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Why we should think carefully about Rudd's $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan

Introduction: The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, is seeking senate approval for an announced a $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan to support jobs and invest in future long term economic growth. The 'plan' includes "five one-off cash bonuses (of $950) for eligible individuals". These are proposed for Australian workers whose taxable income was $100,000 or less in 2007-08. There is also a Single Income Family Bonus to support eligible families with one income earner; a Farmer's Hardship Bonus paid to drought affected farmers and farm dependent small business; owners receiving exceptional circumstances related income support; a Back to School Bonus of $950 per child from low- and middle-income families; $950 paid to eligible students and people returning study to help with the costs of education and training.

Other measures the Senate is being asked to support are: free ceiling insulation for around 2.7 million eligible Australian homes; building or upgrading a building in every one of Australia's 9,540 primary schools; building more than 20,000 new, low-income social housing dwellings and defence homes; a temporary business investment tax break for small and general businesses buying eligible assets; significantly increasing funding for local community infrastructure and local road projects.

Commentary:

While I appreciate the seeming urgency of the 42 billion dollar plan - I totally agree with the opposition and minor parties' demand that the scheme be at least given a senate review.

Yes we are in very difficult times, but what amounts to a knee-jerk response, while politically possibly advantageous, from a long term view is very foolish.

... I can fairly predict that at least 15% will be siphoned off, to nobody's benefit.

Schemes like this (even though they may have had a far longer gestation period than we tend to be told) are wonderful for the opportunist "white shoe' brigade - and I can fairly predict that at least 15% will be siphoned off, to nobody's benefit.

The only component of the scheme that I can wholeheartedly agree with is the roof insulation - but even then, it requires a far more coherent energy target - as 'roof insulation' can mean damn near anything. Are there any targets - R values, appropriate forms of insulation, what about roof space venting?? Different areas of Australia require different methods - up here in the tropics - simple sisalation (double sided aluminium foil sarking) does wonders - but not on the tablelands - where you need something more substantial, and even more substantial measures are required as you progress south. There is no indication that what we are seeing here is not a 'feel good' "one size fits all" approach - which is exceedingly foolish.

I'm not sure about the primary school improvements - after seeing the 'air-conditioner in every school' issue of last year - which raises the State's carbon footprint significally (especially as most country school buildings were never designed to accommodate A/C - being neither insulated or draft-proofed). Plus the need for A/C is restricted to only a few days a year. Maybe some schools could use some upgrades - but this seems to be a 'pork barrel' issue.

Given the rapidly approaching issue of "Peak Oil", road infrastructure would seem to be the least useful use of the money - and the use with the least useful benefits in the future. Sure - many road projects are "shovel ready" - but that doesn't make them appropriate - Facing the inevitability of a fuel constrained future (very soon) - we need to be putting the money in to the provision of public transport and light rail where appropriate.

Some obvious areas - that would have a huge carbon footprint impact - would be the fitting of solar HWS to as many homes as possible.

Another - creation of "forest regeneration corps" - to re-plant our millions of hectares of marginal land that was cleared - because clearing land was Government policy at the time. Associated with appropriate training - such a corps could be really important for the long-term "carbon -neutralisation' of Australia.

And that's just a start.

Comments

Australia has used up a large proportion of its natural capital in an exuberant chase after a high material standard of living. That era is drawing to a close as irreplaceable natural capital becomes scarce.

The PM has allowed the budget to go into deficit in order to finance the stimulus package. This is based on the presumption that the budget can have a surplus when the recession is over. That is a fallacious presumption. Economic growth is now part of history. Economic contraction is the new reality. Australia has used up a large proportion of its natural capital in an exuberant chase after a high material standard of living. That era is drawing to a close as irreplaceable natural capital becomes scarce. Tangible ecological forces are gaining control over the intangible economic ones. The symptoms of the malaise include the impact of climate change together with water, fertile soil and fuel shortages. The devastation of the Murray-Darling basin is only one of the irreversible environmental disasters. There are many others that the people of Australia are becoming increasingly aware of. The current heat wave coupled with dangerous bushfires in the south together with flooding in the north accentuates just how vulnerable our way of life has become.

Tangible ecological forces are gaining control over the intangible economic ones

The PM should have been very careful to choose the components of the package in such a manner to help Australians cope with the inevitable powering down. Stimulating consumption is not the way to go.

Australia, as Denis comments has gone berserk in its efforts to extract our natural resources and expend them without delay. It seems our governments have been "spending" our resources in much the same fashion as Zimbabweans have been spending their Zimbabwean Dollars - with the least amount of delay possible.

