Let's look at one example where a key member of the would-be Coalition cabinet is playing ducks-and-drakes long after it has ceased to be cute. Sophie Mirabella has written this piece hoping that the case against the government has already been made and can be taken for granted. She hopes that the teasers on policy are more enticing than annoying. She hopes that pic doesn't make her look more than a little unhinged. Let's look at the article and see what, if anything, is there:
The outcome of this year’s Federal election will be vital in determining whether manufacturing with grow and flourish in Australia. As part of our policy approach, the Coalition has identified manufacturing as one of the five key pillars of our economy.Pillars don't grow, let alone flourish. The Coalition has enough trouble with its silly metaphor about slicing up a growing pie, stop the metaphors! Most manufacturing businesses regard it as their only pillar. Readers are meant to be grateful about this snippet of the Coalition brochure being thrust into their industry, aren't they.
We believe a vibrant manufacturing sector is essential to a diversified economy, job creation, and driving innovation and economic growth.Who doesn't?
The Howard Coalition Government presided over the longest industrial expansion in our modern history, including an expansion in manufacturing activity for 13 of its last 14 months in office.See, that "13 of its last 14 months" casts a shadow over what went before it. What is "an expansion in manufacturing activity"? More capital equipment? More output? This is the point where I start to need sources rather than accepting Sophie's word. She sounds like any Canberra bureaucrat rather than the prospective minister.
Between 1996 and 2007, manufacturing employment remained stable at over one million jobs ...So much for expansion, then?
... and real wages for Australian workers rose by an astonishing 21 per cent.Now that's what I call a WAGES BLOWOUT of the sort that The Australian Financial Review has been keening for. Who'd promise employers a return to that? I bet this article has plenty to say about addressing skill shortages, eh.
This contrasts with downturns for almost 65 per cent of the Rudd and Gillard Governments’ tenures - including a decline for every one of the past 11 months.That decline has largely been due to the high cost of the Australian dollar, and the rise of competitors in Asia-Pacific markets. Oh, and the GFC. I wonder what Sophie has to say about the central issues facing Australian manufacturing?
If elected, we will provide the stability and certainty that our manufacturers need to be able to get on with what they do best. We will abolish the carbon tax, reduce red tape by $1 billion a year, get government spending under control and create the right economic environment within which manufacturing can grow.That's it?
Carbon tax is a non-issue (and if it really is the difference between economic life and death, Minister Mirabella won't be able to do much about it). All governments propose to reduce red tape and somehow I doubt they'll resort to increased IT expenditure to make compliance less burdensome - and an Abbott Government would be very big on Compliance indeed. Government spending is under control. The economic environment is not something governments create - and when I met Sophie Panopoulos, as she was then, she knew that too.
Since the announcement of the carbon tax, over 27,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost. For the first time in decades, the number of Australians employed in manufacturing has fallen below one million. And even the Government itself has failed to deny that the rate of manufacturing job losses in recent years has been unprecedented in Australia’s history.Having failed to address the reasons for that, and offered four talking points, readers of this article are at the point where they/we start doubting that the Coalition really do have any answers: a bit of red-tape cutting and good luck with the rest?
What sort of pissweak construction is "failed to deny"? It sounds like a bad action flick: Tom Cruise IS Jack Reacher IN 'Failed To Deny' (shot of Aussie manufacturing business blowing up) ...
We understand that, for our manufacturing businesses to prosper, they must be able to compete on a level playing field. Abolishing the carbon tax is an important first step as it will remove a tax that increases the cost of manufacturing in Australia whilst imports get a free ride.That sort of rhetoric makes it hard to said foreigners, which is the whole point of the trade thing. As to anti-dumping, believe it when you see it.
We have developed a world class anti-dumping policy that will cut the time and cost of anti-dumping applications and better ensure that foreign products are not dumped into the Australian market at below cost price.
We have also signalled our intention ...You have what? Are you going to do this or not? One pissweak construction looks like someone taught at a Victorian school, two is starting to look like a spivvy prospectus.
... to change Australia’s standards regime so that imported products comply with the costly mandatory standards imposed on locally-made goods.I doubt Standards Australia can or will bear a change of that dimension. The ISO won't, and if you're using standards to play silly-buggers with imports then the World Trade Organisation will jump on us with both feet. And when I say 'us', I don't mean career politicians who sit around thinking up ways to make life difficult for people; I mean Australian businesspeople far from home attempting to cut deals, knowing Sophie Mirabella is putting up barriers that make those deals difficult. Thanks for nothing, political-class hack.
A vibrant culture of innovation is essential to growing and diversifying our manufacturing base. The Coalition understands the importance of innovation in a highly competitive global economy.Well, yes. What was so great about Commercial Ready, and why was Commercialisation Australia so inferior? Are you going to reinstate Commercial Ready, and if not, how will you improve on Commercialisation Australia (given, apparently, that it isn't so hard)?
