It’s not surprising that Peter Hartcher is out of touch. In his Fairfax-protected-species-ivory-tower, where he refuses to engage with readers via social media in case he might actually learn something, once again he’s failed to realise we’ve all moved on from the bullshit ‘class war’ analogies he’s peppered his SMH column with today.
If Hartcher was paying a little more attention these last few years, rather than spending the entire term of the previous Gillard government publishing Rudd-leaks and rather than using his powerful position as political editor to commentate politics like a sporting-match, he might have realised Labor’s political narrative has shifted. This change isn’t due to the ‘media-cycle’, ‘spin’, or ‘political games’ or ‘election winning strategies’. This shift is in response to what is going on in the world, out here in reality, a reality Hartcher doesn’t seem able to understand.
As far back as 2014, the Guardian, characteristically, were way ahead of the rest of the media in reporting unequivocal statements by the IMF: inequality is bad for economic growth. Yet, two years later, Hartcher is still playing the two-horse-race game of Liberals-for-economic-growth and Labor-against-economic-growth because he just doesn’t get it. The irony of him asking Shorten for more nuance would be amusing if it weren’t so frustratingly hypocritical.
In Hartcher’s column today, his argument is that Labor has ramped up ‘anti-business-rhetoric’, which suits Shorten’s trade union background, as opposed to Turnbull’s big-business identity. Hartcher makes the point that Labor’s policies aren’t actually anti-business, but that this is what Shorten is ‘saying’ and therefore Shorten needs to stop ‘saying’ it. Note there are no quotes in the article from Shorten in response to this criticism, nor from anyone else in the united Labor opposition who are 100% on-board with Shorten’s narrative this election. Funny that.
Instead, we get, you guessed it, neoliberal ideological warrior Tony Sheppard, author of the Abbott-budget-written-by-big-business Commission of Audit saying:
‘governments need to encourage business growth because that leads to investment, jobs and the tax revenues that pay for health and education and everything else’.
Then we also get former Labor president Warren Mundine who has also in News Limited this week admitting Labor isn’t the party he used to run, which by the way Mundine, is a really good thing because you don’t understand economic growth any better than your mate Hartcher or Sheppard, saying:
‘Consider the anti-business rhetoric in this election. Past Labor leaders understood government can only create the conditions for jobs and enterprise to thrive. It’s business that generates economic growth through investment and innovation. Federal Labor don’t seem to get this’.
I will address all three of these dinosaurs’ mistakes in one statement and I’ll write it in bold in case that helps with their comprehension:
Economic growth does not pay for health and education and everything else. Health and education and everything else drives economic growth. Businesses do not generate economic growth in order to build the conditions for jobs and enterprise to thrive. Proper social investment builds the conditions for jobs and enterprise to thrive. You have everything topsy-turvy-round-the-wrong-way-you’re-so-confused-I’m-surprised-your-pants-aren’t-on-your-head-get-with-the-program-you’re-actually-hurting-the-economy-with-your-outdated-ill-conceived-attempts-at-telling-us-how-the-world-works-just-go-away. I will spell it out clearly: the conditions for economic growth are strong investment in education, health, infrastructure, a solid social-safety-net no-body-left-behind consumer-led-growth wealth-distributed-more-equally world. Businesses do not hire more people because they get tax cuts. Businesses hire more people and grow the pie when there is strong consumer base, with good health, education, strong wages and therefore available disposable income. Economic growth requires a strong society as its very foundation.
Once you understand these very simple-even-a-5-year-old-can-understand facts, your argument that Labor is anti-business because they point out this fact, actually makes Labor extremely pro-business and makes Turnbull’s tax cut at the expense of proper investment in all the things which actually help the economy a really bad thing for business. Since business is the only thing these dinosaurs care about, perhaps it’s time they did what was right for business and advocate policies which will actually help economic growth. If you haven’t noticed the damage the Liberal government has done to the economy in the last three years, well, perhaps you’re just not paying attention.
It’s because of the likes of Hartcher, Sheppard and Mundine’s misunderstanding of the world that we are in the economic mess we are now. Rising inequality hurts all of us. The IMF understands. Credible economists understand. Labor understands. But we still have too many dinosaurs who refuse to get it. I just wish these dinosaurs would hurry up to extinction so a good government can work on fixing the economy for all our benefit.