Monday, October 17, 2005


You have a golden goose. It lays ten golden eggs a year. It will lay golden eggs from now till doomsday. It won't die or wear out.

Someone offers you a hundred golden eggs right now for your goose. You don't really need any golden eggs just now because you have plenty. But you sell it all the same.

Telstra was Australia's golden goose. It was that rara avis: a public-owned utility that actually made scads of money. But things that make scads of money shouldn't be in the public's hands. God no! They should be in the hands of wealthy men. We all know that. Unapologetically, the government of Australia told the people: re-elect us and the first thing we'll do is sell the golden goose.

You are probably wondering whether even the Australian people would be dumb enough to vote for that.

But it gets worse.

The second thing we'll do, said the government, is make it easy for your boss to sack you and take away your livelihood. We need to do that for economic reasons.

This is bullshit. People don't lose their jobs because business needs to be "flexible". They generally lose them because some greedy fatarsed dickhead is upset that they might not make a big enough profit this year. When you read in the papers about "costcutting", what that means is "people lose jobs". It never means "we'll just make do without senior management because we've never noticed them actually do anything, except sack people when times are tough".

Firms could carry loyal staff in bad times. It's rarely life or death for the firm. It's what firms used to do. They'd report lower profits if they did less business than they hoped, and then they'd have the loyal staff when the economy turned back up.

Job security is important for most of us, particularly for those whose "flexibility" is marginal, either because they are supporting a family, paying a mortgage or simply work in field where jobs are scarce. So why vote for people whose plan is to diminish it?

It will have economic benefits, we are told. But we never ask ourselves, perhaps because it never makes the news hour's agenda, who receives those benefits, and even if it is us, which it so rarely is, whether it is actually worth trading in the feeling that you will still have a job in six months, even if your company isn't quite setting the world alight (through no fault of your own) for a few extra dollars.

It's hard not to conclude that the Australian public are not simply idiots but who has time to think through the issues? We're all too busy trying to build our own golden eggs to notice when rascals are thieving those of our nation from under our nose, and too hard-pressed making the livings that they are all too willing to sacrifice to "growth" to notice that we never have really benefited from their strong economy, with our wages every year lower in real terms and goods rising in cost by far more than inflation, which seems to be based on John Howard's dreams rather than any actual trend in consumer prices, to notice that they are putting us, the people who empowered them second, and businesses, the people who enrich them, first.


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