Yesterday's Tomorrow Today - a new podcast from the Carmichael Centre at the Centre for Future Work

The Centre for Future Work and the Carmichael Centre are pleased to announce the launch of a new podcast project titled Yesterday’s Tomorrow Today, presented by the Laurie Carmichael Distinguished Research Fellow at the Carmichael Centre, Dr Mark Dean, and comedian and ecology researcher, Duncan Turner.

Laurie Carmichael believed that a worker-centred agenda for technological change was important to achieving better outcomes for society, with workers and their unions playing a pivotal role in shaping technology and skills for social progress.

The films reviewed in Yesterday's Tomorrow Today often depict the opposite of a worker-led future of technological change. It’s the aim of the podcast to break down what this looks like, and to suggest what an alternative future - one that benefits workers and humanity - might look like.

Listeners of YTT can expect podcast episodes to feature accessible political-economic analysis laced with good humour, reflections on accurate (and not-so-accurate) predictions of a future shaped by the neoliberal surveillance state, and a rotating list of special guests, including Dr Jim Stanford, Lily Raynes (Anne Kantor Fellow at the Centre for Future Work), Matt Grudnoff (Senior Economist at The Australia Institute) and more to come.

Don’t forget to like and subscribe to Yesterday’s Tomorrow Today wherever you get your podcasts and be sure to leave a review – this is what helps other listeners to find and subscribe to YTT, making sure we can keep reaching working people far and wide.

You can find the first episode - a review of 1987’s RoboCop - and what it warned us about deindustrialisation, gentrification, privatisation and police militarisation, here (also available on Apple Podcasts & Google Podcasts).

The UK shows how bad the Stage 3 tax cuts will be

This week the UK government introduced massive high-income tax cuts - cuts that are not even as bad as the Stage 3 tax cuts here in Australia. And the reaction by the market was brutal. Investors saw the tax cuts for what they were - a redistribution of national income from the poorest to the wealthiest, that provided no economic growth. As a result the value of the UK Pound plunged.

Fiscal Policy Director, Greg Jericho, notes in his Guardian Australia column that there are big lessons for Australia. 

The Stage 3 tax cuts are a case of terrible economics masquerading as a growth strategy. Trickledown economics does not work, never has, and this week we have discovered that even the markets agree. 

Rather than destroy your tax base, governments need to care about sustaining a broad revenue base that works to reduce inequality and fund services and investments that drives productivity and helps those who most need it. 

Trickledown economics has never worked and was always just fraudulent spin designed to hide its real aim of giving rich and powerful people tax cuts at the expense of others.

This week has shown that no one even believes the lie anymore. 

Work in the Care Economy Vital for Future Well-Being

There is growing understanding that care work -- including jobs in aged care, disability services, early child education and care, and others -- is of growing importance to future employment and wage trends, as well as to the quality of life of Australians who depend on these social and community services. For too long, jobs in these growing sectors have been devalued. Government underfunding and weak labour and quality standards have reinforced the degradation of work in care sectors. But with intense labour shortages, public concern about inadequate quality, and the need to expand services to meet social needs, there is now more widespread recognition that care jobs must be improved, and quickly: with more funding, better training, limits on private delivery, multi-employer bargaining, and more.

Our Policy Director for Industrial and Social issues, Dr Fiona Macdonald, recently discussed these issues in a feature conversation with Richard Aedy on the ABC RN program, The Money. They discussed the size of the care workforce, the challenges faced by care providers and participants alike, and the need for government reform. Hear the full interview here:

The Money


Robbed at Sea: International Seafarers Face Exploitation in Australian Waters

Seafarers working on foreign-registered freight ships in Australian waters face regular theft of wages and other entitlements due to legal loopholes and lax enforcement of labour standards. That is the conclusion of new research published today by the Centre for Future Work.

The report, titled Robbed At Sea, examines records of wage inspections conducted over the last decade by the International Transport Federation (ITF), a global federation of maritime and other transportation unions. The ITF sponsors a small team of 4 inspectors in Australia, to conduct spot checks of international vessels visiting our ports.

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They didn't cause the inflation, but workers are expected to cure it

Last week before the House Economics Committee, the Governor of the Reserve Bank made it clear that the current rise in inflation has nothing to do with wages growth. And yet he also made it clear he expects workers to bear the brunt of the cost that comes from slowing inflation.

In his Guardian column, Policy Director Greg Jericho notes that given real wages have already fallen for 2 straight years any further falls will take workers' purchasing power backwards to where it was more than a decade ago. This however is viewed as being "worse than the alternative" of inflation growth above 3%. 

He notes that over the past 2 years the profit margins of many industries, and most especially the mining industry, have risen and have themselves fuelled inflation. But company profits are never expected to suffer, wages however are always viewed as either the culprit of inflation or the means to reduce it. The vast increase in mining profits, largely due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, also highlights the urgent need for a windfall profits tax. 

Using the RBA's own estimates Jericho calcuates that by the end of next year real wages will be back at 2008 levels and even with the most optimistic outlook they will not return to 2019 levels until 2030. 

The Reserve Bank's strategy of sharply increasing interest rates risk slowing the economy into a recession even though real wages are already falling faster and for longer than they have in modern times. 


