|Issue No 101||06 July 2001|
Living Standards Shape as Election Factor
The decline in living standards for many working Australians would be a critical factor in determining the outcome of the federal election, according to the ACTU.
The ACTU Executive, meeting in Melbourne this week, voted to support a 'smart campaign' election strategy that would highlight the growing crisis for working people brought about by the policies of the Coalition Government. The ACTU and unions will use cutting-edge technology to campaign in marginal electorates around Australia.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow says the ACTU has developed a sophisticated database called Elaborate which combines voting trends from the 1998 Federal election and national census data. The software plots the data on a marginal seat map that takes in Census Collection Districts of 200 households.
"Unions are getting smart," Burrow says. "To make the most of our resources, we must campaign in areas where our impact can be greatest. That means harnessing technology to identify areas where our message will resonate with voters. This database takes the mystery out of campaigning by identifying neighbourhoods where issues are felt most strongly."
The ACTU will push for fairer pay and tax policies based on new evidence of falling living standards. Figures released this week by the ACTU show that three groups of people have been particularly hard hit by a combination of the GST and the Howard Government's recent Federal Budget(see below).
And preliminary research being gathered for the ACTU's Reasonable Hours test case, being heard in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, provides more evidence of the growing financial and social divide in Australia.
Barbara Pocock, Director of the Centre for Labour Research at Adelaide University, has researched the impact of long working hours on 50 Australian families. She documented the life of Abe and Tricia, who both worked as public servants until Tricia resigned to care for their three children. Abe works 50 hours a week and spends many more hours travelling; his work day starts at 6am and ends at 7pm.
"The story of Abe and Tricia is the story of far too many Australians," Burrow says. "Abe is absent from home constantly and has precious little time with his children. High stress levels often lead to arguments and conflict. Families with two working parents tell similar stories - they are all struggling to cope with GST price rises and balance their work-family commitments.
"The big picture is bleak for many people. Is this what we want in Australia? Unions believe that Governments can and should act to lighten this double whammy - being squeezed financially by the GST and being squeezed for time by extreme hours of work.
"We will be out there in marginal electorates talking to voters about sliding living standards and high family stress levels. And we will be saying that John Howard's Government carries the blame."
Burrow says there is a strong case for tax relief based on a rollback of the GST on basic household expenditures, and targeted income tax relief and increased family benefits for low and middle-income earners. This could include a tax rebate or credit.
FINANCIAL SNAPSHOTS OF PEOPLE UNDER PRESSURE
Snapshot # 1 - A two-income household with two children, household income $60,000pa:
Cost of living increase - $55.47 per week
Real tax package payments - $15.26 per week
2001 Budget benefits - Nil
Worse Off: $40.21 per week
Snapshot # 2 - A single person on $30,000pa:
Cost of living increase - $23.13 per week
Real tax package payments - $7.80 per week
2001 Budget benefits - Nil
Worse Off: $30.93 per week
As a result of 2001 Budget, pays $980pa more tax than self-funded retiree on same income.
Snapshot # 3 - A single income couple with two children earning $25,000pa:
Cost of living increase - $32.66 per week
Real tax package payments - $15.99 per week
2001 Budget benefits - Nil
Worse off: $16.67 per week
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History: Enlarging Human Personality
Mark Hearn argues that Lloyd Ross's post-War approach to Workplace Democracy seems contemporary by today's standards
Satire: Shit is a Four Letter Word
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Review: Tribute to an Artist
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005