Despite record low interest rates, we all know the Government can’t keep borrowing money to fund JobKeeper forever. In any case, the economy is recovering quite well and extending the support payment doesn’t make sense for many parts of the economy.
But there are many businesses that remain dramatically impacted by government decisions. For example, lately I’ve been meeting with travel agents. Readers will know that the lion’s share of their business is international travel. The Government has closed our international borders and they remain closed. Even domestic travel is difficult because you don’t know when the next lockdown will occur or where. State borders could also close again.
Travel agents are a perfect example of an industry which has had its income reduced to near zero because of government decisions. There is next to nothing they can do to diversify their businesses. It makes sense to continue to provide income support to these hard-working business people and those like them. This week I’ve spoken with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg about their plight. He seemed to have a good understanding of the problem. Let’s hope some support for our travel agents and others still affected by government decisions is forthcoming.
No one should be surprised to learn that the Labor Party is keen to ensure changes in our economy and the way business is done does not leave people with insecure work and income. Of course, the best way to ensure income security is to improve job security. The maintenance of existing jobs and the creation of new jobs must be our priority.
But technology is changing the way we live and buy, and creeping casualisation is one of the consequences. In responding to the issue, we must first be conscious of the fact that casual work suits many people. But if you’re the main income earner in the family, it makes it hard to raise a home loan while working as a casual.
So, if someone’s work pattern looks much more like that of a permanent, it makes sense to improve their chances of being employed as a permanent employee if that’s what they want to do. The trick is to make changes that enhance income security without introducing barriers to employment for employers. With the appropriate level of goodwill, this should be possible.
This is also true of workplace flexibility in a changing world. Done properly, workplace changes which improve flexibility also improve productivity and can benefit both employees and employers. Striving to achieve this should be a constant goal for governments. So, too, should our quest to rid our country of wage theft and employee exploitation.
One issue which is particularly important for us locally is the concept of “same job, same pay”. In the coal mining industry companies have been using labour hire companies to pay people less than those working along side them, despite the fact they are doing the same job. This has to be stopped.
COVID-19 generated a level of bi-partisanship rarely seen in Australian politics. Let’s hope that in the end, we can achieve the changes necessary to adapt to fast-moving change while also improving both business profitability and employee income security. It should not be beyond us.