But while the Zimbabwean spending has been prompted by a legitimate fear of huge devaluations of the currency, our "spending" can well and truly be blamed on the perpetual growth cancer we have contracted but for which we are not even attempting to find a cure. No doubt the pain has not yet become intense enough to warrant attention and it is easy enough to ignore the worrying symptoms such as endemic water shortages, degraded land and changed weather patterns that do manifest themselves more and more frequently and that point to a more sinister underlying ailment.

Our politicians, the media and of course big business have all been in a state of denial about the whole limitations to growth thing and instead of taking a precautionary approach to slow things down a bit they have done, and continue to advocate doing the opposite.

They have imported hundreds of thousand of immigrants to help them exploit those resources even faster and then look helplessly on when the health, education and other services break down under the onslaught.

I fear for Australia and and civilization in general.

The insulation package is absolutely stimulating jobs. We own a roof insulation company and calls/bookings have skyrocketed we had over 600 visitors to our site just on the Tuesday alone and have been receiving 40-50 calls a day every day with dozens of bookings despite the fact that it hasn't been passed yet. We believe that people who had planned to buy are simply bringing their purchase forward and those that don't mind waiting a few months for the rebate to be paid back are just getting in early.

As a result we are recruiting contractors and employees all over the country and expect to put on between 10-20 in Sydney alone in the next few weeks and we are only a small group. More details on contractor opportunities can be found here free-insulation.com.au

Subject was: "Nice Picture" - JS

Some key points raised here, however, I don't quite understand the purpose of the geese in the image? are the Australian people geese?

At least he has planned to put 42 billion into thing that are worth while and actually generate jobs. Unlike the labour party in the UK gov.

Like said, some key points here.

I disagree.

The whole premise of throwing taxpayers around is the dogma that it is somehow more efficient for Governments to stimulate the private sector into economic activity than to just create the economic activity itself by spending the money directly on worthwhile well-planned Government programs.

If the Government had simply spent the money directly rebuilding a vast range of services that the previous Government had slashed, the economic benefit would have been far more enduring and it would have been cheaper.

I consider the stimulus program to have been a reckless waste of money (and that may well have been the Government's brief from its corporate puppetmasters).

Further down the track, we will be expected to pay dearly for today's supposed generosity with what was our own money in the first place with more slash and burn budgets and privatisation.

Indeed, it could be argued that Queensland's $15 billion asset fire sale is the direct result of the $42billion stimulus. Early on, in May 2009, I recall the Federal Government pleading that it didn't have any additional funds to help the Queensland state Government overcome its financial crisis said to be the result of the floods.

I think Queenslanders would have preferred to have been given the choice before Rudd so recklessly committed all our money to the stimulus package.

As I perceive our shonky-wonky system, capitalism, wherever it occurs on a medium, large or huge scale, is always artificially propped up.

It cannot survive without contrived supports and that's why it's so important for the wickedly greedy to get their grubby, unprincipled hands on the levers of government by fair means or foul - usually foul.

Through this means the laws can be rigged to suit the exploiters, as they are in Tasmania where our so-called Labor government changes environmental law to suit a rapacious timber company bent on widespread destruction of our natural resources for private profit. The welfare of the state's citizens is not a consideration by either party.

This is why the USA is always invading other countries - one at a time, two at a time, or even three at a time - on the pretext of "restoring democracy" or "bringing you freedom" or somesuch deceit-ridden codswallop.

Knowing this modus operandi, we can predict that the real reason the US military is "helping" Haiti is to set it up for even more ruthless exploitation by American corporations. It's The American Way. They arrogantly see it as their right.

Capitalism's rigged supports are provided by unsuspecting, honest-toiling workforces whose taxes, always artificially high, are recycled to the already wealthy via capitalism's many lurks and rip-offs.

It's the Road to Nowhere. It's also the Road to Wipeout - and we'll be on it until we wake up and hold up the "HALT" sign.

The planet agrees with me. Climate Change is its silent voice.

As expected, and as I mentioned above, the real reason the US military is "helping" Haiti is to set it up for more ruthless exploitation by American corporations.

From http://www.alternet.org/world/145279/us_corporations%2C_private_mercenaries_and_the_imf_rush_in_to_profit_from_haiti%27s_crisis/

we read ..

"In the midst of a colossal human disaster, Washington is promoting unpopular economic policies and extending military and economic control over the Haitian people.

"US corporations, private mercenaries, Washington and the International Monetary Fund are using the crisis in Haiti to make a profit, promote unpopular neoliberal policies, and extend military and economic control over the Haitian people."

Oh no! I was afraid of this.
Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine is an incredible expose of this terrible phenomenon. It is a really indispensable read for our times on the all-engulfing practice of the commercial exploitation of disaster in order to recolonise entire countries.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist

Yes, the geese represent the Oz public, as targeted by Rudd.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist