Penalty rates: Why should Sunday stay special?

Thu, 02 Mar 2017  |  

Click on the link to hear the podcast of me on The Minefield talking Sunday penalty rates, among other things, with Scott Stephens and Waleed Aly.

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/theminefield/penalty-rates:-why-should-sunday-stay-special/8310496 

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Late last week, the Fair Work Commission handed down its long awaited decision to reduce penalty rates for Sunday workers in fast-food, retail and hospitality.

Federal politicians promptly framed the matter in the predictable terms of the conflict between the interests of Capital and the interests of Labour, and took their sides accordingly. But is the tension between Capital and Labour – the sustainability of small business versus the rights of workers – really what is at the heart of this matter, or is there something deeper at stake?

One of the more conspicuous effects of secular modernity has been to de-sacralise or de-differentiate time: there are no more Sabbaths and no more holy days; leisure is more of an obligatory respite from work than an occasion to enjoy what is of greater worth; time is reduced to an undifferentiated commodity whose sole value resides in its ability to create more value. Within this logic, the very idea of ‘weekends’ cannot finally be anything more than quaint, an illegitimate leftover from a different age.

Questions of economic justice and the relationship between economy and society are, to be sure, central to the current arguments over penalty rates. But unless we revisit the relationship between time and non-economic conceptions of value, it is doubtful that any argument can long withstand the inexorable logic of capitalism.

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Why don’t governments deliver policies that are good for the electorate?

Mon, 21 Aug 2017

This article first appeared on The Adelaide Review site at this link: https://adelaidereview.com.au/opinion/politics/paying-fair-share/ 

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Paying Their Fair Share

It’s the age-old question: why don’t governments deliver policies that are good for the electorate? Well, the answers are numerous.

Politics and policymaking should be simple. After all, being in government and delivering what voters want — making them happy in other words — and increasing the chances of re-election seems to be the proverbial win-win scenario.

Which begs the question, why don’t political parties do it?

Why don’t they deliver policies that are good for the electorate and good for their re-election chances?

Let’s cut to what the voters, in general, want.

A policy framework where each person who wants a job gets a job is key. In addition, access to quality and affordable health care and education, from kindergarten to university to trades training is fundamental. There are other issues that are basic, simple and fair.

Voters want the government to provide aged-care services that treat the older members of society with dignity. We want decent infrastructure, especially pubic transport and roads. We want people who are doing it tough to be supported by a welfare safety net — a decent rate of pension, unemployment benefits and disability support.

So far, so good.

Australia has given up on solving unemployment

Sun, 20 Aug 2017

This article first appeared on The New Daily website at this link: https://thenewdaily.com.au/money/finance-news/2017/08/16/stephen-koukoulas-unemployment/ 

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Australia has given up on solving unemployment

 It is a sad state of affairs to realise that the current crop of Australian policy-makers have effectively given up on reducing unemployment.

Treasury reckons that the lowest the unemployment rate can go without there being a wages and inflation breakout is around 5.25 per cent.

The Reserve Bank of Australia notes something similar, forecasting that even when the economy is growing strongly at an above-trend pace, the unemployment rate will hover between 5 and 6 per cent.
The current unemployment rate is 5.6 per cent or some 728,100 people – enough to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground about seven times.

Given the Treasury and RBA estimates, it looks like Australia will never see fewer than about 700,000 people unemployed – no matter what kind of improvement we see in the latest jobless figures on Thursday.
It seems to be a peculiarly Australian issue. In the US, the unemployment rate is 4.3 per cent, in the UK it is 4.5 per cent, in Japan it is 2.8 per cent while in Germany, the unemployment rate is 3.9 per cent. And none of these countries is experiencing a wage/inflation problem. Indeed, even with the very low unemployment rate in Japan, wages are actually falling.