The Guardian • Issue #2020

“Business as usual won’t work”

ACTU pushes for radical reforms ahead of jobs summit

A worker is smashing the capitalist system. Faithfully adapted by mAlkAv from the Vladimir Mayakovsky’s original.

The federal government is holding a Jobs and Skills Summit in early September this year to address the “shared economic challenges” faced by Australians. The Summit will be held over two days from 1-2 September and will focus on issues such as:

  • keeping unemployment low, boosting productivity and incomes
  • delivering secure, well-paid jobs and strong, sustainable wages growth
  • expanding employment opportunities for all Australians including the most disadvantaged
  • addressing skills shortages and getting our skills mix right over the long term
  • improving migration settings to support higher productivity and wages
  • maximising jobs and opportunities from renewable energy, tackling climate change, the digital economy, the care economy and a Future Made in Australia
  • and ensuring women have equal opportunities and equal pay.

While attendance at the Summit is limited, members of the public will be invited to make submissions to government ahead of the next federal budget (more information at

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has commissioned a report calling for six key reforms to ensure a decent future for Australian workers. These include reforms to the industrial relations system, targeted tax measures, and calling on the government to “[u]se active fiscal policy to help achieve and maintain full employment, decent jobs, and stable prices.”

The ACTU report emphasises that “business as usual won’t work.” But apparently big business didn’t get the memo. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has rejected the ACTU’s proposal for reformed fiscal policy, insisting instead that the government should focus on boosting employment levels, encouraging skilled migration and upskilling the workforce. Reserve Bank policy, they say, should not be considered at the Summit.

Meanwhile, the Liberal opposition is refusing to attend the Summit, labelling it a “stunt.” Good riddance. But they haven’t refrained from giving their two cents. Siding with the Australian Industry Group, Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor warned that the ACTU’s proposal was too reliant on monetary policy, stating:

“[t]his is a plan for higher taxes, higher inflation and heavy-handed government and it would be a wrecking ball through the economy.”

Taylor’s statement makes it painfully clear that the ‘economy’ is just a convenient euphemism for the wealth of the ruling class. No regard is had for the impact of high inflation, the pandemic or the looming recession on workers.

The capitalists want free market economics and business as usual, because higher taxes and labour regulation would hurt their bottom line. Companies are making record profits while workers suffer the cost of living crisis. And when the impending recession hits, it is workers who will suffer. Not business.

Without getting into the nitty gritty of monetary policy, the system as it stands is what got us into this mess. It cannot be relied on to get us out. We need what the ACTU called, “a fairer inflation-reduction policy that protects workers’ incomes, prevents price gouging, and tackles the underlying sources of inflation, especially in energy and housing, and reduces the cost of key public services such as early childhood education and care.”

Flooding the labour market will not solve these problems. It will only create more, as the demand for decent and secure work skyrockets and workers compete for crumbs. We’ve seen it before, and if the ruling class gets its way, we’ll very shortly see it again.

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