Another bloke-y budget, as was to be expected

Andreas Ortmann
3 min readMay 13, 2021
Modern Australia 2021

Seven observations on the Morrison — Frydenberg budget.

First, if you believe any of the numbers being tossed around about unemployment, I have a castle to sell you. A castle built on sand as it is. As you will recall the unemployment numbers were propped up by massive fiscal stimuli through the end of March and also through massive withdrawals from superannuation (accounting for about 40 percent of the JobKeeper fiscal stimulus). There is a good chance that by the end of the year we have a higher unemployment rate than the one currently reported (5.6%) for March reference period. Even the ABS expects the end of the JobKeeper wage subsidy to result in “some people losing their jobs or changing jobs”, to be reflected in Labour Force statistics for April and May 2021. The April numbers will be out any day now. Some people could well mean a six-digit number.

Second, not once did I hear anyone talk about the underemployed whose numbers allegedly went down in March, from 8.5% to 7.9%. I’d be very surprised if that number would not go up. Just ask all the casuals that were let go by universities or the “gig” workers trying to make ends meet by delivering food.

Third, wages growth will not just stay anemic as it has ever since the Coalition came in, certainly in the education sector it hides massive increases in workloads for those who managed to hang on to their jobs. And I’d be surprised if the same were not true in other segments of the economy.

Fourth, the government has not changed its hostile attitude towards universities — here is the relevant NTEU statement — and for that matter its hostile attitude towards industries where women represent a significant part of the workforce. Color me surprised. Not. In The New Daily, Alison Pennington has an excellent primer why there is no reason whatsoever to swallow the ‘pink’ budget pill.

Fifth, talking about labor-intensive industries, the money promised to shore up the old-age sector ($3.5 million annually) is about one third of what the Royal Commission on aged care recommended to fix the problem. The horror stories coming out of that sector won’t stop any time soon. Again no surprise there; remember what happened to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the banking industry. You haven’t heard about it recently? I rest my case.

Sixth, free childcare? Forget about it. It seems that the Morrison — Frydenberg government thinks it can solve its women problem with some additional spending on women’s safety measures. I doubt the women of Australia can be bought with that kind of tokenism. Not when Porter and Laming are allowed to sit, smirking, in the audience while the budget is being delivered.

Seventh, I did not hear anything that sounded encouraging about switching away from coal and towards renewable resources. Not that I expected that from a Morrison — Frydenberg COALition. Apparently God is supposed to take care of that shit. I shit you not. Thoughts and prayers, I fear, will not suffice though. John Quiggin had a piece in The Conversation yesterday that’s worth a read.

Postscript: “Anthony Albanese will establish a new $10bn social housing fund to build 30,000 affordable homes for vulnerable Australians and frontline workers if Labor wins the next federal election, as he promises to ‘deliver for working families’ as prime minister.

The opposition leader also used the traditional budget in reply speech on Thursday night to pledge to create 10,000 new energy apprenticeships, criminalise wage theft, and make employers responsible for workplace sexual harassment. …

‘I want Australia to emerge from this crisis stronger, smarter and more self-reliant, with an economic recovery that works for all Australians,’ he said.”

Postscript2: Annabel Crabb has a somewhat different take on this budget and an ever so hesitant yes to the question, Does the federal budget deliver for women? Worth a read.



Andreas Ortmann

EconProf: I post occasionally on whatever tickles my fancy: Science, evidence production, the Econ tribe, Oz politics, etc. Y’all r entitled to my opinions …