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Summertime, and the living is easy.. for now!
Summer time, and the living is easy..
Xmass is now just a memory, the nation, well fed, sleepy and sated with the heroics of our allegedly defunct cricket team, bestirs after the annual excesses of gluttony and consumerism gone ballistic.
But as folk dust off the mistletoe,cigarette ash and snow flakes, they find themselves becoming overcome with an uncomfortable, free-floating sensation of impending financial peril, as they torpidly await the accounting for previous excesses.
For, as the shutdown ends and news starts percolating in both from the outside world and locally, it is recalled that the world is still the same imperfect location as before Xmass.
We hear of continuing problems from Europe- how deeply in trouble economically is it? Cameron and co continue to implement "austerity" in Britain, to pay for the bail out for the City of London financial establishment, while in the troubled USA, the hard right Republicans call for dismemberment of social security and the government there reacts by building more jails, trimming defence spending and winding back some of the US's less fruitful adventures offshore (sabre-rattling over Iran not withstanding).
This all a long way from suburban barbies in Australia, what could what happens ten thousand miles away remotely have to do with us?
In my home state of South Australia, it could count for quite a lot.
Here, we have attempted to move from sunset industries in manufacturing to a new future as a defence hub. Yet the SA government, like Victoria with Ford, have just had to retreat to a default position that is likely to involve many subsidy dollars, just to hold the aging (altho, mecifully, somewhat reconstructed) auto industry together for a bit longer and this may well be due to a diminishing likelihood of future lucrative defence and techno contracts, given off shore conditions. Yes, the auto industry is the default position and it must be held on to for the preservation of a number of technologies,but its hard not to see the recent events as anything but an economic retreat.
So, in SA at least,we are left with uranium and sunset industries that will require help to keep their role as a big employers of skilled, semi skilled and unskilled labour. This is money that may have to be kept back from education and social infrastructure spending, unlike in the situation where a foothold in defence hi tech may have been a revenue puller, within previous projections made in more optimistic times.
Also, technology changes so quickly; so much obsolescence as the global economy remains barely in recovery from the excesses in war and high finance over the last decade, that have induced so much pain for so many people across the world. If global demand falls in the wake of the "austerity" that is the euphemism for the picking the 99%'s pocket so the 1% might yet save their own skins after their earlier delinquencies, and exports tail off in the wake of the bursting of the Chinese real estate bubble and through global recession in general, you begin to suspect that governments here will be thinking more carefully about where shrinking revenues might be used and the question that comes to mind is, who/what will be preserved and who/what what may be jeopardised or jettisoned.
My guess is that if you are not wealthy do not presume that the good times will last forever, or that now is the time for risky spending or investing, even though economists will say that this sort of pessimism accelerates recessionary forces.
My sense is that the politicians have a challenging year in front of them- no more time for the sort of arcane antics of the sort that Teresa Gambaro groggily insulted the public's intelligence with on her return from holidays. The antic warns us that the opposition, like its American counterparts, is likely to remain obstructionist.
If the Gillard government overcomes this, it also has to overcome its own tendency to creeping inertia and funny deals with unknown vested interests at the expense of productive or socially desirable social spending. Its first adventure will come shortly, as it awaits the Queensland public's decision at the polls there in a couple of months. A convincing defeat for Bligh would be a blow to Labor morale generally and leave much closer the prospect of a future Abbott government, anti-intellectual, vengeful on industrial relations and social policy and hell- bent on austerity imposed on blue collar people that could represent a major blow to small business s employers as demand remains resultantly static.
And if fed Labor eventually does get back in, what chance of some level of austerity in a post election budget being avoided, given the grip neoliberal thinking has on economic policy.
No, not quite the time for champagne cork popping just yet, thinks this little black duck.