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Better Work and Care? We need better care systems, secure work, and policies for worker-carers

Our submission to the Senate Select Committee on Work and Care addresses three areas for urgent reforms.

Changes to formal care systems must increase access and affordability, reduce reliance on markets and private provision, and address the poor quality of jobs in care sectors. These reforms are also essential investments in our children’s futures, in better care for our elders and in more opportunities for people with disability.

Insecure work undermines our care systems and undermines workers’ ability to combine work and care. Industrial relations changes to make work more secure must increase working time security to support adequate hours, predictable schedules and increased control over working time.

Working carers require rights to adequate paid parental leave, annual leave, personal and carers’ leave, and effective rights to request flexible work. Policies that support shared care within families, households and the community are especially important for supporting women’s workforce participation.

See our full submission here.

The latest data shows just how bad housing affordability is

Since the Reserve Bank began raising interest rates in May, the housing market has very much come off the boil. 

But while the latest data from the ABS shows prices fell on average 2% across the nation in the June quarter, policy director Greg Jericho notes in his Guardian column that price remains well above what they were prior the pandemic. 

During the GFC the majority of the stimulus measures directed towards construction were on public works - most notably the Building the Education Revolution. During the pandemic, however, the Morrison government targeted the housing market with its HomeBuilder program in conjunction with the Reserve Bank's cutting interest rates. These served to set fire to the market as prices soared and affordability plummeted. 

In June 2020, the average dwelling price in Australia was $689,400. That was around 13.4 times the average annual household disposable income of $51,487. Now the average household disposable income is up to $56,129, while the average dwelling price is now some 16.4 times that at $921,500.

Even worse, ten years ago the average dwelling price was just 11.4 times. 

Housing policy has for too long been driven by keeping prices rising, and combined with flat income growth, it has seen a generation of Australians left out of the housing market. 

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The GDP figures show the ongoing shift of the national income to profits

The June quarter GDP figures released by the Bureau of Statistics showed that over the past year the economy grew a seemingly strong 3.6%. 

But as labour market and fiscal policy director Greg Jericho notes in the Guardian Australia column, beneath those good numbers are a lot of problems, not the least of which is that wages continue to fail to keep up with inflation. Over the past year the total compensation of employees rose 7% but inflation in the national accounts rose 8.3%. Over the same period corporate profits went up 25%. We are at the absurd state of affairs where GDP is rising strongly, but real wages are not. 

We now have a situation where a record low share of national income is going to employees and a record high share is going to profits. 

The talk is always about lifting productivity and wages will follow, but the story for far too long now has really been productivity rising and profits following. 


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The PBO reveals just how much the Stage 3 tax cuts favour the wealthy

The Stage 3 tax cuts, which will essentially create a flat income tax system, have always been clearly biased towards high-income earners. For those earning over $200,000, the tax cuts represent a 4.5% cut compared to just 0.6% for someone on the median income of $60,000. But this week, the Parliamentary Budget Office has released costings that detail just how skewed the allocation of money is to the richest in our society. 

As labour market and fiscal policy director, Greg Jericho notes in his Guardian Australia column, the PBO estimates that of the $243.5bn that the tax cuts will cost in their first 9 years, 48% will go to people earning over $180,000, and 77% will go to the richest 25%.

In the first year of operation, the richest 1% of income earners will get the same benefit from the tax cuts as will the poorest 65%. 

Greg Jericho notes that in 2024-25, $12.7bn of the $17.7bn annual cost of the tax cuts that year will go to those earning above $120,000. That is almost the same amount expected to be spent on Jobseeker payments that year. 

The Stage 3 cuts are designed to favour the wealthy and reduce the level of revenue which in turn will force cuts to spending and programs that assist the most vulnerable. 

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Market power costs consumers, workers and the whole economy

For most of the past 40 years whenever the discussion turns to the need to lift productivity, invariably the conversation is dominated by business groups and various media commentators who suggest the solution is more labour market flexibility. Just a bit more flexibility and productivity will improve!

But a speech by the assistant minister for competition, Andrew Leigh, reveals that businesses themselves and the way in which the major players are are allowed to dominate industries is a significant drag on productivity growth.

In his Guardian Australia column, labour market and fiscal policy director Greg Jericho, reviews Dr Leigh's speech and notes that over the past 20 years market concentration has increased across the whole economy. Over this time there has been a fall in the percent of new firms entering industries and also in established firms leaving. This produces a more sluggish economy where the need to innovate and pursue more productive operations is diminished. It also leads to firms being able to markup their prices by more each year as they consolidate their power, and also feel less need to offer better wages as the competition for labour falls. 

While wages growth crucially requires fair bargaining arrangements that enables workers to negotiate better wages, when workers have fewer options to pursue better paying jobs at other more productive workplaces, the number of workers switching jobs declines and so too does the market pressure to pay wages.  

Dr Leigh notes that this “decline in economic dynamism” needs greater policy focus, and his speech is an excellent corrective to the belief that improved productivity is all about taking away worker rights and giving more power to businesses to hire and fire.

Australian business groups and many on the conservative side of politics love to talk up free-market competition, but the past 20 years has shown the markets are less about competition and more about concentration. And while profits have risen, workers and households have been left worse off. 

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