A better world for whom?

By Jon Lamb

Among the heads of government gathered at the September 25 G20 summit held in Pittsburgh, Australian PM Kevin Rudd didn’t particularly stand out much in the hoopla surrounding US President Barack Obama’s self-congratulatory speech claiming that action by his and the other governments of the world’s 20 largest national economies had “brought the global economy back from the brink” of catastrophic collapse. Not unpredictably, Rudd gushed at the “virtually unprecedented global macroeconomic co-ordination” role the G20 shall allegedly assumed in the wake of the outbreak of the global financial crisis last September.

While acknowledging that the global economy is currently contracting, Obama declared: “Going forward, we cannot tolerate the same old boom-and-bust economy of the past”. The boom-and-bust cycle of course is inherit in the capitalist economic system, and Obama wasn’t proposing to abolish capitalism. Rather, his — and Rudd’s — vision for the future is fundamentally more of the same: government support for the super-rich families that own the banks and other big corporations through all sorts of measures to make working people bear the burden of the current “Great Recession” — more wars and imperalist occupations to suppress of resistance to corporate exploitation of the working masses of the poor countries. Along with the saber-rattling at Iran, the G20 summit displayed more signs of inaction on climate change.

Of course, Rudd does stand out among some of the gang of political leaders in the imperialist states for how well his government has managed the economic crisis to protect the profitability of big-business in Australia. You need only look at the state of Australia’s four big banks. On September 23 the Reserve Bank released a report showing that over the past 12 months CBA, NAB, Westpace and ANZ had continued to chalk up above average profits for the past 20 years. The report stated: “For the major banks, net interest income increased by 22 per cent over the past year … as a result of the ongoing expansion of their balance sheets.”

Things might be looking good the for big banks, but not so for working people. While the official unemployment rate in Australia has remained at around 5.2% for most of this year, the proportion of those of “short” work-weeks (and reduced weekly incomes) — what the Australian Bureau of Statistics classifies as the “underemployment rate” — has grown from 5.9% in May 2008 to 7.9% in August 2009. As a result average household income has fallen by $80 a month in July alone.

We can be certain that the Rudd government will continue to implement policies that hit hardest those who are struggling the most. Take, for example, federal “community services” minister Jenny Macklin’s announcement on September 18 that welfare recipients in Logan City, on the outskirts of Brisbane, will be placed under a 12-month truancy program similar to that used against remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. Indigenous communities in North Queensland at Doomadgee and Mornington Island will also cop this draconian program. Parents reliant on welfare will loose payments for a minimum of 13 weeks if their children fail to attend school. The program will only fuel more poverty, domestic violence and alienation.

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