Thursday, August 8, 2013

Election 2013: Day 4 (or I said, Hey, hey, hey, St. Peter)

The morning started slow. Bugger all on the front pages that even made it to breakfast radio, let alone past then.

And then the ABC’s Chris Uhlmann reported that former QLD Premier Peter Beattie would be running in the seat of Forde.

The move clearly reflected that the polling hasn’t been great for the ALP this week (I’m thinking more internal stuff than a Newspoll). Sure you might be able to spin that Kevin Rudd and Bruce Hawker (is anyone else involved in any decision making?) had this up their sleeve and were waiting to announce it at an opportune time. But I think not. They might have been thinking about it, but I’d suggest this move shows that they weren’t cutting through to voters.

Much as I was writing last night, people aren’t listening. Big smiles as Kevin Rudd and Peter Beattie play the happy couple - World news -

And if they’re not listening in QLD then that’s the ball game.

So welcome back Peter, all is forgiven.

From now till election day Beattie will be good for a quick clip on the news every other day. His job, other than to win the seat, is to make Campbell Newman one of the candidates in the election. The message that a vote for Abbott is a vote for cuts like Newman has done will be his mantra.

And it’ll be said not as candidate against Premier, but as 9 year Premier against a new Premier – a Premier who has seen the unemployment rate in his state go from 5.5% to 6.1% in the 16 months he’s been in power.

Now sure, Beattie and Rudd? Not mates.

And yes, is a former Premier really “A New Way”?

But don’t underestimate Beattie’s ability to campaign. As much as he loves the limelight and was no doubt suffering the slings and arrows of relevancy deprivation, the bloke won 3 elections easily, and they didn’t all come off the back of months of smiles and sunshine for the ALP.

He talks in a way that people (especially Queenslanders) understand. And if anything he’ll at least get the ALP folk in QLD feeling like they’ve got a winner on board.

But of course he like anyone who has been Premier for 9 years, also brings a fair bit of baggage. But you only had to watching him being interview on 7:30 tonight to see a professional politician (and I mean that as a positive) in action. This bloke ain’t going to struggle with any 6 point plan questions.

A ReachTEL poll out tonight shows that the margin in the seat has increased from the 2010 election of 1.2%, but that was polled before the 6pm news, before tomorrow’s Courier Mail. So it’s a nice quick snapshot of the current situation, but not really a measure of the Beattie impact – more an indication of the toughness of the task – and why they brought Beattie in.

The thing for me though, is if the ALP isn’t doing as well as hoped in QLD where it was supposed to get the best lift from Kevin Rudd, how is it doing in the rest of the country? As I was saying yesterday – the ALP has not got off to a good start. They are fortunate there is (in election campaign terms) still along way to go.


Not surprisingly today for the ALP wasn’t about policy.

Not only was the Beattie announcement all the news they wanted, today the unemployment figures came out, and it would have been silly to try and put out some whizz-bang economic policy if the data had then been bad.

In the end the figures were not as bad as people thought they might be, but certainly not as good as anyone would hope.

The national unemployment figure stayed steady at 5.7% in both seasonally adjusted and trend terms:


This effectively meant the big news headline was not going to be the unemployment rate – a lucky moment for the ALP.

And while that 10 year graph shows that we’re not quite back to where we were in July 2003, the close up of the past 18 months reveals where things are headed (and why the Economic Statement on Friday had us headed for 6.25%)


The Liberal Party’s taking points have been focussing on the total number of unemployed – and noting that it is the highest number of unemployed for 14 years.

Now that is true, and it certainly is not a good thing, but it perhaps is a figure that works nicely in their favour. But when I look at unemployment as opposed to employment, I prefer to use the “Unemployment to Population Ratio, because that takes into account population growth. The ABS produced such a ratio for those looking for full-time work, but with a bit of mucking about we can also work out the ratio for all unemployed:


This shows that much like the actual unemployment rate, we’re on the way back to where we were 10 years ago.

Again, not good by any stretch, but perhaps a slightly more honest picture of the situation than just looking at the total number of unemployed.

