As good news goes, the jobs figures were luke warm
Julia Gillard’s week got a lot better just before lunch time yesterday with the announcement the latest jobs figures had held steady.
The general consensus was the data saved her from the hammering she’s been getting in Question Time over the dodgy mess the administration of the Building the Education Revolution plan has turned out to be.
And yes our jobless figures look pretty flash compared with the rest of the world. But the Government shouldn’t be jumping up and down just yet - and to her credit Gillard resisted the urge.
The Deputy Prime Minister has been looking a bit less than spectacular this week as her multiple portfolio responsibilities look like they’re starting to bite.
Her parliamentary sparring partner Christopher Pyne has delighted in prefacing each and every question to Gillard with her full title: Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations; Minister for Education; Minister for Social Inclusion… It’s a mouthful alright.
The schools stimulus spending is starting to get embarrassing - to the point where the sensible thing to do appears to be to appoint the P&C of the Abbortsford Public School special administrators of the massive program, as they seem to be the only ones demanding the $2.5 billion be spent wisely.
So Gillard was certainly looked relieved when she stepped into the Blue Room at 12.40pm yesterday to respond to the jobs data. More relieved, I guess, than the nearly 30,000 people who’s jobs went from full time to part time, and the 0.3 per cent of people who just gave up altogether and dropped out of the jobs race.
There were 4 million hours less worked in the past month - all of which points to a huge number of people who are keeping a hawk-like eye on the Reserve Bank board.
See the longer the Government keeps the stimulus spending up, and getting financial data that on the face of it looks like a positive for their economic reputation, the more likely rates will go up.
While people might be pretty happy right now with the Julia Gillard memorial school hall fund (as the Opposition delight in calling it), when their monthly mortgage payments start to go up as their monthly pay starts to come down it might not be such a pretty picture for the government.
On Wednesday night the Senate also rejected the Government’s effort to means test the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate. While the rebate is indeed a very blunt policy instrument, the removal of it will also prove to be blunt. Tens of thousands of households will either have to stump up hundreds of dollars more per year for their private health insurance, or drop out, placing massive pressures on the public system.
The defeat of the Bill gives the Government a potential election trigger, but the sitting schedule dictates they couldn’t pull that trigger until next year anyway.
So it’s a safe bet there’ll be a rates rise before the next Federal Election.
Good news now may not be good news in the second half of next year. And the Opposition’s calls for the stimulus to be reigned in might not look so out of whack with the electorate the further we get into recovery.
Gillard’s tough week ended a little brighter than it might have. But it shouldn’t be underestimated just how precarious the Government’s high wire act will have to be over the next 12 months.
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