The weakening by the current government of R&D tax incentives for manufacturing will therefore be reversed. Like many manufacturers, the Coalition was bewildered at the abolition of the very successful Commercial Ready programme and its replacement with the inferior Commercialisation Australia model. We need practical and effective commercialisation programmes, particularly for small business.
Come on Sophie, I bet you've been all over Australia consulting with manufacturing people. By now you will have a clear idea of what needs to happen. What, in the name of stability and certainty, might that be?
The Coalition will abolish the Government’s flawed Industry Innovation Councils. We will work, through genuine consultation with Australian businesspeople, to deliver better future plans for individual industries. In the wake of regular Labor cuts, we will also ensure that Cooperative Research Centres are appropriately funded to continue their work in creating greater collaboration between researchers and industry. We will also encourage much closer collaboration between academic researchers and business.How "flawed"? Hasn't the "genuine consultation" been done by now? Everyone talks about closer collaboration between business and academics (well, when you're not bagging them as ivory-tower elitists and skivers). What came from the consultation? What are you going to do differently? Will you promise all your policies will be flawless? That there won't be any cuts, at all?
The following paragraph, listed as the most important in Mirabella's screed, is actually a dollop of pablum with which no-one disagrees. Then there's this:
For too long, manufacturing in Australia has languished under the economic torpor and policy ineptitude of a divided, dysfunctional and chaotic Labor Government. If we are to regain our competitive edge in an increasingly global marketplace, we must take immediate action to address the inequalities that have been created through the unwelcome introduction of excessive red-tape and new taxes.Should that be "iniquities"? This blog has had a lot to say about political shenanigans in Canberra, and of course Mirabella revels in it (and gets chucked out of Parliament regularly) but the woes of Australian manufacturing can hardly be traced back to that. Even if they can, have all those failed motions to suspend standing orders or bike-riding, fish-gutting stunts made a blind bit of difference? If not, why not?
As for "increasingly global marketplace": what is this, 1986?
We must take immediate action to address the uncertainty that has been created through the constant moving of the goalposts and chopping and changing of policy.The best way to do that is to keep the incumbents. That nice Mr Combet seems to have matters in hand. Let's not risk that risky Opposition. Oh wait, that's the opposite of the effect you're trying to create, isn't it?
Where evidence of thinking exists, it's sloppy. And we're toward the end of the article.
She lunges for a strong finish; insofar as Sophie Mirabella has a style, that's it. It's big of her to allow Australia a future with a 21st century manufacturing base, and she gets a bit ahead of herself by a) implying that "Our Plan for Australia" is something more than a brochure, and b) that manufacturing, but one 'pillar' mentioned in passing, is somehow "front and centre" of it.
Mirabella clearly knows bugger-all about manufacturing despite more than three years in her role. She'd love to help but she clearly doesn't know how. The Liberal Party used to be full of old manufacturing hands who'd gone into politics as a second career, old hands who knew where the problems were but wouldn't embarrass themselves by promising more than they could deliver, or going on about non-issues - but not any more. Other countries seeking to actively boost manufacturing don't just abandon the field, as Mirabella would have it, but actively address issues like skills and infrastructure and even manipulate the currency. Mirabella isn't promising that but she isn't promising anything else either.
The audience for that piece are probably Liberal-leaning and can read the polls about as well as anyone. They are looking for a Liberal Party that gets it, and that the Nationals will tag along. They will almost certainly vote Liberal anyway, but in this piece Mirabella raises real doubts as to whether she and the Abbott team really are across the issues. Can they really take on well-briefed incumbents like Combet and Gillard, especially if prevailing winds turn against them? It isn't just that the Liberals are promising nothing, including the usual change-of-government rebadging, but that they don't get it and won't know what to do if manufacturing conditions get even worse.
Pablum like we've seen from Mirabella isn't just boring, or even patronising; it's the sort of complacency that Australian manufacturing knows only too well, the sort of complacency that sees previously underestimated competitors jump up and eat your lunch. There is a dishonest campaign about in the broadcast media implying that there might be more to an Abbott government than meets the eye today; Mirabella has shown here that, well, no there isn't. It will take them until 2015 to find the toilets in the Ministerial Wing, let alone work out what really ails Australian manufacturing and what government can/will do about it.
Do you really want these clowns running the show? Would it really be so bad if the incumbents got back in - sure, they could do some things differently/better, but look really hard at the alternative. It isn't just Labor that is full of talentless political time-servers.
Why is it up to me to ask questions like this? I don't even work in manufacturing. Don't they have journalists for this sort of thing - and plenty of them looking for work, from what I hear.