The big factor that the Liberal Party focussed on was the decline in the Participation Rate. It was down to 65.1% in seasonally adjusted terms 9though flat at 65.2% in trend terms)

This led to rather ludicrous assumption on what the unemployment rate would be if we had the same participation rate as in 2007, or last year, or last month.

Never mind that the record participation rate was actually reached in November 2010, so if we’re going to now use that as the yardstick, then it’s time to suggest the ALP are the champions.

The declining participation rate ignores the ageing population, which is something affecting all western nations currently being hit with baby boomers shifting from working 9 to 5 to working on getting their golf handicap under 18.

The best measure if you really want to look at the employment situation, which includes jobs and also the level of participation, is the employment to population ratio.

And while you can look at the ratio for the entire adult population, a better one in some way is to look at the ratio for those from 15-64 years old (ie cutting out those above retirement age). An even better one would be 25-54 yo as that is the “peak working age” but the data for that age doesn’t come out till next week, so let’s work with what we have:


It’s not good certainly. It’s downhill, though slowly so. But nearly 4 precent more of 15-64 year olds are now employed than were 15 years ago. Comparing total unemployed now with then, needs to consider than a lot more women now are in the labour force (which includes both unemployed and employed) than they were then, and thus it is not surprising during a downturn that the total unemployment numbers would be higher.

Back in 1998 only 55% of women ages 15-64 were employed; now 66.4% are. So comparing the number of unemployed between now and 14 years ago ain’t quite apples with apples.


Tony Abbott was in Tasmania, and on the day on which the unemployment figures were released that was a smart place to be. And here’s why:


Tasmania’s employment levels have been shrinking since the start of 2011.

It is dire.

His policy announcement, was for a pilot program for 2,000 jobs which would be subsidised to the extent of $250 a week for 6 months (to be paid at the end of the 6 months). The person hired must have been on Newstart for at least 6 months. They won;t have any trouble finding such eligible people. 

There’s nothing wrong with the policy – it provides and incentive. 2,000 might not sound like much, but had there been 2,000 fewer Tasmanian’s unemployed and 2,000 more employed, then the state’s unemployment rate this month instead of being 8.4% would have been 7.6%. So it’s a pretty good aim.

But whether it is sustainable is another thing.

Tony Abbott had earlier in the day mentioned Tasmania as a “Special Economic Zone”. Now such things normally imply different tax concessions. He didn’t go that far today, but hinted more would be coming. Of course different tax treatment for different states hits a bit of a constitutional barrier, but it can be gotten around buy perhaps providing subsidies to firms in Tasmania that would offset tax.

One problem with it is if you start saying Tasmania deserves such treatment, then why not Adelaide, or Western Sydney (both of which have a bigger population than all of Tasmania), or maybe Geelong, or Newcastle or… or…

But we shall have to wait and see what he serves up.

Kevin Rudd hasn’t been in Tasmania yet, and with a couple seats in play, I expect he’ll be down there soon. And he would want to be going with more than just a “chin-up folks” in his armoury.


Tomorrow I am in Sydney for most of the day attending the “Storyology” Conference run by the Walkley Foundation. I’ll only be back late, so probably won’t have a post. (or if I do, because I am some obsessive compulsive type, it’ll be on the short side)


Jan Dobson said...

Not sure if the blame for Tasmania's high unemployment rate will be worn by Federal Labor or that many think that either of the major parties can or will do much to improve the situation.
Responsibility appears to be laid at the feet of the Green movement, both politicians and organisations. By a very large section of the population, their actions against the timber industry and a, real or perceived, deterrent to development is the root cause and is creating quite a backlash in some areas

Autocrat said...

" The message that a vote for Abbott is a vote for cuts like Newman "


Cranky Aussie said...

As a Queenslander for the past 47 years I can tell you the reason Beattie kept winning government with an unpopular party is because the opposition was a basket case, and remained so right up until the point where the Nationals handed power over to a Liberal in the form of Campbell Newman.

In all honesty the LNP is still a basket case with ministers either abandoning it or being forced out due to questionable actions. It just goes to show how much Queenslanders came to hate the ALP over the years.

Whether or not that translates to federal politics we'll soon see, but given the result in the 2010 federal election I would not be surprised if the ALP didn't get anywhere near the boost up here that they were hoping for.