinister Robodebt scheme, and the jobs/skills crisis

Robodebt was one of the most disastrous acts of public administration in Australia’s history and the condemnation has arrived from all sides of politics – former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, Labor, the Australian Greens, the federal court – and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has announced a Royal Commission into this scheme.

All up, it’s a scheme which cost taxpayers $1.8 billion, over 2000 people suicided from the stress and anxiety created by the scheme, and over 470,000 were asked to pay money to the government, for debts which they never owed. It’s rare for governments to create such a high level of extortion upon its own citizens, but that’s exactly what the Coalition government achieved between 2015–2020.

And their response? To double down and blame Labor for the scheme, even though the scheme was introduced two years after they left office in 2013. And for Peter Dutton to also claim that Albanese’s Royal Commission is a ‘witch hunt’. It’s essential for anti-human and insidious – and illegal – governments acts to be investigated, to ensure that they can never happen again but, just like they did in government, the Coalition always looks to play the blame game. It’s always someone’s fault.

The Labor government has been in office for 100 days and is travelling well – but it’s hard not to travel well in this period because there’s not much that can go wrong in such a short amount of time. Problems accumulate for governments as the years roll on, and it’s still too early to assess how well Labor is travelling.

One issue for sure is the conundrum of the economically irresponsible Stage 3 tax cuts and the rate of the Jobseeker payment. Labor hounded the previous government over the low rate of Jobseeker – $40 per day – but now they’re in government, they’re saying that it’s fiscally irresponsible at this stage to raise it any higher.

Raising Jobseeker to $65 per day – which is a rate broadly supported by the business sector and many people in the community (and the Labor Party too, when they were in Opposition) – will cost $3 billion per year. The Stage 3 tax cuts will cost between $20–30 billion per year, so it’s a strange hill for Labor prepare to die on.

It’s also irresponsible to campaign so vehemently on an issue in Opposition, and do the opposite in government and Labor will have a large credibility problem on equity and fairness – and on key Labor values – if it continues down this path.

And the Jobs and Skills Summit is over and Labor now hopes to create a pathway for low unemployment, secure well paid jobs, expanding employment opportunities, addressing skill shortages, maximizing jobs from renewable energy and the digital economy and addressing equal opportunity and equal pay for women.

These are noble intentions but it will take many years to see if the summit was a success. The Coalition – once again – decided to deal itself out of relevance and felt that it was more important to shout from the sidelines, rather than be a productive part of future solutions. It’s their choice, but with this approach of negative carping and opposing everything in sight – electric utes, unions, royal commissions, jobs and skills (to name just a few issues among many), it seems that Peter Dutton is preparing the Liberal Party for a long stint in Opposition. And seems quite happy to do this.

Music interludes:

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