By Joe Montero
The Australia Institute has released the outline of a plan to build a better economy as Australia moves out of the Covid-19 induced damage. This will undoubtedly attract both supporters and critics.
There is considerable merit to it, although it falls short through the implied assumption that the economy was going fairly well before the Covid-19 shock. This leads to a second implied assumption, which is, that going forward is just a matter of changing attitudes among our political leaders and other major players.
It would be a huge achievement in to just achieve this. But it would take on the symptoms, rather than the cause, which is more than a problem of insufficient demand. The fundamental problem exists the structure of the existing economy, in terms of what happens in the workplace; the power relationship over the performance of work, the purpose of work, its social function, and political reslity of who controls economic power across the whole of society. There is no call to change any of this.
Despite this limitations, it remains that the argument put forward below by the Australia Institute can be a part the solution, even if it is only part of the picture. It should therefore be considered.
The Australia Institute’s proposal
After the crisis passes Australia will be much poorer as a nation than we were last year, but we will still be much, much richer than the vast majority of humans who have ever lived.
But how will we use our reserves of health and wealth?
Will we build back better or simply try to build back bigger?
Will we invest in the emerging industries of tomorrow or prop up the polluting industries of last century?
Will we listen to the public who want less inequality, a cleaner environment, to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and greater democratic transparency or will we listen to the corporate CEOs demanding lower wages for their workers, lower taxes for themselves and less regulation of their activities?
In The Reconstruction Memorandum, chief economist at The Australia Institute Richard Denniss sets out how Australia’s health and wealth means we have more options than almost any country in history and sets out how we can build back better, not just bigger by putting people at the centre of the recovery.
The Reconstruction Memorandum
- Put people first – Millions of Australian are suffering from a lack of work and a lack of income, the government can fix this.
- Manage the economy, not the budget – There is no point building a budget surplus on the backs of broken families and broken
- Bang for our buck – Of all the ways to spend public money, which projects create the most jobs and the most community benefits?
- Lasting benefits – While all government spending will create some jobs, government spending on things we need more of will still be creating economic growth and individual joy decades after it has ceased creating jobs.
- Clear criteria and democratic accountability – The government’s response to COVID-19, and any bodies established to assist with the response, must meet good governance standards, with transparent and clear processes and objectives, external oversight, opportunities for public participation and diverse representation.
- Voice. Treaty. Truth – None of the health or economic challenges facing Australia should be used as an excuse to delay acting on the Uluru Statement from the Heart, on the contrary, the spirit of political cooperation and bipartisanship shown in recent times should be harnessed to act on it.